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I don’t know why, but over the last few weeks I have had the impression that more and more posts with ask tags have been popping up with rather often. For example:

All of these threads were on the frontpage for at least a day (as far as I recall).

I’m not saying that these questions are necessarily bad or annoying, I found some of the discussions in the comments quite interesting. What I dislike is that most responses are just posting a link to one’s blog, projects, hardware, etc. without really any explanation. But it’s so easy to respond, so there are usually 50-100 comments, of which only the top 3-4 have any responses.

I don’t know what the ideal measures would be, but something that increases the time between questions and increases the number of responses would be nice to see. Maybe a hotness mod would suffice, or a separate tag should be introduced? idk. I have always valued lobsters as a site where interesting discussions with informed users could take place, not as a site for self-marketing – but questions like these seem to be pushing towards the latter.

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    I saw this described on the IRC channel as ‘what-color-are-your-underpants threads’ - lots of easy engagement stuff, crowding more interesting stuff off the front page. My perception is that there is now a lot less of the stuff that differentiated lobste.rs from the other hundredty-dillion tech sites - it was good at bridging computer-science-proper topics and real applications, e.g. someone’s experience report of using formal verification in a real product, or how property testing uncovered some tasty bug in some avionics, or how to synthesize gateware with Z3. That sort of thing.

    It doesn’t have to be the case that underwear-threads exist at the cost of quickcheck threads, but as they increasingly crowd the front page and stay there, it means the slightly more cerebral stuff has less chance to be seen, and new people get a different perception of what lobste.rs is about, and so the tone of the place gradually shifts. Some people might think that’s fine, I think it’s a shame. Differentiation is good.

    As for ‘if it gets upvotes then by definition it belongs’, I’ve always thought that ‘just leave it to the market’ attitude is total and utter cow-dung. Of course there should be regulation. If you applied that confusion everywhere you’d have sport be replaced by gladiatorial combat, McDonalds purchasing every farm until that was all you could eat, and other kinds of dystopia that unfortunately some americans are beginning to suffer a flavor of (choosing between insulin and death, $1000 toilet roll…). There is nothing inevitable about letting upvotes decide the tone of the site, it’s not a fundamental physical force. You’re allowed to intervene, complain, and so on. It should be encouraged, I think.

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      crowding more interesting stuff off the front page

      Come on, there’s very rarely more than one of these threads on the front page, how is that crowding?

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        Well I counted three at one point today, which is over 10% of the front page. I’d like to nip this virus in the bud! It’s too facile to make corona references but regardless, we can go from ‘15 deaths out of 300 million people, no big deal’ to We Have A Problem is a fairly short space of time.

        One of the more useful and formative talks I watched when helping to start my business was Ed Catmull [computer graphics pioneer and former Pixar president]’s talk entitled ‘Keep your crises small’*in which he makes the case that businesses are fundamentally unstable and it’s especially hard to notice the bad stuff during periods of high growth or profitability. He contends that you must always have your hand on the tiller and make steering corrections before problems get too big. I see an analogous situation on lobste.rs.

        Look at my posting history here. It’s crap. I am a consumer and not a contributor. I have no right to voice my opinion really because I have not done my bit to try and steer lobsters in the direction I want. I am a mechanical engineer with no formal CS background and I stayed here merely because I learned a great deal, and my industry is one built on MScs and PhDs committing abominations in Excel and Matlab, in which a bit of solid CS and solid industrial best-practice would reduce the friction in aerospace R&D by an order of magnitude. It took me five years to get one of my customers to switch to python. Now one of them is using Hypothesis (!) and advocating its usage more widely in a reasonably large aerospace company. I am a True Believer in the value of Advocating the fruits of Computer Science in a field where most participants think the low hanging fruit lies elsewhere. All I’ve been doing is sharing the good stuff that lobsters introduced me to. And this is why I lament the fact that it’s being muscled out by what vim colorscheme do we all prefer, and why I therefore am moved to leave a comment like the grandparent.

        Yes, I will make more effort to upvote and comment on the bits of lobsters I value from now on.

      2. 11

        is that there is now a lot less of the stuff that differentiated lobste.rs from the other hundredty-dillion tech sites

        There is and it’s due to less demand. What the audience wants has changed. I was still doing submissions like you described. They rarely hit the front page. The things getting upvoted were a mix of Lobsters-like content and stuff that gets high votes on other sites. Sometimes cross-posted from those sites. I stopped submitting as much for personal reasons (priority shift) but lack of demand/interest could’ve done it by itself.

        1. 8

          I stopped submitting as much for personal reasons (priority shift)…

          For what it’s worth, I noticed that you have been posting less. Hope all is well.

          1. 12

            I’ll message you the details if you want. It’s been a trip with me back to the Lord, surviving some Gone Girl shit, and facing COVID workload right after. Right now, Im focused on fighting COVID and problems it causes however I can. City-wide shortage on toilet paper, soap, cleaners, etc and nurses having no alcohol/masks made me source them first. Gotta block hoarders and unscrupulous resellers, though.

            Gonna have to find some web developers who can build a store or subscription service. Plan to let people pick up limited quantities that I order in bulk and resell just over cost. Might also scan what’s in local stores to reduce people’s time in them. After that, maybe a non-profit version of InstaCart with advantages that may or may not be easy to code. Got an anti-microbial scanner on the way for whatever.

            Once everything settles, I’ll get back to my security projects. I just go where needed the most. Worse, people arent social distancing here: enveloping around me constantly. COVID can kill me. So, Im tired after work from holding my breath and dodging people up to 14hrs a day. Had no energy for doing CompSci papers either.

            So, there’s a brief summary of some things Ive been up to for anyone wondering.

            1. 4

              I’m sorry to hear that. I assumed that you must be busy with other stuff or taking a break, but I wouldn’t have guessed how hard of a time you were having. I hope that things start looking up for you soon.

              1. 4

                I really appreciate it. Everyone supporting these comments, too, more than I thought I’d see. I’m good, though. (taps heart) Good where I need to be.

                The possibilities and challenges do keep coming, though. Hope and pray those of us fighting this keep making progress both inside ourselves and outside getting things done in the real world. I’ll be fine with that result. :)

          2. 2

            Speaking of which, where do you find your papers?

            1. 6

              I applied old-school methods of using search engines to paper discovery. I pay attention to good papers that cite other work. Each sub-field develops key words that are in most of the papers. I type them into DuckDuckGo and/or Startpage with quotation marks followed by a year. Maybe “pdf” with that. This produces a batch of papers. I open all of them glancing at abstracts, summaries, and related work. I’ll go 5-10 pages deep in search results. I repeat the process changing the terms and years to get a batch for that sub-field. Then, I used to post the better ones one by one over a week or two. Then, do a different sub- or sub-sub-field next.

              The Lobsters didn’t like seeing it that way. Too much on the same topic. So, I started getting the batches, saving them in a file, batch another topic when I have time/energy, and trickling out submissions over time with varying topics. So, I might have 50-100 papers across a half dozen to a dozen topics alternating between them. I just pick one, submit it, and mark it as submitted. Eventually, when there’s not much left, I would just grab some more batches.

              1. 2

                Wow that’s amazing! Thank you so much for doing this! I’ve seen some really nice papers here but I didn’t realize there would be this kind of work behind the posting.

                1. 2

                  I thought people like you just happened to read extremely much.

                  Equally impressed now, just for a different reason.

            2. 2

              I get the idea of that. I think that what makes the distinction between good and not-so-good ask threads is the length of the responses. For share your blog - what is there to say except a link to your blog? I didn’t bother looking at that one. On the other hand, the distro question generated a ton of long responses about various Linux distros and the pros and cons thereof, interesting stuff. I wonder if there’s some way we could discourage short responses on ask threads, or ask thread topics that tend to generate short responses.

              1. 1

                Of course there should be regulation. If you applied that confusion everywhere you’d have sport be replaced by gladiatorial combat, McDonalds purchasing every farm until that was all you could eat, and other kinds of dystopia that unfortunately some americans are beginning to suffer a flavor of (choosing between insulin and death, $1000 toilet roll…).

                It’s not that I’m looking forward to opening a discussion about this topic, but are you sure this would be the case? Lots of pathological actions done by monopolies are the result of regulating the market in a way which effectively removes competition, leaving the power to the monopolies (in fact, lots of megacorporations that exist nowadays wouldn’t be able to grow to such sizes if it wasn’t for the help from the government). I wouldn’t be so sure that the lack of regulations is the main problem.

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                Two things about this: I got useful stuff out of a few of them; it’s a community, not just tech site. I’ll elaborate on the second one.

                Most metas that were about what Lobsters is or isn’t resulted in a majority vote that it’s also about people. We have threads about what people work on, what they read, and how they spend their weekends. It’s how Lobsters get to know each other. It’s being social.

                To me, some of these threads are just an extension of that. It’s the kind of questions we might ask each other in a Lobsters meet-up. Instead, someone surveyed the site getting them all in one place. Their motivations matter to me less than if they ask good questions that bring us together, help some of us out (esp productivity thread), and/or lead to interesting content. That’s why many of us are here, right? :)

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                  Agreed honestly this community has been more engaging than other tech communities. People actually care about what they do and love to share with others

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                    This. I don’t know what others here are made of but I’m human. I need fellowship.

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                  So you actually meant “stop posting low-effort answers”? :) Yep, agreed.

                  I didn’t get a lot of self-marketing vibes except for the “share your blog” and there it’s fine.

                  Also I kinda liked most of those threads and we had some voices on irc who said that it’s nice that we have more “discussion” threads versus “only link submissions”, like we had the last 2-3 years. I didn’t even know the ratio was supposedly different many years ago (although I joined 5y ago, I wasn’t very active for the first 2) and I kinda like it that way. We’re not to the level that there is a ridiculous amount of topics per day, it’s easy to ignore those.

                  1. 1

                    Oops I responded before reading all the responses haha. I just posted pretty much the same thing: https://lobste.rs/s/2arpun/could_we_stop_asking_so_many_low_effort#c_jp08jm

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                    I feel that I’m finger-pointing, but it seems that the submitter of the first one has actually mostly posted those over the last few days: https://lobste.rs/newest/mraza007

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                      imho, getting rid of (public?) karma would go a long way to avoid these “ask” posts. I usually hide these threads anyway because, they tend to be of very little interest (low signal/noise), but ymmv.

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                        I have a user style to hide karma, which I think is beneficial to me, but to have it hidden globally for everyone I agree would be a good step. It seems that cargo-culting still takes place here, albeit to a lesser extent, even with downvote justifications.

                        1. 1

                          Could you share it?

                          I’m not using userstyles but I could start to make lobste.rs better for myself :)

                          1. 3

                            Sure, although it’s about as simple as you’d imagine:

                            .score { display: none; }

                            It works fine for me without !important but if you get into user styles it’s worth remembering that a lot of them don’t. Enjoy :)

                            1. 1

                              What do you use for userstyles?

                              I am on Firefox mobile and stylus isn’t available here.

                              1. 1

                                Oh, I use stylus (I don’t use my mobile for the web). I’m not sure what else is available, but if you really want to overengineer it might Greasemonkey be available?

                      2. 4

                        That’s pretty damning. @pushcx or @alynpost, see that?

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                          Yeah, I’ve had an eye on @mraza007, submitting “ask” stories nearly exclusively is unusual. But they’ve all been topical and well-received, so I haven’t seen a reason to step in, besides removing a dupe for blog themes.

                          I’m curious to see where this discussion goes. It’s already gotten a lot more upvotes than I expected. If folks want to see a rule, we can create one, but preferably one that’s not mods acting on gut feelings that a post is low-effort.

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                            Sorry man I guess i have been submitting unusual ask stories for more than once but i got to learn a lot from them. I was surprised to see how so many things I didn’t knew. I can limit my self from posting ask stories

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                              Thanks for responding. We’re glad to have you here, don’t worry! It’s a good thing when people help each other learn. I also don’t personally think it’s bad to have questions that start people talking to each other. Icebreakers are important for community-building.

                              It’s clear though that people do have feelings about it when the questions are stuff that doesn’t need much thought to answer. As others are saying, it’s not really obvious where the blame lies for that, and it’s clear that your stuff is in good faith. I don’t think you necessarily have to stop entirely, just try to be mindful about whether it makes an interesting thread for others to read through. Also, if your angle is more about wanting to learn from what others do, consider making that explicit.

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                                Thank you for this. I realized i was posting too often honestly i have discovered a lot from these threads. Next time I will be try to post once every week not too often so people don’t consider it as a spam. Honestly this community has taught me a lot and i really appreciate and on the other hand I’m really happy due to these posts people were able to talk to each other or maybe learn/discover something new from this. I really appreciate your reply !!

                            2. 2

                              I hope the implication from your ‘It’s already gotten a lot more upvotes than I expected.’ comment isn’t that we should just downvote if we don’t agree.

                              To be honest I think this latest post from him is pushing it too, but I don’t believe in silence by downvote if he’s doing nothing against the rules. I’m a big fan of most ‘ask’ topics; when I’m not the hide button is in reach.

                              1. 2

                                No, I was saying it’s gotten significantly more attention, and positive attention than I guessed. There is no story downvoting, and people flagging stories they want to punish just clogs up the mod dashboard.

                            3. 6

                              I don’t think it is. I’ll note that many of those threads have more upvotes than any comment here complaining about them at this point.

                              On top of it, I’ve gotten more useful information… like software to try out… out of a few OP is complaining about than anything this thread has. I’m not saying that to cut down any comment in this thread. I’m just illustrating we have a thread whose contents don’t help people out (that I’m aware) asking to remove many that did or block future threads that do. Something about that seems wrong.

                            4. 0

                              That’s pretty weird.

                            5. 13

                              Filtering tags (ask included) is the way to go.

                              If they ever add the infamous domain filtering, lobster would become perfect for me. I would start filtering the few domains that I 100% hide and be done with it.

                              Perhaps stick to other less abused tags or keep clicking hide.

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                                I disagree. Filtering on tags means you miss out entirely…better for the community to just take responsibility for weeding out garbage and maintaining standards.

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                                  Sure, you can rely on the community to weed out “garbage”, but how exactly do you plan on reaching a consensus about what qualifies as “garbage”?

                                  Because I’ll tell you right now, none of these “low effort” posts that have been made over the past few days are what I would call “garbage”. I think that kind of content has a place on a website like this (or any site with a specialized focus).

                                  And that seems to be the big issue here: “low effort” posts like these receive community engagement, and a lot of people like them, but then there seems to be a lot of other users who do not.

                                  Which is exactly the kind of situation that filtering tools are great for.

                                  Either way, I think the best solution here would not be to phase out these kinds of posts, but instead establish a recurring schedule that they can be posted on.

                                  For instance, just like the week/weekend posts recur weekly, posts asking about tools or other “low effort” content could happen semi-annually, on different dates, so that you could regularly have one of these kinds of posts for people to engage with, but not all at the same time.

                                  Something like “What tools do you use?” every January and June, “Share your blog” every April and October, etc.

                                  Then, just create a recurring tag that can be applied to these kinds of posts so that users can filter them out if they want (though their frequency should be much reduced at that point, so I doubt many will want to).

                                  That is exactly what is done over at Tildes. We have a bunch of topics that get posted (automatically by the website even) and they all recur on a schedule. Users can hide those topics by filtering out the recurring tag.

                                  You can see all the recurring topics on the site:


                                  There are even, for the moment, daily recurring topics about the coronavirus. These recurring topics have worked out wonderfully for the community so far.

                                  1. 5

                                    Then, just create a recurring tag that can be applied to these kinds of posts so that users can filter them out if they want (though their frequency should be much reduced at that point, so I doubt many will want to).

                                    This is an excellent idea. I have had the desire to hide the “What are you doing this week/end?” threads for a long time now, but didn’t want to filter the “ask” tag as I still sometimes find value in them. I thought I needed a way to filter based on titles, but a recurring tag would work even better.

                                  2. 3

                                    What about implementing a recommendation system like “People who have hidden the same stories you have also hidden in the past, have also hidden this subset of stories currently in the frontpage; so we have visually de-emphasized it”?

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                                      So just add support for filtering out people, the person who posted this complaint could have just filtered out stories by mraza instead of making another thread where people can post low effort comments.

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                                        I don’t believe filters build good communities, least of all because they break the ability to form community norms and standards. If two members have a vastly different experience of what a community is about, they will only diverge over time.

                                        Plus, filtering tends to mean that the average unfiltered experience for new users regresses to the mean.

                                        1. 2

                                          Filters are the only way to build communities, because each person has limited bandwidth and different opinions.

                                          Saying “I don’t believe in filters for good communities” is like saying “the utopian community is an echo chamber has consensus on signal/noise evaluations” and I won’t disagree with you on that. However I will contest the viability of this “perfect consensus model” as a desirable engineering goal for building a good lobste.rs scale community. In my experience limiting features doesn’t change usage, it just pushes more of the filtering into the wetware (e.g. clicking ‘next page’ a bunch of times and scanning headlines).

                                          To make a contrived example: I subscribe to some RSS feeds and mailing lists, this is my personal feed and although it is constructed explicitly (cherry-picking) using the basis of a vector space we call “the internet” rather than implicitly by taking the negation of some content-set in some subspace, like for example lobste.rs, it is in fact very much the same idea, the social contract is: I give up some of my control and in exchange I save some amount of work. Now our mission is to give back control (or rather the perception, via aligning opinions) but still make it cost minimal work.

                                          So, here on lobste.rs we are sharing a single feed together and one way to give control is to allow people to “slice the feed” or “tune in to a certain frequency” (e.g. filtering out the tags they think are noisy or see all the posts of a tag you think is signaly). This means that in theory we allow for more technical higher quality discussion since in the ideal version of this model there will be an expert community at the heart of each tag and these communities compose to form the lobste.rs community. Best of all, each expert community (or “opinion population”) has roughly the “perfect consensus model”.

                                          Regarding the unfiltered experience regressing to the mean (a la reddit’s “front page of the internet”) this is totally true IF the join of all these expert communities has no discernible qualities. So long as most of us can all tolerate the Top of our space (i.e. unfiltered front page) things will be fine. Once we reach the scale that we are pushing the foundation of the community into more and more heavily filtered sections of the space then we have failed to preserve this identity but maybe that wasn’t a good goal to begin with?

                                          Preserving the identity means maintaining a Goldilocks zone where the conflicts can still be managed using filtering without ruining the unfiltered experience. The next level of scaling becomes a model like ActivityPub where each pub is a lobste.rs equivalent and the unity is lost but each subspace is deeper than before (but this is hard to do, for example ActivityPub does not have particularly “deep” pubs afaict).

                                          So the central thesis is: “giving people more axis to slice along (without giving too many!) is a black magic that if done correctly should improve our community”

                                          Okay, so lets say we know where in the hierarchy we want to place the lobste.rs identity and we leave aside any compositions that reach ActivityPub scale. Then we will never have a unfiltered experience that regresses to the mean since we will actually be filtering at the community level (banning users and flagging stories). This may create some level of spite in the surrounding ecosystem so even this is not side-effect free.

                                          As a random anecdote; I have seen the same phenomena happen in group chats often, you have a small group of friends / acquintances, they make a group chat without any particular investment and so at the beginning people just add new people randomly and the group becomes lots of fun. Then people become afraid that they will lose the group and start making restrictions or somehow try to preserve the optimal state, this leads to stagnation and eventually the chat becomes a relic, too sacred to have fun.

                                          Bringing it back to the ground: I’m saying you misidentify the problem as filtering, I think the problem is consensus on identity. If we allow filtering within the community to silence people that you don’t think produce valuable output then that is the internet equivalent of “agree to disagree” which is an important tool for being able to live with other people in a small space. Eventually some disagreements may grow into faction-splitting situations and in those cases we will be forced to invent the ActivityPub analogue. But hopefully the act of coexisting in a similar environment will actually resolve these conflicts as people learn how to communicate in a shorthand that others can appreciate.

                                          The concrete example is @mraza007 and @zge, it looks like the former derives high signal from getting to know in broad-strokes what the lobste.rs community is about while the latter feels he already has a pretty good idea about this (or doesn’t care about it and just wants IT), either way, @zge seems to think @mraza007 is noise.

                                          Now we can resolve this by taking a hard stance on not allowing one opinion in the community (consensus through violence) or we can take a softer approach like allowing to filter out people. Then the “black magic” is which part of the feature-fractal should we implement, do we want to give an option to set an upvote threshold for unfiltering a piece of information or maybe a dual construct like “trusting users” and if someone you trust upvotes someone you filter then that message gets unfiltered, giving you a chance to re-evaluate the filtered user.

                                          Of course maybe these tools will lead to the community segmenting i.e. we implement the trust idea above and then everyone @zge trusts also filter similarly as him and the ones they filter are filtering back. This is pretty much equivalent to having subreddits and the problem you describe regarding the unfiltered experience suffering is a foregone conclusion in that case.

                                          So the result is that you end up in feature creep as you attempt to maintain balance. Lets say you want to maybe give new users access to the different filter-perspectives but then you’ve just invented subreddits (albeit emergent subreddits rather than predefined ones, so it’s bottom up organization rather than top down, which is always good) and we’ve lost our soul…

                                          So basically, I agree, ideally we all can coexist without losing our identity, but this is a very delicate engineering problem and while we can maybe find some nice local-optima that isn’t too violent I fear that “all good things must come to an end” is always the truth with these things.

                                          In the end, a “chose your own delusion realiity” model is probably the best we can do.

                                          Sorry for how long this became, I didn’t anticipate it when I started and while I would like to edit it down I need to get back to work..

                                          1. 1

                                            I think the problem is consensus on identity. If we allow filtering within the community to silence people that you don’t think produce valuable output then that is the internet equivalent of “agree to disagree” which is an important tool for being able to live with other people in a small space.

                                            I like this framing of the problem, but disagree heavily on the “agree to disagree” bit.

                                            The lowest effort solution, and one that appeals to techies because it’s an engineering solution to a people problem and one that doesn’t require scary topics like taste and judgement, is the filtering solution you advocate.

                                            Filters don’t prevent an accumulation of garbage, which tends to leak when it isn’t labeled properly. It also tends to lead to fractured communities (see also: /pol/ or even the culture tag here). It also means that people that see Lobsters fresh are going to be more lost, with people saying “oh no osdev is a garbage fire, but the plt tags are worth following” (or whatever).

                                            I’d rather just pull on our big kid pants and try to solve the conflict and settle on norms instead of being conflict avoidant.

                                            1. 1

                                              I don’t think the level of filtering that we have now is too bad and being able to filter users wouldn’t be a big change but I also see the slippery slope so I understand your hesitation.

                                              Really what I want to point out is that the problem is hard and any “solution” is a tradeoff. Which tradeoffs we choose will define our collective identity, so for example; I am okay with the feed becoming too fast for me to keep up with - so long as I can just go in, find what I want, and then leave. Granted, this means I am okay with the degradation of the community which is the whole point for many of us (rather than just another faceless content source).

                                              In general I agree that ‘agree to disagree’ is not the best way to act in your relationships… a step up from that is ‘suspending disbelief’ and then re-evaluating periodically to see if the disagreement can be resolved. However the problem stems from the need for eventual consistency and currently I don’t see a way to keep consistency without an ever increasing supply of violence (as the user base grows so does the amount of conflicting views).

                                              There’s conflict avoidance but the conflict intolerance is what I worry about, like when two engineers have different ideas on a detail in a system so the manager steps in and forces a worst-of-all-worlds solution just to avoid having the conflict end with a “winner” and because there is no obvious best-of-all-worlds solution (or the conflict wouldn’t have existed in the first place).

                                              Conflict intolerance is like the chat group that became a relic, it’s the solution that has become politically correct (in the groups collective ethos) but makes everyone unhappy (most of the time because the group is unwilling to drop a false assumption).

                                              Conflict avoidance means you just have some meekness and people who will suffer rather than rocking the boat. This brings down morale but often this can be managed (I think good management is all about standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves).

                                              Anyway, this exact problem is why I am trying to design a forum system organized around different primitives. The users should be able to express political consensus around a certain type of collective identity in the semantics of the system and shared views between different identities should be truely shared, collapsing duplicates into canons and making the space of collective identities continuous rather than discrete.

                                    2. 13


                                      Different people enjoy different things. I happen to think that this community contains a bevvy of super interesting people, so I quite enjoy the ‘low effort’ posts you’re harping on.

                                      So I’d much rather give you the tools to ignore it than try to remove them by mandate.

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                                        Totally agree. A diverse group of interesting people scattered across the world, too. Threads that bring out the activities and lifestyles of these interesting people just make it more fun for me.

                                        1. 4

                                          Agreed that’s one the reason why i posted these questions. Honestly seeing this post today really surprised me

                                          1. 3

                                            I think I agree.

                                            There was a promising site, lamernews or some other really weird name, - just like hn and llbsters ;-)

                                            AFAIK and IIRC some early users killed it by overpolicing it and scaring away everyone.

                                          2. 3

                                            Filtering works to a point, but I think a whitelist would also be a good idea.

                                            For example, I have web blocked because most of the posts don’t interest me. Occasionally however there is a post on how someone used Lisp to write a web application or something to that effect, which gets filtered from my frontpage because it’s tagged with web as well as lisp. If there was a way for me to say I always want to see lisp posts regardless of what other tags they have, I’d be very happy. Unfortunately I don’t have enough Ruby skills to implement this.

                                            1. 2

                                              Add a userscript to set display:none for li.story > div.h-entry > div.details > span.link > a[href=https://somedomain.com/*] on lobste.rs.

                                              1. 2

                                                Filtering would be the solution, if you are never interested in ask posts, but I do enjoy reading and sometimes contributing to “what are you doing this week/-end” posts. I don’t have an issue with annual or semi-annual “share you’re site” threads. I started this thread to discuss the frequency and kind of questions that are being asked, and filtering would just be overkill.

                                              2. 11

                                                Maybe this should be re-titled: “Could we stop giving low-effort answers?” I, like you, also enjoy the responses when they are detailed and thoughtful. They show me other possibilities that I never considered. Moreover, I find that it gives me insight into different ways of thinking. Which is funny since they are a response to really simple questions. I dunno, what do you think?

                                                1. 5

                                                  I think we don’t have a problem :)

                                                  I think that the voting system plus filters pretty much handles most use cases pretty well.

                                                  I mean, sure, we’d all love an AI that could be perfectly attuned to our interests so we’d never see anything we didn’t like, but we live in an imperfect world, and for my money (ESPECIALLY since lobsters is totally free on its face) it gives me plenty of control.

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                                                    I agree! :)

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                                                  To me these questions look OK. There are not too many of them and users can always press “hide”. Also the potential for spamming them is quite low - how often can you really ask about productivity tools. A few times per year maybe at most.

                                                  In addition - where else do you have a chance to ask broad technical questions about things you care about and get input from a lot of people who know what they are talking about. Nowadays Stack Overflow doesn’t accept questions like that, google search will lead you to fluff content with ramped-up SEO, on Hacker News no one will reply to you, and on Reddit you will get the same answer posted 100 times from 100 different users, with some lone different opinions downvoted and deleted.

                                                  But at the same time I like how sensitive to the standard of quality some users are on this site. Questions about blog posts and similar vanity threads probably should be tuned down a little. I replied on that thread with a suggestion that if you care about other people’s blogs you can find them on their user profiles.

                                                  The content I would really be against are question of the type “My compiler just gave me this error message, maybe someone here knows how to fix it?”. Or “Hi, rust noob here, what is the best way to start doing X”. Or “Currently I am X years old, been a musician all my life, is it too late to transition into web dev?”.

                                                  These types of questions are a lot more damaging. One thing - different users can ask the same questions in different permutations again and again. “Hi I am noob in Rust, help me”, “Hi, I am noob in Java, help me”, etc. Based on my experience back when I was following various subreddits (r/vim r/rstats r/bioinformatics, etc) or even with Stack Overflow, once the questions like above start appearing you can kiss any quality goodbye.

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                                                    i come to lobsters for interesting articles and interesting discussions in the comments. if an [ask] thread promotes discussion instead of just “dump and forget” replies, then it’s good. obviously this needs to be judged case by case.

                                                    i’d like to apply the same criterion to articles though. if everyone upvotes an article but has nothing to say about it, maybe it’s not as good as an article that sparks discussion? there’s some kind of happy balance to be had.

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                                                      Honestly i have been loving these discussions. I got to learn so many new things which I never heard of. People have been really active in these discussions and trust me my sole purpose to start discussions was not to gain karma that’s not what i joined lobste.rs for. I love this site and have gained a-lot of knowledge from this site

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                                                        (Can I just say that the ‘what do you name your hosts’ question was misunderstood at scale? In the question’s description, the asker said they meant large fleets of hosts, not home devices. Unfortunately, most folks didn’t read the description, and the niche question turned into a more commonplace discussion. That a lot of people enjoyed posting in, so at least there’s still that.)

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                                                          If it’s on topic and upvoted, that’s what the community wants to see.

                                                          I personally hit the “hide” button on topics that don’t interest me (for the record, that’s mostly super in-depth discussions about Rust or Haskell).

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                                                            Do people want to see or be seen? I mean, what’s the average vote on all the top-level replies in these threads?

                                                            It seems to me people much rather want to share than discuss, which is why they upvote the post and basically none of the other submissions.

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                                                              That’s both depressingly cynical, and believable.

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                                                                Oh, just to be clear, I’m guilty of doing that myself too. You’ll find responses from myself in many of those threads. It’s meant as an observation rather than a cynical / judgemental statement.

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                                                                I kinda often forget to upvote the story once I replied, I’ll try to improve on that.

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                                                                  Maybe a reply should automatically count as an upvote on the story – unless explicitly flagged?

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                                                                    I’m not sure, but doesn’t commenting already help a post to stay on the frontpage? If so, automatically upvoting when commenting would just double the effect.

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                                                                      No idea. :-)

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                                                              I like having more space for discussion, and wouldn’t like to see these discouraged entirely, we could have some recurrent posts, similar to “what you’re doing this week” with some of these questions. For instance: “Describe a tool you use and love”, “share something you wrote this week”.

                                                              “what’s your distro” was a very open question that could had resulted in people just answering “linux” but resulted in deep and interesting conversations, so it’s nice to have this type of space to foster dialogue, the low bar for entry might make people feel more comfortable in engaging with lobste.rs as a whole.

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                                                                I enjoyed some of these threads but was quite surprised to see how many came from the same person. Perhaps the way to do it is to maybe have that person do one of these ask threads on a Friday.

                                                                I can understand the problem with the type of content not matching other content posted on this site, but some people do find it useful. Share your blog actually gave me a ton of new stuff to read that I haven’t seen before. What would suck for me is seeing Share your blog every week. We have sites like HN and LinkedIn for that… ducks

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                                                                  I enjoy all five of those threads. I think there should be 1-2 of these a day and I think of these as community engagement type stuff. I like the “what color is your underpants” as a description and this is a topic that’s of interest to me for groups I’m in. I don’t want it all the time, but want a little.

                                                                  I think the effort should be around getting the right amount or we end up just having fluff. Maybe a “fluff” topic will help both to filter and to better track how much we have. We could also do something where fluff expires faster or upvotes count less than other content.

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                                                                    In my opinion, that’s the issue with many communities when they grow up to a certain scale. lobsters has been immune to it for a long time because it’s invite only and most people join to post and discuss. However, as a community grows the number of “lurkers” grows with it and the core contributors dwindles.
                                                                    Low effort replies that are not intimidating, while also giving the opportunity to be seen by others, are the only type threads that get traction from lurkers.

                                                                    Those threads wouldn’t be an issue if each reply was actually insightful, though I’d argue only the “share your blog” thread has such low effort posts, the others mentioned actually had long and great answers.

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                                                                      I agree that there are a lot of low-effort questions that don’t demand high-quality answers (problems on both sides of the fence), and the cadence questions like “What are you doing this week/weekend?” are exceptions that the community wants. If folks want to know what distribution people are using, etc, they should really take that conversation to the IRC.

                                                                      That said, I don’t think it’s a problem for a conversation that sparked interest in the IRC to become an ask post. Some of the ask posts recently have had technical answers (e.g. using UUIDs for naming hosts)

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                                                                        I was just mentioning to my wife this morning how disappointing it is to get “recognition” for low effort posts (or comments) weather be they on social media or here. Although, maybe more people want “lightweight-flippant-thought-efforts” during this pandemic?

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                                                                          Several of those posts - tools, and workflow - would have been absolute gold for me when I was starting out several decades ago.

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                                                                            What about setting a minimum number of words (not counting links) in the root replies to the thread having “ask” tag?

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                                                                              I think we should have a separate ask thread