Increasing the signal/noise ratio in public discussions
Mailing lists, and forums work well with few participants. As the number of participants go up: noise increases, and it becomes harder to follow conversations. Some people post lengthy unedited texts, which are hard to read and to understand. Others reply without even reading the original post, adding nothing to the conversation and creating confusion.
As far as I know, the only reliable way to keep the noise level low is moderation. A few moderators accept, edit, or reject posts from other members. It works well, but require lots of effort from the moderators.
Automatic means of limiting the noise are increasingly popular today. Many public websites use voting systems. Different algorithms were developed, some limit the noise up to a certain point. But those systems are vulnerable to the tyranny of the majority. Overall voting systems don’t work as well as classic moderation.
Limiting the noise by limiting the source of the noise
Another solution would be to limit the number of characters participants can use. For example everybody could be limited to 1000 characters a day on a high traffic mailing list. People would be clearer, as they try to make their point in fewer words.
Of course the most prolific contributors would also be impeded by this system. But it could turn a good contributors into a great contributor. Shortening a text usually makes it clearer.
I think limiting the number of characters subscribers can use each day, week, or month would have the following effect:
- Good contributors would be more concise
- Trolls and clueless subscribers would not be able to generate as much noise
- Part of the noise would turn into useful information as some people start to think or read other’s posts before posting
I’ve never seen such system in action. I’d like to see how it turns out in practice.