Inviting community feedback on "Slow Mode"

As it’s been deployed here for a while now, and invoked on a number of topics by the community moderators, I’d like to gather feedback on slow mode:

It looks like this, when activated:

If you don’t know (but I hope, if you are reading this, you do know), slow mode is something that moderators can manually invoke on a topic to limit sequential replies in that topic, with the goal of …

  • slowing down the pace of discussion
  • making sure everyone gets heard
  • encouraging community members to compose thoughtful posts, rather than heat of the moment outbursts

It’s designed for challenging, complicated discussions – the classic list of topics one would traditionally avoid talking about during thanksgiving family dinners, for example. The tough stuff.

  1. How do you feel slow mode is working here on BBS? Does it help?

  2. Are there any scenarios where we should automatically invoke slow mode, or is it better as something that only happens manually, when moderators intervene? :thinking:

Comments welcome, with the caveat that I’d like to hear most of all from community moderators :raised_hands: and community members who have actively participated in a topic during slow mode at least a couple times… plus of course @orenwolf :beers:

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One thing I didn’t think about when composing the topic, but is worth mentioning: contrast slow mode with closing a discussion temporarily – or permanently. Sometimes discussions legitimately need a time out. Slow mode is a bit of a different beast, though.

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I think that slow mode helps to cool a conversation down (especially when the conversation has devolved into an outright argument between just two or three people), but an hour seems a bit long to me. When a topic is throttled, you can make a post and then you are effectively blocked from participating further in the conversation until the conversation has moved on entirely (a lot can happen in an hour). I believe that you could get the same positive slowdown effects with 15 minute intervals between posts without overly limiting participation.

Also, I have noticed that throttling prevents editing of previous posts. I believe that allowing editing of previous posts would allow people to add more clarity or context without running up the counter of posts. I can see how there would be room for abuse there (using editing as a loophole), but it might be nice to have slow mode set so that you can add one new post AND edit one previous post while a thread is throttled.

As for automatic invocation, I think that it might be a good idea if there are dozens of posts in as many minutes, just because it becomes extremely difficult to stay up to date with what people are posting when posts are rapid-fire. The last thing we want is for posts to get buried. Edit for Clarity: I have never actually seen this happen, so this is entirely hypothetical.

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I’m not sure there’s a good automatic threshold for throttling a topic. Usually, it’s best deployed when a user is “on tilt” or posting inflammatory posts at a high rate. It can bring the temperature down on a topic and get multiple voices involved while keeping the thread from going off the rails and turning people off.

I wouldn’t want to trigger it automatically off of just the frequency of one or two users posting, but maybe in combination with community flags, that could be a good criterion. I can’t think of an example where it has been used to good effect that hasn’t involved both factors - frequency and flags.

ETA: I could see it being a useful intermediate step between nothing and shutting down the topic.

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I’ve seen it used only once, I think. But it seems like a good tool to have, a compromise between letting a thread run amok and shutting it down completely.

I wouldn’t want it to be invoked truly automatically unless there is a reliable metric of an out of control topic, but I don’t know how simple forum software could tell the difference between a hot topic and a derailed one. I suppose you can use community flags as one of the metrics for a semi-automatic slow mode invocation with mod review, and whatever metrics you use to trust rate/meta-mod flaggers depending on whether the the flags are confirmed by the mod.

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I like this idea in principle. I agree with others that it should be deployed manually by mods and with care, or through some very carefully crafted set of conditions. A rapidly-growing thread isn’t necessarily a thread isn’t one that needs throttling, but I could see some combination of posting frequency, flag count (across the whole thread), and maybe posts from new / sleeper accounts (“Welcome to BoingBoing, comrade!”) would be something to keep an eye on too.

Incidentally, I feel like I’ve come across this once before, and when it happened I was taken by surprise. Maybe I had made a post, and then a few minutes later went to make another post (or edit my post), and got blocked from doing so – I feel like I didn’t see the throttling notice until after I went to post anew / edit. Since I don’t have an example at hand I’m not sure what the display UX is like. But it would definitely be useful to know before posting whether subsequent posts will be throttled. (If it’s already this way, great! I might have just stumbled across the issue in the middle of the post getting throttled.)

ETA one other thing: an hour is a long time. At the risk of being counterproductive to the principle of the throttling, I wonder if a shorter timeout would be useful. I’m tempted to ask, what’s the shortest timeout that will realistically cool conversation without being unbearably long in Internet Time?

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Not surprising you didn’t see the notice until you tried to post - it lives below the very last post of a thread.

The options aren’t just an hour; there are options for shorter time periods. However, if you’ve ever seen someone really go into “please ban me!” mode late at night, even 15 minutes feels like too short. Also, it’s not per post, it’s per poster. So everybody can chime in, it’s just that each person is limited to one post per that time period.

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Ah, that might certainly explain my not seeing it. In that case, I think it would be super helpful to have a posting window card when a post is throttled (a la the “similar topics that already exist” and “you and person X are dominating this discussion” and “are you sure you want to resurrect this stale topic?” warnings).

Glad to know it’s configurable. I knew the threshold is per poster, but in the middle of a rapidly evolving debate… well, you get the point. Of course, this is exactly the situation that slow mode exists for, so. (That said, it does increase the importance of knowing that slow mode is on before posting.)

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I get the sense that throttling is not so much intended for “Please ban me!” behavior, but rather for arguments that get overheated, with just two or three people going back and forth so rapidly that it drowns everything else out. If there is “Please ban me!” behavior, then the topic is usually temporarily suspended (nobody can post anything for four hours due to “the high volume of community flags”). I think that throttling is more for cases where you just want to put the brakes on a conversation, instead of putting a stop to a single bad actor.

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You’d think that, but, yeah, it’s mostly deployed at night so that one person doesn’t dominate a thread before they can get moderated. I’m not exaggerating ; we’re talking 40-some posts by one person while the rest of the community tries to have a decent conversation.

@orenwolf has mad moderator skillz, but he also deserves to get some sleep.

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I know what you mean, but it feels like it should be the way I have described. Can’t we have a mechanism to throttle just the one person posting dozens of things, rather than slowing down everyone for an hour at a time? If any one person posts ten times in a single thread in the course of ten minutes, can’t we just slow that one person down and let the rest of us go about our business?

I really want to know what kinds of options @codinghorror has for that specific (yet all too frequent) case as opposed to the overheated arguments that I have described.

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I’ve throttled threads twice now, for exactly this reason, each time for an hour. The conversations still happened (threads ARE open for 5 days), but they got better because others joined in.

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Maybe that’s the main finding here, to add a per-user, per-topic automatic throttle setting?

Appreciate all the feedback, keep it coming! :clap:

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Yeah, it would be nice to have something automatic kick in before the mods have a chance to look at what’s going on. You get people who already have several posts hidden by flags, but they’re still posting new posts unencumbered until the mods arrive on the scene.

At the same time, you may have somebody who is just arguing (in good faith) with multiple people at a time, but not posting anything particularly flaggable in and of itself. That one person may be posting replies to different people one after another, so the thread is just that one person posting over and over again. We could go ahead and ban people who do that (it is selfish to hog a thread like that), but if the system kicked in and said, “Whoa, there, slow down!” maybe we wouldn’t have to.

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There’s a couple of edge cases we’d have to be able to account for somehow.

One is a topic someone happens to be knowledgeable on (I’m thinking as an example, a history post that our resident prof @Mindysan33 is discussing) where we’d want to allow folks to continue to reply. We also occasionally have new or occasional visitors (think TL0/1) who will join up or become active for a post mentioning/about them, and they are often already throttled by their trust level to begin with, and if a mod doesn’t notice soon enough, we can lose that opportunity.

I think allowing Leaders to see who’s been throttled and / or set exclusions would be wonderful.

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Remember that NEW USERS are heavily throttled, so what we’re really talking about here is existing, trusted users at TL1, TL2 or even TL3.

Being “on tilt” (a poker term, but certainly apropos) applies to everyone, especially long-established community members. Right now there are almost no limits to what you can do as a trusted community member – so if you decide, hey, I’m gonna reply 50 times to this topic, I’m gonna reply to every single other person who replies to this topic, you can do that.

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That could make sense. But it shouldn’t necessarily be automatic. That can be a sign of someone trolling, or it can be the sign of someone legitimately responding to a lot of other people. Sometimes the multiple responded might be the victim of a dog pile. (Dog piles can be for good or for ill.) But statistically, I have no idea of the distribution, so I don’t know how you’d want to weight it.

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I really don’t think there’s a way to automate throttling, either per thread or per user, that won’t end up harming valid use cases. @orenwolf mentioned inadvertently throttling knowledgeable posters, but also in cases of rapidly-evolving live news discussions (like during last year’s protests, or 1/6) the speed of posting isn’t indicative of anything that needs to be throttled, it’s just a fast-moving discussion.

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But it’s not about how many times you reply to a topic; it’s about how frequently you reply to the same topic. I have no problem with a single person replying to a topic 50 times, but there is no good reason for a person to reply to a topic 50 times in 50 minutes. Temporarily slowing them down if they’re in rapid-fire mode seems like a good compromise to let others get a word in edgewise. For people at L2 and L3, an hour between posts feels overly punitive, but it doesn’t have to be an hour, and it doesn’t have to be punitive…just a reminder that there are other people here, too.

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To the first: I’ve only been involved in a couple conversations that got throttled, but it did seem to help cool things down. I’ll echo what others have said: as someone involved in those discussions, it would be nice to know that what I’m posting will be the last thing I can post (or edit) for an hour before hitting the reply button. I think that could temper the conversation even more, in a good way.
To the second, it’s hard to imagine automatic invocation that wouldn’t inadvertently harm the overall discourse. But I’m not a tech person, so don’t know all the tools you have at your disposal.
Thanks for maintaining an awesome space for us all!

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