Monday, August 16, 2010

Why slashdot sucks (for deep thoughts)

Slashdot is an interesting place to meet with fellow avid computer users, and share stories and comments of a social fraternal nature. It is not the place for deep thoughts... nor can it be due to its very nature. There are a number of possible moderation signals to give, insightful and funny being amongst them, but in the end it all comes down to points.

Funny, insightful, informative, troll, and other signals should be orthogonal to each other. It should be possible with the default UI to filter out funny messages, as they are often off topic, and distracting.  Sometimes that's all you want. Because it all comes down to points, all of that information is lost, and every comment is essentially an entry in a popularity contest.

Information is lost in the moderation system, and further information is lost in the hard limits up or down... nothing can ever go higher than +5 points, or below -1.  This means that a really popular story may have more than the default 50 replies shown reaching the +5 level of moderation... which cancels out the effect of moderation for those entries.

It would be an interesting exercise to redesign the moderation rules to accomodate tags or user-supplied dimensions of rating, such as "accurate", "bogus", "spam", etc, which I leave as an exercise to the reader.


Anonymous said...

It didn't always suck. I enjoyed it in the late 90s.

I was reading responses to an article a few days ago-- for the first time in several years. I found the comments to be shallow, immature, and without any real insight. This also was not the case many years ago.

Defintely noticed that moderators there don't seem to know what "insightful" means anymore.

There used to be good debate and a wealth of ideas. Now it is fewer poorly articulated ideas, with moderators lining up behind their respective horses.

It's almost a mirror of US politics.

I feel empty at the loss of another familiar place.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the statement that each comment becomes simply an entry into a popularity contest, and that there is a lot of immature attitudes being shown.

However, there's something to be said about reading something you weren't expecting. (First and foremost, one should not be using /. comments as a source of information.) You characterize funny comments as distracting and off topic, but I often find that funny comments lend such unique/interesting perspective that very few people had, hence the moderation. Similarly, once in a while a -1 comment is very interesting, but was shot down because it went against the grain, perhaps so much so that no one understood it and considered it off topic. My point is, it is a very limiting experience to go onto a site and look for only the things you wanted while filtering out everything else.

In some sense, the various mod types cannot be considered orthogonal. Something can be simultaneously funny, interesting, and insightful, and the crowd through moderation can provide the breakdown.