Trying to do two things.
The moderation system here at Kuro5hin has two unrelated purposes.
The most important purpose is to avoid crap-flooding. The second
is to evaluate comments. Unfortunately, these two things often conflict. A
zero rating hides a comment. A non-zero rating may unhide that comment,
depending on the resulting average. Unfortunately, it is human nature for
someone who believes a comment should be unhidden to moderate for a target
average rather than the worth of the comment. This often results in
virtually worthless comments getting underserved ratings of '5'. These
comments may well deserve to be unhidden, but the system forces moderators
to undermine the second purpose in order to accomplish the first.
If you believe the FAQ,
ratings of '5' or '1' should be rare, while ratings of '3' should be
normal. The opposite is the case. The reason for this is that an
"average" comment is not going to compell people to take the effort to rate
as much as a good comment. As people watch the results of this, they begin to see higher
rated comments as "normal", creating a continuing cycle upward. I recently saw someone complain of being "modded down" when he received a '3'.) I believe
that we are approaching the point where even a '4' is considered a "low"
rating. And as this happens, people start to fear giving out '3's (and
soon, I believe, '4's) because they don't want to be perceived as insulting
another's post, even though a '3' should not be considered an insult at all.
A similar thing is occuring in the downward direction. It is increasingly
hard to find a ratings history that isn't a series of '1's and '5's, with nothing in between.
Now many will say that the problem is people, and that if people would just
read the FAQ and act accordingly, everything would be perfect. Maybe so.
But this will never happen because people are people, and they are not going to change. Even if the current
members could be convinced to do this, new users will quickly bring back
the bad behavior, because the bad behavior is caused by the intersection of
the moderation system and human psycholgy.
Human psychology cannot be changed, but the moderation system can.
As I said at the outset, the moderation is succeeding at one of its two
goals, so we should be hesitant to make severe changes. No one wants
things to get worse. However, I think that improvements could be made that would not harm the original intent.
First, comment hiding should be decoupled from ratings. Ratings should be
from '1' to '5', with the '0' removed. Instead, trusted users would be able to vote to hide or
unhide a comment. A comment would be hidden if over 75% of votes were to
hide the comment. This would have a similar effect to today's system,
however a vote to unhide would not be a statement of worth. A moderator
could vote to unhide and still rate the comment a '1'. This would reduce
the number of moderators voting high merely to change the average rating, but it would preserve the existing system, which essentially requires that a high percentage of moderators want something hidden for the hiding to occur.
Second, in order to get a nice bell-curve distribution of ratings, it must
be enforced. I propose that a "ticket booklet" system, similar to the way
Disneyland used to operate their theme parks in bygone days. Users would still have
unlimited moderation ability, but in order to give higher or lower ratings,
they'd have to make a number of average ratings. When a user is first
registered, they get four "ratings booklet". Each rating booklet includes a
single '1', a single '5', two '2's, two '4's and four '3's. The user does
not then get another ratings block until at least one of their old ones is
used up. In other words, a user would only be able to give out four '1's
(one from each booklet) before having to give other ratings. This would make
it extremely hard to mod-storm, however, to a user following the FAQ it
would result in almost no burden at all. It would also encourage people to
rate "average" comments more, resulting in an end moderation that means
more. It would also mean that an overall high rating would have more