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Node Rep - A newbies viewpoint

by TheEnigma (Pilgrim)
on Sep 14, 2004 at 19:20 UTC ( #390953=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

What a coincidence. I was just about to post the following discussion, when I see demerphq posted this node about XP and statistics; where he says

... and remember XP and Node Rep are pretty meaningless things, especially when they dont mean anything. :-)

Well, here goes nothing (not literally I hope ;)


I've been a member for a few weeks now; and I had a thought that I would like to bring up before the monks. I've read several threads concerning XP and node reputation, certainly not all, but enough to feel there doesn't seem to be general agreement on their value. However, I would like to make a case that a node's reputation is proportional to its value. (Sometimes)

First off, I understand (I think) why a node's reputation isn't shown to you until you vote on it. It's to prevent sheep mentality where a node gains reputaion just because it has high reputation (if everyone else thinks it's good, I might as well vote on it, too).

But I try to take my own voting seriously, and only vote on nodes I really think are deserving of it, whether it's an OP with an interesting question, or a well written and thought out "easy" question (as encouragement to newbies), the best response(s) to a question (if I feel I can tell the difference), etc. Now making an assumption that this is how the majority of monks vote, I would think the reputation should be a good indication, to someone following a thread, as to which are the "best" replies. The most factual, the ones with the best advice, etc.

Now, is this assumption valid? Does it matter if it is?

If the assumption is valid, well, then a nodes reputation does have value. But even if the assumption is not valid, what that probably means is that some percentage of votes are made kind of randomly, and if that's true, they will add a little bit of "noise" to all nodes evenly. Well, probably not evenly, but hopefully what you're left with is still a relative indication of a node's merits. At least, this would hopefully be true for nodes that are technical/coding help responses. And by relative, I just mean, if a node of a technical nature gets only a few votes it probably isn't as good or accurate as the ones that get dozens of votes.

So my thought is, what if we let the original poster be able to see the reputation of all the replies, not just the ones s?he has voted on? Note that only the original poster would get this privilege. That would still keep the reputations hidden for everyone else, to minimize sheep mentality. The original poster probably wouldn't even be able to vote in the thread if this were implemented, so s?he wouldn't affect the reputations either. Although I just realized when writing this that they probably should still be able to vote, as a thank you to those who helped them out.

Anyway, to me (and perhaps others like me), with nowhere near the experience and knowledge of the more senior monks, it would be nice to know, when I ask a question, which of the answers is the "best", or at least to have a little hint. I think the reputation can give that hint.

Of course, I say all this without knowing at all how much work might be involved in implementing this idea, and therefore whether the cost/benefit ratio would make it worthwile.

I'll hang up now and listen to your answer(s).

TheEnigma

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Node Rep - A newbies viewpoint
by bluto (Curate) on Sep 14, 2004 at 20:06 UTC
    And by relative, I just mean, if a node of a technical nature gets only a few votes it probably isn't as good or accurate as the ones that get dozens of votes.

    Unfortunately I've seen many, many cases where a good reply goes woefully undervoted. Sometimes it comes along a few days late, or is put so deeply nested in the reply hierarchy that many folks don't bother to dig down to it to vote on it. Other times I've seen good answers to posts that no one is interested in since it is out of the mainstream (e.g. getting perl to build on AIX). I've seen other cases where a short low vote answer was better than a lot of other high vote, fully written out but flawed code examples.

    In other words, I would take a high vote counts as a general hint that something *may* be interesting in the reply, but I wouldn't put much stock in taking the absense of upvotes as anything meaningful. The only way for a poster to know what replies are "useful" is to examine the content of each one (and generate followups as needed).

Re: Node Rep - A newbies viewpoint
by Crackers2 (Parson) on Sep 14, 2004 at 21:07 UTC

    Something I'd like to see, somewhat similar to what you're suggesting, is being able to say "I don't want to vote on this node", which would then let you see the reputation of that node.

    Another option would be to close voting on a node after a certain period of time (say one month) and show the reputation to everyone after that.

    Of course both of those proposals assume, just like yours, that there's some value in being able to see a node's reputation. Personally, I mostly like the psychological angle, i.e. it's interesting to see how the perlmonks population reacts to certain node types, or the difference in reputation to three nearly-identical RTFM-postings all posted at nearly the same time.

    Which reminds me of something else that would be nice: to be able to see the total vote count on a node, instead of just the reputation. This would give an indication of whether opinions on a node are generally shared among voters or whether opinions are fairly polarized

      Something I'd like to see ... is being able to say "I don't want to vote on this node", which would then let you see the reputation of that node.

      Yes. I've wanted a true +=0 vote for a long time. I do personally vote sometimes to see what rep a given node has. It'd be better if I didn't vote ++ or -- if I didn't think the node deserved either.

      Another option would be to close voting on a node after a certain period of time (say one month) and show the reputation to everyone after that.

      Yes! I was just talking about that yesterday. It'd help elimate the inflation of reps of nodes that have been around a loooong time. I would recommend a period of time longer than a month though; three months maybe.

      Which reminds me of something else that would be nice: to be able to see the total vote count on a node, instead of just the reputation.

      Yes, that'd be cool, too. (I have a little project related to this coming down the pipe. Stay tuned.)

      Of course, keep in mind, I say all this because rep and XP are meaningless things, especially when they don't mean anything. ;-)

      Zenon Zabinski | zdog | zdog@perlmonk.org

        Which reminds me of something else that would be nice: to be able to see the total vote count on a node, instead of just the reputation.
        Yes, that'd be cool, too. (I have a little project related to this coming down the pipe. Stay tuned.)

        Perlmonks already stores this information and if it were meant to be public, it would be. Are you going to attempt to compute this somehow? Perhaps by some periodicp polling of the reputation to notice changes?

      Something I'd like to see, somewhat similar to what you're suggesting, is being able to say "I don't want to vote on this node", which would then let you see the reputation of that node.

      Which reminds me of something else that would be nice: to be able to see the total vote count on a node, instead of just the reputation. This would give an indication of whether opinions on a node are generally shared among voters or whether opinions are fairly polarized.

      I agree - it would certainly be nice to know how many votes were cast on a particular node instead of just the net rep value. While I like the idea of adding a "no vote" option (i.e., "I don't want to vote on this node", which is not a downvote (--)), it might inflate the total count of votes cast (depending on how it was implemented). For example, simply knowing a node's rep was +8 and a total of 24 votes were cast is not enough. It could mean that there were 8 ++ and 16 "no" votes, but it could also mean there were 16 ++ and 8 -- (or any combination in between). In the first case one might conclude there was good consensus on the node, while in the second case there is clear polarization. A workaround might be to tally and report the number of ++, --, and "no" votes seperately, but I'm sure this would entail quite a bit of work and it may not be backwards compatible.

      Another option would be to close voting on a node after a certain period of time (say one month) and show the reputation to everyone after that.

      I admit this thought crossed my mind, too. However, I'm not sure this would give due credit to authors that take a lot of time to compose a good tutorial (for example) - or anything else that will help newbies for many years to come learn a basic concept. Nonetheless, I agree with you, since it is logical that over time nodes with positive rep will continue to accumulate ++ votes and those with negative rep will probably continue to attract --, and eventually the magnitude of the rep loses meaning (is +150 really different from +200?). I tend to pay more attention to the rep of a node that is +25 after 2 days than one that is +200 after 2 years (although that is not to say the +200 node doesn't deserve +200 or that it is any less accurate or helpful than the +25 node). A possible workaround would be to allow different categories to have different voting periods, but this might add more complexity to the system than what it is worth.

      I find the discussion in this thread interesting, but I wonder if a more complex voting system would tend to encourage people to focus even more on node rep and XP (complexity might correlate with perceived importance). As demerphq says,

      XP and Node Rep are pretty meaningless things

      That said, I think everyone likes to see the rep of a node they wrote go up instead of down, and I don't think anyone would turn down the XP that comes with it. :-)

      Update: attributed quote to demerphq
      Update: attempted to distinguish my use of "no vote" vs "downvote", per diotalevi's post

        For example, simply knowing a node's rep was +8 and a total of 24 votes were cast is not enough. It could mean that there were 8 ++ and 16 "no" votes, but it could also mean there were 16 ++ and 8 -- (or any combination in between).

        No, 8 + -16 is -8, not 8. You only arrive at 8 from 16 + -8. The order of the votes is invisible but you do get a total for each. This assumes you can see the number of votes on your node. That's not a power most people have.

      Another option would be to close voting on a node after a certain period of time (say one month) and show the reputation to everyone after that.

      I actually like that threads in perlmonks are not locked after a certain period of time. I have many times found nodes over a year old (the oldest was 2 years) that have been very helpful to me and have upvoted them because of that, one of my own nodes (OT: The WarriorMonks) still gets the occasional reply and/or ++/--, the replies I care about much more than the votes but it's nice to know someone looked at it and liked it. Also, I don't know if you meant all nodes or just certain nodes, but I'm definitely for allowing people to vote on certain long term nodes, like Tutorials or Reviews, for as long as they wish.

      "Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum - I think that I think, therefore I think that I am." Ambrose Bierce

Re: Node Rep - A newbies viewpoint
by revdiablo (Prior) on Sep 14, 2004 at 21:04 UTC
    Now making an assumption that this is how the majority of monks vote, I would think the reputation should be a good indication, to someone following a thread, as to which are the "best" replies. The most factual, the ones with the best advice, etc.

    This may be true, but the reputation value by itself is not all that useful. It seems to me that reputation is, in a large part, a function of visibility. More visibility on the node generally results in higher reputation. It would be more useful to know how many people have read the node compared to the node's reputation. The problem is, there's really know way of knowing how many people read the node. Looking at the rep relative to other nodes in the thread is close, but still may be misleading. Some nodes are posted much later, for example. Basically, we don't have enough information to draw very useful conclusions from the reputation of a node. This is why many Monks say reputation is not all that useful.

Re: Node Rep - A newbies viewpoint
by coreolyn (Parson) on Sep 14, 2004 at 21:48 UTC

    Nice post so don't take my sarcasm personally. But using a nodes rep to determine what's 'best' is like leaning on John Madden for football analysis. All wind and no content.

    In the end the 'best' answer is the one that works best for you, the beauty of this place is the variety to pick from.

Re: Node Rep - A newbies viewpoint
by sintadil (Pilgrim) on Sep 15, 2004 at 01:28 UTC

    I personally think that the matter is very easily confused and skewed because XP and voting both mean something and nothing at the same time. No, I'm not going to take a Zen or quantum mechanics approach to this (for now, anyway :)), but rather something far more down to earth for once.

    Before I continue, I'd just like to state that this is my personal interpretation and opinion. Treat it as you would treat anyone's opinion.

    First, the already stated "doesn't mean anything" point: everyone knows that they vote for different reasons. Different people who vote for the same reasons have different levels of "conservatism" insomuch as one will decide that a node is voteworthy whereas another will not. Being that I -- someone quite ignorant in the ways of Perl -- am where I am on the XP scale (and steadily increasing), I would venture to say that either more people are liberal about their upvoting -- or there are a lot of people who are "whoring for XP" to use the vernacular. All of these issues combine into making the XP system meaningless from the perspective of an objective analysis of node quality and relevance.

    On the other hand, most people (I hope?) are more conservative with their votes and only spend them where they really believe they should go. I tend to fall into this conservative pattern, though the above point about "what one person considers is voteworthy isn't the same as what another person thinks is voteworthy" still applies. And as has been stated in earlier posts, most people do prefer to see their nodes upvoted rather than downvoted. So it has meaning to those people, and even more so to the aforementioned "XP whores". It is these factors which impart meaning and value to the XP system, even if it is ephemeral and temporary. It is also obviously meaningful to a number of people as evidenced by the number of posts on the subject -- such as this very thread and all of its replies.

    So, I guess what I'm really saying is -- like everything else that exists, the XP system is neither meaningless nor fully meaningful (not the best term for what I want to say, but the parallelism helps to express the point, I think). To some undeterminable degree it's an expression of the community's collective opinion of a node as expressed over the period of that node's lifetime. It's a social thing, and social things are wont to change rapidly and without warning. What's chic today may be socially reprehensible ten years from now. But to another degree, it's an expression of how a certain group of people (the aforementioned "XP whores") want to raise in the PM ranks for reasons unknown. Hopefully that group shrinks every day. But, like most social things (XP and voting included), it's unpredictable and uncontrollable. They're social phenomena, and worth inspection (at least in my opinion, and the opinions of those who start / reply to threads like this one). I don't really think that there are any permanent points that can be derived from such inspection, except that there are no permanent points. :)

      I agree with you, and I want to make two comments:

      most people (I hope?) are more conservative with their votes and only spend them where they really believe they should go

      Absolutely. If a node has taught me something or provided a reference/snippet/etc I know I'll use, I'll consider upvoting it because I like to reward posts that I find helpful. I see upvoting as a form of reinforcement (see below) as well as a way to say "thank you" for the help.

      as has been stated in earlier posts, most people do prefer to see their nodes upvoted rather than downvoted. So it has meaning to those people

      Node rep does have meaning (to me), but for a different reason than I think is usually implied. I watch the rep of nodes I wrote because I like to see if my understanding of that particular aspect Perl is correct (this assumes, of course, that "correct" responses will be upvoted, but I won't get into that discussion again or I'd just duplicate this whole thread). This is especially important while low on the learning curve, as it provides positive reinforcement on things I think I understand. This type of feedback gives me confidence in my code, but it also encourages me to continue contributing to the PM community. As a relatively new Monk I have received far more from PM than I've put back into it, but hopefully over time I'll be able to reciprocate. Thank you, everyone, for making PM such a rich learning environment.

Re: Node Rep - A newbies viewpoint
by eric256 (Parson) on Sep 14, 2004 at 20:39 UTC

    Very Nice Post. I think i aggree with you. It would be nice for the OP to see the reputation of all the replies. If you where then new to PM or new to the subject you were asking in, you could hopefully get some value out of the votes. Voters would then know that there votes mean more as well, hopfully encourageing ++ votes for the best answers. Well it always work? Of course not, but thats no reason it shouldn't be considered.


    ___________
    Eric Hodges
Re: Node Rep - A newbies viewpoint
by zdog (Priest) on Sep 14, 2004 at 21:13 UTC

    Something that no one has brought up yet (as far as I read) regarding your suggestion surprisingly is that: In the end, your vote is supposed to be your judgement. You shouldn't be voting based on what other people do. And, as others have stated, rep usually doesn't reflect node quality anyway ..

    Zenon Zabinski | zdog | zdog@perlmonk.org

Re: Node Rep - A newbies viewpoint
by bibo (Pilgrim) on Sep 15, 2004 at 14:00 UTC
    I think there's one aspect of the perlmonk newbie's interaction with the voting process that you overlooked, and it was the thing that drew me in quickly during my first weeks of monk-ing. If this is all too obvious, I apologize in advance....

    PARTICPATION

    By voting, even as a newb, I am helping influence and steer this site. I become an active participant instead of just a lurker. The monks are interested in my opinion (not really a debatable point), and I may develop a sense of ownership and be encouraged to participate in other ways (posting).

    Some may take this as a mushy, high-performance-teams sort of post, but I think the voting process is part of what can 'hook' you into becoming a regular visitor here. I realize this naively overlooks the trolls and the self-promoters, but I think it is a very attractive feature, and even if a node's rep means very little, it's cool to know that I helped make it slightly higher or lower.

    UPDATE: I got a call in the middle of writing this,and got sidetracked. A point I was trying to get out was that I like the way this site uses XP and node rep to encourage participation, even for newbs, because holistically, the site is only useful if we provide useful posts (and vote on them).

    --bibo

Re: Node Rep - A newbies viewpoint
by Your Mother (Bishop) on Sep 14, 2004 at 22:05 UTC
    and remember XP and Node Rep are pretty meaningless things, especially when they dont mean anything. :-)

    This is a healthy attitude to have but if it's an unqualified fact, it would mean that XP and reputation are design flaws in the site and shouldn't exist. I think they're actually a really cool way to increase site stickiness. This recent thread is a good exploration of voting too: Why upvote a node?.

Re: Node Rep - A newbies viewpoint
by TheEnigma (Pilgrim) on Sep 15, 2004 at 05:25 UTC
    Wow, I had hoped I was making an intelligent, reasoned post; from all the responses, I guess I did OK! I'm not sure how to post when I'm not replying to just one node, so I'm replying to my original node, and linking to monks as I respond and comment.

    As bluto, revdiablo, and graff point out, visibility and node depth in a thread can affect reputation, just by having more monks see a node (front page), or less monks see a node (too deep). But I'm not trying to suggest comparing between threads, only within a particular thread. So visibility should only be important in the sense of more total votes in a thread means the meaning we're assigning to reputation is more valid. But yes, late posts, or very deep nodes would probably suffer.

    graff points out this:

    To the extent that some replies are really good or really bad, this is often reflected in other replies -- later posters tend to comment on earlier ones, especially regarding errors, but often in terms like "So-and-so above gave you the right answer". In the absence of such comments, earlier replies are either okay or irrelevant, and that's usually obvious from content.

    which is a very good point. Obviously your own common sense and study of the replies, plus information from other sources, will help you judge what is a good answer. And to a certain degree, I suppose checking the XP level of the replier would help you judge the accuracy of the answer.

    Continuing with graff, I didn't understand this:

    ... The scores work okay as a reflection of value (esp. for the person getting the points), but they don't work well as a determiner of value -- it's a subtle distinction.

    I guess it's too subtle for me ;) Could you explain?

    Crackers2, zdog, and bobf mentioned having a "Not Going To Vote" button, so you could see the rep. I guess that would satisfy my suggestion, with the added benefit that all monks could see the reps if they want to. Actually, I would think that wouldn't be too hard to implement, but again, this is coming from someone with absolutely no knowledge of the code involved.

    Crackers2 and bobf thought a total vote count, or closing a node to voting after a period of time, might be beneficial. I would have to agree with bobf that a total vote count would probably be more trouble than it's worth. At first, I thought closing a node to voting might be a bad thing, but bobf makes a good point that while that wouldn't let a long term worthwile post like a tutorial keep garnering points, but after awhile (100? 200? 300?) does it really matter? I think once it gets high enough, everyone can tell, It Is A Good Node.

    bobf points out

    I find the discussion in this thread interesting, but I wonder if a more complex voting system would tend to encourage people to focus even more on node rep and XP (complexity might correlate with perceived importance).

    Well, my thought is to see if rep has value, and if so, then a certain amount of focus on it should be a good thing. Focusing on XP should be a separate matter. There's probably no way to control that, and if certain monks vote just to increase XP, well, then like I said in my original post, those votes should be kind of random, and not favor any particular node, within a thread anyway.

    Mention of XP made me think of another (probably incredibly hard to implement) idea.

    What if when you see the rep, you see another number that says how much rep was contibuted by monks at (say) level 5 or above? (Flame away!)

    coreolyn says

    In the end the 'best' answer is the one that works best for you, the beauty of this place is the variety to pick from.

    That kind of gets to the heart of my idea, I guess. Yeah, I can try all the responses and find out which ones "work". But what about things that aren't cut and dried to newbies: style, efficiency, elegance, etc? Those are the kinds of things it would be nice to know, too.

    And finally, I have to say I can relate to sintadil. I've watched my XP climb on almost every refresh of the screen today. And while it's really cool, I have to wonder about a post of mine like this, that has gathered a rep=32 as of this writing. My highest rep! And it's a question to an OP asking for clarification! Probably nothing of any value to anyone except me. (Maybe a bunch of new novices wanted to vote for someone as confused as they are?)

    But, to be fair to my original idea, that post of mine is not a technical reply. No one will be comparing its rep to another node.

    <shameless_hometown_plug>I would have posted earlier, but Johan Santana pitched for the Twins tonight, and I didn't want to miss the next American League Cy Young Award winner show his stuff ;) (Sorry to any White Sox fans: Twins 10, White Sox 2)</shameless_hometown_plug>

    TheEnigma

      Hi. :) You do know that you can sort nodes by reputation, right? That way, you can estimate what the reputation is without having to vote.

      I've been here for 4 years now and i see no reason to fix what is not broken -- our voting system. If you are always helpful and never show off your ego then you will only rarely receive negative votes. It really is more of a moderation system in disguise than a ratings system, i think, and it works well. While i don't have any "mega" XP nodes, i do have a solid "portfolio". That's good enough for me. :)

      jeffa

      L-LL-L--L-LL-L--L-LL-L--
      -R--R-RR-R--R-RR-R--R-RR
      B--B--B--B--B--B--B--B--
      H---H---H---H---H---H---
      (the triplet paradiddle with high-hat)
      
        You do know that you can sort nodes by reputation, right?

        Actually, no! So I looked around some of the help areas here, and did a super search (where I got sidetracked for a looong time reading some very interesting related (kind of) threads), but I didn't find out how to sort.

        If you could provide a link to help on this, I would really appreciate it.

        Perhaps when I check that feature out, it will satisfy the "requirements" of my suggestion.

        But it brings up something else I've been wondering. I've seen lots of links and references to code other monks, who I don't think are members of pmdev, have written to provide various types of statistics or look at the contents of PM in various ways. Is that something any monk can do? Could I then come up with some code that helps me look at PM in a particular way when the inspiration strikes?

        Thanks for all the great comments, everyone!

        TheEnigma

Re: Node Rep - A newbies viewpoint
by graff (Chancellor) on Sep 15, 2004 at 00:44 UTC
    Some random, unordered reactions/thoughts:
    • I'm probably basically just like you when it comes to how I cast my votes, but I'm fine with not seeing reps on replies to my nodes until I vote on them myself.
    • The overall magnitude of rep scores depends primarily on whether a thread gets shown on the "front page" (The Monastery Gates), so any tendency to compare scores across threads is definitely meaningless.
    • As mentioned previously, the relative rep on a given reply tends to vary with its relative position in the thread -- later and/or deeper replies have fewer votes as a rule, so the rep ranking won't be very informative in many cases.
    • To the extent that some replies are really good or really bad, this is often reflected in other replies -- later posters tend to comment on earlier ones, especially regarding errors, but often in terms like "So-and-so above gave you the right answer". In the absence of such comments, earlier replies are either okay or irrelevant, and that's usually obvious from content.
    • Even (or especially) for newbies, rep scores should be the last criterion to consider when trying to decide how much attention/credance each reply should deserve. The scores work okay as a reflection of value (esp. for the person getting the points), but they don't work well as a determiner of value -- it's a subtle distinction.
Re: Node Rep - A newbies viewpoint
by chromatic (Archbishop) on Sep 14, 2004 at 23:59 UTC

    I'd rather show the text only of the node with the highest reputation and hide the text of the other nodes.

    Sure, it has some flaws, but it would quickly answer the question "What's more important, a node's reputation or its content?"

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