Inspired by this thread, I figured it might be time to go and kick off a refresher/discussion on the different downvotes we have here, and how we use them.
The current list of downvote types are:
Here’re my ways of interpreting those here, for reference:Off-topic
These are used when a comment is totally unrelated to the matter at hand.
Applied loosely, this would be downvoting a screed about Trump in a thread on numerical algorithms in C. Applied strictly, this would be downvoting a chat about Linux in a BSD thread without tying it back to the BSD in question.Incorrect
These are used when a comment is factually or logically incorrect–and in no other cases.
Applied loosely, this would be downvoting somebody who says that Paul Graham invented AngularJS. Applied strictly this would be downvoting somebody who says that OpenBSD is the child project of System V (when it’s more of a fork from NetBSD).
It is key (key!) that we do not downvote as incorrect matters of opinion.
If somebody says “Angersock punches everybody they meet in the nose”, that’s a statement of an incorrect fact.
If somebody says “Angersock is mean to everybody that they meet”, that’s a little blurrier (as “mean” is a subjective value judgement).
If somebody says “I think that Angersock is mean to everybody”, that’s a pure statement of their opinion, and that cannot be incorrect.
It is also really important that, since we’re using this downvote to show faulty logic, we comment to explain our downvote.Me-too
These are used when a comment signals agreement to a parent comment or submission without adding significantly to the conversation.
Applied loosely, this would be downvoting a comment that just says “yes please i want this” in a string of comments saying the same thing about a proposed feature. Applied strictly, this would also include comments that cover ground already done elsewhere in the comment tree.Troll
These are used when a comment is made specifically to get a rise out of other users with no attempt at sharing new information or engaging in honest discussion.
Applied loosely, this would be downvoting a comment that insists “The Rust Evangelion Strike Force paid you to say this” or “Only SJWs use Nix” or some variant in every thread without saying anything else. Applied strictly, this would also include comments that tend to kick up strong feelings that people will argue about such as “3 spaces per tab in vim is what makes it better than emacs”.
The big problem we have is that people seem to like using this when encountering posts that they disagree with or when they want to hurt the credibility of the poster. For what it’s worth, we tend to have very polite conversations on Lobsters and we tend to quickly get rid of truly bad-faith posters…we shouldn’t be purging badthink.Spam
These downvotes are used whenever encountering obvious advertising/news/marketing shit or when seeing just garbage/low effort posts that aren’t malicious enough to be flagged troll.
Applied loosely, this would be flagging “I found this article very good, please see more at
https://totallylegitpills.ru/message-409”. Applied strictly, it includes things like one-word posts, unpunctuated throw-away one-liners, dumb jokes, etc.
Every time we downvote something, we serve to censor the author (which is fine), and to signal cultural norms to the author and to the audience.
If we are sloppy in our use of these, we edge ever-more into the hivemind groupthink of places like Reddit and HN. I like to encounter people with whom I genuinely but civilly disagree here, and knowing that our interactions could be tainted by drive-by downvoting in one direction or the other hurts my ability to have those encounters.
Additionally, if we have a new poster (or even an old poster expressing an opinion) we want to make sure that they respect the downvotes that they get. Similar to how a lot of terms (SJW, fascist, engineer) have lost their meaning due to overuse, labels like
incorrect are on the precipice of not being taken seriously.
There was a time where if I received an
incorrect flag, I assumed I was in error and would seek clarification, where if I received a
troll downvote I’d consider if maybe I could word my point better; most of the time now, though, I just assume it’s the same anonymous group of cowards who don’t like me.
(And yes, that’s most certainly incorrect, right, but unless we have totally transparent voting history here–and all the pathologies that go with it!–it’s a low-effort explanation that matches the data I have. This is the problem.)
We have a good community here, we have better discourse than a lot of other “technical” sites, and the reason for that is that we aggressively police off-topic and malicious behavior. At the same time that only works because we have been judicious in our use.
Please don’t fuck that up by misusing the flags.