Cliff Lampe and I have just completed a paper to appear at the CHI04 conference.
Can a system of distributed moderation quickly and consistently separate high and low quality comments in an online conversation? Analysis of the site Slashdot.org suggests that the answer is a qualified yes, but that important challenges remain for designers of such systems. Thousands of users act as moderators. Final scores for comments are reasonably dispersed and the community generally agrees that moderations are fair. On the other hand, much of a conversation can pass before the best and worst comments are identified. Of those moderations that were judged unfair, only about half were subsequently counterbalanced by a moderation in the other direction. And comments with low scores, not at top-level, or posted late in a conversation were more likely to be overlooked by moderators.