Voting: or how I learned to stop worrying and love the database

Perhaps the title should read "how I learned to spell like someone with half a brain instead of spelling 'learning' wrong three times"

This is in a daylog because it's a touch random, and it's more of a ramble than anything else.

What's the point of the voting system? It's what makes E2 semi-democratic: people upvote what they like and they downvote what they think is a steaming pile of crud. At least that's the idea, and it's a nice idea in practice. We get a chance to shape the database into what we want it to look like. Assuming low-rep nodes are deleted and high-rep nodes are given attention than if each individual casts his vote on every single node at some point, E2 will inevitably become what the majority of people want it to become and that’s A Good Thing.

E2 therefore works like the market system where “consumer sovereignty prevails,” my A-Level economics textbook tells me. You know, say a producer makes a good. If people want it then they buy it. Demand goes up. The producer realises this and makes more of the good. So price signals tell producers what to produce. We get what’s called allocative efficiency. That means resources are allocated in the way that consumers like. This is why capitalism is meant to be good, if you’ll allow me to simplify the situation a bit too much.

E2 noding works much in the same way. Just as price signals are “the lifeblood of the market system,” vote signals are the lifeblood of E2 – think about it – in real life you don’t get prizes if you spend all your money by the end of the day. If you did things would get crazy and no one would know what products to make. People, in a frenzy of getting rid of cash, would start buying the first thing they saw. They would rush into supermarkets and start buying tins of corned beef and tofu. Producers would think that they obviously like tofu and start making more of it. But get this – we don’t like tofu! We just bought it because it was lying there in front of us. What would happen is that people would drive to supermarkets and buy stuff in bulk since that would naturally be retail therapythe easiest way to spend money. Why would you visit small out of town stores and little specialist shops? Why would you go out of your way to spend money when you can get rid of all in one go?

Day logs are the hypothetical supermarkets of E2. When you vote randomly on a day log you damage the database making people think that you actually enjoyed that angst filled, sentimental three page long story. You mess up the system and you make E2 worse for everyone, but more importantly you make it worse for yourself.

But of course you’ll have noticed a flaw in my reasoning: votes aren’t like money. People wouldn’t dump money like they dump votes because votes get them something they like. You give money to someone who has something you want and you get what you want. On the other hand when you vote for anything you get something. You get XP for voting. So naturally, people start dumping votes on monster day logs and huge nodes in a frantic quest for XP.

Solution? Well I don’t know. You can’t get rid of the reward because it’s there to promote interaction with the database. You can’t make people read a whole node before voting on it. Or can you? Maybe you could have a time limit – that is, you only enable the voting option after a page has been up on the screen for say, 5 minutes or after a certain amount of time (the amount of time being dependent on the length of the writeup). This would eliminate the problem of people voting for anything – so you can’t vote, but the screen is up there for some time. You really want that XP. OK, you think, I might as well read the fucking story/poem/existential-angst/factual. And you read it. Then you vote it up if you like it and down if you hate it. If you were indifferent to it, then you would already have quit without voting. So we’ve achieved our objective of interaction with the database without compromising the quality of that interaction – vote signals will become more accurate since votes will truly reflect voter opinion. They will not reflect the ease with which that node can be accessed.

OK, but what if I don’t care about voting? What if I think that an obligatory time limit will get in my way? Then we could add another option – for people who want to vote but don’t want the timer that only lets them vote after some time, just make it so that they get no XP for voting. I think that’s fair – after all, most high-level users have shit loads of XP. They don’t care about XP, they got so much it’s coming out of their ass. So they get the privilege of voting without time limits, and they’re happy. They don’t need that XP reward. We’re all happy.

Another idea

Maybe you aren’t a free market advocate: do you think that the votes of a Level 1 initiate are as important as those of someone who has shaped the database far more? Well let’s turn to capitalism for that one: an E2 currency is an idea. Take the rep of your node. Say you get E2 Dollars (the symbol of which, I propose, should be an upside down lesbian monkey) equivalent to the rep of your node, and it costs a certain amount of money (say 3 E2Ds – E2 Dollars) to cast a vote. Say you get a reward for voting – this would be necessary to encourage interaction – but make sure the reward is something worth having and something that doesn’t give you more votes. Maybe you get more space on your homenode for each vote you cast.

Of course you’d need to fine-tune the system: if you got too much space you’d need fewer votes and we’d have an E2 recession. Or if it took too many votes to get homenode space than we’d have hyperinflation with people spending votes like mad. Of course the important thing is that the balance is right – make sure that people who work hard and cast a decent amount of votes can get a decent amount of space on their homenode, yet still making sure that you need to vote a fair amount and you can’t just cats a few votes and then sit back.

On second thoughts this system would get a bit hard to manage.

More stuff

XP needs to matter more. Yeah XP stoicism is all well and good and apparently:

XP is an imaginary number granted to you by an
anonymous stranger. Treat it as such.

I don’t mean we should start worrying about XP, just that I’ve got too much of it: what holds most people back is the number of writeups they need. For example I need another 60 or writeups to hit Level 4, the XP isn’t a big problem. What that means is the Honour Roll should have a bigger impact and the rep of you r nodes should be taken into account. Of course this would have a big impact on the sort of writeups E2 gets. We’d get more long factuals that tend to attract C!ings and we’d get far fewer little definitions writeups as well as fewer jokes and debated. That could be seen as a bad thing given that this place is more than a hunk of facts.

You see XP stoicism is easy enough when you’re a Level 10000 noder with a bazillion writeups. At that stage you can already go and C! stuff. You can already go and nuke writeups. You can have homenode pictures. You can get that nice cosy spot right on to the other users nodelet. It’s not so much about earning your bullshit, it’s much more about being able to lose a bit of XP but retaining your cool powers. That’s why XP doesn’t matter for many users – not because they’ve achieved a state of nirvana and become one with the database. I don’t mind, I just think no one should go around saying to people “Hey XP doesn’t matter” if they already have plenty of the stuff. Of course there are some users who really don’t care about XP – I however am not one of them. It’s just because like everyone else, I like a little attention. I like a bit of recognition and I love to see someone enjoying what I’ve written. That’s why I like XP. In a way it reassures me that I’m not writing junk and I’m writing stuff that some people are reading at least.

Oh this is getting complicated. Fuck it. I like E2 the way it is.

Final note: please don’t get the wrong idea – the purpose of this isn’t to whinge. I just wanted to throw up some ideas. In fact I am continually amazed by the dedication of the editors and management. Like the other day when I saw the note from nate on the front page. He actually apologised for the server being down! I mean they pay for the server and all that stuff, they code the whole thing, they go and manage the whole thing and they actually apologise for not being able to provide a free service! That’s dedication. Thank you for doing a great job.