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Mob-Sourcing — the Prejudice of Crowds 178

An anonymous reader writes "ZDNet takes a look at how crowd-moderation can capture and reflect the prejudice of individuals. 'As more web content is crowd-sourced and crowd-moderated, are we seeing only the wisdom of crowds? No, we're also seeing their prejudice. The Internet reflects both the good and ugly in human nature. ... Any system relying on people implicitly encodes prejudices as well. In a world where one politician with a call girl is forced to resign and another is handily reelected, there is no hope for moral or intellectual consistency in crowd-sourced or moderated content.'"
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Mob-Sourcing — the Prejudice of Crowds

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  • Clearly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Corbets ( 169101 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @01:05AM (#34170298) Homepage

    Anyone who needed ZDNet to tell them this clearly hasn't been on Slashdot very long.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Anyone who needed ZDNet to tell them this clearly hasn't been on Slashdot very long.

      Yeah, just look at many of the moderations in the previous two articles on Linux and Apple.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by KingAlanI ( 1270538 )

      beat me to it; I figured there would be some comment about Slashdot groupthink (not 100% by any means, but very often a significant majority of people lean a certain way on here TBH)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
        Actually crowdsourcing isn't perfect but it looks so awesome because it is a way to bypass clueless bosses and a typical hierarchy who thinks that a handful of prejudice is a "science of management".
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Most people can't grasp the fact that if you put a random employee in place of the CEO in the company, the company will most likely grind to a halt or even disintegrate. When you consider the fact that it's hard to get a few Slashdot engineers to agree on a single issue, you should know it takes a ton of skills for someone to pull the board, the investors, marketing, engineering, accounting, etc. together and have them actually do work.
          • Re:Clearly (Score:5, Informative)

            by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @09:43AM (#34172732) Journal

            Actually, some serious works seem to indicate that when promotions are randomly distributed, an organization is more efficient than when promotions are distributed by regular managers. So we can now say with scientific proofs that comparing managers to monkeys is actually insulting for the monkeys.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 )

            Most people can't grasp the fact that if you put a random employee in place of the CEO in the company, the company will most likely grind to a halt or even disintegrate.

            Citation needed.

            CEOs of large companies do not generally get there on merit, but on the "old boys" network. I would not surprised if randomocracy generally produced equivalent results.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by timeOday ( 582209 )
            If you put a bunch of CEOs in a room they wouldn't agree on anything either.

            Top-down control is good when making decisions quickly matters more than getting them right. Battle is the classic example.

            Centrally planned economies (i.e. one corporation on a national scale) always go off the rails. On the other hand, everybody acting as individuals and simply contracting to each other would be way too inefficient. You need a certain amount of centralization; not too much, not too little.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Most people can't grasp the fact that if you put a random employee in place of the CEO in the company, the company will most likely grind to a halt or even disintegrate.

            And this is a problem how? Golden Parachutes for the win, baby!

            Face it the CEO doesn't know how to run the company either, they're just better equipped to abandon ship before the consequence of their mistakes has time to bite them on the ass.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by makomk ( 752139 )

        Slashdot actually had a reasonably well-implemented user moderation system, though. If you want spectacular fail, try (for example) Feministe's rather short-lived [] user moderation setup, which made the site totally useless for its intended purpose of fighting oppression. (It was briefly a very good place for well-off white women to complain about how the uppity black women were whinging too much without hearing too much from them, though.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by gregrah ( 1605707 )
      Mod parent down.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by daem0n1x ( 748565 )
      The expression "wisdom of crowds" always brings up a mental image of a cattle stampede.
    • by chiph ( 523845 )

      Anyone who needed ZDNet to tell them this clearly hasn't been on Digg [] very long.

      • by sauge ( 930823 )
        Sometimes I wonder if this phenomenon on the internet is polarizing people. In the common square, one has no choice but to come into contact with differing perspectives on a subject as well the debate on it. However, being able to drive out other ideas and make the site into an echo chamber of ideas seemingly re-enforced over and over might convince some of the correctness of the only argument/position left.
    • Slashdot has the absolute worst form of moderation, except for all others that have already been tried.

  • Calling Hari Seldon (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @01:09AM (#34170328)

    Someone needs to give it a mathematical treatment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jc42 ( 318812 )

      Someone needs to give it a mathematical treatment.

      It's been done. Years ago, it was determined that the intelligence of a group of humans is inversely proportional to log(N), where N is the number of people in the group.

      Actually, there has been some dispute over exactly what sort of (inverse) function applies, since in some groups, the leaders find ways to divide the group up into functional sub-groups. This produces a set of smaller groups, each with a higher intelligence than the entire group would have

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @01:19AM (#34170392) Homepage Journal

    Welcome back to reality newbs!

    Who, ANYPLACE, promised you prejudice-free surfing on any site on the Internet?

    And did you buy a bridge from them?

    • Actually, the last guy who promised me prejudice-free anything to do with groups bought a bridge from me. And a couple of routers or switches IIRC, and at retail price when they were well-used and obsolete.

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @01:25AM (#34170418)
    After giving it a bit of thought, I don't think consistency is too much of a problem. Things that 100% of people like will be up 100% of the time. Things 99% of people like will be up 99% of the time. If only half of people think it is proper, it will be removed half the time. And so on, until we reach the things everybody hates, which will be immediately removed. What happens is that things some people dislike will be reduced, but still available, giving us a compromise - people who disapprove will not encounter it as often, but those who desire it can still seek it out and obtain it. Sure, edge cases may be problematic - if only one in a thousand people considers something acceptable, it will be difficult to find; people who are easily offended will still be often offended. But those are the outliers - for the majority of the probability distribution, it will be relatively fair. Much more so than letting a select few moderate all the content, at any rate - by increasing the number of moderators, you decrease the effect any one has.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Urza9814 ( 883915 )

      Except moderation schemes are usually skewed towards hiding things. Look at slashdot: Say 10 people moderate the same post. Half of them like it, half of them hate it. So it gets -5 Troll and +5 insightful or something. It's still at 0 or 1. Nobody will see it.

      Plus, people only read so many items on the average site. So say we have a news site where the highest ranked items go to the top of the front page (basically how Digg works? I think? Maybe?) Well, if 100% or 99% etc of the people like an article, it'

    • If a certain viewpoint is preferred by 90% of people, do you really think that 10% will keep a niche rather than be bullied & overwhelmed? What about when viewpoints are wrong? In vitro fertilization had overwhelming opposition when it was first pioneered, and human history is rife with illogical prejudice and absurd beliefs. I'd like to be an optimist like you, but it seems - with regard to religious or political issues - the majority typically attempts to impose its vision on others.
  • I propose... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drmofe ( 523606 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @01:29AM (#34170448)

    ...not having RTFA, that the article is bogus.

    Who's with me?

    • Re:I propose... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sco08y ( 615665 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @02:16AM (#34170658)

      ...not having RTFA, that the article is bogus.

      Who's with me?

      Having read the article, the author was irritated that some listings on craigslist got deleted, thought that it was unfair, and spun that into speculation about how moderation through the crowd might encode some prejudices in some way that he hasn't really thought through.

      So, it's not bogus so much as half-baked.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I wouldn't use the word bogus, but it IS essentially one man's whine about how his stuff was deleted. The last two sentences sum it up for me:

        That shows our freedom of speech is better protected when bought and paid for. The web is censored and manipulated in more ways than we know.

        Entitled much? Craigslist is offering a service and if you don't like how their service is run, go elsewhere. But just because the actual customers didn't like your presentation, it doesn't mean CL is a corporate fatcat out to ruin the Constitution. If you want to write about mob rule, write about slashdot, or *chan, or wikipedia, or ancient Athens. As of now, th

      • My favorite part was this line:

        Craigslist claims that 98% of the flagged listings are, in fact, in breach of Craigslist standards. If that were true - and really, how can they know? - out of 1 billion listings that is 20 million who are wrongfully deleted.

        Since 2% of "flagged listings" shouldn't have been, then 2% of all listings are wrongfully deleted? Perhaps you should re-check your logic.

  • I am Shocked! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Loopy ( 41728 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @01:36AM (#34170480) Journal

    Shocked, I tell you, to find humanity in here!

    And another great quote: a person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.

  • by one cup of coffee ( 1623645 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @01:37AM (#34170482)
    More and more it appears the so called voice of the crowd is becoming the voice of the organization paying the spammers. []
  • This dude's butthurt whine about Craigslist is somehow cast as a contemporary political drama titled "Mob-Sourcing — the Prejudice of Crowds"? Am I in the .onion TLD or something?

  • Wait, so someone actually used crowd sourcing as a way to gather information for a study against the common wisdom of crowd sourcing -- which reveals that crowd sourcing is prejudiced?

    They expect us to believe that their "wisdom" gained from "crowd" sourcing shows "'the wisdom of the crowd' is prejudiced", and theirs isn't?

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @02:54AM (#34170780)
    Was? Is? Whatever, I don't go there.

    I noticed this effect the first time I saw Digg. A topic that started to trend would stay toward the top, and be seen my many more people, so it tended to trend even more, which means it stays near the top even more... and soon this bias becomes not just obvious, but enormous.

    Theoretically it could happen even to a topic that was voted up by only a very few people, if they did it at about the same time. Which means that there is a certain amount of Chaotic nature to trending topics on Digg, and the eventual trends may bear very little resemblance to peoples' actual preferences, were a simple vote or some other measure taken for comparison.
    • by Ltap ( 1572175 )
      Was? Still is. There is/was a cabal of editors who would upvote any story they viewed as pro-conservative (that is, positive press about issues or people they supported and negative press about people or issues they disliked) and downvote any story they viewed as "too liberal". They have ties to Conservapedia, although not in the "evil conspiracy" way, more in the "this is the same five cranks doing everything" kind of way. There were hundreds of accounts but only a handful of actual people, most of them so
      • That may be so, but even if so it is a different phenomenon than the one I was talking about. I did mention bias, but I was referring only to the bias inherent in being a trending topic.
  • We see this on Slashdot all the time. Basement dweller eventually gets some mod points, fails to understand what being a mod is about, then mods down anything they don't agree with.

    There's no way on slashdot to appeal this. In theory metamodding would catch it but I've tried it and it's boring (you don't know the context) and incredibly inefficient (because most mods are fine). It would be far better if you could flag a bad mod on a post and have *that* reviewed.

  • "Measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.

    Alert to the dangers of majoritarian tyranny, the Constitution's framers inserted several anti-majority rules. []

  • So-called "consistency" is overrated, because it often ignores context.

    Often results in crowd response come down to some slight variance in conditions, that is subtle. The simple fact is that you cannot codify every possible scenario into a rule, so human judgements of anything can and will vary on ingrained cultural patterns of "what is right".

  • by wealthychef ( 584778 ) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:59AM (#34174582)
    Morality is entirely subjective, although it often seems objective to the individual. So hoping for moral consistency is a pipe dream. Why even bring it up? A politician with a call girl is not really thrown out due purely to morality reasons -- voters make a judgment about their ability to lead them and whether they trust them to make good judgments and be the kind of person they want to have lead them, which are not moral judgments.
  • Ya got these 12 people and theoretically they all have to agree on a verdict. But only one of them (in USA criminal cases) needs to vote against the crowd to cause a hung jury. Again, theoretically, nobody knows which juror it was, or what his reasoning was.

    The difference between a court case and CraigsList, I guess, is that someone set up very specific ground rules about how a verdict was to be produced, and CraigsList just sort of said, "well, gosh, we never set up any clear rules about allowed posts, s

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