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It’s been a week since I removed story downvoting and replaced it with the hide functionality after some discussion.

Do you think this has made things better or worse? I haven’t seen any of the after-downvote bickering that I saw before, but I’ve also heard from users that it’s made things worse because low quality articles can’t be pulled off the front page anymore. However, I believe that being able to do that was only temporary because as the site gains more users, the power of one or even a couple downvotes will not be enough to prevent such stories from reaching the front page if enough other users like it. I would much rather see comments on such stories from users explaining why they don’t like it, or engaging the author of the story in a discussion here if he or she has an account.

What do you lobsters think?


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    I’m still undecided on this.

    One thing I do think is missing is feedback. Not voting for an article doesn’t mean: “I don’t this is appropriate”. I’d like to see community feedback in some form around quality of submission in a negative sense. That would just be “how many people hide this article”.

    Negative feedback in the form of “I’d rather not see content like this on lobste.rs” can provide valuable feedback to new members from those who exist about community norms in terms of content etc.

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      Currently lobste.rs has a low enough volume of new content that the ranking function of the voting mechanism isn’t critical. Its function as feedback to the poster is much more important right now, and a system that can only provide positive feedback is not very effective.

      The risk is a slow devolution into Programming Meme Repository #99. If I start posting every new XKCD here I want the rest of the site to have a way to say “no thanks” without every comment section turning into a referendum.

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      I strongly agree that comments on why people don’t like things are preferable to downvotes. However, that only happens occasionally, and if you force people to comment to downvote, I suspect you’ll get something like you do when you force people to pick a downvote reason. People will make a comment that doesn’t contribute much, the same way that people pick an arbitrary reason to downvote something they don’t like.

      I have a longer analysis here, but the short version is here’s what I see on HN, which has no downvotes: There’s a high volume of new stories, which means that things have a very limited amount of time to hit the front page. Linkbait is highly likely to collect enough votes from /newest in that timespan. Technical articles aren’t likely to. The more technical the article, the worse the odds. When technical articles do make it to the front page, they often get enough upvotes to stay there for a long time because front page traffic is so much higher than /newest traffic.

      On reddit, which has downvotes, people very aggressively downvote content and most things are pretty much immediately pushed into the negative range where they’ll fall off the front page without much exposure. If something gets pushed up higher before it gets downvoted to oblivion, it can get enough momentum to stick for a long time. So, it basically works the same as HN, where linkbait has a much better probability of getting that first push than technical content.

      So, I think things are different, but in the limit the behavior will converge to be pretty similar either way.

      Of course, if you don’t like having lots of technical content, this isn’t a problem. And, considering what gets upvoted, it must be that people prefer to have less technical content and more fluffy content. Maybe the right thing to do is to give people what they want, even though that’s the opposite of my preference.

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        There’s a high volume of new stories, which means that things have a very limited amount of time to hit the front page.

        That is exactly what /recent was designed to fix (which I just enabled again right before you posted your comment), since that was one of my complaints about HN when creating Lobsters.

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          The underlying problem here is that we’re constructing conversation environments where fast-twitch reactions drown out slow, considered ones. There have been attempts to construct conversation environments where that’s not true, like the Rotisserie system (description in a book) and Wikipedia, but they have been only partly successful; this is perhaps partly because the matching law of operant conditioning means that rapid rewards, even small ones, are much more effective than slow rewards, partly because web sites that you interact with only occasionally don’t have a way to get your attention, and partly because the rapid back-and-forth of rapid reactions simply allows groups that interact frequently to be creative in ways that rarely-interacting groups aren’t. (Consider how many current popular memes come from 4chan.)

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          Perhaps show the number of people hiding the submission. As an aside, perhaps ignore is a better description of what is going on than hide.

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            Ok, it shows the count of hiding users now.

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              I should point out, for anyone else looking - it only shows it in the story, not on the homepage.

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            Lots of low-quality stories that seem to linger around the front page now.

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              I missed the discussion, but I noticed this week that I didn’t like the front page. There were a few stories I went to downvote and, not seeing the arrows, figured I must’ve just been thinking of how Reddit works. One reason I wanted to downvote was that I couldn’t imagine a good discussion coming from - there are a few topics such that leaving a comment about being uninterested in topic X rehashes a flamewar about the morality of being uninterested in topic X.

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                I don’t feel like there has been a big enough difference to cast a vote for better or worse.

                Fundamentally, I think the ability to downvote is a good one, though risk grows with the population of lobsters.

                I try to include a comment if I do choose to downvote, after a meta discussion here some months ago. (Side note: is there a way to see stats on how many times I downvoted with a comment, vs without?). Requiring a comment in order to downvote still seems like a decent idea, imho. Perhaps the ability is controlled via a karma requirement, which theoretically ensures that the user has hung around long enough to get the feel for the lobsters community.

                One unexplored option is to show downvotes, but not have them affect the rank. This allows readers to see which articles are unpopular or controversial with lobsters.

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                  Has the idea of a minimum rep to be able to downvote been considered?

                  Downvotes are a way for the community to self maintain. Minimum rep would keep the mechanism of “cleaning by community” in place, while requiring some level of constructive participation before being able to affect other posts.

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                    It was by account age before (and still is for comment downvoting) but from what I recall, a lot of the users downvoting things with “poor quality” that probably shouldn’t have were users with enough karma to otherwise do so.

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                    I haven’t seen any of the after-downvote bickering that I saw before

                    Yeah, but maybe a different problem now. Since the reader can’t downvote, then the reader decides to leave a comment like: “I thought this article was dumb.” (I’m just paraphrasing)

                    Then the poster or some other reader, tries to defend the article.

                    Bickering follows, just like before.