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Require author byline for articles?


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#1 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10445

Posted 21 March 2013 - 09:26 AM

I'd like us to require some sort of byline for the new articles. As it stands, it is very hard to tell at a glance if the author speaks with any authority.

 

As an example, consider the Social Media Handbook Policy - it seems like a great article, but it is dispensing legal advice, and I have no indication whether the author is actually a lawyer:

  • The article contains no mention of the author's profession or employer.
  • The author only recently joined GameDev, and has no posts.
  • The author's profile contains no indication of their profession or employer, and uses a generic gmail address.

 

Now, in this particular case, you can punch the author's name into google, and discover she is an attorney at the NLRB, with a solid history of video game-related research.

 

But this won't work for lesser-known individuals, or those with more common names, and I shouldn't have to google to find this out, when it could be called out in the article itself...


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#2 Stormynature   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3423

Posted 21 March 2013 - 10:46 AM

I agree with this but I also disagree with this -- the article itself must be the focus of whether it stands up to peer review. (though admittedly in your case cited above this could be tricksome as we have few lawyers in this case associated with this site)

 

I don't want to see situations where judgements get made as a result of the experience/inexperience of the article's author excepting in situations where the article itself is inappropriate/poorly constructed/downright stupid i.e. not to the level that we want for Gamedev. I have seen many articles over the years that reflect poorly on industry veterans as well insightful articles from relative newcomers. I agree that some level of author identification would be nice inline with the points you mention, but it should be an adjunct not an imprimatur in of itself.

 

 

 

Also with regard Google searches - they are at best "flawed" in providing information as an example using myself. My real name is on my profile. (NOTE: Please do not redact the following as I believe that this is actually quite relevant in establishing an important point)

 

A google search will not reveal the following about me:

 

It will not reveal that I was incarcerated in 1987 and subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment.

It will not reveal that I was released in 2006 on licence.

It will not reveal that I have $40k in Hecs debts from studying a variety of subjects - although I have no degree.

It will not reveal that I am a published author. Though it will do so soon, as I will be publishing finally under my own name.

It will not reveal that I spent 16 years aiding other inmates in the area of criminal law with a high degree of success although I am not and can never be a lawyer. 

 

These are just some small points about myself that can not be found on Google...admittedly my case is somewhat beyond the norm. But and this is the point I am trying to make...I do not believe that the quality of my posts on this site overall reflect poorly upon me. I have no doubt that examples where I have f*cked up can be found --- but this is where peer review comes in and has done so. It is what makes this site so strong (and does not truly pay attention most of the time to the poster's IRL persona)  and it should carry into the articles just as strongly. That said I also agree with you that an author bio should exist and it would contribute somewhat to an article's credibility, but it should be secondary to the legitimacy of the article's value in of itself.

 

 

Excerpted from Guidelines and Tips for Writing Articles

 

About the Author

This is a section many like to place at the end of their articles to give background on their expertise to let readers recognize their ability to cover the topic of the article. Please, do not write a full bio. A paragraph at most will give people an idea of your qualifications related to the subject matter. We actually recommend that you leave out this section entirely and instead keep the About Me section of your user profile updated with all of your qualifications. This will save you time from having to re-write this section multiple times or go back to edit it if anything changes.

 

This could be rewritten to emphasise more strongly the use of an Author bio or profile page in establishing credibility with regard articles. 

 

 

 

Oh and if in the oft chance that someone wishes to know more about my past. Bugger off....please smile.png


Edited by Stormynature, 21 March 2013 - 10:59 AM.


#3 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10445

Posted 21 March 2013 - 11:04 AM

I agree with this but I also disagree with this -- the article itself must be the focus of whether it stands up to peer review. (though admittedly in your case cited above this could be tricksome as we have few lawyers in this case associated with this site)

Peer review is only valuable insofar as I trust the opinions of those providing the feedback. In this case, Mike has provided positive peer review, but that means very little to me, because Mike's reputation (at least to me) is not as a lawyer.

 

In place of the current generic peer review system, I'd rather see a series of tags: "reviewed by a practicing lawyer", "reviewed by a DirectX MVP", "reviewed by a PhD researcher in the field of AI", etc.

 

It's part of the broader discussion we have every few years, about establishing reputation. This site's membership has a huge body of knowledge and experience to offer, but it's often hard to tell whether you are being advised by an experience professional, or someone who just picked up "Learn C++ in 24 hours".


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#4 Cornstalks   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6991

Posted 21 March 2013 - 11:06 AM

+1 for bylines.


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#5 Stormynature   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3423

Posted 21 March 2013 - 11:29 AM

In place of the current generic peer review system, I'd rather see a series of tags: "reviewed by a practicing lawyer", "reviewed by a DirectX MVP", "reviewed by a PhD researcher in the field of AI", etc.

 

I agree with this -- but I would like to see a fusion of both the generic as well the specialist. The value of a generic opinion should not be discounted out of hand.

 

I do believe if we get tags such as you mention -- they should be only accessible to those who have established and provided proofs of an appropriate qualification. Also from a legal perspective... a lawyer would not necessarily want his/her review to carry legal weight (as in liability) in having given their review. Probably all legal articles should be prefaced with a "get out of jail free" card, to avoid future issues

 

 

 

It's part of the broader discussion we have every few years, about establishing reputation. This site's membership has a huge body of knowledge and experience to offer, but it's often hard to tell whether you are being advised by an experience professional, or someone who just picked up "Learn C++ in 24 hours".

 

I agree - esp. in the creative/business areas. Trawling through the technical side I tend to observe that peer review of posts tends to be quite rapid and disciplinarian in dealing with errant posts. Where as in the creative writing/design forums a lot of it comes down to opinions and everybody has them or the business section where many who provide advice do so from very different experience sets. It is not an easy process but for the most part I believe that the vast majority of threads in any of the forums on GameDev tends to be answered sufficiently well enough to meet the OP's needs.

 

What I think the hardest issue will be is actually getting enough people to actively review articles to ensure that standards are held high.

 

 

Edit: I don't think I emphasised the point about the legal articles enough. GameDev does need a legal disclaimer associated with these types of articles including an understanding that many articles of this nature are "localised" i.e. addressing the laws in one specific country and not some or all countries collectively.


Edited by Stormynature, 21 March 2013 - 11:37 AM.


#6 Michael Tanczos   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 5456

Posted 21 March 2013 - 06:04 PM

I like the idea of an author posting their biographical information.   That could be very helpful.   That reminds me that I need to print more about the license used at the very end as well as a little more of an expanded profile.

 

I'm not entirely convinced that what a person does necessarily makes them an expert.   We have some pretty good programmers on this site who couldn't string two sentences together.  I think if you read the article closely it's fairly easy to tell if the author knows what they are talking about.   Beginners tend to gloss over intricate details and focus on the basics, where experts tend to focus on the intricate details and skip over the basics.   

 

The point of this system is not to produce academic-style peer reviewed work.   It is to allow the community to punt poor quality articles out of the system and encourage a larger number of contributions.   One of the things we wanted to do with articles was get rid of the idea that articles have to be put on this pedestal as shining examples of work.   So many people globally have turned to blogs to post all sorts of great articles and we tried to figure out why.   

 

We came up with three reasons:

  • A development blog is good for self-promotion and drumming up interest in a project
  • The expectations for a blog entry are unclear, making it okay to post anything you want without restriction
  • Posting blog entries is a very easy process
  • People aren't as critical of blog entries as they are of articles

 

Hell, Gamasutra fishes most of their content from the net from blogs.   We wanted to start working on lowering the barrier to entry while also improving the way our community perceives authorship.  With our new approach we have a basic editorial check that either I or Drew does that allows the article to pass through and be posted.   We are not checking at all to determine if the article content is good.. that will be the job of the community.  It goes through an "Under Review" stage where the community gets to offer feedback on what to change with the article.  

 

Rather than recruit specific experts to review articles like the old Editorial Review Board might have done, we allow those with the special "Peer Review" privilege to make the call.   This will come from expert community members and those with a sufficiently high rating.

 

When three community members mark an article Peer Reviewed, they are stating that the article is not necessarily perfect or flawless, but of sufficient quality to be put into our archive permanently.   When an article is "Under Review" it can actually be delisted if three members decide that it just doesn't have the quality to be posted publicly.   It sends the message to the author to go back to the drawing board, tweak it a bit and make it better, and then come back with a better version (or abandon the article).


Edited by Michael Tanczos, 21 March 2013 - 06:20 PM.


#7 Alpha_ProgDes   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4692

Posted 21 March 2013 - 06:37 PM

Is there anyway for a member to verify their credentials with GameDev (as an option not a requirement) and have that show on their article, profile, and/or name?

 

For example, this particular person is giving legal advice and wants to state as much. So he/she goes to the Senior Staff, gives his/her credentials, then the Senior Staff vets it, approves it, and gives that person a IAAL icon or title. That's let everyone knows that this person is who they say they are.

 

Well this is just one way of doing something like verifiying credentials.


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#8 Michael Tanczos   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 5456

Posted 21 March 2013 - 07:54 PM

I'm re-added the bio field and will be adding the license.   For the author I'll add their profile pic and some more details (as available) from their profile.. if they filled in the bio I'll show that as well.   I'm adding this on a per-article basis just to keep the bio the author has at the time of writing.


Edited by Michael Tanczos, 21 March 2013 - 07:55 PM.


#9 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10445

Posted 22 March 2013 - 07:32 AM

I'm not entirely convinced that what a person does necessarily makes them an expert.   We have some pretty good programmers on this site who couldn't string two sentences together.

That doesn't make them any less of an expert, though. It just makes them a poor writer. And that's the sort of thing that a peer-review feedback loop, or a mandatory editing cycle, can fix.

 

I think if you read the article closely it's fairly easy to tell if the author knows what they are talking about.

That may be fine for engineers reading technical articles, where they can go check if the author's solution works. It doesn't work for legal or business articles, though, because we don't have the expertise to verify the content, and mistakes in those fields can be very costly.

 

The point of this system is not to produce academic-style peer reviewed work.

If we are building a system to accumulate blogs, then fair enough. In my mind that's not actually a useful thing to do - google already allows me to find every blog on the planet.

 

A peer-review system is generally designed so that I can pick up any article, and be assured that the information within is clear, legible, correct to the best knowledge of the review board, and edited to a common set of formatting and writing conventions. We appear to be guaranteeing none of the above.


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#10 Michael Tanczos   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 5456

Posted 22 March 2013 - 06:20 PM

I'm not entirely convinced that what a person does necessarily makes them an expert.   We have some pretty good programmers on this site who couldn't string two sentences together.

That doesn't make them any less of an expert, though. It just makes them a poor writer. And that's the sort of thing that a peer-review feedback loop, or a mandatory editing cycle, can fix.

 

On second thought I agree with you.. 

 

 

I think if you read the article closely it's fairly easy to tell if the author knows what they are talking about.

That may be fine for engineers reading technical articles, where they can go check if the author's solution works. It doesn't work for legal or business articles, though, because we don't have the expertise to verify the content, and mistakes in those fields can be very costly.

 

 

I think that's always going to be tough though to pull together the perfect group for peer review for each article.   I don't want to go back to a board though as I want the process to be a little more open to the masses.   It is tricky though for non-technical articles though.   Hopefully someone with expertise can point out defects in the commentary.

 

 

The point of this system is not to produce academic-style peer reviewed work.

If we are building a system to accumulate blogs, then fair enough. In my mind that's not actually a useful thing to do - google already allows me to find every blog on the planet.

 

A peer-review system is generally designed so that I can pick up any article, and be assured that the information within is clear, legible, correct to the best knowledge of the review board, and edited to a common set of formatting and writing conventions. We appear to be guaranteeing none of the above.

 

We are looking to at least follow a common set of formatting and writing conventions.   We do have a template we are trying to adhere to for new articles.   If it comes down to it though, I would rather have 100 non peer-reviewed articles in the traditional sense than 5 peer-reviewed articles.   The community-at-large can always up/down vote any given article no matter what.   From our perspective we were facing a major, major lack of submissions to the ERB so something there was broken.   I'm always open to suggestions for how to improve this.   So far we've had more submissions in the last week than we had in the last 3 years.



#11 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 21198

Posted 22 March 2013 - 06:51 PM

I think if you read the article closely it's fairly easy to tell if the author knows what they are talking about. Beginners tend to gloss over intricate details and focus on the basics, where experts tend to focus on the intricate details and skip over the basics.

If you have knowledge of the subject matter, then it's easy to see if an author knows what they are talking about, but if you are a beginner, it is fairly common on the internet to have articles, tutorials, and videos, where the author just learned the subject themselves and are now repeating the information they themselves don't fully understand, and are accidentally mixing in wrong information with the correct information. The beginners can't detect it, so they believe the good and the bad.

Peer-review is important, but should an article that is 90% correct be rejected because it is 10% wrong? On the other hand, should the 10% wrong be allowed to continue to exist while waiting for the original author to fix it? The peer-reviewers should be able to edit articles, and the original author and other peer-reviewers should be able to see the history of edits, and the author should be informed of the edit. Even easy-to-make mistakes might misinform a beginner for years to come, and the sooner those mistakes are caught, the better.

Edited by Servant of the Lord, 22 March 2013 - 07:25 PM.

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#12 Zipster   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 886

Posted 04 April 2013 - 01:18 PM

I don't think that biographical info or "expert" tags are going to solve the issue of establishing authority. I actually worry that labeling someone as an authority on a particular subject will lure us into a false sense of security, where we take their word as gospel and fail to notice mistakes or scrutinize their content as closely as we would, say, a new member of the site without an established background. Nobody's perfect, and as Servant of the Lord pointed out, misinformation gleaned as a beginner can persist for years, even as this individual goes on to become a supposed expert and begins handing out potentially incorrect advice to others and being taken at their word, so it's never safe to assume that even a labeled expert knows what they're talking about 100% of the time. That being said, I'm not strictly against the idea of tags, because there are certainly users who have demonstrated that they know a particular field quite well and their knowledge should carry some weight, just so long as we remain vigilant during the review process and not pass any premature judgement based on such tags.

 

At the end of the day though, I am perfectly happy with a peer-review system where any individual with well-constructed feedback (with or without verified credentials) can weigh in on the validity or correctness of an article, and discussion/edits can take place until the editor-in-chief (Mike?) deems that the article has been peer-reviewed sufficiently and can be tagged as such. If the author (or reviewer) happens to be talking out their ass, then the process will shed light on that quickly enough without needing any expert stamp of approval. Likewise, if an error or two does happen to slip through the cracks, then readers can certainly comment on the article and point out these errors. After all, this isn't a StackExchange-style site where discussion is discouraged in favor of a strict question and answer format... it's quite to the contrary. If anything, this commentary because supplementary to the article itself and can provide just as much useful knowledge as the article itself.






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