There are some differences, mainly that rating/voting can be understood by machines. They can construct summaries easily. 100 positive votes can be collapsed into a single number without much loss, whereas 100 "Me too!" comments are pretty hard for anybody to grasp.
If we want to improve the signal to noise ratio (and we do), clearly we want to encourage rating and voting, and discourage commenting. Instead of writing new comments, people should find an existing comment which expresses their views, and vote it up. This results in less effort for them in expressing their views, and less effort for TheAudience in having to wade through unoriginal trash. Writing a new comment should be a last resort.
The downside is that ratings and votes can be generated without much thought too. It's much easier to stuff a ballot box with 100 positive votes than to write 100 original comments. This means we cannot use "number of votes" as a metric to verify that an online identity is a human with a high investment in debate. Sadly, this is an argument for saying that newcomers can comment but not vote.
SlashDot also makes it easier to add new comments than to rate. Only a relatively few, privileged group of people can moderate. The effect of this is to reduce the signal to noise ratio; the only way for many people to express themselves is by writing a comment, no matter how unoriginal their ideas may be.
Naturally a single user would be allowed to make several comments to the same article. Hence they could also give multiple ratings. "Original", "Bad grammar", "My experience differs" might be possible cliches along different axes, and the same author might rate the same article with all of them.
Perhaps it will help if we initially populate the drop-down with the choices of previous commentors for this specific message. That way an original choice by one user may be picked up by others. The author of a message might be allowed to suggest initial cliche-options too, according to the type of his article and his personal ideology. For example, he might suggest the Wiki:SixThinkingHats system for a Wiki:BrainStorm, or a set of High/Medium/Low-priority options for a "new feature" proposal.
That example suggests we sometimes want groups of cliches, with options mutually exclusive within the group but independant of other groups. We probably want numeric options too, that the system can process.
Hopefully one or more systems will emerge and can be put into some reuseable form. I think some of the issues are similar to those of LinkPatterns?, and similar insights may apply. Eg arbitrary restrictions, such as every cliche being expressed as two words plus a number, might help channel users along useful lines.
Rating system changes vs. deep structural changes.
Rating conflicts come from conflicting values, as Cliff points out. Some people prefer better presented material, some people prefer better detailed information, some people prefer more entertaining prose. A customizable rating system can go quite a distance in solving this problem.
However, there are values enforced by the structure of the medium that cannot be fixed through ratings. That is, each online community comes with its own purpose and is structured to accomodate that. Mailing lists and newsgroups are best for short-term, "just in time" discussion. Wikis, or at least MeatballWiki, serves best as a repository of collected experience.
A WebLog has two major incarnations, or at least flavours: news oriented and discussion oriented. Some news sites like [ZDNet (ZDNN)] allow comments on actual news articles. Other WebLogs, like KuroShin, offer mere PromptingStatement?s as the article body. Other WebLogs, like SlashDot, fall inbetween.
In either case, the comments on a WebLog are generally discoursive. But consider what happens when comments are in reply to a news article. Taking SlashDot as [an example], many of the top rated comments add to the information provided in the article (sometimes correcting it). Sure opinions surface, but they aren't wild opinions. On the [other hand], the top rated comments to an opinion piece are typically wildly rhetorical (passionate).
In the former case, the goal is to emphasize objective information. However, often the granularity of that comments is too coarse not to bring up rhetoric as well. For instance, "No, you're wrong. The actual facts are foo, bar, and baz. I think your opinion shows how the world is a sorry place to live," really adds the facts foo, bar and baz. Other material can probably disappear from emphasis.
In the latter case, the discussion follows the SoapBox metaphor pretty vividly. Essentially, those with the most interesting things to say get rated higher. This is because entertaining comments are more valuable. After all, a WebLog is something to pass the time, not a committee to design network protocols.
I think that a WebLog rating system predominantly emphasizes the latter mode of rating. I think that's often the right thing to do, as well. A WebLog, like KuroShin, focuses on interesting discussion, not informative discussion just by its dominant structure (PromptingStatement? + commentary). Consequently, material that will entertain its readership is more valuable than material that is merely informative.
However, if the goal is to have a news site that is reader peer reviewed (as was the original goal of user comments), the structure of the site needs to change to reflect that goal. One idea would be to iteratively edit the main article based on discussion below until it was better. Another would be along the lines of ArchivingNews.
Whatever; the point is that the rating system alone isn't enough to satisfy conflict values. Ultimately, the structure will have to be changed for those who dislike the PromptingStatement? + commentary style. Or even to move past the old media influence into the more forgiving new media environment. -- SunirShah
Agreed. However, see WikiLog for some discussion of the notion of "tunable deep structure." Eg:
Although Weblogs current using rating and Wikis don't, I think it makes a lot of sense to incorporate rating/voting into a Wiki-like system. One could have a side-by-side comparison of different versions of a page, with people voting for the one they preferred. There have been several attempts to use voting in Ward's Wiki. -- DaveHarris
By the way, the notion of customisable ratings systems is a red herring for this page. My point is that rating=content and that signal to noise can be improved by encouraging rating and discouraging commenting.
See wiki with survey feature at http://www.hanoi.dynu.com/~hanh/phpwiki-1.3.3/index.php
The survey can use as rating the content also, since the least active survey + content will be automatically deleted.