1. 78
    Please don't downvote things you disagree with. meta

Lately I’ve noticed that comments that people disagree with are getting downvoted. This is not the traditional way downvotes are used on Lobste.rs, and I’d hate to see this become the standard. “Incorrect” should be reserved for things that are objectively incorrect (for example, a command that will harm your system or FUD about a language). “Troll” should be reserved for things that are genuinely trolling, not just snarky comments.

We’ve grown a lot over the last year, but part of what makes lobste.rs better is a culture of friendly debate. Anonymous downvotes don’t contribute to that, so think before you click the ▼.

  1.  

  2. 21

    I’ve already given my 2 cents on the matter in an older post, but I’d also like to add something else:

    Why would you expect people not to use downvotes as a convenient shorthand for “I disagree with this”? It’s much easier to click on a button than to form an argument or even just ignore something you don’t like. People are just like that.

    And seriously, the graying out is moronic, stop it. I will mention this every time the topic gets brought up.

    1. 27

      I know this might be controversial, but I’d be in favour of totally removing downvotes from lobsters. If you don’t think it’s helpful, don’t upvote it. The ‘best’ comments will still rise to the top, but the site won’t punish users with radical opinions.

      1. 70

        I’ve removed comment downvotes. Have fun!

        1. 21

          The absolute madman…he actually did it.

          1. 6

            Thanks for doing this! How would you feel to add now a “report” button for patently abusive comments?

            Anyway, I think we can at least experiment and see what happens for a couple of weeks. If things get out of hand we can always roll back, but hey, at least we tried!

            1. 4

              I think it’s easy to find and message a mod in those cases (it has happened before even with downvoting).

              I’m not against adding a formal “report” action but if it’s too easy to tap it anytime someone’s jimmies are rustled, we (the moderators) are going to have more stuff to wade through and investigate every time we just want to read the site like everyone else. The nice thing about comment downvoting is that the users did all the work and if the comment was bad enough, it was grayed out and collapsed, effectively doing the same thing a moderator would have to by removing it.

              1. 5

                I think it might be a good idea to handle comments like stories: have a “flag” button that is basically a downvote button, but has different connotations. Also show the flag reasons above the flagged comment for visibility (I also think this will promote discussion, I know it does with stories).

                This way the community still has a channel to self-moderate without the tendency for abuse that the downvote button had.

            2. 5

              This kind of democratic action, transparency, & good faith efforts in community and admins is why I like this site so much. The content, too, obviously. I cant wait to see what effect it has on the comment quality!

              1. 8

                I like what jcs did and it is transparent and in good faith, but how is it democratic?

                1. 6

                  A member of the community wanted a change to the status quo. Many people weighed in. Most convincing arguments were in favor of eliminating downvotes. jcs eliminated downvotes.

                  Now, compare that to how most forums or admins handle a “change the site” thread. This thread’s results looks more democratic in comparison.

                  1. 1

                    If you don’t like it, vote with your feet and use Hacker News instead.

                    1. 9

                      But…. that’s still not democracy.

                      (I’m not saying it’s bad that lobsters isn’t a democracy, I’m just saying it isn’t.)

                      1. 3

                        As Transmetropolitan points out, democracy can be overrated.

                2. 5

                  Next we need to consider removing comment upvotes. Otherwise there’s potentially too much positive encouragement for short bite-sized comments that lack substenance and don’t really contribute to the discussion but which happen to have “popular appeal” for other reasons.

                  Anyway it’s nice to watch how this plays out. Downvotes can be quite frustrating.

                  1. 3

                    Why “other reasons” for popular appeal shouldn’t deserve upvoting?

                    1. 8

                      Because we probably don’t want to see the comment section full of bite sized chunks that lack substenance and don’t contribute to a discussion. Yet people love such things. At least sites with mainstream appeal are rampant with such comments. Repeating memes, calling for hillary/trump/putin/obama to be shot, making fun of $bigcorp, bashing people’s software choices, etc. etc.

                      There’s so much crap (even on-topic) one could post and there’s probably always an audience that agrees and will upvote just because they agree or find it funny or whatever. Downvotes are essentially community moderation that in my view has done a great job keeping such bull to a minimum on HN and here (not so much on reddit, I wonder why?). If downvotes were only used for this purpose, I don’t think anyone would object. The problem is when they are used to suppress, discourage and frustrate perfectly legitimate posters.

                      1. 7

                        Agreed. The front page right now contains at least a few posts that have comments that I’d normally down-vote. Some of those comments have even bubbled to the top, despite the fact that they are silly content free quips that I expect to see at the top of a reddit post, but not here.

                        1. 2

                          Well put, thank you!

                    2. 2

                      Perfection is achieved not when … etc …

                      1. 2

                        upvoted this :)

                        1. 2

                          maybe in their place you can add some thread coloring to note that certain problematic people are participating in the discussion? I’m sure the list for everyone is different, but I’d love some warning before even looking at a thread where $USER is arguing in bad faith using discredited arguments because they’re a callow and thoughtless young person.

                          1. 2

                            Yeah but eventually callow young people become grumbly old people and your filters will be all wrong.

                          2. 2

                            thanks!

                          3. 9

                            I like the way it’s handled for posts; there’s an upvote, and there’s a flag button. Flags are essentially downvotes, but because they’re treated differently they don’t “feel” like downvotes. I don’t think people are flagging article submissions that they disagree with.

                            1. 7

                              My suggestion is that downvotes should be accompanied by a reason, and then “downvote” can be “upvoted” to show agreement. I don’t have the knowledge/time/energy to implement this and offer a PR, unfortunately. I do try to offer a reason I’m downvoting a post, unless it’s a troll.

                              1. 3

                                I like seeing the degree to which my opinion is unpopular.

                                1. 1

                                  people can be helpful but how do you upvote your goodness when you upvote a good post?

                                2. 11

                                  Right now if I click on a downvote arrow, I need to specify the reason. Thus, if the reason is not listed, that means the comment shouldn’t be downvoted.

                                  The current options are:

                                  • Off topic
                                  • Incorrect (to which I wouldn’t personally downvote, but rather reply with the “correct” answer)
                                  • Me-too
                                  • Troll
                                  • Spam

                                  Some communities solve this problem by eliminating completely the downvote and replacing it with a “report” button, which has different connotations.

                                  If we’re going to stick with up & downvotes, there’s little we can do. Sites like Slashdot have been experimenting with alternative methods to control moderation quality, and I think there is no perfect system.

                                  However, and this is 100% my personal opinion, my favorite method is the upvote + report button. I don’t mind “dumb” or “incorrect” comments sitting with 1 point at the bottom of the page. We all can be mistaken sometimes or write a comment which is just too snarky or misinterpretable, and receiving a downvote for them is infuriating and solves nothing.

                                  Edit: I replied to you instead of OP by mistake, however I think the discussion is still relevant

                                  1. 6

                                    It’s much easier to click on a button than to form an argument or even just ignore something you don’t like. People are just like that.

                                    Maybe we need a separate “Disagree” button to satisfy that basic human instinct.

                                    1. 7

                                      I’d love if the disagree button grayed out the post for the local user but did nothing on the backend.

                                  2. 13

                                    So, it’s a common saw that bullshit is 100x harder to disprove or discredit than it is to repeat. Getting rid of downvotes definitely doesn’t help with that dynamic. Having to painstakingly and repeatedly disagree with long-disproven Bad Ideas is not really how I want to spend my time. Better to be able to vote “this comment is garbage” and move on.

                                    1. 7

                                      The idea that by limiting the options available in the downvote you are positively and proactively controlling users and promoting community is bad UX and a slightly broken way of thinking about interface design and social interaction.

                                      Let’s get real about the process and the user experience that’s really at play here:

                                      • User reads a comment they really don’t like. They have some self awareness that it is not factually incorrect, but it is grating and the user feels that the comment should have a downvote.
                                      • User is not thinking carefully or wanting to express himself creatively, user is caught in emotional reflexive response state.
                                      • User clicks downvote
                                      • User can not find a downvote option that describes his feeling
                                      • User chooses closest option from the ones availble that matches his strong feeling for the need to downvote.

                                      If you force a user to not be able to mash the downvote button because she feels like it, Bad Things will happen when feelings are forced to be quantized.

                                      The solution here is to make more options available in the downvote, including one that is ‘bah i don’t like this!’, and for users to be able to customise their view of the data according to the downvote types they want to take into account, or even users whos votes they want to take into account.

                                      Also, why is this anonymous? The lobste.rs code knows the user that has downvoted, would making it public change behaviour?

                                      1. 8

                                        That’s an interesting take – a having disagree option in the downvote menu could capture most of the disagree downvotes that are currently being funneled into troll or incorrect. And then we have options:

                                        • ignore them
                                        • show the “disagree” count separately
                                        • show separately and de-anonymize disagreers
                                        • pop up a modal when “disagree” is clicked to say “We don’t downvote for that here, please explain why you disagree in a reply comment instead”
                                      2. 5

                                        Is there a place for downvoting something as “not well reasoned?”

                                        1. 3

                                          I don’t think so, because that seems like the purpose of a comment. If someone says “A, therefore not B,” just saying “not well reasoned” is not a valuable downvote. You might say: “I don’t see any connection between A and B, so this doesn’t seem like a sound argument.” The initial commenter might then say: “Oh, I see what you mean…” or they might say “I know it’s not obvious, but please see this paper by Philip Wadler.” Discussion leads to learning opportunities for both parties. A down-vote just leads to the commenter’s frustration.

                                          1. 1

                                            The only downside of replying with a comment is that you end up with the phenomen of weak top comments on a story, with the top replies being effective takedowns of the ideas in the top comment. Even well intentioned people can miss weaknesses in comments the first time they’re read (and upvote them), so a lot of space is wasted on refutation and other good top-level comments get drowned. A downvote option lets those sink to the bottom.

                                          2. 1

                                            I think if something is not well reasoned you can either:

                                            1. Reply and ask if they can develop their point a bit more
                                            2. Ignore them

                                            I don’t think writing half-assed comments is a sin and thus it shouldn’t be punished. Just ignore them and let their comments sit with 1 points at the bottom of the page.

                                          3. 5

                                            I support removing downvotes in place of report option for spam, trolls, etc. An upvote-only system already puts most of the good comments above the others. The rest remain so they can be reviewed by anyone with an open mind. Most of us Internet users will effortlessly skip past trolling or spam, too. The main effect I see downvotes have both here and Hacker News is simply censoring dissent. I’ve found some accurate, but unpopular, comments close to the bottom of threads that were rated at 1, 0, or greyed out if on HN. I usually bumped them back up with supporting evidence in my own comments. However, they could’ve disappeared entirely if the censorship had been stronger.

                                            My old government teacher taught a lesson I’ve seen repeatedly since in voting or reputation systems: Tyranny of the Majority. The tyranny can only reach its highest damage when the majority can make dissent disappear. Like with downvotes.

                                            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyranny_of_the_majority

                                            1. 2

                                              Yes, I agree with this too. Trolls and spam are best dealt with by a human moderator (that can remove the spam, lock the thread from further replies, contact the user or add an informed opinion) and a reporting option would be the best way to deal with this. The reporting option would do nothing more than alert a moderator, who can then take the appropriate action. Dealing with trolls/spam does not work well in an automated system or any kind of system that encourages regular users to respond further, thus enabling the troll/spam to continue. All other downvote options can be removed and the upvote button should work well enough for keeping the good comments above the others.

                                            2. 5

                                              If people are down voting because they disagree they should be reported. If there is no way to report down vote abuse, that should be added. I find down votes helpful for people who are actually trolling or posting offtopic and unhelpful additions to threads. I’d rather not spend the time to read such things.

                                              1. 6

                                                I’ve seen a number of comments that I think are particularly inappropriate for this forum, and they rarely get deleted. In the past they’ve been downvoted to hell, but now that option is no longer available. I hope the moderation team steps up, or I’m going to peace out from this community the next time there is a flame war

                                                1. 5

                                                  Yeah, i’m feeling a bit disappointed.

                                              2. 5

                                                (At the time of writing, @jcs has removed comments. This is just a note of my thoughts before we see things play out.)

                                                First, if you’re reading this, go message our mods (@jcs, @irene, and @kyle) and thank them for their service. It’s a crappy and thankless job to mod a community, and they probably don’t get enough love. So, go do that.

                                                I’m note sure that turning off downvotes is going to have a positive impact on the community, but now we at least get to try it out.

                                                I will ask everyone though–please put some thought into what you comment, and don’t mindlessly carebear upvote things without thinking through if they make a valid, reasoned point. Try to write comments that explain your upvote, or at least put some effort into things.

                                                Remember, signal-to-noise can be degraded not only by attenuating good signal but by amplifying bad signal. It’s in disagreements that we get to really examine our views and think about the positions we hold.

                                                1. 3

                                                  (At the time of writing, @jcs has removed comments. This is just a note of my thoughts before we see things play out.)

                                                  Well, we’re still talking, aren’t we?

                                                2. 4

                                                  Do you have some examples you could point to?

                                                  1. 7

                                                    It’s hard because you can’t see the downvotes unless the comment is below 0. I typically notice on threads I’m following; most recently the monorepo thread, where my comments and others have lost points several times. Most of the thread is opinion-based; no comments are trolls; and the thread isn’t being spammed.

                                                    1. 2
                                                      1. 5

                                                        Why is it always my fault?

                                                    2. 2

                                                      How about extending the downvote dropdown to non-downvote actions? Some options could show advice, some could change user settings.

                                                      Examples: “I disagree” -> shows “please ignore or respond with a comment” but does nothing else; “this person pushes my buttons” -> automatically collapse all comments from this user (like a personal ignore list)

                                                      Also, maybe for some people “incorrect” is too close to “I disagree”, but I’m not sure what would be a better word.

                                                      1. 2

                                                        Totally agree, HNews in particular has this problem. Good to see Lobsters is choosing a different policy.

                                                        1. [Comment removed by author]

                                                          1. 14

                                                            “femnazi” really? Name calling isn’t exactly useful, productive or indicative of someone who makes reasonable criticisms of things.

                                                            1. [Comment removed by author]

                                                              1. 5

                                                                From your very wiki link:

                                                                Feminazi is a term used pejoratively

                                                                i.e. name-calling

                                                                1. [Comment removed by author]

                                                                  1. 9

                                                                    So um,

                                                                    It’s been less than a day since removal of downvotes and we already have an example of this being more work for moderators.

                                                                    This is not a good-faith conversation. Stop.

                                                                    1. 6

                                                                      I wish the mods here would take a stronger stance. http://lesswrong.com/lw/c1/wellkept_gardens_die_by_pacifism/

                                                                      1. 5

                                                                        Believe me, I’m familiar with that argument. I agree with its substance, too, though not with every detail it brings up.

                                                                        Concrete suggestions about how to handle things differently are great. That sort of topic should really get its own meta thread, because it’s always been a goal of this community that change should happen by consensus.

                                                                        I would ask that this discussion spend time on how to balance a desire for leadership against the desire for the community to set social norms and do the work of reinforcing them, rather than the people above. Please also remember that the moderators have a finite amount of time - I know I don’t read every single thread, and even noticing acrimony it takes a lot of attention to figure out where it’s coming from.

                                                                        As additional background reading, let me suggest Jo Freeman’s The Tryanny of Structurelessness.

                                                                        1. 6

                                                                          I’ve made a meta discussion thread: https://lobste.rs/s/oackyq/lobsters_community_standards

                                                                          I hope that some useful discussion comes from it. You make some great points.

                                                            2. 12

                                                              If you are saying having your comment “folded” is analogous to murder, then that’s unwarranted hyperbole. If you’re not, then that portion of your comment is just off-topic ranting.

                                                              1. [Comment removed by author]

                                                                1. 14

                                                                  Yes, I would have downvoted it for the “feminazis” bit. If that makes me a tyrant than so be it.

                                                              2. 7

                                                                Oh come on. Making downvoted comments invisible contributes to an echo-chamber mentality, but it’s not in any way even close to actual violence. You’re behaving like the ones you so despise.

                                                                1. 5

                                                                  You’re probably referring to this subthread, yeah?

                                                                  Also, it seems that any group of sufficiently insane people, can just agree to completely destroy someone else, while nobody else notices.

                                                                  Have you considered that other people noticed, and just didn’t agree with your position?

                                                                  1. [Comment removed by author]

                                                                    1. 9

                                                                      Okay. Hi, I downvoted you in that thread, and I wish I could do it again here. (Also, I am really profoundly not an angersock puppet, perish the thought.) Let me explain.

                                                                      By using the word “feminazi” unironically, you are explicitly tagging yourself as all of

                                                                      • misogynistic
                                                                      • not especially concerned with context or nuance
                                                                      • unwilling or unable to be reasoned with

                                                                      It’s not just that I disagree with your position; your position is toxic and without merit, has been debunked time and time again, and is a complete waste of time and energy to address directly. You are someone I have zero interest in engaging with or even seeing. You dropped the level of discourse in that thread, you’ve dropped it here, and you’ve wasted the time and attention of everyone who slogged through your toxic muck in order to decide to downvote. I hate that, here and now, I have to type this up to express this.

                                                                      So please, for the love of god, go away. Please delete your account. I will be happy to see you go, and lobste.rs will be better for your absence.

                                                                2. 1

                                                                  If core problem is we assume there is a universal Right and Wrong…

                                                                  The fact that things get downvoted when we disagree with the downvotes is a symptom of this fallacy,

                                                                  I would prefer it is we used Singular Value Decomposition and treated up votes and downvotes as measurements of our own bias, relative to the biases of everyone else.

                                                                  ie. Voting does not, and should not reflect the validity of articles and comments, rather articles and comments provide a uniform stimuli that enables us to measure our biases relative to other readers.

                                                                  Hence we should be able to predict our bias relative to new stimuli based on the votes of readers for whom we know our relative bias.

                                                                  1. 1

                                                                    You can downvote?!

                                                                    1. 6

                                                                      Not anymore!

                                                                      1. 2

                                                                        We can leave your friends behind

                                                                        Cause your friends don’t downvote

                                                                        And if they don’t downvote

                                                                        Well they’re no friends of mine