Recently, the issue of the karma system has sparked some discussion. In its present incarnation, the karma system is not without its flaws. Vast improvements in its implementation are proposed below with the caveat that such a move could require a good deal of work. A New Karma System The large growth in the size of the Badminton Central community has resulted in many of the newer forum members asking questions on oft-repeated topics. Often, many views are presented by different members with a lack of agreement or finality to the topic raised. New members are often asked to search for an answer in the archives. With lack of discretion, deciphering of a detailed dodecahedron of differing deluges is difficult. If the goal of the karma system is to allow readers to more easily determine which posts are more trustworthy then the karma system should work on an individual post level. Of all the threads, perhaps only 10% of topics are of the technical nature that will require a karma comment. Of these threads perhaps only a few of the posts are of a sufficiently excellent or abysmal nature to warrant addition or subtraction of karma. Thus by conducting a search on ‘optimal string tension’, perhaps I will receive a return of 30 threads and 1000 posts. I can then quickly skim through the replies and pay more attention to the individual posts showing significant positive karma while also learning a great deal from those showing significant negative karma as commonly-made-mistake trains of thought. Appropriate ranges for net message ratings might be something like: 50+ : From the Heavens 25-49 : Special 15-24 : Excellent 5-14 : Good -4 to 4 : Neutral -14 to -5 : Questionable -24 to -15 : Silly -49 to -25 : Ridiculous -50- : From the Depths With each user having a maximum of 1 vote per post, only those posts that are widely acclaimed by a broad base of users while not being broadly disclaimed will warrant the higher ratings. The karma ratings should be changeable by the user. Perhaps I may think someone’s post sounds very logical and warrants positive karma in my youth and ignorance but as I age, I will realize the folly of my ways and should be able to go back to the old threads and either return my karma rating of the individual post to neutral or possibly even change it to negative. This will allow the karma system to take into account the latest trends in thinking and always give users an up-to-date account of current ideology. Thus, under what situation would we require a user-based karma rather than an individual post-based karma? The answer is clearly for new and current threads. If I am reading a newer thread that has not had sufficient time to garner the community’s karma ratings then perhaps I will take someone’s advice to heart to my detriment. There is no guarantee that positive post karmas in the past will be a good predictor of present post quality. Likewise negative post karmas in the past may not prohibit a user from making positive contributions to new topics. Take the case of the “yes-man”. Perhaps his prior posts have accumulated some level of positive karma due to his concurrence and repetition of popular idioms with maybe an extra thought added in from another thread. If presented with a completely new topic or a topic similar to ones in the past with a slight subtle change, should one really trust this man’s speech? Thus an argument can be made that a user’s karma with respect to their trustworthiness for newer or current threads should be independent of the karma levels of their previous posts. In reality there is probably some level of correlation between the quality of one’s previous posts and one’s future posts. Adding in the implementation benefits of a simpler unified system, an individual’s karma rating can be determined as follows: For each forum member-- “reviewer”-- who has given at least 5 karma points to a “recipient” add up all of the positive post karmas given and all of the negative post karmas given. If 75%+ of posts are found by the reviewer to be positive then the recipient is assigned +1 user karma from the reviewer. If 25%- of posts are found to be positive (i.e. 75%+ of posts are found to be negative) then the recipient is assigned -1 user karma from the reviewer. If the reviewer has assigned a mixed bag of positive and negative karmas (25% to 75%) to the recipient’s posts then the reviewer is effectively neutral toward the recipient. A minimum of 4 karma points given by the reviewer to any particular recipient would be required for the user karma rating to count toward the recipient. In this fashion, each recipient can only obtain 1 vote of confidence from fellow lackeys, which would assuage the fears of some members of partisanship and popularity contests. Appropriate ranges for net user ratings might be something like: 100+ : From the Heavens 50-99 : Special 25-49 : Excellent 10-24 : Good -9 to 9 : Neutral -24 to -10 : Questionable -49 to -25 : Silly -99 to -50 : Ridiculous -100- : From the Depths Having never used the karma system I ought not comment on it but from what I’ve read there appears to be anecdotal evidence that in its current incarnation, a reviewer can donate positive karma to a recipient multiple times with the only restriction being that said reviewer intersperse the donations. I.e. She must review a number of other users before being able to once again review the same recipient. It also appears users are given a fixed quota of renewable karma points to allocate rather then an infinite supply. This second measure may have the unintended effect of encouraging people to assign karma points to use them up before any unused points are lost. Rather, if people are given an infinite supply, there would be no incentive on their part to use them up as quickly as possible knowing they will be renewed. An infinite supply might also cause reviewers to use karma points more judiciously rather than using them for the sake of using them up. Only an extremely bored individual would abuse the infinite supply by adding or subtracting karma from every post they could come across. The former point also merits discussion. If a reviewer is allowed to donate multiple positive or negative karmas to a recipient then a recipient’s rating may actually be dominated by or reflect a reviewer’s personal vendetta. Likewise if I am required to intersperse my karma points to a recipient by distributing points to 15 other users in the interim then there is an incentive for me to form a gang of 16 whereby all we do is give positive karma to each other in a continuous never-ending cycle. Thus the true test of the mettle of a man is whether he can attain high user karma rating based on opines of the broad community rather than a few groupies. Comments on the Current Karma System It’s been suggested that reviewers should not be allowed to give negative karma—only moderators should be allowed to do so. This is a ridiculous notion on several fronts. The first being that we have long progressed from a society that is force-fed propaganda on the merits of many while conveniently ignoring the destructiveness of others. If we are allowed to witness those who we consider knowledgeable then we also ought to be allowed to witness those who we consider lacking. Distributing negative karma is required for equitability, fairness and informative purposes. As a new member I would want to know which members the community has determined lack substance. A second point is that human nature, community and concepts of karma in its traditional sense are such that members are likely to give more positive karma then negative karma. If this is the case then long-terms trends of karma for active users will be upward trending over time. Eliminating the ability to give recipients negative karma would only further accelerate this upward trend. Karma rating would then further become a measure of longevity, activity and popularity on the forum rather than post quality. A new user might sign up-- an expert in badminton-- but due to everyone else’s over-inflated karma ratings, the new user’s posts might not receive their proper acclaim. Another new user-- new to the sport-- might not realize this expert’s trustworthiness. In order for the expert to attain a “normal” positive karma rating among active members, she might need to post for a year. Under the new proposed karma system, this issue is alleviated. A third point is the notion of infallibility on the part of moderators. By asking moderators to be responsible for assigning negative karma we are in essence asking them to “hold our hands” since we lack the ability to discern substance-less posts. Further, we are assuming that moderators are omniscient beings who are infallible in judgment and not prone to the sway of human emotion and bias. Comments on the Banning of Members Recently it came to my attention that a certain member (read: Cooldoo6) had been banned for “misleading people”. Knowledge and learning can be obtained both directly and indirectly. It is not always necessary to spout out facts but often it can be instructive to be forced to think about an issue in a new light or to ruminate on a topic to understand discrepancies in thought. In fact, it may be of greater benefit to be forced to think on an issue as one learns to think for oneself rather than being able to blindly regurgitate “facts”. I would suggest that while the certain aforementioned member may or may not have provided direct instruction, he provided stimulus for indirect learning. I also did not observe a desire to purposely and maliciously mislead people. I for one found the member’s musings to be interesting. If I wished I believe I could clarify some of the misconceptions and long-standing issues regarding string tension that would make many peoples posts looks silly in retrospect but I have no desire to do so in an environment closed to free thought. I will however note that while it may seem ludicrous that an individual can discern a difference in tension of 0.25 pounds, there are more extraordinary things in the world. The member is known to be a professional stringer who prefers string at low tensions. One would expect from the nature of the job that said member should be able to discern at least 1 pound differences in tension especially if one typically strings within a narrow range of tension. Further, the member has always professed his lack of physical strength and his abstinence from any form of physical strengthening and training. In such a situation, the individual’s fine motor skills and muscle innervation density are such that he is likely to be much more sensitive to changes in tension. It’s the same reason why weaker players are able to more easily possess a finer touch with netting. Thus I would not be surprised if he is actually able to discern 0.5 pound differences. The other 0.25 pounds—perhaps he is very finely attuned to tension or perhaps it’s a placebo effect—either way, there is little evidence to suggest that he is purposely misleading people. Rather, he is recounting his own personal experiences and for members with similar backgrounds, they may find these tales to be of positive benefit. Given that there exists a karma system, if personal vendetta or personal disagreement with opinion does not exist, and the member’s intention is not malicious, and the member’s statements are not shown to demonstrably have an overwhelming negative effect on users, should the judgment of a member not be left to the public courts rather than the administrative bureaucracy? Really, there has only ever been one individual who I think deserved to be banned (read: bananakid). This individual commenced his time with racially-motivated hate messages. He would then later go on to claim his posts were in the name of attempting to make people more broad-minded (such a pious fellow). At times he would also admit to the purpose of stirring things up or attempting to create controversy. All of these later claims were a cover up for his frowned upon racially-motivated epithets. Based on this individual’s posts over time, it seems he may have been spoken to on one or more occasions by a moderator regarding the content of his messages. How is such an individual allowed to repeatedly offend without warrant banning? He would later change his name as a bet moreso to put himself in a better light amongst the community members and to acquire a new karma rating. So how is it that a member who contributes to knowledge exploration is banned while another user who does nothing but insult other countries and their heroes that are not of his race walks away with a slap on the hand? Is it because he is pro-China, which is a popular stance to take, that he is allowed off lightly? Or is it because his communications took place in the Tournaments sub-forums where “fan enthusiasm” is not / ought not be regulated? The difference between the community of enthusiastic fans and the racially-motivated fan is as follows: The racially-motivated fan attempts to trample upon the will of other countries’ fans, their heroes and their icons using slander, hurling insults and cussing. There is a lack of recognition and respect on the part of the racially-motivated fan for the culture and icons of other countries. In badminton-crazed nations, sports heroes are akin to national icons. Intensely disparaging certain players is disparaging the icons and by extension, the culture and people of a country. Also, I wonder how it is the case that some users knew of this member’s banning while others did not. Was there a tribunal that was only semi-open? Such things as the banning of members should either be made public knowledge or should be kept completely under wraps for purposes of professionalism and grace. Moderation Given the size of the forum, it is a wonder that moderation as anything less than a full-time job is possible. Given the sparse number of moderators, it is not surprising that the dual role of moderation and administration might be required. This however possesses potential pitfalls especially in the case where an administrator might be an active participant in discussions that may at times become heated. In such a case it may be difficult for the administrator to set aside personal feelings in determining disciplinary action to be taken against a user. As congress and senate are usually separate so too should moderation and administration in a large, professional forum. Banning of members should be based on the recommendation of a moderator with the approval of an administrator, in consultation with other moderators at the administrator’s will. Due to the extreme workload of moderation required perhaps it is time to increase the number of moderators. While the size of the community has grown considerably over the last few years, the number of active moderators has actually decreased. Individuals demonstrating non-partisanship and of a nature to not be involved in debate are a rare and valuable group. The following members might make good moderators and as an added bonus possess great knowledge of the game: Bbn seawell Of course, moderation is a time-consuming and often thankless job—perhaps there would be no desire on the part of suitable candidates to take up a call to arms. Further Thoughts on a New Karma System A simpler system to implement might be to display the user’s Join Date and the “Active Duration” for each post. Typically, those individuals who have been around for a while will have had sufficient time to read the forums to refine their own knowledge base and should provide more informative posts. However if someone joined in Jan 2001 and posted a message in Feb 2001, their message may not be as credible as if they joined in Jan 2001 and posted in Jan 2007. In the latter case they would have had 6 years of play and reading to refine their ideas. While it is easy enough for one to calculate how long a member was active when they wrote a particular message, it is likely usually overlooked by readers. The “Active Duration” would automatically calculate the length of time the user had been a member on the forum as being the Post Date minus the Join Date. Optionally, a third line “Experience” could be shown which would be a member’s self-professed length of playing. In this manner, a new member whose Active Duration might be 1 month could be shown proper respect if his Experience was 20+ years. It might also be interesting to see the differing views and contributions of a member who had 3 years of Active Duration and 3 years of Experience (i.e. 3 years of theoretical knowledge) versus a member who had 0 years of Active Duration and 20 years of Experience (i.e. no theoretical knowledge but a wealth of applied and practical knowledge). We’ve already established post count is a useless indicator of post quality, right? In the case of a point-based karma system, perhaps certain members who feel uncomfortable with such a system should be allowed to opt-out of it. E.g. members who have been around for 3+ years and have contributed 100+ posts should be allowed to be above being judged and judging if they should wish. This is not an invitation for such members to spout and slander at will-- if they should get into an argument, they should have no basis for arrogance in their views, and it might even be amusing to witness what type of creative remarks a member who choose to subjugate himself to karma can direct at a karma-less individual. On the Goals of a Forum What started out as the brainchild of a tiny community-based personal pet project has grown into a large and ever-expanding forum. If the goal is retention of the project with a personal stamp on it then change is never required. If recognition of the ability of the forum to reach and impact a large population and recruit new segments is accepted then change may be necessitated. As the size of a forum increases, cliquishness may require replacement by an open, equitable, fair, just, transparent and professional atmosphere. Failure to do so may reveal an entry opportunity for competition and the migration of certain segments of members to other competing environments not necessarily without intellectual loss to this forum.