2010-09-29 22:21:57Incentive for better comment quality


Possibly a hare-brained scheme:

-- We frequently gripe about low-grade, lazy posts, usually of the "skeptic" variety;

-- Dealing with these saps time and energy better spent elsewhere;  

-- Our speculations on how to improve the quality of comments usually are punitive in nature;

-- Psychological research indicates that positive rewards are more effective than punishment in improving behavior;

-- The ability to self-edit posts is a boon to doing better work, fixing embarrassing mistakes of the blundering kind;

-- SkS emphasizes the results of peer reviewed, meritocratic publishing.

Why not offer a facility to allow people making comments to --request--- the ability to self edit, as an incentive for good behavior?

-- When such a request comes in, we (moderators) look at the commenter's history, determine if they've earned this privilege;

-- Peer review happens in a collective thread on the private moderation forum w/5 thumbs up on a request being approval.  (Possible scaling problem here; the thread would need to be periodically expunged.);

-- If the commenter is showing a good faith effort to participate constructively, they are then allowed to self-edit;

-- If the request is turned down, the commenter gets boilerplate feedback indicating means for improvement;

-- Self-edits are noted by "last edited" tag added to edited comments, providing an incentive not to radically change content for rhetorical gain.

I suggest this because in point of fact I frequently use the edit function on my own comments to correct grammatical problems; self-editing is a natural extension of the technical capacities of online composition and publishing and is a great tool. I don't change conclusions, attempt to evade discussion or the like by changing the intellectual content of a comment because that's "not cricket"; there's a legitimate utility to allowing post facto edits yet the privilege is ultimately open to some abuse. Still, I don't think such potential for abuse should mandate we ignore the benefits of self-editing.

I think a reasonably easily obtained carrot of this kind would be a powerful incentive to buy in as a productive member of the comments community here. A person with edit privileges could also be graced with a badge, such as their handle in a slightly different color, leading people not sporting this feature to strive to obtain it as well as offering readers a reputation cue which of course is also an incentive to improve. 

Because of the plumbing involved for moderators, I believe some of the infrastructure for implementing this is already in place. That said, John's chronically busy with this site so that's an issue. 

2010-09-29 22:32:25


Past this or other features strongly oriented to utility, I don't think an elaborate system of scaling commenters on a grade from "newbie" to "expert" or the like is warranted or practical given the  emerged objectives of the comments threads. Ideally, the only "comments" we'd get would be factual corrections to published material or legitimate questions with legitimate answers. That's not the case here, we've instead got to accommodate opinions, but we can help see to it they're expressed as well as possible.  

Granted, the self-edit feature is not a huge reward for good behavior,  but we know we don't think of  things that way; not having the reward is a motivator regardless of the absolute worth. 

I'm thinking specifically of returning recalcitrants such as "cruzn246."