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Forum Theory

Looks like I'm going to enjoy my Monday classes, which span Digital Diversity and Electronic Literature subjects. Both classes have put me in a mood to avoid homework take Grimwell's advice and see about hosting my own forum somewhere. While I'm aware there's a goodly chance it'll end up a total ghost town (much like places I've been in the past) it should be a good learning experience.

What I'd like to do is have a relatively self-maintaining forum that operates on a ratings system. Going into this without much knowledge of what's involved, what I'm about to write will either be lightyears ahead of most forums or decades behind. It's basically a sort of a wiki/slashdot take to message boards.

  1. All posters will have the capacity to rate messages from 1 to 5. They are warned not to rate spam at above 1 or non-spam messages at below a 2. They are somehow rewarded for performing consistent proper ratings.
  2. Newly posted messages have a default rating of 2 and the minimum reading threshold is set to 1.2. (Thus, if 5 people rate a default rating of a message to 1, between the average 6 ratings the message, it vanishes from view. If one person rates it a 5, it'll be much harder to defeat.)
  3. Messages which fall below the default reading threshold are deleted after a week.
  4. Threads which fall below a average message threshold of 3 (not counting non-rated messages) are deleted after a month. Messages above this threshold are never deleted.
  5. Threads which contain many posts and raise above an average message threshold of 4 (not counting non-rated messages) are auto-stickied for a week after the previous post.
  6. Users can change their message ratings later.
  7. Certain users (those thought to be gaming the system or supporting spam) may be designated by the head administrator as not being qualified to rate messages, and all their previous ratings are instantly ignored (possibly removed).
  8. The moderators can set a fixed threshold score to a thread or individual message. This overrides all user ratings. (Additional scripts may apply which catch users who would be gaming the system to have rated this message differently.)
  9. Users whose accounts either have no posts or whose average posts have a threshold below 2 will be auto-deleted in the space of a month. (This is mostly housekeeping spammers.)
  10. Only the head administrator has the ability to delete accounts or modify messages. Designated moderators can only move messages or threads to a trash forum. There is easy restoring of messages to their previous location.

The goal, of course, is to create a somewhat self-moderating forum. It's intended to operate in conjunction with the standard email-verification and pictorial verification bot-thwarting mechanisms as well as moderators, but removes a lot of the bloat involved. In time, such a system should boil down a forum to really good posts, even auto-stickying messages of usefulness. Or it could just be a pipe dream, as viable as a true perpetual motion machine.

Another idea I had was to have a top-5 color scheme system. The users would be able to define their own message board color schemes, all the ones created in the last week are visible and available to tested by everyone. The top-5 most popular are always made available to everyone. Of course, you'd have to provide a way to abort in which case somebody sabotages the whole thing by creating a bad color scheme.

Time will tell if I actually have the motivation to see this through to the end or if it's just a momentary object of interest I'm employing to (as usual) digitally stave off the boredom. At my current income, I could probably do nothing more than a simple PhP/SQL board (I'd have to learn both to maintain it myself and add some of the custom features outlined above) running on a cheap unlimited hosting plan.


Having had some more thoughts on this, I think that (regardless of how well it works on slashdot) perhaps a rating system from 1 to 5 isn't very user friendly.

Instead, I'd probably give them three buttons: "Spam", "Nominal" and "Exceptional" (or something sounding less academic). This would probably translate to the numbers 1, 2, and 4.

As for thoughts of how to "reward" users for giving good moderations, I was thinking of perhaps giving them "moderation points". Something like this:

1 point for every time a message is rated.
-10 points for rating a message incorrectly (e.g. marking a "spam" message as "nominal").

These points accumulate up to 100 points, and the user's posting rank changes accordingly. However, they can actually spend these points on performing certain acts of moderation. For example:

20 points to "boost" a thread rank. Such ranked threads can't fall below the minimum display thresholds and sufficiently boosted messages may even be temporarily stickied.

20 points to "unboost" a thread - removes a previous "boost" applied to the thread.

100 points to level a one-week ban.

Alright, that last one probably wouldn't fly without some kind of counterbalance (100 points to unban someone?). Just throwing ideas here.

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