Some thoughts based on my time as Moby approver

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Some thoughts based on my time as Moby approver

Postby Trypticon » 13 Oct 2016, 00:59

Injecting a bit of life here and maybe something to discuss. I wrote some months ago I acquired some experience as Moby approver. This was in some ways illuminating. I've now found some motivation now to actually write a bit about structural problems which I believe can be extrapolated to similar databases. Why did it took so long? The reason I actually mentioned it before was that I had a 'this is the last straw" moment and decided to not do anything major at Moby anymore. I'm only very sporadic active now there. I considered to do more again over at the UVL, but found things that aren't really going in the right direction there in my opinion either, and decided to focus on other things, like actually playing games for my enjoyment etc.

So here are a few of my thoughts based on my time there:

1) Concerning the people who oversee things:
As far as I know, Moby started out as a PC-only database of limited scope. And the people managing it were definitely familiar with the platform.
Over time, more and more platforms and things were documented. The scope was expanded, leading to more and more content submitted. Which required more people to oversee things and rules to follow. There are obviously various factors involved, but consider the direction Moby is moving now:
- Every approver with access to every platform
- Autoapproval
- More and more approvers. I have no idea what their qualifications are.

The bottom line is, if you contribute to Moby and probably any other database of similar scope - you cannot expect that the person overseeing it is some sort of 'expert'.

Communication and decision making processes are also becoming difficult the more people are involved. There is no formal process for informing people at Moby who were away for some time.

2)Concerning the people who contribute:

My impression is that least 80% of new contributors don't give any kind of source for what they contribute. Most people do not make an effort (or are not capable) of judging things in context, or even bother to read properly (or at all, which is why providing written help is of limited value....) .This is of course in some ways understandable, when you just want to help and provide some information quickly. But that's often in tension with the effort that is required to make (or keep) a game entry as accurate and fitting within the standards.

Descriptions are another example fitting into this - again consider that site management at Moby isn't really behind descriptions and stub entries are now on the table. There are reasons for that (lack of quality among others.) For instance, some people submit game entries despite having rather lacking English skills(it's not my first language either, but you can probably imagine worse..), what do you do with their submissions? Reject them, or take it upon yourself to make them somewhat coherent and informative?
Not many people are persistent! I tried my best to be of help, but some people simply don't bother to resubmit when you tell them there are problems with their submissions. Again just like 1) There is a limited pool of people willing and able to do this stuff.
There is probably more, but leaving it for now at that. Any questions, thoughts?
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Re: Some thoughts based on my time as Moby approver

Postby MZ per X » 14 Oct 2016, 15:44

Welcome back! :) Thanks for your input!

Trypticon wrote:Injecting a bit of life here and maybe something to discuss.

My life here currently happens in the wiki, where I try to translate the TheLegacy platforms to the Oregami model. A time-consuming and research-intensive task, as I am not the hardware nerd. But it's mandatory for a TL data import, so there goes.

Trypticon wrote:...I had a 'this is the last straw" moment and decided to not do anything major at Moby anymore. I'm only very sporadic active now there. I considered to do more again over at the UVL, but found things that aren't really going in the right direction there in my opinion either, and decided to focus on other things, like actually playing games for my enjoyment etc.

Gaming is very important from time to time to remind us why we are doing all this here. :) But may I ask what this Moby moment was that put you off there, and what things put you off of UVL?

Trypticon wrote:There are obviously various factors involved, but consider the direction Moby is moving now:
- Every approver with access to every platform
- Autoapproval
- More and more approvers. I have no idea what their qualifications are.

You are obviously talking about a quality drop. I already had this impression right after Blue Flame took over the site, sorry to see it's not going to get better again.

OTOH I understand the Moby people. Getting your database filled is always a trade-off between quality and quantity, you probably can't really have both. But MobyGames has a reputation for quality which is not going to go away soon, no matter the current policies, so why not fill up the database quicker? Only few people are nerd enough to notice the quality drop, and even fewer people care.

Trypticon wrote:The bottom line is, if you contribute to Moby and probably any other database of similar scope - you cannot expect that the person overseeing it is some sort of 'expert'.

Yes, but with good sourcing the amount of contributions that really need an expert to approve may be rather low. I mean, we can all read and know how to search the Internet. Key is good sourcing and making the sources available for everyone to check later on. And yes, that one is hard to achieve in itself (see your point 2).

One of our goals is to have a fine-grained approval system, so that people can steadily grow into becoming an approve-all user.

Trypticon wrote:Communication and decision making processes are also becoming difficult the more people are involved. There is no formal process for informing people at Moby who were away for some time.

I've never been an approver at Moby, but I think that all policies should be part of the approval process, in bite-sized pieces, so no one can say he/she didn't know. A hidden remote text desert, or even sprinkled forum threads, won't suffice. The important parts of the policy (like the decision of a new game, release group, release) should be explicitly asked for in the approval forms, so the approver has to click something to show he/she checked it. Changes to these policies should be discussed publicly, then voted for among the persons eligible (approvers?). Furthermore, inactive approvers should be stripped of their rights after some time, I'd say.

Trypticon wrote:My impression is that least 80% of new contributors don't give any kind of source for what they contribute. Most people do not make an effort (or are not capable) of judging things in context, or even bother to read properly (or at all, which is why providing written help is of limited value....) .This is of course in some ways understandable, when you just want to help and provide some information quickly. But that's often in tension with the effort that is required to make (or keep) a game entry as accurate and fitting within the standards.

That's a big problem, yeah. But IMHO that's also a question of scope. At Oregami, we should make it very clear to outsiders from the very beginning, that we're not another game database site where you can quickly add your collection to. This information to new users should start at the registration process already, and should be repeated loudly and clearly when they attempt their first contributions, so they're not disappointed later on. I know, this will put off some people, but who? Will it put off those contributing quick data without sourcing? That's the hope.

Trypticon wrote:Descriptions are another example fitting into this - again consider that site management at Moby isn't really behind descriptions and stub entries are now on the table. There are reasons for that (lack of quality among others.) For instance, some people submit game entries despite having rather lacking English skills(it's not my first language either, but you can probably imagine worse..), what do you do with their submissions? Reject them, or take it upon yourself to make them somewhat coherent and informative?

I wouldn't reject, if the contribution is good to go otherwise. And it can't be the approver's task to improve the description, if he/she doesn't want to. We need a way to flag descriptions that are not good enough, then we can show that to the viewers and ask for improvement.

I know that this opinion somehow implies that I would accept entries without description. I'm quite undecided on that, but a data import from TL will give us tens of thousands of games without description anyway, so... Maybe writing a description could be part of the inevitable re-checking of every game entry after a data import? Might job! :)

Trypticon wrote:Not many people are persistent! I tried my best to be of help, but some people simply don't bother to resubmit when you tell them there are problems with their submissions. Again just like 1) There is a limited pool of people willing and able to do this stuff.

Although it may be sad to see good contributions vanish, do we really need the people that can't be educated? Not sure. As I said above, we should be very clear about the scope and intentions of Oregami, and that people will need to learn the data model and provide sources, if they want to contribute. Then they can expect to get their submissions commented on and sent back.

OTOH, my idea here is to drop the reward model (contribution points), TL became big without rewards. This would not only avoid a whole complex of problems, but also allow us to open up contributions for everyone under certain rules, so good contributions wouldn't get lost.
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Re: Some thoughts based on my time as Moby approver

Postby Trypticon » 16 Oct 2016, 21:59

MZ per X wrote:Welcome back! :) Thanks for your input!

My life here currently happens in the wiki, where I try to translate the TheLegacy platforms to the Oregami model. A time-consuming and research-intensive task, as I am not the hardware nerd. But it's mandatory for a TL data import, so there goes.


I see.
Gaming is very important from time to time to remind us why we are doing all this here. :) But may I ask what this Moby moment was that put you off there, and what things put you off of UVL?


There was of course already some frustration like many people have, I already articulated some of it when asked last year:

http://www.mobygames.com/forums/dga,2/d ... gm,211056/

(Scroll down to my second post in the thread, I forgot how you link to a message).

Point 1) is a hint about what happened. There were a few particular teachable moments, last thing that happened was that I was told to "feel free to fix" an entry, which I took as confirmation of not caring about basics.

At the UVL, they started to shove unrelated new platforms into established ones as a "temporary solution". E.g. the Amstrad CPC list also contains Amstrad PCW and Tatung Einstein games, marked by Tags.
So this was me:

Image

You are obviously talking about a quality drop. I already had this impression right after Blue Flame took over the site, sorry to see it's not going to get better again.


Right after Blue Flame took over the site? They brought me in as approver..*dundundundun*

Actually, I'm seeing it more as problem of overambition, the foundation was already laid by old management. In certain ways, Moby is merely regressing to it's early days then.
Sources for example are basically absent for stuff submitted until about ~2005/06.
At some point, I guess standards were written down etc. Then things degraded, culminating in the Gamefly takeover.

Then Blue Flame came in, but they really had mostly a hands off approach from what I remember, except when it came to the site design, where Reed bluntly stated that the changes are needed in his view. Made sense I thought, they evidently came as outsiders, weren't really familiar with the site. The problems took a while to emerge in my view.

Yes, but with good sourcing the amount of contributions that really need an expert to approve may be rather low. I mean, we can all read and know how to search the Internet. Key is good sourcing and making the sources available for everyone to check later on. And yes, that one is hard to achieve in itself (see your point 2)


Depends on what you mean by 'we'. E.g I did a few Wikipedia edits where I gave contemporary sources. Those edits were initially reverted because
- Somebody turned something into a review which it wasn't, suggesting there was indeed a problem with reading.
- Somebody came back to me with a google search stating that 'several sites give date X'. Which was utterly meaningless in context. But technically, that person could search the internet.

I don't want to sound too cynical, or claim to be the videogame historian of our ages, but those are the kind of anecdotes that feed into my view there's a lot of room for improvement when it comes to game documentation.
OTOH, my idea here is to drop the reward model (contribution points), TL became big without rewards. This would not only avoid a whole complex of problems, but also allow us to open up contributions for everyone under certain rules, so good contributions wouldn't get lost.

Yeah, I was also realizing how crippling the point system has proven to be in some instances, and how much energy people invest in thinking about what should be 'fair'.
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Re: Some thoughts based on my time as Moby approver

Postby MZ per X » 20 Oct 2016, 21:46

Trypticon wrote:Right after Blue Flame took over the site? They brought me in as approver..*dundundundun*

*giggle* I remember having the impression of an accelerated approval speed, which along with the talk of the new owners of ripping through the queues made me feel uncomfortable about the quality.

Trypticon wrote:Depends on what you mean by 'we'. E.g I did a few Wikipedia edits where I gave contemporary sources. Those edits were initially reverted because
- Somebody turned something into a review which it wasn't, suggesting there was indeed a problem with reading.
- Somebody came back to me with a google search stating that 'several sites give date X'. Which was utterly meaningless in context. But technically, that person could search the internet.

The problem seems to be people not reading, but only skimming through. That's a serious issue. But editing Wikipedia? How masochistic! I tried it once in my field of expertise, and found it being in vain in the end. If you don't guard your articles/edits, someone will just drive by and ruin it. :)

Trypticon wrote:I don't want to sound too cynical, or claim to be the videogame historian of our ages, but those are the kind of anecdotes that feed into my view there's a lot of room for improvement when it comes to game documentation.

There is. That's why we still try to get Oregami online, although it takes an eternity. :)

Trypticon wrote:Yeah, I was also realizing how crippling the point system has proven to be in some instances, and how much energy people invest in thinking about what should be 'fair'.

Exactly. And a system of contribution rewards will never be 'fair' or free from abuse. So drop the idea. The idea of true collaborative contributing came up on the Moby forums once in a while, and it always fascinated me, like the 'Missing Games Spreadsheet' fascinated me. :) But I deemed this impossible with a points system in place.
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