How best to solve this? Like Apple does with news by having a human editorial team help curate?
Let’s start with some relevant data that may help us to make an informed decision.
Gaming the system is always going to be a problem when you give equal up votes to everyone.
One approach is to give some participants multiple upvotes to assign to a new post, based on
- the participants length of time on the platform (quantitative),
- number of posts with 20+ comment threads (hybrid),
- and overall awesomeness rating by the topic moderator (qualitative).
It doesn’t matter what formula you come up with—there is no perfect set of metrics. What’s important is that it doesn’t come down to a popularity contest.
Why is it so important to avoid popularity contest mechanics?
- On Twitter there are secret groups that share one Hootsuite account and like and retweet each other’s tweets to go viral.
- In the Blogosphere, there are mommy blogger groups that boost each other’s content on their blogs, on Twitter and in Facebook groups.
Note: I know personally someone who is involved in such secret groups.
I also have a family member who has 20,000 followers without ever resorting to such games. So even in the most gamed up system, it’s still possible for great content creators to get their voices heard.
Curating Great Comments
I saw your pic of the New York Times featuring a well-crafted comment. Being chosen for such an honor would be to me the equivalent of having your caption chosen for a New Yorker cartoon.
From an optimization standpoint, you want to be able to have this process scalable when you grow to 80,000(?) participants. What if your moderator gets sick or you can’t hire more fast enough?
One approach would be to curate the featured comment. Then assign the commenter featured status for a period of time: you could showcase their profile with all their recent posts and comments. As the community grows that time period could shrink from a week to a few days or even a few hours.
Use the data analytics built into your platform, as well as moderator judgment, to curate quality content. And provide 15 minutes of fame to the content creators who increase whatever engagement makes both ethical and economic sense for the platform’s long-term success.