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In light of the recent removal of down votes, I think it would be a good idea to discuss community standards, values, goals and social norms for this site, as well as the role of the moderators vs. community for enforcing them and what that enforcement would look like.

Some food for thought:

http://lesswrong.com/lw/c1/wellkept_gardens_die_by_pacifism/

http://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm

I would personally like to see a set a set of posted guidelines for user behavior on lobsters. I think this would be useful in setting expectations for users and gives people more direction for appropriate discussion. If a behavior doesn’t help with the community’s goals, it should probably not happen here.

From my understanding, the goal of this site is to act as a high quality technology link aggregator with nice thought provoking discussions and transparency in moderator actions and link rankings. It was made as an alternative to HN and reddit to avoid the pitfalls those communities have.

I think the point of down voting was to keep the link and comment quality on topic and high quality, but as others have pointed out, it was used to disagree with someone’s opinions rather than further discussion.

What sort of system would you like to see in place for moderation and what should be moderated?

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    but as others have pointed out, it was used to disagree with someone’s opinions rather than further discussion

    The only one I see agreeing with the claim that it happens is the guy who is sad he was “jumped by a group of feminazis”.

    I missed that downvote thread, but I think downvotes should be returned and “disagree” should be added to the dropdown without any of the clever proposed “no don’t do that” popup instructions. Some comments are wrong, not worth replying to, and bad to engage with.

    I think downvotes are also valuable for penalizing off-the-cuff popular responses like humor, snarkiness, and “but what about” hot takes that land early in discussions. They give light readers that two-second “hey, hah, yeah, that’s right, you tell ‘em” feeling and get upvotes (a positive feedback cycle, given the ranking) when just a few more seconds of thought shows they’re stupid, repetitive, cruel, irrelevant, equivocating, or off-topic. Posting more comments in reply to those is almost always counter-productive, you can’t argue with a joke.

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      Oh man, bringing back downvotes and adding a category for hot takes sounds really nice to me. I started using this site because it was a place for thoughtful, high quality, and usually longer-form discussions. I like that people take some time to post here, and that the discussions tend away from brevity.

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        Oh hell, I’ve been downvoted “troll” more than a few times when I wasn’t trolling (and to be fair, a couple of times when I was!)–it certainly happens. That said, it doesn’t happen often.

        I very much agree about upvotes encouraging off-the-cuff responses; light readers are too easy to game for anybody with even the tiniest bit of talent.

        Compare the large critique I wrote about a Graham essay getting 62 karma, and the throwaway snark that got 20. That second comment has a massive effort/reward ratio compared with the first comment.

        Now which of the two do we want to proliferate here? Which does the upvote-only system reward?

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          I think snarky comments are going to proliferate with or without downvotes. A humorous 1-line reply hardly deserves a downvote.. maybe we should stop upvoting them instead. I can recall several times where a humorous joke from tedu (and the spiraling thread it generates) would cover insightful comments.

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            Downvotes are meant to help correct for the fact that some people will upvote fluff. Telling people to just not upvote fluff does not work in larger communities, as it only takes a relatively small number of people doing it to drown out signal hugely. So if you remove downvotes (as has been done), we will need some other mechanism to get rid of fluff comments, like reporting or agressive mods or bans for fluff comments.

            Also, while humerous fluff comments might not deserve to get massively downvoted, they don’t deserve to get upvoted either - so being able to downvote them down to zero still seems good to me.

            1. 9

              A humorous 1-line reply hardly deserves a downvote

              No, it deserves many downvotes. Humorous 1-line replies kill good discussions.

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                I seriously disagree. If there is good discussion to be had, it will happen regardless. Comment space is not finite, we have multiple comment threads for a reason - multiple trains of thought.

                I never felt like there was an issue with the comment quality here. Quite the opposite, I really enjoy this place because of how it is and because it isn’t sterile.

                I feel like some small group here is grumbling and shaking their fists in pursuit of an utterly mailing list style discussion on every post. That’s not what I want. We’re already worlds better than Reddit and HN.

                Simply put, I don’t see a problem.

                The few instances of spiralling troll threads can be taken care of by a mod.

                1. 5

                  In my experience, humorous 1-line replies have created more discussions than killed. When I said “and the spiraling thread it generates” referring to tedu’s jokes, it wasn’t of other 1-line replies. Rather, people expanded on the joke and discussed on it (ie. Why is it funny? What issue does it make fun of? How could it be solved?).

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                    I’d downvote this

                  2. 7

                    I agree with this approach to lightweight jokes - just don’t upvote them to begin with.

                    They’re funny, but they’re noise, not signal, and I really don’t ever want to get to a Reddit-like situation where users who have something important to say make sure to lead with a one-liner so it will actually be upvoted.

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                      Ok, no more funnies.

                      1. 1

                        tedu pls

                    2. 3

                      Vote counts can’t really be compared across different discussions. Your critique was on a submission that got 12 votes, and the snark was on a submission that got 78 votes. How much higher/longer was each submission on the front page (granted there’s a penalty given to meta submissions); did more users see it and vote on it? Does more votes on the submission mean more people read the comments and voted? Do people tend to vote more freely on meta discussions than technical ones? Etc. There’s too many different factors involved.

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                        Your critique was on a submission that got 12 votes

                        That isn’t a good metric for thread popularity in this case. That got 12 upvotes because most people who read the article disagreed with it or thought it was off-topic, not because nobody was reading the discussion. It was on the upper half of the front page for at least 12 hours.

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                        “Now which of the two do we want to proliferate here? Which does the upvote-only system reward?”

                        I thought that was a success story given what an indepth comment did vs the other one. You appealed on other one to the popular vote, intentionally or otherwise. Human nature dictated it would get upvotes. The other you earned with some combo of reason and intuition by the readers. Our discipline should just be to overlook that popular stuff will get upvotes by simply acknowledging it will happen and moving on. I mean, aren’t you assessing bias like that anyway to get more honest assessments of Internet comments?

                        This kind of reminds me of the Crash article about trusting automated systems too much. Some want a system that maximizes everything they like and some that minimizes everything they hate. Quite foolish in light of Internet experiences in general plus article’s point that automated systems miss corner cases. They’re incredibly important in our field or areas of discussion. Things that aren’t are the well-trodden or even boring stuff basically. So, we will have to rely on our own judgment to assess what we see regardless of the method. So, I had to decide what direction to shift things if we’re augmenting rather than replacing human review on a forum like this. I chose anti-censorship as primary goal given we’re good at filtering out crap and machines don’t spot golden connections as well as we do. We should do the part we’re good with machine assistance rather than thinking this site’s algorithms can protect us from “bad” things without hurting us by denying us good things.

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                          The thing that appealed to me about lobste.rs in the first place was that there were both. Neither would be as good alone.

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                          “Downvote for hot take/low effort/etc” is something that feels necessary sometimes.

                          One example of this recently that might serve as a good example: there was an article about how Facebook’s ad-targeting-by-race was illegal in certain cases (housing, jobs) that had federal regulations prohibiting this.

                          … but most of the comments seemed like they hadn’t even read the article. Discussion quickly drifted away from the actual topic (“digital ad targeting and its interaction with fair housing/labor laws”) to nebulous debates of the morality of racial targeting [in the general case, not in the specific case]. It was fairly clear none of the threads were going anywhere interesting at this point.

                          It feels like a common problem where initial hot takes on a topic drag people into tangential debates at the expense of interesting discussion. Though I’m not sure if there’s really any technical solution to this.

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                            I disagree. The tangents had useful information. Showed numerous biases worth keeping in mind. Productive tangents are a sign of a good forum. Many of my greatest lessons, learned or taught, started that way.

                            1. 5

                              My comment in that thread was one of those heavily downvoted. It was expressing disagreement with the assertion by another poster that racially-targeted advertising for housing is fine–a position contrary to the law in every developed country. Was it “low-effort?” Sure, because I was responding to an equally low-effort, and grossly offensive, comment, which did not deserve a more substantive response. That comment got 15 upvotes, I got numerous “incorrect” downvotes and several “trolling” downvotes (I wasn’t trolling. I posted because I think it is dangerous to allow racist comments to stand unchallenged, which the parent comment was at the time I posted.) The level of downvoting I received is really demoralizing. A community which rallies around open defenses of racial discrimination is not one to which I want to belong.

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                                Your comment was literally 2 words. “It’s not.”

                                It should have been down voted simply for being low effort. if you want to discuss something, put some thought into what you write so other people have a chance to consider a view different than their own.

                                I think the point of having a defined scope for mods is to help with issues like what you describe though. If you have some ideas for what tools could be added to the site to assistance with that, it would be great to discuss those.

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                                It was fairly clear none of the threads were going anywhere interesting at this point.

                                Clearly the people participating in the discussion disagreed. Did you just assume your opinion regarding a thread’s interest to you is somehow universal to everybody?

                                1. 1

                                  The specifics in that thread were boring.

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                                  How about adding “disagree” and “low effort” as reasons to downvote a comment?

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                                    People should never downvote because they disagree–that public decision on HN by Graham basically destroyed the value of discussion there.

                                    If downvotes don’t signal disagreement, then a low-rated comment is probably malicious or poor quality. If downvotes signal disagreement, then a low-rated comment could be malicious, poor quality, worded in a way that annoys some people, or just plain out of step with the hivemind. We cannot allow that dilution of signal.

                                    An option for “low-effort', though, seems perfectly reasonble–it’s usually pretty easy to point out when a comment was just off-the-cuff.

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                                      People should

                                      But people will. On every single site that uses vote buttons, they do. That’s what the design of the system encourages. It’s easy to click the button, there are lots of opportunities to do so, it’s easiest to click when you’re reading a comment in a conversation you’re engrossed in, and it’s hard to step back and think objectively. So people are gonna click the button that matches the way they feel at that moment. It’s not an issue of rules, it’s just an issue of humans being humans.

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                                        That’s what I liked about Schneier’s blog all these years. We didn’t have votes. We had people’s opinions and ability to report to the moderator. Brought in lots of interesting comments with occasional periods of stuff that makes one roll their eyes. Put buttons on there & suddenly people are just pressing instead of writing much of the time. If button wasn’t there, those who were writing would still be there. Worst case, I’d like a personal button for hiding stuff I didn’t care for.

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                                        For me the loss of downvotes has destroyed the value of discussion here. I have stopped reading comment threads, and will probably stop coming here at all unless I hear they’ve been restored.

                                        1. 4

                                          I rarely see high quality comments on HN downvoted, so I disagree that HN downvoting has destroyed the value of discussion there.

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                                            I agree - is it feasible to have “disagree” as a completely different field so that you can upvote or downvote based on quality and have another “disagreement” count below it. It seems that every site with upvotes and downvotes conflates quality and agreement and they suffer for it.

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                                          Happened to me once or twice. It was dark and I didn’t see who did it though. Notably I then got upvoted a lot. A moderator told me that there were a lot of up and down votes for that particular post. And that post was a general observation on the absurdity of life, fairly apolitical.

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                                            “it was used to disagree with someone’s opinions rather than further discussion”

                                            I got that plenty on Hacker News from the beginning. I noticed anything disagreeing with a popular person, tech, etc immediately got hit with enough downvotes to grey out my comment. As I did on Schneier’s blog, which doesn’t have voting, I included references for about any claim I made. I watched votes go up, down, me and my opponent greying or whatever. Point being quite a few threads that were subject of significant disagreement by writers and readers nearly disappeared due to popular downvote with my evidence-based approach likely being only reason they kept surviving the process. I get it way, way less on Lobste.rs but it seems to happen occasionally for similar reasons.

                                            The real question to me, if we’re talking up and down votes, comes to which of two tradeoffs we want: (a) increased amount of crap near top due to unnecessary upvotes; (b) total censorship of ideas due to too many downvotes. I imagine a community like this are experts at mentally filtering out crap that might float to the top. I know for a fact they aren’t as good at finding rare nuggets of wisdom that get drowned out by the crowds. That’s simply a lot of work. And luck. So, I prefer whatever system is adopted chooses tradeoff of protecting dissent even if some unworthy posts benefit from that.

                                            Note: A similar concept underlies the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Not that I’d push it on any international audience that rejects concept of no censorship unless provably harmful. Just saying there’s similar considerations between why U.S. went with that model and the “Vote Against Others' Freedom of Speech” debate here.

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                                            I’ll give some thoughts on the matter. These are all just my opinion, and with that warning out of the way I’ll skip my normal niceties in tone and wording. These thoughts are about what Lobsters is to me, what I’ve learned in general, and how I think moderation should be shaped.

                                            What Lobsters Is

                                            Lobsters is a wonderful discussion forum for people working in computer- and electronics-related fields to discuss ideas relevant to our industry practices and culture. It is a place to teach and learn, and a place to compare notes on how to do things.

                                            In bullet form, Lobsters is a place:

                                            • …to learn about new programming and engineering techniques and ideas
                                            • …to learn about weird software and hardware hacks in the old sense of the term
                                            • …to learn about software and hardware history
                                            • …for professionals to compare war stories and employment information
                                            • …for somewhat established members to show other members their cool hacks and software projects (projects != products)
                                            • …to reflect on the philosophy and culture of engineering and programming and how that relates to our professions
                                            • …to debate/argue with other members on any of the above and to be able to do so civilly

                                            For me, those are the core things Lobsters is.

                                            What Lobsters is not

                                            The thing’s Lobsters is not is even more important.

                                            Lobsters is not a place:

                                            • …for advertising and shilling new products and services from non-members or new members
                                            • …for posting things whose value derives from novelty (read: news in most forms)
                                            • …for posting political or politically-minded articles
                                            • …for posting things whose value derives from outrage (read: most stories of unfairness or inequality)
                                            • …for rabble-rousing and social calls-to-action
                                            • …for making empty comments and stupid/low-effort jokes
                                            • …for insulting and making ad-hominem attacks against other members

                                            Those are all things that have caused other communities to go to the dogs. HN, Reddit, Youtube comments–all are better places to get that information. News and product marketing tend to clog aggregators and disrupt things, and political stuff leads to unmoderatable echochambers.

                                            Moderation

                                            So, with that in mind, where does that leave moderation?

                                            I think the old system worked pretty well. We could possibly do with another moderator–I don’t know what their perceived workload is right now.

                                            We do need to, as a community, take responsibility for aggressively flagging content that doesn’t match Lobsters. We need to take responsibility for tolerating posts that we disagree with but that are civil and reasoned.

                                            And we need to make sure to downvote posts that aren’t good and explain why they are not good or ask for clarification. Even @Zuu’s hilariously silly “feminazi” ranting could’ve been avoided had they taken up the opportunity to calmly and civilly explain why they had a problem–but since they couldn’t, downvotes let us fix it.

                                            What we don’t need is mindless feelgood upvoting. Maybe upvoting should require an explanation too?

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                                              I have mixed feelings on this.

                                              On the one hand, I really do like the idea of having a good site for technical + scientific topics that focuses on deeper and more interesting discussion. Issues of politics and inequality matter, but they end up causing two problems. The first is that on a personal level I’d rather this site be a place to go and hide from those things, rather than be constantly reminded of them (I get enough reminders in my own personal life…). And secondly, they tend to attract that certain type of tech bro who is extremely eager to argue about those topics and, to put it rather bluntly, shit up the entire site in the process. You can see this effect where certain political threads end up with a far higher comment-to-upvote ratio than anything else on the site.

                                              I’ve always wanted a more “pure”, low-level, in-depth tech site, but inevitably, like you worry about, they’ve gotten ruined by political types and low quality posters (remember Slashdot?). We should probably try to avoid making Lobsters a site that seems attractive to people who are “looking for an argument”.

                                              On the other hand, it’s tricky because everything has politics in it. Everything we do affects other people, and affects society. Where do you draw the line? Do other people agree with you on where that line is? And so forth. Is it possible to reasonably come up with a line at all?

                                              And perhaps as engineers shying away from the social consequences of our technical choices isn’t always the best idea.

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                                                I’ve always wanted a more “pure”, low-level, in-depth tech site

                                                That’s something I’ve trying to find for a long time. A site without the derisive “why,” no billion dollar startup valuations, just people enthusiastic about the things they’re building/learning/exploring/doing.

                                                1. 2

                                                  I really do like the idea of having a good site for technical + scientific topics that focuses on deeper and more interesting discussion. Issues of politics and inequality matter, but they end up causing two problems. The first is that on a personal level I’d rather this site be a place to go and hide from those things

                                                  I agree. It’s a site distinguished by the quality of technical submissions and commentary. It’s better to keep political threads off of here. Sites that do that are like a breath of fresh air to someone just wanting tech instead of political nonsense.

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                                                  I mostly agree, except that the effects of technology on society are interesting to me, and such topics will always touch on politics. So i do think those kinds of articles have their place here.

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                                                    I love all of this, and agree wholeheartedly. I don’t come to Lobsters to hear about new apps or businesses, or to hear about tech news. I can get all of that elsewhere. I come to Lobsters for deep and thoughtful technical discussions on things both inside and way-outside my area of expertise.

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                                                      What we don’t need is mindless feelgood upvoting. Maybe upvoting should require an explanation too?

                                                      I rarely comment on meta posts, but here goes a crazy idea:

                                                      I think we should just get rid of “votes” altogether (I can see you enraging already, but stay with me), because they are badly defined. An upvote on a joke comment might mean “funny”. Or maybe someone took it seriously(!). An upvote on a thoughtful comment might mean “I agree”. Or maybe “I disagree but your comment is thoughtful and helps discussion” or something. Nobody really knows. Worse for downvotes.

                                                      I propose we replace them with Github style “emotions” instead. They inherently carry meaning. I know this will be seen quite controversially, and you might have started typing “why add ugly orange lightbulbs to Lobsters' clean UI”, but I don’t mean we should copy the same funky UI as is. We just need a way to let people express their state of mind after reading a comment without writing it out as a reply, since we want to reserve comment area for material discussion and not “omg I completely agree!”.

                                                      1. 2

                                                        That’s an interesting point. I was initially skeptical of it when I saw Facebook do it. I reserved judgment to watch it play out. The results were quite like you said: many BS comments shifted to emotional reactions that I could ignore or observe for curiosity of impact of the post on diverse audience. There were still nonsense comments. They just seemed lower in number. Facebook should run one of their mass studies on the comment data before and after that to give us an idea of what the technique achieves.

                                                      2. 4

                                                        I heartily agree too. Also, I’ve noticed over the months that really highly voted submissions tend to be product or social/political topics. Submissions with ~7-10 votes tend to more closely adhere to these guidelines.

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                                                          What we don’t need is mindless feelgood upvoting. Maybe upvoting should require an explanation too?

                                                          I like the idea of upvotes for stories and comments requiring an explanation. That would balance out the downvoting system. There might be a slight decrease in the number of upvotes because of the extra step, but those that do make it through the filter will be more considered.

                                                          1. 3

                                                            …for posting political or politically-minded articles

                                                            It is impossible to isolate technology from society in any historical context, especially today, given the current explosive rate of technological progress. We’re heading in a jobless future, most likely run by machines which we’ll have to program to make political decisions for us.

                                                            …for posting things whose value derives from outrage (read: most stories of unfairness or inequality)

                                                            Again, technology can create these issues in a much more aggressive rate and people have already started to notice. Unfairness and inequality is not subjects to be taken lightly. I don’t think any of us or our children would appreciate technology being faceless (and most probably dystopian).

                                                            1. 2

                                                              What we don’t need is mindless feelgood upvoting. Maybe upvoting should require an explanation too?

                                                              I’m up for discussing that, too. Winding down tonight but I favor constructive comments over votes. Much less to intuit that way along with greater contribution.

                                                              1. 2

                                                                IMHO, it’s the nature of the internet’s million monkeys (no offense to anyone here) that sends communities to the dogs. HN was an awesome place at the beginning, so was reddit. Before checking lobste.rs daily when I quit HN because it was full of samples from the IS NOT list above, and useless opinions by the mass, I went back to slashdot that also had it’s eternal september, around 2000. Time is of the essence. Time is the essence. I’d suggest expensive voting (say you have to add a comment?), as well as length-based penalties (on the value of upvotes?) for a given comment past a certain length. This is not the place for long form. (Personally, I have little time for long form in my life, it has to be of the enlightening and positive category)

                                                                Ce qui se conçoit bien s'énonce clairement, et les mots pour le dire arrivent aisément. Cheers. Lets keep productive, and keep together, balancing both in the daily timeline? :-)

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                                                                We definitely need a “report” button on comments, to bring things to a moderator’s attention. I think that this could feed into a separate ‘negative karma’ score:

                                                                1. Users report a comment.
                                                                2. If a report is found to be justified, the moderator takes an action, if warranted, or at least says ‘yes, this report was justified’ or ‘no, this is unjustified.’
                                                                3. Sink users' comments to the bottom of comments based on a weighting of their negative karma versus their positive karma.
                                                                4. Unjustified reports add to the reporter’s negative karma.
                                                                1. 2

                                                                  That’s a neat idea. Are there any examples you know of such dual-score systems that work?

                                                                2. 15

                                                                  After a ton of discussion in the lobsters irc channel on freenode, a draft was created by a group of lobsters users for defining community norms and standards.

                                                                  https://pad.riseup.net/p/lobsters-guidelines

                                                                  The draft is community editable with a timeline of changes. I would love to hear feedback and get more people involved.

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                                                                    I created a git repository for further editing since people keep posting goatse ascii art on the riseup pad.

                                                                    https://github.com/meskarune/lobsters-constitution/tree/master

                                                                    If you’d like to contribute, send in a PR or email me at meskarune @ archwomen.org and I will add in your changes.

                                                                    1. 1

                                                                      Thanks for putting in work to make this thing happen, and sorry you’re having to deal with vandalism and harassment on the riseup pad.

                                                                    2. 2

                                                                      I would love to hear feedback and get more people involved.

                                                                      I would love to no longer be told what to do by people who majored in women studies and navel-gazing. At least in niche public forums like this one.

                                                                      1. 11

                                                                        If you would, please at least point out which bits of the doc are open to abuse. I can think of several, including some that were added after I’d done a trimming pass.

                                                                        It’s bloody hard to work on these things and protect folks from censorship and CoC-abuse when everyone would rather knee-jerk say “I don’t trust the people working on this because <x>”. If you want to keep from being a victim of the culture war, you need to help establish your position, and that means contributing constructively.

                                                                        Also, John Carmack didn’t graduate from college–so, don’t dismiss people out of hand based on mere credentialism.

                                                                        1. 4

                                                                          You all did a good job on it with most of it irrefutable or at least good. Aside from one I’ve already addressed, I’d like you all to consider this one which might hit me personally:

                                                                          “Don’t derail threads with off-topic or irrelevant comments.”

                                                                          One of main benefits of both HN and Lobsters is the serendipity effect where somewhat relevant comments are posted that tie two things together that are only peripherally related. I do this a lot as I think creating cross-disciplinary knowledge or just bringing obscure stuff that’s potentially applicable into spotlight of masses is beneficial. I’ve had tons of positive feedback from these posts with occasional “stay on the very, specific topic” or “wth does that have to do with anything?” counters.

                                                                          How would we word that with a provision for peripherally-related topics, claims, or links that aren’t quite the original topic but not totally off-topic or irrelevant? I’d leave in irrelevant as the vote count plus common sense will cover those. They’re the obvious cases. It’s definition or interpretation of off-topic that needs the modification. You’re a better writer than me so I ask you instead of try it myself. Also note that I’m suggesting this to improve efforts to formalize the concept for this site and especially those that copy aspects of Lobsters since it’s designed openly for forking. Moderation & reputation already handles these well here.

                                                                          1. 4

                                                                            I reject the whole concept of submitting your community to a set of written rules that are each and every time leading to (self-)censorship and by-the-book abuses.

                                                                            It’s not the particular wording of the mock-legalese. It’s not a corner case not covered by the rules. It’s the code of conduct in its entirety.

                                                                            1. 9

                                                                              Okay, so, you don’t like the CoC part. Relevant questions:

                                                                              • Would you prefer mods to arbitrarily banhammer people without being able to point at a guideline justifying their actions?
                                                                                • do you think we have sufficient and attentive-enough mods to help manually spread culture here?
                                                                              • How do you expect new users to assimilate into the culture of Lobsters, given:
                                                                                • an expressed desire to not write down said culture
                                                                                • an expressed desire to not enforce behavioral norms
                                                                              • What examples of rules leading to self-censorship and by-the-book abuses do you have?
                                                                                • is that self-censorship just people being to cowardly to stand behind their beliefs in public?
                                                                              • What examples do you have of communities without this sort of guiding document that somehow are immune to those problems?
                                                                                • do those problems just exist in other forms?

                                                                              C'mon man. Work with us here. I get the whole “fuck your rules, maaaan” thing, but that doesn’t work at the same time that a group is heterogeneous enough to actually have meaningfully different experiences and viewpoints.

                                                                              1. 6

                                                                                Would you prefer mods to arbitrarily banhammer people without being able to point at a guideline justifying their actions?

                                                                                Yes. At least we’d get rid of the hypocrisy of blaming it on the rules.

                                                                                do you think we have sufficient and attentive-enough mods to help manually spread culture here?

                                                                                I think the culture is made by the users, not the moderators. Let us moderate ourselves through voting and if you want to nudge us in one direction or another, do it from an equal footing with us, not as a privileged member of the community.

                                                                                How do you expect new users to assimilate into the culture of Lobsters, given:

                                                                                an expressed desire to not write down said culture

                                                                                an expressed desire to not enforce behavioral norms

                                                                                Through passive lurking and active participation, just like we all did.

                                                                                What examples of rules leading to self-censorship and by-the-book abuses do you have?

                                                                                All of them.

                                                                                is that self-censorship just people being to cowardly to stand behind their beliefs in public?

                                                                                Few people will throw away access to a community - in which they have invested years - for the sake of courage and honour. I would and I did. Would you?

                                                                                What examples do you have of communities without this sort of guiding document that somehow are immune to those problems?

                                                                                lobste.rs until now ;-)

                                                                                do those problems just exist in other forms?

                                                                                Maybe they’re the cost of freedom. Eliminating all the problems is not a goal we should pursue.

                                                                                Work with us here.

                                                                                I am, by contributing criticism and encouraging interesting discussions.

                                                                          2. 12

                                                                            Personal attacks are not okay. Find another way to express your disagreement.

                                                                            In this conversation in particular, it is important that everyone’s voice be included; trying to chase people away by being rude is even more inappropriate than it usually is.

                                                                            I almost didn’t weigh in here because I don’t want to create an impression of bias, given that this is in fact a topic I care about and have been engaging with. So I am making a very narrow request. But seriously… you know where the line of acceptable behavior is. Don’t make this a lot of work for me. Apply better judgment.

                                                                            1. 2

                                                                              The time has come for an auto-da-fé: I am obviously a toxic element for this community, in the rare occasions I share my opinions with it. Please ban me for the common good.

                                                                              1. 10

                                                                                No, fuck that. Witch burnings are bad.

                                                                                In all but the most extreme cases, I firmly believe that particular things people do may be bad, but that doesn’t make the people bad. You’re consistently somewhat unpopular but that is not a crime, and I hope nobody here wants to make “somewhat unpopular” into a reason for a ban.

                                                                                If your reaction is to start being intentionally disruptive in the hope of forcing my hand… that will work. But it would be a loss to the community.

                                                                                1. 3

                                                                                  I hope nobody here wants to make “somewhat unpopular” into a reason for a ban

                                                                                  Why would you have codes of conduct if not to police your community? Banning users is a natural consequence of normative ethics applied to this medium. Just call it “consistently ignoring the rules” instead of “somewhat unpopular”.

                                                                                  1. 8

                                                                                    In some sense, you’re right. No community can possibly be welcoming to everybody, however much one might desire to make it a good place for as many people as possible. Any effort like this is an attempt to choose who should be here.

                                                                                    This particular attempt, from what I’ve seen of it, is trying to write down the standards Lobste.rs already de-facto has, to make a place where everyone who’s already here and part of the community can know that they fit in, with less fear that the culture might drift in a direction that would make them unwelcome.

                                                                                    Resisting change is not the clearly-right option, and my default is to assume that it’s actually better to let things drift. I imagine that’s why this is a grassroots effort. :) And I do see the safety arguments and I think that’s a substantial benefit.

                                                                                    As far as mechanisms for achieving that sort of goal, I like written rules as a tool to that end, not because they don’t require interpretation, but because they forestall disagreement on whether it’s even appropriate for the community to try to respect certain things.

                                                                            2. 4

                                                                              I would love to no longer be told what to do by people who majored in women studies and navel-gazing. At least in niche public forums like this one.

                                                                              i didn’t major in women’s studies or even get a degree. I also didn’t write the majority of the items in the etherpad above, it was a group effort with many other lobsters users. Maybe don’t shoot the messenger? It would be far more helpful to state what specific issues you have with the above and ways it could be improved. If you don’t want any posted rules, what sort of system would you rather see instead? Down voting? Flagging of comments? There are a million ways in which you could be more constructive.

                                                                          3. 13

                                                                            Seems like there are two discussions going on in the thread: 1) managing signal to noise ratio, and 2) dealing with abusive behavior.

                                                                            Voting is a decent approximation for managing the first. In the case of the second, there are already several checks in place to prevent things getting out of hand:

                                                                            0) expectation of adult behavior,
                                                                            1) invite only,
                                                                            2) invitation tree,
                                                                            3) transparency policy,
                                                                            5) ban policy,
                                                                            6) real moderators,
                                                                            7) local ownership (*i.e.*, jcs is active in the community).
                                                                            

                                                                            I don’t see guidelines or a code of conduct materially improving on these.

                                                                            1. 18

                                                                              I’d like to see lobsters have an official stance against comments demonstrating racism, sexism, discrimination by sexual orientation or discrimination by gender identity.

                                                                              Along similar lines, I’d like to point out the Chromium Code of Conduct which, while long, makes it clear what is acceptable, what isn’t, and what will be done about it. I wouldn’t mind seeing a (much shorter) version of that added to the about page. If nothing else, the “[discussion] about features and code, not the individuals involved” is pretty applicable anywhere.

                                                                              1. 11

                                                                                “Don’t make comments that are racist, sexist, or discriminating of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

                                                                                I encourage them to be very careful with that. This rule has been used extensively for censorship using passive-aggressive form of trolling. Critics call them SJW’s but it’s old form of sophistry. If it’s adopted, the rule should prevent that from happening. Example: if something being considered discrimination is in widespread dispute, it doesn’t count. Excluding or censoring tens of millions of people because a tiny few said so with no solid evidence or discussion allowed is itself discrimination. That would knock out most tactics political types use except things that are either overt or data-driven in assessment. Those deserve consideration.

                                                                                Now, we can still have rules of being courteous to one another that cover a lot of that. Just one side getting censored because a minority position calls it discrimination and that’s a given? Please…

                                                                                1. 9

                                                                                  That is specifically to cover being racist, sexist, discriminatory, etc toward a person. There is absolutely no reason to call a gay man on here a fag, or call a mexican a wetback. There is a huge difference between a comment that is a personal attack, and a comment that is thoughtful and helps progress a discussion. I think we can all tell the difference, and I am confident the mods here can.

                                                                                  1. 8

                                                                                    “There is absolutely no reason to call a gay man on here a fag, or call a mexican a wetback.”

                                                                                    Those are extreme, obvious examples nobody would argue with. It’s the more subtle or disputed ones that this turns to censorship on. A forum that’s very, left-leaning will consider discrimination in terms of language used or points made very differently from a moderate one which is very different from a right-leaning one. That’s because many of these forms of discrimination are under dispute as to whether they’re actually discrimination and to what degree. Interestingly, many people I previously ran into pushing for and using these clauses disagree on the basics even with many people in their own minority group. They don’t care, though, as their intent is to push their views on others while suppressing dissenting views. Even if introduced by good folks for good reasons, these people show up later with sophist tactics that depend on it.

                                                                                    The common model for how it’s abused looks something like this.

                                                                                    1. User A make a claim that involves certain assumption, language, etc. They express themselves however they do with one or more claims.

                                                                                    2. User B claims that the comment or way it’s expressed is offensive or discriminating, painting A as the effective attacker. Problem starts right here since there’s no widespread consensus on the claim B is making. Individual groups might agree but it’s not the objective truth B stated. Or the “offense” is entirely in their head & arbitrary. User B will also commonly tie A’s claim to a label that’s obviously hateful. An example from HN was tying Amazon avoiding rough areas to simply being racists against black people. Anyone might agree with avoiding high-crime areas with tens of thousands in goods but agreeing with “racist policies against black customers” is very bad. The substitution tries to trick people into reacting to one like it’s the other with either no evidence they’re related or rhetoric used to squash counter-evidence.

                                                                                    3. User A will counter B’s claim, which is a passive-aggressive attack on A, with some kind of argument. Given they were attacked in emotional way & usually hot-button topic, they often overdo it a bit on argument vs evidence ratio. If they don’t understand sophistry, they’ll also slip to argue against the substitution instead of the original claim.

                                                                                    4. User B, anticipating this all along, will then claim A is the aggressor or unsympathetic person that needs to back off or be censored. The fact that one is using a direct style and other passive-aggressive makes outsiders more likely to agree as passive-aggressives don’t look like they’re the attackers. It’s the whole point. Devious types of B will also say that A is arguing for (false, horrible label of discrimination or evil) rather than against B’s weaker, original claim. This trick works so well it dominates political discussion, err fighting. One of stronger examples being all the talk of rape culture where anyone disagreeing is labeled a “rape apologist,” “apathetic to it,” “supporting its continuing occurrence,” or some crap. What they’re actually doing is opposing specific claims of causality & prevention that some group was pushing. That worked so well to disrupt dissent in so many places that RAINN had to step in themselves to oppose it. The more subtle ones aren’t as obvious.

                                                                                    Popular and otherwise evidence-based ideas have been censored in many forums using the above tactic by labeling them as every type of discrimination on your list. They’ve all been used. Only strategy that works against such tactics are (a) eliminating ability to censor comments if there’s widespread, national or global dispute about whether specific topic or claim is discriminatory; (b) evidence-based rebuttal of the false claims of discrimination. Option B is actually secondary because many people have posted counterpoints on forums to be subsequently censored by a vocal minority. Their views don’t even have to be a consensus within the minority class they represent for that to work. So, I push (a) and (b) together with the existing upvote or a downvote-without-disappearance scheme to counter such subversions that are increasingly common in online communities.

                                                                                    Right now these patterns are rare in the Lobster’s forum. As popularity increases, they will get worse. I’m dealing with it now due to the combo of how rules often stick around over time so need to be done right early and principle of eliminating attack vectors (technical or human) early on as possible. The ban on discrimination, a lack of consensus of what constitues that, and resulting censorship by vocal minorities is already used as a weapon by politically-motivated on popular forums. So, I’m putting work into countering that possibility immediately. I don’t have final decision but will certainly make risks & tactics used clear.

                                                                                    1. 3

                                                                                      I value your input. Please take a look at the specific categories enumerated on (the last time I looked) line 53 of the draft, and if there are any you find controversial, mention them specifically.

                                                                                      It’s not really possible to argue with high-level points like yours, without reference to specifics; and anyway the details are important here.

                                                                                      1. 4

                                                                                        Alright, got a bit of rest from work and back to discussion. :) The moderation & community here are actually good enough that it’s tricky to be sure what might be a problem. Yet, the definition expanded as I predicted from stuff that’s a mix of obvious and subtle to stuff that’s widely contested in America. Just being on different part of the political spectrum is already grounds for personal expression being “discrimination” under CoC definition. Most of these have been used with the technique I outlined above. Alright, let’s put it to the test with a few examples that are in dispute depending on where you live.

                                                                                        1. “He” vs “He or She” gender discrimination. Why do “he or she” you’ve all heard I’m sure. Far as “he,” many people do it just traditionally, to save writing, default on mental examples sharing author’s own attributes, or whatever. A form of discrimination might have been behind it’s creation way back. Yet, one can address a general problem in writing with any instantiation of gender. Many of us don’t find it discriminating esp if it’s heavily used (legacy mode). Also, I questioned intention of people who countered it given I never saw them counter a piece that only used “she.” Thinking on it further, I argued “he or she” with binary options + OR was iteself discriminatory if it’s about not excluding a class of people. The OR exludes hermaphrodites, an AND of two genders, who are numerous enough to swing an election. Combine that with some transgender types with unusual modifications leads me to think of it as a spectrum or something if being inclusive. In any case, people get regularly censored in liberal settings for not saying “he or she” despite no national consensus & even arguments against its inclusiveness. My grades suffered because I disagreed with liberal professors on that and a bunch of other things. Interestingly, the solution was to lie in papers by making them superficially non-discriminating from authors whose beliefs didn’t change. That’s another conversation, though, where I believe that habit in many contexts contributes to society’s problems.

                                                                                        2. Race. Being from black areas and schools brings this close to home. Both liberal whites and many (not all) black people are opposed to white people speaking, singing, dressing, etc in black ways. Despite gripes about whites excluding blacks, the find it OK to do it in reverse for (insert reasons that are still racism). Whites that grow up in black areas spend tons of time acclimating to their language, pop culture, dance styles, etc. How else we get black friends or dates from black women with black preferences? Honestly, we mix it up as differentiator since they threaten violence when we’re too similar but we benefit if just a little similar. Both blacks and whites give such a white person with black style shit on average case with censhorship or exclusion resulting. Another example was liberally-decided definition of racism where it can only be white basically whereas moderates or right-wingers consider all discrimination over race to be definition. Likewise, making certain assertions like evidence indicating blacks might have lower intelligence in certain areas is decried as racist & censored like hell. Yet, that line of reasoning might have sooner led to a question like, “Is there an environmental reason for observed data rather than [likely-racist] claims of genetic inferiority?” Studies are popping up showing links between lead poisoning from lead-tainted houses in black ghettos, high crime, and it going down after lead removal within one generation or something. I’m sure many investigating innate intelligence were racists but not censoring the data-driven investigations for decades might have gotten that result & policy changes sooner. The preconditions, ridiculous violence and school results in specific locations, were the same for both theories with the methodology connecting the dots being what was necessary. All of the above can be censored under CoC where the doctrine is a disagreement with minority on such issues, from beliefs to personal expression, is inherently hate speech. That person will be required to prove they’re not haters when actually the other parties claiming it’s mere hate speech or discrimination should be required to prove that. (Burden of proof, presumption of innocence.) In any case, there’s millions to tens of millions of us that aren’t racists & simply disagree with some of the liberal claims/practices.

                                                                                        3. Now for the last I both of us take some risk on: transgender. I knew someone would add that before it was done. Two, obvious positions on the issue are recognizing people as claimed gender with 100% support (ultra-liberal) and totally rejecting their ability to do this (ultra-conservative). There’s actually a middle position that probably a lot of people have based on confirmation results I’ve gotten in highly-polarized area. Can’t give data on U.S. as whole, though. That position, which is also mine, rejects that the transgender person is the new gender that they claimed based on DNA, physical, and psychological evidence. We will not agree with their claims and many won’t address them with new pronouns or whatever else comes with it. We will allow them, under free expression & just being humane, to be whoever they want to be without imposing legal restrictions on them or horseshit like the bathroom debate [1]. As a conversational courtesy, many of us will refer to the other person by their stated name or use the gender pronoun but not necessarily believe it. Level of disbelief varies among us. Based on forums, Twitter, and Facebook results, people in the middle category are highly likely to be accused of discrimination, hate speech, or otherwise attacking transgender. Whereas, in reality, the transgender people are attacking a status quo supported by physical evidence, solid arguments [2], and opinions of tens to hundreds of millions of people. Seems wrong, even discriminating, to censor people expressing that status quo. Could expressing that with the above Code of Conduct get me minimized or banned in this or another forum with more liberal moderation? Your reply to stefantalpalaru was pretty epic w/ prior activity making me worry less about you than the next moderator if you pursued other things or additional one was brought on. Nonetheless, I still ask given it’s part of your identity, you added it, and what you said in IRC.

                                                                                        [1] Right-wingers asked me how I’d handle the bathroom challenge as transgender. I said anyone looking at my Johnson is not following urinal ettique. I’d ask them why they’re staring at my dick. It’s weirding me out. I’d suggest they point their eyes in front of them or I point my stream at them. Most people, no matter how tough, will avoid walking out of a bathroom covered head to toe in piss. A decade or so of combat training covers the other risk. In practice, even staring at them back with weird look was enough to deter them. Or “Like what you see” following by discussion of advantages of shape and technique until they cut me off. Although, I’m not transgender so maybe they were doing an improvised anatomy study. Didn’t care: it was weird given the rarity.

                                                                                        [2] I’ll just throw this in as an example I came up with in Battle of the Sex’s discussions studying differences in genders. Men and women are raised in very different ways that results in different skills, mental habits, concerns, etc. Past that, individuals and circumstances determine things but many commonalities exist within genders that contrast between them. Let’s say there’s an effeminent man raised around men for 20 years turning into & acting like a woman. A transgender woman now that transgender people say should be thought of & treated as a woman. Yet, a biological woman raised & living as a woman for 20 years will have had totally different experience with different results in their psychology. The transgender woman doesn’t have the decades of experience that define what being a woman is like. Now, there’s certainly outliers like so-called tomboys or maybe male equivalents that act like, raised like, and/or mostly treated like opposite gender. That transformation would be no difficulty in terms of personality or past experience mismatches. Most aren’t like that, though. That huge gap that happens due to society’s effect on gender upbringing between natural and artificial women is one of various arguments that the transgender women aren’t really women in full sense. They’re missing that unless they’re one of outliers from the start or maybe odds case like awesome surgery as a 5-7 year old kid followed by moving to new school with peers none the wiser. This was also why my highly-perceptive mom knew immediately in movie Predestination that dude was a woman despite great make-up job and performance: women’s eye movements toward people around them and conversational defensiveness are often more pronounced than men she says because women are often judged socially their whole life by other women in ways that lead to that. Just random example on top of it that came to mind as I wrote this.

                                                                                        1. 8

                                                                                          So, before I respond in detail, I didn’t get to say this yesterday to your previous comment, because I had more than enough difficult replies to write elsewhere, so let me say it now: I agree that the failure scenario you describe happens and is a serious problem. I have seen it happen regardless of overall ideology; in fact, I see it most often between people who agree on everything or almost everything. (I recommend an article called I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup for high-level examples and discussion.)

                                                                                          I tend to think of codes of conduct as meant to address 101-level problems, and patterns like “no, you’re the abuser” as 201-level. There’s honestly no simple test for that stuff, because each view of reality is equally plausible, and one side is actively trying to confuse the evidence trail. It tends to include side accusations like “yes, I know you have known this person well - and you need to wake up to their behavior”, with no regard for the truth of that.

                                                                                          If anyone tries to start something like that here, I promise to be merciless. I think it’s beyond what a CoC can even do much about, because the rules do become just one more tool for that. Dealing with it takes people who are willing to engage, parse out what’s true, and take sides. (Of course, sometimes both sides are awful, but that’s not the common case.) To my knowledge, lobste.rs has never had an instance of this pattern, although I’ve seen threads that were essentially reporting on it happening elsewhere, some of which involved users here.

                                                                                          On to your examples. :)

                                                                                          1) I guess that is controversial, although I’m strongly in favor of singular they. In a past life, I was a serious asshole, and I had a similar experience in a university writing course. (Transition disabused me of some naive ideas I’d had, and after a lot of trauma processing, I feel like I’ve changed… that’s not for me to judge though.)

                                                                                          In retrospect, the pronoun stuff felt somehow like a principled stand, but it was very much about me refusing to listen to anyone else’s concerns because I didn’t feel like anyone but myself mattered. I am not asserting that that’s the mindset everyone who objects strongly to such simple things is in, but I think it’s a common one. That emotion comes out strongly in remarks like “” or “don’t tell me what to do”.

                                                                                          I’m not writing this CoC, so this isn’t my say, but as far as how I’d like a CoC to address this? Honestly, I am already at my quota of emotional labor just getting people to not use deliberately wrong pronouns for specific real people. I don’t have it in me to also care about the pronouns that someone uses for hypothetical people.

                                                                                          To put that in more principled terms, I don’t think pronouns for hypothetical people actually wind up making anyone unsafe in this community, unless it’s specifically expressing a lack of respect for some group (like “any man who would ____ needs to get her act together”). Somebody, possibly you, mentioned normative ethics a while ago; from a consequentialist approach, I see some small harm with using “he” for every single hypothetical pronoun, but not to the level that forbidding it makes sense for this community, although there are places where it would.

                                                                                          For whatever it’s worth, I think coercing people to “lie” (if they really feel this situation is a lie) would solve that small harm. It would create another approximately equal harm, and I’d balance those by looking at the existing power structure and resolving it in favor of the weaker group. I suspect literature professors have it as their goal to actually change people’s beliefs, because that’s their job as teachers, but I’m not a professor.

                                                                                          2) Reverse racism doesn’t exist; racism is a power structure, and that power is very one-sided. I do not regard that interpretation as reasonable and would want a very high burden of proof for anything alleged to be an exception.

                                                                                          I suspect it might be good for the CoC to state that explicitly, since it would be better for people to

                                                                                          With regard to censoring it, I would think that 99% of the time, it would be off-topic here anyway. This thread is in that 1% exception, and so is the other recent thread about racial bias in machine learning. It is important that people feel able to discuss controversial things, when there are appropriate occasions to do so, but those are the most stressful threads to moderate because inevitably somebody does start using slurs or other hate speech.

                                                                                          The hardest posts are the ones that are disagreeing in an on-topic way, avoiding hate speech and personal attacks, but expressing a deeply bigoted world view. Historically, I have given those a pass; I find that the person’s next post after that kind of post is generally much easier to deal with. :)

                                                                                          I don’t know that having a CoC is going to deal with that problem in the general case. If it were to enumerate something like “arguing that reverse racism exists is unacceptable”, that would wind up cutting those threads off a little sooner, for that specific issue, and that would be worth doing.

                                                                                          But there are a lot of these issues. We can’t find a global consensus on every issue. What the CoC is trying to do is declare a local consensus, when it exists. Yes, that’s by fiat. Please see my comment here on the topic of why I’d want that.

                                                                                          3) I found this one difficult to read because of the consistent “they” referring to trans people, as if we aren’t on this forum (but thank you for briefly acknowledging that we are). I don’t know your gender or other demographics, but please imagine how you’d feel if someone talked about “cis white men” or whatever label does apply to you, repeating that term throughout the conversation, and phrased it all as “they”, avoiding “you”. Another key element that contributes to the “othering” is the careful framing the discussion so it’s pointedly detached, turning the specifics of somebody’s life into an abstract theory.

                                                                                          I suspect you’d feel attacked, and rightly so, because it would be an attack. And that sort of othering does happen in both directions (in all directions, really - there are not two sides; there are nine billion sides), and it is divisive and a lot of the reason that the “don’t tell me what to do” sentiment is so easy to fall into.

                                                                                          I don’t know what the right call would be with regard to intentional othering. I suspect that, outside this thead, most examples would be personal attacks on community members. I haven’t seen a lot of posts that I felt were doing this particular thing, but I’d encourage community members to chime in if they have, with regard to this or any other group.

                                                                                          Whether or not it happens much, I would regard it as a low-stakes thing to mention in the CoC - nobody has a legitimate reason not to stop that sort of thing if asked, and anyone who isn’t capable of stopping themselves, I would feel unsafe around. That said, I’d have misgivings about acting on this alone without community consensus that it should be acted on.

                                                                                          But I’m talking about othering, and you asked about discussion of whether trans identity is real, so let me address that.

                                                                                          The line that I see here is that you are talking about something you have no stake in, and it appears to have been very easy for you to write out those tired arguments - after all, you aren’t at risk of losing your apartment, your job, your bank account, or your driving privilege because of somebody in authority who takes the other side from you.

                                                                                          I’ve heard every point you raised for years, but I would still need at least an hour to write out replies, and I would be stressed by it. If I were a fan of alcohol, I’d definitely have a drink to unwind afterward. I’ve had panic attacks over it. And I have every expectation that your position would be unchanged no matter what I said. It would not actually be an invitation to discussion, just a demand on my time disguised as a conversation. And even if it were in good faith, I don’t want to have that discussion. So I’m not going to do it. Nor is anyone else here.

                                                                                          Creating emotional labor for another community member, without proportionate investment on your part, is not good-faith conversation. You are free to believe the things you mentioned; but please don’t start seriously advancing them as if you’re entitled to answers. Or go do it on Reddit, which I’ve noticed is full of that. :)

                                                                                          In closing:

                                                                                          If I had to put it all in one sentence, I’d say that beliefs like these aren’t a problem as long as everyone understands the idea of agreeing to disagree, and is willing to table acrimonious discussions, and to refrain from making others unsafe here.

                                                                                          I recognize that that might make you feel unwelcome over time; but voting patterns on threads that have touched on these issues have shown that you’re far from alone on them, so I don’t actually expect the CoC to wind up excluding the parts that aren’t directly harmful, because it will be a product of consensus. I’m happy that you’re engaging in the process, because otherwise it would not be a true consensus.

                                                                                          I want to be on the record with all of these answers, and I do believe that they demonstrate principles which would apply in most scenarios on Lobste.rs. I realize while wrapping this up that I personally disagree on every single point you raised, but I hope the lines I expressed are ones you can be happy with. I also hope this informs the process, and that you and I aren’t the only ones reading it. :) It’s quite long…

                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                            I want to add that I just heard there’s a conversation about this on IRC. I don’t want to spend time on IRC during my work day, but I’ll try to drop by later and participate there.

                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                              Didn’t want to respond totally tired last night since you put a lot of work into a great comment. Plus that was a long link. Decided to reread both to better ensure fair response. The outgroup essay was pretty amazing with me probably not thinking of that angle before. I’m going to have to assess his points against fundamentals that seem to cause most of these things: echo chambers; preference for low-friction, social interactino; geography; parents or role model’s teachings. I think (so far) those four explain about everything although the interactions make emergent complexity worth exploring and modelling as he’s doing. I appreciate the link as I’m going to have to think on this further, esp the Red, Blue, and Grey tribe model.

                                                                                              The surprising thing is he couldn’t figure out how his social circle had all the same people where just three things on my list make it inevitable. Maybe I’m off but it was clear with his personal description: a casual lifestyle with about the same kinds of specialized food, venues, and so on as his preferences. Almost everyone he meets will be his type. He’d have to risk social discomfort or feeling like an alien specificially going to food places, churches, social gatherings, etc that sent the opposite signals. He’d then bump into different types of people he’d have to interest and use active listening to identify as truly different. He’d run into conflicts in this that filtered out a good chunk of them with extra work maintaining the relationships. All in all, you have to work to cross these borders & keep a foot over there. He’s simply not putting in the work although he’s doing a ton of study on the Internet on what looks to be a pile of related, echo chambers. On my FB, as I did the painful work, I have about every group where I can watch (esp over elections) their comments or ask them questions to learn where they’re coming from. I lost more FB & real-life friends than I currently have doing this with enough stressful moments I can easily see why most don’t. It’s what’s necessary to beat this isolation & get real understanding, though. I might email him to suggest something like that.

                                                                                              Re the pattern. I’m glad you’re well aware of it, haven’t seen it here, and will be merciless if you do.

                                                                                              Re He or she. Good points. I also tend to use “they,” wishing we had a “neuter” version like in Greek. They is my substitute since people take offense at “It,” esp if it’s a child. An experiment in linguistic fairness I won’t repeat. I was also defensive in school since it seemed people were just enforcing their preferences without care for others as you surmised. Differentiating between hypothetical and real people is a good point. I’m specifically against it being discrimination in general case for hypotheticals but I’d consider it discrimination or trolling if misused against real people unless it was a typo. The author would’ve paused to specifically misrepresent the gender for a specific reason. No nice ones pop into mind.

                                                                                              Re lie on gender to balance power structure. I’m utilitarian enough to see potential for that. I’ll put that on my mental backlog for now.

                                                                                              Re Racism defined as a power structure. That’s exactly what I mean: at least half the country disagrees with that definition with it formed by liberal whites and blacks in mostly-liberal universities. A good chunk of arguing on social media is about that definition. To enforce that definition without a consensus in a way harming the disagreeing party isn’t morally justified. It’s also an act of power & censorship if the host or community is mostly liberal in support of that definition. If you’re wondering, the alternative side considers racism to be discrimination based on race end of story. From there, it might be subtle or overt, pervasive or isolated, and done in law or outside it. An act of racism by a person in power is just an abuse by someone in power to the victim where motivation was race. Powerful people abuse power on white folks all the time with other motivations so we think of it all the same around here: assholes in power with their biases.

                                                                                              Re Racism under your supported definition. We might disagree on above so let me just start with your definition as experiment. It’s about power where one race’s prejudice (majority) negatively impacts the minds, health, education, employment, rate of incarceration, or risk of death of the others due to positions of power over other race (miniority). I make be off on what your side means by it since they actually tell me many different things (contention). What I just said is about the most explicit, common ground I can find in all their models. With this, they claim white’s can’t experience racism because they don’t understand that whereas minorities experience the above in a systematic fashion. Which is still wrong & comes from one or more echo chambers. Step out of them to find…

                                                                                              Whites growing up in areas where blacks control social circles, school administration, hiring, cities, and courts… aka black cities… will experience all of the above. Our appearance, dress, or speech limits all social opportunities that encourage positive development in youth plus results in stereotyping, exclusion, identity confusion, tons of bullying, and a lot of physical attacks. Blacks had tiny subset of these problems as they were the ingroup. Whites views on politics or race get anywhere from verbal censorship to violent 3 on 1 attacks immediately. We’re told we’re ignorant, inherently hateful, & should just let them talk. The English teachers taught us English and “Ebonics” with Ebonics being necessary for social integration but simultaneously denied to us since we’re white. All black culture was denied to us while they simultaneously said it was evil for whites to deny blacks white things. They got punished less for beating whites, including me, than I did for talking in class. In food places, they sometimes make excuses to serve us last, whisper jokes about us while we’re there, or mock us w/out service until we leave. In jobs, the mostly-black companies have many superficial reasons for not hiring qualified, white applicants then we see their homeboys and homegirls get the job while dragging their feet during shifts. They’re more likely to get welfare assistance from black-managed welfare office with higher amounts which even sympathetic blacks working there admitting this. Cops and judges profile us either because we act too black (anti-black racism) from our upbringing with blacks or (if black cops) to scare some white people. Truth told, black cops still focus more on blacks than me due to stereotyping & their percentage of crime. Every single friend, date, relaxing meal, job, and so on is a ton of work with us having to walk a tight rope in presentation never being either race fully. And then I moved into white areas with way less of that… “white privilege”… but still discriminated against on non-racial critera. (still white privilege?)

                                                                                              Now to the next. Anyone classified as a nerd in The South, esp rural areas, is totally fucked. That person will similarly be ostracized, screwed over in negotiations or court, and so on. Any male with anxiety/PTSD, eg white victims of black schools, will be assumed just by eye contact effects alone by the vast majority of women to be a creep, athletes to be weak in terms of self-confidence, interviewers to be full of shit, and cops & Zimmerman types to be definitely a criminal. Going from black areas to white ones with mild paranoia was relaxing and fun in relative sense because I left Hell to go to Purgatory with less heat cooking my skin. Heat was still way up. Having a brain injury that cost my memory & coordination with severe PTSD just magnified all this shit ten times worse.

                                                                                              So, let’s say it’s about power structures combined with racial discrimination. In that case, white growing up in black or other minorities that have control are definitely victims of racism. Heck, the blacks even think I’m one of them on forums where I go under alias writing my experiences as a “minority” in terms of childhood, mental affects, career affects, etc. They think we’re identical until I mention I’m white. Full-on denial and rage follows albeit with a significant chunk of blacks agreeing with my position that it’s a dominant vs minority group thing where those are blanks filled in based on location. Even if not race, white males that aren’t alphas and get labeled as nerds face constant exclusion, harassment, conspiring, attacks, etc that certainly don’t make me feel “privileged” or on top of a power structure.

                                                                                              So, I disagree that a power structure definition of racism or just discrimination leads to whites being immune to it or always the ones doing it like liberals claim. Those same circumstances exist for us when they’re in control. It’s also more vicious, we have no support from liberals, nobody takes legal action for us, and almost nobody in general gives a shit. I’m only slightly emotional as I write this mostly focusing on the facts of my experiences especially as almost every black or liberal write-up on racism detailing their experiences/feelings applies to my friends and I in those places. I’m cool with people disagreeing but hope they factor our experience into their model or even their activism aiming for changes. Nothing so far for major players.

                                                                                              re often off-topic outside stuff like machine learning thread. Good call. I bring it up as it’s contentious with about half of America split but only one side is censored on liberal forums via liberal definitions or proclamations. Just an illustration of the effect that I agree is less likely to happen here. Another reason I like Lobsters focus of discussion.

                                                                                              “I found this one difficult to read because of the consistent “they” referring to trans people”

                                                                                              I’m going to pause to admit fault on this one. Having lost memory & many social skills, which weren’t high to begin with, I attribute it to an old habit of making things abstract if they might target a specific person. I mean, how to go about expressing this view without hitting you personall in a direct, ultra-painful attack. Either a bad habit or inappropriate here so I apologize. I’m not even sure how to go about it on such immensely-emotional topics. Usually avoid them unless there’s an obvious tie-in to a discussion. Guess I’ll just be more direct next time although hopefully unnecessary here. Worth considering, though, I’m talking about a whole group of people rather than just you where such groups often have differences in beliefs within the group. I can’t speak for trans people as I’ve run into only handfuls of you here and there. So, partly since I was working at a group level and partly because I was foolish enough to think it would be less damaging. I apologize for foolish part but unclear if I’m in wrong on talking about the group abstractly if one member is present.

                                                                                              re othering. Your response seems to find it ambiguous too albeit from maybe different direction. I like that you want a consensus on such situations. I suspect you’d critique and discuss it rather than censor it. It was weird enough I thought it was worth bringing up.

                                                                                              re no stake. I’m a long-term activist that fought for the truth or principles loosing friends, jobs, money, credit (including my house), and so on. I’ve lost everything I’ve had multiple times due to focus on helping others with most people in a specific, social issue losing everything just once for their self-interests or not risking everything at all. I can’t say how much of those I’m glad I did or regret as foolish lessons of life. I can say it was almost always for others as I’m hardwired to care too much to let them be harmed if I’m clear on it being harm. I might not be as effected by or invested in your specific group’s concerns but no stake doesn’t feel accurate.

                                                                                              I’ve already gotten distanced from some friends & business associates just defending trans people against outrageous claims in recent debates I was barely part of. Remember that all of us activists fighting for civil rights & human potential for everyone that stay interacting with the true outgroups opposing it in their areas of power have skin in the game. Not like yours on this issue for sure with our experiences being very different. Far from no stake, though, as no-stake people don’t loose shit for their position on your choices since it’s compatible with their ingroup. Most accurate would be my focus areas right now give me less knowledge on your position, less stake in the specific topic as I’m more active on others, and less damage from specific issue albeit a ton from general case & occasional from that specific issue. Slightly more complex picture, eh?

                                                                                              So, I’m quite curious about the truth of this matter. The rest of your comment on that was reasonable in terms of where you think it would go and what effect it could have on you. I can relate as there was certainly overlap in my identity, experiences, etc being challenged in black schools. People’s blood boiled, got really depressed, or both. I never say it’s the same but people’s emotions in similar contexts are often similar enough where we can at least be empathetic if we try. You’ve been too kind and fair in this discussion for me to push you to have that full discussion or defense given what pain it would cause you. I won’t ask for that.

                                                                                              Now, insert foot maybe… I will take a risk of being foolish by saying this: still might be worthwhile to give me something to work with on your viewpoints. I’m only person in history of my government class to switch sides in middle of an abortion debate despite being a devout, Republican Christian at the time. Evidence compelled it. I’m currently a moderate agnostic with liberal leanings. Things atheists said did plant seeds when I was a Christian. Discussions on Rep vs Dem likely did as well, esp economics. So, delving into the transgender perspective might not do anything but it also might with me passing results onto others (esp moderate opponents) as usual.

                                                                                              Rather than pushing you into that emotional effort, I instead just ask… only if it’s not trouble or traumatic… if you have some good links saved in bookmarks that go deep into the common experience and arguments to share them. There’s so much noise on this topic on the internet that I have trouble knowing what represents most of you or just vocal individuals within the group respresneting themselves. Combating noise & intra-group biases is so much work it’s why I often delay delving into a new, social issue more given only so much time and energy. Whatever you’ve vetted might let me skip past the noise to the meat of the topic. If you don’t want to, that’s fine too. I just personally find dropping a few links that I probably shared 100 times has little stress on me even for passionate topics. Maybe you too.

                                                                                              re conclusion. Yes, I’ve noticed this in the voting patterns. There certainly a majority bias of some kind but enough people on different sides where it might cover for some of the problem. You’ve already committed to avoiding censorship unless it’s active harm not relevant to a topic. I’d say the Lobsters CoC part of this discussion is done for me for now. A combination of low incidence of problems plus a patient moderator that knows what to look for leaves few worries. :)

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                                                                                                There’s a lot to respond to there, and I don’t want to jump into all of it right now, but there is an interesting and important point to be made on the definition of “racism.” As a preface, I will link to “Taboo Your Words” by Eliezer Yudkowsky. Basically, I think the definitional argument is obfuscating a more important underlying issue which would bring more understanding and coming-together if made clear.

                                                                                                Specifically, when Irene says “racism is a power structure,” I believe they’re saying (and Irene, please feel free to correct me if my interpretation is wrong) “the thing we should focus on is structural and institutional racial discrimination that discriminates against non-whites to the advantage of whites.” Unfortunately, because of the phrasing and the definitional debate over the term “racism,” the idea that is often communicated is “non-whites can’t engage in racial discrimination.” These are very different ideas, and I think when laid bare it’s a lot easier to understand the perspective of the other side. Individuals subject to the pains of structural and institutional racial discrimination are very interested in eliminating these things, and use the term “racism” to describe that system to which they are opposed. Individuals not subject to these issues view racism more in the abstract, using the term to mean simply “racial discrimination” (which, to paraphrase Avenue Q, everyone does, though the effects and scale may differ). When these two groups try to talk to each other, suddenly no one can communicate. One side feels like they’re being attacked with the claim that only whites can engage in racial discrimination. The other feels like they’re being ignored and their problems downplayed or ignored with the implication that the issue is not truly the problem of structural and institutional racial discrimination and the ways in which it oppresses them.

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                                                                                                  I agree with your clarification, and thank you.

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                                                                                                    “ “the thing we should focus on is structural and institutional racial discrimination that discriminates against non-whites to the advantage of whites.” ”

                                                                                                    “ and use the term “racism” to describe that system to which they are opposed. Individuals not subject to these issues view racism more in the abstract, using the term to mean simply “racial discrimination”

                                                                                                    You’re hitting and missing it at same time it looks like. There’s a middle definition between the two that’s about the same as first. If we start with first, then my experiences are irrelevant as only whites are racist or are dealt with in practice with non-whites will get help on discrimination due to such priorities. However, substitute minority race for non-whites and majority/dominant-race for whites to get my experiences qualifying as racism. They were structural, some legally-reinforced, pervasive, and by a non-white majority to white minority. This is a definition I would consider if people pushing it were for helping all victims of structural racism using such a definition. I’d reject the other one entirely as it looks like a sophist setup where whites are guilty-by-definition in all situations and never victims of it in any. Even if not technically what it says, the discussions work out that way in practice from what I’ve seen.

                                                                                                    Now, I agree saying focus on one type of racism doesn’t mean others don’t exist. I just think we should focus on eliminating it all because we can. If whites are rarely the victims, that means helping them alongside the massive resources invested into helping black victims should be really easy. Drop in bucket of cash and effort. The funnier thing I ran into was that, after explaining how my experiences didn’t deserve effort, some of the liberal activists would then say I have a duty to help blacks deal with theirs since even victims of mere “prejudice” should help stop “racism.” I bet they wrote it with a straight face, too.

                                                                                                    So, the definitions are where things get hung up. Structural vs individual should be kept separate whether we go with that wording or not. The structural should be race-neutral acknowledging it varies place to place. Structural stuff should get prioritized help applying to all races dealing with it with individual cases getting some help if they can but probably sucking it up.

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                                                                                        Things tend to be pretty civil in this community, so I doubt this would be abused. If it were to be abused, that’s what we have mods for.

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                                                                                          Things tend to be pretty civil in this community, so I doubt this would be abused

                                                                                          I have heard this before in many other communities, and it was always abused. These types of rules attract certain type of people.

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                                                                                            Exactly. Those type of people are outwardly helpful while patiently subversive. It’s hard to moderate against stuff like that from what I’ve seen. I didn’t even realize it was going on until about a year ago.

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                                                                                            I agree it’s quite civil. Yet, the mods under that rule would have to similarly tolerate views that anywhere from a significant chunk to a majority of minorities might oppose or even try to censor. That’s a tough requirement in general before we consider whether the moderators might themselves might have biases along these lines. I’m not sure what the situation is here on that. Default position is that relying on mods means you rely on a combo of their biases and self-discipline. That fails a lot on the categories mentioned given they’re the kind hardest to distance oneself personally from.

                                                                                            The combo of just how strong those biases can be along with a rising number of parties involved in politically-motivated censorship means I oppose such wording in codes of conduct. Or strongly limit how it can be applied in ways that lead to censorship by parties not representing a large chunk of readers.

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                                                                                          please, no code of conduct thats disallowing stuff, that just leads to weird discussions about whos right.

                                                                                          just follow jerrys advice: https://youtu.be/GBlXEGLXlV0

                                                                                          i’m serious, if theres going to be a rule, “just be nice” should suffice.

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                                                                                            The alternative, meritocracy, is even mentioned on the politicized website about Contributor’s Covenant. Amusingly, their discussion of that was just a link to a feminism wiki aiming to debunk it to promote feminism. Unreal that supporters could do that plus claim they weren’t pushing that for political reasons. Anyway, others trying to keep politics out of code or discussions started making Codes of Merit to further define meritocracy in IT. Two are a good start.

                                                                                            https://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/01/code-of-merit.html?showComment=1452562285599

                                                                                            https://medium.com/@jmaynard/a-contribution-policy-for-open-source-that-works-bfc4600c9d83#.ol2t8u9om

                                                                                            It would be worth designing a variant of these for discussion forums. Replace code with claims in the comment. Things about our differences are simply ignored in the comments on technical topics. If the topic itself covers such attributes, the discussion will remain civil with people providing their arguments without anyone getting censored. Might also help to discourage or at least minimize such topics.

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                                                                                            I’d like to see that as well. Such comments don’t contribute anything useful to discussions and alienates people from the community.

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                                                                                              I’d like to see lobsters have an official stance against comments demonstrating racism, sexism, discrimination by sexual orientation or discrimination by gender identity.

                                                                                              What about hunger in Africa? Female genital mutilation? The climate change? Systemd?

                                                                                              Seriously, though, the only room for identity politics on a technical forum such as this is in off-topic comments, not an official statement.

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                                                                                                Seriously, though, the only room for identity politics on a technical forum such as this is in off-topic comments, not an official statement.

                                                                                                The precise purpose of this clause is to avoid the kind of discussions you’re seeking to avoid.

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                                                                                                  I don’t want to avoid discussions. I want to avoid censorship. You know what I’m talking about: the more and more frequent scenario in which an out of tune voice is singled out, labelled as “toxic” and ostracised.

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                                                                                                    I have literally never heard anyone complain about “censorship” on the Internet and not mean “censorship of assholes”, and it is 100% essential that assholes be censored. If you want to be taken seriously complaining about censorship, you need to provide explicit examples of times legitimate, valuable viewpoints have been censored.

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                                                                                                      it is 100% essential that assholes be censored

                                                                                                      That’s a bit rash. How about assigning them an icon next to the username, instead, so we can keep track of them all over the internet? Something like a yellow star or a pink triangle should do the trick.

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                                                                                                        Comparing downvotes on an internet forum to the genocides during the holocaust is incredibly disrespectful to all the people who were killed. Those are not even remotely at the same level. We are talking about trolls who are willfully causing disruption and harm to others, not a persecuted minority group being wiped off the earth and silenced. You really need to get some perspective.

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                                                                                                          Comparing downvotes on an internet forum to the genocides during the holocaust is incredibly disrespectful to all the people who were killed. Those are not even remotely at the same level. We are talking about trolls who are willfully causing disruption and harm to others, not a persecuted minority group being wiped off the earth and silenced. You really need to get some perspective.

                                                                                                          You know what’s worse? Not knowing that a comparison is different from an equivalence. I can compare the wheels on a jumbo jet with those on a baby stroller, even though the two have little else in common.

                                                                                                          You really need to understand this basic aspect of human communication before being able to argue policy (or anything else, for that matter).

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                                                                                                      I know of a common pattern that fits that description, and which I don’t like. I suspect it has zero overlap with what you’re talking about, though. So no, I don’t know… would you like to give examples from lobste.rs history?

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                                                                                                I personally don’t see a reason for a code of conduct or behavior guidelines for this community.

                                                                                                I never saw substantial abuse in this community and if that happened we have moderators in place to take care of it.

                                                                                                Personally if I have to go through a document like the suggested draft before commenting/submitting an URL I would be not contributing to this community.

                                                                                                We are not a bunch of kids and the transparent moderation policy is all we need to keep things in line.

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                                                                                                  Personally, I wouldn’t mind removing voting on comments entirely. Most threads are small enough that if I click through, I read all of the comments anyways. Flagging/hiding is probably enough. Maybe with enough hides, it can propagate to other users to discourage lightweight snark and trolling, but I would hesitate on that.

                                                                                                  As far as community norms, I have been pretty happy with what gets posted so far. There isn’t much trolling, the comments are generally good, and the topics are interesting. I am not sure what people want to change or enforce here.

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                                                                                                    Maybe not so much change as define what they are for new users and the scope of moderator involvement.

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                                                                                                      In that case, I’d strongly prefer to keep it as lightweight as possible. I’d like this community to trust its members as much as is practical. And I’d like to trust the moderators to act as benevolent dictators.

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                                                                                                      As far as community norms, I have been pretty happy with what gets posted so far. There isn’t much trolling, the comments are generally good, and the topics are interesting. I am not sure what people want to change or enforce here.

                                                                                                      I fully agree and I also think upvotes/downvotes are one of the reasons this is the case.

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                                                                                                        My first internet communities were on Usenet, and some of the best discussion I remember was on there. Individual killfiles and moderator removal of persistent trolls seemed to be enough.

                                                                                                        Nostalgia may be tinging my memories, but I suspect the lack of pressure for approval could help increase comment quality.

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                                                                                                          It’s really hard to assess that sort of thing … a community can only count on feedback, in general, from people who actively participate in it. When people look in but find a place too hostile to want to get to know, so they leave without ever posting… you’re lucky to ever hear about it. And feedback from people who don’t actively participate is generally ignored, even when it is given.

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                                                                                                            I’m not sure why you immediately jumping to the assumption of hostility. Looking at some groups I was on (eg, comp.compilers, https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/comp.compilers), it definitely isn’t the case.

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                                                                                                              Killfiles, and any ignore mechanism, seem to imply it to me. I do realize that they aren’t necessarily a sign of an unhealthy community; just a particular type of community. But please read my above remark as agnostic to the specific nature of why newcomers might be turned off.

                                                                                                              I was on Usenet during that time period, and I can’t say I ever felt welcomed enough to participate more than minimally, but I don’t think it was for any reason now under discussion, so I’m just noting it to say that we do have a little shared context here.

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                                                                                                        Most threads are small enough that if I click through, I read all of the comments anyways.

                                                                                                        That’s a good point. While the community is low in number, it’s very easy to just scroll through everything. Doing several Lobsters threads is like one on some other sites. I can sometimes do the whole site that way as there’s more people reading stuff than commenting on it. Probably A Good Thing.

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                                                                                                        I think it is time to do something to moderate the tyranny of the prolific.

                                                                                                        I’d like to see a system of two votes per day per user. User could cast their two votes up or down however they see fit, and its use ‘em or lose 'em. That way the votes would either be well thought out, or if off the cuff, at least not cast in quantity enough to drown out the opinions of the more reserved voters.

                                                                                                        I’d also like to see a per user per week comment limit of some kind, or at least an ‘automatic down-ranking if you’ve gone over your time’ type of thing. Something to curb (but not to remove!) both the windbaggery and the throwaway snark. I’m a fan of both of those things, but at some point we’ve got to be unafraid to politely tell some of the more prolific people to sit down and give someone else a chance to talk if we want to have a discussion with more than one loud opinion.

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                                                                                                          I would prefer not to limit votes - partly as you can use https://lobste.rs/upvoted to help refind articles that you found interesting.

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                                                                                                            I think they’re only suggesting to limit votes on comments, not submissions.

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                                                                                                          There is a technological solution to this.

                                                                                                          https://lobste.rs/s/ldk36t/please_dont_downvote_things_you_disagree/comments/ynak5k#c_ynak5k

                                                                                                          The core value of voting systems is to estimate how interesting / valuable will I regard a new piece of content, given other people’s rating of it.

                                                                                                          1. There is no one objective truth. Stop looking for it.
                                                                                                          2. We all are biased in some direction.
                                                                                                          3. Hence to reliably estimate how interesting / valuable I will find new content, we need to know the direction of my bias relative to the biases of people who have already voted on it.
                                                                                                          4. Assume the direction of our bias is a vector in some high dimensional vector space.
                                                                                                          5. Assume content (stories, comments, submissions, links, …) are also vectors in this very high dimensional vector space.
                                                                                                          6. Assume my votes on a piece of content is a measurement of the alignment of my interests and biases with that piece of content.
                                                                                                          7. Assume your votes on the same piece of content is a measurement of the alignment of your interests and biases with that piece of content.
                                                                                                          8. Given enough measurements we can estimate your interests in a new piece of content given a measurement of my interest.

                                                                                                          Votes as done by current voting sites are purely “1st principle component, average hivemind”.

                                                                                                          We can do much much better.

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                                                                                                            This leads to personal echo chambers. I definitely don’t want to see information ordered by how likely I will like it or will agree with it. There’s a lot of value in hearing things I don’t agree with, and there’s even more value in hearing about new things, things the algorithm has no idea I might like.

                                                                                                            I suffer from this all the time due to the Google search bubble. I know information is there, because sometimes people send it to me, but I can never find it on my own.

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                                                                                                              The bayesian spam filter approach yes, inevitably would suffer from this problem.

                                                                                                              The SVD approach finds those people who your interests align with.

                                                                                                              It then all depends on how you vote…

                                                                                                              High Votes in this algorithm mean “Show me more like this”.

                                                                                                              Negative votes mean “Show me less”

                                                                                                              Zero means “Meh.”

                                                                                                              So if you only upvote what you agree with, yes, you will create a search bubble.

                                                                                                              If you upvote what you are interested in… you will break free.

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                                                                                                              Do you think there’s sufficient data to get signal this way?

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                                                                                                                Depends critically on the number of votes you make.

                                                                                                                If you vote very little, the best the algorithm can do is give you the first component, ie. the hivemind average.

                                                                                                                It only tells you your alignment relative to other people who have voted on the same content, so If nobody else votes on the content you vote on, it can’t help you.

                                                                                                                If nobody has voted on new content, it can’t help you.

                                                                                                                I’m thinking of combining it with the bayesian spam filter approach. ie. Voting describes how much you personally thing the content is spam or ham.

                                                                                                                So you could estimate the spamliness and or hamliness of unseen content on the basis of the spamliness or hamliness of the words therein.

                                                                                                                If you have no votes to add into the mix, use bayesian estimation on words or pairs of words.

                                                                                                                This will work great for finding text content aligned with your current interests (eg. It would find pages to do with linux, open source, …. for me), but very very badly at finding funny cat pictures and content that is novel and interesting.

                                                                                                                I believe SVD would do a lot better at finding really funny cat pictures. :-P

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                                                                                                                  Yes. I do. It’s intuitive so I can’t explain quite how. I know my brain assesses quite a few things out of the combination of statements, context, audience, timing, and votes of each. I don’t necessarily apply what I see as often some say I should but there’s definitely patterns there on many sites that improved my effectiveness or at least understanding of the crowd. You could say these votes are only signals that can mean quite a many different things. Figuring that out takes work. So much for voting eliminating that.

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                                                                                                                  I suppose so. Are you volunteering to do the implementation? :)

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                                                                                                                    I’d certainly be interested in assisting.

                                                                                                                    I do program in ruby / C / C++ / D / SQL…(but not rails as yet :-)).

                                                                                                                    I suspect the computational load may exceed what one can do in ruby, so I’d have to hand off the number crunching part to something faster.

                                                                                                                    I could also contribute to the maths design.

                                                                                                                    The project would be fairly large with changes to the lobsters data model and UX, so I lack the time to do it all myself.

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                                                                                                                      I am interested in doing the implementation. It sounds extremely similar to something I did at a previous job, and the subject matter interests me. I would need to use Scala and I’m not convinced this would be feasible without a regular batch process or at least spark-streaming (and I’m certainly not volunteering to maintain a spark cluster). I’ll take a look at the lobste.rs API (assuming there is one) when I get home, and look at building an alternate frontend?

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                                                                                                                        Please note that I can’t promise anyone will want to use it, and you should check in with @jcs before investing significant effort. But my general take on “I’d like to do something useful” is “go for it!”

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                                                                                                                          Yss, I would expect some level of batching, but I would preserve accumulators rather than just final results so you can just add to the accumulators instead of redo-ing the entire calculation.

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                                                                                                                        Huh, that’s kind of interesting. I sort of doubt there will be enough data to do too much most of the time on comments. The top comment in this thread has 33 votes, but it’s a bit of an outlier. Yours on the other hand has only 5 which probably is only a weak signal at best as to it’s alignment to my personal bias vector, e.g. Furthermore, downvotes, should they return, probably shouldn’t be, e.g., just negative estimates. They’d need their own model.

                                                                                                                        What’s a little more worrying actually is that this is a self-reinforcing pattern. If you are more likely to see comments and stories biased toward you then you will be driven increasingly into your own cultural echo chamber on the site. I think this feature could be interesting, but I worry that it’d make the site significantly less interesting.

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                                                                                                                          The top comment in this thread has 33 votes, but it’s a bit of an outlier.

                                                                                                                          The design of comments encourages this - early comments and upvoted comments both have more exposure to get more upvotes. Without downvotes it’s a negative feedback system.

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                                                                                                                            A solution I had sketched in a blog post just did per-user randomization of comment order. So, not perfect, but somewhat simple to implement and something that would cut down on that sort of self-reinforcement.

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                                                                                                                              I wonder if this can be connected to the Peter Principle. I’m not sure there’s an exact match between biased promotions of people and comments. However, the solution that had some scientific evidence behind it was random promotions. You comment reminded me of that. Still need some filtering. Maybe anything with a minimal number of votes (2-4) gets put into a pool of comments that’s randomized in what order they’re displayed. Those lower than the minimum remain at the bottom in order of appearance or also randomized. What you think on that?

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                                                                                                                              I see it differently. Alternative is whatever you call a feedback system where whoever sees the top first can push things up or down. A small number of people still determine what’s visible on the top. Knowing this, the rational reader must look further to the bottom to see what those peoples' bias might have hidden. This is a big problem if we’re talking Hacker News or Slashdot. Yet, Lobsters threads often have so few comments I can count them on one hand. Others still only take a few minutes to read through.

                                                                                                                              The new rules only change things for people taking the most superficial look at threads. That’s in terms of comment visibility. The effect on karma I don’t know. I pay less attention to that.

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                                                                                                                                To a small extent the SVD system would address this….

                                                                                                                                The top comment will be that what most aligns with your interests, not that which most aligns with the hivemind.

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                                                                                                                                Which is why I suspect you need to mashup the SVD idea with bayesian spam filtering. When you haven’t enough signal from SVD, you use bayesian trained by the SVD results.

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                                                                                                                              If a behavior doesn’t help with the community’s goals, it should probably not happen here.

                                                                                                                              That’s exactly what I think about censorship.

                                                                                                                              What sort of system would you like to see in place for moderation and what should be moderated?

                                                                                                                              One in which I’m not hellbanned, like on HN, for disagreeing with the echo chamber.

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                                                                                                                                The lobsters community’s goals being high quality links and thoughtful comments. People can disagree and still post thoughtful and useful comments. People can live in an echo chamber and post things that are useless. I’m not commenting on people’s opinions, I am talking about the quality of posts. It is not censorship to tell someone that their one liner isn’t very useful and maybe they should put more thought into their posts.

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                                                                                                                                  What if we judge the quality of what we read by whether it fits our world view?

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                                                                                                                                    Of course we do. “World view” is not separable from “the facts”. We are trying to write down specific principles about what the community agrees on. Your stated goal is, if I may paraphrase, to make this a better community for you personally. This would be better served by engaging with that process rather than by trying to stop it from happening at all.

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                                                                                                                                      “World view” is not separable from “the facts”.

                                                                                                                                      Of course it is. The former is subjective, while the latter is objective.

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                                                                                                                                        This is a working definition of low quality:

                                                                                                                                        • is not verifiable or clearly worded
                                                                                                                                        • has a non-disclosed but strong bias
                                                                                                                                        • is rehasing or parroting information readily found elsewhere
                                                                                                                                        • lacks technical content
                                                                                                                                        • is clickbait or a link to social media websites
                                                                                                                                        • a link to another link aggregation website such as reddit and hacker news
                                                                                                                                        • states opinions without supporting facts or analysis
                                                                                                                                        • is a meme
                                                                                                                                        • is a reactionary response (to some other article/event) lacking complete knowledge of a subject

                                                                                                                                        If you have something useful to add, do so, otherwise I don’t see where this thread can go productively.

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                                                                                                                                          It’s perfect for its intended purpose: to justify the censorship of any submission or comment that bothers the censor. Everything fits in at least one of these categories, even this comment:

                                                                                                                                          • not verifiable (it’s an opinion, not a scientific theory)
                                                                                                                                          • rehashing information readily found elsewhere (surely nothing in here is original)
                                                                                                                                          • lacks technical content
                                                                                                                                          • states opinions without supporting facts or analyses (simply enumerating matching categories is neither)
                                                                                                                                          • is a reactionary response (it’s downright subversive, if you ask me)
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                                                                                                                                This makes me sad. Just sayin.

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                                                                                                                                  Perhaps there should be more than downvotes and upvotes. It feels too binary.