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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Questions about Litmocracy

Category: Issue 3, News Winners

Cyber emailed me some great questions, so here they are with my current answers:

  Is it possible to get a list of all the works currently submitted in each category?

You can get a list of all the pieces in a category by visiting the Category Archive.  There’s a link to it in the sidebar at the bottom of the list of months.  I’m eventually going to move everything in the sidebar up to the top so that comparing pieces can use the full width of the browser.

  I think it would be nice if one can select them from a list and read each one, or at least see a list of story names.  Otherwise, after a while, stories you have already read keep popping up.  Maybe it is that way by design?

I’ve wrestled a lot with how to get members to vote - to choose between two pieces.  That’s why you keep seeing the same pieces paired up differently.  From previous experience and discussions with other members, I’ve concluded that I should make some adjustments.  As I explained, what you described is currently possible if you know where to look, but I think I’ll make it *easier to find* but also require that you be a member.  Also, reading a piece by itself (which also shows how it ranks against others in the same category), will cost a “brain point” (what you get for voting).  Posting will also cost some number of brain points.  And to encourage comments (which will be moved to the forum), I’ll add a feature so that members can transfer brain points to each other.

  What stops someone from getting all his buddies to vote for him or even voting for yourself?

We have built-in protection against dishonest voting as well as some investigative methods to uncover it if suspicions arise.

Built-in protection:
Since the site itself controls which two items you get to compare, these “shills” will have to compare other pieces on their way to comparing the one they want to upvote.  I believe the net effect of the shills becomes positive because of this.  If it doesn’t, we’re constantly finding new ways to get people to vote more, and that makes it more and more difficult for dishonest voting to have much effect.

Someone mentioned another writing site that used voting to find quality writing and they ran into the problem that a core group developed and over time it just got harder and harder to break through the barrier that their voting provided.  If I remember correctly, the method of voting used on that site did not ask people to choose between one of two specific pieces, but whether or not they liked a particular piece.  Since the core group was large enough to upvote its own material before many people read new stuff, new material didn’t collect many helpful votes.

Investigative protection:
I’ve been able to compare a particular user’s votes to the general consensus and this method does a good job of identifying users that have voted randomly (they were web-crawlers - the indexing services for msn, google, yahoo, etc that would make random votes - I’ve filtered them out now).  I like mining data, so I can find other anomalies that identify dishonest voting.

Of course, if a member decides to favor a particular author’s writing because of their friendship, even when that member feels that something else is better, I can argue either side of whether or not such a vote should be allowed.  Enforcing a prohibition on that kind of decisionmaking is impossible.  But making its significance fall to the level of background noise only requires that we get a lot of people to vote.

Litmocracy was founded in part because the side-by-side comparison performs so much better than other voting methods, and the poor performance of other methods contributes largely to the terrible state of world leadership.  I will bite my tongue now lest I write a book in this post…

  Do stories ever get deleted from the system, or do they just hang around?

Currently, they will hang around forever until the author requests that I delete them, but I’m planning to change that.  I’m not sure how, exacty, but - thinking on the fly here - I think I’ll allow authors to specify how long their submission should stick around, and also, if a piece is pushed out of the top-ten (or top-20, perhaps, for drawings and photos - it’s configurable) by voting, it makes sense to remove it and notify the author that is has been rejected - because once a piece is that low, it doesn’t appear in the voting.