Griping about moderation, bias, et cetera

That’s okay. I like your answer, it was more thorough than mine. :slightly_smiling_face:


Thank you for the explanation and especially the list of badges, which I did not think about checking for trust level.

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That’s apparently the default, and most are like that.

A user can choose to hide that info (the choice is found under Preferences>Interface>Other), and then all that can be seen is “This user’s public profile is hidden.”


the truth is not democratic.

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This thread is about moderation and “echo chamber” bias. From previous messages, I understand that higher trust levels are given extra weight when flagging messages and possibly extra features. On which exact criteria the higher trust levels are attained is thus essential to understand possible moderation bias.

For example: if level raises when moderators agree when one flag or report messages, people who do not flag many messages will not raise to higher trust levels. That alone would bias the system towards more flags.

As another example: I would also imagine that a system which rewards time spent per day as opposed to a system where users would raise level after a fixed amount of months, regardless of participation, would increase the “echo chamber” moderation effect.

It is the little details which count. For example: I notice that there are 13062 users in TL1, 5321 in TL2, 80 in TL3 and 23 in TL4. The highest two levels are thus reserved to a tiny proportion of members. I don’t know whether that is significant, whether all discourse forums are similar in that respect or else, but I can imagine it could be important to this discussion.

This might help:

There are quite a few topics around on the various ins and outs of Discourse as put in practice on BoingBoing.

We had a fairly large kerfuffle (henceforth to be known as “The time we do not speak of” shortly before/just as I started posting here about TL3 and the existence of a “secret” lounge (you should remember that) for TL3 users and there was a lot of discussion about these sorts of points at the time.

There is a search feature which is how I found that topic again.

Best person to ask though as I said before is @orenwolf (since he actually runs the software for the BBS) or @codinghorror (since it’s his baby).

I don’t think that’s the case. Flags that are agreed with don’t count extra; flags that are disagreed with count against. ETA: Actually, I’m not sure about that.

So the best way to achieve a higher Trust level is just to read lots of topics regularly, and post inoffensive stuff.

So yes, there will be a degree of echo chambering in the sense that people whose posts get liked will get to higher trust levels than people posting a load of stuff that nobody likes but that’s the nature of any system that’s built on some sort of community.

TL3 really doesn’t give anyone magical powers. The unshielded radiation from my monitor gives me mine…

Taken from Jeff’s post I linked to above:

Users at trust level 3 can…

  • Recategorize and rename topics
  • Access a secure category only visible to users at trust level 3 and higher
  • Have all their links followed (we remove automatic nofollow)
  • TL3 spam flags cast on TL0 user posts immediately hide the post
  • TL3 flags cast on TL0 user posts in sufficient diversity will auto-silence the user and hide all their posts
  • Make their own posts wiki (that is, editable by any TL1+ users)
  • Daily like limit increased by 2×

We no longer have a “secure category” aka ‘the special place for cool kidz’.

I have no idea what the links following stuff means or why or how one would want to make one’s posts editable by others.

So basically, all a TL3 user gets is more likes (is there actually a like limit?) and the ability to zap stuff posted by a new user which they think is spam. If enough TL3 users don’t like stuff posted by a new user, that user gets a time out - unless presumably a moderator thinks the stuff was actually ok.

I believe that is deliberate. You’re supposed to be dedicated to get TL3…(cue ‘Eye of the Tiger’ training montage).

Really as best I can tell one’s Trust level should be the least of a user’s concern. It goes up, it goes down, c’est la vie.


another facet that i’m not sure you’ve mentioned yet is that once a comment has received enough flags to be hidden it can no longer accrue additional flags. add to that the fact that only moderators have the ability to see whether a comment has been flagged short of being hidden and only moderators can see who has flagged a comment and one is faced with the realization that “piling on” because of who has flagged a comment is not a real thing.


Mod or community disagreement with flags is only tracked in regard to consideration for TL4, as far as I’m aware. I don’t think there’s any programmatic functionality for demotion based on flag abuse or misguided flags, though maybe the stat could inform a mod’s decision to do so manually.

That last is where people who whinge about not getting TL3 get into trouble. They can be genuinely confused why the mods (who have the final say) allow a flaggin’ to stand, even when it’s obvious to other users of TL1+ who’ve read and try to follow the site rules.

If one’s main concern about one’s comment getting flagged is “oh no, this will hurt my chances for reaching TL3”, one is missing the point of the functionality. The badges and TL3 may seem to some to be a gamification system, but they’re really not.

Yes. Once in a while I get a notice that I’m out of them. When I return after a few hours they’re re-upped.

Not realising this seems to be the source of a lot of the paranoia surrounding the flagging system. I’ve bookmarked your succinct description to share with others in the future.


Wow. I feel like I hand out likes like I’m Oprah handing out cars and I’ve never run out…


It happens maybe twice a year. Probably due more to increased and intensive activity and timing more than anything else.


I did not say the TL system is “gamified”, even if the very low number of members in TL3 and TL4 may make it appear that way (and why not increase that number if the perks are inconsequential?). I make no particular assumptions about the moderation system, I am just trying to find out how it really works. I don’t see how this can be equated with paranoia.

Speaking as a Regular [currently, and for several years, though I did slip off the TL3 status once for a little while, and who knows when I may again] who’s been around for a few years, my understanding is that—in theory at least—the status is not so much about the perks (What can my community do for me? What can I get?) as the responsibilities that one can fulfill if one chooses (What can I do for my community? What can I give?).


From what I’ve read about Discourse’s design philosophy from the mods and devs, that’s exactly what these perks are about: giving users who have shown themselves to be particularly invested in the on-line community and its standards more power to help moderate the site and encourage other users who add value. TL3 isn’t about the perks you get, it’s about acknowledging the behaviour that got you that level of trust.

It’s also done in an unobtrusive way. When I throw a flag I’m not thinking that it’s a TL3 flag, just that it’s a flag. When I give a Like I’m not thinking about how great it is that I have lots of Likes because I’m TL3 (in fact, I never got an “out of Likes” notice at TL2). I know that TL3 flags carry more weight and that I have more Likes, but if I wasn’t a tech geek I probably wouldn’t care how it works. I just participate in the community in good faith and let the TL come and go as the system likes.

Put another way, if someone is spending a lot of time worrying about how to achieve TL3 here he probably won’t be granted it.


Then we are back to square one: do TL3 users flags have more weight or not? I am confused now.

I understood that TL3 only difference was that the system would automatically remove TL0 messages flagged as spam by them. That is a relatively minute change and I don’t see why this is not implemented from TL1 or maybe TL2 onwards. I mean: probably everyone who is not a spammer can recognize spam, while “community guidelines” are a bit more difficult.

Now you tell me that TL3 users have more power to moderate the site. It is not necessarily something I object to, BTW. But if they have more power, how is that implemented?

You are also telling me that they have more power to encourage users who add value. I don’t really see any of that either.

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The only real extra weight TL3 has in flagging is it takes less flags from multiple users to hide a post and only one flag if marked as SPAM. Also the mods will not be happy with you if you abuse that power so honestly we really don’t. Doubly so now that once a post is hidden and I find a lot of the time it is already hidden by the time I get to see them so I can’t add any and there are no TL3 people in the thread so it sure isn’t the other regulars.
That said THE MODS have the final say and are the only accounts here that can make posts go away. Flags simply engage the moderators and are not always agreed with.


I would like to answer to that part, although the question and answer are not on topic.

You seem to be concerned about the cohesion of the community and the positive contribution would be to increase that. Of course, since the thread is about moderation.

But when we are talking about a bbs or forum community, what members give to the community is the content of their messages. The content of the messages is what actually forms the value of the community. Therefore when a member finds a new interesting subject to post about or gives a reply which extends the reflection on a topic by bringing new arguments or new facts, etc… that member contributes positively to the community.


I’ve seen a spate of comments that were hidden not because they contained rule-breaking content, but because they apparently went against the grain of the more popular point of view. I didn’t pay close enough attention to have links for them now, but I was bothered when I saw them. Flags shouldn’t be used like downvotes.

And for that matter, hiding flagged comments seems to be a futile gesture to me, since the first thing I do when I see them is to unhide them, to see what the fuss is about.


They may have been hidden by user flags, but @orenwolf has made it clear time and time again that the mods here do not uphold a post’s hidden status simply because it’s “unpopular.” The mod has to determine that a site rule has been broken. If not the comment is turned back on.

TL3 and TL4 people would agree. They understand that flags are mainly there to alert the mods and help avoid derails.

I do that now and again, but usually only to see what awful garbage specific posters have spewed this time. And since the Ignore feature has been implemented I do that less and less.


And in the past, I’ve personally had comments eaten simply because the publisher didn’t like them, not because they actually violated any of the terms.

So have others.

It what it is.

Again, it states in the rules that TPTB here can delete whatever content they want at any time for any reason they deem fit. That’s what we all agreed to by joining the site.

Seriously, though; does it need to be spelled out in sky-writing or something, for some people to finally “get the memo?”

At this point, the constant hamster wheel objections that some people seem to insist upon dragging out endlessly really start to seem like a thinly-veiled excuse; when the complaint really seems to be that they cannot just post whatever content they want however they want with impunity.


But if you flag sometimes you just might find …

You just might find …

You get yourself TL3.