The VEX discussion to date:
I believe that the Voting/Experience System serves and should serve two functions:
- By offering both tangible and abstract rewards, it encourages users to always continue to contribute to the database.
- It ensures that certain powers are only granted to those users who have proven their trustworthiness to use them.
The VEX system as it currently stands includes XP requirements, mainly to discourage noders from advancing by writing numerous low-content nodes (noding for numbers). NFN is not a problem these days. However, we have a different one: everybody reports that the XP requirements are much easier to reach than the writeup count requirements.
- For example, to reach L2 requires 20 writeups and 50 XP. That's 2.5XP per writeup. You get 5XP per writeup anyway, so all you have to do to level up is make sure you don't lose more than 2.5XP from votes, or in other words stay above -7.5 reputation per node, which is laughable.
This is the most extreme example, but it is clear that the requirements should at the very least be revised upwards dramatically.
Alternatively, we could recognise that XP is incredibly freely available these days, and can be gained in many ways which do not constitute contribution to the database. As such, XP is now more like a currency or score than a proper measure of one's contributions.
I suggest using total reputation instead of XP to ensure consistent writing quality. XP would be retained, but as a more fluid measure of success. XP may go up as well as down. You can use it to buy goodies or /anvil your friends. Total reputation, however, is usually strictly increasing with writeup count.
In addition to this, I also have comments to make on the (in my opinion, ridiculous) placement and awarding of the various powers in the current VEX system. You'll see these as we go.
With all this is mind, here is my
(proposed) New Levelling System
(Obviously the level-by-level writeup and total rep requirements must be subject to immense discussion and controversy. Ideally, some raw data pulled directly from the database, indicating what kind of XP/writeups/rep distributions currently exist on E2, would enable us to tailor these requirements for a good balance.)
Level 0 (Guest User)
- May see who created nodeshells - Why this perfectly harmless functionality is denied to users below level 3 is beyond me. It seems like this was only withheld to L3 because otherwise L3 gives no substantial new powers. Even guest users can see who created each node, right?
Level 1 (Initiate)
- May configure writeup header display - Again, a "power" which is currently withheld until later. I fail to understand why we can't trust a new noder to configure his own display. This is basic site functionality, withholding it is totally arbitrary.
- May access Node Heaven and Scratch Pad Viewer
Level 2 (Novice)
Requires 20 writeups, 100 total reputation. Optimally, that's a node-fu (average reputation) of 5, but obviously a user may take more than 20 writeups to get there.
- May cast 10 votes daily - disallowing voting until the user has made a substantial contribution to the site is critical to maintaining the high level of quality we demand here on Everything2. Allowing just anybody to vote reduces every site to the same lowest-common-denominator content standard. I've seen it happen before on other sites and I'll fight anybody who disagrees.
Level 3 (Acolyte)
Requires 40 writeups, 400 total reputation - Optimal node-fu of 10. Optimal node-fu increases gradually, since noders are anticipated (though not required) to become better noders as they progress.
- May cast 20 votes daily
- May create chatterbox rooms
- May create polls - these last two are relatively harmless powers, reserved for L3 only so they are not wielded frivolously.
Level 4 (Scribe)
Requires 80 writeups, 1200 total reputation - Optimal node-fu of 15.
- May cast 40 votes daily
- May buy Ching!s (for large amounts of XP) at the E2 Gift Shop - the C! is a super-upvote, an official Everything2 seal of quality, which also gives a user indirect control of front-page content. The power to bestow them should, usually, be reserved for users who have proven themselves good judges of content by virtue of their own contributions.
- May run an Everything Quest - not a job for an inexperienced noder.
- May become a mentor - ditto. I was tempted to add "May host a nodermeet" here, but meatspace has its own voting and levelling systems.
Level 5 (Monk)
Requires 120 writeups, 2400 total reputation - Optimal node-fu of 20.
- May cast X votes daily, where X is the user's writeup count divided by two - this is 60+ daily votes. I seriously doubt many people spend all their daily votes once they get more than 40, so we might as well let this increase without limit. (Never let it be infinite though, otherwise we are open to autovoting abuse.)
- May cast 1 Ching! daily - a major prize
- May delete own writeups - a power reserved for proven mature noders
Level 6 (Seer)
Requires 160 writeups, 4000 total reputation - Optimal node-fu of 25.
- May cast X votes daily, where X is the user's writeup count divided by two - that's 80+ votes by now. An M-noder will have 500 daily votes.
- May cast 1 Ching! daily - I feel that C!s should be kept as a scarce resource so that a C! remains a valuable honour to bestow on a writeup. I'm open to debate here, though.
- May reset Chatterbox topic (for large amounts of XP) at the E2 Gift Shop - we don't want the topic resetting minute by minute, of course
- May display a home node image - E2 being a text-only site, I am semi-firmly convinced that this should remain our highest prize. Do we even have the bandwidth to serve multiple images per node? Let alone video? E2 is and should be about what reaches can be explored using text alone, in my opinion.
There are no more levels, simply because there are no more earnable powers. If more powers are suggested, then intermediate levels could easily be inserted, but a level without a reward is pointless.
In addition, the highest level is placed relatively low, because no power, not even having a home node image, should flatly require hundreds upon hundreds of writeups.
Hopefully, any L6 user is sufficiently hooked to continue noding for its own sake, rather than to gain new toys.
Cloaking, previously an L10 power, is absent here. Users have always been able to simply log out if they wish to remain undetected, which is no big deal anyway. This power should be allowed for admins only, really.
Conspicuously absent here is the Honor Roll. I dislike the Honor Roll, for the following reasons:
It is hopelessly complex. When somebody asks how the levelling system works, I believe one should be able to give a full answer using a single /msg, or right there in the catbox, rather than having to redirect the noder to a 1000-word essay.
It is unfair. Not all noders can make use of it if they want to.
It is unfair because other people can make it harder for you to level up.
It changes dynamically even as we all node, representing a moving target. It seems to me that every noder should be subject to the same, static levelling-up requirements.
Its purpose, in introducing the Merit metric, is exactly the same as that of the VEX system itself: to encourage and reward good writeups over bad ones. In other words, it exists because the VEX system is somehow felt to be unable to accomplish this adequately; it papers over a perceived flaw in the VEX system. If the system is flawed, fix it, don't make it more complex!
Finally, the Merit metric has the property that submitting a new node can easily cause this metric to go down instead of up - regardless of the noder's skill or past performance. This always results in a situation where the Honor Roll encourages the noder to stop noding, or even to nuke their own nodes! This is the worst possible thing that can happen!!
Metrics like Merit and node-fu, which can go down despite best efforts, provide negative reinforcement. I think they should be removed from Everything's Best Users, the Statistics nodelet, and wherever else they appear, and replaced with metrics which increase without limit (writeup count and total reputation) or which only decrease due to lack of activity (which is, I believe, how Devotion and Addiction are calculated).
ktj delves more deeply than I do into the strict requirements which a good levelling system should meet. I agree with the clarity and positive reinforcement criteria.
Proportionality I don't necessarily agree with, I don't see that vote and C! numbers should necessarily be proportional to level, writeup count, each other, or anything else. Besides which, most rewards in the VEX system are not numerical. They are individual powers, without any obvious attached numerical values. Attainability, I will debate; it implies that we want everybody to be able attain all the levels in a finite amount of time, even if they write 1 node per year. Perhaps a better word would be practicality. Requiring 1500 nodes for any reason whatsoever is preposterous.
It looks like I duplicated most of his negative comments about the Honor Roll.
I dislike ktj's Writeup Bonus suggestion mainly on the grounds of complexity - it is difficult to explain and it means that suddenly your "writeup count" is no longer simply the number of writeups you have written. (Lacks clarity.) I do believe that better writeups should enable faster levelling, but I also firmly believe that a writeup IS a writeup is a writeup.
By parallel evolution, we both propose total rep as a replacement for XP in the levelling-up requirements. High five!
I agree with in10se on many points, including the meaninglessness of the current XP requirements. His dynamic levelling system, however, is something I have major ideological issues with. As I stated above with regard to the Honor Roll, I believe that levelling requirements should be the same for every user and, as far as possible, completely static. Not only should they not fluctuate as other users node, they should be altered by the administration as little as humanly possible, maybe once every few years.
Somehow, ush has devised a levelling-up system which is even more difficult to grasp than the Honor Roll, while still being as changeable and unfair. This system uses five individually weighted metrics to calculate your level-up factor, including both median reputation AND mean reputation, as well as the original Merit metric carried over from the Honor Roll system! Imagine trying to explain this to a new noder!
If you feel like adding to this debate
At the time of writing, the by-invitation-only tfxp usergroup (which includes myself) is discussing VEX system modifications. If you want to contribute to the discussion, there no reason why you shouldn't daylog your own thoughts (but please, link back to any nodes you're responding to, so others can follow the discussion).
It is highly unlikely that any proposed replacement system will be adopted lock, stock and barrel. Unlike the site redesign competition, we are not going to solicit eight or nine possible alternatives and pick the best. However, we know good ideas when we hear them, and we're all ears.