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The Problem with Neg Rep

Posted October 12th, 2017 at 02:23 PM by TGRF
You probably have a good idea what this blog post is about from the title. Your mouse might be hovering around the back button as you continue to read, compelled to do so by the mystical force which surrounds my words (). You know what this article is about.

As it so happens you are wrong. Whatever you think this blog post is about to say, you're on the wrong track. Unless, by some miracle, you have read my mind as I write this. And if that is the case, please let me know. I have need of a translator at times.

Assuming you have not read my mind (and have not been driven away by my obvious attempts to keep you reading), I will now explain what this is all about: neg rep, and the problem with how it is laid out.

The Beginning

We have to start at the beginning. When I joined this site, I was young, opinionated, and showed all the signs of becoming a first-rate online nuisance. I nearly did, until I found the Fan Fiction forum.

During that time, I got some neg rep from some... unnamed individuals for... unspecified reasons. I was infuriated.

What?!? The world didn't appreciate what I had to say? What nonsense was this? I read up on neg rep. I found out how it worked and who had the power to dish it out. I made a few posts about it. I got some more.

To make a long story short, things were rough until I got into Fan Fiction. I learned to stay there and not venture out into the unexplored forums where the 'evil site supporters' lurked, rep cannons at the ready. It is a tendency which has unfortunately stuck with me.

My opinions on neg rep have not. I now appreciate it as a valuable tool to keep young upstarts such as me a few years ago in check. It's an effective way to tell someone to hold their horses, before they get into deep trouble. I still fully advocate always explaining the reason for the neg rep, but that's beside the point.

The Balance of Power

Over the years, one aspect of the neg rep system has always stuck out to me. Oddly enough, it has nothing to do with the actual neg rep, but rather those who can give it: site supporters.

Site supporters (and admins obviously) are the only ones who can 'award' neg rep (to the best of my knowledge). And that always struck me as odd. I always believed that if anyone should have the right to 'police' the forums with neg rep, it should be the contributors.

I'm not just saying this because I am a contributor. I'm saying it because it makes sense. Becoming a contributor is genuinely hard to do. It took me over a year of waiting in the queue before I was approved, not to mention the time and effort it took to write the fan fiction which got me the status.

My point is that contributors have to put in a lot of work and a lot of time. To me that indicates they care greatly about this site and the game it represents. Who better to make sure we have the highest quality possible, through the power of neg rep?

But that's not the case. Instead, the site supporters wield neg rep, along with quite a few other substantial privileges. Contributors have their own privileges of course, but they were always meant as a subset of site supporters, and therefore don't have as many.

A Hypothetical Situation

To further this point, I'd like to present you with a hypothetical situation. This is just something I see as very possible. It's not something I've seen. Yet.

Assume you have two people who become members of this site. We'll call them Steve and Frank. They both love heroscape, they both love this site, and they are both young. We'll say thirteen.

Frank decides to become a site supporter right off the bat. He scrounges up the necessary money and supports the site. He becomes a site supporter.

Steve doesn't have the money, but also wants to contribute. He decides to launch a custom project. It turns out to be great, changing the way customs are thought of on HSers. He becomes a contributor shortly after this.

A year passes. Steve's customs project gains popularity. He becomes a respected member of the community. Frank, who really only joined up because he liked HeroScape, bounces from forum to forum, commenting but never really committing to anything.

Now, both Steve and Frank have their own ideas on how things should be run, both in the game and out. They both run into people who vehemently disagree with them. This is where the difference comes in.

Steve has been in the forums for a year, made friends, learned a few things, and become a valuable member. He has experience. He knows what adds to the site and what takes away.

Frank has been here the same amount of time, but because he never contributed the way Steve did, he doesn't have the base. He doesn't know the community the way Steve does. He doesn't appreciate what we are, what we stand for.

One of these two people has the ability to neg rep someone they feel is harming the site. One of these two has the ability to shape a new member into the part of the community they will become.

Who would you rather it be?

Maybe I'm in a minority here, but I would far prefer Steve, the contributor. Why? Because he is a part of the community. He's added to the community, and he knows what the community needs.

Frank gave money to the community. Now HSers can't survive without money, and I fully advocate that Frank should get some privileges for that. But just because he gave money, doesn't mean that Frank appreciates the community here. He doesn't have the experience Steve does. He might not know what adds to HSers and what takes away.

And yet, the power to neg rep lies with him.

Shaping the Future

That's the difference between a site supporter and a contributor. One keeps the site alive through funding. One keeps it alive through content. Both are invaluable, both should be rewarded. But one indicates an inherent appreciation for the site. One indicates a user who is willing to put a lot of time and effort into this site in an effort to make it better. That's the one I would want neg repping me. Or anyone else.

Now I'm not trying to say that site supporters are financially-well-off people who have no interest in this site. That's plain wrong. In fact, a good number of site supporters are also contributors. I salute those people.

I'm just saying that the inherent privileges concerning neg rep are flawed. Neg rep is a valuable tool. It can be used to shape future users into valuable members of the community.

But neg rep is also powerful. If used wrong, it can cause lasting damage. It can as easily tear down as it can build up. It's not something to be awarded lightly.

Neg rep is something we want only our most trusted users to wield. It's a privilege we should give to those who demonstrate they are committed to making this site a better place.

A neg rep wielder needs to be someone the community trusts, knows, and respects. They need to be someone who is part of the community themselves. They need to be someone new users can look up to and say, 'this person took the time and effort to become a part of this place. I want to be like that person.'

The privilege to award neg rep isn't something to be played with. The ability to shape future members of this site is a sacred duty. It should be something earned; never something bought.

Do you agree?

Total Comments 5


flameslayer93's Avatar
*negreps you*

Just kidding bud. I think the rep system is probably fine. Negrep's power grows with the user's own reputation. -1 or -2 points that Frank gives me won't make much of a difference to me (as long as there's a reason behind it lol). Users who have the power to actually police you (besides the admins of course), have also likely put their time into helping form the community.
Posted October 12th, 2017 at 02:44 PM by flameslayer93 flameslayer93 is offline
TGRF's Avatar
Linking the rep power to a user's growth is of course a good idea, and does curb the scenario I mentioned. But I actually disagree with your last sentence.

Certainly the majority of supporters know what helps the community. But just because they donated money to the site doesn't mean they automatically know what's best for the site. It's perfectly possible for a new member to join, become a supporter, and neg rep someone because he disagrees with them, all in the same day.

While it's true such a thing wouldn't do much physical harm, the thought can mean a lot - especially if it's done to a new member (in which case it CAN hurt their rep a lot, since they likely don't have much themselves).

Point in case. I learned to keep my head down and stay in the Fan Fiction forum for this very reason.


EDIT: I re-read your comment and now realized what you were saying in the last line. A good point, though I believe the potential effects on new(er) users are still something to be considered.
Posted October 12th, 2017 at 03:29 PM by TGRF TGRF is offline
Updated October 12th, 2017 at 09:01 PM by TGRF
flameslayer93's Avatar
You aren't wrong there, a new user probably won't like getting hit with any negrep. But, what can you really do?
Posted October 13th, 2017 at 01:19 AM by flameslayer93 flameslayer93 is offline
TGRF's Avatar
1. Make sure he really deserves it. This can be accomplished by giving only the most trusted and knowledgeable users the ability to neg rep.
2. Make sure you explain the reason. Neg rep by itself does nothing to fix the problem. You need to explain what the person did wrong so they don't do it again.

Posted October 18th, 2017 at 11:56 AM by TGRF TGRF is offline
To be honest neg rep is one of the reasons I backed off the site when I first started on it. And I even understood the reason behind the neg rep (although I disagreed with it).
It has probably been the reason I don't contribute as much as I should since this is the only site where I post anything.
I'm not so sure it should be considered a flawed system though as this site's been around for quiet some time.
Posted October 25th, 2017 at 06:51 AM by AMIS AMIS is offline
Updated October 25th, 2017 at 06:52 AM by AMIS (Although being around for a time doesn't make it right...just old.)
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