Deleting low-quality games from IFDB: good or bad?

Edit: copied from lower down:
It seems like people think the following
-Games should never be removed (unless they expose IFDB to legal action, e.g. child pornography)
-games should not be mass-uploaded by bots
-there should be a way to flag games as broken and which can be factored into searches
End edit

Since there’s already one thread on theoretical IFDB policy, I thought I’d bring this one up.

I’ve always thought of IFDB as being a purely informational resource where anything can be listed.

Some authors have disliked their old works being listed on IFDB and have attempted to remove or censor that info. The consensus seems to have been that it’s important to preserve the older games.

On the other hand, someone wrote a bot for textadventures.co.uk a few years ago that automatically uploaded everything, including basic, unfinished tests and experiments. I think nobody really enjoyed having a constant flood of bad games mixed in with the good ones.

More recently, Zape has been adding tons of ChooseYourStory games, including some very good ones but also some ones that the CYS community themselves feel are extremely low quality. A few individuals have brought up the idea of deleting such low quality stories (such as games which are one or two pages with low-quality, troll-like writing).

When, if ever, do you think it’s acceptable to delete an IFDB entry? I lean more towards ‘if it’s on there, it’s on there forever’, except in cases of content that is widely illegal or which could be considered grossly offensive (I’m thinking of a game a few years back that tried to be as shocking as possible and which apparently contained pedophilia involving a young child. The entry was ‘wiped’ by the author by changing all the info to single characters, but the page still exists. There was also the game submitted to IFComp decades ago that contained the code for jailbreaking a DVD player, which was illegal to have posted online at the time and could have resulted in legal action against IFarchive at the time).

So, in your opinion, under what circumstances should deletion be possible?

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One issue is that anyone can put up an IFDB entry, even if they aren’t the author. This is by design since - for example - Infocom isn’t going to list their own historical games.

I would totally agree with a mechanism for an author to de-list their own game for whatever reason, but there may occur situations where the author isn’t even involved or aware of what’s going on.

I could imagine a button on IFDB entries “Flag for review” with reasons “This is not a valid game/This is a duplicate entry/This is spam” etc, and if enough people flag an entry it gets reviewed by some type of moderator or staff who can take appropriate action.

This is how Flags work here on Discourse - someone flagging a post alerts us to look at it, but if three users (or one user with a high trust level) flags it, the post is temporarily hidden from public view until Mods can take a look at it.

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My feeling is: only when it is definitely spam (so there is no ownership to speak of), or if it is definitely illegal and makes IFDB liable to prosecution. Grossly offensive but not illegal I would expect to be retained in a comprehensive archive, but it should be segregated in some way (perhaps an IFDB Private Case is needed after all). Aside from that, low quality is what high quality is judged against, so the former definitely needs to be retained.

I don’t like the idea of excluding games, because the question will always be: Where do you draw the line? Content which is obviously illegal should be prohibited, although laws vary by country so you have to be careful even there.

I would not be in favor of removing games that have been released, even if an author objects. Sometimes old and incomplete games are interesting for a variety of reasons. I know I find the different versions of Infocom games interesting due to different bugs, descriptions, behavior, etc. To borrow from the arcade emulation world: MAME supports beta and bootleg games because they are historically interesting, even for those not very fun to play.

I think a better system is one which can positively tag games.
Instead of segregating adult content or old/incomplete versions, simply allow games to be tagged as such. Perhaps even tag games as “kid friendly” as an alternative to, or in addition to, specific tags for all the things that might be offensive to some. Perhaps allow authors to tag “official” or final versions as well or at least allows games to be tagged as being different versions of the same game. Obviously curation is needed for that, as you can’t let random people add all the possible tags.

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Certainly. Perhaps “low-quality” might not be the exact term, but games that are broken or potentially intended as trolling (or don’t even actually exist) should have some sort of alert mechanism. There’s a difference between a poorly written and conceived game, and one that won’t even load correctly.

As an author of some erotic works, I’m the last person who wants someone to accidentally read and be offended by anything I write. I’m sure there are those who don’t share those views…either via genuine ignorance of public tone-moderation, or simple apathy. Those are also the kinds of things there should be moderation for. Even if it’s just “Hey, please don’t quote text from this potentially offensive scene in your review without at least a spoiler blur…”

I don’t think anyone is specifically in favor of completely banning legitimate works from IFDB solely based on content.

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A “broken” or “does not run” tag would suffice I think. Even broken games can be interesting, from a technical perspective, if legitimate and not just random trolling.

Edit: Depending on who’s adding the tags and how filtering is being done, a “runs” or “works” positive tag might be better, to automatically filter games that haven’t been tested? I’m just throwing out ideas. Feel free to ignore me.

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Some sort of I am not a robot confirmation should be added as a requirement for posting games. That way only a game an actual live human cares about would be eligible for inclusion.

I’m also in favor of tagging broken or unfinished games rather than removing them. They could be left out of search results unless the search criteria specifically includes them.

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It sounds like a proposal that a lot of people might agree with is (just rewriting previous posts):

-Games should not be removed unless they expose IFDB to legal action
-games should not be mass-uploaded by bots
-there should be a way to flag games as broken and which can be factored into searches

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In addition to (and not instead of) tagging games based on content, an option that might be worth exploring is letting people rate games at zero stars, and establishing a special meaning for a zero-star rating, something along the lines of “is broken, consists primarily or entirely of hate speech, is not a complete work, is an incredibly low-effort work with absolutely no payoff for anyone.” This could be beneficial by tying into existing systems that sort based on rating, for instance, so that if you sort by rating, the troll entries always appear last; it’s a way of leveraging an overall quality metric that doesn’t require the underlying code to also look at tags. (But, low-effort or no, I’m still generally in favor of indexing basically everything: someone may want to write a history of trolling in IF some day, and that would be an interesting project.)

If we’re worried that people will misunderstand what a zero rating is for (“I hate games with elves, yo”), we could pop up a confirmation asking if the user is sure (“Zero-star ratings are for … does this game conform …”), perhaps requiring the reviewer to add a tag explaining their decision.

“Doesn’t run” is a more complex issue, though. There are some games that got out into the wild even though their authors never finished with them, but there are also probably games out there that ran in the 80s, but were (say) written in an obscure dialect of BASIC for an uncommon machine that doesn’t have great contemporary emulators: does “doesn’t run” apply? (Heck, there are early DOS/Windows games that are hard to get running on contemporary PCs running Windows 10.) Sure, the mechanics of The Baker of Shireton are an intentional part of the game’s design, but does John Q. Reviewer know that when he’s rating it? (That’s assuming he’s rating it in good faith in the first place, too.) So perhaps there should be a threshold for number of ratings required to be counted as zero-star, or a minimum percentage of ratings that must meet that threshold, or something.

One man’s troll is another man’s pundit. Who’s deciding all this?

Sadly, the Internet has come to believe anyone disagreeing with you is a troll.

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Wait… Are you trolling? :thinking:

I’m kidding. But seriously, I agree with you. I think the only ones that should be flagged (and I prefer flagged over removed) are obvious trolls. By this, I mean like you start up a game and all it consists of is a Rick Astley video. That’s a troll and not a game.

On the other hand, I have seen some games (not necessarily on IFDB but just in general) which are community satire and make fun of specific members in a very hateful way. But that’s where the trolling line gets blurry. Satire versus people we know feels hateful, but the same thing targeted at celebrities we don’t know personally would be acceptable. It’d be tempting to mark this as a troll, but I don’t think it should be.

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I feel like this is really really really a bad idea.

The importance of IFDB is to have the most complete archive possible. Removing bad games just goes against the spirit of having a bibliographic database, IMHO.

It is like going to Archive.org and remove bad things just for the sake of it.

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I think the subject line clouds one of the core questions here, which is “should things which were never really meant to be published be listed in the database?”

The auto-uploaded-tests-and-experiments case seems ripe and ready for deletion. Something that was never consciously published to the public shouldn’t be catalogued like that. It’s a bad outcome, like if every video one made on their phone were suddenly added to IMDB. It’s unintended and unhelpful to all concerned to have an IMDB entry for 2021’s blockbuster 16 second experimental film “A Cat Sleeps Cutely”, Directed by Jason, etc. etc. show up.

The case of “there are some games published on ChoiceBasedPortal and hoo boy some of them are stiiiinky” is another matter. If it’s deliberately been made public by the author, even if it is terrible, then it should be fair game. (I’ll leave the follow-on “author’s-right-to-be-forgotten” issue for others.)

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I see no reason to keep programming exercises or practicing-with-a-new-dev-system if they somehow got added. I’m also happy to delete troll works.

We’re going to have an IFTF committee moderating IFDB in the future. Know what that means? If anyone thinks their story was wrongly identified as a troll entry, they can appeal. It won’t happen very often. So lets clear away the junk and have a better DB.

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I think one of the things clouding this issue here, too, is that “has been made public” used to mean more hurdles had been intentionally cleared by the author. For a long time it meant “at least one other human thought that circulating it was a good idea on some level.” A thousand years ago, if you had a copy of a book, that meant that someone had taken the time to copy that particular book out by hand. Two hundred years ago, having a copy of a book meant that a publisher either thought that it was financially remunerative or important enough to put money into printing. (Even vanity publishers make money off their printings, just not [primarily] from sales.)

Thirty years ago, having something on a website meant that someone had taken the time to engage in the technical processes necessary to make it accessible on the Web, possibly converting the content to HTML but definitely uploading and distributing a URL for it, at a time when the distribution channels were also largely manually handled. It might have been one person doing the writing and promotion and distribution, but there was a frictional cost to publication of an individual work, and there’s a good chance that, if nothing else, hosting it cost money. All of these were still obstacles that forced people to consider “do I really want to distribute this? Am I willing to pay the money and/or time required to do so?”

I’m not arguing one way or another for very-low-effort games here, nor am I intentionally trying to stir the pot; I’m just saying “intentionally released” has lost some of its value as a bright line here. If I can pound out an eight-hundred-word rant (“WhY mY MoRtaL eNeMY iS a TeRRuBuLL PerSOn”) in between tasks on a slow day at work, and then just hit a Publish button without editing and get free hosting and a permalink and an entry in a story distribution catalog, it seems like “has been released” doesn’t capture quite all of the nuances of “is this worth archiving” or “should we index this.”

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Succinctness isn’t anything one should eschew.

Indeed. Succinctness is nothing to eschew.

Well, maybe I did :slight_smile:

Don’t get me wrong, I would not want the great Quest bot-dump of the 2010s repeated for all the sensible reasons shared in this topic. But at least in terms of my personal enjoyment of life and reviewing, Captain Lighthouse’s Museum Mystery and Burglary! are a couple of my favourites.

-Wade

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This is Wikipedia’s notability debates all over again.

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I agree with the consensus that basically everything should be kept, with the big exception that duplicate entries should be deleted. I’ve seen a lot of cases where someone creates an entry, but then doesn’t seem to realize that it was created successfully (or just can’t find the entry?) so they create it again. (This also points to where the UX for entering games could be improved.)