Thursday, September 22, 2005

Slashdot Comment Moderation

CmdrTaco has been trying to leverage crowd wisdom for years with his comment moderation system. I think a key problem is that he dosen't use a big enough sample size. It only takes a few people to moderate a comment up to the highest level. The rules of crowd wisdom state that the larger your sample size, the more likely you are to arrive at the "correct" answer. Granted, with something like a story comment, there is no "correct" answer, only interesting and relevant responses. CmdrTaco's goal was not to tease out the interesting comments though, it was to filter out the irrelevant and wasteful spam.

In essence, CmdrTaco had no choice. Spam was starting to choke slashdot comments and making them less than useful. The moderation system saved the comment system, but didn't, as many people assume that it should have done, make the comments more interesting.

I believe that if the prevailing attitude among slashdot developers is to "weed out the spam", we'll see a slow decline of slashdot's popularity until it's made irrelevant by RSS feed aggregators.

IMHO, the attitude *SHOULD* be to exploit slashdot's major differentiator over simple aggregators, which is the community it has created. In other words, they should invert the "weed out the spam" attitude into a "make the comments more interesting" attitude. It's a subtle difference and, on the face of it, it would appear that one begets the other. I contend that weeding out spam does not make comments more interesting and conversely, making comments more interesting won't weed out the spam. Thus we come to the root of the problem, two crosswise goals.

CmdrTaco has to worry about the system from a performance standpoint. Weeding out the spam means less bandwidth and storage costs. That's immediate ROI, and a good thing on many levels. The community, however, needs more than 1,2,3,4 or 5 to determine what comments to read and which to ignore, to make them interesting. I can conjecture at a few ideas that would make it better, but I do not know the ultimate solution, and I doubt anyone else does either. I believe the problem requires more than just CmdrTaco playing whack-a-mole with ideas, meta-ideas and meta-meta-ideas etc. It requires serious PhD dissertation level study.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The iPod Bandwagon

I jumped on the iPod bandwagon last weekend. I got myself a 60Gig iPod color. I must say, this is definitely the cadillac of portable players. I've now got my entire CD collection (about 30 CDs; a mere fraction of what I once had) ripped to the player. It's neat listening to all of my music in shuffle mode. I didn't realize that I had such a nice collection of music. When you're listening to it one CD at a time, its easy to get tired of the music and just let it sit on a shelf.

This iPod also stores pictures and addressbook contacts. I can also sync up my calendar to it. Even more impressive, it has a few relatively amusing games on it, ostensibly to pass the time while waiting at the doctor's office. The next accessory I want to get is the FM radio attachment so I can listen to my iPod in the car just by tuning to an unused radio channel.

At one time I used to buy a lot of music, but I've been turned off lately at how much time the RIAA spends litigating against single moms and elderly pensioners. Instead of taking the time to realize that there's an opportunity here, the RIAA insists on clinging to the old ways and litigating with their customers. Not a terribly wise way of running a business IMHO.

What's more interesting to me, than commercial music, is the various independent music you can find out there. I like the fact that I can pay my money directly to them, rather than through a bunch of lawyers. I also like listening to the various podcasts out there. I don't really have a favorite yet, but I tend to enjoy the NPR Science Friday podcasts. I also just finished listening to the first book in podcast form, called Earth Core. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to anyone.

I'm off to the Tom Petty concert tonight at the Columbia River Gorge Ampitheater. I'll try to get some pictures. The views are some of the best I've ever experienced in Washington and I hear that Tom Petty puts on a great show. Should be a fun evening.