New Tool

As promised, there is now a tool to let you view and manage your trusted network. If you go to your profile page, click the link that says "Edit your trusted network of XX users."

Clicking "delete" next to any user name listed, will remove that person from your trusted network.

*Note* clicking delete will NOT affect whether or not that user trusts you.


On the site you will notice that every user name now has a ( ) after it, with a number inside. This is the number of RIA members who have indicated trust for that particular reviewer.

The purpose of this is to 1) give the thousands of readers of RateItAll an idea of which reviews come from a reviewer who has earned a reputation in the community; and 2) help new members figure out who might be a good person to add to their trusted network, in order to generate quality recommendations using the RateItAll Recommendation Engine.

In the next couple of days, we will hopefully be launching a tool that lets you display and manage your trusted network, without having to surf around to the various profile pages.

Stay tuned.... lots more tweaking of this recommendation stuff to follow.


RIA Contributors List

The top 10,000 RIA contributors list is now located in the "shortcuts" tab.


Two New Features

On your user page, you now have access to two new feature:

- The RateItAll Recommendation Engine. This engine generates customized recommendations and comment lists based on your trusted network (people you trust). For the most trusted recommendations, select "one degree away" and for the most data, select "three degrees away."

- Invite Friends Tool. This tool allows you to invite friends who are not yet members of RateItAll to become members of your trusted network. If they accept your invitation, they will be automatically added to your trusted network, and you will automatically be added to theirs.

We have a tool that will hopefully go live tomorrow that will let you easily view and edit your trusted network.

Have fun with these features - I think they go along way towards making RateItAll a more helpful tool to exchange recommendations with those you trust, and to help filter out the noise.


A Sneak Peek

Logged in users can now take a sneak peak of the RateItAll Recommendation Engine.

The recommendation engine / trusted network FAQ is now live as well (though some of the features referenced are not live yet).


Recommendation Engine Trial

RIA moderators now have access to the beta version of our new recommendation engine.

I think we're going to keep it like this for a week or so, see what works and what doesn't, and then roll it out to the entire community.

If you're curious for a preview, send a message to one of our Mod Extraordinaires and maybe they'll share some info.

Rolling in some code changes....

.... site performance could be sporadic for the next 30 minutes or so....

save your work!


More Recommendation Engine Stuff

So we now have an early beta version of the new RateItAll recommendation engine. It's not live on the site yet (only admins have access currently), but it should be in the next week or so.

Just to recap, this is a feature that is going to allow every member of the RateItAll community to quickly find the reviews written by their "trusted network" of reviewers on any subject, as well as the reviews of the folks who are linked by trust to those in that network.

I've spent the last couple of hours playing around with it, and I have to say that I think it's pretty powerful. A couple of things jump out at me:

- The quality of reviews that have been left by folks in my Trusted Network (working with a test account), are infinitely better than the more random sampling of reviews that can be found in the recent comments page, for example. So when I use the engine to find movie reviews from folks within 2 or 3 degrees of trust from me, I'm seeing good stuff - recommendations that look intriguing.

- I think the deciding factor of who you put in your trusted network is going to be pretty simple - do you like reading their reviews? If so, add'em.... you don't have to agree with them, you don't even have to like them. Conversely, just because you like someone personally doesn't mean that you'll want to have them in your Trusted Network.

- This engine is going to be helpful for a lot more than just products and services. It's a quick way to see a compilation of what all your favorite reviewers are talking about on the site, whether it be MP3 Players or Things That Smell Bad.

Stay tuned.... hopefully we'll get this thing launched for public consumption in the next couple of days.


A random smattering of amusing posts

Traderboy laments the fall of the Quarter Pounder with Cheese and Big Mac.

Sperryc insists that the Rolling Stones still rock, despite their age.

Alpepper advises you not to wear live strong bracelets near electrical equipment.

And Dodneh reviews the classic movie, "The Bad Seed."


WebList approval bug is now fixed

You should now be able to approve new WebList suggestions that have reviews associated with them.

Let me know if anything else broke...

Some More Comments on Site Search

So very quietly, we have been tightening and tweaking the new search engine. I think we're getting close, and in my personal opinion, the new search engine is already far more useful and flexible than the old search engine.

The next step is to roll in a spell-catcher for search queries - this should happen in the next couple of days.

As always, feedback is welcome....

Animated Banner Ads...

... are being filtered off the site as we speak.

If you come across a particularly obnoxious, slow loading ad that slows down page performance, please let me know and we can nuke it.


Recommendation Engine

So I just thought I would share with you guys how I envision the first iteration of the RateItAll recommendation engine.

The idea is pretty simple - provide a tool that lets us specify what sort of recommendations we are looking for (TV, Movies, Books, Restaurants, Travel, etc.) and how far outside of our Trusted Network we are willing to go to find those recommendations.

Clicking "Submit" will spit out all of the reviews that meet your parameters.

Eventually we'll move to being able to filter any ratings list page in a similar fashion - so that you can see what the "RIA Universe" thinks, as compared to what your trusted network thinks.

And this feature doesn't have to apply only to products. Some of the most interesting discussions on RateItAll apply to areas like politics, religion, and celebrities. These trust filters will be a neat way to allow you to read the reviewers that you find most interesting, and ignore the rest.

Stay tuned....

Web 2.1 Conference

I went to a really neat "un-conference" on Friday called Web 2.1 put together by a very nice and smart guy named Chris Heuer. The basis of the conference was a discussion of the direction of the Web, with a focus on how the Web is getting more and more "participatory" in that media (news, postings, reviews, video, etc.) is increasingly being generated from the ground up via sites like Blogger, MySpace, and Wikipedia, as opposed to by big media corporations.

Anyway, there was about fifty of us Web nerds there, and the discussions ranged from how we can use the participatory Web to prepare ourselves and respond to Katrina-like disasters through projects like Recovery 2.0, to a very neat service called Zazzle which lets you upload artwork and pictures to be applied to custom t-shirts and gear, to a walk through of RateItAll.

I spoke specifically about my vision of transforming RateItAll to a customized recommendation engine for everybody, using the power of trusted networks.

Here's a somewhat blurry picture of my presentation, courtesy of Miss Rogue at HorsePigCow.


The Animated Ads...

... seem to be really slowing down the recent comments page, and the user profile pages.

I'm going to work with our agency to try and filter out the animated ones on Monday.

Sorry for the annoyance.


Lance and President Bush

LanceRoxas expresses the betrayal that some conservatives are feeling regarding President Bush's appointment of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

Speaking in Vegas

It looks like I'm going to be speaking at an Internet conference in Las Vegas in November. The conference goes from the 15th to the 17th.

I'll be speaking about things near and dear to my heart like online community, social networking, and consumer generated content.

If anybody is in Vegas around then, drop me a line!

Deleting Accounts, Comments, etc.

As there has been a lot of misinformation spread about this subject recently, I thought I would clarify a few things about how RateItAll deals with things like comment deletion and requests to remove entire accounts.

First and foremost, I suggest that everyone read the Terms of Service. This document has been virtually unchanged since the launch of the site in 1999, and covers quite specifically issues regarding RateItAll's liability on accuracy of reviews, ownership of reviews, indemnification, and all that good stuff.

On an operational level, here is where I stand on this stuff. Once a review has been submitted to the site, I believe that it has become part of the conversation. Posts tend to reference each other, and pulling a specific review from the conversation can tend to make the entire thread difficult to follow.

For this reason, other than in extreme situations, I am not purging accounts anymore. Users that get in trouble with things like Site Rules will more often than not see their accounts disabled, as opposed to removed. In fact, as a security precaution, I have made it very difficult for even Administrators, to remove accounts.

This wasn't always the case - folks who have been around a long time on the site probably remember instances where long time users, due to repeated site rules violations, had their accounts completely erased. Fortunately, we now have a "disable" tool that allows me to shut down an account, without removing comments/helpful votes/ratings from the conversation.

That being said, there is nothing stopping a reviewer in good standing from deleting their own reviews. As much as I don't support removing a review that has been submitted to the conversation, RateItAll has never prevented anyone from removing a post that they authored. While it is conceivable that the site could decide to restore a review after it has been removed by its author, this is an unlikely scenario as far as I'm concerned - and has never happened to date.

Weblists are a different story. Because Weblists are almost always populated by reviews from lots of different members of the community, I don't think it appropriate to allow Weblist authors to simply delete Weblists and all their associated reviews from the site.

I hope that helps to clarify some of these issues. As always, feel free to email me directly (lawrence at rateitall.com) with specific questions.


Check it Out

So I think this is a pretty neat page. It's a summary page, by user, of the Top 10,000 RateItAll members across a variety of categories.

Here are some definitions:

Total Contributions = Reviews + WebList Listings + New Item Additions

WebList Listings = The total number of items within all of that member's Weblists. So if I have 10 WebLists, each with 10 items, my WebList Listings would be 100.

New Item Additions = The number of new item suggestions (triggered by the Light Bulb icon) that have been submitted and accepted on RIA (Main, WebLists, Local).

Trusted By = The number of other RIA members that have indicated trust for that particular member.

RateItAll Member Since = The date they joined RIA.

Last Site Activity = The date of their last activity on RIA.

We're working through a few bugs on this page - The Trusted By column doesn't seem to be synching up with the Trust summary page, and the Last Site Activity is showing some inaccurate results in some places, but this page is close to being finished.

You can also sort this page by category, by clicking on the appropriate heading. For example, this page shows a ranking of top 10,000 reviewers by New Item Additions.

The other new page that we've created is a summary page of all of a particular user's New Item Additions. RIA Member m. a. duron has submitted 371 new, approved items to RIA.

Please feel free to mess around with this page, and let me know if you see anything screwy.


Couple Interesting New Weblists

I think Spartacus007 did a very good job with his Weblist breaking out the various GOP Factions. Each listing has images, and what would seem to be even-handed and thorough descriptions.

Also, RateItAll newcomer Kairho came up with a list of Power Tool Brands and Weather Web Sites that are worth checking out.


So I mentioned in a blog post a while back that I thought the "Helpful" button might be broken, and may not be the most accurate way to gauge a RateItAll member's on site reputation.

So why do I think this? Let's look for example at the page devoted to Cartoon Network. Scroll down the page a bit a take a look at the post that Magellan left. His comment, "Great!" received two helpful votes.

Is this really a helpful comment? Or did this comment receive two helpful votes based on the fact that he's been on the site a long time, knows a bunch of folks, has been known to leave helpful comments elsewhere, has a "moderator" tag, etc., etc. All kinds of possible reasons that this comment was considered helpful - unfortunately, the comment itself, was probably not one of them.

On a larger scale, this sort of use of the helpful button can be deceptive. For example, there is a Top 25 RIA user (no longer active with the site) who received nearly 40% of his/her helpful votes from a single user.

Is this cheating? No, of course not. There are no rules as to what constitutes a helpful vote. Is this misleading? Perhaps, when you consider that the purpose of Top XX tags is to indicate to readers of the site whose opinions have earned a little more respect among the community. To continue with this thought, if the reader knew that 40% of the helpful votes resulting in that Top 25 tag came from a single user, perhaps this would cause them to think twice about considering that reviewer one of the elite members of the site.

So how can we get around this sort of issue? How can we come up with a measure of site reputation that alerts newcomers to the site of a reviewer's reputation, as gauged by the community?

There's no easy answer to this. One of the things that I've been looking at is a consideration of all the different factors that might go into what might a "trusted" reviewer look like, from a purely statistical point of view. Things like tenure on the site, number of helpful votes, distribution of helpful votes, number of folks trusting that member, reputation of those trust that member, who the member trusts, etc, etc.

My goal is to come up with a formula that converts all of these helpful type behaviors into some sort of a tag to help readers know who has earned a reputation on RateItAll.

That's not to say that a newcomer to the site who has only left a single post cannot be trusted. Of course not. All we would be doing with this tag is to say that statistically speaking, you're better off trusting someone who has demonstrated a bunch of these behaviors than someone who hasn't.

My guess is that everyone who is reading this blog has earned a TREMENDOUS amount of reputation here. The point of this is not to separate folks into tiers - but to provide some quantifiable measure of how to recognize those who have helped make RIA the community what it is.

We're still a ways away from this. It's actually pretty complicated math to come up with something that scales, so it's a fairly big project.

However, in the next couple of days, we should be rolling out a summary table that tracks things like reviews left, new items suggested, weblist items managed, incoming trust votes, etc. The purpose of this table will be to recognize folks who have contributed to the community on a variety of different fronts - not just by receiving helpful votes.

Stay tuned for more info....

Known bug alert...

Both Genghis the Hun and Ridgewalker have alerted me to a bug in approving new Weblist submissions that contain a paragraph in the associated review.

If you encounter a Weblist suggestion that has this problem (you'll see an error message when you click "submit"), please just leave it in your inbox until we have fixed this bug.