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The meaning of life, the universe and node reputation

by Aristotle (Chancellor)
on Oct 05, 2002 at 01:12 UTC ( #202950=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

42 votes.

(You saw that coming, didn't you?)

Unfortunately, that's two more than even Saints get per day, so we none of us will ever know

Still, I have been pondering the question of what node reputation really means. (Specifically, since a recent discussion.) So what is it? Within certain bounds, one can associate a couple some vague statements, but it doesn't seem very helpful at all as I once wrote. The classic question is of course: if noderep is as use(?:ful|less) as random numbers, why do we even care to vote?

Well, I don't know about you, but I do care greatly about my nodes' reps — far more than about my XP. Putting some effort into a node and getting several dozen upvotes to that post is quite satisfying, a lot more than watching an XP counter spin somewhere outside of any direct context. On the other hand I have occasionally refrained from posting a questionable pun/joke/foo/bar because I feared downvotes, esp. those from monks who did understand but deemed it improper. I have however never refrained from posting possibly controversial viewpoints, even when I expected downvotes, so long as I felt the matter required someone to take stance.

Well, that's it.

Yes, you've read the answer. Go read again. That's what node rep is: feedback. To the author, to be precise.

I submit that node reputation is pretty much useless to anyone but the author of a node. The only value it can have to others is to check if they are aligned with the general consensus on a node, and even that is questionable — a dozen people who bothered to vote do not constitute much of a “general consensous”. The value of the node reputation of an individual node, in itself, is worthless.

Right into this fits my observation that when I downvote a node (which is rarely the case, and has to be well deserved at least in my opinion), I hope to see a negative reputation, indicating at least a modicum of consensous that this node should indeed be “condemned” in some form, for some (well justified) reason.

Assuming one follows this argumentation, it makes the answers to various requests relating to node reputation pretty obvious in my opinion. The bottom line is that it is a form of social sanction (small as this society may be), and nothing more.

Makeshifts last the longest.

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Re: The meaning of life, the universe and node repurtation
by BrowserUk (Patriarch) on Oct 05, 2002 at 05:36 UTC

    Aristotle++. Thankyou for putting into words, something I have been wanting to say ever since seeing some of the replies to 202482, but couldn't word appropriately.

    If I post a node, and it stays stubbornly at 0. Fine. Whatever I said was not very useful, possible only had meaning in the context of the thread etc. Not wrong nor bad or most important of all, not technically invalid. Just nothing worthy of anyones vote. That's fine.

    As you said, if it gathers some ++'s great. The effort expended was worth it. A few someone's found it interesting or useful.

    But when a post, especially one that has taken some effort, and contains (as 202437 does), a working solution, and embedded proof that it does work (at least under some circumstances) and it starts gathering --'s, I go back and check:

    1. Does it contain factual errors?
    2. Does it contain something blatently rude, condesending or facecious?
    3. Did I misread the OP's needs or answer the wrong question?

    If so, I usually try and correct my errors or admit to my mistakes by striking (in deference to the unwritten "don't change history" rule, despite the fact that I disagree vehemently with both the sentiment and the reasoning) whatever was wrong and correcting or apologising.

    The reason why I chose to withdraw a post entirely, was if working code is somehow wrong, then it must be because it is dangerous or misleading, in which case, allowing it to perpetuate is a 'bad thing', and so I didn't. Instead, I chose to attempt to come up with a better solution.

    That I lost a few XP, Bah, Humbug! Simply makes up for some of my other posts that have gathered a positive rep dis-proportionate to the effort I put in like this where all I did was give a pointer something I had recently read or had bookmarked. Or this where I was simply the first to notice something glaringly obvious. Or this that represents the simple 10 second cut&paste of readily available information. It rankles slightly that these get ++'d when other nodes containing (what I believe to be) good Perl, which I've put considerable effort into, go by hardly noticed, but you quickly get used to the fact that such are the fickle mannerisms of the Monastery.

    Cor! Like yer ring! ... HALO dammit! ... 'Ave it yer way! Hal-lo, Mister la-de-da. ... Like yer ring!

      I know what you mean about unexpectedly disproportionate amount of votes - my second highest rep node is one of the quickest replies I wrote to date. I was surprised to log in next day and see I had gotten a boatload of XP - and even more surprised when I found out where they came from.

      The "stubbornly remaining at 0" phenomenon is one I've occasionally grumbled about too.

      But I disagree about the reaction to downvotes to what seems to me to be a good reply. In that case, I update the node with a remark to the effect of "I've gotten a couple of downvotes here. Would anyone please care to explain to me what about my writeup was out of line or incorrect?". If noone speaks up, I leave it at that and consider myself confirmed that I just stepped on a few cargo cultist toes by going against the party line. If someone does reply and gives a good explanation, all the better - I've learned something, and others who read my node can reach the same conclusions about why they shouldn't do it the way I did. If there really is a very compelling reason, I will <strike> my post and point people at the reply, so that a bad meme doesn't get perpetuated. That's what I understand as the sentiment behind the "don't rewrite history" principle: if you make mistakes, you and others can learn from it.

      Granted, updating with an explanation request only really works so long as the thread is alive.

      Makeshifts last the longest.

        But, I really love your second highest rep node. As the person who asked the question said in response, it was a very clear explication of a technique that, for many, is mysterious.

        Simple explanations that makes things clear is among the highest ideals we can aspire to in the Monastery, in my opinion.

        Now, you can argue that it may be more or less deserving than some other nodes, sure, and I think this is your point. Individual reputations of nodes is not a ranking.

Re: The meaning of life, the universe and node reputation
by elusion (Curate) on Oct 05, 2002 at 02:15 UTC
    Yes, you've read the answer. Go read again. That's what node rep is: feedback. To the author, to be precise.
    Based off of that statement, I hope to show a much more meaningful purpose for node rep. It would be good to mention that node rep can help keep out some of the riff-raff, when you chose to sort nodes in a thread by their rep. (To do this, go to user settings) Of course, it is based on the limited knowledge I have of psychology.

    You have already stated that you care a great deal about your nodes' reps; it gives you pleasure. I do too, and I would imagine that many other monks around here do as well. The rep is your reward, and you want to get this reward as much as possible. This means that node rep encourages good behavior by positive reinforcement. In other words, you are doing something to recieve a reward, whether that something is write more nodes or write better nodes.

    Positive reinforcement can be very powerful, and is often the best way to encourage a certain behavior. However, not everyone is alike, so the system doesn't always work as we'd like. Some don't care about the rep, or don't want to have a high reputation. In such cases, or any case where the frequency of the unwanted behavior increases, the node rep acts as a punishment.

    So does node rep mean something more? Definitely, though not in every case. It is a way of making good behavior increase and bad behavior decrease, which is important in any community. The reputation of a particular node, then, is important not only to the author, but to the entire community. Then again, I am by no means a psychologist, so I may have it all wrong.

    elusion :

      Yes. Maybe it wasn't clear enough, but I wasn't saying that the concept of node reputation is useless - far from it. My point is that the individual reputation of a specific node is a useless number, even if the concept is not. As I said in my concluding sentence, "it's a form of social sanction, nothing more".

      Makeshifts last the longest.

Re: The meaning of life, the universe and node repurtation
by trs80 (Priest) on Oct 05, 2002 at 02:44 UTC
    The value of a post is nothing, just as the value of everything else in the world. It is you and a community/culture of like minded people that give something value and encourage its value. You can't measure the worth of a post anymore then you can a person and an attempt to do so will never give anyone satisfactory results.

    The XP system is a way of saying whether we feel it had merit in the community an if it might at some point assist someone else on their road to Perl enlightenment or possibly be a nice diversion from the norm, or at the very least made you think about things outside your level.

    Furthermore the XP system is established to give us a sense of belonging and acceptance among our fellow Perl programmers. This is a much needed part of any community especially in one where its members may never meet face to face.

    Your refraining from posting pun/joke/foo/bar replies is simply a natural (intelligent/mature) human response. It is that for two reasons.
    1. You don't know if the other people reading it will in fact understand or get your post in the context it was intended, especially since this is a global community. For example the word fag in England vs. fag in America makes a big difference or did at one point anyway.
    2. It exposes a side of you that could be perceived as less then professional and could have the adverse effect of people skipping your posts in the future because they assume that you have simply posted another "gag" node that has no real meat.

    So I would say you should be happy that you are semi normal, with normal being just as subjective as value :)
Re: The meaning of life, the universe and node repurtation
by hossman (Prior) on Oct 05, 2002 at 07:43 UTC

    I submit that node reputation is pretty much useless to anyone but the auhtor of a node.

    This is why I liked the Node Tension idea so much -- at least for node authors to see

    I'd be a lot more interested in the rep of my nodes if i knew how many votes had been cast.

    "rep: 10" ... is that 10 good votes, or 60 bad votes and 10 sympathy votes? was my post well recieved or not? oh well... i guess I'll never know.

      Opportunity cost would be nice to know too. I'd like to know how many people read my post and then voted for somebody else. ;) Seriously, a post that gets 10 reads and 10 votes may be much better than a post with 1,000,000 reads and 100 votes. Knowing this could help solve Warnock's dilemma.

      That said, perlmonks works perfectly for the community. Conversations are on-topic. Flames and attacks are rare. Wrong answers are quickly corrected. Changes at this point will only help authors seeking meta-enlightenment.

      Yes, that is an interesting proposition. After some thinking, I do think others shouldn't be able to see any more than just the node rep as such - for a reason I can't quite put into words yet. But letting the author know the precise stats would provide them with even better feedback, which is all the concept is about.

      Makeshifts last the longest.

Re: The meaning of life, the universe and node repurtation
by kelan (Deacon) on Oct 05, 2002 at 01:33 UTC
    I agree. I enjoy seeing my nodes being upvoted much more than the XP it provides. For me, I think this is because it shows me that other people are appreciating and enjoying the node, into which I have put some amount of effort. I like to know that I've had some kind of positive impact on someone else, that posting is worth it to others that read the post.


    Yak it up with Fullscreen ChatterBox

Re: The meaning of life, the universe and node reputation
by Abigail-II (Bishop) on Oct 07, 2002 at 09:31 UTC
    There was a time that I believed this as well. Now, I no longer do. There are at least five factors that will decide whether you get a high reputation for your post:
    • Whether the thread has been front paged.
    • Whether you're one of the first replies.
    • How deep in a thread you reply.
    • The popularity of the subject of the root node.
    • The actual content of your post.
    And the importance is roughly in that order. The first four items all have to do with how many people will actually see your post.

    If only you could see all the reputations of all the nodes in a thread, then you could compare. A reputation of 15 where all the other posts don't get above 10 is likely to be better than a reputation of 25 where all the other posts score 40 or above.


      I think your list is spot on. I've written nodes where I took a guess at the answer (I marked it so) and the questioner replied with "no, that's wrong". But the thread got front-paged, and the node's rep (it was the second below the root) rose to 25 or so.

      On the other hand, I wrote an answer to a different question after there had been some discussion and clarification in the thread, and the questioner replied with "yes, that was correct, thank you." The node was very far from the root, wasn't front-paged, and languished around 2. So I agree that content ranks far below placement.

      In my own mind, though, the rep-2 node that got the "thank you" ranks much higher. Replies trump votes every time.

      Now, given that this thread's slipped off the front page, and my reply is eight or ten nodes down, I predict it will stay at zero!

      Your factors are too specific. They both overlap and fail to account for some large forces. Timing, for instance. What day of the week was it posted and was it right before a holiday? Presence on daily/weekly best nodelets is another example. There are bound to be many such factors. I don't think trying to enumerate them is the right approach to understanding the node rep system. I take a simpler view.

      Node reputation is a function of:

      • The quality of the node's content and presentation.
      • How much attention or visibility the node gets.
      • An X-factor for things like personality voting.
      The function is quality * visibility + x. It's quite simple really and just what would be expected. There are some things about this community that need to be understood before it all really makes sense though.

      One important one is the fact that the "quality" of the node is relative to the observers and is a measure of respect, agreement and interest. Many people may upvote a mediocre node if it is simply better than what they themselves would have written. On the other hand, sometimes a particularly good node won't get many upvotes because judging its quality requires knowledge or skill that most don't possess.

      Another important one is that this community tends to make its points through positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement. People tend to upvote more than they downvote.

      I think the biggest "problem" (although I'm hard-pressed to call it that) is the fact that visibility is a multiplier. This, more than anything else, makes it difficult to compare node reputations. Very good replies deep in a thread often don't get half the reputation as poor replies early in a thread. Replies to front-paged nodes invariably have higher reps. Etc., etc., etc. This is the problem everyone is really talking about when they claim that node reputation doesn't mean anything or is as useful as random numbers.

      In any case, I think this is a good model of the node reputation system but I'd be interested to hear any criticisms.

      "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";
      If only you could see all the reputations of all the nodes in a thread, then you could compare.

      Although it isn't a complete solution, you can choose to order the notes in "Best First" order in your user settings. That will allow you to tell whether one note's rep is equal to or greater than another one but it won't give you any idea by how much. It will also only help you to compare the immediate children of a particular parent note; it won't help with notes in separate subthreads.

      "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";
          * How deep in a thread you reply.
      ... and how late.

Re: The meaning of life, the universe and node repurtation
by jjdraco (Scribe) on Oct 05, 2002 at 04:09 UTC
    I agree with what every one said here, the rep gives the author a general idea of what a group of people think of his/her post. but I think the XP is wasted. To me XP implies that you've learned something, and if the XP is based of the rep of your nodes and you using all your votes, then the XP gained in no way says any thing about you except how active you are at this site.

    With the downvoting, I think it would be nice if a person would be asked to give a short comment on why they downvoted it, and have that comment sent to the author. I know I would like to know whats wrong with one of my post, and I think most people here probably would too, since most people wouldn't write a bad post on purpose.

    learning Perl one statement at a time.

      The requirement to add a comment was discussed before. The problem with it is that it has to be anonymous for the voting system to work as it does; and then someone can evade it by simply providing "you suck", "." or other worthless "reasons". Bottom line, we're no wiser than before.

      I do agree with your sentiment that downvotes should be explained, and while I'm not going to pretend I always do, I make an effort to adhere to that. If I'm downvoting an obvious troll or similarly worthless node, I rarely care to post an explanation, but if I'm downvoting for technical reasons or because I think someone was out of line, I remind myself to be explicit about it - that will both help the original poster understand why they're getting admonished as well as let me know if my own judgement on the matter is approved in the form of votes on my explanation post.

      Makeshifts last the longest.

Re: The meaning of life, the universe and node repurtation
by rir (Vicar) on Oct 05, 2002 at 18:36 UTC
    Node votes are like the applause or booing of an audience.

    I enjoy the voting system in the above way, because though
    I can't see who is applauding through the footlights, I
    respect the audience in general.

Re: The meaning of life, the universe and node repurtation
by JaWi (Hermit) on Oct 05, 2002 at 12:09 UTC
    Funny: just earlier this week I was thinking the exact same thing! When I just started at this site, I just thought that there were a few people who responded to posts and thus gained a reputation. However, as I became more and more familiar with the people who come here often I realized that it's not about ``just gaining XP'', no it is about helping the community: creating a win-win situation for everybody!
    As I type this, I start to realize that what we're creating here is unique...

    Aristotle, your node explains this idea perfectly! I hope we all gain benefits from it!

    -- JaWi

    "A chicken is an egg's way of producing more eggs."

Re: The meaning of life, the universe and node repurtation
by moxliukas (Curate) on Oct 05, 2002 at 18:03 UTC

    To me personally, node reputation is much more significant number in the database than the XP rating. And I have learned this lesson during my stay here at perlmonks.

    When I first came here, I somehow thought that a person with higher XP is also automagically more knowledgable in Perl, therfore I was tending to think that their advice is better (not even listening to what others are saying). Sort of "I mean, hey, he's got >1000XP, he surely knows more than the next guy with just about 250XP (I'm not even reading Anonymous postings)" feeling. Wrong. It took me a few months to understand that XP only means how active the user was on perlmonks.

    It was only then when I started to take judgement which reply to my question is better (I mean if they were offering different approaches) on the node reputation number. Of course, a totally wrong answer would be flagged with an answer and explanation why it is wrong, but sometimes there is also a choice between right answers. I have found that reputation number is usually a decent way to choose. Just my personal experience.

    I know that I have more than 1000XP myself, and a lot of new people *MAY* think that I am quite knowledgable in Perl ("Hey, this guy is an abbot -- he *MUST* be good at Perl") while I am not. Well, I know the basics, but you definately shouldn't judge my knowledge on my XP.

    Just my $0.02

Re: The meaning of life, the universe and node reputation
by jlongino (Parson) on Oct 06, 2002 at 06:10 UTC
    The first thing that came to mind when I read this thread was "I hate it when any of my nodes stays at zero rep". The more I thought about that and my voting patterns of late, I realized "gee, if everyone votes like I do, it would explain why many nodes receive undeservedly low rep".

    So what are my recent voting/posting habits?

    • I rarely use all my votes. Not because I can't find enough deserving nodes, but because I have limited time to spend here.
    • I scan the nodes and reply/vote only on the ones that interest me. So if everyone else casts their votes for the same reasons I do, I deduce that they don't share my immediate interests.
    I feel the same way as you about XP/rep. I'm not so much concerned about gaining XP as I am with the rep of my individual nodes. Why? Because each post represents time, energy and an earnest attempt to be helpful. The resulting rep indicates my degree of success. It's no fun to realize that ones time would have been better spent elsewhere.


Re: The meaning of life, the universe and node reputation
by Anonymous Monk on Oct 06, 2002 at 00:26 UTC

    A fair number of people seem to agree that a node's rep is in no way indicitive of it's quality (and don't hesitate to point it out, again and again and again...). What I'm wondering is how to improve the voting system so that you can get an idea of which posts to bother reading based on a brief rating. Is it possible? Is something like slash closer? What other features would help?

    Thank you for your opinions :).

Re: The meaning of life, the universe and node reputation
by Beatnik (Parson) on Jan 06, 2003 at 07:38 UTC
    Kalimera Aristotle,
    Now, I was looking for the meaning of life and the Universe... You did'nt even mention life or universe except for the title and for that, I --'ed you! OK, I'm just kidding. ++ on the Experience Point discussion but anyway... Just like the Monty Python flick, all I got was stuff I didn't ask for. In Monty Python's case, it's pretty damn good comedy. In your case, uhm a discussion on Experience Points :| mmm how early is it anyway?? /me runs off for coffee right after pressing a button or 2.

    ... Quidquid perl dictum sit, altum viditur.
Re: The meaning of life, the universe and node reputation
by Anonymous Monk on Apr 07, 2003 at 19:42 UTC
    The bottom line is that it is a form of social sanction (small as this society may be), and nothing more.

    So a flawed system is better than no system at all? I would argue the opposite, but I don't care, and I have to go. There was really no point to this post. Move along now.

      I would argue that all systems of social sanction are flawed, yet I'd rather live in a world with one than without.

      Makeshifts last the longest.

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