I had some information incorrect in my prior story SoylentNews, Moderations, and You [soylentnews.org].
But, before I go into that I just want to say how impressed I am at the community's participation and discussion regarding the site. From that I see how much people value what we have here and do not want to see anything happen that would potentially degrade it. I saw a lot of passion expressed and it makes me all the more proud to be a part of what makes it happen.
I see my misunderstandings caused unnecessary anxiety in the community and for that I humbly apologize. I've learned to ask for feedback and verification before putting out a site-related story in the future (including this one!)
It was intended as a solicitation of feedback from the community. As in previous site upgrades we will put out a proposal, accept feedback, and if deemed warranted, give it a try. None of this is permanent; if it doesn't work out, it can be tweaked or rolled back.
First, I had the threshold for a "mod bomb" wrong. It is *FIVE* (not four) downmods by one account (nick1) of another account (nick2) in one moderation period (i.e. from mod point issuance at 00:10 UTC until the next set of mod points are released 24 hours later.)
Second, there are plans to put programmatic limits that would block excess mods beyond the limits from taking effect. (This would be much like what happens when you have already used, say, 8 of the 10 mod points that are issued each day, and then attempt to moderate 3 more; the first 2 will be applied but the 3rd will just 'drop on the floor' and be ignored. We may want to put up a message that a threshold has been exceeded, but I am unsure about how technically feasible that would be and how we would go about actually presenting that.)
Third, we haven't handed out moderation bans for a long while (many months, possibly even a year). Instead, knowing that #2 was planned, I understand that what has actually been happening is the excess mods got reversed and, when deemed warranted, an admin-to-user message had been sent making note of the excursion beyond the limit.
Fourth, moderation only affects the *apparent* visibility of comments. I personally browse with a threshold of -1; there's lots of dreck down there but there's also an occasional mis-mod and I gladly use my mod points to try and rectify those. In case you were wondering, the admins here get the same number of mod points as everyone else: 10 points per day.
Ultimately, personal vendettas are what we are trying to deal with. Focus on the comment itself, not on who made it. If you would mod a comment differently if you did not know who posted it... you might want to ask yourself if the focus is on the wrong thing.
We are trying to catch the (fortunately) rare abuses of the moderation system. If you accidentally upmod or downmod someone beyond the guidelines, don't worry about that. We do NOT want to be in the position of handing out bans. It's the repeated abuses of the system which we are trying to address.
What's the point of all this, anyway?
NOTE: What follows is from my memory of things happening 20+ years ago; there may be some innacuracies. Don't shoot me!
Background: When Slashdot first appeared (I was reading the site before they even had user accounts), it was a small community and the comments were not that numerous. I actually read all the comments on all the stories. As its popularity grew, so did the number of comments. It got to the point where one could no longer reasonably read all the comments. Some were real gems that greatly contributed to the discussion. As in any community, it was soon also visited by trolls and the like whose comments just added noise to the discussion ("frist post" anyone?). Several approaches were attempted, but challenges were discovered in their being able to scale up to the rapidly increasing number of comments. Community moderation was the ultimate solution. Let the community 'police' itself. Users would upmod comments that were especially interesting or insightful to give them greater visibility and downmod comments that were less, umm, germane. They ultimately came up with a scale for ranking comments and instituted 'karma' as a means of selecting who would be issued mod points.
Moderations of a user's comments affected their 'karma'. A 'positive' moderation (Informative, Insightful, Interesting, etc.) added 1 point to a user's karma. A negative moderation (Offtopic, Troll, Flamebait, Spam, etc.) deducted 1 point from their karma. Accounts that had attained sufficient karma (and had been around for at least a month, IIRC) were, in turn, eligible to receive mod points. Unfortunately, abuses soon appeared. There were the accounts that racked up massive karma and then went on a trolling spree wreaking havoc throughout the site. That led to a 'karma cap': any positive moderation beyond the cap were discarded.
So, each comment had a 'score' associated with it. A logged-in user's comment started with a score of 1. If the user had garnered sufficient karma, they were eligible to use a 'karma bonus' to give their comment greater visibility; those comments started with a score of 2. Comments posted by Anonymous Cowards (users who had not created an account and logged in), or by logged-in users who opted to 'post anonymously', saw their comments start with a score of 0.
From that starting point, through moderation, comment scores can range from -1 up to 5, inclusive.
The point of all this is that a visitor to the site could select a comment score 'threshold' and self-select what comments they wanted to see. Comments having the same score should be of approximately the same caliber. From a score of -1 (dross, a waste of your time) to +5 (crème de la crème, wow! That's amazing!).
In short, comment scores and account karma are a means to an end, not an end in itself. As I see it, the focus should be on the discussion and what the comments bring to support it. The comment should stand on its own; who made a comment is far less important than what was said.
The intent of moderation limits (be they for mod bombing or sockpuppeting) is to restrict the amount of skewing that a personal vendetta can bring to bear. Complaining about moderation in the discussion is "Offtopic" and is often modded that way. We're still trying to find out what works best for these.
Lastly, stuff happens. I've made typos and I'm sure I have mis-modded a comment, too. In the grand scheme of things, an errant mod now and then is not going to affect things that much. So I don't get too bent out of shape should my karma drop. I trust that if my intention is genuinely for the betterment of the site, it will manifest in my comments and things will work out in the end. On occasion I post something bone-headed and get called to task on it. No biggee. I own it, accept it, and try to do better the next time.
NOTE: Spam moderations are handled a bit differently. The idea is that, when warranted, the community can bring a bigger hammer to bear on problematic comments. Commercial advertising. The exact same comment being posted verbatim multiple times. GNA posts. Penis bird. Marrying young brides. If you see one of those, go right ahead and help clean up the place for the rest of us. On the other hand, if you accidentally moderate a comment as Spam, please send an e-mail to admin (at) soylentnews.org (along with a link to that comment) and we'll undo the mod with no penalty.
So, go ahead and use those mod points and make the site better for the next person who comes along.
PS: Thanks to all of you commented in the prior story. In general, the attitude I sensed was that the community did not want to mess up what was working well, the majority was against sockpuppet activity, was against mod bans being applied willy nilly (that was abundantly clear!), and the main disagreement was as to what the exact guidelines should be.