New feature trial: Comment rating

For the next week or so, we're going to be conducting a trial of a comment rating system.

Here's how it works: At the bottom of each comment, there is a form with a number, an up arrow, and a down arrow. The number is the comment's rating. To rate a comment up, click the up arrow. To rate a comment down, click the down arrow. Once you've made a rating, the arrow you've clicked will get filled in. You can change a rating as many times as you want, but at present it is not possible to "unrate" a comment. In other words, if you accidentally rate a comment down, the only way you can undo it is to rate the comment up.

For the future, we are contemplating hiding comments with low ratings and sorting subthreads by rating instead of by date. But for now, ratings will not have any effect on the visibility or placement of a comment.

Some ground rules:

  • Only logged-in users can rate comments.
  • You cannot rate your own comment.
  • You can only rate comments that are less than a week old.
  • Comments should be rated up if they are especially insightful, informative, or interesting. Down ratings should be reserved for comments that violate the reader guidelines. Do not rate a comment down just because you disagree with the opinion being expressed.
  • For now, the ratings are anonymous, but keep in mind that they may be made public at a later date. Also be aware that the administrators can view everyone's rating behavior.
  • For now, users can rate as many comments as they want. We may decide to limit this in the future.

This is the greatest single post in the history of the blogosphere (testing whether the feature works)

It was -1, but I upped it to zero. Pity it doesn't record both.

Neg for complaining about your rating.

A reference was made to the negative numbers being red in color. I'm red/green colorblind and cannot tell the difference in the color of the numbers. I have no idea which are positive and which are negative.

That's what the - sign is for, you'll notice it on the negatively-rated comments.

I can barely see those, it all looks yellow. Blue and red would be really nice to make it blue and yellow for me.

P.S. I have this pretty bad. All stoplights look yellow to me, I can only see the indication of the light by its position.

I am not red-green colourblind, but have javascript turned off; all the numbers are green, but the negative ones have a minus sign in front of them.

Pump me up

It would be better if plus (+) signs were placed in front of ratings greater than zero (>>0). Then I can automatically search (at least in Firefox) for positively rated comments.

I don't think I want to search for and study negatively rated comments.

It would be better yet if double plus (++) signs were placed in front of ratings greater than 10 (>>10) and (+++) fro greater than 100. Then I can automatically search (at least in Firefox) for these.

What about advertising for ratings or running polls? Is it permissible to ask people to pump your rating up by doing the following?


*** Please click the up arrow here if you think TOD is a great place ***

Comment not relevant to the readership, ranked down.

Aye, this feature helps to track what people generally think around here about various issues. It's much easier to agree or disagree with a post by clicking an arrow than writing a reply when you don't really have anything to add.

Um, not that anyone would wote anything down just because there isn't an agreement. It would have more to do with your opinion about the writer not knowing what the hell he/she/it is writing about ;-)

It's much easier to agree or disagree with a post by clicking an arrow than writing a reply when you don't really have anything to add.


"Do not rate a comment down just because you disagree with the opinion being expressed."

So much for that idea...

Hence my idea to remove the negative voting altogether. Will remove the opportunity for voting based on opinion, but will still give you an idea which posts are most interesting.

I like having both. The idea is not just to point out good posts (it's worked very well in today's DrumBeat, BTW, highlighting Darwinian's post about Hirsch). It's also to hide spam and such.

In this case there should be separate negative and positive votes. I may post extremely interesting, but controversal opinion and 10 people may appreciate it and vote "for", 11 people will disagree with me and vote "nah", and my opinion will be labeled as spam, because it will have a negative rating of -1. You can't force people to vote irrespective of their opinion coinciding with the post, or just assume they will.

The net result is that 1000 people coming later on the thread will probably ignore my opinion altogether. On the other hand if I see +10 and -11 on some post I will be interested to read it because I'd see it has provoked some interesting reaction among people.

[Edit] In addition to that, opinion-based negative votes will move my comment downthread, which will make it even harder for people to notice. Maybe sorting upthread should be based only on the positive votes.

Granted this isn't exactly a poll but I think this link expresses my opinion about rating other people's comments.
If you have something to say, say it.

First, I apologize for responding here so that my comment is seen upthread. I have several issues with the new feature:

1) The rating font is too large and kind of intrusive. The ratings should not prevent people from posting, so I would prefer something more discrete
2) It will be more informative to have the negative and positive ratings separately. The Daily Kos format is a good example.
3) If there is no separation between negative and positive ratings, than I'd prefer the negative rating button to be removed all together. We will avoid a number of issues of psychological and interpersonal nature

Finally some food for thought: in all cases people will give second thoughts now before posting... not good if we are going to have free and relaxed discussions. Many people will be afraid to defend minority views just because they could lose rating and/or credibility. Also there is a number of personal and/or group spats around this forum, and I can't help but think the new feature will just encourage them. Overall I'm undecided if this feature is going to be more useful than causing a harm or vice versa.

What is the purpose of the rating system if we can't filter by rating?

well it will automatically put the positive ones near the top. the 0 in the middle and hide the negatives at the bottom, if it's similar to the one i am thinking of.
expect to see every tom and harry with the snake oil energy solution dejor of the week get rated +1 or +2. at the same time watch as people who point out problems, debunk said articles with those (sarcasm)pesky things called facts(/sarcasm), or just plain bad news.

That would make it confusing trying to read threads of discussion...


The above post shows 5 little icons next to the time stamp but Rethin's post only shows 3 little icons. Can you explain what these are for?

It seems that the far right one with chevrons collapses or expands the comment thread but not sure about the others.


The one with three icons are for permalinks, isolating the thread and going to the top of the comments, the additional two icons appear in all comments that are replies to new threads, and they direct either to the comment being replied to or the comment that began the thread. You should be able to hold your mouse over to see what they are.


Moderation is useful. Only by registered users, and there should be a history of how those registered users moderate. Unlike what most are suggesting, I'm thinking only negative moderation - for the purpose of removing spam and trolls should be permitted. That makes the rules much easier to follow.

However, you have also changed the UI. All these little icons are a PITA. I can feel my brain burning energy trying to shift from text mode to visual mode on each and every post now. (Stuff on this at That is a different issue than moderation. There ought to be a way to turn the icons to text mode.

Why use 8 bits when 64k will do? I dunno.

I find I've largely stopped reading TOD since they appeared. But hey, maybe you will gain a bunch of other people. That's a policy decision. Me, I'm mostly out of here.

cfm in Gray, ME

In the Navy we had a saying...'If it's working, don't fix it'.

I believe TOD will become dominated by smiley faced cheerleaders for technofixers, who may or may not have an interest in selling a product that they are cheerleading. I visit TOD for an exchange of ideas and occasionaly let off some steam. If my comments are no longer appreciated or are 'low rated' and pushed off thread then I will have no reason to continue to come here. I am long past the point where I am interested in a report card.

Imo, it is a dumbass idea...give me some negs, I can take it.

My sentiments exactly. I have often commented that TOD should be renamed TSP (The Solar Panel). Lots of technofix posts here, and little of the stuff that is in my Peak Oil report (Google or Yahoo search: Peak Oil impacts). TOD is "Peak Oil light," that is, we are facing Peak Oil, but solar panels and high tech Rube Goldberg devices will save us, somehow. There is little sense on TOD that we need liquid fuels, not electric power. Rarely do I see stuff here about Peak Oil reality: When oil gets too expensive, the highway system and power grid will fail, and so too will all of Rube Goldberg stuff. We are facing mass fatalities and need posts on risk management and planning for Peak Oil impacts.

Given the high number of technofixers at TOD, a bad rating on my comments could mean that I'm telling it like it is.

cjwirth...I gave you a good rating because I agree with you.

I have often commented that TOD should be renamed TSP (The Solar Panel).

You do understand that solar energy is why the oil exists in the 1st place, right?

We are facing mass fatalities

Ok. Fine.

and need posts on risk management and planning for Peak Oil impacts.

Before totiania was into I-O PNK, he was into earthmarines and being killed by the young. And most of the 'planning' tends to be 'plan on a violent death at the hands of others'.

So it you have a better 'plan' - let us know.

Yes Eric, I knew that at age 10 (1957) that oil is old solar energy and a lot of stuff about oil and energy. My dad was a technician for Atlantic Richfield Refining company, testing motor oil. And I read the 600 NAS study cover to cover. The rest of your post is pure drivel.

Hi Cliff,

I'd like to respond to your comment and your exchange w. Eric to illustrate what I'm trying to say in my comment to Super G.

Here's an example of where - possibly - you and Eric may be talking past each other.

My take on Eric's post is that he's feeling some desperation. I could be mistaken, only he knows, of course. I'm just guessing.

You answer him in a straightforward way until your use of the word "drivel" to describe "The rest of your post..."

Is there any other way to talk about this?

To me, the last question of Eric's post seemed sincere.

Maybe it's not; I don't know. I'd like to, though.

If Eric is sincerely interested in your ideas about risk management, is there a way he could say this that would enable you to hear it as such? (ie., As a sincere question?)

I don't know.

I'm not very good at these type of "translations", for eg. see:, and something I need to find a link for: Thomas Gordon's "active listening", and another group (don't have the reference) on "Appreciative Inquiry". That said, I have seen such "translations" facilitate the conversation.

Dear Super G, why does my comment come with a little green "1" when I hit the post button?

Now it has a little green "0". (It changed before I posted it.)

I don't know or care what Eric thinks or feels, I just respond to what he writes.

Now why in the world is my comment being down moded?

Down ratings should be reserved for comments that violate the reader guidelines. Do not rate a comment down just because you disagree with the opinion being expressed.

Its not even an opinion for christ's sake, its a question. Why would anyone downmod a question?

This is not going to end well.

this is how slashdot ended up. the moderation system did the /exact/ opposite of what they wanted. people who knew about the subjects of the story's were modded down especially if it's a story about power, or anyone who did not buy into the 'cult of the mac'. once a post reaches -1 it by default is collapsed and moved down thread invisible to all but those who expand them or those who have their settings to show all posts -1 and higher.

So far I am unable to see how comment ratings affect the page. A good example of the use of ratings is, a news aggregation site. The focus at NewsTrust is on good journalism, and most stories listed there are ordered by journalistic quality. People rate the stories using a fairly sophisticated system. The reviews can be rated by others, and those ratings affect the weighting of each review into the total. It works quite well, helping to filter out people who try to game the reviews.

To mimic this at TOD we would need a single set of rating controls in the comment submission area, where a logged in user could rate the blog post itself while writing a comment. Then each comment would have controls so others could rate it, as we have here. But to be like NewsTrust, each user would only get one rating for the post. So all comments by a user would have the same story rating value. And if a user's comments get low ratings, their story rating has less effect on the overall rating.

It may be easier to just submit TOD stories to NewsTrust. A bunch are already there, some submitted by me. I see Prof. Goose has rated some NewsTrust stories, although he might get bounced out for not using his real name, and he got dinged once for giving a TOD story the highest possible score. TOD stories tend to fare well at NewsTrust, because evidence, sources and balance are respected there. But 1.0s and 5.0s are rare ;)

Are you going to have a hall of fame for top rated posters?

I am going to start posting lots more, get my score up.

duh...kohesion...more posts might get your score up...more posts might get your score down. Fool's errand that.

Since I believe that posting a lot is usually a sign of a big bag of wind do not count on any 'ups' from me if you do post a lot.

No, there will be no 'hall of fame' for 'top rated posters'...There might be a hall of fame for those that post what the board monitors agree with...time will tell.

I personally try not to post much, because I haven't really got all that much to say that other people would find interesting. Also, the threads are getting so long that it takes hours every day to get through them. I don't mind now, as I'm on holiday, but once I start working again, I may not be able to follow these discussions.

While I'm not telling anybody to post less, I would encourage people to think before posting and perhaps refrain from adding to the noise. It's just common courtesy, after all we all want this forum to remain intelligent, informative, thoughtful and civil.

Although this goes against your advise (think before you post),
I'd like to add that you don't have to read everything every day.

It's not physically possible.
Pick a random snippet.
Scan through it.
If you run across something you like, great.
If not, well, that's the internet for you.

Thank you for the new feature!!

Neg for being a suck-up.

Pos for analysis

I can't see this as anything but a way to delete unpopular opininons/facts. That will turn this site into a heavenly chorus for one point of view. When that happens the site has lost all measure of respect, and you will no longer see both sides of complex problems that beset our society in dificult times.

I don't know. I think the universal problem is the "half-life" effect. Slash-dot has a huge amount of commenters but the flurry of activity usually lasts for about 15 minutes; that is the half-life for getting your point across before it gets swamped and then lost for eternity. TOD doesn't have this problem yet, and you can still search through the comments a day late and get some responses.

Seems possible. With enough of the right kind of Pavlov training this could be a prime site for Iron Triangle (copyright WT) advertising. In fact, you could probably change the whole face of "Peak Oil" tinkering with this site alone.

I think that's most likely. But they're saying they'll know who's giving out ratings, so if you get (say) some "there is no peak, ever! You guys are all dumb!" troll running around downrating everyone's posts, well...

I don't really know though, I don't see the use of this sort of thing.

I still say better would be going to a forum from these comments, in a forum you can have avatars and ignore lists so if someone consistently writes stupid or annoying stuff then most people will be able to say, "ah, another comment from Kiashu, I can scroll down and read the next one instead" and stop responding to them.

There is already a forum system on
I think the editors don't want to re-invent the wheel so to speak by creating a clone of that site.

Also, there is already an ignore feature called TODBan created by Greenman. It was more commonly used before the great Hothgar/Freddy/OilCEO purges, but as far as I know it still works. has, shall we say, a different kind of readership and commenter. I can understand not wishing to duplicate that lot, but I don't think it's their forum which does it. Forums allow you to set it so that only moderators can start threads; they'd post an article and start a thread about it. If anyone can start a thread then trolls can have rather too big a voice.

A forum gives a different kind of conversation, more like a public lecture followed by questions and comments, the topic of which tends to change as time goes on. An ignore function thus acts a bit like a speed bump on a journey forward, you run over the commenter's words and drive on.

A comment thread is several different conversations which happen to be in one place. An ignore function would probably, I think, make some of the conversations incomprehensible.

So I recommend
- a forum with moderated membership,
- where only registered members post,
- where only moderators (editors) can start threads and they start one for each article, and
- which has ignore/friend functions.

This would help address what Prof Goose has called "the large standard deviation of comments".

I would go along with a lot of what Kiashu says.

However if people register in a name rather than with a handle and hotmail and yahoo 'disposable' e-mail addresses are not allowed than it would work perfectly well with members being able to start threads.
For an example of such a system at work see 'ProPhoto'
Extensive id checks have not been needed.
Should it be felt that this would restrict contributions from industry insiders then as long as they registered their real name with the site a handle could be used.

Disadvantages of the rating system proposed here include that it would be difficult to follow arguments if part of them ended up at the bottom of the thread.

Ratings have already been allocated without any guidelines being breached, apparently just on the grounds of agreement/disagreement.

It would also encourage multiple false identities to skew ratings.

A comment click to send a 'complaint' e-mail to the editor might work better, as it could be set up so that the guideline that was felt to be breached could be ticked.

Most of the hassles would go anyway in any case with real names being used, and non-disposable e-mails.

Multiple false identifies are a real issue.

I've seen people ruling very important forums just by using their whole family of clones. And with this +/- system, we are not only going to see fake kings but also genius beggars.

I understand TOD is becoming famous and solutions have to be found to adapt it. At least, please just use the + rating and forget the - so that good and specialised posters don't sink forever.

Would it be possible to relate the number of posts you could moderate to the number of postive rated posts you have made, or the ratio of positive-negative posts? - this way having multiple identities doesn't help game the moderation system, as you could get just as much moderation power by posting everythign with 1 account.

eg. if you have made 5 postive rated comments in the last month, you can rate 5 comments per week. - that way there are always about 10 times as many votes available to be given as there are posts being made (5 per week ~=20 per month, but 1/2 posts end up negative, so only only 10x as many votes than posts, rather than 20).

Good and specialised posters can just write an article, and then their words won't be lost.

'I 'would' go along with what Kiashu...' Why the 'would'? Either you go along with what Kiashu said or you don't. You begin a lot of posts with 'I would and end them with the word 'personally'. Wasted blarney. Then, in your post above you ramble on about other systems that are available. The people running the site are aware of 'other systems' and 'how to game the system' you believe they are ignorant? ...and 'guideline breached'?...What are you, an expert on protocol and political correctness or a guy that wants to discuss peak oil? I don't give a damn if I 'breach a guideline' if I get across the point I am attempting to make...and that is what I am doing right now! I gave you a neg for excessive hot air.

No, you don't understand.

Dave is special. He can post whatever uniformed crap he wants. Its up to the rest of us to correct him when he makes a grievous error.

This is called "discussion".

BTW, you are off topic. You aren't allowed to point this out to Dave. If you do so you aren't contributing to the "discussion" in a positive manner like he does.

Bang goes your facade of 'constructive criticism'.
Do you ever make posts about anything concrete?

You got me dave, this is just plain old criticism.

You seemed immune to the constructive part so I gave up.


You get a lot of pleasure from personal attacks.
I note you did not bother acknowledging the information I dug out for you on solar systems at your request.

Neg for not understanding the difference between a personal attack and constructive criticisim. Also for excessive petulance when someone says anything negative about one of your rambling posts.

BTW, I am not interested in solar pv. It does work fine in Florida...Untill the first hurricane takes the array along with your shingles/tiles and roof. This is not exageration, it happens all over Florida and has happened to my neighbors. They were out a lot of $.

I'm with Dave here and find his critics in error. Sure it was not overtly personal attack. But there is something that is just as negative which we could call machine-gunning - the generating of any number of cheap unworthy criticisms, which waste everyone's time except that of those who clearly have a personal attitude issue such as Rethin has in his obsession with criticising DaveMart (who regularly makes useful contributions and never negative ones except when provoked by these etceteras). Dave, please just ignore them.

Either you go along with what Kiashu said or you don't. You begin a lot of posts with 'I would and end them with the word 'personally'.

The problem is that what you are you saying is utter bollocks. Between the black and white of "agree" and "disagree" there are many shades of grey. People can have nuanced opinions.

And as well as shades of grey, there are other colours. You can say, "I agree with this person about X, but also there is Y to think of, and -" then expand on what the person has said. Sometimes when you hit "reply" you're not agreeing or refuting, you're just using what they said as a base from which to expand the topic a bit.

I can't see this as anything but a way to delete unpopular opininons/facts. That will turn this site into a heavenly chorus for one point of view.

The German Heise news ticker (IT related web portal) has a comment section for every single article with a similar rating system. For example, have a look at the comments of a random article (about a new version of open SuSe, a linux distribution) and you will see some comments marked red.

Everyone who reads German will support that these comments are not simply expressing opposition to Linux, but do so in both a provocative and featherbrained way. This one random example is typical for most other cases.
After following discussions on for years I can confirm that more than 90 percent of comments in thick green are absolutely worth reading while the red ones are not. It is a valuable and effective instrument, far from censorship.
And after all you can still go and read comments of those 'outlawed'. It will be suggestive about what is not wanted on this site, and I really guess it's impertinence, self aggrandizing and irrelevance.

How about a feature that only expands the threads which contain "new" posts?


Even uprated your post. Mostly plan to ignore the feature if it's implemented. I rate posts right off the bat when I see who the poster is.

Another feature this site could really use is automated HTML coding buttons. It's a real drag having to copy paste "

" etc.

this site could really use is automated HTML coding buttons

Dude, try out autohotkeys (AHK)
You don't think I actually hand code in HTML for every blockquote, bold, picture, etc.? ;-)

Oh. So that's his secret.

AutoHotkey - Free Mouse and Keyboard Macro Program with Hotkeys

Inneresting. Might be news to some, judging from the paucity of pics/blockquoting/annoying smileys here.

and say, let me take this opportunity to note that smileyfaces - even ascii ones - are the opiate of the masses, and not in a good way. Animated ones are like "baby on board" stickers that obscure the rearview mirror, or "support our troops" stickers on a suburban hummer.

How about if we leave the ego-rating of comments to Slashdot and keep theoildrum focused on information and discussion?

yes I have to agree with this. People will be to focused on this "rating thing", constraining themselves. And theantidoomer will get alot of them - minus- even though his views/findings are very important as a balance to it all ...

his "findings" are very important as a balance

If writing a script to 'find' 'new' PR releases via RSS would have him stop posting 'em here I'd write the script.

Analysis of the 'findings' is far more important - so why can't he be bothered to post 'look at this' then add analysis as to why its important.

(And do note - theantidoomer started off with 'cars will go on and on' to 'I now ride a bike' so reality does have an effect.)

I see your point Eric, that said and I'm neither in favor of most of what TAD is posting.

BUT maybe there is a clue (good point) in 1 of 10, or even 1 in 100 of them proposals of his, who knows ? In that case one may say 99% is "spam", but hey his last 1% "solved the energy-crisis of this world!" :-)

One more thing : TAD is doing alot of digging and he has the same "positive slash ignorant" view as the rest of the 99% of the planets population - he is just a regular Joe 6-pack with a smile!

finally, it's up to each and one TODer to reply to him or not ... (I seldom do)

interesting. I said essentially the same thing about slashdot upthread and got an initial -1 rating but you got 5.

Herd mentality. If the first idiot to read your post down mods you, then everyone else who sees your post sees that big red -1 and are predisposed to viewing your post negatively.

Same goes in reverse. An initial upmod will predispose others to seeing the post in a positive light and increase the chances of further upmodding.

Once you get enough points in either direction an avalanche type effect occurs. You see this all the time on sites like Slashdot or Digg.

After the great Hothgar/Freddy/OilCEO purges, was anyone even calling for a rating system anymore?

I agree with Rethin here (even though he posted rubbish on another thread today/yesterday).
Please see my below comment for my fuller on same theme.
PS- I like Rethin's picturesque vision of a tod populated by a herd of idiots!

Yeh, but isn't life grand now that we don't even have to read the posts to come up with an opinion? Think of the savings in time and brain power. Just do a quick peruse of the ratings and then go outside and play. Oh, did I mention the fact that I hate this rating system?

Exactly! We are all extremely pressed for time, busy busy busy. That's why we're here, right?

I mean, really all you need to know about peak oil is "It's gonna run short someday, and someday soon is gonna become real expensive. So I better try to live in some way that doesn't use much of the stuff."

Unless you're running some big corporation or part of government and can affect wider policies, anything beyond that is just pure entertainment, really.

Busy, busy, busy! Need to save time so I have some spare for pr0n!

Neg for whinning.

I thought it was whining or is that whingeing? Nothing has really changed since the usenet days, just a lot of posturing for effect.

That's because you smell bad. This is a new hidden feature on TOD that helps us to evaluate posters.

And this amusing comment getting +10 at time of my writing, contrasted with the -2 or so on my suggestion for a forum, these demonstrate that already the comment rating system is being used basically just for "I dis/agree".

Kiashu, exactly what I intended to display. Thank you.

I agree that it is unnecessary, but if it must be included, then it should show the total number of votes not just the result. (eg -2/12 to indicate 5 positive and 7 negative, not just the erroneous impression that only 2 people bothered to vote.)

Better still to scrap it entirely, and preferably also get rid of the twee little blank "speech boxes" that have recently appeared. Most TOD readers are able to comprehend English (or mercan) and do not need picture books to explain meaning.

The best information sites are those with the most simple layout and a minimum of distracting puffery.

KISS (keep it simple, Stupid!!)


I have to agree. by adding a rateing system this place has betrayed their goal. it will cease to be a place where you will see the following.

person A: i am right *insert explanation here*

person B: no your not *insert explanation of above explanation showing how the data was read wrong or what ever*

It will become like this.

person A(+4): i am right *may or may not have data here.*

-- hidden reply that proves otherwise though person b has a lower rating

---- person C who is a fan boy/girl of person A. has no new data and just quotes person A to attack person B. comment visible due to a +1 rating.

Kinda unnecessary, isn't it (most comments are read anyway, aren't they?); or is it designed to filter out newbies like myself? Please spend your energies on something else, like trying to bring the basics of PO to MS.

Regards, Matt B
PS. If you are going to "rate", place the score at THE START of the comment!

PPS. The bottom edge of each window-boarder seems to have disappeared - on my screen anyway!

PPPS. How about a "numbering" system for the Comments? When there's over a hundred (even fifty), I lose track when I revisit the same topic a day or two later.

Other than that, you have a great system here!

Neg for whinning.

Is that "winning" or "whining"? (Didn't think I was doing either).

Ground Rules, point four: "Do not rate a comment down just because you disagree with the opinion being expressed".

So, up your jumper...

Regards, Matt

Matt, nothing personal, but no one is going to follow the 'ground rules'. That is what I intend to show...and, I don't believe that the board monitors really thought the 'ground rules' would be followed. I think they are more intelligent than that. Of course, I might be wrong about their intelligence after seeing this debacle.

I would like to hear from the board monitors exactly what they are attempting to achieve with this system.

Whining is the correct spelling. Whinning is the way I spell it.

No problems, River. Just a little worried that Joes like myself (newbies with an average IQ) may get left behind a little here - and I've enjoyed visiting far more than I thought I would, considering what may be approaching.

Perhaps the "keepers" of this fine site could simply put a rating system to a vote (for registered Todsters)?

Regards, Matt B
(For the record, I'm probably more of a bitcher and a moaner, than a whiner)

Ooh, I just thought of another PS... How about a "snap to" (search) feature. Type in a name, click the snap-to button, away you go!

Regards, Matt B


Can you only rate if logged in and 1 go per user? Could i also request the option to be notifed by email if a thread I'm watching or have participated has activity?

Thanks for the good work

This isn't going to work very well.

Using a down button for what is in reality a 'report to admin' key doesn't make sense. Just eliminate it and install a 'report' icon.

Maybe this is a good idea. Now I will know that people really don't like me, rather than just imaging that. And this way I can show people that I am not paranoid and that "they" really don't like me :)

I am reminded of the Ziggy cartoon, with Ziggy looking upward with a bewildered look, saying to himself, "I wanted to join paranoids anonymous, but no one would tell me where they are meeting :(

Also, maybe there are some bad actors here among us, not me of course, who might try to get the worst rating of the day :)

We could have other ratings for level of doomerism or technofixerism or verbosity or curmudgeonism or cynicism. We could have an award for the most irascible bastard of the year :). The sky is the limit.

You're likable enough, CJ


Pos for saying what you think and adding a little much needed humor to the thread.

As far as I am concerned, you are a bunch of pixels on a page. Hard to like or not to like. Anyway, thank God we are just pixels because, otherwise, with this rating system, this would seem like high school or, even worse, the workplace. Oh, let's extend this to real life and walk around with little buttons on our backs so everyone we come in contact can rate us. As if we don't have enough mental illness and anti depressants as it is. I hate this rating system but I hesitated to say that just now because of fear of being rated by pixels. I hesitated to say that too and ad infinitum.

tstreet, pos for saying what you think and not being a suck up. I agree with you. We no longer need report cards. We, I assume, are all adults.

Just another distraction sorry. But I found myself irresistably going for the rating button rather than responding. My first instinct was to uprate where I agree with what the commenter was saying, even though that was not the purpose of the rating system.

I think I would find it more useful if there was an agree/disagree score as it would save a lot of "I agree with you type" comments that take up space and bandwidth. On the other hand actually requiring people to fully comment, identifies the writer and helps you build up a profile of your fellow TOD'ers and definitely adds to the conversation which is what we are all here for.

I would like to reserve my opinion for a few weeks but ask us again then and my response may be different.

I agree with what this person typed. ;)

Neg for waffling. Either you like it or you don't. PO is a fact and 'thinking about it for a couple of weeks' is not going to stop it.

Whats wrong with a few weeks to evaluate if this is useful or not? It's got nothing to do with PO.

Termoil, just following the lead of GW Bush. If he doesn't need two weeks to decide, and he is the decider, why should you be granted two weeks?

Interesting toy. Is this part of an effort to make Infinite Drumbeats more manageable for casual readers?

I think the positioning of the arrows is a little confusing and would recommend that the rating/up/down arrows be moved to the header of the comment on the right hand side...


I'm with you Nick.

Neg for whinning.

If you have javascript turned off, the rating boxes are spectacularly ugly and badly-placed; if you turn javascript on they go to being merely quite ugly and badly-placed.

On the whole the discussion here is reasonably civil, and a lot of it is not helped by having a number to the side; maybe I hark from a more civilized age, but I much prefer the discussion not to be interrupted by instarating systems (or indeed by the regular 'please digg this thread' sentences).

I presume there's a human moderator watching over the threads, and if you've got one of those the technical methods are redundant.

Pos for agreeing with my opinion. Thank you Tom.

The problem is no, we don't have a human moderator watching over the threads. At least, not always. And frankly, we on the staff have much better things to do than babysit the comments.

Once a site reaches a given size, community moderation is the only feasible option. Yes, there are drawbacks, and we are well aware of them. But there are really no other alternatives.

Bloney, there are other alternatives. One is: leave the system alone.

If we really did that, this place would become unreadable.

Nobody knows how much work it is to police this place and keep it readable. "Leave it as it is" sounds fine if you aren't aware of that. Kinda like "keep on happy motoring" sounds fine if you aren't aware of peak oil.

Neg for poor analogy. I appreciate all the hard work that you put into TOD DB. If you cannot keep up with the work load perhaps it is time to hire some additional help? Maybe this is not possible because of financial constraints?

If TOD DB needs a 'fix' then it might become a place that some current contributors might not like and DB might attract some new contributors that you do not like.

Fixing something that is working from the point of view of contributors might not have a good outcome.

I sold on Ebay for several years when their site didn't attract a lot of scammers. Once the feedback system was gamed, the system broke down. Sellers would not leave feedback for buyers untill the buyer left FB, which usually insured that both parties received positive FB. This really told a prospective buyer nothing about the scruples of the seller. I could give a long discourse about why the system broke down but I feel sure that you can see where this is going.

I do not think the DB proposal is a good one. Few will follow the guidlines and many will leave a + or - according to their view of what the poster said. I believe that I have shown that already.

Anyway, thanks for all the hard work that you do on TOD.

It's not just me. The DrumBeats are really the least of it.

There's no need to re-invent the wheel here. There have been forums on the Internet for years, and it's not like we don't know how things work.

The problem is the site is growing like crazy, and others' experiences have shown that there's really no other solution for a large site than community moderation. Just hiring more moderators is not a solution that scales up. Which is why sites that make a lot more money than we do still use community moderation.

The only other feasible solution is to not grow. Perhaps a "pay to post" system. However, that is not something most of us want.

Ebay was run by volunteers for many years prior to becoming a big money operation. I was selling on Ebay in 1998 and on Tuesday nites (popular time to close auctions) the entire site would crash due to too much traffic. Ebay continued to use volunteers and eventually it worked out ok...Untill 9-11 changed everything in subtle and not so subtle ways.

I feel sure you have thought of this, but, if you need board monitors why not pick people that you believe are level headed (that would not be me) and ask them to volunteer a few hours per day/week. Rational people with a somewhat neutral bias would probably work. Neither too doomerish nor too technocopian. The volunteer monitors could be overseen by board monitors by occasional spot checks or by a system of posters sending complaints directly to board monitors overseeing the volunteers. This sounds complicated but I do not think it is.

I do not have the answers but I don't think the proposed system is a good one. A pay to post system might be the best solution. It would discourage people that do not have serious convictions and simply want to ramble on or be disruptive. It would also attract more posters with a 'better widget' to sell. Tough call.

I feel sure you have thought of this, but, if you need board monitors why not pick people that you believe are level headed (that would not be me) and ask them to volunteer a few hours per day/week.

That's what does. It eats up a huge amount of their time and energy (and they still have a reputation for being the Wild West). They have rules, and rules about the rules, and endless discussions back stage about who should be warned or banned, and why. It's needlessly complex, IMO, and as I said, not scalable.

I understand the reluctance to change what seems to be working. Heck, I miss the old days when we weren't popular, and when there were only a few comments per thread, but they were extremely high-quality.

But those days are gone. What works for a small village will not work for a big city. The site has to evolve.

I think most of us understand tod has to evolve. And yes it'll be painful and people will complain.

I hope the current rating system is just the first baby step to a more complicated/usable system.

Just don't forget to consult us lowly users. For example this newest change was just sprung on us. A days notice would have made a huge difference to the reception.

Anyway big thanks to all the folks behind the curtain. Keep up the good work and what not.

We've been talking about a comment rating system here for years.

And this trial is a user consultation. There's no consequences to the rating. Comments don't sink or disappear if they're rated poorly, or rise or turn pretty colors if they're rated well. The person who wrote the comment gets no karma.

You see if you just explained things like this to us beforehand I bet you'd have gotten a lot better reception.

You have to treat us like children. Individually we all (well most of us) well adjusted adults. Collectively we are a group of 5 year olds.

for now yes, but how long? a week? a month?
I know you know that any user rateing system includes such aforementioned features. So i also know that since these buttons have appeared such a system is not far off.
If one would search the internet, rating systems /encourage/ 5 year old like behavior rather then discourage it.

then this site has lost all creditability.

A comments rating system is not a method of moderation, it's a measure of popularity.

It's like trying to ensure quality and non-obscene programming on television simply by looking at the viewer ratings.

I want to rate the original post here with a thousand negatives (though thanks for consulting). I think tod is the best designed forum of many I've seen on the web and this will be far from an improvement. Posts cannot be usefully understood by a single rating. A single post may contain a mixture of great and rubbish. It may contain superb nuggets in a long ramble, or may make a fair point in one line. I find some posts to be longwinded windbagging, but then we all have the option to easily scroll down past them.

Such rating systems are a very bad idea. They attempt the impossible, to bypass the need for critical thinking.

Many of the greatest ideas in history received trash ratings in their day. Thinking people should manage without such ratings.
Also it makes the site even more complicated datawise.

So dont do it!!!!

And a "zero" rating can be taken two ways...

No-one gives a toss about what you have to say, or;
Plenty of people do, but are split down the middle.

KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid.

Regards, Matt B

And a "zero" rating can be taken two ways..
No-one gives a toss about what you have to say, or;
Plenty of people do, but are split down the middle.

This alone is a fatal enough flaw to make this particular implementation inadvisable.

Pos for thinking.

I appreciate cjwirths comments. It's funny, and it filters ratings however its not quite feasible..

When I look at youtube the ratingsystem works pretty well especially considering what kind of 'divers' public it attracts.
Maybe it is possible for SuperG to add a simple reportsystem for explicit content like porn, racism, language abuse, spam, dupers (duplicaters of accounts like Hothgar/Freddy/OilCEO) etc. so we can use the ratingsystem for arguments, intelligence, humor, stupidity, boringness etc.
The comments reported can be handled by the moderators and there is no danger of comments with bad ratings (e.g. an opinion that is not shared by a majority) being deleted by moderators. At most it will be on the bottom of the list or only displayed when clicked for. (Like on youtube)

Neg for verbiosity and comparing TOD to youtube. If one likes youtube one can find it readily enough. This is not youtube.

This is not a good rating system, the negative ratings _will_ be abused. Instead of copying reddit and digg, actually I think it's a better idea to copy slashdot:

1. If you post to a thread, you can't rate ANY comments in that thread. Post or moderate, but not both.
2. Rating privileges are awarded by sortition (random selection) on a regular basis. This is democratic, and encourages people to think a bit more about how they rate, instead of just doing it by instinct. Also, it can be set up to avoid time zone problems: On many sites, the time of day you post on makes a huge difference to rating.
3. Only members which have been active for a certain time period are in the moderation privilege lottery (if people register many accounts and store them, you might want to demand X comments at a positive score as well).
4. Slashdot has meta-moderation, but I don't think that is very necessary, actually.

While "modern" sites like digg and reddit are more popular, I think this is because they are user-driven, not because their moderation systems are better. The old is still the best, personally I can verify that by looking at my best and worst rated comments on the respective sites.

Neg for you Vintermann because I wanted to agree with you and show the rating system can be abused.

River has my vote as contributor of the day for his hilarious but serious constant input.

I think there is a very common fallacy that if something starts to work less well or be less popular, then it follows that some change/s must be made. (A similar nonsense is the notion that classical music supposedly needs to make itself more markety-appealingy just because other things are becoming more popular in some circles.)

The fallacy of the perfect solution, of which PO denial is another instance.

Yes the great tod-editors correctly recognise that the quality inevitably gets compromised by an influx of less useful contributors. But it does not follow that the best solution has to involve changing the system in any way.

Possibly one thing that would be a useful modification would be to make it more effort to post - for every posting the poster having to type in some mystery number, retype their password or whatever. A very similar system applies in scientific journal publishing, where your manuscript will only get considered if you have religiously complied with all the tedious style and formatting rules (citations etc).

As pressure increases on the site these impediments could be made harder as necessary.

Possibly one thing that would be a useful modification would be to make it more effort to post - for every posting the poster having to type in some mystery number, retype their password or whatever

I think that'd mostly just give heavier influence to people with time to kill.

Some sites only allow X posts a day.

I do try to make worthwhile contributions to the discussions here, but even so, if I knew I only had (say) four posts a day, I would surely think about them harder. And spellcheck! ;)

If people just wanted to post to say, "Kyle is a poopyhead" or whatever, then they could... four times a day. But most people like that would lose interest and wander off.

Editor/Moderators, of course, would have unlimited posting... they have to be able to respond to people commenting on their articles, after all.

I think that'd mostly just give heavier influence to people with time to kill.

I can believe that concept, and that worthwhile busy people would be put off - to some extent. Perhaps we should just make it a bit more inhibiting to drunken impulsives.

But again, don't forget that the best solution can only be an imperfect one anyway.

Following on from the various subcomments above, here's a proposed formula.

# No comment rating system.

# A smallish number (~20?) of expert contributors/commentators to be classed as premium contributors. To respect their valuable time the system would exempt them from the following two rules. All other contributors will be subject to the following.

# Limit of 4? posts / 2000? words total per topic (or per day?).

# Must accurately type in some tedious random-generated code or whatever before they can start to write their comment. And maybe have to type in a password too. (This would outrageously discriminate against drunks and the insane but again, we can't have perfection anyway.)
(Note I said before there - if you put the tedious task after they have typed their comment they will have already built up the momentum to grind on through it.)

HI RobinPC

I really appreciate your point about "solutions". For one thing, I'm not clear on the problem.

In terms of people not being civil, I really liked Bob Shaw's response to someone speaking negatively to WT. (I believe it was under HO's article.)

Otherwise, I'm almost hopelessly "lost and confused" w. all these red and green numbers and arrows.

You and River bring smiles, though.

It doesn't seem to work on Firefox, at least not for me. Has anyone got it to work on Firefox?

Works for me with IE.

Works for me on Firefox, no problem.

I tried several times, with no luck. Now, I just tried to uprate your link and it worked!

Maybe I need to wait a bit longer, when it appears not to have worked!

Hmm. The opening comment had a rating of 20. To test, I rated it down. The count dropped to 19, as expected. I later rated it up and the count went to 21! I rated it down again and the count went to 19.

Doesn't seem right.

it's not dynamically updated, it's updated on page-refresh. someone else voted it up to 21 in between .. when you saw 20 only. So you downrated it from 21 actually.

Yeah, that's what I thought, too. So I tried it a few times, even refreshing the page in between. Same thing happened. Just now, it was 20. I uprated it and it went to 22. I refreshed (it stayed at 22), then downrated it and it went to 20 again. Tried it on a post below. It was on 4, I uprated and it went to 5, I downrated and it went to 3.

I think it's broken.


I read the opening post again (always a good move). I had mis-read it the first time. The arrows are absolutes, not relative to the current rating number.

So when I pressed up, on the 4 rated comment, it increased the count of the uprates; so now 5 more uprates than downrates.

However, when I changed my mind and pressed the down arrow, it eliminated my uprate and added a downrate instead. So the uprate count went down by one and the downrate count went up by 1, meaning a total switch of 2.

In other words, clicking the other arrow completely switches your vote. I thought it just affected the current count, regardless of whether you'd already voted.


Yep, earlier comments will have higher numbers

I am LOGGED in but no action when I press on the arrows.

Nothing happened for me either, to begin with. Keep persevering and be patient after hitting the arrow. Remember that you can't rate your own comments.


This rating system is a two edged sword.

I have always stated that this column is an "intellectual" one.

As soon as you start streaming ideas to what "pleases" the masses even if we are the smart masses you have channeled yourself into a Glee-club.

Sure! some of the comments are stupid and inane and a pain in the ass but I think that goes with the territory.

Action brings reaction ------ If the tone of the replies starts to deteriorate it usually means that the Prime Mover has already gone to hell.

If I kept reading agreeable replies it would be boring, sometimes the replies I Hate get me fired up, even if only to say what an idiot the replier is.

I understand the problem!!! Free-market may be the only solution not controlled free-market.


'As soon as you start streaming ideas to what 'pleases' the masses even if we are the smartasses you have channeled yourself into a glee-club.'

Pos for excellent observation. Yes, I meant to say smartasses.

I tend to agree. You will never learn anything from someone who agrees with you all the time.

You also leave your site open to coordinated attempts to remove comment 'not in someones economic best interest' WT took an enormous beating by Hothgor and Freddie last year. Gentle reminders to keep on topic or what ever seems to be the current problem might work wonders. Your site has improved so much from the Fredie/Hotgor flame wars that I find this interesting that you feel a need for improvement.

Having a 'For professionals only' section with limited access might be a solution. I see plenty of discussion between those who clearly are in the field. The ability to ask questions by non-oil-types such as myself would be a needed feature.

Thanks for all your work,

TOD eBay edition. Works for me. Makes it easier to catch potentially high quality posts when short on reading time.

What if you write something which get lots of good ratings, can you then edit that comment and change it's character? Not sure why somebody would, but they might I suppose, if they could.

May I suggest that since you can't change a post once it is replied to, that you also can't change a post once someone rates it.

I understand this rule:

Do not rate a comment down just because you disagree with the opinion being expressed.

But I really wonder if it will work as advertised!

In the end, this will only render the blog even more extremist in its position, rating down any skeptical view whatsoever.

Pos for insight. 'we don't need no education, we don't need no thought control'. This system is 'just another brick in the wall'.


Why are we not rating the input, which maybe of far greater importance than the comments.


Pos for excellent observation.

Nothing ever stays the same, things change. The milieu within which TOD has been operating is changing, and what worked very well before apparently isn't working quite so well today. It doesn't take exceptional forsight to anticipate that it might work even less well in the future.

OK, so we have a problem. Is this the right solution? I don't know. I do appreciate being asked. However, a modest suggestion: Might it be even more effective to open up a more wide ranging discussion amongst us wrt WHY things are working less well, and brainstorming a wide range of possible solutions. The rating scheme might still emerge as the best solution, but then again maybe not. I just don't know. I would be interested in seeing what other creative alternatives are out there before I give this one my "yea" or "nay".

I think it needs to have a total number of votes rather than just being an incremental counter upor down otherwise Idon't really see that it has a point. Nice technical work though Super G :))

Yes. I'd rather see a total thumbs up count. And not bother with the negs. This way a low count is read as "not much support or interest", or something like that. Maybe a usefulness count like call them "barrels" and have a barrel count for each comment. The more barrels the better the usefulness.

45 barrels and counting.

Then you can hide counts that are zero/low after a time period. If you can't get 5 barrels after 100 viewings then it could become hidden. Or whatever, numbers.

It takes loads of time to get through all the comments as it is. I hardly have time to rate comments and will spend my time thinking about the substance of the comments. Having perused the ratings on this particular post, I don't see any rhyme or reason for the ratings given.

IMO, an ignore feature would be far more useful than this rating system. Perhaps I don't understand, but thus far I see no evidence that people are following the guidelines in ratings these comments.

As far as I am concerned, the trial should be terminated now.

I think this is likely to hit server load too. Not because the rating process uses server time but because I'm willing to bet that people will reload pages a lot more to see how ratings change. If it does and makes things slower or more expensive then I'm not keen on it.

Actually I don't really understand how this is going to improve the site anyway. The last thing we need is people posting comments about why they gave a certain rating as demonstrated above.

I think I would be in favor of limiting the number of ratings people can give each day. That would discourage abuse, I think.

That's what I was thinking, and I think it should be limited to one... y'know, like a honey bee sting, not used lightly.

Anyone who wants to vote more often can get multiple identities, I suppose. Any way to limit it so that one only gets a vote after some waiting period?

Aesthetically, I've just now played with it while reading drumbeats, clicked a few and watched the numbers change. Now I'm bored with it and made vaguely uneasy by it. Do we really know what makes this site the best? It may be the commitment made by a number of people to actually attempt reading every dang comment. And there are often subtle questions or clarifications added by minor replies which now might not be made. Maybe it shouldn't be made easier for the readers.

I do idly wonder... is this actually an experiment in groupthink vs. salience as part of Nate's PhD thesis?

I hate this idea too. TOD is simply the site with the best, most interesting and thought-through comment on the entire web. As someone above nearly said "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Already I feel myself less inclined to respond with intelligent feedback and instead to just click the arrows. The suggestion to include a "report" button instead of the down arrow is a good one, and I would also get rid of the up arrow altogether.

Using existing systems like Digg and Reddit to draw attention to outstanding or essential posts makes sense, turning TOD into a popularity contest, not so much.

If for some reason you decide to stick with this please please don't start listing comments by rating (or at the very least include an option to use the old format).


Just now, I was going through the June 19th DB, doing a FIND [n as I usually do to find just the new comments. Decided to click on an up arrow on a comment. When I clicked on Next in the Find box, it took me back to the first one. In other words, rating a post resets the search index, apparently.

Not the end of the world, but it is annoying, and will probably lead to people not bothering to rate posts after their initial read.

What are we trying to accomplish here? What is the supposed problem that needs to be addressed? Too many irrelevant or rambling posts? If so, as someone above said, we are all adults here. If we don't like something, we can just scroll on down.

I think this sort of thing will ruin the site. In spite of groundrule bullet #4 regarding not negatively rating a post just because you don't agree with it, it seems inevitable that this will happen, indeed it seems it already is. And it seems like an excellent device for the Hrothgars of the world to manipulate to distort the discussion. If a system can be gamed, it will be, and such additional complexity as a rating system simply creates more loopholes for such intentional interference with the discussion.

As has been said above, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. This is truely a terrible idea, please scrap it ASAP. I have been reading The Oil Drym daily and occasionally posting for about three years now, and the site is fine as it is. If we want to check out alternative formats, take a look at the forums at; they separate different topics into separate threads and posts are placed in chronological order, making discussions easier to follow. If you opt not to adopt this approach, fine, but then just leave the Oil Drum's format alone. Of course, it would be nice to get rid of all the clutter, the links to "parent" "reply in new window", "reply", etc.; the "reply" option should be sufficient.

Antoinetta III

What are we trying to accomplish here?

Dealing with spam, abusive comments, trolling, that kind of thing.

And also the fact that excellent posts tend to get lost in the flood.

If we don't like something, we can just scroll on down.

We can...but many people will not. Especially newcomers to the site. If they see a bunch of silliness, flamewars, or spam, they'll just move on.

Also...I suspect even you have a limit. What if you have to scroll past 100 posts to find something worthwhile? Would you do it? What if it's a thousand?

No, it's not that bad yet, but we work hard trying to keep the discussion on track, and we're preparing for a future where there will be a lot more traffic than there is now.

"we can...but many people will not...." Posted by Leanan

And so what. Don't ruin the site just to accommodate newcomers who lack sufficient patience to read through stuff. If they just "move on", its their loss, not our problem.

And since I find 90-95% of the posts at least mildly worthwhile, I don't find the idea of having to scroll past 100 posts to be very realistic.

I notice that a lot of us can disagree about the timing of Peak Oil, or the effecacy of various alternative energies or whatever, but there seems to be a good deal of unity in opposing this folly.

Banish the handful of Trolls and just leave everything else alone; keep it as simple as possible. Indeed, the medicine is far worse than whatever the mostly imaginary disease is that we are trying to address.

Antoinetta III

Hi Leanan,

It seems like there's a difference between spam and abusive comments, and comments that people might not rate. (Do you think?)(Or, I guess, rated negatively - but not because people disagree with the view, but because the view is not insightful or interesting? as Super G says - question mark?) Then, if they are not rated, they will be hidden, possibly?

In any case, here's an example of a way to deal with a comment considered abusive or trolling (or that might be taken that way).
This is a comment made by Bob Shaw:

"I would recommend you read and study the many introductory TOD tutorials and/or books now available before responding with another post so that you can be a valued member."

I rate it insightful and positive.

Yes Aniya, perhaps we should copy Bob's well-worded response to our "scratch-pads" ready for when the same situation arises again (subject to copyright or whatever).

WNC observer - I'll second your point of the problem that the "new" gets reset as I also search with FIND [n (and presumably that's the only way?).

The reason the world is in the mess it is, is because of people reducing qualities to a number. It's somewhat ironic that Leanan proposes that the "market system" is the only way to manage large groups.

At least, have a rating system that relates to the reader guidelines (should be posting guidelines surely?), e.g. an off topic button, an ad hom button etc. If you want, have a "I disagree" button, then every post becomes a mini poll. A dimensionless scoring system is worse than useless.

I also note that rating systems end up reproducing primate style hierarchy into electronic form. Since we can't immediately tell age and status of other posters, having a rating substitutes. You can then witness the spectacle of the high rank posters ganging up on the low rank posters.

It's somewhat ironic that Leanan proposes that the "market system" is the only way to manage large groups., I didn't. One, I would hardly call this a market system. A market system would be "pay to post." Which is very effective, but has serious drawbacks we wish to avoid. And two, I said community moderating (which is more like Amish shunning than like a market system) is the only way to manage large Internet forums. I trust you understand there's a difference between Internet forums and the rest of human existence.

You give readers tokens to spend. They can buy or sell comments. Popular comments earn more points, unpopular ones lose. I can't think of a more market like system. Calling it "community moderating" is obfuscation.

People in internet forums are still people.

WOW! superG this new feature seems to have triggered one of the biggest games of virtual grab ass I have ever seen.


I believe I've mentioned this article before, but it's since come out from behind a paywall.

Sex, Drugs, and the Internet

It's about why people are so nasty online...and why behavior varies so much from site to site.

The combination of anonymity and lack of consequences produces the worst online behavior. That's why people tend to be polite to each other on eBay and SecondLife. It takes time and effort to build up a reputation at those sites, and it's really worth something. Unlike, say, here, where if you're banned, you don't really lose anything. You can just make up another screen name and start posting again.

We seem to have simultaneously posted on anonymity, but my post below wasn't in reply. So saying, I do have a reply to this.

It takes time and effort to build up a reputation at those sites, and it's really worth something. Unlike, say, here, where if you're banned, you don't really lose anything

I disagree. My impression is that many posters here have built up huge credibility in varied ways. Once one makes the investment of time to read, there is a natural evolution of respect (or lack of it) which is well-earned, and which is much more nuanced than any rating system could capture.

It seems the only reason to "dumb it down" would be if the site has a holy mission to bring in large numbers of new folks with a lesser threshold investment of actual thought for them, like the US Army lowering recruiting standards. And maybe it does, it isn't for me to say. But aren't there a ton of other sites that can do that?

There are well over a hundred posters to this site whose comments are reliably superb. We may not agree who they are, and we probably shouldn't.

I'm not sure this is meant to be easy.

HI greenish,

I appreciate your point here.

My impression is that many posters here have built up huge credibility in varied ways. Once one makes the investment of time to read, there is a natural evolution of respect (or lack of it) which is well-earned, and which is much more nuanced than any rating system could capture.

if you're banned, you don't really lose anything. You can just make up another screen name and start posting again.

Some sites do IP bans, too. Usually the person gets banned, and if they come back with a sockpuppet and cause trouble, they cop the IP ban. But if they come and stay under the radar and don't bother anyone, or don't post at all, then they don't cop the IP ban.

The combination of anonymity and lack of consequences produces the worst online behavior.

That is pretty much the same in real life. In small communities where people knew and depended on each other, anti-social behavior had consequences. Now with sprawling estates and high mobility, anonymous thugs attack with impunity. There is little community response, it is left to the police.

Online behavior simply mirrors the way real life societies are going. What were you saying about there being a big difference between internet forums and real life?

On a few minutes' reflection, I think the anonymity of the arrow-clickers is a fatal flaw, as is the the inherently low standard for commentary by an "up or down" vote.

Maybe a bit of Tainterian complexity is the price we pay for a meritocracy.

This could be overcome by keeping a list of who voted each way, and a click of an icon could bring up a pop-up box with their names. I don't know how difficult it would be to program that, but I suspect that it is possible.

Although I think the rating system is a bad idea, don't make it worse by eliminating the anonymous feature. There is a reason why we have secret ballot boxes and why caucuses turn out differently than primaries.

Dear SuperG,

Thanks for all your efforts and work on behalf of all of us.

I'm wondering what is the idea behind this?

For me, personally, it's "too much". (It's distracting.)

I try to - I like to - see a conversation here, where something "new" has a chance to come into existence. By this I mean, greater understanding, insight, sharing...

Sometimes (not often) I try to say something about the *way* someone expresses something. Individuals may have a style that can come across differently here than if we were talking in person. Sometimes a little "translation" can be helpful. (,, etc.)

Do you think a "rating" will help people to listen more attentively and really "hear" each other?

I have gotten e-mail feedback similar to what you are saying. I think some readers find it distracting and maybe a little upsetting. It can easily become a competitive game - who can get the most points.

Also, the system tends to reward main stream thinking and ways or expressing thoughts. Comments that take a little more thinking and time to understand don't come out well in the ratings.

It would be interested to see anonymous ratings of the system after a week, broken down into male readers and female readers. My guess is that the male readers would like the system better than the female readers.

Could we have a string or a good FAQ on the use of Permalink, Subthread, Parent, Parent Subthread, Reply, Reply in New Window, Start New Thread etc.?

Edit to erase double post and to add:

I have been posting on the internet since I learned to type on Prodigy and the Usenet (sci.geo.petroleum). I have seen all sorts of moderating styles from unregulated childish profanity on AOL to the early days of Jay Hanson's otherwise excellent energyresources where only Hanson approved pc messages were allowed, to the essentially unmoderated Yahoo energyresources clone, Alas Babylon, to Court TV where posters were banned for suggesting the the Duke lacrosse players were innocent. Perhaps TOD should take a stronger moderating role and daily erase the nasty and unproductive posts, perhaps even including this one?

Hi again, Super G,

About what you say here

re: "Comments should be rated up if they are especially insightful, informative, or interesting. Down ratings should be reserved for comments that violate the reader guidelines. Do not rate a comment down just because you disagree with the opinion being expressed."

Do you intend or believe people will rate on the "up" if the comments have those positive qualities and, at the same time, the person-who-rates disagrees with 1) the comment as a whole 2) some aspect of the reasoning?

In other words, do you expect or intend for people to rate comments up if they agree?

How does the rating system account for a scenario such as:

Someone laying out an argument and someone else objecting to some particular plank of the argument?