A recent diary entry welcomed a new user to Advogato, and urged folks to help make him feel at home.
Let me get the greeting out of the way first. Welcome Hossein! I hope you find this place more welcoming than I have.
Don't get me wrong: I think it's a great site that needs to exist. But the barrier to entry is high. Perhaps too high.
While I haven't spent a lot of time studying trust metrics, I do have my own experience with Advogato.
There is the occasional spam attempt in the recentlog, and they don't last very long. Some may attribute that to how well the trust metric system works here, but in my view, it is more due to inertia than a technical improvement. Make it hard enough for new users to join, and even spammers give up. That's saying something. :-)
Taking Hossein as an example, even with a personal introduction by chalst, and with 4 other regular users vouching for him, he still can't post a reply to a front page article. If that's a welcoming welcome, what hope does a virtually unknown programmer have for becoming a full participating member of Advogato?
From the vouching side of the equation, a regular user has to go through a list of decisions before certifying a user:
- Do I know who he is?
- Does he participate in free software?
- Does he have some productive articles or software he's written to prove he's not just a spammer?
- How can I be sure the guy posting is who he says he is?
- Do I care enough to go through 3 clicks (more if you're not logged in) to certify him and put my name on the line for mostly a stranger?
- What level of certification does he deserve?
The last question brings politics into the equation. Perhaps not explicitly, but it is there. If I don't know who ncm is, and I certify him as an Apprentice, what does that say? About him? About me?
What if raph certifies someone as an Apprentice? What does that say about the new user? What message is that sending to people who have visited the site for the first time?
When I first found Advogato, I viewed the Apprentice, Journeyer, and Master labels as declarations of skill. It implies, at least to the uninformed, that someone certified as a Master has more experience or should be taken more seriously than someone else of lesser credentials. This is of course not true, as the current credentials any one user has are only the product of a number of factors which are more concerned about preventing abuse and gaming of the system than setting an honest rating.
I think the terms used are unfortunate. They add a connotation to the process that, in my opinion, should not be there. Do we want to judge a newcomer based on his productivity before we get a chance to know him? Or should the first question we deal with be more of a welcome mat than a pay grade?
Hossein states he is here to study trust metrics, and I'd be really interested in seeing his conclusions from his study.
Please post at least a link to your results if you publish them, Hossein. I'll be watching. In the meantime, I'll be heading over to your account to add a Journeyer to your list of certifications, but please know that it is in no way a judgment of your skill level. I don't know you, and I don't want to be making such a judgment on a website, even if it were appropriate. As such, my policy is to certify everyone who needs certification, and seems relatively worthy of it, as Journeyer. My interest is in helping you get a foot into the Advogato door, and once in, to help you avoid having your statements branded before you even open your mouth.