by Andy Cochrane on December 5, 2007 · 11 comments

in Uncategorized

stupid filter

There is a new project that aims to create a “stupid filter” that detects and filters out writing from stupid people, mostly in the form of comments on videos and blogs. I support this idea so much it hurts. You can read all about the project on their site, but the basic idea is to collect, sort/rate the stupidity of different pieces of text, and create a filter that can ignore ‘stupidity’ as determined by the project’s findings. I think this is all well and good, and I hope they are able to create something usable or at the very least interesting, but I want to use this topic to launch off onto something else that I have been lamenting lately: video comments.

Youtube et al. had the potential to create an amazingly powerful and democratic system for video criticism that could have revolutionized the way we find and discuss films. The 5 star rating system and the open comments on videos have the potential to allow everyone to become a film critic. Allowing anyone to rate a video and even leave a few words on how they came to their decision could have created a focused communal filtering method for finding and promoting good videos to the top of the pile. But one single fact about the current system has dashed its potential completely: anonymity.I know we internet users love our anonymity, we love to browse around silently, popping our heads up every so often to say whatever we feel like saying with no fear of consequences (concealed behind the mask of an avatar or screen name, of course). If nobody will ever know how you voted on a particular video, what is to stop you from rating it poorly just because you feel like it? What if a racist wants to rate any video featuring a black man 1 star? How is that film criticism, and what if that video is Chocolate Rain? By allowing users to hide behind masks, and by concealing what rating they gave a video, these sites have created a system wherein most of the comments and ratings should basically be ignored.

It is common knowledge that most people do not rate or comment unless they really love or really hate a video, and for some reason, the haters tend to weigh in more often. If 1 million people watched and loved a video, but only 200 comment, and of those, 150 are hurling sexist, racist, uneducated, or just plain hateful words, how are the comments in any way a reflection of what people really think about that video?

What if your comments followed you wherever you went, just as our words in the real world follow us. What if you can only comment if you have a confirmed identity; it doesn’t have to be your real name and social security number or anything, but it does have to be a consistent identity that you can’t simply abandon. Those who choose to comment anonymously should be filtered out by default- if you want to leave or read comments from people not willing to stand up and defend their own words, then you should be able to do so, but they should not be factored into the main comments and ratings.

What if every comment had attached to it the rating that each person left for the video, and if you wanted to, you could see all of the ratings that that person has given every other video. Then we could begin true criticism, wherein negative or positive responses can be challenged and questioned and defended. This is how truly useful discourse works- you make a statement, and if someone disagrees, you both add and heighten your position until you have fully explained your thoughts. In a system like this, where you are held accountable for your statements, we would see a much more accurate analysis of videos, with helpful ratings that truly express a communal consensus on the quality of the work.

Yes, I do think about this stuff too much, but I do so because I just hate seeing a potentially revolutionary tool laid to waste by allowing the very worst of human mob mentality to take over. If the KKK didn’t hide behind masks, do you think they would say what they say? Hide behind your mask if you want, but don’t expect me to care what you have to say. Until we can be held accountable for our opinions, they do not matter.

My real name is Andy Cochrane by the way, and I stand by everything I say online, except that one thing I said about Australians that one time. You can comment on anything I say any time or email me, I will respond.

  • Reddit
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Digg
  • LinkedIn
  • RSS
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Posterous
  • Tumblr
  • Anne Onimus

    Hey! You aren’t Andy Cochrane! I am!

    Just kidding. I’m Dan and I have an anonymity problem. But I agree about YouTube. Anonymous posts to blogs can be good and, when necessary, easy to overlook. But YouTube is “nearly” designed to be more than a big searchable videoblog. Tie it to the better social networking protocols, and I think it’ll be fixed.

  • .alphamonkey.

    I don’t know that I agree with that. I think there’s a larger social phenomenon at work than simply anonymity or a lack of structure (though those things certainly contribute). It seems to me that we’ve simply stopped caring about the value of discourse or disagreement unless using them for their wedge benefits.

    Now, I may well be completely insane here, but we’ve generated a culture that’s seemingly adverse at an institutional level to the very idea of compromise or agreeing to disagree. Public discourse has seemingly become a us-or-them battleground, with reason and logic as forgotten casualties. If I were to wager a guess, I’d say that it’s a knee-jerk response to the PC ideal of ‘no one is right or wrong’, because we instinctively know that in all things there is a true/untrue balance that can’t be ignored.

    That said, you’re all teh ghey and stooopid noobs.

  • Andy Cochrane

    i agree that it is not a simple issue with a silver bullet solution. however, i do think that holding commenters to their opinions will help ease the evil that is the status quo. humans love to argue, and they love to do it publicly, but allowing both parties to hide behind masks makes the discourse irrelevant and therefore a gigantic negative time suck for everyone. there are billions of videos on the web, if you include porn, possibly trillions at this point; filtering out the great ones from the webcam sh!t is something valuable to us all, and comments and ratings that are harder to game should be a high priority for all sites. open id or gravatars or similar universal identity services really may save internet video from becoming an abandoned experiment.

  • BAD

    That’s why i like it here. We have brow beaten most of the idiots away.

  • elkciN

    All but one. 😉

    I read most of this, some of the bigger words confused me.

    I think anonymity plays a big role in people’s comments on the internet, but really, the underlying problem is in society itself, and the way people treat others and themselves. People like to refer to the ‘me generation’ in the past tense, but in reality the ideals that were brought about then have only been gaining influence.

    It’s funny, way back when I first started using the internet, the possibilities were mind-boggling. The entire world, connected in one place, people free to express themselves, millions of minds and billions of ideas torn down and reconstructed on a daily basis. The world was going to change, things were going to get done.

    As the years passed, the sad realization washed over me. People aren’t really coming together, they’re tearing each other down in the quest for some kind of ‘internet fame’. It was never our lack of communication that created problems, but just the general attitude people have towards each other, and that’s something that hasn’t changed. Hey, I try, but I’m still pretty much an asshole.

    That said, I wish them luck on their quest to ‘filter out stupidty’, but if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that stupidity on the internet knows no bounds, and comes in many different flavors. Stupidity will find a way.

    [i]Clever girl[/i].

  • elkciN

    Screw you, bbcode.

  • Andy Cochrane

    while i agree that the greater issue at hand is human nature, i would point one thing out- people do not say the types of things they say on the internet in normal arguments in the real world. the anonymous nature of internet discourse enables the worst in human behavior by removing the repercussions of hate or stupid speech. put a spotlight on comments, and hold their authors accountable, and we will begin to see more of the internet’s potential, as glimpsed by all of us when we first started using it.

  • Andrew DeGolyer

    But having your true identity available online might jeopardize the privacy issues you’ve talked about in other posts. If we say something that somebody doesn’t like, and they happen to be crazy, you could get your ass kicked (or worse). The internet is just a much larger room or people, and the more people, the more chances of crazies. I don’t want to be paranoid, and I am right with you on hating the stupid comments that do follow most videos, but sometimes I like to play devils advocate.

    And if the reply is that you can just have a name on there, there are probably a million “John Smiths” or “Jimmy Chen’s” out there, so who’s to say I’m not one of them?

    BTW, Andrew DeGolyer is my real name, and there aren’t a lot of my surnames out there…

  • Andy Cochrane

    i’m not advocating we have all our info out there, i’m advocating one identity per person- you may choose to be andrew or ADG or ace122, or whatever you want. but we should have a system wherein that name is our entire online identity, at least anywhere that we intend on having real discussions. whatever system is put in place should not violate our privacy offline, but it needs to create a system wherein our online presence is not disposable and easily swappable for another.

    think of the way people feel about their online avatars on mmorpg’s- they want to build a name for their character, and they want to build up their possessions and skills. they are careful to form alliances, and they proceed with caution in the game word, because they do not want to lose all that they have built up. while their true offline identity is secret, their online presence (in the game) is consistent and handled with caution. i want a similar level of accountability and consistency in commenting.

    we can all hide behind masks if we want to, but i want a system wherein we each get only one mask, and the only reason it exists is to protect our privacy enough to prevent offline trauma. i don’t want us to all have all of our private data out there for all to see, but i do want a level of accountability.

  • BAD

    “people do not say the types of things they say on the internet in normal arguments in the real world.”

    Obviously, you have never lived in New Jersey.

  • Andy Cochrane

    haha well, i can’t argue with that.

Previous post:

Next post: