The purpose of comment scoring is to encourage and reinforce civility, respect, and intellectual honesty in commenting.
By Ryan McGreal
Published May 11, 2009
Raise the Hammer is an online community of choice dedicated to urban revitalization and sustainable economic development in Hamilton, Ontario. One important form of participation on the site is in the comments on posted articles and blog entries.
Due to a recent escalation in the incidence and disruptive influence of "trolls" - comments posted for the express purpose of disrupting and undermining the discussion. One result has been that many RTH readers have become reluctant to: a) post comments for fear of getting trolled; or b) bother reading the comments as they increasingly constitute fruitless debates with a troll.
As a result, RTH proposed implementing a system of community-based comment moderation based on votes by registered users. The overwhelming response we received, both in the comments on that post and in direct correspondence, has been enthusiastic support for this system of user moderation.
However, we also received some comments that expressed concerns about a) suppressing free expression and b) RTH users 'gaming' the system with multiple sock-puppet accounts. The design of the comment moderating system attempts to address these valid concerns; and it will be a work in progress, adapting if and when problems emerge.
Here is how the system will work:
Registered users will be able to vote on comments - a simple vote up or down on each comment. You can always change your vote after the fact. Clicking the same arrow again cancels the vote, and clicking opposite arrow reverses the vote.
Registered users will have an option to set a comment score threshold - a score below which comments will be hidden by default. The default is to show all comments, and even hidden comments can be revealed by clicking a button on the hidden comment.
Registered users will also have an option to turn comment voting off entirely, so they only see the comments themselves, not their scores.
No registered user will be able to change the settings for what another user can see. Each user will choose their own settings in their user profile.
Anonymous users will still be able to leave anonymous comments and will see all posted comments (regardless of score) plus comment scores, but will not be able to vote. To do that, they will have to register a user account.
The purpose of comment scoring is not to downvote unpopular opinions but to encourage and reinforce civility, respect, and intellectual honesty in commenting. Toward that end, we propose the following guidelines:
Post comments that contribute meaningfully to the discussion. Good comments: add new information, correct misinformation, offer a new perspective on an issue, challenge a conclusion already drawn, or propose a resolution to an existing debate.
Upvote comments that are well-researched and reasonably argued, regardless of whether you agree with the conclusion or how you feel about the person who wrote it. If someone known for trolling posts a reasonable comment, encourage more reasonable comments with an upvote instead of dismissing or punishing it because of who wrote it.
Downvote inappropriate comments. Inappropriate comments: use rude or insulting language, are needlessly inflammatory, seek to provoke an emotional reaction from others, are attempts to disrupt and derail the discussion, are offtopic or irrelevant, or abuse evidence and reasoning to defend an unjustifiable conclusion.
Write in defence of a comment you feel is being downvoted unfairly just because it draws an unpopular conclusion or was written by someone controversial.
Please DO NOT:
Do not post inappropriate comments that: use rude or insulting language, are needlessly inflammatory, seek to provoke an emotional reaction from others, are attempts to disrupt and derail the discussion, are offtopic or irrelevant, or abuse evidence and reasoning to defend an unjustifiable conclusion.
Do not post comments just to agree or disagree with another comment. "Me too" posts don't add to the conversation and make threads long and awkward to navigate.
Do not post comments to complain about being downvoted. It's off-topic and disrupts the conversation.
Do not bait people to downvote you for posting an inflammatory comment.
Do not post comments to complain that an article or comment is "biased" because it promotes an urban agenda. That's the whole point of this site.
Do not post multiple consecutive comments. It's rude to monopolize the comment area and crowd out other potential commenters.
Do not vote based on whether you agree with the author's opinion. Comments should be rated for the quality of their argument, not which side they've taken.
Do not vote based on who wrote a comment. Try to judge each comment on its own merit.
Do not create a phony "sock puppet" RTH account just to add upvotes for your comments or downvotes for someone else's comments.
It is up to all of us as members of an online community to reflect and reinforce our community standards of respect, civility and intellectual curiosity in our exchanges with each other.
We all have a responsibility to avoid using argumentative fallacies, to maintain a civil and respectful tone with each other, to make a sincere attempt to contribute meaningfully to the discussion, and to encourage others in the same responsible behaviour.