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On scoop, the main value of the ratings system is to allow users to
give each other a small amount of trust. With trust comes the ability
to operate censorship of comments to keep discussions clean, but this
is too dangerous to give right away to somebody who's just signed up.
You can't keep trust over time, so it needs to be replenished over time
by having others rate your comments.
Most people in my experience give 4s in this spirit. Some people like to
use "4" as a kind
of short hand for "I've read your comment, but I'm not going to reply".
Very few people use the full range, and if they do, they tire of it.
The scale of the ratings doesn't actually matter.
On kuro5hin where the rating system that you see here was invented, the
range used to go to 6 or 7 I think, and the only thing that changed was that
people would rate comments 7 instead of 4.
When a story got a lot of commentors, ratings wars were inevitably started,
with the idea that highly rated comments should be visible earlier. This usually involved a lot of sockpuppet accounts, but since scoop has several ways of ordering comments, it didn't truly matter to readers. However, highly rated comments tend to gather more replies over time.
At some point, the idea of two ratings numbers was introduced, because some people felt that a 4 rating given by 10 people was more reliable than a 4 rating given by 1 person. IIRC, the non-rating threshold was added to reduce the variability of the rating value because people got tired of comments jumping all over the place.
All these things can (and have been) gamed. It happens naturally once there is a critical mass of people reading and commenting on a story. In fact, on kuro5hin the diary system was evolved precisely to allow people to write small personal interest stories that nobody cared about, just for their friends to read.
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$
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