Mojo, I still maintain, was a great idea. If this site could be reasonably sure that one person only had one account, it would work smashingly. The problem is, we have no reasonable expectation that someone is necessarily only going to inhabit one account, and the main benefit of mojo evaporates as soon as that's the case.
The idea behind the whole thing was to make crapflooding no fun by allowing users to collectively make garbage comments disappear. A comment rated sufficiently low would be hidden from all but trusted users, even from the user who posted it. To counterbalance this effect, and make sure it was only used in cases where a large number of people agreed that the comment should go, the rating scale was balanced so that it took five '0' ratings to counteract a single '5' rating.
What actually happened, of course, is that crapflooding was done with a throwaway account, while the crapflooder maintained one or more accounts that behaved and were trusted, so they could watch their handiwork and make sure it stayed above the hidden threshold. So the main social pressure against that kind of thing was pretty much useless.
On the other hand, there was still the carrot of "Trusted User" status out there to be gotten, and kept or lost as the ratings churned. So it became obvious that an easy way to annoy someone who cared about whether they were trusted or not was to downrate a passel of their recent comments, and try to make them lose their trusted status. In fact, this became a popular way to let off steam with someone in general, and I ended up implementing a ratings-wipe feature and getting emails to help@k5 with a depressing frequency pointing out that someone had done it to someone else, yet again. This gets old pretty fast. Obviously, if nothing else showed it, the fact that I had to wade in and manually erase stuff showed that this wasn't working.
So what could be different?
...I wondered to myself. Well, for one thing, it seemed pretty clear that the main accomplishment of trusted user status was that a majority of well-meaning but quiet users were not permitted to help hide the crap, while the battle was being waged among a small number of very prolific posters, with wildly differing views of what an appropriate comment looked like. If trustedness isn't doing its job, I thought, why keep it? So the first thing I thought should change was that everyone should be able to decide whether a comment ought to be hidden.
This decision has the necessary side-effect, though, that you also have to give everyone the option of whether to see hidden comments or not. If everyone is trusted, then the only people that hidden comments are actually hidden from are anonymous visitors. I figured that with the right tools, this was an acceptable trade off, considering that the people the hidden comments were supposed to be hidden from could mostly see them anyway. But to offset the apparent pointlessness of hiding comments from nobody, I thought it would be good to add an option for how people want to handle hidden comments. So you can choose to either see them all the time (in effect, have it behave like trusted status used to), hide them all the time (behave like a regular user used to, except that you can also hide comments), or only show them until you've rated, and then hide them if the score warrants.
The system was always designed to work best with more input. A comment's score will converge as more people rate it, due to the averaging of individual ratings. After a few ratings, the comment's score starts to converge pretty fast, but the system is weak at the outset, and the first rating has a very disproportionate effect unless it is followed quickly by others. Many comments only got one or two ratings, so a whole lot of the ratings were pretty unreliable.
I came up with two approaches to this problem. The first is to simplify the rating scale to encourage more people to rate. People tended to use 1 and 5 way more than 2 through 4, so I've collapsed the scale down to 1-3. Also, to attempt to make it more intuitive what the numbers mean, I've replaced the numbers with labels. So the scale now goes "Discourage," "Neutral," and "Encourage," with the hide rating being "Hide." Those correspond numerically to 1-3 (and -1, see below about the Hide rating) and the comment's displayed score will fall between -1 and 3. Anything below 1 is still considered hidden. The idea is that it's pretty easy to decide whether you want to encourage a comment, discourage it, or you don't feel either way. I'm hoping that with fewer choices, more people will take the half-second to click the little form. Hopefully the text labels will also help simplify the rating choice, without unduly trying to force a value scale on them. You could be encouraging more people to post similar comments, you could be encouraging the comment's author, or you could be encouraging people to read the comment. You can interpret the label a lot of different ways, and they're all right.
The other approach to get more accurate ratings is to not consider a comment's score meaningful until it has a minimum number of ratings contributing to it. A score composed of a single rating doesn't mean much. But a score composed of six ratings will likely be within a half point either way of that comment's eventual final score. So a comment's score won't be "official" until it has at least six ratings contributing to it. In the meantime, the ratings will be kept and tracked, and may be viewed, but they won't be compiled into a score or affect the comment's placement or visibility in any way.
Another longstanding problem was the disparity in power between 5 and 0. In the old days, I weighted it far on the side of not hiding things, because I was afraid it would become a cheap tool for squelching those you disagree with, instead of a cleanup mechanism, like it was intended. Well, my lack of faith in humanity was mostly unwarranted, and most people have reserved their zeros for the real bottom of the barrel stuff. So I wanted to bring the ends of the scale closer to parity, so that we don't need thirty "Hide" ratings to counteract a couple of sock puppet fives. So instead of 0, the "Hide" rating will now be numerically equivalent to -1. This is also adjustable, which it hasn't been or I'd have changed it long ago. So if future adjustments seem necessary, that can easily be done.
There have been some people who have wanted to scrap the whole thing and ignore ratings altogether, even going so far as to use rewriting proxies to accomplish this. Since most of the bondage and discipline elements of enforced participation are now irrelevant, I didn't see any reason not to allow people to just ignore ratings completely. So in your "Rate?" options, you'll now see a third option -- "Hide". This will turn off your rating boxes, and will also completely hide the ratings. If you sort with "Ignore Ratings" and set your hidden comment prefs to "Show," you will have an unmoderated K5.
And finally, I added a little thing in there that makes it so that multiple ratings on one comment from a single IP can be ignored. That is, if we get three ratings from the same IP, only the most recent will count. I know that restricting by IP is very sub-optimal, as there are many situations where different people will have the same apparent IP. But on the flip side, it would make it just that little bit harder for most people to rate a comment several times with different accounts, if they also had to change IPs every time. Not impossible, but more of a pain. That's the intention here. But if it turns out to be more of an impediment to ordinary use than it is an impediment to abuse, it will be shut off. So mark this last one "experimental" for now. Also, it is off for the moment until I figure out how it will deal with old ratings that have no IP associated. But it may be updated and enabled anytime, so I figured I'd get the description up now.
Can you summarize for me here, Mr. Proust?
Ok, to sum up, that one wafting fragrance of Madeleine inspired me to make changes as follows:
There will almost certainly be bugs, both from these changes and from the raft of little bugfixes that were just applied, so if you see some, don't be shy about posting below. Considering we're overriding an existing rating system that worked somewhat differently, there will also probably be some general confusion in the system for a little while. It'll clear itself up as new stuff comes in. And as always, any of this is liable to change if it doesn't work, but let it work for a while and see what happens before you decide what you think.
- Rating scale now goes 1-3, with text labels Discourage, Neutral, and Encourage
- Hide rating is equal to -1
- All users have ability to Hide-rate
- All users may choose, in your comment preferences, whether to always hide hidden comments, always show them, or only show them until you've rated them
- A comment's score doesn't count until there are at least six ratings contributing to it
- Only one rating will count from one IP (experimental)
- Users may choose to turn off ratings display altogether, and when combined with "Always show hidden comments" and "Ignore ratings" (in sort) will effectively have an unmoderated K5. You may also choose to hide hidden comments and sort on ratings without actually showing them. It's up to you.