Advogato Status Report
Mostly minor stuff. Setting a project staff relation to none now consistently removes the relation from your user profile. Thanks to Gary Benson for noticing the bug. I upgraded the server from CentOS 4.4 to 4.5. This was just a maintenance update and shouldn't cause any changes. We're having another wave of account spam lately but the new flagging system has largely controlled it. One of the spammers discovered a way of circumventing the code which strips anchor tags posted in the notes field of untrusted accounts. I've fixed the bug that allowed this.
GPL v3 Release Party in Dallas?
The GPLv3 is supposed to be released on 29 June. I saw joolean mention a GPLv3 release part in Brooklyn and figured, why not here in Dallas too? If there are any other Advogatoans in the DFW area who'd like to get together to celebrate the release of the new and improved GPL, let me know.
Trust Metric Growing Pains
The good news is that Advogato is growing again. The bad news is that this is bringing to light some issues with the trust metrics. First, there are a growing number of new users who have multiple certs but are still rated as observer. Second, there was the related incident with user OpenSpecies. Many people thought his blog posts looked spammy and flagged him as spam. Other users trusted him at Apprentice or Journeyer level but even with six or seven certs he never acquired enough gato-juice to reach Apprentice level. Because he stayed at Observer level, his account was always at risk of being classified as spam. This happened once, resulting in the decision to increase the spam score required to delete an account. I reinstated his account from a backup. A few months later it had been flagged as spam enough times to get deleted again. I restored it, however, OpenSpecies opted to move elsewhere and requested the account be permanently deleted.
The lack of gato-juice available for certifying people can be traced back to an issue with the trust metric seed users. Of the four original seed users, only raph is actively visiting Advogato and certifying users. Federico has visited in the last year but no longer certifies any users. Miguel hasn't visited in many years and only certified a handful of users. Alan has certified many users but no longer seems to be an active user himself (hopefully I'm wrong about that). This means there are really only two seeds and almost all the trust flowing to new users through certification is at best several generations removed from them.
To improve the situation, I'm going to add a few new seed users. This will need to be done gradually so that we can make sure it fixes the problem without resulting in cert inflation. My criteria for selecting new seed users will be: 1) Must be currently rated as a master by at least one of the original seed users 2) Must be rated as master by other non-seed users 3) Must be an active Advogato user who visits the site regularly and has posted at least one article 4) Must be reasonably well known within the community and have occasion to meet and interact with many other Free Software developers in person.
I talked with Raph about possible ways of handling this. Elections, nominations, automated selection by the trust metric itself, or just picking someone. Eventually, I think it would be interesting to have the trust metric select new seeds automatically as needed but that will take more time for testing and experimenting than I've got right now. So, initially I've opted for picking someone who meets the qualifications to save time. Our first new seed is: mako. By a handy coincidence, he's traveling to several European conferences over the next few weeks, giving him a chance to meet more people who may need certifying.
This is one of several things that I think should start pumping some new life into the trust metrics. Another issue I'm looking at is what to do with inactive users who have become stagnant sources in the trust metric network flow. These include users who will not return for one reason or another such as ettore, sisob or lilo. Trust passing through these nodes is essentially unchangeable, which is a problem because trust in the real world is dynamic. Sometimes we trust a person today that we didn't yesterday. Sometimes we no longer trust someone that we trusted in the past. If enough certs become stagnant and cannot be removed, this tends to make the trust metrics innaccurate. One way of dealing with this is to identify users who are inactive and expire their outbound certs automatically after enough time has elapsed. The tricky part is deciding how long a user has to go without visiting the site before being considered inactive. DV, for example, is an active user yet has gone for as much as a year between logins. Federico, one of our seed users, hasn't logged in for seven months. Right now, I'm thinking that exceeding one year without a login is a pretty good indication of inactivity.
Advogato showed up on a list of social network site statistics at the X2iN blog: Social Network Marketing, the Sky is the Limit.
Advogato's founder Raph Levien will be giving a talk titled Advogato: Lessons Learned at 6:30 PM on Monday, June 25 as part of Google's Open Source Developers @ Google series. The talk will be at Google's Mountain View campus. Guest are welcome and should sign in at Building 43.