X-Message-Number: 23971
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 2004 02:46:05 -0400
From: "Kevin Q. Brown" <>
Subject: Re: new "rating" system

 > Not a rating system, but a classification system.  And a flawed
 > system, because a single item can have multiple classifications.

Hi Kennita,
Thanks for checking out the rating system and taking the
time to give your feedback.  I'll rate^^^^ categorize
your message as "Insightful", once it is distributed in the
next CryoNet digest.  (Your message and my response to it will
be in the same digest.  Anyone can respond that quickly since the
CryoNet queue is accessible from the main CryoNet web page.)

 > Many is the message I have seen that is insightful, interesting,
 > informative, and offtopic at once.  Or redundant and funny.  Or
 > informative and flamebait.  Or... you get the picture.  I had
 > expected the rating to be from 1 to 10.

I was inspired by the system used at slashdot.org,
which seems to do quite well with a single categorization
for each message.  But the needs of SlashDot are not the
same as the needs of CryoNet and you rightly point out
that multiple categories can apply to a single message.

Rather than requiring the rating to be just one of the
various categories listed, I'll look into supporting multiple
categories.  Rather than placing one's entire vote as
"Interesting", etc. it could split into two 0.5 votes,
three 0.33 votes, four 0.25 votes, etc.

 > On the methods:  I'm not fond of needing to open a browser
 > window to do ratings.  What if I could cut and paste the Cryonet
 > headers into a message to "" ...

Sorry, I have no plans for email-based rating/classification
submissions, since parsing hand-entered data, with meaningful
feedback on errors, can be messy and most people prefer web-based
solutions that give instant feedback.  Perhaps the web-based
system could be better streamlined, though.

 > Even if we kept the browser window, an eleven-digit rater code
 > seems excessive.  A four-digit number would allow for plenty of
 > growth (and I would have a chance of remembering it).

FYI: The system uses an emailed "rater code" because I don't want
to make it too easy for someone to "stuff the ballot box".

Yes, the rater code is long.  I'll add "shorten rater code"
to my TODO list, but I hadn't intended anyone to remember it.
Instead, just copy and paste it from your email.  If your
browser has cookies enabled, then the rate.cgi script now
will set a cookie to save your "rater code" for you.
If you lose that, then just generate a new "rater code",
which will replace the old one.  Those codes are disposable;
you shouldn't have to remember them.

You do need to remember your CryoNet subscription address
to get your "rater code", though.  If you have multiple email
addresses, with some addresses forwarded to others, you might
not remember which address you used to subscribe to CryoNet.

 > On further reflection, I think the whole rating system is a bad idea.
 > It seems to be an obtrusive, blanket, omnipresent solution to an
 > intermittent annoyance . . .

You probably didn't know that I also use a hammer to crack
open peanuts, hire a document destruction agency to shred my
junk mail, and save all CryoNet postings on microfiche
in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment. :-)
Seriously, calling this overengineered is a valid complaint.
But it's also interesting and, I think, useful.

This isn't the first time that I provided a lot more mechanism
than the minimal necessary.  In message #23652 I offered to
JavaScript-encode one's postings, **  which was a natural
extension of the work already done to protect email addresses
in CryoNet archives from being harvested by spambots and to protect
the entire contents of the CryoNet queue from search engine robots.
Offering that service may have been a mistake since it increased
my workload and also enabled people to avoid responsibility for
their postings, but I offered it because it was technologically
interesting and might be appreciated by some CryoNet subscribers.

How does that relate to the rating / categorization scheme?
Your "rater code" could provide identification for a web-accessible
form to JavaScript-encode one or more of your CryoNet postings.
Then you wouldn't need to send private email to me with the request.
I'm not promising to implement that immediately, but mention
the possibility as an example of how one overbuilt tool can
dovetail nicely with another to create unanticipated new and
interesting services.

Getting feedback on one's postings should be interesting, too.
Rather than providing just a single number ranging from 1 to 10,
as you expected, the multiple rating categories will give
CryoNet posters a better handle on the ways their messages are
viewed by others.  Maybe I should add a "long-winded and verbose"
category for my overlong, detailed messages?

     Kevin Q. Brown

  ** Note that JavaScript-encoding a CryoNet message should not be
     confused with any secure type of encryption.  The encoding just
     scrambles the text and does not require a key for decoding.
     Nevetheless, it thwarts spambots and search engine robots while
     remaining easily invertible by a JavaScript-enabled web browser.

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