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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. =)


Original Submission

 
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 26 2021, @10:16PM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 26 2021, @10:16PM (#1149764)
    For most people, "quite some time" means more than just a month or two.

    And anyone can post anonymously on one network one one device, and logged in on another network on another device, simultaneously. So they have access to journals, mod points, etc.

    All while being able to post anonymously on. a second device on a separate network that they never logged in from.

    Seriously, how many users do you think don't have a cell phone with separate internet access? Completely different networks, network providers, IP ranges, browsers (so no browser fingerprint to match).

    You still think Fuck Beta is relevant. You think that by fighting against dropping user moderation it will have a catastrophic effect, because … [citatio needed]. Inertia. resistance to change. Same with every other possible change.

    Even logged in people are anonymous unless they reveal their real-life name. So requiring people to log in has sweet fuck all to do with anonymity, and more to do with "can't be arsed to."

    So the supposed "loss of anonymity" that would come with disabling anonymous posting is 100% bullshit. And it's the same fact-free bs that khallow subscribes to in his opposition to removing anonymous posting.

    There's plenty of throwaway email addresses available, so an email address doesn't tie you to an identity.

    But you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Or new perspectives and possibilities.

  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday June 27 2021, @12:52AM (5 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 27 2021, @12:52AM (#1149803) Journal

    So the supposed "loss of anonymity" that would come with disabling anonymous posting is 100% bullshit. And it's the same fact-free bs that khallow subscribes to in his opposition to removing anonymous posting.

    Except, of course, that the "loss of anonymity" is there by definition not by subscription.

    And the "they'll troll with their cell phones!" is quite the compelling argument.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 27 2021, @02:32AM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 27 2021, @02:32AM (#1149845)
      Your reply is a complete load of nonsense. And you know it. Everyone has a smartphone. Most internet access now is done on smartphones. so if you're sitting at your office computer and logged in and you want to say something that you know will attract bad mods, it's childs play to post from your phone.

      It may be just to avoid people who make a habit of targeting you. As in "the ho needs the aggravation?"

      And neither the journals nor mod points is an incentive for many people to bother creating an account.

      Moderation has always been problematic, to say the least. Getting rid of it and encouraging people to express their opinion of a post by actually posting a reply is obviously much better. Moderation is for lazy inarticulate people who can't be arsed to explain why they hold a certain view, or don't want to admit they are wrong but still want some payback.

      If moderation is so important, why not create shadow accounts for anonymous posters, complete with karma and the ability to moderate? Each shadow account would have an auto-generated identifier, such as AC1234, AC1235, etc. And journals. and a posting history. And mod points.

      Give them the ability to claim the account and change the name, problem solved (if you REALLY REALLY REALLY believe that moderation and journals are so important). Or give reasons why moderation and journals aren't that important after all. Your move.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday June 27 2021, @06:02AM (3 children)

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 27 2021, @06:02AM (#1149879) Journal

        Moderation has always been problematic, to say the least.

        Funny how I've been on Slashdot since 2000 and here since 2014, and I have yet to have a problem with moderation - somehow I just never get mod bombed. My good posts get modded up, my trolls get modded down. Everything working as expected for longer than you've been out of diapers. So to say the least, moderation isn't significantly problematic.

        If moderation is so important, why not create shadow accounts for anonymous posters, complete with karma and the ability to moderate? Each shadow account would have an auto-generated identifier, such as AC1234, AC1235, etc. And journals. and a posting history. And mod points.

        Is that suggestion supposed to go somewhere? Seems a bit non sequiturish to me. Might as well suggest we make the Moon out of purple cheese - because moderation is so important, of course.

        I'll note the habit of spammers to game freebies. Try surfing this [soylentnews.org]. There's already spammers trying to milk the system via journal posting - we just don't see them because of the modest activity threshold required to write journals that are visible to the outside world. Why make a system that's easy to exploit? We already know it would be a bad idea.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 27 2021, @12:35PM (2 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 27 2021, @12:35PM (#1149932)
          Read the article. It's quite clear that moderation encourages bad behaviour. Heck, just read the title.

          Again, if user moderation is so great, why not open it to non-registered users? You already have registered users gaming the system (RTFA). So what's the difference. And most registered users are de facto anonymous - you don't see them posting under their legal names - so what is the difference?

          You're making a distinction without a difference. Fact: Most registered users are anonymous. They don't use their full legal name. And then they have the nerve to say that ACs are cowards. While saying it would be "dangerous" to post under their real identity. Teuly hypocritical cowards.

          So what your position comes down to is (a) when push comes to shove, moderation isn't important enough to extend to everyone, (b) that most registered users are de facto anonymous cowards too afraid to use their real names, (c) a real name policy for allowing pisting would encourage people to self-police rather than posting unbridled hate speech because of rwal-world consequences, (d) there is zero proof that requiring people to register to post will drive a significant portion of posters away, and (e) when offered the solution of creating accounts for everyone to avoid this, you reject it.

          Truly Alice in Wonderland logic.

          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday June 27 2021, @11:32PM (1 child)

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 27 2021, @11:32PM (#1150140) Journal

            Read the article. It's quite clear that moderation encourages bad behaviour.

            I did. And what I observe in the real world is that there's not a lot of incentive in this system to do this sort of bad behavior. It's work, and you don't get much out of it, especially when admins run interference.

            You're making a distinction without a difference. Fact: Most registered users are anonymous. They don't use their full legal name. And then they have the nerve to say that ACs are cowards. While saying it would be "dangerous" to post under their real identity. Teuly hypocritical cowards.

            To be fair, it doesn't take much nerve.

            So what your position comes down to is (a) when push comes to shove, moderation isn't important enough to extend to everyone, (b) that most registered users are de facto anonymous cowards too afraid to use their real names, (c) a real name policy for allowing pisting would encourage people to self-police rather than posting unbridled hate speech because of rwal-world consequences, (d) there is zero proof that requiring people to register to post will drive a significant portion of posters away, and (e) when offered the solution of creating accounts for everyone to avoid this, you reject it.

            You're nobody. Literally. We have no idea who you are. So no use trying to extend moderation when we aren't keeping track of you.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28 2021, @07:04AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 28 2021, @07:04AM (#1150252)

              It's probably Ari, again!