Chad Perrin: SOB

31 July 2006

auto-management of online reputation systems

Filed under: Cognition,Geek — apotheon @ 12:14

I’m quite fond of the concept of a social valuation system — a reputation system — for site moderation. For instance, there’s the “Score” system on Slashdot, and the “Reputation” system on PerlMonks. These things induce members to rate other members’ postings, which contributes to both an at-a-glance ability to evaluate a given set of statements and a related overal individual reputation for people who regularly post there.

Such systems can be subject to abuse, however — and they are not idiot-proof.

An example of abuse:

  1. Someone posts about something that happens to touch on gun control.
  2. Someone else disagrees with the OP‘s stance on gun control, and downvotes the original post — then hunts down all posts by the OP on any subject and downvotes as many of them as possible, until running out of votes, just to negatively affect that person’s overall reputation and achieve some kind of petty vindictive “victory”.

An example of idiocy:

  1. Someone posts a lucid, logically valid, eloquent defense of a very unpopular position — perhaps he opposes socialized medicine in all forms on, say, a Canadian online community forum.
  2. Thirty other Canadians disagree vehemently because the news media outlets tell them to, and downvote the OP because it’s “obvious” that he’s “wrong”. Nobody bothers to make an effort to actually address the logic of the post.

A reasonably well-designed reputation system can provide a mostly-useful automatic social self-management situation, but such edge-case failures as the two above examples do occur. This is particularly true in that even communities mostly made up primarily of relatively reasonable people with a grasp of valid logic will develop over time some definite opinion trends, so that expression of certain opinions becomes a de facto taboo.

It would be nice to be able to design a system whose mechanism encourages better decision-making on the part of rep voters by its very nature, where downvotes do not happen simply because of disagreement, but for “good” reasons — so that the reputation voting system more effectively encourages thoughtful, well-reasoned posts, and discourages only trolls, flames, and other undesirable behavior (where “undesirable” is, essentially, behavior that involves being thoughtless, idiotic, et cetera, and not merely “wrong”). It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and if a better system than those I’ve already seen comes to mind I would like to implement it at some point. I need ideas, though. There isn’t much that comes to mind.

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