Please actually read the entire post before commenting! I have done my best to alleviate most potential concerns about the system, and comments that are just repeats of problems brought up in the post may be ignored or deleted.
knighty brought up an interesting idea tonight. We've had a problem for a very long time with how our moderation system works (click here if you aren't sure how it works now), which is that if none of the moderators feel like approving stories, nothing gets approved! The reason that moderators are unwilling to approve stories is that it's massively boring, and massively unrewarding work. When we approve stories, we only occasionally get a thanks, and when we fail stories, we're pretty likely to get a scathing message asking how we could possibly fail their stoiy. This leads to situations like the other day where our only active approver went out of town, and we ended up having 200 stories backed up in the queue to be approved!
So we started exploring other options. One option is to just bring on more moderators who are more willing to do this work. That presents its own set of problems. We have to train these new moderators on our rules, we have to work with them constantly to ensure they are not making errors, and we have to hope they have Skype so that we can communicate with them. Plus, we have to ensure that they're trustworthy and that they're going to be active and... it's a huge hassle, and all we get out of it is the hope that they might approve enough stories to be useful before they get bored. Another problem is that (and even we're guilty of this occasionally) they tend to make mistakes, which leads to junk stories that otherwise definitely violate our rules getting past moderation.
A second option is to just drop approval entirely; let ANY story get uploaded to the site, and have it hit the front page and be searchable immediately. This approach has a lot of obvious problems, and doesn't solve the primary one of administrative fatigue. While we wouldn't have to deal with story approval, there would be a very sharp increase in the amount of reports to deal with, and if those reports aren't resolved VERY quickly, users would start getting generally upset at the quality of fics that get submitted... trust me, you should see the sort of thing people submit when the queue is moderated.
The third option we're exploring (and I should stress that we are just exploring this right now) is a Newgrounds-style approval system. Instead of having moderators troll through an approval queue, we instead give the power to the users. We're not sure on the specifics, but it would probably a Steam Greenlight style question: "Do you think this story belongs on the site?" Users would then simply select Yes or No, in accordance with the rules. Now, of course, a system like this does not come without its own problems. knighty and I went back and forth on some of these and came up with some solutions (note that Newgrounds uses almost all of these safeguards as well).
First off, I'm sure most of you are screaming "But what about potential abuse?!" Yes, this system by itself is rife for abuse. However, there are some pretty simple things we can do to cut down massively on potential abuse. The first thing is that only accounts older than a week would be allowed to vote on stories for approval. We could always adjust this number if need be, but this seems like a pretty fair number to us. This also prevents people from just spamming a bunch of accounts to upvote their own or a buddy's story. Secondly, we will of course be monitoring this system to ensure there are no unexpected abuse cases that come up - and will be acting quickly to fix them. If we notice you doing ANYTHING to abuse this system, expect some harsh consequences!
The second concern we had was that of nobody actually participating in this system. The average view count of a story on the front page, drawing ONLY from front-page views, is actually quite low. The average story barely gets 20 views - many stories do not even get 10. If we simply released this system out into the wild, we'd almost certainly be in an even worse situation than we are now. That being said, we decided to implement some sort of rewards system for users who participate actively in this system.
Users who participate in approving stories might be rewarded a new icon for their profile, which would show up on comments and on their User Bar at the top of the page. We might hand out little awards to put on your user page, or maybe even custom titles... username coloring, stuff like that. The one we're by far most likely to do is the user icon, since it's quite simple and unobtrusive, but we're not open to expanding on the reward system is the system sees inactivity. We really want people to USE this system if we implement it! EDIT: Of course, you would only be rewarded for stories in which you voted in line with the majority decision. Randomly spamming votes will get you nothing (and may even get you banned).
In addition, any fics that are failed by users may be flagged for administrative review, to ensure that there are no "downvote storms" on stories which do, in fact, belong on the site.
The basic goals of this change, therefore, are:
-- Reduce administrative workload and fatigue
-- Give more power to the users as to what they think is appropriate content on the site
-- Reward users more actively for participating in the community while improving the overall quality of work on the site
-- Get knighty to do some damn work
I'd love to hear what you guys think of this. I should stress that we are NOT moving to this system yet! This was just an idea we banged around for a bit. Even if we DO implement this system, if it ends up not working out, we will just revert back to the old system. We wanted to give you all a heads up before we did this though, as it would be a fairly radical shakeup of the way the site works now.
knighty and I are gonna go play Borderlands 2, but we'll be back to look over your comments later. Have a nice day.