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posted by martyb on Friday June 25 2021, @12:50PM   Printer-friendly
from the The-Mod-Squad dept.

There has been some discussion about moderation on this site leading to some misconceptions and misstatements. This story is an attempt to set things straight. It lays out the historical underpinnings for moderation, history of its implementation on Slashdot, and its later refinement on SoylentNews.

Before that, though, I am going to take this opportunity to thank fnord666 who is out Alternate Editor-in-Chief. I could not handle the load alone and his efforts have made a huge difference! Further, please join me in thanking him as he reached a new milestone: over 6,500 stories posted to the site! Many a late night or rare free moment has been generously given to the site. Teamwork++!

History:
The code for this site is a fork of code written for Slashdot. In that site's early days, it was apparent that some comments were much more interesting and informative than others. It was just as apparent that some users would just as gleefully troll the community. Moderation was conceived as a way to sift the wheat from the chaff and help users more easily avoid the "lesser" comments and more easily find the "gems".

Further, to encourage posting "good" comments, Karma was introduced. "Good" comments earned Karma; "bad" comments lost Karma. Moderation was a mechanism by which Karma could be allocated.

Slashdot experimented with several ways to moderate comments. First, it was just the staff who could moderate. Soon, there were too many comments to keep up, so a select group of members from the community were invited to moderate comments. Again, that failed to scale up, so those who had been selected were invited to recommend still other users to moderate. And, again, there were scaling issues.

Solution: make Mod Points (modpoints) available to every registered user in good standing and who indicated in their preferences that they were willing to moderate.

Originally, mod points were handed out randomly and expired after something like 6 hours: "Use 'em or lose 'em".

For the most part, that seemed to work. But there were some perceived issues and meta-moderation was implemented and introduced — moderate the moderations. Unfortunately, it experienced many of the same issues that it was supposed to rectify with comments, just one level abstracted. Further, it was unwieldy and when all was said and done, didn't work all that well, anyway.

Early Tweaking:
Such was the state of things when SoylentNews started. Well sort of. The code base we started with was not current and the meta-moderation code was broken. So much so, that meta-moderation was ripped out of the code just so regular moderation could be made to work. With that behind us, we finally we had a working moderation system on our site. Yay!

That worked okay for a while, but we found ourselves with complaints from many users that they wanted to moderate and lacked mod points. Nice problem to have, right? This was combined with many more comments than moderations. It was thought that we needed more mod points made available to the community. So, after unsuccessfully tweaking the mod point allocation algorithm, it was decided to just not expire mod points until day's end. Every user in good standing got 5 mod points each morning (00:10 UTC) and those were available until day's end whereupon any remaining modpoints were reset and a new set of 5 of modpoints were allocated.

That helped! But jerks will be jerks.

Mod Bombs:
We started to run into problems with "mod bombs" where one user "A" would apply all 5 of their mod points to downmod one other user "B". So code was written to allow checking for such moderations. Staff could generate a report and find such activity. It was decided that:

If you used ALL of your modpoints to downmod ONE user, that was a modbomb. IOW, 5 downmods bad; 4 downmods were permitted.

Initially, anyone who "modbombed" was manually given a "timeout". The first time earned a one month suspension of moderation privileges. A second occurrence earned a six month suspension.

Later, because there were still many more comments than moderations, the number of modpoints allocated to each registered user having good Karma was increased from 5 to 10 per day. The modbomb threshold was, however, kept the same: 4 downmods was still okay, 5 (or more) downmods to the same user was "bad".

A complication arose in that there is no easy way for users to keep track of how many downmods they had made on one other user. User "A" may do 3 downmods of user "B" in the morning and 4 down mods of other (unrelated) users. In the afternoon they might perform 2 more downmods of user "B". Purely unintentional transgression. When you only have 5 mod points it was reasonable to assume that a user could mentally track how many times they downmodded a single user in one day. With 10 daily mod points available, that became less reasonable.

So, along with the allocation of 10 modpoints per day (easy) it was intended to have code written that would kick in when processing moderations: when the threshold was exceeded, the excess downmods would be automatically rejected. And that is still the intent.

The upshot of all that is that when checking for modbombs, we no longer give a "timeout" for 5 downmods against a single user in one day. We just revert the excess mods. We do take note of repeated excesses and are fully prepared to issue a "timeout" when warranted. (e.g. 8 downmods in one day, or several days in close proximity targeting the same user. This is not done unilaterally but rather in consultation with other staff for confirmation.)

Sock Bombs:
First, there some who failed to take the hint that, maybe, they should take a look at what they were posting when they received repeated downmods. We are a community, not your personal soapbox. So, they created new ("sock puppet") accounts and proceeded to upmod their own comments, aka a "sockbomb". Staff have ways to note such behavior based on the IPID and SUBNETID that is recorded with every comment and every moderation. We try to give the benefit of the doubt. But, certain patterns do become apparent and are not tolerated. Upmodding your own comment is grounds for an immediate moderation ban.

Second, just as there is a limit on how many downmods can be targeted at one user in a day, so there is a limit on upmods. The same limits apply, each user "A" is limited to 4 upmods of user "B" in a given day, just like for "modbombs". Again with the caveat of no up-mods of your own account..

Summary:
Our experience is that the current system could stand some refinement, automation of transgression detection and mitigation is in plan (but it will be a while), but for the most part, what we have works well in the vast majority of cases. In short, Wheaton's Law still applies: "don't be a dick". Following that seems to work the best for the most. (With apologies to anyone named Richard. =)


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  • (Score: 2, Troll) by janrinok on Saturday June 26 2021, @10:16AM (1 child)

    by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Saturday June 26 2021, @10:16AM (#1149573) Journal

    You were not censored. You have a journal in which you can print anything that you wish. Dress it up however you like, but you were NOT censored.

    Your comments might well have been modded down by the community, often because they appeared off-topic in stories entirely unrelated to the point you were trying to make. Few of your submissions may have been accepted, but that is because they simply became repetitive. Those that you submitted on topics other than your anti-alt-right theme were usually accepted. As martyb has already pointed out - this site is nobody's personal soap box. If you recall, I often annotated your submission rejections with the advice to put them into your journal. That you chose not to is entirely your decision. I can see why you might not do so - perhaps you felt that in your journal they would receive relatively little coverage because many people simply were not interested. If you want to push your political views why don't you join a site where that is a topic of discussion?

    Using your logic, you rarely criticise the Chinese for their actions against the Uighurs - so does that make you supportive of the Chinese? I don't recall you ever objecting to the lack of facilities for disabled and handicapped people. Does that mean that you feel that such people deserve to be left out of many parts of society? Using a quick cursory search I cannot find where you condemn the lack of medical care for poor people in America; I therefore conclude by using your logic you think that such a thing is entirely appropriate. Lack of support for your particular views does not equate to support of the opposite viewpoint.

    SN was not complicit in supporting the alt-right, or the left wing, or any other part of the political spectrum. Individuals who work on the staff are as entitled to their opinion as any other member of our community, and they can express it in their comments. But nobody on the staff has ever directed the editorial content in any specific direction, nor do I know of any instance where an individual editor displayed a bias in his or her story selection.

    Starting Score:    1  point
    Moderation   0  
       Troll=1, Informative=1, Total=2
    Extra 'Troll' Modifier   0  
    Karma-Bonus Modifier   +1  

    Total Score:   2  
  • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Saturday June 26 2021, @08:01PM

    by aristarchus (2645) on Saturday June 26 2021, @08:01PM (#1149731) Journal

    I am going to try, once again, to explain to you, my dear janrinok.

    Your comments might well have been modded down by the community, often because they appeared off-topic in stories entirely unrelated to the point you were trying to make.

    Actually this is hardly ever true. On occasion, for sure, but always a finely targeted off-topic comment that makes a relevent point about the story. And my overall karma is usually maxxed out, except when Runaway or khallow, or certain eds get angry at me.

    Few of your submissions may have been accepted, but that is because they simply became repetitive.

    How could they be repetitive when they are not accepted? The only reason it looks that way (and only to those who have access to rejected subs) is that they were rejected, so I submitted more similar submissions. And, they almost always were new stories.

    Those that you submitted on topics other than your anti-alt-right theme were usually accepted.

    Not. Many seem to be rejected based solely on the submitter, namely, aristarchus. Once is a while there might be a string of acceptances when a non-biased ed is on duty, but they are soon pulled into line.

    As martyb has already pointed out - this site is nobody's personal soap box.

    But it does have a right-leaning, pseudo-libertarian editorial bias, not surprising for an allegedly "tech" site. Unfortunately, it tends to go off the deep end, and to censor anything slightly leftish. I object not to the box, but to the ground beneath it.

    If you recall, I often annotated your submission rejections with the advice to put them into your journal. That you chose not to is entirely your decision. I can see why you might not do so - perhaps you felt that in your journal they would receive relatively little coverage because many people simply were not interested.

    Someone just dinged you in this thread for your emphasis on popularity, as if SN were an ad-driven site. Little coverage? My journal entries are about the only thing recently that goes into triple digit comments, but really the amount of attention is not the point. The point is rational discussion, and the exposing of dastardly mendacity of fake-news mongering imbeciles.

    If you want to push your political views why don't you join a site where that is a topic of discussion?

    Near original member of SoylentNews. I am here to BuckFeta! I, too, am interested in science and technology. It was only after I was censored at the insistence of The Mighty Buzzard that I was launched on a crusade to save SN from an alt-right infarction.