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    This is a hilarious/sad example of why you don’t listen too closely to your users. It isn’t the users talking, it’s their addiction to metrics that is talking:

    Many users said it would make it harder to deduce whether an Instagram user’s follower count is legitimate

    The winners and losers in high-profile spats between YouTubers are often judged by analyzing trends in subscriber counts in the hours after key videos or updates are published.

    Burn it all down.

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      “Likes” are certainly part of the problem, but the root cause, in my opinion, is that big communities just don’t work. You can have a healthy small community with likes (Lobste.rs is pretty good in this regard, though I tend to avoid the threads with lots of upvotes and replies that spring up every now and then), but I don’t think you can have a healthy big community even without likes (see 4chan, though arguably backquotes and “reaction posts” serve the same purpose as likes).

      To have a meaningful conversation you have to establish some shared context, and as a community’s user base grows that context gradually dilutes and gets lost.

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        I’m convinced that large online communities have historically become worse as they’ve grown because most, if not all of those communities failed to scale their moderation efforts (or just don’t moderate at all).

        Reddit, for instance, is thousands of times more popular now than it was when it began, but the tools and abilities of subreddit moderators to deal with this increased popularity have not scaled with the site’s userbase. Reddit has also all but abandoned reddiquette, discussion focused communities, and even administrating the site.

        Facebook and Twitter face similar scaling issues with their moderation efforts.

        However, I don’t think all hope is lost.

        I’m a very active, very eager participant on a website called Tildes, that was started by a former reddit admin (Deimorz) with the hopes of solving some (most, all) of the problems faced by online communities.

        One of the key ideas to Tildes, which is about a year and a half old and already 10,000+ users strong, is a “trust based moderation system” where users, by participating on the site, receiving votes, and accurately and correctly using the site’s moderation tools, will “level up” and gain further moderation privileges.

        It’s just an idea for now. The site is still young and small enough that the development of other features are more pressing, but it’s an interesting idea that I think has a lot of potential.

        Aside from that, Tildes is, even now with 10,000+ users, by far the best online community I have ever interacted with. I believe that is thanks to its well-defined, reasonable, and perhaps strict moderation practices.

        My point is, I don’t think online communities have to get worse as they grow. I don’t think that’s a rule at all. I just think it has historically been the case because most large online communities are for-profit, pro-engagement at the detriment of their community.

        Sorry if this sounds like an ad.

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          I kind of agree that it doesn’t have to be this way, just that as it grows it becomes much harder. Moderation is a useful tool to enforce that the context I was talking about survives a larger user base in some form, but it’s also easily “corruptible”. I think process cannot solve the human problems of keeping a community healthy and moderators in check, though it might help in the common case.

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        In retrospect it’s kind of amazing how quickly we moved from an Internet with no “like” counts (the golden age of blogging) to an Internet where it’s very difficult to find any community where “like” counts or upvotes are not a core part of the system. Even indie sites like Lobste.rs or Metafilter that eschew a lot of the apparatus of the modern Internet incorporate this very quantitative approach to community and social interaction.

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          Yes. The quieter, less-evaluative Internet was hijacked by one of addictive narcissism.

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            After writing my earlier comment I realized that there is one type of online community I participate in that is completely free of likes/voting/ranking/quantitative anything: mailing lists.

            It’s probably not a coincidence that I love mailing lists, while people whose Internet experience started even a few years later than mine did seem to really, really hate them. I wonder if there is a real generational (or internet-generational) divide here, or if I’m just an outlier.

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              It’s probably not a coincidence that I love mailing lists, while people whose Internet experience started even a few years later than mine did seem to really, really hate them. I wonder if there is a real generational (or internet- generational) divide here, or if I’m just an outlier.

              As a guy who first acquired an ISP in 1993, I can honestly say that I generally dislike mailing lists (like most people, I guess). I always think of them as a poor-man’s usenet, I would much rather just hop on tin(1) and read the latest posts in my subscribed groups.

              Having said that, I am a member of some mailing lists that I genuinely enjoy. Though they are the exception, not the rule…

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              It would be interesting to see an implementation of an upvote button that didn’t display the count to the users. You still get the “community” aspect of it, without the narcissistic side.

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                HN does this.

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                  Right! For the comments. They still show the points for each story, which I think makes sense (or does it…?)

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                Back then we had guestbooks and hit counters to provide the tingle of popularity that is oh so addictive.

                I remember when I first added commenting to my blog and getting ten or so meaningfull comments within the first week of publishing a new post was a thrill to see; those were different to likes though, because they were actual meaningful interactions that often spawned discussion.

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                Snapchat is an interesting example of a different kind of “social network”—completely without ‘Like’ counts or other indicators that people enjoyed what you sent to them or posted (although there are view counts for Stories). It’s a completely different model from Twitter or Reddit or Instagram altogether, which makes the comparison harder, but I think it does foster better communication with actual people than any of them. You have to know all of the people you’re communicating with in real life, usually.

                Popularity contests and direct communication can coexist, but I think we do put too much emphasis on the results of popularity contests and too little on the social connections we make.

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                  I suspect the benefit would only be temporary. In a world where you need to go viral to succeed the creatives will find a way. Perhaps the focus should shift to fixing that problem instead. Instead of focusing on content creator “whales” grow a long tail off creators who make a living. Make it harder to go viral not easier and make that a viable business model.

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                    Take your upvote.

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                      GitHub added 👍/👎 reactions to issues as a response to issue like this where there’s thirteen comments just saying “+1”. I assume Twitter had a similar reason for adding the ♥ button.

                      If the metrics are removed, I don’t think it’ll be possible to have any engagement between big wheel content creators and their followers at all. It’ll just turn into a sea of impossible-to-grok noise.