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Folks!

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:

  • Off-topic
  • Incorrect
  • Me-too
  • Troll
  • Spam
A Taxonomy of Downvotes

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.

Why does this matter?

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 troll and 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.

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    Mostly agree on “off-topic,” “incorrect,” “me-too” and “spam”, with some caveats:

    • “incorrect” - I find that many comments aren’t worded carefully enough to distinguish between whether they are stating facts or whether they are stating opinions. You might think that the context makes it obvious—sometimes it does—but I don’t think it is the common case.
    • “me-too” - I think the opposite of agreement, content free disagreement, is also grounds for this category.

    The place where we disagree most is the “troll” tag. I really, really, really strongly believe that too much unconstructive commenting or excessive negativity hampers discourse significantly. Snark, low brow dismissals, condescension, uncharitableness, and so on are all things I downvote for under the category of “troll.” I do it because I don’t want to see that crap here. I’d rather come here and talk about interesting things and share ideas instead of having to filter out all of the asshole comments.

    I don’t really care if you type 5 nice sentences and then 1 mean spirited sentence. If that doesn’t get downvoted, then we as a community are saying that mean spirited comments are welcome here so long as you do enough good to outweigh the bad. That’s not how I see things. I don’t want to encourage that sort of thing. How about we just try to be nice all the time? (That isn’t an expectation that we will be nice all the time. I’m certainly not perfect at it! And that’s OK, because we have a way to signal to each other when we’ve done something that someone else finds inappropriate for discourse.)

    I just assume it’s the same anonymous group of cowards who don’t like me.

    IIRC, I’ve made my distaste for your commenting style pretty clear. (It’s your comments that I don’t like, not you yourself.)

    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.

    Lobsters is about on par with HN in my own experience. I know I’ve personally had more rewarding conversations on HN than I have had here. But then again, I tend to only stray into the more technical discussions on HN. I try to stay away from most of everything else, which I imagine could be quite insidious. In general, I am in favor of HN’s more hands-on moderators. (In a similar vein, I am in favor of the “here be dragons” stuff that I’ve seen on Lobsters as well.)

    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.

    It’s a common refrain to blame excessive downvoting on the mere state of disagreement—probably because it actually does happen—but, you know, people could just have a much looser interpretation of what it means to be “troll.” There’s a lot of room between “someone made a comment that was entirely mean” and “I’m downvoting you as a troll because I disagree with you.”

    I try very hard not to downvote when I disagree with someone. But it’s a two way street. Disagreement begets emotion and emotion begets trolling.


    More broadly, I think we need to think about what we want Lobsters to be. Is it a place for discourse and ideas? Or is it a place to mock, whine, complain and vent about other people and the work they do? Lobsters has, in the past few years, gotten a lot more of the latter than it used to have. I think the former has also increased, though, which is personally why I’m still here.

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      In a similar vein, I am in favor of the “here be dragons” stuff that I’ve seen on Lobsters as well

      jcs disabled this functionality so you won’t be seeing it in the future. Unless he brings it back of course.

      I do think lobste.rs could do with more moderators.

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        Is it a place for discourse and ideas? Or is it a place to mock, whine, complain and vent about other people and the work they do?

        I think that all of our disagreements basically stem from a difference of opinion on this point right here.

        I don’t see those as mutually exclusive. For reasons I’ll probably have to go into in more detail in a blog post some day, but which can maybe be summed up as “taste requires saying no”, I believe that it is important to have the ability to call out bullshit in blunt and humorous forms.

        I don’t think that unrelenting positivity actually helps as much as everybody thinks it does.

        In general, I am in favor of HN’s more hands-on moderators.

        Those folks have the unenviable task of keeping the agitprop of YC running while still appearing to be authentic/unbiased enough keep around a slushfund of users who might become investment opportunities while still keeping out trolls and idiots. Not a fun job, and nobody is going to be happy with everything they do.

        That said, more generally, the problem with more hands-on mods is that the people I trust to do it (say, @jcs, @Irene, etc.) are also not the people who have lots of cycles to burn. And folks that are willing to burn those cycles but who maybe have biases…well, would you really want to see me, for example, as a mod?

        We have a system that more or less works as long as everybody is on the same page, hence threads like these. :)

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          I don’t see those as mutually exclusive.

          I don’t either. Lobsters is example numero uno that they aren’t actually mutually exclusive. My point is that I continue to visit this web site despite the comments I don’t like. Therefore, it makes sense for me to act in a way that discourages the proliferation of content that I don’t want to see here. Otherwise, I’ll just leave eventually. (Well, the idealistic part of me wants to believe that anyway.)

          I didn’t intend to start a should-we-have-moderators debate. Personally, I’m happy for Lobsters to be an experiment in mostly self moderation of community norms. So far, I think that’s trending toward failing from my perspective (and that’s OK, experiments fail sometimes).

          I believe that it is important to have the ability to call out bullshit in blunt and humorous forms.

          I don’t think it is specifically important to have that in the sense that it is some bedrock of good discourse, but I’m not actually intrinsically opposed to it either. However, I think it requires exceptionally good taste to pull off. But that skill is rare in my experience, including among us here at Lobsters.

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            Thank you for elaborating on your position. :)

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            I don’t think that unrelenting positivity actually helps as much as everybody thinks it does.

            Says friendlysock.

            I’m not against having more moderators, but I think what @ngoldbaum is calling for is a more heavy-handed approach to comment moderation which the 3 current moderators don’t do. I think that would really change the tone of the site and prompt more meta threads about censorship and all that garbage.

            I just checked the database and of all the moderations in the past 5 years, there have only been 9 comment moderation actions. 6 were flagging or unflagging as dragons, 1 removed a comment because someone quoted an entire article in it, 1 removed a comment because a big sub-thread was off-topic (and recently would have just been flagged as a dragon), and 1 removed a comment because of bad language.

            So basically in 5 years, only 1 comment has been “moderated”.

            (edit: I’ve banned a few users which also took out their comments, which would not be tallied here.)

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              I’ve been doing moderation since ~2000 (basically, since I’m on the internet) and while I’m a huge fan of strict rules, I believe the default mode of moderation should be discussion-based. Calling out or supporting people from a moderation position can be a much more sustainable solution in the long run. I’ve moderated coding- and non-coding communities and experiences are all the same :). Many patterns that can be moderated (like people prone to derailing) are also not fixable through bans.

              Something a lot of people don’t notice: in most forums, ban action that needs to be debated is very rare. In those years, I had around 5 outright bans of people already involved in the community. This excludes cases where people just sign up to insult a member or call the community names or such, which people usually consider clear-cut.

              Moderation is sadly a subject rarely talked about. I sometimes submit talks to conferences about that, but sadly, they rarely get accepted. With CoCs becoming more en vogue (which I support), I think there should be more insight into the action of the teams in charge.

              Having a ban-hammer usually doesn’t mean wielding it. I think that’s a good thing.

              Finally, I find “positivity” too hard to grasp to use it as a guiding concept. Anger is certainly not positive, but voicing it might be constructive. I prefer someone voicing their anger about the current way lobste.rs then people turning passive-aggressive.

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                Appreciate you sharing your insights. I agree we need more info on moderation strategies and results. I rarely see anything on it despite its importance. This article below is literally the only in-depth piece I’ve seen hit a major site (HN I think it was):

                https://www.theverge.com/2016/4/13/11387934/internet-moderator-history-youtube-facebook-reddit-censorship-free-speech

                You got any links for us on the subject that go into detail in the theory, techniques, experiences at specific sites, and so on?

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                  You got any links for us on the subject that go into detail in the theory, techniques, experiences at specific sites, and so on?

                  Sadly not. Most moderators meet at conferences and just have a round-table.

                  Fetch you favourite ones at the bar at your favourite conference.

                  There used to be the MeatBallWiki, but I don’t find it very useful for current issues. http://meatballwiki.org/

                  In any case, sites that talk about human interactions like https://captainawkward.com/ and similar help a lot, especially as they also discuss online interactions.

                  I gave a talk about community management recently (don’t mind me making the Free Desktop Foundation the FSF literally in the first minute) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUEki-o2ihA (I talk about moderation a little later, but it’s not the only subject)

                  FOSDEM regularly has rooms on the subject, with a lot of good people and talks.

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          As a new member I would appreciate these things to be written down elsewhere as well. I tend to read all I can find in about / submit rules etc. There isn’t a page that describes what kind of community you want to be and what the “rules” are. It’s al assumed that you know before you join, which I guess with coming up to 8000 members doesn’t scale anymore. So instead of telling people off for something that you, the collective you, think people should know. Post it somewhere to which you can refer to. Makes things a lot easier IMHO. ;)

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            A workflow would be a great compromise. Facebook does this pretty well when reporting posts, e.g. “This post is about me” or “This post is about someone else” and “This post is threatening me” or “This post is threatening someone else”.

            Maybe instead of Lobsters offering these short labels, the options could be worded as such:

            • This comment is unrelated to the original post or anything else in this thread.
            • This comment is factually or logically incorrect in a blatantly obvious way.
            • This comment adds no value to the thread beyond expressing “me, too” in some way.
            • This comment is inflammatory or baiting an argument with no intention of encouraging honest discussion.
            • This comment is adds no value, contains only an irrelevant link, is low-effort, or commercial in nature
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              I am strongly in favour of these longer labels. They are better than the single words at expressing the spirit of the sort of things we-the-community want downvoted.

              I especially like this one: it is a lot clearer than ‘Troll’, and it looks robust to both too-narrow or too-wide interpretation.

              ◾This comment is inflammatory or baiting an argument with no intention of encouraging honest discussion.

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                The ‘intention’ aspect could be removed by phrasing this slightly differently: “This comment is inflammatory or baiting an argument, and does not encourage honest discussion”

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              Maybe a tooltip to hover over when you see one which explains what it means. I was struggling to work out what me too was about

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                There was a request for rules to be posted with a discussion here: https://lobste.rs/s/oackyq/lobsters_community_standards and a community created document here: https://github.com/meskarune/lobsters-constitution

                Nothing ever came of it, but personally I would really like to see a page with guidelines and site etiquette, if only to help new people jump in and get used to the culture here quickly.

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                I fee like, purposely or not, the title of this post is misleading as is, even with the caveat in the text that it’s simply one user’s opinion. That should have been made clear in the title IMO.

                Additionally it’s worth noting that this particular interpretation of downvotes leaves a lot of room for unfriendly, hostile, and ugly behavior provides that it can be plausibly denied as an opinion.

                The idea that opinions cannot be subject to downvotes coupled with the admonitions against “badthink” leave room for things like:

                In my opinion, women are generally inferior programmers than men.

                Black people are genetically pre-disposed to be good slaves (author will present “evidence” to back up their “opinion”.)

                Etc.

                More broadly, the idea that social interactions can only be mediated by some objective set rules in order to be fair is a peculiar oddity of the internet that runs counter to meatspace human behavior and often enables, intentionally or not, abusive and exclusionary behavior.

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                  That’s the core of it, though–what’s wrong with expressing those opinions?

                  If an opinion is actually totally bonkers, ignore it. If an opinion might be based on incorrect facts, a polite discussion–followed, perhaps, by an agreement to disagree–is an adult way to handle it. The mere gut reaction of “this person says that they feel like about and so must be punished” is just tribalism, pure and simple.

                  If the opinion is, say, “I think that angersock should be violated with a rake for being such an argumentative shithead”, that’s something that falls under our usual civility guidelines. Something like “I think that angersock is ill-suited to public discourse because of their race” is something that can either be engaged with (and nuked once civility is dropped) or ignored entirely. And even in that latter case, usually the off-topic flag becomes relevant. We have mechanisms in place to deal with this, we just need to use them.

                  As an aside, your second example is stated as a fact and not as an opinion (is similar to the borderline example in my original post).

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                    Because they create a hostile environment. I’m entirely uninterested in reading bonkers racist statements, but I am interested in reading technical content from people who won’t put up bonkers racist statements. You have to decide what audience/participants you want.

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                      I think that angersock is ill-suited to public discourse because of their race

                      I don’t think racist arguments of any kind fall inside the realm of civil discourse. I would downvote as troll.

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                        Racist comments would be moderated.

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                          Given the other comments downthread, I think it would be more accurate to say that overtly racist comments would be moderated, which is not quite the same. I’m not suggesting we ask moderators to make decisions about where the line is for overt / implicit / accidental racism, but additional ways of downvoting would let the community draw those line, which we should expect to be somewhat fuzzy and subjective, but should still exist.

                          Modern racism (and other isms) rarely takes the form of explict denigration and demonization of minorities. It’s typically framed as believed to be true (honestly or not) “facts” or “i’m just saying” opinions, and we have a terrible habit of building rule systems that excuse any behavior that can’t be proven to be malicious (which is extremely difficult), regardless of how negative the actual outcome of that behavior is.

                          In this case, both @grumpyoldman and @tm knew that their position would be considered racist, which means they should also know that going out of their way to express and defend those opinions here would create an environment hostile to PoC. No matter how much they believe their statements to be true, I think it’s reasonable to expect them to know that their personal belief in the truth and meaningfullness of something does not make it objectively so, and that expressing those particular beliefs creates an environment of hostility.

                          This sort of behavior is counter-productive to community building, IMO, and is not exclusive to social topics of race. It’s entirely possible to generate unwelcoming hostiliy by ranting about systemd or non-constructively dismissing technical work as useless. In general, I think it’s reasonable ask people to consider the effect of their behaviors on the community and give the community an easier way to speak to damaging behavior that’s independent of intent.

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                            No matter how much they believe their statements to be true, I think it’s reasonable to expect them to know that their personal belief in the truth and meaningfullness of something does not make it objectively so, and that expressing those particular beliefs creates an environment of hostility.

                            Finding something uncomfortable or “offensive” doesn’t make it false either.

                            For example, we all know that on average, black men have larger penises than white men. In other words, being white kind of sucks in that regard. We’d all much prefer having big penises, just like we’d all prefer being smart.

                            But somehow talking about the differences in penis size is perfectly fine, but anyone who brings up the differences in IQ just absolutely needs to be shouted down for being “racist”. It’s a double standard.

                            Facts are not racist. Everyone on this forum is certainly smart enough to understand that, and we’re all capable of discussing and debating things. So why the irrational, extreme hostility to some ideas then? It makes no sense.

                            Unless.. the larger problem here is that the world is allergic to the truth.

                            Not only that, but just like when something seems “too good to be true”, when someone seems “too irrational to be true”, it’s probably not true!

                            So basically people are just pretending to be outraged by some uncomfortable truths being mentioned.. but not others, like penis size.

                            I have no idea why this is happening, but it is. And it’s incredibly destructive to our societies as a whole. In fact, it’s almost like there’s a concentrated effort to drive Western civilization into the ground.

                            We’re all up shit creek, sans paddle, and a large percentage of us “little folks” is busy drilling holes in the boat as best they can.

                            The mind boggles..

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                              Yes, if expressing a true statement which is supported by objective and evidence and fact and not subjective opinion “creates a hostile environment” then a community that holds that viewpoint is itself toxic to humanity. I hope that isn’t the case here.

                              If certain facts and truths cannot be mentioned and falsehoods are upheld because they aren’t what people want to hear, then that creates an entire layer of falsehood I have have to view everything else through if the community norm is decided to be a standard which supports and encourages deliberate dishonesty.

                              “Offensiveness” is about the worst criteria for moderation or self- censorship imaginable in a world where everyone is offended by anything and everything, reasonably or unreasonably.

                              Heck, I’m highly offended and consider it disgustingly ‘racist’ that minorities and PoC are being effectively ignored and are suffering lost opportunities because instead of seeing our differences as mere differences (or strengths) we choose to shut our eyes or claim they don’t exist. This is absolutely toxic, hostile, and ignorant.

                              In the end we need to decide what sort of culture we support and want sort of world we want to live in. Monocultures can be fragile and diversity can be our strength, and to claim these differences simply aren’t real and don’t exist is ignoring the elephant in the room. The unintended consequence of such hyperbolic political correctness is that it hurts the very people it claims to be supportive of.

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                                I hope that isn’t the case here.

                                That’s the case everywhere.

                                For example, speak certain uncomfortable truths on Hacker News, and you’ll be shadowbanned. It’s happened to me several times.

                                The same will/would probably happen here too. This post might do it! Not that I really care.

                                If certain facts and truths cannot be mentioned and falsehoods are upheld because they aren’t what people want to hear, then that creates an entire layer of falsehood

                                The world we live in is a massive pile of falsehoods. As a random example, we’re told that 2% is a good rate for our income, savings and pensions to be losing their purchasing power, i.e. that 2% inflation is somehow good for us.

                                But in reality, there’s no good rate for a bad thing to be happening. How fast would you like gangrene to spread through your body? How about not at all?

                                We’re also led to believe that being ruled over is in our interest, instead of say, our rulers’.

                                In the end we need to decide what sort of culture we support and want sort of world we want to live in.

                                There’s two sides to “we”: psychopaths and humans. The former run the world and are turning it into shit, and the latter have no clue what’s going on and are abused and exploited by the psychopaths.

                                But hey, there’s a pretty decent chance that you’re a psycho too, so I’ll just stop here. In fact, posting on the Internet is mostly a waste of time, because I’m mostly talking to a psychopath anyway.

                                It’s just a bad habit I picked up before finding out what’s going on.

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                          I am hard-pressed to think of a reason that such a line of discussion should ever come up here, unless in maybe cogsci or culture threads. I’d trust our mods to crack down the second it strayed from reasonable science.

                          (On a related note, that’s why submissions that lend themselves to that sort of bile are cancer.)

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                            I don’t think racist arguments of any kind fall inside the realm of civil discourse

                            Even if someone actually made an argument, instead of just running his mouth?

                            On a related note, there are studies that find different races to have different average IQs. But if someone brings that up to support a related claim, lots of people will shout him down as a “racist”.. and that’s bullshit.

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                              Actually that is not bullshit. People who claim race influences IQ are racist and I’m 100% uninterested in their odious opinions.

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                                Sure, but the point being referenced above refers to correlation and not causation.

                                Anyways, in some cases, it’s basically impossible to talk about policy issues without noting biological differences. Like, there are other cases (alcohol flush reaction) where we could talk science and biology and be having a strictly racist but civil conversation.

                                The problem is that people often go off on dumb tangents and assert policy choices that should be made, or that they go and overgeneralize when things are complicated.

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                                  Yay, I’ve absolutely prepared and resigned myself to be down-voted to oblivion, but here goes.

                                  The claim that race influences IQ isn’t “bullshit” - it’s the accepted scientific consensus and if you’ve chosen to wholly disregard a truth because you don’t want to hear it, then I might be 100% uninterested in your odious opinions as well. I’ve hesitated on commenting in these meta-discussions, and I won’t be down-voting any comment as “Incorrect” because it’s not helpful to do so, but it would be absolutely correct in this case.

                                  See https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00399 for good recent meta-study that appears in a high impact peer-reviewed journal. I could literally provide you with hundreds and hundreds of similar articles, but what would be the point, as you’ve already decided that you are going to ignore both reality, scientific consensus, and the accepted views of most scientists working in this (controversial) field, all because they don’t fit your preconceived ideas of the way things should be?

                                  Just my $0.02, but I’m venting that this is even a topic on lobsters at all. It shouldn’t be and if there is any strict moderation necessary, it should be to keep these political posts off this site and away from this community. If lobsters is going to start allowing this sort of discussion - is it “uncharitable” or to start marking Incorrect statements as incorrect even if I would be perceived as some sort of racist and start a whole circus?

                                  The truth here is complicated and not what people want to hear. It is absolutely incorrect to state that race and IQ are not correlated and to claim otherwise is to ignore decades of data. Does this mean science is racist? I wouldn’t make that argument. I actually would agree with vyodaiken, if he said that it is “bullshit”, if the argument presented was that race can be seen as the causative factor and used an indicator of innate superiority or directly linked to ability; that sort of thing is not supported by data and while never argued seems to be what was inferred.

                                  I’ve never down-voted in a meta topic and usually avoid this sort of discussion because it is so far off the scope of this community I would argue it doesn’t belong anywhere near this site. I absolutely understand that people will be offended when they think they are being attacked based on their gender or race.

                                  Simply discussing the scientific findings in this field is upsetting to many people and makes them feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. That is an unfortunate truth. But, using false statements to defend against perceived racism is just as intellectually bankrupt as using false statements to support racism - and none of it has anything to do with technology.

                                  Where does it end? Are we going to add “fact checkers” to support or overturn “Incorrect” down-votes? Is it “uncharitable” to down-vote a factually incorrect statement that is being used in an argument defending minorities - a righteous position? Would it be not “uncharitable” to down-vote the same sort of factual incorrectness being used by a racist to support their argument?

                                  With that said, I’ve hidden the “meta” tag going forward, because these recent threads are so far off-topic I don’t care to see any more of them. I appreciate being allowed in this community, outside of the meta threads, it is generally civil and tightly focused, but if we start mixing in subjective down-voting rationales and having threads about controversial topics of self-identity, race, or religion, it is my opinion that will greatly diminish this community and I probably won’t want to participate any longer, especially if we are going to accept hostility to facts and reality.

                                  Edit: A good related piece - http://www.politico.com/story/2013/08/opinion-jason-richwine-095353 - Why can’t we talk about IQ?

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                                    I do sympathize with your position, but I will observe that blocking meta threads means that you’re going to be subject to rules and norms that you will not have any warning of or input into.

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                                      So the unintended consequence is that I will likely end up contributing much less and commenting much less than I might otherwise, which would be unfortunate.

                                      I’ve enjoyed that what makes the front page here has generally been free of politics. I’ve not noticed any recent outbreak of uncharitable behavior here. I’ve actually found lobsters to be a rare gem of an online community with some cohesion and civility absent elsewhere. It’s a refreshing retreat, especially since we live in a world that is politically polarized on a global scale. The extremists on both sides not only claim they have the sole moral high ground - they share so little common ground and finding their opposites so abhorrent that civility is purposely abandoned, often to the point where violence often rationalized.

                                      I’ll reconsider filtering meta - for now - but if lobsters starts to get political and new subjective down-voting reasons are added where ‘feels’ have the same weight as facts, I’ll probably have find somewhere else to get my tech links from.

                                    2. 3

                                      The claim that race influences IQ isn’t “bullshit” - it’s the accepted scientific consensus

                                      Only to racists. This is not a debatable question. There is not even a scientific definition of race. IQ is not known to measure anything at all. The only people who keep pushing this phrenology level bullshit have an axe to grind and their pretense of dispassionate scientific interest is transparent. The fake plea for civility doesn’t fly either.

                                      1. 1

                                        Then feel free to consider me a racist and ignore my further commentary and I’ll do the same.

                                        Edit: I’m not going to do it, but this absolutely Trolling here - as well as Incorrect. I guess I’d much rather be called racist because it’s a laughable term that has no sting when it’s thrown around in response to a refusal to accept facts and reality. Also, that you decide that you know my intentions and think I have some axe to grind without knowing me is just pure trolling. Enjoy, I’m done with it because I have no need to gain your respect and I’m not going to waste my time defending myself against your personal attacks.

                                        1. 1

                                          So, I’m broadly of the opinion that individual and cultural differences trump (nebulous at best) “racial” differences.

                                          That said, given that complex traits are typically 30-50% heritable, I would be very surprised if any given measurement of intelligence turned out not to be heritable.

                                          The degree to which heritability generalises to racial traits in a multiracial society is arguable (largely hinging on whether race is a useful concept in genetics at all), but is far from settled.

                                          In short, you are making an assertion which isn’t falsifiable (let alone evidence supported) and it adds nothing to the debate.

                                          A more useful question might be: if racial intelligence differences were proven to exist, would that justify racism?

                                          (In my opinion it would not; curious about contrary arguments).

                                          1. 0

                                            It is a double-edged sword, of course.

                                            We can use our knowledge of differences to make us stronger and better as a culture or we can use that knowledge to support (or justify) our hateful and unhelpful behaviors. Would such behavior be justifiable? I would argue absolutely not in a civil society.

                                            The choice of course is ours. What sort of community do we want?

                                            My point remains that to label certain knowledge as inherently ‘racist’ is absurd and and then to claim only ‘racists’ acknowledge those truths, well, I’m gobsmacked. If this is how it is, I will be ‘proud racist’ in this context as the alternative is to be a proud ignoramus.

                                            1. 2

                                              Your representation of the discussion is not correct and what you claim to be “truths” are opinions that are not even posed as scientific questions and are being deceitfully marketed as scientific consensus. Whatever motivates people to insist on bringing up political claims about race/IQ in a discussion forum about computer technology, it’s not science. I am not asserting that scientists should not study genetics and intelligence, I am asserting that the pseudo-science such as that promoted by Richwine is off topic and offensive and has no place in a forum such as this one.

                                              1. [Comment removed by author]

                                                1. 1

                                                  (You appear to have double posted)

                                                  On this point we can finally agree.

                                                  While we both likely see our respective viewpoints as repugnant, we are unlikely to ever come to any agreement except that these discussions are off-topic.

                                                  That is a point I’ve been making all along. I absolutely disagree with essentially everything else you’ve said and would gladly continue the discussion but this isn’t the place, is it?

                                                  These “meta” tagged threads are pure cancer.

                                          2. 0

                                            This is a perfect example of the kind of HN content I come here to escape. A tech forum is the wrong place to express your plaintive cry that you need more social experience.

                                            1. 0

                                              argument presented was that race can be seen as the causative factor and used an indicator of innate superiority or directly linked to ability; that sort of thing is not supported by data

                                              If the data shows that there are differences between the average IQs of different races, why wouldn’t the same data support race being a causative factor?

                                              1. 1

                                                Ah, simply because correlation does not necessarily imply causation. In this specific case, it should also be noted that due to disagreements on a “scientific” definition of “race” most of these studies use racial self-identity as the criteria.

                                                There are too many uncontrolled variables to make any reasoned conclusion as to a cause, but to deny these differences exist at all, like some here are trying to do, is insanity.

                                                (Also, I use “insanity” here as “extreme foolishness or irrationally”. I’m not intending to imply their positions are enough to medically diagnose and label them mentally ill - only that the many of the arguments made in this thread are irrational.)

                                                1. 0

                                                  The question is what makes some people insist on bringing up this topic in forums like this. Are they truth seeking iconoclasts, unwilling to let irrational mobs limit the scope of their scientific curiosity? Given the quality of the “science” presented in these arguments, that’s impossible to credit. Jonathan Richwine is a professional ideologist who was forced to resign his position at the Heritage Foundation! Charles Murray wrote a book that was roundly denounced by the most prominent genetic scientists as a racist rant - he’s merited his own page in the SPLC directory of hate groups.

                                                  1. -4

                                                    Ah, simply because correlation does not necessarily imply causation.

                                                    Necessarily, huh? :P

                                                    Race happens before IQ tests though, and for some mysterious reason there are people in Africa trying to cure AIDS by having sex with virgins, and living in huts without any plans to change that.. and they’ve had just as much time to develop as we have.

                                                    Go figure.

                                                    1. 2

                                                      I am waiting for the defenders of free and open scientific inquiry to explain how this stuff about Africans living in huts fits into their brave defense of rationality. To me, it’s just racist nonsense, but perhaps that’s just me.

                                            2. 1

                                              I find interesting highly entertaining that I was just shouted down for being a “racist” for merely trying mentioning the scientific consensus on the matter. I wish there was a way to ignore these people but sometimes, like a train wreck, it’s too crazy to turn away from.

                                              New Scientists’ Ethics Special issue out now actually has a debate that science itself may be “unethical” to practice going forward because of its potential to be dangerous/destructive/racist! What fragile and special snowflakes we all have become these days!

                                              I wonder if a better option would be when clicking down-vote, you are given the option to ignore the user.

                                              Seems like it could be a mature choice, but possibly it would just fragment the site and make echo chambers?

                                              I guess a Greasemonkey script could collapse the comments automatically as well.

                                              1. 0

                                                That racist babble is not even close to the scientific consensus . That political hacks claim a scientific consensus doesn’t make it so.

                                              2. 1

                                                To quote a small (fair-use) bit from that now famous “Why can’t we talk about IQ?” article, emphasis mine:

                                                For people who have studied mental ability, what’s truly frustrating is the déjà vu they feel each time a media firestorm like this one erupts. Attempts by experts in the field to defend the embattled messenger inevitably fall on deaf ears. When the firestorm is over, the media’s mindset always resets to a state of comfortable ignorance, ready to be shocked all over again when the next messenger comes along.

                                                At stake here, incidentally, is not just knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but also how science informs public policy. The U.S. education system, for example, is suffused with mental testing, yet few in the political classes understand cognitive ability research. Angry and repeated condemnations of the science will not help.

                                                What scholars of mental ability know, but have never successfully gotten the media to understand, is that a scientific consensus, based on an extensive and consistent literature, has long been reached on many of the questions that still seem controversial to journalists.

                                                Apparently accepting the scientific consensus, based on extensive and consistent literature, which has long been reached by the relevant researchers in the field, is still a struggle for many computer scientists and otherwise very smart and reasoned individuals as well, especially when the science doesn’t support their preconceived notions.

                                                I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry anymore these days.

                                                http://www.politico.com/story/2013/08/opinion-jason-richwine-095353 for the original article.

                                                1. 6
                                                  1. Richwine is not a scientist.

                                                  Jason Matthew Richwine is a conservative public-policy analyst[2] and commentator[3] best known for his controversial views on immigration and IQ. Wikipedia

                                                  1. Richwine’s dissertation was not in science, not in social science, but in public policy

                                                  2. Richwine’s dissertation made claims that are unsupported in science about the genetic basic of IQ and tied them to public policy recommendations.

                                                  Richwine appears to not understand what it was about his dissertation that disturbed people. He argued for a clear and persistent genetic basis to IQ, used that to argue for an immigration system based on IQ tests, and then provided political advice on how to hide the intent of that system. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/08/09/jason-richwine-doesnt-understand-why-people-are-mad-at-him/?utm_term=.4f44ca32a804

                                                  1. In his Politico article, Richwine attempts to rehabilite the widely debunked Bell Curve and its racist political program

                                                  “As a consequence, the interesting policy implications explored by Herrnstein and Murray were lost in the firestorm.” http://www.politico.com/story/2013/08/opinion-jason-richwine-095353

                                                  Here’s an example of Murray from Bell Curve: “The professional consensus is that the United States has experienced dysgenic pressures throughout either most of the century (the optimists) or all of the century (the pessimists).” - from https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/charles-murray

                                                  There is no credible argument here that dispassionate scientific research is being shouted down. People who persist in bringing up this claim create a hostile environment for the targets of Richwine and Murray’s and others racist remarks and political program.

                                                  1. 7

                                                    I wanted to comment that this sort of clear, crisp disagreement/refutation with minimal quotes and links to sources is exactly the sort of thing I like to see more of.

                                                    That said, let’s drop the subthread for now.

                                            3. 5

                                              In practice skepticism about Rust or Haskell nets more troll ratings than racist babble. Tells you something.

                                          3. 14

                                            Again, this is just the Angersock Reference Interpretation of these downvotes, not some crazy biblical stone tablet. That said, I figured that articulating my thoughts on the matter might help encourage more helpful discussion and maybe strengthen community norms on the matter.

                                            1. 5

                                              “The Rust Evangelion Strike Force paid you to say this”

                                              Nice typo :) got a chuckle out of that one.

                                              1. 5

                                                Maybe somebody should add one of those “respond with an emoji” type thing so people can say “i agree”, “i disagree”, “you’re an idiot” without voting which affects the visibility of the post.

                                                1. 7

                                                  As someone with many controversial posts (say +10 -10), what really annoys me is when someone marks my post as incorrect or troll but does not reply with any justification. All you are doing is letting your side of the argument go unsaid, I have plenty of spare karma. You would serve yourself better by saying why I am incorrect or a troll so the ‘audience’ can make up their own mind. If someone already explained, upvote that comment to avoid feeding trolls.

                                                  1. 6

                                                    I’m not super aware of how your posts are, and I tend to avoid downvoting (sometimes I’m just not the audience of the post).

                                                    The one thing that kinda “triggers” me is the relitigation of Python 2->3. And after a while I’m just kinda… done with explaining the merits of separating bytes and text, and making it so that json.loads is dependently typed. So I’ll downvote as “incorrect” when someone says it doesn’t matter.

                                                    Relitigation is probably one of the more draining experiences, almost to the point of being flamebait.

                                                    1. 1

                                                      Suppose I said something like: “If you use python2 today, you get what you deserve when it comes to new libraries.” which is worded in a hostile way, but isn’t obviously wrong. Is this a troll comment? Is this incorrect? or am I just a slightly aggressive poster but there is nothing wrong?

                                                      1. 2

                                                        Definitely trolling on top of potentially-useful information. It’s the kind of thing I might say to piss off a Python2 user that’s trolling me on Reddit. I’m guessing you meant more libraries are coming out for Python 3 since I don’t follow either right now. If so, the civil way to say it might be something like this: “Relying on Python2 will limit what new libraries you can use in your project/work with all that’s being written for Python3.”

                                                  2. 4

                                                    To ‘incorrect’ I add straw men, cases where (deliberately or not, it’s hard to tell and is immaterial) a respondent incorrectly represents the argument made by a previous commenter or by the linked article.

                                                    ‘Troll’ feels too harsh for this since it could be a genuine misunderstanding of the original author’s position due to a misreading (or whatever), and the word troll implies a deliberacy that may not be present.

                                                    1. 4

                                                      If someone is making a straw man argument, mark as incorrect, but also please explain to others why it is a straw man.

                                                    2. 3

                                                      I’m new here, so is this only about downvoting comments or also threads? I can only downvote comments, but I suspect this is because of my low karma.

                                                      P.S.: I also wanted to write “Can’t upvote this thread enough” but realized it would have been a “me too” ;-)

                                                      1. 2

                                                        you can flag threads instead

                                                        1. 1

                                                          I’m new-ish, and can flag threads but not downvote comments. So now I’m even more confused.

                                                          1. 3

                                                            A little spelunking might help…

                                                            (I’m so close…!)

                                                        2. 4

                                                          If somebody says “I think that Angersock is mean to everybody”, that’s a pure statement of their opinion, and that cannot be incorrect.

                                                          Opinions cannot be incorrect insofar as they’re opinions, sure, but the beliefs behind those opinions can be provably incorrect.

                                                          “I think that climate change is an Illuminati conspiracy” might well be their opinion but what they believe is provably incorrect. How to handle this situation?

                                                          1. 4

                                                            You can politely point out that there is no evidence to support that belief, or you can just ignore it. I mean, people believe silly things…no need to take up space trying to fix everybody.

                                                          2. 2

                                                            What about comments that add no value and for example say something along the lines of “I don’t care”, “Doesn’t affect me”, etc.? Of course I don’t mean to something like “Doesn’t affect me, because I have ”, but rather plain sentences that say something like “<Company/Organization/Author> only produces stuff nobody cares about”.

                                                            It’s in a way a more generic version of me too, in the sense that it is text that gets added, but doesn’t add value.

                                                            1. 2

                                                              I downvote narcissistic comments like that with ‘me too’.

                                                              1. 1

                                                                I’d consider Off Topic for that comment given that them having nothing to do with the topic is off topic by definition.

                                                              2. 0

                                                                I propose new tags:

                                                                • “Fallacious”, for situations where a comment might look correct, but involves a logical fallacy or false premises and so on. It’s not as simple as “Incorrect”.

                                                                • “Sophistry”, for when a post looks correct/convincing, but you believe it’s intentionally fallacious. This would cover “high-level” trolling, for example.

                                                                • “Bullshit”, for when a poster is clearly full of shit.

                                                                You could have tags for upvotes too!

                                                                • “Correct”, “Funny”, etc.

                                                                And a couple of others that might come in handy:

                                                                • “Ohgoshgollygee I saw a CUSS-word and now I need a safe space”
                                                                • “I’m allergic to humour”