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    Remove the "low quality" downvote meta

I think the “low quality” downvote is not helping lobsters, and I think it is hurting it a little bit. I think that it should be removed. It was suggested two months ago, and I think that it was used properly for a week or two, but since then has not been useful.

It seems like people are using “low quality” as a proxy for, “I don’t like this.” There are a few valid use cases for “low quality”, like when a particularly insipid listicle makes its way to lobsters, but when very well liked links like this one it puts the entire idea of a post being too “low quality” for lobsters into question.

I think that downvoting an article for being “low quality” makes the submitter feel bad, and it doesn’t improve the caliber of the articles submitted to lobsters any more than simply not upvoting an article. I think if I was a new poster, and posted one of my blog posts to lobsters and got a “low quality” downvote and then had my article booted from near the top of the front page, I’d find it very dispiriting, and I might not want to come back.

I don’t think the problem of low quality posts is as bad as we thought it was when we added the low quality downvote, and I think for very seriously low quality material, we can use spam instead.



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    One experiment that might be worth having is:

    Any new downvote requires a comment. That way you have to provide some reasoning for why you think something is bad. Those comments can be upvoted though (thus increasing the downvote of the total post).

    I think people often use downvotes inappropriately, and if they are forced to backup why they are downvoting something they will either do it more correctly or won’t bother to do it at all.

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      I think this is a really good idea. I have definitely asked before, “Why was this piece downvoted for X” because I didn’t understand what the community objected to. This also adds a little friction to the downvote, so I would only downvote if I think I have a clear reason to.

      I don’t know whether we would want the downvote comments to be semantically the same as regular comments–for example, I think it’s useful to have anonymous downvotes.

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        I like this idea as well. I can understand the desire to remove the “low quality” option because of abuse, but frankly, some submissions are low quality. Requiring a comment increases transparency and would help shape the community (e.g. a new user would understand why their downvoted submission is considered low quality, instead of being left in the dark).

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        My thoughts on some of the suggestions here:

        • Making the downvoting usernames public will just cause more off-topic meta discussion than there is now, or personal attacks. I really dislike when all of the comments about a story are just nitpicking the tags or the voting or whatever. This was why I initially made the meta tag filtered by default, because I don’t like so much of the site discussion being just about the site discussion. Also, if a story has 10 upvotes and 2 people downvoted or flagged it but those tallies were never shown to anyone other than mods, there would be no complaining about it because a net score of 8 would be fine and no one would even know those 2 downvotes were cast. Making the tallies public seems to have just caused lots of bickering, and showing usernames would make it worse.

        • Removing the low quality option will just cause those using it now to pick some other reason. I think a “hide” option is needed so that people have a way of doing something more than ignoring things they don’t like, without affecting the score and hurting feelings.

        • I think that the downvote option should be removed completely and just replaced with a “flag” option that doesn’t alter the score, and add a “hide” option that just removes it from the hider’s view. I think people downvote articles they don’t want to see, when they should instead just be filtering out those tags or clicking “hide” to remove it from their view. I don’t believe many articles that people downvote are actually bad enough to warrant a “flagging” or making their score go negative but with no hide option, they choose to downvote.

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          I am in complete agreement.

          I agree with those that believe showing the names of those who’ve voted will add some culpability and responsibility. There was a time when I believed that Lobste.rs could be mature about that sort of thing. Recently, my faith has been adjusted and I think it would end up in meta-hell (or worse.)

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            Thanks for taking this seriously. One of the worst things about the programming reddit is that people use downvote to indicate dislike, and that things quickly fall off the front page if downvoted.

            Link bait gets enough upvotes to survive the torrent of downvotes that hits pretty much every new article, but technical articles rarely do, which heavily biases the top articles towards rants and away from posts with real technical content.

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            I dislike the fuzziness of “low quality”. Anything can be categorised that way, in someone’s appraisal, so the category is meaningless. It could just as well be called “something”. Even just renaming it “fluff piece” would be better, if it should stay.

            “Low quality” isn’t just bad on the giving end in the sense that it provides no guidance about when to cast that downvote. It’s worse on the receiving end in the sense that it tells the downvotee nothing specific about why an article is undesirable on Lobsters.

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              To be fair, while the one line fixes piece inspired some discussion, the piece itself was arguably low quality. Most of the commentary was superfluous, and the content was just “look at all these silly mistakes developers made and fixed”.

              I think that your theoretical new poster should have thicker skin. Not everyone’s going to like what they write.

              Perhaps you could be required to explain why you consider it low quality before your vote gets counted, but I don’t think it should be removed outright.

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                To be fair, while the one line fixes piece inspired some discussion, the piece itself was arguably low quality. Most of the commentary was superfluous, and the content was just “look at all these silly mistakes developers made and fixed”.

                Sure, the commentary might have been superfluous. But the aggregation of those errors was the real content.

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                  I’m starting to think downvote comments make sense. I appreciate the downvoter’s intent to guide the community into better content. But that intent is completely lost if it’s not accompanied by a helpful comment saying why the downvote was used. It’s nothing but hurtful (to a person’s karma, if not more).

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                    There was no real research behind the piece. It was obviously inspired by recent Apple screwup. Then he added a bunch of the well-known screwups of the last decade and criticised developers for a bit.

                    It would have sufficed for the piece to demonstrate how to prevent such errors (show the compiler settings, error outputs) for me not to downvote it.

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                      I think people missed that the post was supposed to be a satire of people’s reactions to goto fail, especially with the sarcastic comments like “OMG, doesn’t anybody do X” anymore? It’s supposed to show that it’s really easy for a small mistake to have big consequences and admonishes people for having a bit too much schadenfreude over Apple’s cock-up.

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                        If so, why wasn’t it tagged “satire”?

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                        They weren’t well known to me. If you asked me to track down high-impact ~1 line fixes to popular open source projects, it’d take me quite a bit of time to do it. Hence, I see the aggregation as quality content. Or at the very least, not low quality.

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                          This could just be an example of how different people view low/high quality. You consider it not low quality because it informed you about something you didn’t know before, I saw it as low quality because the piece didn’t do anything but show a bunch of things developers already fixed, without any commentary on how they could’ve been prevented in the future (and I think mordae thinks it was low quality for the same reason).

                          Mostly I don’t think there’s really any meat in the one-line fixes post, and because of that I wouldn’t feel bad down voting it (I didn’t, I just let it be).

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                    I think the very fact that this post has 4 “low quality” -1 votes means that there’s something wrong with the “low quality” reason. There are honest reasons to mark something as “low quality” but it’s rarely used that way.

                    The real problem is people want to downvote things they don’t agree with. How do we address this problem? Is it a problem? Should we throttle how often someone is allowed to not agree? Should we add a “I don’t agree” option and then tell them that’s not a valid reason to downvote? Should we just simple allow “I don’t agree”?

                    There’s a lot of options, but keeping things as-is is probably the worst option. If we remove “low quality” then downvoters will just use something else for “I don’t agree”, like maybe “off topic”. Also, “I don’t agree” is actually a good reason to keep the story on the front page, not make it fall off. If there’s controversy, it’s best to let it play out, not hide it. Let’s fix this before the community is permanently poisoned.

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                      An old* idea in moderation system design is to have 2 axes of voting: up/down for high quality/low quality, left/right for disagree/agree. People want a way to express disagreement (commenting isn’t always the answer), why not give it to them?

                      I don’t think it’s ever been implemented.

                      *: The first time I saw it suggested was on kuro5hin, 2005ish?

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                          Using a “low quality” downvote as a show of support is probably the worst logic I can think of. It’s effectively making the debate disappear without discussion. If you want to show your support, then leave intelligent comments.

                          I agree that low quality posts need to be policed. I’ve used the “low quality” downvote when it was appropriate. But the fact is that people are using it for more than just low quality items.

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                              I really like this. I’m not sure its the perfect solution, but I prefer small changes like this. Besides I want to see who upvotes my posts :)

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                        Whoever voted this story down as “low quality” just proved @moses’s point. (Or was that the intention?)

                        Agree or disagree, the proposal is worth discussing. Voting the story down decreases the chance that people will see the story and comment. That’s different from voting against the proposal.

                        The rationale for adding “low quality” was:

                        In an ideal world you’d just leave it alone and it would fall off fairly quickly, however the user base is not quite that large yet.

                        It seems to me (having been here exactly two months), that that has changed. Check out the comment volume over the last 6 months.

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                          I don’t have a strong opinion either way. Frankly, I don’t think I know anything about voting schemes and how they actually affect a community. The best I can do is make speculative inferences.

                          I’ll just say a few things that I think are relevant:

                          • We will never ever stop people from down-voting something simply because they don’t like it. If we remove “low quality,” we’ll find one of the other options to rationalize our down-vote with. (From the thread you linked, it looks like “low quality” was initially suggested because “off topic” was being abused.)
                          • I think I’d be bummed if I got a “low quality” down-vote too, but not to the level where I’d be scared off.
                          • I think we should rely on ourselves to auto-correct mislabels. For example, I saw that someone down-voted this submission for “low quality.” It’s obviously not (to me). So I up-voted. Maybe I wouldn’t have otherwise. I do the same for comments and I suspect others do too.
                          • There have truly been one or two submissions that I thought were really just low quality but weren’t spam or off-topic. If I could see which threads I’ve downvoted, I’d link them now. But otherwise I can’t remember. IIRC, I wasn’t the only one to think so, and the submission was quickly moved off the front page.

                          So it seems like my opinion is to keep it. But I stand by my statement that it isn’t a strong opinion.

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                            A neat social trick might be to include an option for “I don’t like this” and to only show that downvote to the user, but not actually use it to calculate the score. Even though we’ll know this, we’ll probably still choose it because it solves a psychological need to mark something as bad, even though it won’t tell anyone else. I actually have found the “low quality” option useful, because some links have been pretty low quality.

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                              btc’s suggestion of having a two-axes, one for quality, one for agreement, is a better solution in my opinion. It would show you both what people think of the quality of what you’ve submitted (like is it well or poorly written, does it actually have some content or is it all fluff) along with their opinions on it (just a do people like/agree with this, or not?).

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                                I missed that idea. I like it a lot.

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                              I didn’t take time to read all the comments, but my general thought even before I realized this was removed is that the quality of stories has gone down recently. Perhaps that’s because the less interesting stuff is still showing up on the first page, or not, I dunno. Would it be possible to leave low quality off and just prioritize by highest up votes? Perhaps that wouldn’t be as good either because I come here several times a day looking to see something new and fresh. I guess that’s what the recent link aims to serve. Man I wish I knew what I wanted :)

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                                …the quality of stories has gone down recently.

                                Well at least I’m not alone in that feeling.

                                I haven’t been paying much attention to lobste.rs over the last couple of weeks… I wonder if it’s a case where there are more stories being posted, therefore more low-quality, or if there is a clear decline in submission quality.

                                Man I wish I knew what I wanted

                                Don’t we all… I’m leaning towards “downvoting is good so long as you explain yourself” now.