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Best Of 2007
Best of the Web 2007
Our Favorite Blog Essays and Debates

Gamespot Editor Fired for Writing an Honest Review

We've heard an unsettling rumor today from an anonymous tipster that longtime game reviewer Jeff Gerstmann from Gamespot has been let go. That wouldn't necessarily be newsworthy, but the conditions under which he was allegedly dismissed were. According to the source, Gerstmann was fired "on the spot" due to advertiser pressure for his review of Eidos' Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. A visit to Gamespot shows that the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game has taken over the site very prominently, with backgrounds and multiple banner ads all pitching Kane & Lynch. Allegedly, publisher Eidos "took issue with the review and threatened to pull its ad campaign."

Gamespot Editor Fired Over Kane & Lynch Review?

Alleged Gamespot Employee Spills Guts On Valleywag

CNet Comments On Gamespot Controversy

The Review

Why the Windows Registry Exists

Raymond Chen asks "Why are INI files deprecated in favor of the registry?" then goes on to explain why:

Basically a big bullet list of why Windows outgrew .INI files.

The registry tried to address these concerns. You might argue whether these were valid concerns to begin with, but the Windows NT folks sure thought they were.

Frankly, it makes sense.  The NT development team saw a world of commercial software spinning out of control with thousands of unmanaged .INI files crammed into the Windows (well, WinNT) folder and came up with the registry as a solution.  Love it, hate it, you're stuck with it -- so here's some salve for your impotent rage: at least now you know WHY they did it.

And as usual, the comments are worth a read as well.

I am a hater of the windows registry, but have to give him credit for the best defense of it i've seen.  On the other hand.. this really seems to be advocating for registry vs. HORRIBLE OLD WINDOWS-INI FILE FORMAT.

The real argument should be registry vs. a very well thought out config file format.

Seriously, wtf is going on with Apple's Mac vs. PC ads?

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We've talked about this before, and my general feeling is just mild annoyance at the cult of apple stuff and the emphasis of apple on marketing and "image".

And unlike some other apple products imho, i think OS X is a quality product.
Furthermore, i do not like MS Vista.

But the latest apple ad i saw was, except for the briefest of mentions, a commercial dedicated totally 100% to making fun of VISTA (and even going so far as to basically recommend XP!).  There was a total lack of any mention of positive features of Apple's product.

Which i found kind of shocking.. Even as someone who dislikes Vista this really took me aback, like wtf is the aim of this -- just to try to increase negative feelings of your competitor?  I have a hard time thinking of other "attack" commercials that didn't at least make a cursory attempt to promote the companies own products..

I really wonder if these ads aren't on one hand really working for Apple, but on the other hand really cementing and increasing an anti-apple feeling in another population of users...

The commercial i'm talking about can be watched on youtube here:

note: i don't want this thread to turn into an anti-apple fest, i'm just responding to the oddness of this one particular commercial which i think is different from the other mac-vs-pc ads, which make fun of windows but while playing up the beneficial comparison to apple features, something notably lacking from this commercial. furthermore, i'm not complaining that the add is "unfair" -- i'm just struct by it's unusualness.

To wide-screen or not to wide-screen

after maintaining for so long that CRTs are better for gaming, i am forced to make the change to LCD.. thus the need for this thread.. :) i have my eyes for this model: Samsung 931BW and there is also a 'gaming' model - 931CW but somehow i'm not too keen on that. anyway, i have some basic questions regarding model..

• is it better to go wide-screen if i'm not going to watch movies on PC? since i sort of miss the extra height of the normal size..
• if i go for the wide-screen model, will my games be shown stretched?
• this model doesn't come with any extras such as USB ports etc. is this a plus or a minus?
• what is the general feelings of this model, if anyone is using?

Read what members of the forum recommend and add your opinions..

Consumating’s Ill-Fated Point System: Nice Blog Essay

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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.

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.

Stay Away From Microsoft VISTA

After spending days of frustration making my programs Vista compatible, with mixed success, I unexpectedly feel like I need to add my voice to the growing chorus who are saying that Windows Vista is the worst of all worlds, and a total unmitigated disaster of an Operating System.

Now I am not a knee-jerk Microsoft hater.  Personally i have a deep distrust and dislike for Apple and their marketing-scam-driven design methodology, and having used linux for a few years and dealt with linux servers for a while, i can honestly say i am not a fan of linux.  But every time i try to cut MS some slack they seem determined to prove they really are as f*cked up as their worst critics claim.

XP Pro is a fine operating system.
Microsoft Vista is a disaster.  Stay far away from it.

By far the worst thing is all this bullshit braindead User Access Control and the entire support system around it that is designed to improve security but instead winds up making using the operating system like living with the most annoying roomate you ever had in college.  If this is what a corporation with a reputation for User Interface testing produces, i'm going to rethink the entire notion of user interface testing.  I'd rather have my cat design a UAC system -- at least the cat knows what every damn firewall program knows -- you need to have ways to whitelist applications, etc.

But for me by far the most evil, harmfull, idiotic thing MS Vista does is with regards to the "Virtualization" approach to keeping old programs compatible.  Basically to solve compatibility problems with programs whose authors were stupid enough to use Microsoft's genius Registry System (another horribly stupid idea with everlasting negative reprecussions) or dares to create files in ITS OWN DIRECTORY, Vista tries to help these programs by creating secret hidden copies of the files they create, which neither users nor the programs will ever be able to find.  Best yet, it tricks the programs into thinking these files are in different locations.  Oh want more?  Ok, there can be multiple copies of these files, one in the original directory (which are now unbeknownst to the program unwritable) and then another copy in the secret directory.  Oh users with admin privileges will see the files in the normal directory, others get the secret hidden shadow copies.  Now watch the fun when users think they are working with one file but are really working with another.  More fun: If a program deletes the file -- guess what? it's still there? no it's not, its the other older shadow copy!  Please shoot the person at microsoft who thought this was a good idea.

You can read more about the virtual store here: http://msdn2.microso...ibrary/bb530410.aspx

Look, if they wanted to solve this problem they could simply have said, that all programs which need to write files in such directories need to be installed and set to run in a compatibility mode where everything works as expected in win XP.  This current solution is a total unmitigated disaster for everyone involved.

Here's another lesson for designers: Don't try to be so f*cking clever writing all kinds of secret behind the scenes stuff like this -- the result is a train wreck.

To "help" programmers microsoft also wrote this system for "embedding manifests" inside exe's which lets you tell Vista to stop it's f*cking nonsense with your program.  Getting this thing to work is an utter nightmare.  Best of all you won't get any feedback as you struggle to figure out why/how on god's earth you do this.  Embedding a manifest is incredibly convoluted and error prone.

You honestly get the feeling that there must be some cabal in Microsoft which is trying to bring the company down.  If there is, can you hurry up so we can get something better?

Stay away from MS Vista.

Bugs of collective intelligence: why the best ideas aren’t selected? Blog Essay

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Nice piece by member (and friend) alex3f, talking about group dynamics in decision making.  Alex has done a lot of work in this field and it's always interesting to hear his take on some of these studies..

Collective problem solving involves iterated innovation and selection of solutions. In his experiment, Matt decoupled the two by ensuring that the right solution was injected into the pool of solutions that group considered and yet he repeatedly observed that the group rejected the right solution. Apparently, the group evaluation of ideas was seriously biased towards accepting the inferior ideas of the senior members at the expense of other ideas, i.e. the senior status of the idea source overweighted the intrinsic merits of the idea. This is an example of subjective selectionist bias. Another common type of bias is temporal bias. For example, solutions proposed earlier can be preferred to solutions proposed later (or the other way around).

We can see these sources of bias working in many “collective intelligence” web 2.0 platforms, where people are supposed to select the fittest among several versions of the content based on the merit of the content. However, in reality, the selection is heavily biased by other factors that has little to do with the quality of the content.

Must Read of the Day: The Software Awards Scam

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I put out a new product a couple of weeks ago. This new product has so far won 16 different awards and recommendations from software download sites. Some of them even emailed me messages of encouragement such as “Great job, we’re really impressed!”. I should be delighted at this recognition of the quality of my software, except that the ’software’ doesn’t even run.

Talks about the unethical practice of the so-called download sites which don't even care to review the submissions and blindly issue a "5-star" award to every entry irrespective of whether it is genuine software or junk. Quite an interesting read!


Thoughtful Article: Blogging Ethics: When And What Should Bloggers Disclose?

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Worth a read:

Is there a new blogger scandal brewing? Allen Stern over at CenterNetworks seems to think so. Allen takes issue with the new video blog Webb Alert (which mentioned Read/WriteWeb today), saying that the blog doesn't disclose its connection with advertising network Federated Media (which hosts it and sells advertising for it) and suspects that the whole thing may be an elaborate scheme to push traffic to FM clients (and notes that FM clients have been gushing over the show in return for the disproportionate links they get).


Disclosure is a tricky business and as a practice is still ill-defined even in the realm of traditional journalism. The general idea is that anything that might be seen as a potential conflict of interest between a writer and the subject of his story should be disclosed to the reader.


More from the article:
Disclosure is necessary, however, and at times I think that maybe it is the overzealous trend toward complete and utter transparency offered by bloggers that makes blogs so attractive to readers. So when should you disclose?
  • Financial association -- I don't mean advertising, which is obvious, but less clear affiliations such as investments, ownership, or partial-ownership. For example, WIRED should mention they own Reddit when they write about the company. (Of course, you might not always even know when you're investing in a company.)
  • Employment -- If you are paid by a company you are writing about as an employee, contractor, or consultant, you should disclose that.
  • Competition -- If you are writing specifically about a direct competitor to a company you are involved with in an aforementioned manner, especially if you’re writing in a negative way, it is probably best to disclose it. For example, WIRED should disclose that they own Reddit whenever they write about Digg.
  • Personal involvement - This is by far the trickiest. As I illustrated before, personal or emotional involvement with stories can get complicated and, well, personal. I don't think it always needs to be disclosed. For example, I don't feel the need to disclose my political views whenever I write about politics. However, if I'm reviewing a company run by a close friend, I would disclose that fact or pass the story to a writer with less emotional involvement.

Article: The Economics of Open Source Donations

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Donations play a crucial role in supporting Free and Open Source Software projects. At times readers will write in to share their positive experience with a utility or program or a distribution that I have written about. Now don't confuse them with your average technical-bent-of-mind Linux user. These are accountants, home-office businessman, and even carpenters and plumbers, who've saved a lot of money thanks to open source software. And they have one question in mind -- how do I help the person behind the program?

This month, Packt columnist and open source enthusiast Mayank Sharma explores the economics behind open source projects, what they do with their donations and how crucial they can be to their future.


ps. this might be a good time to remind you readers of the article I wrote about donationware and the creation of

"When Do Users Donate? Experiments with Donationware: Ethical Software, Work Equalization, Temporary Licenses, Collective Bargaining, and Microdonations"


Linux or Mac: Which is the better alternative to Windows?

Serdar Yegulalp  and Mitch Wagner over at InformationWeek give their respective takes on Ubuntu Linux vs. Mac with Linux Vs. Mac: Which Is The Better Alternative To Microsoft Windows?. Doesn't go into detail, but a very nice overview of the current state of these two alternatives.

To this day, I could never afford a Mac, so you know my choice (GNU/Linux).

Article: A Woman's Primer for Building Her Own Computer

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I have always enjoyed playing video games with my brothers. We fought each other over who gets to use the computer next. Eventually, we had new computers replace old, and we each had a machine to ourselves. Even though I was the oldest, the computers were the boys' endeavors, and I was stuck with the hand-me-down of the hand-me-downs. And when they both left for college, I had the same tattered and torn computer, only even more out-of-date.

I guess I didn't really mind, but my family took notice, and one Christmas I got upgrades. A new case, a new hard drive--and by the time it was all unwrapped, I had a completely new computer!--all in separate parts. This was orchestrated by my best friend, who then walked me through assembling and setting up my amazing, tiny (it's the size of a shoe box) computer. He didn't do any of the work, since he knew I liked to do things at least once by myself. It was terrific, and once again, I had to fight my brothers over who got to use it first. This time, I had the upper hand. This computer was all mine.

This taught me how easy it is to do, and proved to me that I could handle the upgrades from then on out. I mean, I built the thing myself. Everything else is just a walk in the park.

Truthfully, it's not too hard to build a computer by yourself. It saves a lot of money over buying one off the shelf, and it's a lot of fun to do. Once you're done, you'll know exactly how your computer is configured and what hardware you've got, because you picked out the parts yourself.


How To Ask Questions The Smart Way

I was writing an introduction to DC search when I came across this very well written guide.


In the world of hackers, the kind of answers you get to your technical questions depends as much on the way you ask the questions as on the difficulty of developing the answer. This guide will teach you how to ask questions in a way more likely to get you a satisfactory answer.

Now that use of open source has become widespread, you can often get as good answers from other, more experienced users as from hackers. This is a Good Thing; users tend to be just a little bit more tolerant of the kind of failures newbies often have. Still, treating experienced users like hackers in the ways we recommend here will generally be the most effective way to get useful answers out of them, too.

The first thing to understand is that hackers actually like hard problems and good, thought-provoking questions about them. If we didn't, we wouldn't be here. If you give us an interesting question to chew on we'll be grateful to you; good questions are a stimulus and a gift. Good questions help us develop our understanding, and often reveal problems we might not have noticed or thought about otherwise. Among hackers, “Good question!” is a strong and sincere compliment.

Continue to read similar essays suggested by members..

An honest review from someone who went full-time mac and came back to windows

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I'll start at the beginning. Thirty days ago I bought a 15" Macbook Pro (Santa Rosa). I have been interested in learning the Mac OS for awhile, and the only way I could really do it would be forcing myself to use it on a daily basis. So I sold my 17" Dell Inspiron e1705 and went all Mac.

I still use PC's on a daily basis at work and to run certain aspects of my life, such as recording my podcast, running my webserver, etc.

The following is a real-life, honest listing of likes and dislikes comparing Windows Vista to Mac OS X.

Fascinating article about harm of monetary incentives: v. relevant to dc ideas

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This is an article about how offering people monetary rewards can have a negative effect on things.
Very relevant reading for dc ideas and stuff.  Definitely food for thought.

NEW YORK CITY has decided to offer cash rewards to some students based on their attendance records and exam performance. Diligent, high-achieving seventh graders will be able to earn up to $500 in a year. The plan is the brainchild of Roland G. Fryer, an economist who has been appointed as “chief equality officer” of the city’s Department of Education.

The assumption that underlies the project is simple: people respond to incentives. If you want people to do something, you have to make it worth their while. This assumption drives virtually all of economic theory.

Sure, there are already many rewards in learning: gaining understanding (of yourself and others), having mysterious or unfamiliar aspects of the world opened up to you, demonstrating mastery, satisfying curiosity, inhabiting imaginary worlds created by others, and so on. Learning is also the route to more prosaic rewards, like getting into good colleges and getting good jobs. But these rewards are not doing the job. If they were, children would be doing better in school.

The logic of the plan reveals a second assumption that economists make: the more motives the better. Give people two reasons to do something, the thinking goes, and they will be more likely to do it, and they’ll do it better, than if they have only one. Providing some cash won’t disturb the other rewards of learning, rewards that are intrinsic to the process itself. They will only provide a little boost. Mr. Fryer’s reward scheme is intended to add incentives to the ones that already exist.

Unfortunately, these assumptions that economists make about human motivation, though intuitive and straightforward, are false. In particular, the idea that adding motives always helps is false. There are circumstances in which adding an incentive competes with other motives and diminishes their impact. Psychologists have known this for more than 30 years.

In one experiment, nursery school children were given the opportunity to draw with special markers. After playing, some of the children were given “good player” awards and others were not. Some time later, the markers were reintroduced to the classroom. The researchers kept track of which children used the markers, and they collected the pictures that had been drawn. The youngsters given awards were less likely to draw at all, and drew worse pictures, than those who were not given the awards.

Why did this happen? Children draw because drawing is fun and because it leads to a result: a picture. The rewards of drawing are intrinsic to the activity itself. The “good player” award gives children another reason to draw: to earn a reward. And it matters — children want recognition. But the recognition undermines the fun, so that later, in the absence of a chance to earn an award, the children aren’t interested in drawing...


I think some take home messages for donationware in general and DC specifically is:
  • As a donationware author, you are never going to make sufficient money to make this a good path for you if your aim is to make money.  That is, there isn't enough money to be made for it to be a dominant motivator, and if you try to look for money to be your motivator you are going to be in trouble.
  • It's not feasible for a site like DC to have money be the reward that motivates people.  And furthermore, care must be taken that the ability for people to receive donations doesn't actually diminish the pleasure that you get from doing stuff for the pure enjoyment of it.
  • In other words, don't focus on donationcredits here, they are a fun little extra way of people saying thanks -- not a way to measure your "success" or impact.
  • It means that a public thank you, or a nice note with a 0.01 donationcredit gift, might be more meaningful and make someone happier than a larger donation without a fun thank you note.

Google in Sicko Storm - Welcome to democracy google style

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This is one example of the future of the internet and democracy, google style.  And it's one more reason why i don't consider myself a fan of the company.

"Does negative press make you Sicko?" asked Google health account planner Lauren Turner. She was referring to the new documentary by left wing demagogue Michael Moore about the US health provision.

Turner used the corporate blog to condemn his use of "isolated and emotional stories of the system at its worst". Why couldn't the media concentrate on the positive aspects of the system such as 44m uninsured Americans er, "the industry's numerous prescription programs, charity services, and philanthropy efforts."

This segues neatly into a plug for Google's core business, as she goes on to explain:

Many of our clients face these issues; companies come to us hoping we can help them better manage their reputations through "Get the Facts" or issue management campaigns. Your brand or corporate site may already have these informational assets, but can users easily find them?

We can place text ads, video ads, and rich media ads in paid search results or in relevant websites within our ever-expanding content network. Whatever the problem, Google can act as a platform for educating the public and promoting your message. We help you connect your company's assets while helping users find the information they seek.
"Advertising is a very democratic and effective way to participate in a public dialogue," she urged.


So.. got a few million dollars of advertising money? Then you too can participate in democracy and buy yourself some relief from pesky bad press and a bad reputation.  If you get caught behaving unethically - use your democratic dollars to buy yourself an advertising campaign that can neutralize those pesky investigators.  It's all about advertising.

Here we have the advertiser's/lobbyist's middle-man game, telling each side they had better quickly get out their checkbooks and starting buying millions of dollars of advertising to try to quickly dominate the message and shout down the other guy's message.

My apologies for the semi-political rant..

I need to clarify something -- i shouldn't pick on google.

google is probably the most ethical, most interesting, and most technically exciting mega corporation, whose entire business model centers around dominating the web and making trillions of dollars by putting their advertising on everything (sounds sarcastic but i'm serious).

What Makes a Content Management System? Nice Essay on

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This is a surprisingly good essay about content management system (CMS) features, and various features that are essential or merely nice extras.

It doesn't talk about specific products but it's a must read for anyone who has thought they might need a CMS for their website but weren't sure, or really don't have a great grasp of what a CMS brings to you that a simple static set of web pages doesn't.

If we look at content management functionality as a continuum, there’s a graduated scale between the two. On the one side, you have something simple — an “articles” table with a couple of password-protected pages to update it. On the other side, you have a commercial CMS that you paid $50K for with all the bells and whistles. Specifically, how are the two different?

A Very Simple Ethical Principle for Search: Google Fails Miserably

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An extremely simple principle:

Shouldn't we want a web search engine which doesn't have huge financial (or other) incentives to send people to certain pages?

I mean, it sounds insanely obvious and yet the #1 search engine on the planet, by far, has it's entire business model based on people visiting pages with its ads on it, and is increasingly creating content and services that it benefits from sending traffic to.

I would concede that Google is one of the more ethical giant corporations around, but that isn't saying all that much.

Don't we need to find and switch to search engines which don't have such an overwhelming financial incentive to send us to their pages and pages of people that pay them?  Is that even possible in this world?

note: one of my oldest friends and someone who has more integrity than anyone i know works for google; this isn't really a knock against what google is currently doing as much as it is a comment about what i view as an inherent and unacceptable situation in search.

Have a Comment?

The sorry state of open source today: Thought-provoking, self-critical article

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Thought-provoking and self-critical article on Open Source developments..

This editorial is an experiment. It was originally written by Radu-Cristian Fotescu for his blog, but he offered us the chance to publish it here on The Jem Report as well. It is extremely long, and divided up into separate pages, which is something I don't usually do with articles. So the format in which this is published is the first experiment. The second experiment is a matter of this article's content. I don't agree with everything Radu-Cristian says in his article, but I very much agree with what he is doing, which is to take a brutally honest look at the failures of the open source community and demand that we begin to recognize them instead of continuing to ignore the parts that aren't working correctly. This is the first step in fixing some of the problems that frustrate us all as GNU/Linux and *BSD users. Maybe it's time for a great re-examination of our processes and attitudes, and think about what needs to be done to create great software instead of continuing to perpetuate old mistakes on the basis that tradition, politics, rhetoric, and dogma are more important than critical thinking.

Paul Graham Essay: Microsoft is Dead?

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Another thought provoking article by Paul Ghraham:

A few days ago I suddenly realized Microsoft was dead. I was talking to a young startup founder about how Google was different from Yahoo. I said that Yahoo had been warped from the start by their fear of Microsoft. That was why they'd positioned themselves as a "media company" instead of a technology company. Then I looked at his face and realized he didn't understand...

I Bought Votes on Digg

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Interesting story about a person manipulating the popularity of an article on Digg. You can also see a related article at:

...A new story about a blog dedicated to showing photographs of crowds had just gotten enough diggs to make the "popular" list on the tech/design page, and several people were commenting on it.
"How the hell did this get to the front page?" Pawperso wondered.
I can tell you exactly how a pointless blog full of poorly written, incoherent commentary made it to the front page on Digg. I paid people to do it. What's more, my bought votes lured honest Diggers to vote for it too. All told, I wound up with a "popular" story that earned 124 diggs -- more than half of them unpaid. I also had 29 (unpaid) comments, 12 of which were positive...


Many 2 Many - Essay on building self-moderation into web services like amazon, ebay, slashdot

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An interesting discussion of the need for systems to elicit self-control rather than brute force measures to keep would be evil doers away...

We’ve all gone to school on the moderation and reputation systems of Slashdot and eBay. In those cases, their growing popularity in the period after their respective launches led to a tragedy of the commons, where open access plus incentives led to nearly constant attack by people wanting to game the system, whether to gain attention for themselves or their point of view in the case of Slashdot, or to defraud other users, as with eBay.

The traditional response to these problems would have been to hire editors or other functionaries to police the system for abuse, in order to stem the damage and to assure ordinary users you were working on their behalf. That strategy, however, would fail at the scale and degree of openness at which those services function. The Slashdot FAQ tells the story of trying to police the comments with moderators chosen from among the userbase, first 25 of them and later 400. Like the Charge of the Light Brigade, however, even hundreds of committed individuals were just cannon fodder, given the size of the problem. The very presence of effective moderators made the problem worse over time. In a process analogous to more roads creating more traffic, the improved moderation saved the site from drowning in noise, so more users joined, but this increase actually made policing the site harder, eventually breaking the very system that made the growth possible in the first place.


discovered on alex3f
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