Getting good — not just more — stuff in at Wikipedia

At the three day Wikimania conference this week, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales urged contributors to start focusing more on quality than on quantity.
Interesting incentives problems. The article count is a very visible sign of group accomplishment, and individuals can also make verifiable claims about the number of articles for which they were the initial creator. But what reward is there for improving the quality of entries? This seems like a case where the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic incentives may be important, particularly if designers want to induce contributors to shift along the quality-quantity axis in user-contributed content resources. Surely some, perhaps most of the rewards for quantity of contribution are also intrinsic, but for the designer, it might be easier to tweak the extrinsic rewards, disadvantaging quality.

Placeholder: ICD isn’t perfect, but…

Fact is, incentive-centered designs in general won’t be “perfect“, but that’s not a fundamental flaw: solutions to any interesting humanoid problem generally won’t be “perfect”.
What’s really nice is that ICD happens to have a clear and useful way of explaining most solutions can’t be perfect. Here’s the brief version: when private information is valuable, and its asymmetric distribution is costly to social welfare, it is generally necessary to “pay” or provide incentives to the information owner to share it or behave in a way that reveals it: we want the information get improve social outcomes, but it costs something to get it.
I plan to write a longer entry on this fundamental issue later.

Beating code with code

CAPTCHAs are a great example of a clever incentive-centered design for an information world problem. But, as many people point out, they aren’t perfect. Matt May at W3C has a nice slide presentation explaining CAPTCHAs and a number of their accessibility problems (based on a nice paper for those with more taste for details). He also discusses a variety of ideas about how to do better. Clever as some are, they all suffer a common problem: the incremental improvement from each is largely a technological fix, not an improvement in the incentive structure of CAPTCHAs. And technological fixes in this area are doomed to fail approximately equally rapidly.

Continue reading Beating code with code

Spam as cockroach (welcome to blog spam)

Cockroaches: doesn’t matter how many times you think you’ve killed them all and blocked their entry points, they keep coming back.
For those who think (foolishly, in my opinion), that Gmail has “solved” the spam problem…it’s not just email: Blogosphere suffers spam explosion. This isn’t hot news, exactly, but it’s a nice comment on the growing problem of splogging (and notice that Frauenfelder uses “pollution”, my favorite word for characterizing the problem). It’s a cost imposed on a by-stander by the self-serving activities of another (in this case, usually advertising products for sale).

Been a while…

Quick note: I haven’t been adding much to this blog since April, but I have collected a variety of tidbits in draft posts. I’m going to try to clear out the drafting box, and generally be more regular (but not continuous!) in posting. The next several posts will mostly be about things I saw and saved in draft during the spring.