For many of us for whom Slashdot is a must-visit site, its bottom-up, emergent moderation system is its highlight. Cliff Lampe and Paul Resnick have a paper on the Slashdot moderation system. From the abstract: “Can a system of distributed moderation quickly and consistently separate high and low quality comments in an online conversation? Analysis of the site Slashdot.org suggests that the answer is a qualified yes, but that important challenges remain for designers of such systems. Thousands of users act as moderators. Final scores for comments are reasonably dispersed and the community generally agrees that moderations are fair. On the other hand, much of a conversation can pass before the best and worst comments are identified. Of those moderations that were judged unfair, only about half were subsequently counterbalanced by a moderation in the other direction. And comments with low scores, not at top-level, or posted late in a conversation were more likely to be overlooked by moderators.”
From the conclusion:
Slashdot provides an existence proof that the basic idea of distributed moderation is sound. There is widespread participation. There seems to be a broad, though not perfect consensus about which comments deserve to be moderated up or down. Comment scores are dispersed so that they offer some information of potential value to readers.
Closer analysis, however, revealed that it often takes a long time for especially good comments to be identified. We also found that incorrect moderations were often not reversed, and that later comments, comments not at top-level, and
comments with low starting scores, did not get the same treatment from moderators as other comments did. These findings highlight tensions among timeliness, accuracy, limiting the influence of individual moderators, and minimizing the effort required of individual moderators. We believe any system of distributed moderation will eventually have to make tradeoffs among these goals. There is still room, however, for design advances that require only modestly more moderator effort to produce far more timely and accurate moderation overall.