Moderated international political forum

Posted 13 Nov 2000 at 19:38 UTC by monniaux Share This

I think that we need some appropriate discussion forum on public policies, enabling fruitful collaborative comparative discussions on various practices around the world. The main obstacle seems that of moderation: how do we prevent discussions from getting parasited by trolls, rants and off-topic information?

I found that many people are ignorant of the political processes and, more generally, the life of people in other countries. I find it a pity, since knowing about other people's life enables people to improve their own life. People can borrow ideas that work in other places and wonder how they can be transposed to their case.

It is a pity that in the area of public policies, ignorance about meaningful comparisons is bliss. All too often people ignore relevant solutions in other countries, and even despise them. Some political forces even make a show at dismissing policies as "similar to what goes on in [insert your favorite despised country here]".

Let us take a simple example: most Americans think that trains, except for short distance suburban rides, are an outdated, inefficient means of transportation, whereas in France and other countries there exist long-distance trains running at speeds nearing 200mph (which makes train rides faster than going to the airport, flying and coming back from the airport, since the train goes from city center to city center). Such inaccurate beliefs are of course detrimental when it comes to choices on transportation policies.

This trend is exacerbated by the tendency of certain political parties of using some foreign countries as scarecrows. Note that they do not have to provide any definite information on the said countries; mentioning them with an horrific cry is enough. For instance, when some French politicians say that a proposed measure is "the American system", they mean that this measure suggests a horrific model of society where the poor starve, guns abound and crime is high. On the other hand, when some American politicians want to put down a measure, they describe it as "socialistic" - one went as far as saying he would not like to get surgery in France. Notice that in both cases the politician does not try to justify the comparison he or she makes. Furthermore, such comparisons are generally based on prejudice or exaggeration of the foreign situation.

Another recent example. Many people in France were amazed by the counting problems in the US presidential election. In France, ballots are sheets of paper preprinted with the name of the candidate, and there are as many ballot boxes as there are simultaneous elections (usually one or two). Counting is done manually, publicly and on the spot as soon as the polling station closes. There is no transportation involved, thus no "disappearing" or "reappearing" ballot boxes, no "chad" of paper in a half-punched hole. We could discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the various means of voting.

Given the above constatations and the current development of the Internet, it would seem that an open Internet forum to discuss public policies in view a multinational point of view. While there exist some newsgroups on the topic, I think we should need a specialized portal.

The first problem of Internet forums is the huge amount of unwanted data that parasite the readers' attention. Usenet groups are full of undesired advertisements. Furthermore, Usenet discussions tend to degenerate because of:

  • Trolls, that willfully state some stupid or controversed opinion so as to induce irate answers.

  • Ranters, who spew out their beliefs in lengthy messages, even if the topic is not appropriate. They often do not quite know what they're talking about. In the extreme cases, they are crackpots, bordering on the psychiatric case.

  • Clueless morons, who talk without thinking.

The more emotional the topic is, the more discussion is likely to degenerate. Sadly, public policies are a very emotional topic.

We end up with a question: how to run an open forum that weeds out trollers, ranters, morons and other parasites while not being biased? Many people believe that the opinions of their political opponents are dishonest, nonsensical or uninformed - yet their opponents think the same as theirs. What criteria shall we use?

In short: How to ensure nonpartisan moderation of a public forum on an emotional topic?. How do we draw the line between the person that holds extreme positions with passion and the crackpot? How do we decide that some opinion is uninformed rant and ditch it? How will we handle passionnate discussions between Israelis and Palestinians, between Communists and Libertarians?

Some may say that moderation is unneeded. Examples such as Slashdot show that even with some moderation, the result is pretty unreadable. How do we get a better moderation model than Slashdot?


A Fine Line Between Moderation and Censorship, posted 13 Nov 2000 at 21:49 UTC by scandal » (Master)

In the United States, the Americ Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) spends as much time defending people with viewpoints that are considered offensive as any other minority voice. They do this because they realize the only true way for a citizen to be heard is to protect the voice of any citizen, whether their opinion is good or bad.

As the article points out, any topic which generates zealotry typically ends up as a content-free flame war. (I remember seeing some humor article on USENET saying that flame wars nearly always end up with one side being compared to Hitler). In order for moderators to weed out the bad posts, they generally need to know enough about the topic to decide which posts are off-topic, or what have you. Moderators always have their own opinions, which means that can't ever be truly unbiased. The rare Slashdot article I find interesting, I always end up reading at level 0 anyway, because often times very good posts are missed (usually because of anonymous posting). This very often happens when there are many postings on a topic, because the moderators seem to give up after awhile so tons of comments go unmoderated at level 0.

Recently, there has been a lot of concern with web filtering software, precisely because moderation (in this case it is blind moderation that is the problem) nearly always weeds out some good content. The most recent example of this was the political website of a conservative candidate which got put in the filter database because the content contained terms which were considered to be likely found on bad websites.

The other problem with moderation is that it tends to reflect the majority view of any topic. Posts with good content, but in the minority viewpoint can be moderated down by the majority. This might be ok when discussing Emacs-vs-VI, but from the thoughtfulness of this article, it seems clear that both sides of the viewpoint should be preserved.

I personally prefer USENET and mailing lists over web-boards because they allow me to choose my own policy for moderation, rather than the site-owners or other moderators. However, one still has to be careful in this sitution too. Anyone who chooses just to read the comments of those they already agree with is really doing themselves a disservice. On the other hand, you are more likely to get the unedited opposing viewpoint.

The term perfect moderation is really an oxymoron, unless you consider yourself the sole recipient of the information.

Nice example, posted 14 Nov 2000 at 13:40 UTC by mvw » (Journeyer)

most Americans think that trains, except for short distance suburban rides, are an outdated, inefficient means of transportation, whereas in France and other countries there exist long-distance trains running at speeds nearing 200mph (which makes train rides faster than going to the airport, flying and coming back from the airport, since the train goes from city center to city center).

The cheapest train ticket Cologne-Paris-Cologne for the Thalys high speed train is about US$70. This takes about 4 hours from Cologne central station to Paris gare du nord in the center of Paris.

Going by plane would take 1 hours each for transit to Cologne/Bonn airport or Charles de Gaule airport. It would cost about $150 without money for the transits.

And only the part Brussels-Paris is travled at high speed right now, it takes about 1h and is heavily frequented by EU bureaucrats :-) In a year or so, when the whole route has been made high speed usable, the distance might shrink to 3hours or less.

Funny thing for me and my wife is that Paris is closer to us than Berlin or Hamburg thank to that fine train route.

Agree, posted 14 Nov 2000 at 19:03 UTC by billgr » (Journeyer)

I'd be interested in such a forum. The surfeit of news surrounding the American election makes me more aware of how few articles are well-thought-out, informative, honest about the author's biases, and worthwhile in the sense of contributing to what would be an important discussion if they weren't drowned out.

And this isn't even unmoderated visitor feedback. :-)

In addition to a site that thought carefully about moderation policies for bringing visitors into the dialog, I'd appreciate magnet content with high standards as well. Being relevant means trading off some reliability and review (as would happen in a legal or history or political science journal) for relevance (applying to a situation as it happens). Perhaps two sections with different standards would be best: one for highly relevant (day or two) commentary, and another for less immediate concerns.

For those of you who are members of IEEE, there has been a recent discussion in its Spectrum magazine about the dangers (or lack thereof) of high tension electrical transmission lines. I think this discussion, which is centered around the US policy question, but has involved data and researchers from other countries, is a good model of what I would be interested in in a wide range of politics/policy issues, whether technological in nature or not.

Moderation, posted 14 Nov 2000 at 22:49 UTC by Malx » (Journeyer)

If you would read description of trust metrics on Advogato, you whould see it is pretty the thing you need.
All you need to add is:

1. Free SEEDs slection - so you could be SEED for the given news/articles group.
2. Deafult SEEDs - they are official group moderator (you will see only mesages from Aprentices and up (counting from Moderator as SEED).
But other messages are not deleted!
3. Topic-movings. Which topic message belongs to also controlled by trust metrics, but defautlt is the topic Author have gives to message
4. Also you may thinks about negative trust ....... It would be needed while more peopel joining this community.
See lkcl development of new Advogato

moderation / trust metrics - decisions, posted 17 Nov 2000 at 14:53 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

In short: How to ensure nonpartisan moderation of a public forum on an emotional topic?. How do we draw the line between the person that holds extreme positions with passion and the crackpot? How do we decide that some opinion is uninformed rant and ditch it? How will we handle passionnate discussions between Israelis and Palestinians, between Communists and Libertarians?
as Malx points out, it's very simple. each person rates other individuals on a particular topic, which i call Certification [the advogato.org topic is only an "Open Source" Certification], thereby expressing their opinion of that individual in that specific arena.

The example you give could be called.... hm... *thinks*... "Emotional Topics". the Certification levels could be [from top to bottom] Responsible - indicating that the person is known to be capable of discussing emotional topics responsibly; Involved - indicating that the person can occasionally go off-the-wall; and None - indicating that the person's ability to discuss emotional topics is not known.

putting in "negative" ratings, such as Raving Loony is a Really Bad Idea, and is best handled by omission.

the second part, as Malc points out, is to define a set of seeds that each person trusts. this is to be selected on a per-user basis, BY the user. the default, if these are undefined, is selected from the site's default.

the selection of which articles to display on the front page can then be done on a per-user basis once the user is logged in.

then, a user may select their favourite communist, their favourite libertarian, and their view of the world can be influenced by the opinions of their favourite trusted people instead of some raving site maintainer or uninformed moderator.

per-user trust metrics, posted 20 Nov 2000 at 20:12 UTC by billgr » (Journeyer)

I've implemented a reminiscent sort of system in a database-driven forum system. That is, each user can rate each post (except their own). The post ratings get aggregated into an "X likes posts by Y" kinds of data. This is a kind of "expert" rating system, individualized to the person.

The big thing I haven't put in is any transitive mechanism as with Advogato. That is, there's no "X likes Y and Y likes Z so X likes Z" kind of thing.

2 lkcl, posted 21 Nov 2000 at 22:36 UTC by Malx » (Journeyer)

Why it is bad to have negative certs? They would be per person basis also.

If you will not read messages (the are not on first page) until you have certify a person to some level - this means that you have certified it negative by default.

But if have the default level of all unknown (new comers) to 3 then all <3 would be negative.....

Also it you will not have even this - you would have to keep track of all persons you do not like to read messages from separetly (on paper or in mind or in client soft).....

Also here is subject-moving . So you could state "I thinks this mail is better suted for sci.prog.dummies then to sci.prog.advanced

2 lkcl, posted 21 Nov 2000 at 22:36 UTC by Malx » (Journeyer)

Why it is bad to have negative certs? They would be per person basis also.

If you will not read messages (the are not on first page) until you have certify a person to some level - this means that you have certified it negative by default.

But if have the default level of all unknown (new comers) to 3 then all <3 would be negative.....

Also it you will not have even this - you would have to keep track of all persons you do not like to read messages from separetly (on paper or in mind or in client soft).....

Also here is subject-moving . So you could state "I thinks this mail is better suted for sci.prog.dummies then to sci.prog.advanced

negative ratings, posted 23 Nov 2000 at 09:18 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

hiya malx,

the specific application of negative ratings can be misused. in a political forum, the potential for abuse can have quite serious consequences. remember: the internet is basically impersonal. i do not know about you, but i get seriously pissed off when some dickhead i have never met sends me some impersonal spam. now imagine what happens if some important political leader tries to learn about the internet, and gets involved in a heated debate using a peer/trust-metric-moderated forum. they get up to their eyeballs and it starts to get emotional, and some people decide, for whatever reason, to hit this political leader with a large batch of negative ratings.

what are they going to do?

even in advogato, negative ratings proved unwise. i cannot remember who it was, but when the Dummy rating was created, which was supposed to be a joke, several people immediately rated some of the best known Open Source people around with it. i dunno: maybe the guy _is_ a dummy, and this was peoples' way of saying what they thought.

nevertheless, it was inappropriate: i think that people were not expressing their opinion of his Open Source rating. i.e. the Dummy rating was abused, and so was removed.

for these reasons, i think that negative ratings are best expressed by omission, following the adage, "if you don't have anything good to say, don't say it at all"

yes, there are circumstances under which ratings that have _entirely_ negative applications [the equivalent of Deny Access Control Entries] are appropriate. social environments i do not believe to be one of those circumstances.

default and negative ratings, posted 23 Nov 2000 at 09:24 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

hiya malx,

just re-read your reply. yes, the advanced virgule has "default" ratings. for example, i set the "default" in the "Interest" Certification to be "Ambivalent", where the levels are "No Interest", "Ambivalent", "Intriguing", and "Fascinating".

the important distinction between negative by omission and negative by explicit is that negative by explicit is expressed, and therefore carries more "weight", socially. it has implications. someone _actually_ went out of their way to _deliberately_ express a "negative" opinion.

i'm not saying that it's technically impossible to do this, i'm saying it rings alarm bells to implement it.

negative?, posted 25 Nov 2000 at 10:26 UTC by Malx » (Journeyer)

Then - the real thing is how this negative rating is called. Where it could appiare and could it influece on others opinion?

No Interest - negative
Ambivalent - zero

Also Dummy is not level of involment in FS movement :)
It is "I thinks this person claims to be smarter then he is." :) So It is part of rating of person's ability to rate himself.

Other type of negative is certification on ability of person to evaluate something (you need it separetly form "ability to write clever messages" or "to be good admin of site").

But the main usage - block all articles which are not interesting to you, so they are not appear on start page (block authors only for yourself:). It could be dangerous if person is Moderator. But - level of moderator ("ability to evaluate people in given field") also could be set via trust-metrics :) (here it is face of site, so it must bemeasured by ThisSite main people/admins)

And where - now list of certificates could be seen on person's page. But in advanced advogato - negative opinion is just thought of person who gives it! So it have nothing to do with the one , who is the subject of sertification. If SEEDs are not static , but could be choosen by anyone, then you are not interested in somone certifies you as dummy if he have no level in _your_ tree of trust (with SEEDs you choose).

ps. have new advogato simple check of 2 identical messages? just have pressed Reload botton :-/

dynamic or static?, posted 25 Nov 2000 at 10:46 UTC by Malx » (Journeyer)

Could anyone calculate statistics of how often certificates are _changed_ in Advogato?

People gives certs and forget about them.....
It's just like to get papaer about graduating university (or Ph.D. level) - no one interested are you still on that level or degradated.

So - would it be better to have degradation and continous refreshment of certificates better then static ones? It's like you must to clean living-room to keep it clean :) Or ("Alice in mirror land") - "you must to run just to remain on same place, but if you want to get somewhere - you must to run even faster"

Here you must have level of validity not just no cert and there is certificate. I think this level is build in advogato as a distance to root. But I propose to have control on it. It is just like the abili to renice process - but you are still limited to your own priority :).

It is not simple question you see.... You can say that it is loss of time.... But one can answer - you could automate it by giving certs automaticaly when you "reading article"/"posting reply"/downloading/"submiting patches"/etc.........

So.... what do you thinks about this?

/. not that flawed, posted 28 Nov 2000 at 00:39 UTC by rw2 » (Journeyer)

I don't disagree that /. has problems, but they are largely a result of it's size and popularity. The Advogato cert model doesn't (IMHO) work well for the reasonably light traffic the site receives and the /. model doesn't scale up to the level of traffic their site receives.

Hence, I choose to use php-nuke (despite it's /. moderation model) to create http://politics.wellner.org as I think we won't have to worry about /. scale for a long time (if ever).

Stop by, we're pretty new, but that just means we'll listen to your suggestions... :-)

<chart> tag - combines two certification types, posted 1 Dec 2000 at 13:34 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

Malx,

i added a chart tag as a demo which can take two certification types, e.g. "Open Source" certs and "Interest" - the second has to be on a _per-user_ basis whilst the first has to be on a "global" basis, turns the levels into numbers, adds ten to each, multiplies them together and then sorts by the resultant number. [big deal, pick an algorithm out of thin-air, why don't i :)]

this can be used to show, for example, "the most interesting open source items to you".

New Advogato Features

New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.

Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.

If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!

X
Share this page