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It would be convenient to be able to mark a comment as positive or negative.

Some possible benefits:

  • Ability to see, at a glance, whether a particular comment is rated as negative by a lot of people.
    • Ability to filter out comments that are highly negative, or possibly bump them down when logged in
  • Ability to see whether a story’s comments are overwhelmingly negative.
  • Ability for the software to know whether a user tends to post negative comments a lot of the time.
    • This could be used to place an “niceness” or “angriness” avatar next to a username if their comment ratio exceeds a certain threshold.

The UI would be extremely simple: just something next to the up/down arrows with a happy/angry face (or something along those lines).


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    10$ says people treat happy/sad faces “I agree” or “I disagree”

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      How is upvoting or downvoting not the same as marking it positive or negative?

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        I think he’s looking for a ratio of upvotes:downvotes so as to determine whether a comment just hasn’t been voted on much v. it being “controversial”.

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          I mean whether the post is positive (saying nice things) or negative (saying mean/nasty things)

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            That said, total votes is useful for controversial posts that have a low number because of many up and down votes.

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            Because at present downvotes are only for off-topic, troll, spam, incorrect, and me-too. I think the ‘happy face’ ‘sad face’ thing is just for tone, and not karma. So, you could have a comment that was witty and snarky, that was upvoted but also ‘sad faced’, or a comment that was really positive but vacuous or wrong, that was down-voted with me-too or incorrect, but also ‘happy faced’. Basically, this seems like just a way to keep an eye on the ‘emotional temperature’ of a thread or commenter.

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            I think we should instead be able to mark comments as “I agree”/“I disagree” (as mentioned by mbriggs). My reasoning:

            • I think “agree”/“disagree” is more helpful than “positive”/“negative”.
              • I haven’t noticed any problem of seeing too many negative comments, and I imagine that viewing comments’ negativity will hardly help me read the site better.
              • On the other hand, I have a few times in the past (on Hacker News) ran into situations where separate quality and agreement voting would have helped:
                • I have wanted to proclaim that I disagreed with a comment while acknowledging that it contained interesting points or useful links. With this system, I would upvote and “disagree”.
                • I have also seen comments with bad arguments for a position I agree with. I would downvote with the reason “incorrect” and “agree”.
                • There are some comments that I disagree with that are about a matter of opinion, so they’re not bad enough to be downvoted. I would only “disagree”.
            • The more up/down voting axes we add, the more difficult and slow the user interface is, so we should take care not to add too many.
            • We shouldn’t jump to three voting axes right away – it would be better to add just one more axis at first, to try multiple axes out. The first axis we add should be the most helpful axis (“agree”/“disagree”).

            A collection of past comment threads on Hacker News with the same suggestion:

            Many comments I upvote I also “agree” with, so it might be best to make “agreement” automatic when you upvote, and the same for downvotes. However, that might be a problem when you upvote links that are helpful but don’t argue for any position, such a comment providing relevant links – the agreement stats would be meaningless for those comments.

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              “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci

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                I don’t see the relevance of that quote. (And I’m not sure whether I agree with that quote or not – I’m not sure exactly what he means by that.)

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                  If you don’t understand it, why are you commenting on it? The quote is perfectly valid. It is easy to add a shitload of features, it’s hard to keep it simple over long period of operation. Why not just add <insert random feature here>? It adds up. What’s wrong with the current feature set?

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                    If you don’t understand it, why are you commenting on it?

                    I was implicitly asking for an explanation of the comment, so that I could understand it. I was also, I suppose, implicitly asking mc to elaborate on his comments more in the future to avoid further such confusion.

                    Now you have explained the comment, and I understand what was meant. I didn’t understand the comment at first because I thought it was referring to the proposed “simple” UI with angry/happy faces, but now I know it is referring to the simplicity of leaving this feature out altogether. mc seems to be saying that he would rather keep the site simple by leaving out this comment-rating feature. That’s a reasonable stance.

                    Now that I have an example application of the da Vinci quote, I am also clearer on the quote’s meaning. I think it’s exaggerated as a general statement – simplicity is sometimes just what is needed (the ultimate sophistication), but in some situations it is a relatively unimportant factor. The quote is an assertion that can sometimes be made, but far from a general argument or a universal truth.

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                I like it. Often on HN someone will have something interesting to say, but will say it in an unnecessarily negative or snarky way, which tends to provoke flames and can somewhat derail the thread as people address the negativity instead of the content.

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                  It might be a good idea to justify “down-votes” with a select box option.

                  For a user to down-vote a comment, a simple reason would be required.

                  Such as:

                  • Inflammatory
                  • Irrelevant
                  • Factually incorrect
                  • Other

                  You could also optionally justify “up-votes”.

                  • Insightful
                  • Funny
                  • Additional resource
                  • Other

                  Just a thought! :–)

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                    You can already give a justification for downvotes of both stories and comments. Click any downvote button and you should see the menu drop down – you can click Cancel afterwards.

                    On the other hand, the possibility of up-vote justifications sounds interesting. I know one issue with Reddit that some people on Hacker News have is that too often, funny comments outrank insightful ones, and they’d prefer to read insightful comments. This way, “insightful” votes can automatically add more to a ranking than “funny”. Or perhaps it would be better to keep all upvotes equal by default, but let those people change their settings to tell the site how much they value each type of upvote – they might rate “insightful” as worth “2” and “funny” as worth “1” for their comment ranking.

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                      For the record, as you didn’t mention it, the up-vote justifications (and down-vote justifications) are in play on Slashdot, so you can differentiate between insightful (good argument), informative (new information), and funny (obvious). (There were probably more options, which might be interesting to check out if you care about thinking more on such a feature.)

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                        One more interesting note about /.: Funny comments do not give you karma. “You have to be smart, not be a smart-ass.”

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                    I like this idea. It also got me thinking about sentiment analysis in the comments section! Enter my chrome extension for lobste.rs

                    It prepends a “Calculated comment sentiment: [:),:(]” to each comment.


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                      Couldn’t this be solved by offering a different comment sorting algorithms? On reddit, you can sort comments by best, top, controversial, and new. So your comment that has a large number of downvotes and upvotes would be at the top of the controversial view.