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This comment on the One year later (followup to “I quit the tech industry”) is an interesting example of a comment that itself doesn’t add much and has a negative score. Yet, the comments in response to it are very much worth reading and thus I don’t think the entire subtree should be hidden by default. (IMHO.)

What do people think about adding an exemption to the rules so that comments with negative scores stays visible if its subtree as a whole is positive? A slight modification of this could be to take into account just a comment’s immediate responses.


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    I’d rather like us to reflect on why we down vote things.

    This comment of mine

    • was not an ad hominem
    • had no vulgarity
    • did not attack a community on the basis of race, religion, creed, gender, gender orientation or profession
    • did not slander anyone
    • did not present any incorrect technical facts (e.g. that would lead people astray in implementing code)

    It’s an opinion of a person based on observations of life. Yet it’s got a pile of people on it, trying to hide it.

    In my experience statements that people pile on like that hold uncomfortable truths for them.

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      It’s true that your comment wasn’t in violation of the site rules, and that it was the “opinion” of a person based on “observations of life”. At the same time, I agree with OP that it didn’t add much - “I’m a cynic” to me is equivalent to “I prefer to choose the explanation that assumes the worst about human nature based primarily upon on aesthetic considerations”, which to me is a non-starter towards a respectful discussion.

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        I found it particularly interesting that it got that many downvotes, because very few comments here really do. (The exception is in “culture” threads about inclusivity and gender, but even those have recently been much less downvote-y than they used to be. And I think that’s a good thing, to be clear!)

        I did find it an uncomfortable remark, though I didn’t downvote. I felt like it would have required quite a bit of emotional investment to come up with a reply I was happy with, especially because I don’t really disagree with it at a literal level, only with the significance.

        If you’re sincere about wanting to know what happened, my guess is that people felt they didn’t know how to reply productively, and reached for the downvote as the next best option.

        (Edit: And, I’d like to add, I’m okay with being made uncomfortable by scary ideas. I personally find that important. There are good reasons that some people feel the opposite, though!)

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          If you’re sincere about wanting to know what happened, my guess is that people felt they didn’t know how to reply productively, and reached for the downvote as the next best option.

          This is a eye-opening observation for me. I bet I have been guilty of that myself :-(

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            @Irene, thank you for that remark. People like you are why I hang around here :)

            I’m surprised though that an experienced person like you would find that statement of mine so controversial or unexpected. (which is a different thing from disagreeing with it)

            EDIT: Re-reading your comment, it seems more like the ‘controversial’ bit is an explanation for how others reacted to that statement, perhaps?

            For a long time now we have known that the population at large really does not know what to do with itself. The classic experience of our modern society is automation and the resultant increase in leisure time. What did we do with that leisure time? Did the population at large write more poetry? Do more charity work? Volunteer at home less shelters? Create astounding works of art?

            No, we got reality television.

            We are the products of evolution which is sufficient to explain why we choose pursuits that result in more immediate gratification rather than pursuits which result in uncertain or delayed gratification. Which is also sufficient to explain reality television and other things we do with our spare time.

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              Well, you’re welcome. That’s flattering.

              Oh, I didn’t find it controversial or unexpected; I found that it stated a truth I disliked, very much as you suggested. :)

              The only sense in which I consider your original comment to be controversial is that it got a lot of downvotes (and, later, a lot of upvotes as well). I don’t really think that getting downvotes is the same thing as being controversial, because votes don’t necessarily express “this is factually true/false”.

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            This is the underlying problem with all content voting systems, especially ones where you can see the number of votes, nice easy to agree with opinions float to the top and anything that challenges the status quo gets put to the bottom. Lobsters at least improves on reddit making you select a reason for downvoting which has made me rethink votes in the past. However on the whole it does seem to still be used as an agree/disagree button. (I disagree with the comment on the other thread but equally agree with you that it shouldn’t be downvoted). Personally I’d like to see a system where content with a large amount of engagement floats to the top. (This has its own problems though, a very insightful comment might not always get replies). I’d at least like to see a system without a transparent karma system, because I believe this has the tendancy to “gameify” discussion, turning it into a competition of who can post what the hivemind agrees with the most first, just so they can get more internet points. All this being said I do feel like lobsters on the whole does a better job of handling these issues than the likes of reddit, so keep up the good work guys!

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              nice easy to agree with opinions float to the top

              Touché! I have certainly been guilty of being too liberal with up votes.

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              Apologies, btw, when I said “doesn’t add much” it could be seen overly critical, but I didn’t actually down vote it. I wonder what justification people used for voting it down? I don’t see any indications on that comment. Is that because the original down voters have removed their votes, rather than other people up-voting to cancel out the down-votes? Or is it because only certain kind of down votes get an annotation? Or perhaps because annotations only get shown if it’s still negative?

              Interestingly that comment no longer has a negative score :P

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                Your third guess is correct: Users other than the author and moderators only see the downvote reasons when the net score is <= 0.

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                In my experience statements that people pile on like that hold uncomfortable truths for them.

                You could be the voice of reason in a sea of opposition. Or you could be just wrong. As an experiment, I have downvoted you for the latter reason.

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                  Wait. You are not sure if an opinion is valid, so you take an action to try and make sure no one else sees that opinion so it can help you figure out if that opinion is …

                  Man, that really sounds like drowning a person to see if they are not a witch.

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                    No, I think you’re wrong. That’s why I downvoted you. When I tell you this, you think you’re being witch hunted.

                    That’s the result I expected from this experiment. I myself have a bit of a narcissistic personality. A symptom of this is that we take any kind of criticism really badly. We’re unable to imagine that there is anything wrong with us, and if lots of people tell something is wrong with us, them you and I conclude that there must be something wrong with them. The possibility that we’re wrong doesn’t come to us easily.

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                      Whoa, before we go straight to psycho-analysis, may we try linguistics?

                      My parsing of your parent comment was that you down voted that now famous but initially obscure and then hidden comment as an experiment to see whether I was “the voice of reason”, or “just wrong” because your scheme was to see if a hidden/down voted comment would then be upvoted enough to escape your barrier of downvotes. Which would then make it worthy for you to consider that it may be right, rather than wrong.

                      Now I see that your intention was to try and rile me up because you didn’t like my opinion.

                      The reason of course that I didn’t consider this explanation was that I do not expect/hope for that kind of behavior on this site.

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                        It really speaks volumes that you’re parsing both of my comments as personal attacks upon you that have no place on this website.

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                that comment seems to spark quite a discussion despite having negative points :)

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                  There are so few comments on this site that I don’t think there is any reason to hide subtrees. I would recommend doing what HN does–detaching off-topic/flamebait subtrees so they sit at the bottom of the page and do not disturb productive conversation.

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                    Since you linked to a comment and I had a hard time seeing which one was highlighted, I thought I would bring this up. I still have an open pull request and meta post to change the color of highlighted comments.

                    I really don’t care what the new background color is, if you don’t like my shade of orange, feel free to change it. However, I have near-perfect color vision and still have trouble distinguishing between the lobsters background color (#ffffff) and the current comment highlight color (#ffffef). There needs to be more contrast between the two.


                    My mistake, the page background color is #fefefe. The shades are still too close though, even someone with slightly bad color vision or a badly corrected monitor would find the colors near-impossible to distinguish.

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                      I made it a bit darker, is that better?

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                        Yes, much, thanks!

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                        Yeah, I need to open developer tools and remove the opacity property. Selecting text won’t help, as the highlight is also made transparent too.

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                        another possible problem with the current system just came to my mind: if you comment and two people downvote you, your chances of getting visible again by upvoting are not good.

                        maybe there could be a user setting to prevent hiding of downvoted comments?

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                          Reddit had this issue of bandwagon voting where people would pile onto slightli negotive posts. Their solution was to hide the scores for some amount of time so others cant see what the hive mind is thinking in the hope that it would increase critical thinking and reading of comments and posts.