User:ringmaster/IRC Voice

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A short background on what IRC voice is and why we might need it.

IRC voice is a capability of freenode that allows users to have "status" within an IRC room. This status can be granted for arbitrary reasons by the room operator, but is generally awarded to users who have demonstrated some expertise on the topic on which the room is founded.

For WordPress, IRC Voice could be used to identify those users who have sufficient expertise with WordPress to offer advice. This could help novice users that seek out IRC as a means of support identify who is an authority; who can realistically give them help. This type of label could be especially important for the IRC medium, which does not typically offer logs that a user could gain knowledge of which users are most capable.

What voice is and is not

Voice is:

  • A way for novice to identify those who are helping, will know correct answers or how to find them, and won't purposefully mislead.
  • A way for users who are helped to recognize the service of volunteers.

Voice is not:

  • A means to beknight anyone with arbitrary titles or privileges.
  • A means of bringing soft-spoken users to the forefront.

My Argument Against Voice

Voice is monotone. Either you have it or not. There is no way to differentiate an expert on MySQL from an expert on CSS. There is no way to tell a seasoned theme designer from a weathered plugin coder.

Sometimes it would even be better to be able to ask someone "Who here *would* know about my problem?" But voice would not allow that.

A Possible Alternative to Voice

There are 80 bots in the WP IRC channel. Apart from killing about 79 of them, a change in one of them could allow us to see this type of feature on the IRC channel.

For example, if I wanted to define a person as a documentation expert, I could issue a command such as:

$expert documentation carthik
voicebot:ringmaster nominates carthik as a documentation expert(53)

Users cannot grant expert status onto themselves.

Later, if someone wanted to find an expert, this information could be retrieved like so:

$expert documentation
voicebot: documentation experts online: carthik(53) skippy(42)

The (53) would indicate how many times this person had been nominated as an expert.

If an IRC visitor didn't know carthiki and wanted to verify his expertise, he could issue this command:

$verify carthik
voicebot: carthik is an expert on: documentation, codex

Or this:

$verify carthik documentation
voicebot: carthik was nominated as a documentation expert most recently by ringmaster, Skippy, and 51 other users.

This basically would emulate the karma schemes, but would attribute certain characteristics to users, not just bump around a single number.

A more complex algorithm could grant more weight to a users' nomination for expertise if the nomination came from someone who themselves had significant expertise.