Ranks, Thanks and Titles

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Mystara
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Ranks, Thanks and Titles

Post by Mystara » Fri Apr 29, 2011 5:52 pm

So, in my message regarding the latest update, we introduced a new thanks system and I alluded to a new ranks/titles/privileges system. I'm going to expand a little more on my intentions for that now.

Currently, we have a system of 6 ranks: Dungeoneer, Level 1 Dungeoneer, Level 2 Dungeoneer, Level 3 Dungeoneer, Knight and Fright Knight.
You progress through these ranks after making a certain number of posts, and no privileges are consigned to each rank.

Old as this system is, I'm not overly fond of it. I don't think that the ranks have any real meaning or purpose. More posts doesn't necessarily make a better poster or community member and it's worth commenting that none of the admins or moderators have high post counts, i.e. it's even hard to say that the admin team accord the ranks much respect.

My plan is to give ranks based on the 'thanks' system. I think this is a better way to measure things, because it's more indicative of whether the community actually like the contributions of a particular member. So how would such a system work?

In an ideal system, I would base ranks on PageRank (which is what google uses). Essentially:
- Each person receives a rank, which represents how popular their posts are.
- The higher your rank, the more you raise the rank of other people when you 'thank' their posts.
- The more posts you thank, the less you raise the rank of people when you 'thank' their posts.
- Thanking posts has no direct effect on your score (it indirectly raises it ever-so-slightly)
- Unpopular posts have no effect on anything.

The question, then, remains what privileges are given as a result of hitting each rank.

In the future, I intend to moderate all posts containing links. This allows us to lower other security measures that we have in place in order to prevent spam. A possible privilege at a low level would be to post links without moderation.

Other privileges, I have no idea at present. But I'm thinking about it.

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?
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Re: Ranks, Thanks and Titles

Post by HStorm » Fri Apr 29, 2011 6:13 pm

To be honest, I've never seen why we need a ranking system at all. I can't remember the last time I even noticed anyone's rank next to one of their posts. Does it appear to the left of the post or to the right? I can't remember.

I suppose if we can think up some kind of privileges to go with it, it might at least give some point to the whole idea, but my suspicion is that once the novelty's worn off, it'll just open the door to complaints from newcomers about unfairness. So I'd just as soon get rid of rankings altogether.

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Re: Ranks, Thanks and Titles

Post by Canadanne » Fri Apr 29, 2011 10:01 pm

I'm inclined to agree with HStorm. I don't really see the value of turning forum participation into some kind of popularity contest, and I don't think it's fair to deprive posters of privileges just because they don't have as much to contribute as others.

The thanks system is a nice way of letting people know their posts are appreciated (although it's fairly meaningless unless you can tell *which* posts they liked). But I don't like the idea of using it to assign higher ranks to certain members.

Personally I see nothing wrong with the current "ranking" system, which simply indicates the member's level of activity and experience on the forum (quite helpful to know). I haven't seen anyone treating their post count as a status symbol.

As a side note, moderating all posts containing links sounds like a lot of unnecessary hassle. I'd have thought it was much easier just to screen new members' first posts - isn't it immediately obvious whether they're a spammer or a genuine fan?

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Re: Ranks, Thanks and Titles

Post by Mystara » Sat Apr 30, 2011 8:34 am

I'm inclined to agree with HStorm. I don't really see the value of turning forum participation into some kind of popularity contest, and I don't think it's fair to deprive posters of privileges just because they don't have as much to contribute as others.
We won't remove any privileges because of this system. That would be harsh.
We are considering removing some privileges. That's because they are causing a headache for us in terms of spam. But those privileges may be removed regardless of whether the proposed system is implemented or not. We're simply using this system as a means to reinstate privileges for people who have proven themselves.
The thanks system is a nice way of letting people know their posts are appreciated (although it's fairly meaningless unless you can tell *which* posts they liked). But I don't like the idea of using it to assign higher ranks to certain members.
(I have edited the thanks system so that a list of thankers is shown at the end of each post)

I'm confused as to how you don't like higher ranks for certain members when (below) you say that you see nothing wrong with the current system. The current system gives higher ranks for certain members.
Personally I see nothing wrong with the current "ranking" system, which simply indicates the member's level of activity and experience on the forum (quite helpful to know). I haven't seen anyone treating their post count as a status symbol.
Well, the problem with the current system is that it appears to encourage (by giving higher ranks to people who engage in it) people to make posts that are meaningless. I could simply tag every thread with a post saying "I agree" and I'd get the highest rank. Is that fair? Is it useful? Is that something that we'd want to appear to encourage? I think the answer is no on all counts.

Surely, a better ranking system that indicates quality of posts is more helpful to know?
Even if it awards no privileges, I think it would be nice to provide recognition to people that the community respect.

From our perspective, it certainly helps us to pick out which posts to emphasise to Google, which would help our search engine optimisation.
As a side note, moderating all posts containing links sounds like a lot of unnecessary hassle. I'd have thought it was much easier just to screen new members' first posts - isn't it immediately obvious whether they're a spammer or a genuine fan?
There are more first time posts than posts with links.

But no, it's not always obvious whether a post is spam or not. Consider the following real (but paraphrased) examples from the last couple of months:
1) "Hey all, just wanted to say hi. I've loved knightmare since I was 12. Thought you might be interested in my site: http://www.gaming.com"
2) "Hey all, just wanted to say hi. My name is Amy and I've been reading the forums for a few months now. I watched knightmare from the age of 12. I thought you all might be interested in a couple of fantasy related sites that I run: http://www.magicspells.com and http://www.lovepotions.com"

Rejecting the post of a legitimate fan will virtually ensure they do not return.
Linking to spam sites will damage our search engine rankings.

So it's a tough call to make.

We DO moderate the first few posts of users. But it doesn't really help. One tactic of spammers is to firstly make innocuous, meaningless posts in various threads. For example: "hmmm, interesting points here" or "I think Bob's post is awesome :)". Obviously we permit these posts, since they're clearly not spam. The user continues making these kind of posts until they get out of the moderation period. Then they simply change their signature to contain a link to "casinogaming.com" and suddenly all of their innocuous posts (that we allowed) become spam.

Obviously the system I'm proposing here is of limited benefit for assessing a first time post. If you have no reputation then you still may or may not be a spammer. But it would, at least, allow us to remove the moderation period for new posts that cannot be spam (having no links) and prevent the signature trick I mention above.

I've barely even scratched the surface of spammer tactics or the usefulness of this system.What I'm proposing is (essentially) a peer review of your posts. It's the only foolproof method against spammers that I can think of. In order to be allowed to post spam, the community has to believe that consider your posts to be the very opposite of spam - useful, insightful and interesting.

As for unfairness towards newbies, the advantage of this system is that it's easy for a newbie to climb the ladder. It doesn't require lots of activity, just a few good posts.
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Re: Ranks, Thanks and Titles

Post by Canadanne » Sat Apr 30, 2011 3:55 pm

Mystara wrote:We won't remove any privileges because of this system. That would be harsh.
No, but you mentioned giving certain privileges to "higher ranking" posters and not to others, and I don't really see why everyone shouldn't have access to the same features. Just because someone doesn't have the time to contribute as much as someone else, it doesn't make them a less valuable or respected member of the community IMHO.

Regarding the current system, my point was I don't really see it as a "ranking system", it's just a post count and I think that's fairly obvious to anyone who looks at it. If you don't like the titles that go with it, you could just scrap them, although it does make it easier to see at a glance whether you're talking to a new member or someone who's been here for ages. If people actually were engaging in competition and spamming the forum in order to achieve Frightknight status or whatever, then I agree it would be a problem, but I've seen no evidence of that happening. Anyway, that's just my two cents.

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Re: Ranks, Thanks and Titles

Post by HStorm » Sat Apr 30, 2011 6:22 pm

I haven't seen anyone recognisably boosting their post-count for the sake of it since Thrifty_Squirrels, and that was over eight years ago!

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Re: Ranks, Thanks and Titles

Post by Mystara » Sun May 01, 2011 11:54 am

Canadanne wrote:No, but you mentioned giving certain privileges to "higher ranking" posters and not to others, and I don't really see why everyone shouldn't have access to the same features. Just because someone doesn't have the time to contribute as much as someone else, it doesn't make them a less valuable or respected member of the community IMHO.
Two points:
1) I intentionally proposed a system where time has very little bearing on rank. Therefore, even if you don't have much time to contribute, you can still become a valuable and respected member of the community very quickly.

To be more clear, one good post will score you significantly more "points" than a million bad posts (a bad post earns nothing). The only reason that more posts might help you is that if you if make a million posts, there's a reasonable chance that one of them might be useful :)

2) It's never going to be the case that everyone has the same features on the forums.
We already have admins, moderators and contributors. They each have special features, or, the least, some kind of special recognition. Soon, people will have the ability to post to the main site, to run their own columns. They'll be able to act as editors of small sections of the site and even run their own teams of contributors. All of this will have repercussions in the forum (necessarily) so that they can maintain some degree of editorial control over those threads that discuss relevant sections of the website.

Addressing the issue of privileges for "normal" users, I don't see why those people who are respected and have proven themselves as trustworthy shouldn't get access to those features that we're currently not allowing for fear of abuse. Taking the example of link posting, the intention is to enforce moderation for these posts. However, moderation takes time and delays the post from being made. We could enforce moderation for everyone. But if the community feels that certain people are trustworthy, aren't we wasting our time by scrutinising their posts?

Similarly with the newbie moderation system. Currently, newbies have to make three posts before they can post freely. But wouldn't it be much more logical that if a newbie's first post is inspiring and useful then they can escape the moderation period early?
Regarding the current system, my point was I don't really see it as a "ranking system", it's just a post count and I think that's fairly obvious to anyone who looks at it. If you don't like the titles that go with it, you could just scrap them, although it does make it easier to see at a glance whether you're talking to a new member or someone who's been here for ages. If people actually were engaging in competition and spamming the forum in order to achieve Frightknight status or whatever, then I agree it would be a problem, but I've seen no evidence of that happening. Anyway, that's just my two cents.
This is really a secondary concern to me. The only reason I mentioned the current system is to show that it isn't doing anything for us, whereas it could be a useful tool.
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Re: Ranks, Thanks and Titles

Post by Mashibinbin » Wed May 04, 2011 9:09 am

Again, more confusion.

We're going have to change your nickname to Hordriss Alan ;)

This whole ranking system in either incarnation isn't really necessary in my mind. As far as I'm seeing it we're all of equal contribution and value here whether we post once or over a thousand times. If someone's playing up we simply report the post and let the moderators do their work, job done.

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Re: Ranks, Thanks and Titles

Post by Pooka » Wed May 04, 2011 9:27 am

Mystara wrote: Currently, we have a system of 6 ranks: Dungeoneer, Level 1 Dungeoneer, Level 2 Dungeoneer, Level 3 Dungeoneer, Knight and Fright Knight.
What about "Knewbie"? That counts as a rank, right?
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Re: Ranks, Thanks and Titles

Post by HStorm » Wed May 04, 2011 6:40 pm

I have to agree with Mashi one hundred per cent. The ranking system is a harmless bit of fun for those who like those sorts of things, but it soon loses its novelty value, and I doubt anyone who's been on the forum for more than two months will care any longer; correct me if I'm wrong. Changing the system might provide some new novelty value, but it would soon wear off again. As for questions of spammers, yes I'd say the current system seems to be working, so making the changes sounds like a lot of effort for very little gain.

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Re: Ranks, Thanks and Titles

Post by Mystara » Wed May 04, 2011 7:53 pm

Mashibinbin wrote: This whole ranking system in either incarnation isn't really necessary in my mind. As far as I'm seeing it we're all of equal contribution and value here whether we post once or over a thousand times. If someone's playing up we simply report the post and let the moderators do their work, job done.
And you don't feel it's worth giving recognition to people who make the most awe-inspiring, clever, humourous and well-loved posts? Even to emphasise the important posts to Google? Even so that newbies will be able to quickly find the best and most interesting posts?

Seemed like a harmless and highly helpful system to me :/
Pooka wrote: What about "Knewbie"? That counts as a rank, right?
ehhh, I suppose you could call it a rank, since you are a Knewbie until you make 3 posts. But technically, it's a group and your rank is "Dungeoneer".
HStorm wrote: As for questions of spammers, yes I'd say the current system seems to be working, so making the changes sounds like a lot of effort for very little gain.
The current system is only working in the sense that there is little spam.
It is not working in the sense that it is still causing us grief to moderate posts and users and that it is sufficiently unfriendly that it is probably pushing people away. The current system is going to change. The key is to finding a system that minimises spam while also minimising unfriendliness to newbies.

Hence my desire to move to a more open system where only those things that spammers are interested in are restricted and where those restrictions are controlled by the community's objective opinion of the user's prior posts.
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Re: Ranks, Thanks and Titles

Post by Mystara » Tue Jul 10, 2012 7:00 pm

I realise that I never posted an update about this.

Just to let you know that this particular feature has been abandoned. I didn't particularly want to implement something that a large swathe of the community was against when it related to the ability of people to interact on the site.

I am continuing to look for a way to better recognise people's contributions, probably as a replacement to the old "post count". However, such a system will be little more than "harmless fun" as HStorm has phrased it, and will have no bearing on anything.

In terms of spam prevention, this continues to be a problem. We've had a few situations recently which have made me uncomfortable in trying to balance between wanting to encourage new users, but not wanting the site to be used for spam. I am continuing to consider how best to deal with this.
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Re: Ranks, Thanks and Titles

Post by shadow6162 » Tue Jul 10, 2012 7:06 pm

You think it's just spam? I'm pretty sure that some bots have started to bust into the forums. I got a PM off one a few weeks ago and I noticed some posts looked like they'd been written in a bot...ish style. ???
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Re: Ranks, Thanks and Titles

Post by Mystara » Tue Jul 10, 2012 7:10 pm

There are bots. We usually have one or two posts and accounts to delete every day.

The bigger problem is human constructed posts. Since they actually take 3 minutes to craft a post and, often, ask a sensible question or make a sensible point, I usually feel obliged to spend 10 minutes emailing them to tell them that they're welcome to join in, but they're not welcome to spam.

Inevitably they argue and refuse to change and then I delete their accounts anyway. But it's a waste of my time.
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Re: Ranks, Thanks and Titles

Post by Canadanne » Tue Jul 10, 2012 9:15 pm

Sad to see this feature go - I quite liked having the ability to 'thank' people while it lasted, I just wasn't sure about the idea of linking it with a ranking system. Still, we're all capable of using words to thank people for their posts, and indeed that's probably a better way of doing it.

I can't remember if there's a page about forum rules when you create an account. If not, maybe there should be? Write a big clear warning about how your account will be deleted if you post spammy links. Then you needn't send them individual emails if they do it anyway - just go ahead and delete. They can't say they weren't warned.

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