I dined with Raymond, John Porcaro, Mick, Anita, Scoble, JP Stewart, Annette (no blog handle provided, and Jack Willam Bell (who refuses to blog until he writes the uber blog editor) last night at Crossroads mall. We were also joined by one of Scoble’s friends, Jeannie, I think, who he met in Joi Ito’s chatroom.
Raymond is as quick-knitted, humorous, and intriguingly multi-faceted as his blog would suggest. He knitted on a sweater while discussing, among other things, reputation-based peer moderation systems for social computing applications with Jack William Bell and me.
Jack, who is a tenured Slashdotter, described the theory and history of the Slashdot karma system and where he believes it has failed. Slashdot is a documentary meritocracy. The goal of the Slashdot karma system was to ensure the visibility and discoverability of the most valuable, noteworthy, and well-written articles about stuff that only a true geek would ever read. Users were awarded a certain number of moderation points that could be “spent” within a three day period. Moderation points could be used to reward another user for a well-written article or to penalize a user whose article you don’t like. Importantly, moderation points could also be used to reward article moderators for a rating with which you agreed.
Jack thinks that the karmic system began to fail for Slashdot when the membership swelled above 150,000 members. Interestingly, Jack reads Clay, who wrote Communities, Audiences, and Scale and A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy. Jack points to two prominent points of failure in the Slashdot system: an overly-insulated ruling class and an inflexible document rating system. On the first point, he claims that the super users, or “editors“, were too powerful and could not be voted off the island. At key times, the editors abused their superpowers, incidents that undermined collective confidence in the system. Perhaps more importantly, Jack believes that the karma system failed to scale because it was uni-dimensional and inflexible. If a reader liked one thing about a Slashdot article but didn’t like another, there was no way to vote their moderation points in a way that offered meaningful feedback to the author or for the system as a whole. Thus, if an article about a groundbreaking computational algorithm was written in an unconventional way by a slashdotter that few people liked, it had precious little chance to bubble to the top of the document heap. Jack thinks that the karma system would not have gone into demise so soon had members been able to award moderation points like figure skating judges; 1 point for style, 1 for creativity, 1 for technical expertise, etc.
So here’s my rhetorical question of the month:
Is it possible to design a karmic system for WikiWiki (SlashWiki?) in which individuals are granted progressively greater editorial power as their karma grows? If so, how does the system allow users to reward other users for minor edits and infrastructural or administrative tasks such as code maintenance and user management? Would a system of electing super editors guard against abuses such as unnecessary IP bans? Or is the very notion of authorization controls antithetical to the concept of Wiki?