covert.creations

Slashdot, The Experience

by on Aug.30, 2006, under geek culture, new media

The Slashdot Game!

It’s no secret that the “end game” in World of Warcraft is broken. Once I had attained the splendour of Level 60, I could progress no longer. Without forty of my “closest friends”, I could not raid, I could not obtain better items, and the remaining hopeful sprigs of activity remaining became simply unattainable. The game was over.

This same story is about to be re-told. This time, within a much, much older game. Where the end-game is much like the brickwall that is WoW. The great game of Slashdot.What? News for Nerds? Stuff that matters? How is that a game?

Slashdot, like in any online game, you have an avatar.

Your Slashdot Persona

You engage in the primary activity that defines the game.

Commentizing

By doing this, you earn “points”. Moddized

And eventually, you “level”…
Levellin'
Until Victory.

Victory

The game has thrived on the community of users, typically computer nerds with a zest for technology-related fare. Users submit stories, typically within their sphere of interest (like games). The moderators maintain an editorial standard for the content. The players engage in professional or humourous debate. The comments get moderated by the esteemed users. And around the circle goes.

Let me say this again.

The gatekeepers of the game moderate submissions of niche interest.

I R Reject
The players discuss the story.Bullshit

The editors add incisive colour to the stories to spur debate (typos not mine).

Ya know I always find a strategy guide for things like Final Fantasy just because some puzzles are just ridiculous and I have no interest in trial & erroring for an hour when I’d rather kill monsters. But there really is somethign to this. – CmdrTaco

Dearest, Slashdot. I really tried to make it work with you.

I’ve played Slashdot since 1998. I am a scuss of a faith, blankly accepting what is directly in front of me. The oft-quoted, much-loved center of my online world has been this game, Slashdot, for the better part of ten years. And I’ve been staring at the end-game for a long time, without any chance of further progression. I don’t get mod points. My stories are routinely rejected, while spurious tripe gets approved. I get into pedantic arguments. I get modded down for defending myself or asking questions. I’m disgusted by poor editorship, pointless editor commentary, duplicate stories. The list continues. In other words, the vector of participation has been denied me, even though I am a positive, contributing member of the Slashdot player community!

Is it clear how to “fix” Slashdot’s end-game? Here’s a hint. It’s much easier than WoW.

I’d make it realtime. I’d give it better graphics. I’d relax editorial control, and allow the players to participate in that process. I’d allow comments without the fear of reprisal.

In other words, my new game would be Slashdot II : The Revenge

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10 Comments for this entry

  • covert.c.

    What a timely conversation this has been.

     


    Justin, it looks like you're getting your wish!

     


    German-language Wikipedia introduces Administrative approval [news.bbc.co.uk]

     


    This could have huge implications for the beleaguered Wikipedia.
  • covert.c.

    @digi :
    It’s really human nature that’s at fault, not the protocols of these systems.

     


    Certainly human nature is a clinching factor. From that article, I liked how he said that Jimbo created a system for people that "don't exist". I don't agree that it has nothing to do with the system itself. My comparison between Digg and Slashdot should exhibit at least some proof of that.

     


    @justin:

     


    I agree that bootstrapping such a community would be immensely difficult, if not impossible. As digi noted, it's just as much a casualty of the community's personal sense of responsibility. Does such a thing exist even in print media?

     


    I favour removing editorialship entirely, so it matters little to me whether they've been to school. I honestly don't think it would help. How would they know any better than you or I that a certain story is worthy of transmission? Journalism won't help. But that's purely my opinion. And I never read Slashback, merely because there is usually a very good chance that I've already seen the best of the posts from the areas that I'm interested in.

     

  • Justin

    As for firing the ./ editors and replacing them all with someone who'd at least attended journalism school would be an excellent start. Allowing those competent editors to handle the majority of comment moderation themselves would be an excellent followup.

    ./ has done one thing lately that I like a lot. They've taken contentious stories with a lot of comments and created a new story out of the best comments, in a balanced fashion. That's exactly the moderation that the existing system doesn't provide.
  • Justin

    Having been involved in a few Wikipedia wars over the Dune books, it is a step closer to what I'm (vaguely) imagining, but suffers from a different flaw: it fails to accumulate.

    The Dune articles I wrote have been trashed by later 'editors' who included prequel content (not their fault) in agonizing, clumsy detail (totally their fault). With Wikipedia, you have to continually be in charge of the page you're interested in, continually fighting for your version, continually editing the style and content to your standard--only to be defeated by Wikipedia's 'no original research' and NPOV restrictions. I gave up on the Dune articles just because I couldn't in good conscience exclude the additions of prequel content and still stay true to Wikipedia's vision (even though the prequels are execrable).

    I'm imagining something like the SDMB where settled points are archivable and referencable, along with their supporting material, in a format as accessible as a wiki. That way, old debates don't get rehashed unless new information comes along, and new debates occur on top of that established body of debate. It would have an unavoidable ideological slant, depending on the participants, but it would at least get somewhere.

    It would also have to have aggressive moderation by a disinterested third party who could call bullshit on logical fallacies, poor reasoning, and non-responsive answers.

    The problem with that vision, though, is that it's restrictive in direct proportion to those capable of adhering to those standards and working within them--in other words, by excluding the uncritical riff-raff that limit existing communities, it would rob itself of the traffic it needs to be a vital and useful community at large. It would be obscure and forbidding to newcomers, and would smack of elitism. I think that's a fatal flaw.

    BTW, my name is not Justine, which is a girl's name, which is something I'm not.

    Usually.
  • digi

    Here is a great thrashing of wikipedia by textfiles.com nerd Jason Scott. Available as text or audio format. He raises many great points and although his argument is more philosophical and less personal based than yours, I find it apropos to list here. It's really human nature that's at fault, not the protocols of these systems.

    Down with /!
  • covert.c.

    @Justine again :

     


    I almost forgot - your ideal was a focus on the debate and discourse side of community content, unless I'm misconstruing your intent. Question - who would elect the oversight?

     


    Secondly, my attentions are primarily oriented on the story submissions. I'd like to hear your ideas on that.
  • covert.c.

    Justin - enjoyed your comment immensely.

     


    You expressed a desire for two things - an even greater oversight of user content, and a cookie trail of accumulated knowledge. You shall have it. I give you Wikipedia!

     


    No, but seriously, your idea is interesting. It sounds somewhat of a bridge between casual discourse and scholastic endeavour. In that pseudo-system, even submissions that have been relegated to opiniondom are valuable, since the community oversight has a strongly attentuated interest in the content. When no citation is possible, that shouldn't automatically invalidate your claim. If that were true, we'd be constantly re-hashing what's been said already.

     


    For "casual" community content, I'm not suggesting that the endeavour is analogous to a game. I'm suggesting that it is a game. Digg understands this. The players need to feel like they're participating and contributing even if they don't win. Even a surface-level interaction provides a manifest feedback animation as you "Digg" something. In the higher-level content, you're submitting stories and promoting them to the front, earning reputation. The end-game doesn't end in a brick wall on Digg like it does on Slashdot.

     


    My ideal is probably closer to the opposite of yours. I like the idea of nuking the editors. Let the vested community respond to the submission, and allow the masses to enjoy the filter they provide. I'm not saying that Digg is perfect, but it is a much more enjoyable game to play.

     


    Improving Digg :

    • Allow anonymity. Sometimes I don't want people to know I've dugg or buried something.
    • Finer grained digging controls. There is not enough feedback built into the system to allow submitters and commentators to know why their stories sucked.
    • Better threshold filtering. I should get to choose the categories that display for me, and to what level of digg I want to see for each. "Political Opinion" isn't going to receive as many "big diggs" as a purely tech story.
    • Private messaging - sometimes I want to flame someone in private. And obviously killfiles follow from this.

     


    Anyhow, great food for thought. Feel free to follow up, and don't forget your citation! 🙂
  • covert.c.

    Tom - I have a few thoughts on Digg.

    • I'm not sure that Digg's closed off to newcomers. Old or new, you have an equal chance of being ignored. 🙂

    • Case in point - I've submitted a grand total of 3 somewhat lame stories and 1 doozy. My digg ratio is at a happy 25%. The challenge is keeping it there.

    • The operative word is content.

    • You need the type of content that is naturally aligned with Digg's community of interests.

    • If it works on Digg, it will work on Slashdot ( not always vice versa).

    • If it's supremely cool, you'll know it, and will likely get dugg.

    • Digg is impossible to "game".


    As far as improving Slashdot, I have a great many ideas. For starters, I'll share the easy one. Slashdot needs to do one of two things :

    • Educate its editorship.

    • Allow the community to select the stories


     


    The CmdrTaco quote I cited is a speck in the mud. Every day seems to bring a new example, which is why I wrote this post.



     


    Allow moderation to extend into the story submission cycle. It would be fairly painless and actually create a site that people want to read. If that's too unpalatable (to turn Slashdot into Digg), then have the editors responsible to their communities. Make them specialize to a greater degree. Even Ebay does this by hiring category managers that are passionate about their respective focus. Force the editors to provide context for stories through a background writeup (e.g. "What is Ubuntu?") or a worthy link. Allow us to rate THEM.



     


    Oh, and if there is no news then don't post any.



     


    So that's my first reaction in terms of improving Slashdot. You could probably see from my post that approaching it in terms of game design actually makes a little bit of sense. There are numerous other things that flow from this, so if you'd like to hear about them just drop me an email.
  • Justin

    Yes, the endgame of ./ is as tiresome as WoW. It's a good analogy.

    For years, I posted at the Straight Dope Message Board, generally the best I've found for literacy, erudition, intellectual rigor, and thoughtful posts. When they went pay a couple years ago, I didn't ante up because I'd already stopped posting except in trivial circumstances. Either I had nothing to contribute because my thoughts on the crisis in the Middle East were vastly outweighed by scholars of Arabic, western consultants living and working in Saudi, or news nerds who could quote think-tank papers from ten years ago; or the debate had ceased to be interesting because it had devolved into a hairsplitting grudge match between two old-timers.

    There's also the tendency of such communities to develop an orthodoxy of well-established views that can't be challenged--not because the denizens of the board aren't open to challenge, but because continually rehashing the same topics over and over again calcifies certain arguments and axioms with so much depth and accumulated evidence that the burden of proof is too high.

    Fundamentally, there's little new content in successful sites like ./ and the SDMB, despite the number of bits spilled.

    The problem is that communities centered around discussion have an upper limit on the quality of discussion. The signal to noise ratio hits a wall it can't climb. N00bs show up and get pounded by regulars; regulars trade well-rehearsed blows that convince nobody. Content never builds, it never aggregates, it just recycles. Like trench warfare, temporary defenses become static lines. Old-timers move on to new forums with slightly different mechanics, and enjoy a bit of back-and-forth with new faces, in the same way that old WoWers renew for a month to try out a new instance, then let their account lapse again.

    Many times I've found myself wishing for a more structured discussion community, where moderation was more like a debate judge than community approval. The SDMB has developed a valuable tradition: Any claim can be met with a request for a cite; failure to provide an agreeable cite effectively defeats the point, or relegates it to simple opinion. It's a good start, but I kept wishing that there was an archive kept of established points of debate. The community talks, but never writes anything down. No intellectual tradition accumulates, no work remains. That's why the endgame is boring. It's just grinding with words rather than swords.
  • Tom Williams

    Thanks for your post. I've recently started using Digg and I think because of the number of significantly rated Diggers, that the network is now more closed to new contributors posting stories.

    I'm interested to know if you have had similar experiences and would be very keen to hear (privately or publicly) your thoughts on how these types of sites should design a better system.

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