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Old 07-16-2002, 02:54 AM   #1
doclabs
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In about one hour's time, the MUD Aabahran generated well over 100 votes. This should be noted for a reason. Several of us now have been tracking Aabahran's number of users logged. During a six-hour period, their average number of users was 12. Even if there were twelve different players each hour that voted, that still constitutes only 72 votes. On behalf of the honest members of the TMS community, I am requesting that Aabahran's activity be reviewed for foul play.
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Old 07-16-2002, 01:38 PM   #2
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Note that my point here need not coincide with my personal views.

The voting system does not require that a player be logged into the game for their vote to count. Rather, it checks IP address against a list. Most likely, this system simply records the entire IP, rather than accounting for dynamically-built IPs and basing it off the IP address and netmask, as could easily be done (and I have advocated in the past).

It is entirely possible that those who voted for the MUD were simply at work or in some other way unable (or unwilling) to connect to the game itself, but still wanted to voice their support for it. It is also entirely possible that these votes were the result of one or more individuals connecting multiple times to their ISP and spamvoting.

KaVir has suggested that voting be linked to your account. I second the motion, as an additional method of prevention, not a replacement. Use the IP-matching system to prevent multiple spam-voter accounts, and change it to be dynamic-IP aware. Require one vote through ones account, and let the users of the system view who voted for what. In short, spend a lot of time redoing the system which is, as it is now, simply ignored by those who know it for what it is.
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Old 07-16-2002, 02:50 PM   #3
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Angry

From what I've noticed the games that truly deserve to be number one are not via this method, and the ones that are in the top 20 either have immense player bases or give rewards out to their players for repeating votes.

If they changed the system to one vote per account, then we'd see one of two things happen:

1. position will be judged by pbase alone. (not bad)
2. there will be a serious jump in account registration.

Either way I'm not sure it will be much more accurate than it is now, but I suppose it couldn't hurt to revamp the system a bit.

...
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Old 07-16-2002, 05:04 PM   #4
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Eh? You kidding?

I've known about Aab's cheating for a bit now. Logged on to it one time, saw the rather small pbase vs the large amount of votes. Played a bit under an alt name, eventually got into a group that was involved in cheating TMS's voting system. Gave details and all how to do it.

Dunno if Iccy's fixed what was abused at that time yet, but if there was a group that was involved in doing that....

-shrug-

-D
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Old 07-16-2002, 06:05 PM   #5
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stop and think for a moment!  if people are so intent on cheating the voting system, they will just register multiple accounts.

from what ive seen, most the people here are administrators.  if you make it so you need an account to vote, then basically it will get rid of actual player voting...

i think the whole concept needs to be changed... it seems that the idea right now is for everyone to vote as often as possible (every 12 hours) for the mud they like?  was this always the way it was intended, or is this (like oh-so-many things in MUDs) an unintended result which people just sort of take for granted?  i may be very wrong second guessing like this, but it seems that ideally, one RL person ought to get 1 vote, ever, per time that the mud list is reset.  the whole idea of spamming votes (even the legal every 12 hour spam) is crazy, it makes the voting statistically untrustworthy because it gives people who are able to coordinate their schedule to vote every 12 hours, extra weight.  perhaps a better solution would be to make it so the votes reset every 12 hours instead of every few weeks...  or perhaps there is no solution.  perhaps democracy should be thrown to the wind in favor of common sense so that a few individuals with carte blanche can see that a mud with 12 players is getting 100 votes, check it out a bit, and then ban them, official proof or not.

if it is made so that an account is required to vote, that will just drive alot of players away from voting at all, and give even more weight to the people who sit there all day spamming and who really need to go get laid
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Old 07-16-2002, 06:50 PM   #6
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People will find a way to cheat if they make up their minds to take advantage of the system. Making it harder to cheat could cut back on the activity, but it will never eliminate it.

What must be weighed is the effort put into changing the system versus the benefit. I don't have experience with that type of coding, but if some of you are serious about coming up with a solution you could offer your services to help recode the system. This would lower the amount of effort by the administration and, therefore, make the cost benefit analysis more appealing in favor of changing the system.
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Old 07-16-2002, 09:15 PM   #7
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In the grand scheme of things - Does it really matter? If they are on the top of the list and a player goes in search of the all "great" MUD and sees a Mud with a few players on - will they stay? Probably not. They are only hurting themselves.

As for using the toplist for advertising - it really doesn't work, for that, it helps, but isn't the cure-all for a Muds PR campaign.
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Old 07-21-2002, 09:59 AM   #8
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Here's an idea:

Start by allowing a fixed number of votes per person  (preferrably more than one, so the person can distribute their votes amongst several different muds rather than having to vote for only one mud).

Next, divide the number of votes received by the mud's average playerbase.

Instead of reporting the number of votes received, report the votes-per-player ratio.  If the number is too small to be manageable, multiply each and every ratio by the same integer to get larger (but still proportional) numbers.

The only way a mud admin could cheat this system is to report a lower playerbase than they actually have.  Even if they are willing to do that to get a higher ratio, this is the type of fact that the topmudsites officials could much more easily looked into than the information they are using right now.  To safely cheat the system, the mud admin would have to not only report a lower playerbase than they have, they would also have to report a lower playerbase to their actual players and falsify who lists.  It would be much more to their benefit to play fair.
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Old 07-21-2002, 01:23 PM   #9
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I think the thing to remember here is that even if they are cheating, what have they gained? Their player base is still 12 so it would seem obvious those connecting to the game probably think they are cheating also and promptly leave.

There is no shame in having a smaller game, in fact, there are some truly wonderful good things such as the lack of politics we see in the larger muds. Smaller games are often are more like family and players end up being great friends off game as well.

The simple fact is, if a mud feels the need to lie, cheat, and steal its players, it is most likely lacking in the areas of importance. Players are (by and large) smart enough to see around gimmicks like that. And I know that personally, there is nothing I detest more than a mud who blatantly misrepresents themselves with tricks like "Over 30 races!" and upon logging in you find out that 20 of them have been disabled.

Yes, I work on a smaller mud...but Im damn proud of the work I've done on it and for it. It may not be in the top 10 or Mud of Month right now, but players will come and the player base will build and it will all be done honestly. If it takes a year or more that's fine, because I want the type of player on my game that sees past these type of things, and would never condone cheating.

Just my two cents,

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Old 07-21-2002, 01:54 PM   #10
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Angry

I agree with Jasmyn...

But I think the system written by Burr is also decent, however, from the way I understand it, it will also be unfair. If a mud has an average of 25 votes, but then can pull 250 votes in their allotted time, they will get a ratio of what? 10 to 1? That may be undeserved if the same 25 vote ten times. Brings us back to the same problem.

Now the system also seems to hurt those MUDs with immense pbases. Eternal City and RoD pull what? 400 to 600 sometimes up to 1000 a voting session? But then they have the pbase to support that, so their ratio may be only 1 to 1.5

If you list these muds in order of highest player ratio, then Eternal City and those other giants are pushed to the bottom of the list when in fact, they should still be at the top.

...
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Old 07-21-2002, 02:00 PM   #11
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Here's what cheaters gain:

They gain a place in the top 20, which appears on the main page, without anyone having to click to a separate page to see the rest of the list. This means that *someone* ends up getting pushed down on the list, ultimately being stuck on one of those pages that get a far less number of hits.

The people who play fairly are the ones who suffer. The great thing about the list is that people have an opportunity for their muds to be SEEN. Not that they have the chance to be in first place.

Being seen is what gets people to check out a mud, since without being seen, no one knows they exist. By cheating, the cheater is depriving another game of that opportunity.
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Old 07-21-2002, 05:24 PM   #12
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Chapel, that's why I said you start by allowing a fixed number of votes per person, period. Not, as you seem to be suggesting, a fixed number of votes per certain amount of time within a single voting session.

Instead, it's like this. We give each person, say, 3 votes apiece at the beginning of the voting session, and no more for the entire voting session. When the voting session ends, yes, they do get another 3 votes to distribute as they want, but the mud's total number of votes received has been set back to 0 in any case, so the votes over the two voting sessions won't accumulate like they do in your scenario.  One voting session would of course have to be long enough that everyone has reasonable time to cast their 3 votes if they wish; that shouldn't be too long.

Yes, the 25 hypothetical people could spend all their votes on the mud A. That is a total of 150 votes. 150/25 = a ratio of 3.

Say there is a mud B that has only 10 players. If they all cast all their votes (a total of 30 votes) for mud B, then their ratio is also 3, despite the fact that they are a smaller mud.

Of course, this only tells us that the players of mud A like their mud as much as the players of mud B like their mud. Such a statement is the best statement of relative worth we can get.

On the other hand, it would be silly to assume that all voters will vote for a single mud. Some people play on several muds and will want to give each one a vote. Some people don't play on any mud in particular and will merely vote for the one they objectively thought was the best, for whatever reason.

That is how the ratios will come to vary. Basically, my system gives the power to the swing voters. This means that people who originally spent their votes without thought, one on each mud they play, will now cast their votes for those they play that they like best. Yet more people, wanting to control the results in some way, will step back and take an objective look at all the muds, not just those they play. Because the swing voters have the power, all but the most loyal will become swing voters.

A large mud that gains a swing voter will increase their ratio by a small amount. A large mud that loses a swing voter will decrease their ratio by a small amount.  A small mud that gains a swing voter will increase their ratio by a large amount. A small mud that loses a swing voter will decrease their ratio by a large amount.

I'm doubt it's perfect. It could be considered unfair that the small muds have potentially larger increases than large muds, for no reason other than that they are smaller. But I think it will be more fair than the current system, because at least that inaccuracy would be one we could rely upon and account for when choosing a mud to play, as the uncertainty caused by potential cheating would be reduced muchly.

The inaccuracy that is left over is something people would have to account for anyway, since nobody has tastes exactly matching that of the average voter. People who like large muds would naturally skip the small muds at the top and start looking at the large muds, moving from the most liked of them downward, just like people who like small muds do right now when searching for a small mud to play. If anything it's fairer because now the good small muds would have some time in the sun.

Still, perhaps there is some small change we could make to the ratio to make it more accurate overall. I'm not sure what that might be at the moment.

Edits: Well, we definitely need to turn the ratio upside-down so that we won't have to worry about dividing by zero.  (Subsequently, lower ratios would be better ratios.)

The annoying thing about the rest of the problem is that I'm sure I've encountered it before in equations from statistics or accounting or something, but I can't recall. This has got to be a basic concept. Or maybe it isn't a problem, and I'm just not picturing the situation correctly.

Okay, I assumed that a single swing vote sending a 1-5 player mud to the top must be extreme, but is it really, or is that just because I'm used to seeing such extremely low-pb muds near the bottom of the database?

The important question is this: if there are only two muds involved in the voting, small pb mud and the big pb mud, and they are equal in quality per unit of mud-ness, and the voters realize this, will the number of swing votes they get be proportionate to the size of their playerbase?

The answer is YES! Aha! The question vexed me because I don't have any idea what one "unit of mud-ness" is. But if the two muds have equal quality per unit of mud-ness, the one mud would not have a larger playerbase in the first place unless it had more units of such-and-such quality mud-ness than the other mud did, meaning it has more total quality than the other mud, and their relative total qualities are proportionate to their playerbases! That is to say that their relative values are proportionate to their playerbases. And because the swing voters have no reason to choose a mud other than the reason the playerbase chose them, since all other things are equal, the swing voters would fall in line. Or something like that.

The point is that there is no problem once the whole bit about dividing by zero is taken care of (by way of turning the ratio upside down).

I've decided to leave my thought process up instead of cleaning up my post. It's probably confusing enough as it is; if I start erasing steps I might erase the wrong ones and make it even worse.

I've since thought of a new issue.

In my first reply, where I proposed the system and explained its benefits as I saw them, I implied that muds wouldn't falsify their playerbase to lower numbers just to get a better ratio, mainly because that would be stupid. But now I wonder if maybe the extremely small muds that don't wish to be small might do so; after all, what do they have to lose? The only people on them are the admins, and they aren't going to leave because of a small playerbase, not when they've got this last trick left to play.

Of course, it won't make a difference unless they can convince a friend on another mud to vote for them instead of the friend's own mud. Several extremely small mud owners could collaborate, taking turns at getting a mud to the top of the board.

Unless there is a way to fix this problem without disqualifying extremely small muds just for being extremely small muds, then my proposed system is a dud. But it's a simple enough problem, and completely mathematical, so I don't see any reason why it can't be solved. I'll think it over tonight.
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Old 07-21-2002, 08:15 PM   #13
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Let the admin specify in their listing the average number of players they have.

Ratio the votes the game receives against this. If there are more than 110% votes compared to the reported number of players the game has, discard them as erroneous.

If an admin reports their average players as 100, and they receive 100 votes, then they get 100% weight.

If they get 130 (> 110, therefore affected) votes, detract somewhat from the overall weight of the votes.

If they get < 90 votes, then detract the value of the votes.

Thus:
votes weighted % value
100 votes -- 100
130 votes -- 90
90 votes -- 85

Then list based on the % of votes compared to another, as opposed to the raw quantity.

Benefits:
o This will ensure the admins take an active hand in keeping their listings up to date
o Players will not spam-vote their favorite game, because they will actually lose weight if they do
o It will report a more accurate relationship to the quantity of players relative to the quality

Flaws:
o Those same spam-voters can now vote for others, to reduce the overall weight of that listing
o No system is going to report what everyone wants it to report.

Thoughts: A raw-number system such as currently is in place does nothing to show anything other than who is able to generate the most votes in a given period. Yes, one could argue that those with more players are also the better games, but this is not always the case. Some games, such as Armageddon, Southlands, Towers of Jadri, and others, cater to a specific clientelle and would not necessarily flourish with hundreds of players on at a time.

--Bert
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Old 07-21-2002, 10:27 PM   #14
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What we'd end up with there is every admin trying to organize a number of votes exactly equal to their playerbase. Thus, the voting would not determine the quality of the muds, but rather whether or not they have effectively organized their voting. Moreover, we'd have mud after mud with exactly 100%, and no way to rank them against each other except possibly by playerbase, which would already be listed elsewhere.
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Old 07-22-2002, 01:13 PM   #15
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Okay, here's an idea that could be accurate, I think, but it would take up a lot of resources compared to how the system currently works:

1) Implement a voter account database.

2) When a voter logs into their account, small voting icons will appear next to each mud.

3) Each voter has a ranking list, which starts out as null.

4) Muds get added to their list in the order in which the voter votes for them.  If a mud is already in the list, it cannot be added again.

5) At any time the voter can click another link that erases their entire list.  Otherwise, lists are permanent, so if a voter's mind hasn't changed since the time of the last voting session, they don't have to vote again.

6) It would be nice to have a list-editing tool, so that voters could simply move muds up or down if they want rather than erasing their entire list.  But if that isn't feasible, then there would at least need to be a feature that shows what their list currently is, so that they could print it or copy & paste it to their harddrive anytime they like.

7) When a new voting session comes around, points are added to muds according their position in each voter's list.  If the voter has 5 muds in their list, then the first mud they voted for will get 5 points, and the most recent mud added to their list will get 1 point.

8) There would need to be a maximum number of muds a voter could add to their list during a voting session.  This will ensure that the points of equal-quality sites will rise at roughly the same rate.  We wouldn't want voters who would spam their list to completion to have an advantage over those who would construct theirs carefully.  It will also encourage voters to visit topmudsites regularly.

Edit: Shoot. We'd still have the problem with people creating extraneous accounts, though, unless possibly we combined the accounts with an IP check like someone else suggested.
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Old 07-22-2002, 02:51 PM   #16
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Ummm this seems to be getting a lot more complicated than it needs to be.

Why not just ditch the 2 votes per day, allow people to vote once per period (currently a 2 week period, no?), and add a column on the results list for "Average Number of Players." That average would link to the data on the Mud Info page of that mud, as given by whoever put the game up on the list in the first place.

This way, the #12 game with 300 votes would show clearly that there are only 20 people playing at any given moment, and readers can judge accordingly.

Reset every 2 weeks so that people who enjoy more than one game can vote for their other game the next time around.
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Old 07-22-2002, 06:22 PM   #17
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Guys, guys... the applicable concept in this case is KISS. You're accepting data from untrusted anonymous unidentifiable sources. There is simply no way to uniquely identify a given person. At best, you can reliably identify unique ip addy's, unless you can get ahold of the NIC MAC addy of each comp connecting, at which point you can uniquely identify each NIC (which means uniquely identifying a computer in most cases). Given this scenario, it is literally impossible to try to come up with a system that will reliably rank sites based on the number of unique people who actually play a MUD.

Tying votes to accounts rather than IP addy's simply adds another layer of redirection for vote cheaters. They just register multiple accounts. If you also bind accounts to unique IP addy's, you break people who use dhcp and/or dialup connections. Add detection and handling of dynamic IP address spaces and you effectively reduce the 10 people who play MUD X on the same dialup ISP to 1 person with respect to voting.

You could also try using cookies to uniquely id each comp, but all that means is that you need to delete the cookie before you vote.

Trusting MUD admins to accurately report their pbase size when that report directly affects their weighted ranking is the worst possible course of action. This is placing trust in the most untrusted part of the system. Also, weighted rankings with a max rating (i.e. 100%) are bad mojo, as you'll end up with around 50 MUDs tied at 100%, at which point some secondary criteria becomes most important, eliminating the purpose of the rating.

Heck, you could tie it all together, with unique IP detection, cookies, and account binding. What do you get? Tons of players who dialup and vote once each with Opera, Mozilla, Netscape, Emacs, Lynx, Galeon, and Nautilus (possibly I.E. if they're 'doze people), and whatever other browsers people have, each registered with a single account. With weighting votes with respect to reported Pbase size, an admin could simply report a size of 1, only vote him/herself, and not put a TMS voting link up on their website, nabbing the MUD a 100% weighted rating.

Basically, because of the premise of untrusted, anonymous, unidentifiable sources, designing a cheat-proof, or even effectively cheat-resistant system is impossible. Also, as you increase the complexity of such a system, the advantage shifts even more heavily in favor of the cheaters, as they are the ones who will go through greater lengths to understand (and therefore identify the possible abuses of) the system.

IMO, the system is fine as it is. Just take the rankings with a grain of salt (as is the case with any ranking system).
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Old 07-22-2002, 09:43 PM   #18
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*agrees*  All my ideas have ended in the same general place.

Of course, there's one other course of action we could take that doesn't have all these problems.

Don't rank the muds.

The system isn't fine as it is, because it has at least as many problems as all the systems we've been trying to come up with, and it is rather meaningless besides, as it mainly only an inaccurate measure of total playerbase, a measuremen we've already got in more useful form  listed in the mud info.

That said, besides the possibility of cheating, which seems to be present in any possible system, they all also have the problem of comparing apples to oranges.  That's what I was mostly concerned with.  But even if we get an accurate measure of their average quality, people's personal preferences vary too much.  Giving someone the mud with the best average quality doesn't help them much if it isn't the kind of mud they are looking for in the first place.

Given all of that, the real problem is that we presume to think we can adequately rank the muds at all.

Now, of course, listing the muds randomly each time a person visits the site would make things more fair for the mud admins, but that wouldn't help the person the site is really intended to help: the mudder looking for a mud to play.

If you wanted to offer someone a piece of fruit, out of hundreds of kinds of fruit, you wouldn't immediately start listing the fruit.  Rather, you'd first ask an intelligent probing question such as, what kind of fruit do you want?  Big or small?  Citrus, deciduous, berry, or exotic?

In the same way, it makes no sense to have a list of muds as the first thing a person sees when they walk in.  (And it makes even less sense to present such a list as a ranking of quality, when it logically isn't.)

It woud make much more sense to put a prelimary search on the front page, allowing the user to choose how they wish the entire database of muds to be listed.  Here's an example...

***

Let me see muds in the following order:

Playerbase: Ascending, Descending, Ascending Deviation from Mean?

Focus: Playerkilling, Roleplaying, OOC Social

***

For the focus, give mud admins a choice rather like stat modification in character generation.  Give them a fixed number of points and make them divide the points up between the focuses.

If there is a tie, then order the tying muds randomly within that particular area of the list.

Edit: Another way of listing sites might be on the basis of Challenge Level (Ascending or Descending). That way mud newbies could find muds that cater to newbies, and mud vets could find muds that cater to vets.
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Old 08-07-2002, 11:47 PM   #19
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why not 1 vote per ip adress period.
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Old 08-08-2002, 03:08 AM   #20
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Angry

Isn't the whole voting thing just a gimick to get mud players to look at this site?  Once they are here the see the ads, and may even read the boards, but many of them come here because voting for their favorite mud makes them feel like they are contributing somehow (without having to do any actual work).    The rankings themselves, as several people have noted, are actually pretty meaningless.  If you are looking for a particular kind of MUD you might read the descriptions of the top ten or twenty since they are right there on the front page, but you will probably resort to a search to narrow down the choices to particular kinds of muds.  

When I've been looking for a new MUD I've checked out most of the ones on the top 10-20, but only in a cursory fasion.  It just takes a couple minutes to click on the link to their website and find out that a couple top preformers are JAVA muds or pay to play, and since I don't JAVA MUDS and don't have Paypall or a credit card, I can discard those muds without ever creating a character.  Others get a few minutes longer, I'll actually create a character, but then they get tossed off my list as soon as I see Midgaard or notice a "grats" channel and global announcements everytime someone goes up a level.  It's harsh, arbitrary, and I've probably missed a few muds I would have liked, but during a search I may visit dozens of muds in a single weekend so I just don't have time to give each one a "fair" chance.  Being in the top 10 or 20 might be enough to get me to check it out, if the listing in the tiny box looks intresting, but that really only buys the MUD 5-10 minutes of my time at first, just the chance to catch my interest.

I think the voting system is fine the way it is.  The rankings themselves are meaningless, but the purpose of the system is to attract people to this site, not to create an accurate ranking of the best MUDs.  That is why you can vote every 12 hours, rather than once per day, once per week, or once per cycle.  It does what it is supposed to do.  Even knowing that the ranking is meaningless I still like to see my favorite mud in the top 20, so I vote nearly every day.  

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