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Everything is in the title, but here is some context: I recently noticed some of my comments in a thread were downvoted as “incorrect” for no reason obvious to me.

I recognize that participants in a discussion can disagree and I’m of course ok with that. It can even fuel the discussion in a positive way.

But I think that downvoting a comment as “incorrect”, anonymously and without any explanation is counter-productive. Is it the kind of discussion we want to encourage? Am I supposed to downvote a comment as “incorrect” when I disagree, as a kind of retaliation, instead of trying to articulate a rationale answer?

I’m curious to know what you think.

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    I’m starting to just wish the comments section had no voting. We get so few comments, I’m starting to think that upvotes aren’t helpful. Instead, I’d just like a flag link next to “link” which presented a drop down of “spam”, “troll” and “abusive”.

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      Upvotes may be helpful for surfacing the most interesting or useful comments in a discussion, however there are several issues here:

      • Reading all the comments on a thread isn’t often hard (we’re just not that big)
      • Getting all the best comments up front may discourage reading the whole discussion (particularly as a site grows, and without an RES-like comment collapsing feature). There is an issue of diminishing returns in a voting system
      • Group-think becomes more prevalent. The comments that end up at the top are the ones most people agree with. As they climb to the top more people see them, and because they are already likely close to the average opinion, they go higher. People entering after this has happened are presented first with a carefully selected and possibly homogeneous mix of opinions, with dissenting voices pushed downward.

      Personally, I would love some experimentation with comment ordering. The site is still small enough that it isn’t likely to hide certain content behind a wall of previous content (like Reddit), and it could encourage a more balanced discussion by avoiding issue 3 listed above.

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        Maybe sort by votes but keep recent comments on top as well, so that you have everything within like the past hour or so on top for people to vote on, and then the top rated comments after that. Khan Academy’s comment system works a bit like that, and it seems pretty good.

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      I noticed this on the cargo thread. Thought the downvote on the below quote to be particularly strange:

      In Go I don’t miss such a component at all. I’d even say that not having to use a tool like Bundler in Ruby, pip in Python or npm in Node.js is refreshing.

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        Yes, this is this thread. Thanks for confirming that the downvote is strange :-)

        I’m worried about that kind of anonymous downvotes gaining grounds as Lobsters grows.

        A downvote “I disagree”, not anonymous, and associated to a mandatory short comment, would be more respectful and would encourage constructive discussion.

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          If you require a comment for disagreement then you’ll likely end up with things akin to the “+1” posts common on other types of forums.

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            Could you elaborate? I’m not sure I follow your reasoning.

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              I think lenish is saying that people will use votes to show agreement on the opinion they feel matches theirs vs. commenting to show agreement.

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                Sorry, didn’t see this until just now.

                What I’m saying is that, if you require a comment in order to downvote something, you’ll end up with comments that just say things like, “-1”, not necessarily anything constructive.

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                  I would downvote that kind of comment as spam. I think the implication of such a comment is that it needs to be nontrivial.

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                    But you can’t downvote without leaving a comment, which means every time you want to downvote one of those you have to say something that’s not also spam (and so does everyone else), unless I misunderstood the original concept as only requiring comments for downvoting the original post.

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                      The point is that if you raise the bar for downvoting, you’ll only have downvotes that people think are important. For example, if I decide that I don’t like comment by @moses, I could just downvote every one of @moses’s comments. But if I see that I need to add a comment, I’d feel dumb if I added a comment which said “downvoted because @moses is a loser.” So I probably won’t.

                      TL;DR What you’re describing is not a bug, but a feature.

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                        I’d feel dumb if I added a comment which said “downvoted because @moses is a loser.” So I probably won’t. TL;DR What you’re describing is not a bug, but a feature.

                        My point is that there are a lot of people who won’t feel dumb saying things like that and will quite happily post bad comments to downvote something.

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                          It sounds like the two points you are arguing are contradictory, so I think I missed something. Here are the two points you are holding:

                          1. there are a lot of people who won’t feel dumb saying things like that and will quite happily post bad comments to downvote something
                          2. which means every time you want to downvote one of those you have to say something that’s not also spam

                          So it sounds like you’re saying that both the bar is too high and also the bar is too low. Could you elaborate?

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                            I was talking about two groups of people, sorry for the lack of clarity.

                            There is a group of people who don’t care about post quality and will post things like “downvote” just to downvote a comment, which adds nothing to the discussion.

                            There is another group of people who care about post quality, and have to come up with something more valuable to say when downvoting, which may deter perfectly valid downvotes.

                            As an example, if the user in the latter category wants to downvote a user in the former category, does it make sense for everyone who wants to downvote a comment saying nothing other than, “downvote,” to also say, “your comment doesn’t add anything to the discussion?” At what point to comments like that become just as annoying as comments saying only, “downvote.”

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                              I think it’s fine to deter those “perfectly valid” downvotes. Downvotes rarely seem to improve the community unless it’s a behavior that we strongly want to discourage, and if you want to strongly discourage something, it merits a comment.

                              It might just not be worth downvoting comments that don’t add to the discussion.

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            A possible source of bias in that thread: I tweeted a link to that comment, specifically because I didn’t feel like writing my response as a blog, and I also did not want to present my post without context.

            That said, because lobsters doesn’t have open registrations, I can’t imagine that I would have caused it to a serious degree…. but figured it should be mentioned.

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              steveklabnik: I saw your tweet, and I think it was a good idea to share this with the “outside”, but I don’t believe this is your tweet that triggered this behavior.

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            “No.”

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              Sometimes I will meet a comment, so way off base I don’t know where to even start putting it right…. and I might “drive by downvote” it.

              However my usual/much preferred practice is to either…

              • upvote those comments that do take the time to piece together a educational response or to
              • give a reasoned response as to which way Up is.

              Alas, sometimes nobody knows where to start, or nobody has had the time as yet to make one.

              ps: These remarks are on “my personal general behaviour, as done by me and those I admire, but not in reference to anything specific you may have posted.”

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                I think there’s a place for it. Sometimes a comment is just so obviously wrong (or the evident product of such a radically different worldview) that there would be very little value in a reply.

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                  It would depend on the intention. For spam/trolling, I’d downvote and walk away, but for comments where the intention was good, but incorrect, I’d explain. (or let someone else do it)

                  The emotion it was written with might affect it to.

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                    Are you suggesting that any anonymous “incorrect” downvote is some kind of retaliation? If not, why would you consider that you should respond by downvoting as “incorrect” when you disagree “as a kind of retaliation”?

                    The turn that your question took there has me rather taken aback.

                    I’ve “anonymously” downvoted comments without commenting myself when they are 1 or 2 liners by people who frankly, don’t know what they are talking about. Sometimes something is so factually wrong and you don’t feel like explaining that you do that. I think that has been ~ 10-15 times since I’ve joined lobste.rs.

                    The solution to your question would appear to be, to get rid of downvoting comments, and just have dueling comments which probably just leads to lots of +1 in order to show support for a “correct” or “supported” answer.

                    Neither of those seems particularly useful either. Rather, I think we need to accept that some people will use “incorrect” for disagreement, some will sometimes use it to literally mean “incorrect” but not want to follow up with it beyond that and just move on. Some people, when you express an opinion rather than proveable fact, are going to use “incorrect” to mean “i disagree”. Such is life.

                    Feel free to downvote this as incorrect.

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                      The entire time I read this comment, I was thinking: “oh yeah.. I am totally going to down vote this with no explination.. heueheuheuehe”.. Then I read:

                      Feel free to downvote this as incorrect.

                      It took the wind right out of me.

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                        Are you suggesting that any anonymous “incorrect” downvote is some kind of retaliation?

                        No, I’m not. Some “incorrect” downvotes definitely feel like retaliation, but hopefully not most of them.

                        If not, why would you consider that you should respond by downvoting as “incorrect” when you disagree “as a kind of retaliation”?

                        An “incorrect” downvote is not supposed to be used to signal disagreement. It is supposed to be used when the story or the comment contains errors or mistakes.

                        My understanding of downvotes in Lobsters is that they are not designed as a kind of -1 vote. They are meant to be used only to signal a strong issues with a story or a comment: off-topic, incorrect, me-too, troll and spam. Disagreement is not in this list.

                        If you disagree with something, just don’t upvote it or leave a comment.

                        In my opinion, having only upvotes and no downvotes is what makes Lobsters more friendly than other online communities. When you post a comment after having carefully thought about it, it can be offending to see it “greyed” because some members downvoted it just because they disagree, without any idea of who/why.

                        Sometimes something is so factually wrong and you don’t feel like explaining that you do that.

                        I think it’s a case where the “incorrect” downvote is adequate.

                        Feel free to downvote this as incorrect.

                        Haha! I decided to upvote instead (as a constructive comment) :-)

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                          The only solution I see is publicly displaying who down voted each comment. Who flagged each story. And by that token, the same for up votes. Which I think would be an interesting experiment. That might inspire people to comment. I don’t it though.

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                            Yes, I think it would be very a good improvement! I wrote about it in another comment a few hours ago:

                            https://lobste.rs/s/40plba/is_it_ok_to_anonymously_downvote_a_comment_as_incorrect_without_any_explanation/comments/ocke0t

                            Do you know if there is some process or place to suggest new features for Lobsters?

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                              jcs can speak to that the best, i’ve seen people put up meta threads with feature ideas etc.

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                              I’ve previously explained why I’d rather not publicly show usernames for downvotes. I also made this change recently.

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                                Thanks for answering! I’ve read the linked comment and commit.

                                If I understand you well, your point is that making usernames public will do more harm (triggering emotional discussions between users about the downvote) than good (encouraging the downvoter to think about it twice before clicking on “incorrect” when in fact he just disagrees)?

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                          I can’t find the thread but I had a suggestion a few months ago that was roughly downvotes must have a comment explaining the downvote.

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                            I thought a bit about this today.

                            I think that requiring a short explanation for each “incorrect” downvote is overkill and unrealistic. We already have “normal” comments and it would create another kind of comments. This is too much complex. It would also complicate the user interface. And above all, there is no way to force the downvoter to enter a meaningful comment. People could still downvote with a “no” or a “-1” as an “explanation”.

                            I understand that the “incorrect” downvote is meant to signal a comment that contains a factual error or mistake. It’s not supposed to be used to signal disagreement. But here again, we have no way to enforce this.

                            But if we cannot stop members to use the “incorrect” downvote for disagreement, and if we cannot force them to provide an explanation, then what can we do?

                            I think the root the cause is the anonymity and the lack of traceability.

                            What would you think of making the list of downotes visible, with the type of downote and the username for each downote?