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If a story is mostly downvoted it doesn’t show up on the front page. If a story is heavily-downvoted but upvoted more (say +10 -8), it stays in the front page. These posts usually seem to be incendiary, controversial flamebait that end in everybody getting mad at each other, which generates more “discussion”, which keeps it on the front page longer, which means more arguing.

Some tags have a “hotness mod” which pushes them off the front page faster. I think it would be a good idea if stories get a hotness penalty if they’re heavily downvoted, even if overall they’re still positive rep. That way the people who want to keep fighting can keep fighting but everybody else can get fresh stories on the front page. Thoughts?

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    I’ve weighed in on this before. In my experience, things on lobste.rs that get both heavy upvotes and heavy downvotes tend to be on topics that both upvoters and downvoters regard as important. For example, they are often on diversity issues. The voting expresses people’s opinions on whether conversations around those issues should be allowed to happen. Applying a hotness modifier would privilege downvotes over upvotes, allowing a minority of people on the site to silence a majority.

    I have seen this done, in practice, in other forums. Its effect has been to reduce the quality of discussion by penalizing controversy - however necessary the controversy might be. In fact, I actually campaigned to stop this practice on a communication platform internal to Google, where it was very clear that the formula had been chosen specifically to silence labor organization efforts. The company’s upper management even disseminated talking points about how it would be better this way, because we could all stop caring about ethics and focus on shiny toys. (That’s my summary, not their words…)

    That campaign was unsuccessful, but here on lobste.rs we can do better - right?

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      How’d that work with the Darmore thing?

      The putative reason for allowing controversial stuff is to “let the minority speak”…and then there was the time recently where in the wee hours of the morning you deleted a submission about a fork of TempleOS over the author’s Github avatar since it referenced Nazis. Somehow that minority didn’t make the cut–and you were more than happy to let a minority of users who brought in concerns over the tackiness of the avatar overrule the majority of users (seriously, it was like 2-3:1) who just upvoted a neat fork of TempleOS.

      In the case of RMS deathball, we had a massive ugly trashfire of stories for a week that just sat on the front page and harmed the community. All that happened was users got drawn into grumpy lines and proceeded to antagonize each other. That’s what controversial gets you–and while that is the bread and butter of various political extremist subgroups, for the rest of us it is a problem.

      The failure mode of boosting downvotes is that you let people hasten the slide of controversial stuff.

      The failure mode of not so doing so is abiding shitflinging that hurts the community.

      Edit: just to be absolutely crystal clear here, we as Lobsters have demonstrated repeatedly that our aptitude for productively discussing technology with civility in no way extends outside of that domain.

      We aren’t going to have wizened discussion about controversial things where we all take turns litigating the factual details of the case and being enlightened by different perspectives and worldviews, we are going to devolve into bickering over the evil feminists and Nazis and capitalists and whatever else. The most straightforward way around this is just to remove those controversial things.

      The motte-and-bailey people want to pull here is justifying discussion of “controversial” submissions like rants about Go or whatever, but the real effect will be felt with culture war articles submitted under the guise of technology because “technology is inherently political”.

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        We aren’t going to have wizened discussion about controversial things where we all take turns litigating the factual details of the case and being enlightened by different perspectives and worldviews, we are going to devolve into bickering over the evil feminists and Nazis and capitalists and whatever else.

        I’ve seen your comments improve drastically, taking conscious steps to avoid attacking people. Are you saying that others should be denied that same opportunity to discuss and grow and learn from each other?

        The only way people learn and grow is through communication with people with whom they disagree. Sometimes they discover they’re right, sometimes they discover they’re wrong, and sometimes they discover that they’re both right and wrong in a fascinating mixture of self-discovery and improvement. I love that stuff. I want it around. I want people to have that opportunity.

        The most straightforward way around this is just to remove those controversial things.

        Or, you could click “Hide”. That seems way more straightforward to me.

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          I thank you for your points. I had been hoping I’d find time to write up my thoughts on them and reply, but unfortunately I don’t think that’s realistic. I do think that when there’s overt fighting for the sake of fighting, the moderation team does a decent job of shutting that down; however, as a member of the moderation team, it isn’t really for me to decide whether we’ve done a good job or not.

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          Good points. I’ll add that…

          “Applying a hotness modifier would privilege downvotes over upvotes, allowing a minority of people on the site to silence a majority. I have seen this done, in practice, in other forums.”

          …people already do that here to the degree they can. They’ve been clear they’ll take it further to keep the front page free of (thing they don’t like). It will definitely happen as you predicted.

          What I don’t know is if it will escalate from there with back and forth among the two, main groups penalizing each others’ submissions.

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            I think this is a fair critique. My suspicion is that most “controversial” pieces aren’t actually high-quality and the ones that are high-quality do much better. But I’d have to think of a database query to check this for certain.

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              This is exactly right.

              For some reason, people have yet to learn to disagree with each other. They take things personally, get angry and refuse to entertain the idea that they might be wrong.

              The solution is to help people to be better. Not to shut down the platform that enable their argument, nor to privilege downvote over upvote.

              BTW, even if we could not stop people getting mad over people not agreeing with their ideology, the fact of the matter is that the argument itself is useful. Two sides present their best arguments, and for every angry person there are 10 more silently reading both sides and updating their world views.

              If people care to spend their time clicking to vote, and to spend their time typing a response, they clearly care about the subject at discussion. And your response to that is to just make it so that the more people care, the less the subject is exposed? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

              And no, I don’t need you to tell me what stories I should or should not be able to see.

              We should encourage discussion, and moderation should be used to maintain civility, to maximise the benefit of a conversation and minimise the downside.

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                There is no world in which two sides presenting their best arguments about the Holocaust is going to generate more good than harm to our community.

                There is no world in which two sides in a subthread arguing about how to count trans people for demographic purposes in tech benefits our community.

                There is no world in which closely parsing RMS’ remarks about various forms of consent and rape and Epstein and the media lab creates positive feelings about our community.

                I used to be right there with you on “oh gee maybe these smart people will be able to have nuanced and productive discussions about topics that have non-technical aspects”…and then I ran repeatedly into lobsters that just couldn’t be reasoned with or who had to be shrill about everything.

                From a practical point of view, kicking everybody out of the pub is both a fair and reasonable way to maintain decorum.

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                  There is no world in which two sides presenting their best arguments about the Holocaust is going to generate more good than harm to our community.

                  About the holocaust? How can one argue about an event?

                  There is no world in which two sides in a subthread arguing about how to count trans people for demographic purposes in tech benefits our community.

                  I would say don’t count any people for demographic purposes at all.

                  There is no world in which closely parsing RMS’ remarks about various forms of consent and rape and Epstein and the media lab creates positive feelings about our community.

                  Discussions about difficult things have value even if you don’t feel good doing it. Doctors don’t look at a gaping wound because it’s pleasant, but because they needs to know what to do to fix it. So even if this statement were true, it wouldn’t negate the need for discussion.

                  and then I ran repeatedly into lobsters that just couldn’t be reasoned with or who had to be shrill about everything.

                  If somebody cannot be reasoned with, then nobody should be allowed to voice their reason? Is that right?

                  From a practical point of view, kicking everybody out of the pub is both a fair and reasonable way to maintain decorum.

                  Decorum’s purpose is to enable social engagement. So removing social engagement to maintain decorum is cart-b4-horsing.

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                    I would say don’t count any people for demographic purposes at all.

                    Please don’t chase red herrings.

                    Discussions about difficult things have value even if you don’t feel good doing it. Doctors don’t look at a gaping wound because it’s pleasant, but because they needs to know what to do to fix it. So even if this statement were true, it wouldn’t negate the need for discussion.

                    Doctors don’t just look at unpleasant things for entertainment. They look at them because they have the power and the knowledge to do something about it.

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                      Doctors don’t just look at unpleasant things for entertainment. They look at them because they have the power and the knowledge to do something about it.

                      And we don’t?

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                And there is that “hide” button that @hwayne (and anyone else who feels the same) is welcome to use to hide the stories that so offend them. It was designed explicitly for that purpose. Don’t like the comments or story? Click “hide”. It’s not hard. There’s no need to penalize other people for enjoying a lively conversation.

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                  Under this process the story just won’t be on the frontpage as long. You’re not being penalized. You can still comment and get notifications that people are replying to you. It’s more inconvenient for everybody else to be expected to click hide on a story that’s attracting a lot of flamewars.

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                    Under this process the story just won’t be on the frontpage as long.

                    That would be the problem.

                    It’s more inconvenient for everybody else to be expected to click hide

                    That’s an interesting framing, and one that I reject. You have no idea how many people will find a thread or story bothersome or interesting, nor do you speak for the entire community. The “hide” button was created for exactly this reason, so use it, as I’m doing on this submission. Some other people might find it interesting, and they can choose to upvote instead.

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                  Absolutely agree of the danger of a small minority “burying” uncomfortable content in the graveyard of page 2.

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                    These are good points and I appreciate you bringing them up. I have a “conspiracy” that I can’t personally confirm but might be worth adding to the thought experiment to the people who have access to this information. I suspect this same group of people uses the lack of weighting to upvote brigade and create a scenario where the minority is already silencing the majority, essentially I would bet that the same people are the ones only contributing upvotes to those specific articles or topics and nothing else. It would be interesting to see if the same group upvotes anything else. Additionally, I would be curious to see the % of upvotes that come from a invite branch directly in that equation.

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                    I’m really glad this was brought up. I’d been struggling the last few months with a feeling that there were quite a few articles that had an odd amount of staying power by a few very… vocal and passionate… groups that I frankly didn’t seem to think fit the quality of lobsters, but I didn’t think of a good solution besides saying it directly in thread thus contributing to the staying power. I’d always sort of assumed there was weight to downvotes, but now that /u/hwayne pointed it out this is pretty decent solution imo.

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                      In the user interface, upvoting a story takes less effort than flagging (what the codebase also refers to as downvoting). To flag a story you have to have a reason, selected from a list (Off-topic, Already posted, Spam, Broken Link) whereas to upvote a story you toggle the “Add upvote” arrow, without need to provide a reason or make any further choice.

                      Given that flagging takes more effort than upvoting, I like the idea of giving it more weight when calculating story hotness as a means of accounting for the different UI cost of upvoting vs. flagging.

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                        Where’s the line between ‘incendiary, controversial flamebait’ and content that’s just controversial because it doesn’t treat sacred cows as sacred? I think this change would risk censoring out any posts on lobste.rs that are critical of the sacred cows, or that present any of the designated hate targets (C in 2020, for example) in a positive light.

                        The post about git workflows was very useful but I suspect it’d fall into this category. The same is true of a lot of ddevault’s articles that get posted: people get very heated in the comments, but fundamentally they’re still good articles with good discussion and I think the site would be worse off for censoring those articles just because people get upset about them.

                        Flagging is not meant to be a ‘disagree’ button, and with this change it’d become not just a disagree button but a ‘I don’t want anyone to see this because I disagree with it’ button.

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                          The post about git workflows was very useful but I suspect it’d fall into this category.

                          The girflow got heated but is still “fine” by this metric. As of this comment, nobody downvoted it. It’s not the kind of content I’m worried about here.

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                            Flagging is not meant to be a ‘disagree’ button, and with this change it’d become not just a disagree button but a ‘I don’t want anyone to see this because I disagree with it’ button.

                            That is a very uncharitable interpretation. I think the kind of threads that hwayne intends are the kind where the story is some sort of “if you do this then you are literally stupid”-kind of inflammatory rants. Regardless of the merits of “not doing this”, these discussions tend to be less-than-useful, and the posts themselves tend to be less-than-useful to since usually reality is complex and nuanced.

                            The opposite also applies, by the way: people upvoting articles just because they agree with the premise, not because it’s a good article. I think that’s actually a far bigger issue.

                            “C in 2020” is hardly a “hate target”, I think a lot of people here are actually reasonably sympathetic to that. The thing is, “I think it might not be a good idea to do X” and “you’re fucking stupid if you do X” may have the same intellectual content, but people’s responses to it will be very different.

                            If we want to have useful and constrictive discourse where everyone is heard then this discourse needs to be reasonably respectful and constructive, and this starts with the original story. I wrote a post about this last time this came up on Lobsters, which goes in to some more depth to this: https://www.arp242.net/censorship.html

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                              I don’t think the change suggested is so extreme as to constitute any kind of censorship. For example, I imagine that a topic with +10 -8 would stay on the front page for a day or so before being pushed down, as opposed to staying for 3-4 days (which otherwise it would, given how things work around here). A good article still gets exposure and discussion is still had, but if the submission is severely flagged then maybe it should not be drawn out for 3-4 days as if it’s an exemplary topic of programmer interest. Which is the case currently.

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                                If nearly half of the users who bothered to vote on a story flag it, that’s a bad look.

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                              I feel like this is a good change. Our community is small enough that “toxic” threads seem to float around longer than is healthy. As a first attempt we could update the score_sql to penalize heavily flagged stories as they get older.

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                                What rate/formula do you think should be applied?

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                                  To preface, my suggestion is predicated on two points:

                                  • In a healthy community based on user generated content, the rank of any piece once it’s hit the front page should look something like 1/x when graphed over time.
                                  • @hwayne observation around the “stickiness” of content that isn’t healthy for the community is an observation that the content isn’t following the 1/x lifecycle.

                                  To that end, I feel that if we updated the ranking algorithm to weight upvotes more towards the beginning of a story’s time on the front page and flags more towards the end it will allow for heavily flagged content to flush itself out in a smoother fashion while still giving every story a chance on the front page.

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                                    I like this idea! It seems the best compromise between “not shying away from controversial discussion” and “making downvotes reflect the community”. What are you thinking in terms of the “beginning” and “end” of a story’s time? 24 hours?

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                                      perhaps HOTNESS_WINDOW

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                                        I went and graphed out the old and new algorithm: https://observablehq.com/@hmadison/lobste-rs-voting-formula.

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                                  I heartily agree with this.

                                  I’m not sure I can think of a story that got a lot of flags that didn’t deserve them–I can however think of many stories (RMS garbage ball, various other scissor stories) that ended up with enough votes to stay and fester on the front page.

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                                    Reminder that I’ll run database queries to help figure out what the effects of changes would be, how common situations are, etc.

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                                      Related proposal: how about applying a hotness mod to the rant tag?

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                                        IIRC that is already the case.

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                                          Ah, you’re right: it has a hotness mod of -.25, just like e.g. culture, meta, etc. Maybe increase it to -.5?

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                                        Sidebar: I don’t have a downvote button at all. Does it come with time or points or something? Didn’t see a mention of this on the wiki or about pages.

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                                          The flag mechanism, between suggest and hide in the byline div below the story title is how one downvotes a story. It is available after a user account is no longer new.

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                                            Stories don’t have downvote buttons, they have flags. It used to be implemented with a downvote arrow like reddit, but people treated as a “I don’t like this” button like reddit with an extra click.

                                            To see the flag link on stories, a user has to be not new (was 7 days, now 70) and have 50 karma.