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Author Topic: Consumating’s Ill-Fated Point System: Nice Blog Essay  (Read 6596 times)
mouser
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« on: November 04, 2007, 01:24:18 PM »

This is an essay relevant to DC and other similar internet communities.  It speaks to the danger of setting up a points-based reward and punishment system, in terms of using such a thing to improve community content.

Quote
One of the things that I tell people who want to build an audience for their website is that they have to figure out a way to continually reward the people they recruit. The short story is, it is not very important what your reward is - it could be points, stickers or a nice warm feeling in your belly - as long as it feels rewarding to the members to do something that you want them to do.

I will below provide the story of Consumating’s ill-fated point system as a sort of counter-example to how you should design your own. We built a point system into Consumating because we thought giving direct feedback to people about their conduct on the site would encourage them to be nice to one another - you get a thumbs up when you are nice (treat!), and a thumbs down when you are a douche (electric shock!). It worked dramatically well in that aspect, and gave our members everything they needed to police themselves, punish trolls, and create a vibrant and unique culture. In virtually all other aspects, however, it caused serious problems.
..
The primary problem with Consumating points was that they did not actually give incentive to the members to do anything valuable.
..



from http://waxy.org
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Darwin
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« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2007, 03:23:02 PM »

Now that was a seriously interesting read. Their experiment turned out a bit Lord of the Flies, didn't it?

Thanks for pointing it out to us, mouser  Thmbsup (note the thumbsup?!).
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J-Mac
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« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2007, 11:46:22 PM »

Now that was a seriously interesting read. Their experiment turned out a bit Lord of the Flies, didn't it?

Thanks for pointing it out to us, mouser  Thmbsup (note the thumbsup?!).

You get two thumbs down for "sucking up" Mike...   tongue

Jim
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cranioscopical
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« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2007, 07:54:50 AM »


You get two thumbs down for "sucking up" Mike...   tongue

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Chris
Darwin
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« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2007, 06:17:30 PM »

Quote
You get two thumbs down for "sucking up" Mike...   

Jim

I won't dignify that with a response  Grin

EDIT: Dang, I edited out my smiley (was going for clever wordplay, gave up and posted the above, but managed to edit out the smiley  ohmy Corrected now, but damage done  Sad
« Last Edit: November 07, 2007, 07:58:37 AM by Darwin » Logged

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Ralf Maximus
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« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2007, 12:12:57 AM »

I'd be very curious to see an insider's description of how DC's DonationCredit system influences the content here.  My impression is that it's not an influence per se, but rather a rewards system on top of the normal satisfaction of accessing a dynamic site filled with interesting personalities.

Reading the "About" section in the DC documentation suggests it was originally envisioned that folks might make micro-gifts for interesting posts, even if software wasn't involved.  I've given out credits for coding snacks, and also for things that really impressed me as thoughtful / humorous / impressive.  Is that what actually happens, or is the behavior of participants different than envisioned, or am I reading too much into the manifesto?

Regardless, I think this place is perfect as-is and wouldn't suggest any alternative reward system, points-based or otherwise.  I've just seen it go wrong so often.
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Darwin
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« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2007, 08:03:00 AM »

My impression is that it works quietly in the background and hasn't in any way negatively influenced the way people behave on the site. In some ways, it works so well and so seamlessly that it is almost invisible - I often think that it is underutilized, but then I look at the donations that have come my way and realise that this is far from the case. I also try to give as good as I get!

Anyway, Ralf, your usage of it seems spot on to me. But that's probably a bit ego-centric because you've described how I use them too  Grin
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app103
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« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2007, 11:25:10 AM »

I was once part of a wonderful chat community of computer geeks that got the 'bright' idea to add a member ranking system. Within weeks, the entire community came crashing down.

They started a system where you could have from 1 to 5 stars as your rank. All new members entered with at least 1 star (maybe higher if core admin team thought they deserved it). Additional stars could be added if you contributed in a positive way, or worked hard and put forth a genuine effort to increase your knowledge. Once you hit a level of 4 stars, you could vote on who was admitted to the group, and promotions to higher rank.

The intention of this system was to encourage more respect towards those that 'deserved' it and encourage people to work harder.

It completely backfired, with new members being labeled as 'worthless n00bs' and abused, and higher ranking members thinking they had some right to act obnoxious towards everyone, and demanding respect from anyone they outranked, even if they had done some horrible things to those people. (a kind of abusive forced ass kissing system) Others started kicking and banning visitors from the chatroom for no reason other than the fact they weren't 'official members'.

I had a rank of 3 stars, my father was given a rank of 4 stars when he joined (because he had been a professional programmer). I ended up having a fight with the admins when they wanted to give me a promotion to 4 stars. I didn't want it because I knew that would result in them abusing my father and treating him as if he were an idiot because he had the same rank as his daughter, who had a lot less computer experience.

I watched bright people be insulted and called stupid because they were new members (their rank was lower), treated as if they had nothing valuable to contribute. I watched people go on campaigns for votes once they learned they were added for consideration for an increase in rank.

It took only a few weeks for the entire community to go from being about computers and learning to being about stars and rank. It was horrible. The best members began walking away. No matter what happened or who left (even the guy that was hosting it left!), they wouldn't get rid of that stupid ranking system and things just kept getting worse & worse.

This was how my chat community got started. I flipped out in the chatroom one day about the behavior I was seeing and how it wasn't about learning any more and expressed a desire to walk and start my own, but couldn't I host it because I was on dialup. Another long time member who felt the same way offered to host it till I could, and we both left.
-----

The major difference with the DonationCredits system here and the points, rank, etc. systems in other communities is that it's in the background. You can't see how many credits someone has. You can't see when they give or receive and who is doing the giving or receiving unless you are one of the parties involved in the transaction. There is no ranking of people based on their DonationCredits activities. You can't find anything to use to compare your 'status' to someone else. This is good....very good. It keeps people from losing their minds and becoming obsessed with 'status'.

We also have a little bird that is the symbol of generosity, that keeps an eye on the site and what people are doing, that secretly and unexpectedly rewards those that put forth an effort to help the community. You never know when he's watching or when he will decide to drop a few coins of appreciation in your lap.

In this community, contributing content has its own rewards. More stuff to read. More discussions to get involved in. More feedback from members. It has a snowball effect causing it to get better & better all the time. This attracts new members that want to be part of a community like this, and they contribute, making the snowball grow even larger.

I worry about some of the ideas that mouser has had, though.

Things like adding a mod to the forum that will allow people to rate posts to give more interesting posts a higher rank. Or some of the ideas he has for the Cody Club. It's not the spirit and intention of it that I am worried about. It's how it could encourage people to compete and create a false sense of superiority among members if these things were visible and comparable in some way. That's what I worry about. I really don't want to be a part of a community that is competitive like that or fighting for gold stars again.

I already had my heart broken and felt the pain caused by watching something I loved become destroyed by stuff like that. I don't want to go through that again.
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Darwin
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« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2007, 11:34:41 AM »

Quote
Things like adding a mod to the forum that will allow people to rate posts to give more interesting posts a higher rank. Or some of the ideas he has for the Cody Club. It's not the spirit and intention of it that I am worried about. It's how it could encourage people to compete and create a false sense of superiority among members if these things were visible and comparable in some way. That's what I worry about. I really don't want to be a part of a community that is competitive like that or fighting for gold stars again.

My impression is that even when he comes up with ideas like this, he always argues against them, for the reasons that you list. I agree with you and Ralf - DC works beautifully the way it is!
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mouser
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« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2007, 12:35:18 PM »

It's a great lesson in terms of how important it is to look carefully at the incentives that any system provides.

As app says -- the last thing we want to encourage on DC is a kind of competition for "rewards" in whatever form.  That's the last thing we want.

I think we are much more interested in participation and teamwork.

That's why even in the case of the programming challenges I've tried hard to do things where everyone gets something.  And I think we should encourage that as much as possible.  Makes it a funner and better place for everyone.
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Deozaan
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« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2007, 02:04:10 PM »

Did you see the other post he made? The guy who co-founded Consumating with him sent him an e-mail:

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    On Thu, 14 Apr 2005, Adam Mathes wrote:
    We should really get rid of the popularity stats — that was an Ăśber Personals thing and I’m not sure it makes sense for Consumating.

    What do you think?

His response?

Quote
    Ben Brown wrote:
    Nope. Popularity is key. Its like high school. People love it. In fact, I was thinking of adding a little “Your popularity score” thing in the corner.

    It adds to the game-like aspects of the site. People want to know where they stand, and trying to become more popular encourages repeat visits.

Um, what? Why would you want to encourage high school behavior on a dating site? High school is that time in life when the stupid status game is the problem! Major red flag right there. Anyone told me my idea was like high school, I'd realize instantly it was a terrible, terrible idea that only brought out the worst in most people.

Going to Jr. High/High School is a good experience in that it teaches you that any time humans get a chance to feel superior than others, they will take that chance and abuse it and often become the worst they can be. I learned history in US public schools (which means I don't know it very well) but even I know that most of the problems in the world throughout history, or even today, are because one group of people thinks they are superior to another. And the truth about this article is that really, it's just all about the "Gold Stars." The things people judge others by in order to place a status on them, more often than not, is (at best) of as much value as a gold star.

App's post describes this perfectly.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2007, 06:26:04 PM by Deozaan » Logged

Ralf Maximus
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« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2007, 06:21:53 PM »

Quote
Um, what? Why would you want to encourage high school behavior on a dating site?

Obviously, Ben Brown had a wonderful high-school dating experience, and is completely oblivious to the rest of the world that did not.  All those crazy teen-angst movies?  Does not get them.  He saw Pretty In Pink and assumed it was dubbed in French, it made so little sense. It's this bit though:

Quote
    Nope. Popularity is key. Its like high school. People love it. In fact, I
    was thinking of adding a little “Your popularity score” thing in the corner.

...which completely seals his cluelessness about humanity.  Nobody loves the popularity thing in school.  The universal dread of all high school students is getting branded unpopular.  Even the ultra-popular worry about it.  It's the constant thrumming high-voltage whitenoise that underscores the entire high-school experience.  It's the driving force behind teen suicides and mass shootings.

And he wanted to build a social community around that.

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Lashiec
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« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2007, 01:47:29 PM »

What's this 'popularity' thing? Is it for real? I thought it only existed in movies and in those MTV shows showing the 'real life' of the first weird guy they found down the street tongue
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housetier
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« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2008, 05:52:41 PM »

Lashiec it is for real. And I am glad I was in this system for one year only; I never understood what them highschoolers liked about it. While they made the popular ones even more popular, outsiders where pushed to the side, and eventually over the edge...

I am so glad we don't have "ranks", every user's opinion is taken into account (if they care to voice it of course). I truly believe that dc.com is close to perfection, but not too close Wink If it were to close we might reach perfection and any change after that would make it worse.

Anyway, that article got me thinking about my peer project and how I might make it more attractive to new user while at the same time keep the current ones.
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