Here's an interesting essay
on the dynamics of groups and individuals on the Internet.
Notable quote, referring to the administrators ("wizards") of an early online interactive text game:
"So we're back, and we're taking wizardly fiat back, and we're going to do things to run the system. We are effectively setting ourselves up as a government, because this place needs a government, because without us, the place was falling apart."
I've been pondering how to raise the frequency of high-quality comments. This inevitably involves regulating group and individual behaviour to some extent.
All commenting systems have some sort of regulatory system, e.g.: forcing the supply of an email address and/or homepage; forcing the commenter to choose a nickname; the constant threat of storing the commenters IP address; a moderation queue; forced registration. Unfortunately Blogger doesn't support several of these strategies, which is why most Blogger political blogs use Haloscan. We've held off implementing Haloscan because of the distant promise of our move to sirhumphreys.com and because Haloscan charges to archive comments over three months in age (pay for comments?! Never!). Also it's messier to link to individual Haloscan comments.
The goal is to design a system that will neutralise the visibility of trollish and downright stupid comments and give prominence to better comments. So far the best system I've seen is Slashdot's, but that system requires objectivity from the people with moderation power and won't necessarily work on a political site which features many controversial posts with very strong points of view. At the very least we'll be using Slashdot's threaded comments, which is a standard feature of Drupal. Another possibility would be some sort of "Recommendation" five star rating system as Yahoo uses for its news and photo items. But that would be open to abuse and is not supported by non-AJAX browsers and those with high security settings.
Ideas? I'm sure the solution is out there somewhere...