Following up on a comment I made to Hunter's A Very Controversial Post, I think the DailyKos community would benefit from an improvement to the ratings system that increased the number of attributes on which a post can be scored (namely "insightfulness", "relevance", "humor", and "offensiveness", and possibly with single on/off flags). And before you write this off as too complicated and unwieldy, hear me out.
The problem, best stated, is that our community is so diverse that a single rating isn't a useful tool for filtering or sorting posts, or giving them the proper attention for acknowledgment or action (be that positive or negative). For example, I could be reading a comments section only to be surprised by a particular post that makes me laugh out loud, and out of pure appreciation I give that post a rating of 4, to draw others' attention to its humor. Another member finds the humor offensive (as it pokes fun at their pet issue), and gives it a 1 or a 0. Yet another member finds something really insightful in this particularly humorous and offensive post, and gives it a 4 to call attention to its insightfulness, while another determines that the subject of the comment, while insightful and funny, is really irrelevant to the main thread and gives it a 2, in an attempt to reduce its visibility and purify the thread. See the problem?
Since members of the site use different metrics for determining value, why not build the ratings sytem, and the ways in the which the ratings are subsequently used, to reflect these values? My first thought is to have a multi-dimensional rating system, which of course puts a huge burden on the site administrators to come up with a formula for combining these dimensions into a single value for comparison in sorting or filtering. But why not let the users determine that for themselves in their account preferences?
In the simplest model, we could identify the ratings systems as characterizable by attributes, and give users a choice of which they prefer to use. So in my account preferences, I could select the "insightfulness" ratings system, and assign my "insight" ratings as I see fit -- on the backend, they'd be entered as insight-tagged ratings. Later, when I or anyone else selected to sort comments by their insightfulness, those and other assigned "insight" ratings would be used.
In the real world, however, many users would want to assign different attributes on different occasions, to various comments, and then filter or sort by those various attributes depending on what they are looking to do: highlight the good and suppress the bad, but of which characteristic? With enough thought and attention, however, I think it could be made to work in an unobtrusive fashion.
Perhaps there are other themes, but my proposal would be to identify four such comment attributes: insightfulness, relevance, humor, and offensiveness. Users should be able to rate any (or perhaps any combination) of those attributes for any given post, and then be able to filter or rate by any (again, perhaps, any combination?) of those as well. And it can be optimized further beyond a 5 x 5 x 5 x 5 (=625 different possible ratings!) level of complexity. If value-specific attributes are used, perhaps we need only a +1 rating for each category. Perhaps we only need to flag (on or off) comments for offensiveness, rather than assign them a five-scale rating on their offensive nature; insightfulness, on the other hand, might deserve more precision to distinguish between comments that are "good" and those that are "excellent" with respect this characteristic.
The details can certainly be hashed out. I for one wouldn't mind seeing ratings show up as something like
Some stuff about ratings, by Hunter, 08/28/2005 21:46:16 EST (54 / 34 / 0 / 0 )
if I knew I could then sort posts by their overall rating OR one particular characteristic. On another thread that had been inhabited by trolls, I could weed out all the offensive posts to find the intelligent discussion. But on the next, needing a good distraction from all that brain exercise, I look for the posts with the high humor scores to get my daily dose (because "Cheers & Jeers" hasn't been posted yet today). In any case, I would find such a ratings system more useful, and the various contributions made by others users would be put in such a context as to make them more relevant to what it is that I expect of a ratings system.
As always, thoughts and comments of all kinds are welcome.