Information InFiltration. Club Med for the People.

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Collaborative Filtering and Community Moderating
Collaborative Filtering and Community Moderating

In the face of the flood of information that has taken on alarming proportions with the spread of Internet use, the need for collaborative filtering has led to various different models. Commercial sites such as Amazon and the Internet Movie Database use sophisticated recommendation models that are partly automated, partly user-driven. The choice of search engines results in a different kind of filtering, but anyone with a web site frequently receives offers from various dubious sources for schemes to ensure that their web site is filtered through to the top of as many search engines as possible.

Mailing lists have long been used as one of the most effective forms of collaborative filtering, since relevant information and links are posted and distributed to users that have declared their interest in specific topics by subscribing to mailing lists dedicated to those topics. The sheer volume of available information on any given topic, however, makes it increasingly difficult to sift through it to find what is actually valuable, useful, open to further development.

Discordia makes use of the principle of collaborative filtering by inviting posts on topics broadly related to art, media, activism and theory, but takes this principle a step further by suggesting different ways of dealing with information through the sections that are offered. This type of filtering is intended to promote a more critical and thoughtful way of dealing with information than simple linear listing.

In addition to collaborative filtering, Discordia also makes use of the principle of community moderating to promote relevant and more productive communication. Community moderating means that the "community" - the active user base - decides on the placement of individual posts. This responsibility is not delegated to one editor or a small group of individuals as an editorial team, whose judgment may be influenced by constraints of time and/or personal interests, but rather all users are invited and encouraged to share responsibility for placing posted information where it can best be used by all, e.g. placing it prominently on the front page, where it attracts the most attention, filed under certain sections to make it readily available for specific purposes, or even deciding that it is not relevant and does not need to appear on the site at all.

This form of community moderating is further augmented by comment rating. All users are invited to comment freely on all the Discordia posts, but also to rate one another's comments in order to signal to others "read this". This means that Discordia, as a weblog, allows for the kind of "one-liners" briefly expressing agreement, support, a written "nod of the head", which may be important to the author(s) of a certain post, but not otherwise useful. These kinds of comments can be especially irritating on mailing lists because they cause unnecessary extra traffic, but Discordia's comment rating system means that not everyone has to read through every "nod of assent". By setting their own preferences, users can regulate the "noise to content ratio" individually. People with limited time and/or interest may choose to read only a few comments with the highest ratings, others may be interested in finding out what other kinds of comments a post or certain posts may elicit.


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