Comment and Ratings problem, where do we go from here?
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It seems to me that everyone has suddenly gone bonkers of the ratings and comments at the site. I've had more complaints this month than I've had in the previous 5 years combined, and frankly, I'm upset about it. I've never wanted to run a tight ship around here but it looks like a few bad apples are forcing me to do just that.
Let me say that I know how important feedback about your work is. I know that the comments and ratings matter. That said, I can't fathom why people get bent out of shape over some "troll" rating them poorly or commenting negatively. I was under the impression I built this place to serve as a way to improve your writing and I would assume everyone here is smart enough to distinguish honest feedback from some random joker's driveling. I thought that would be enough, but apparently not. Many of you have voiced your concerns about these types of comments and ratings and I've responded with an improved ratings system and ways to combat the comment problem. Of course, not everyone was happy about that either. I am on the losing end of this and no matter what I do, I'll look like the bad guy. I'm okay with that if it'll return Lit.Org to where she should be. It's time to put things right.
One thing I've noticed is people trying to "game the system" like it's a popularity contest instead of a place to improve your writing. This makes me wonder if comments, ratings and views shouldn't be private and only available to the author. I know I like reading comments almost as much as I like reading the works themselves.
There are a handful of issues with comments and ratings. Lets see if we can work through them and fix the problems.
1. Should we limit ratings to users who have a minimum of posts and/or comments? On the surface this seems like a logical idea. However, if we did this it would all but stop ratings. 90% of the ratings are done by casual visitors who prefer to lurk rather than write or comment. The rating system was conceived for this very reason. People have busy lives and we produce a lot of content to read through so the ratings provided a quick way to get feedback without requiring users comment.
2. GSMonks suggested a wonderful new version of the rating system which I think would be an excellent replacement for our current system. The advantage is it's more like a mini review on several aspects of the writing. This could cut down on comment "noise" as well as drive by ratings as it would take work to actually rate something.
3. Make ratings private. Only the author can see his or her ratings. This will reduce the impact of trying to use them as a popularity contest and it will make it easier to ignore ratings that were obviously done just to low ball the item. The main disadvantage here is that ratings provide a good way for new readers to decide what to spend their time on. We are working on a new system to highlight the best of the best so it may be a moot point anyway.
No matter what system we put in place for the ratings *nothing* will stop someone from logging in and simply scoring everything low. The only thing that can stop that is turning ratings off. One other option is to make ratings completely private accept for the write off and even then we could use an alternate system.
1. Should comments ONLY be about the writing? The trend lately is to use the comments section to talk about the "content" of the writing instead of the writing. While this is natural, I feel it's an abuse of the purpose and that's to help writers improve their skills. If this is not the case and you are looking for Lit.Org to be a place for open discussion, say so and I'll consider it. Otherwise, I'm leaning towards the idea that this site is for improving your writing so comments should be related directly to the writing. Touching on subject matter is a part of talking about the writing. Debating politics, religion, sex etc. are way off topic and should not be part of the comment system. Nor should comments be posted in reference to other comments accept where it directly relates to the writing, however, most often replying to comments is not necessary. This is another argument to make feedback to your work private.
2. Repeated comments on one piece are often done to draw attention to the author or the commentor. Sometimes this is natural when a debate ensues (though debates should not - see above) and people get into a comment battle. I've also seen a rise in people writing thank you's to every person who comments, one comment at a time. Please don't abuse the comments in this way, they will be deleted.
3. Should comments be private? As stated previously, I like reading the comments. I know more than a few of you enjoy coming back to do just that. Would you prefer comments be private or public?
This is an open topic - how do you want me to regulate the comments? Remember, you've been complaining about them and I'm offering to solve the problem. Tell me what you want done. I don't want to make a decision that everyone will hate but we have to do something. A few more emails complaining about how a handful of users are running off all the new people and I'll shut this site down before I let some flunky ruin it. Help me solve this problem.
People are putting a lot of weight on the views items get. This was added as a general guide to how many times a story was viewed. Comments, ratings and users checking their own work artificially inflate this number and it's not easy for me to fix. It would require a decent amount of work to solve that and I will get around to doing it. Again, should we make this statistic private to the author?
In closing, I need your help to solve these issues. I consider myself a servant of Lit.Org but I continue to get grief over every little thing lately and that really burns a bit. I've put nearly 7 years into this site now and it's becoming so stressful that I dread checking my email. If you are willing to help me get this problem back under control then I'm willing to do what's needed to keep it that way. If I *have* to become a tyrant you can bet that I will. I think we can resolve this without it coming to that though.
Please take the time to comment here with your ideas on how to solve this. Please do no clutter the comments with chat, I will delete them. This is for discussion solutions to the problems above. If you prefer, feel free to email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chrispian H. Burks
Lit.Org Owner / Founder
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