I'm not against having more information about the users who willingly provide it... as I have mentioned in other comments, I do believe there could be some interest in collecting that information (without pushing too much).
But I am against too much information provided in the wrong place, as I've made clear here and here, for two reasons:
- In general, because information should be in its proper place or it will be distracting, and detracting from the relevant information.
Apparently even the author agrees that the information SHOULD be on the User Page; he just doesn't believe people are using that page, and he wants his particular favorite piece of data up-front.
So this pretty much establishes that, if this were to be done, it should be a modification(formalization) to the user-page system.
The question remains over whether this is a good idea or not. Some people would be concerned about making this kind of information so easy to acquire/analyze, as it's valuable to telemarketers and other incredibly annoying pests.
I just got my 11000th call from a certain phone company this week, so I sympathize with that position. I don't think I'll get more phone calls, but if the data is detailed and attractive enough, there would be ways to really annoy Kuro5hin's users. As I have mentioned before, I think the data could be valuable enough for the community and that technological self-restraint would impede abuse, but the need for this self-restraint means more, accesible information is not inherently a Good Thing.
The question also remains over whether part of the user-page data should be shown up-front, which brings the second reason I don't like information in the wrong places:
- Because whether you realize it or not, you take cognitive shortcuts when you deal with people. What you perceive affects how you consider other data, even when to consider the data at all, and most of that process is unconscious.
We group people by every tiny bit of data we receive so we don't spend too much time parsing what they tell us. Even as it is now, take a look at most political discussions: at the first "clue" of which stereotype is someone supposed to fit in, we're all too eager to stop evaluating the content and reply with canned answers of our own (which help the other person fit us into another stereotype).
As difficult as it is to carry real conversation, where you judge what someone says by what they say and not by your cached standarized profile, in touchy subjects in Kuro5hin or any other forum, at least the "clues" we get are minimized and of a semantic nature. This makes it a bit less likely for our profile to be that far from reality, because it forces us to parse, at least partially, the message.
If we provide more "clues", they are more likely to confuse and interfere with the message than to provide more understanding. At the very least, they will actively interfere with which message is parsed in the first place, regardless of its content.
I cannot emphasize enough that this process is unconscious and unavoidable. We can make a conscious effort to limit it, but we cannot be entirely successful because without stereotypes we cannot be socially functional. We even adapt ourselves to the stereotypes of other people in order to communicate.
Thus, I'm not talking about "racism" or conscious discrimination.
I mentioned in one of my comments that some people would be interested in the level of education of the community. I at least would like to know how many Phds vs High-School dropouts are participating, and I think it's for legitimate reasons: Kuro5hin seems to have a reputation for well-written, argumentative discussion, and it would be nice to know how education actually correlates to such skills or to the assumptions people have about Kuro5hin's audience, with a nice sample as opposed to anecdotal evidence.
However, consider that, using this proposed feature, I make the system display the highest level of education of the author of each story/comment.
I can honestly say I would pay more attention to the "Phd" than the "High-School" entries, even when the first may be arguing about something outside his/her expertise (a Phd in Postmodern Lit. arguing about compiler construction), may be irrelevant (a joke), or may be completely idiotic (idiots with Phds are just published idiots). The second may have intimate knowledge of the subject, be very precise and relevant, or may just be intelligent and insightful where the "experts" are not.
This is not something I would do consciously. As a matter of fact, if I were to follow my anecdotal experience, I should do the contrary. But it's something my mind, automatically, would do for me. Of 100+ comments, it would sort their priorities by degree of education before I get the chance to actually read them.
Perhaps you're not so easily biased by a supposed education, but you're likely to be biased to at least one of many other factors: age (young==ignorant || old==obsolete), gender, marital state, amount of kids (parents know best about legislation on education), sexual orientation (gay==liberal), race (US && black/hispanic==Democrat!), etc.
You're also more likely to be biased with the piece of information you display on each comment. That's why you display it in the first place, usually.
I consider that encouraging our bad practices that we carry over from the Real World (TM) into a context that does not need them would be a very heavy price to pay for a little more clarity over which kind of dollars is someone talking about, or whether a pop is a soda or not.
I prefer that people to read the comments before they start making up their minds about the content. This is impossible to achieve in Real Life (TM) for the reasons mentioned above. I'd prefer not to make it impossible online too.
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
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