1. 228

I saw this tweet and I was quite disappointed, because his opinions might have been controversial, but I believe he brought valuable views to all discussions I have seen him interact in and he certainly had a very polite, constructive way of conducting conversations. Losing such a member of the community is a bad sign, in my opinion and the message indicating that his comments were flagged a lot might be something that needs revisiting. I think high-profile accounts expressing opinions will always get flagged a lot by people unable to express their concerns in a constructive manner.

I’d be curious to hear the opinions of the moderation team.

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    Independently of what burntsushi decides, I think that the following concrete actions would be in order:

    1. Remove the last half-sentence of the banner that explains how to delete your account. Having it as the last part of the message adds a lot of weight ot it: after you read the banner it’s the main thing you remember, the oddly detailed explanation of how to erase yourself.

    2. Reformulate the rest of the banner to indicate that this is a heuristic that may be wrong. It’s important when providing hints from data to tell people explicitly that we know the hints may be wrong. Otherwise it feels very different.

    Let’s rephrase this banner with the explicit goal of doing no harm (better, doing good) when it is wrongly displayed, instead of thinking about the formulation when its assessment is correct.

    1. 60

      Speaking as somebody who’s gotten that banner basically permanently on their account, I think a lot of folks here may be missing important context:

      • The call to delete your account makes a lot of sense if you have to handle users dramatically declaring, in DMs/IRC/elsewhere “One more and [clutches pearls] I shall leave, forthwith!”. This is tiresome from a moderation standpoint and annoying for a community, and if one can nudge somebody into removing their account–in the common case!–rather than continue to engage in a community they don’t fit into (for whatever reason), it’s a win for both parties.
      • This isn’t some randy sketchy heuristic–the warning links directly to a histogram that shows where you are in the flaggings. It’s deterministic, it’s impartial, and if you’re getting flagged a lot there’s something going on with either your posting or the community.
      • Moderation team here is currently basically just @pushcx. It’s a large community with real, actual bad actors, and asking for any sort of increase in manual moderation is a very real burden.
      • One of the biggest reasons for Lobsters coming from the orange site was @jcs being annoyed at opaque moderation. While I might disagree certain particular actions, there is a public log. The thing here being complained about? It’s in the source code, it’s very clear how it works, and it provides impartial, statistical feedback about what’s going on.
      • There’s a trend for folks to go on IRC, Twitter, or wherever and talk trash about our community, about how @pushcx is powertripping, or whatever. This behavior probably plays well with the circles they’re familiar with and probably feels like punching up, but it’s gotta suck for the person who manages the community to have people he’s tried to work with and accomodate throw it back in his face.
      • People are really flag-happy, and this is what happens when you are.

      (Minor annoyance: we used to have a very good explanation of how to use flags, what borderline cases looked like, and so forth, but that was purged for whatever reason. I’ve seen a lot of bad flagging by either new folks who don’t know better or users with an axe to grind.)

      1. 35

        Moderation team here is currently basically just @pushcx. It’s a large community with real, actual bad actors, and asking for any sort of increase in manual moderation is a very real burden.

        This bit deserves signal boosting IMO.

        Lobsters doesn’t cost anything to join or participate in. The people who run it are clearly doing it for love, not money.

        Speaking for myself I’d much rather get past the momentary ouch of having a red warning message attached to my account than have the owners or moderators rage quit as a result of feeling UTTERLY drained by the experience.

        I’m watching the life get sucked out of some very stalwart well meaning people in another community I care about simply due to the sheer VOLUME of constant negative feedback, so I think we all owe it to the mods to suck it up and cut him/them some serious amounts of slack.

        1. 22

          <3 Thank you very much.

        2. 24

          (Minor annoyance: we used to have a very good explanation of how to use flags, what borderline cases looked like, and so forth, but that was purged for whatever reason. I’ve seen a lot of bad flagging by either new folks who don’t know better or users with an axe to grind.)

          I would love to see this come back in some form. As someone who joined after that was removed, I feel there isn’t enough information about flags. Every single time I’ve ever flagged something, I’ve been really hesitant because I wasn’t able to find any guidance on what qualifies to be flagged.

          1. 3

            I agree. I actually don’t think this is so minor on its own though I can see why you phrased it that way in its original context.

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            I realize I’m not as active as I might be - I’m bipolar, my ability to spend time on things comes and goes - but I promise that I do still pay active attention to the site and step in when it seems warranted. Also, the mod team has lots of discussions behind the scenes. Just because @pushcx is the face of a decision doesn’t mean the rest of us aren’t involved.

            I felt I should address that, since you mentioned it.

            Edit to add: Thank you for the kind words, overall. It’s helpful to know that you and others do see the point of the banner.

            1. 22

              People are really flag-happy, and this is what happens when you are.

              Speaking from experience as someone who’s moderated some decent-sized subreddits – where reddit has both the ability to downvote, and a separate ability to “report” for posts/comments that break subreddit or site-wide rules – this is absolutely the case. The number of people who just spam-click the “report” button thinking it’s some sort of super-downvote that will remove the thing they dislike is astounding. Same with people who periodically decide they just don’t like some type of content even if the subreddit generally allows it, and go mass-report a hundred posts to express their displeasure.

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                Yeah, this is what I think is fundamentally the issue. A lot of people simply have no emotional control. They have strong believes but no ability to defend them. With that, when they see opinions they dislike, instead of engaging with a retort, they will use the report button. Perhaps in their mind, if the post was deleted, then the opinion no longer exists or is somehow invalid???

                I have gotten the banner too. I thought the words were harsh. But over the years I have noticed that some of my posts will follow the pattern of (+10 upvote, -8 troll), except the troll downvote count has increased over time. Based on this I assume that the general ratio of people on this site who like to report opinions they don’t like as troll versus people who are willing to engage in intelligent discussion has increased.

                People simply think people who disagree with them are either stupid, or trolling (deliberately saying stupid things hoping for a reaction) or both.

                1. 12

                  A lot of people simply have no emotional control. They have strong believes but no ability to defend them. With that, when they see opinions they dislike, instead of engaging with a retort, they will use the report button.

                  It’s also true that people sometimes repeatedly post tired nonsense, and that merely (and at obviously low cost) repeating something that’s poorly researched, or broadly offensive, doesn’t entitle the poster to a vigorous debate. Sometimes the use of a flag is the only viable option.

                  1. 5

                    If somebody posted some tired nonsense then it should be very easy to dispute.

                    doesn’t entitle the poster to a vigorous debate

                    You don’t have to reply. The issue here isn’t whether or not to reply but whether or not reporting is an appropriate response to somebody saying something that you think is wrong and the answer is no.

                    Sometimes the use of a flag is the only viable option.

                    Anybody could deem all your posts ‘tired nonsense’ and just report all of them? That is as legitimate as when you do it. Do you somehow think that your idea of what is tired nonsense is universal and therefore a good metric for when a post should be reported?

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                      If somebody posted some tired nonsense then it should be very easy to dispute.

                      In the case of trolling, the whole point is to trick people into taking the bait, which I believe moves the subthread higher up in the scoring ranks.

                      You don’t have to reply. The issue here isn’t whether or not to reply but whether or not reporting is an appropriate response to somebody saying something that you think is wrong and the answer is no.

                      I think that detecting trolling is a skill that’s pretty key to the survival of a community, but a good troll will make it quite difficult to resist engaging. Trolling isn’t commonly overt, over the top rudeness. Way more often it is an attempt at looping other community members into a “debate” that ends up in people pointing edgy and charged hot takes at each other.

                      In its worst form, it will promote socially harmful conclusions through pseudo-from-first-principles lines of reasoning that are aesthetically attractive to the type of people that visit tech forums. To dispute requires dissecting phony arguments, which at a glance, appears to legitimize the “debate” and grant the troll a certain level of community approval, especially if they’re good at giving off the appearance of rationalism. IMO ignoring and flagging this type of content is nowhere near what’s required fully address it.

                      1. 3

                        How are you not using an accusation of trolling as a free ‘You lose’?

                        How do you know that something is true? It is via putting your ideas up for others to engage and debate. But you want to simply circumvent that by calling opinions you don’t like trolls, and then saying that those opinions don’t even need to be debated or engaged because that will legitimise it.

                        Sooner or later instead of having attacking each other’s ideas so we can improve then, all we will end up doing is claiming the other side is ‘trolling’ so they are immediately wrong and don’t even need to be disproven.

                        Why even bother defending your ideology against opposition, when you can simply claim the opposition is a foreign spy or a mentally ill person and then getting rid of them?

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                    I have gotten the banner too. I thought the words were harsh. But over the years I have noticed that some of my posts will follow the pattern of (+10 upvote, -8 troll), except the troll downvote count has increased over time. Based on this I assume that the general ratio of people on this site who like to report opinions they don’t like as troll versus people who are willing to engage in intelligent discussion has increased.

                    Or maybe you’ve gotten more and more trollish over time.

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                      Or maybe we have too many politically driven ideologues who are not interested in communication and they simply throw the word troll around to avoid having to engage with their opposition on the idea plane.

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                        Nah, I’ve been around just about as long as you have, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve not seen you be a troll in a thread. I don’t even know what technical subjects you have expertise in, since I’ve never seen you contribute technical insight to a thread. Pretty much all you do is get into fights around here.

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                          Devil’s Advocate: Perhaps @LibertarianLlama is among a new breed of Lobsters who are also concerned with the human side of things, not just the technical one.

                          1. 2

                            I’ve not seen you be a troll in a thread

                            I suppose you are one of those people who have a very low margin for what constitutes ‘trolling’.

                            I don’t even know what technical subjects you have expertise in, since I’ve never seen you contribute technical insight to a thread.

                            I didn’t realise technical expertise in a subject is a requirement of using this website. Regardless you can just assume that I have no expertise in any subject.

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                      I wonder if a literal “super downvote” button would work as a psychological trick. It would act as a normal downvote, but just look like a bigger, angrier button that would absorb more anger from whoever clicks it. (At the same time, possibly rate-limit the actual report button per user…)

                      1. 8

                        That’s a pretty cute idea. I’m tempted to say that, for people who have the self awareness to realize that what they mostly need is catharsis, I recommend getting it from their favorite action videogame, or a trip to the gym or whatever… I don’t want to dismiss your idea though, it’s true that it could help to have some sort of reminder or prompt to seek catharsis.

                        1. 3

                          Edit: someone has looked at the system and much of this is actually already automated(!): https://lobste.rs/s/zp4ofg/lobster_burntsushi_has_left_site#c_qiipbc

                          Previous:


                          OK, another cute - or hopefully even better - useful idea:

                          I think HN has a pr account setting that ignores flag from that user, I’m fairly certain dang has mentioned at some time that one should be careful with flags. (Now that I think about it it might have been the vouch option he was writing about.)

                          I’m not really sure how it would work with perfectly transparent moderation:

                          • would the user get a warning?
                          • or would it just show up in the moderation logs?
                          • maybe it is a fraction so if a user has 1/5 flag weight it takes more than 5 such users to flag before it counts as one ordinary user? Then the moderation log could still say “flagged based on user feedback” or whatever it say but omit the details about there being 10 flag abusers counting as two full votes and 3 ordinary users?
                          1. 11

                            Good thoughts. On Lobsters, if I know that a user is going to continue using flags vindictively, I would rather just ban them… of course, I’d talk to them first.

                            Automation in this sort of thing can be a false savings because if we set up a certain automated rule, we are implicitly sending the message that any behavior that falls within the rule is allowed. So in your example, I would expect to see users who intentionally stay just below the threshold for having their flags de-valued, as well as users who intentionally go past the threshold and flag in a wanton manner because they know that the punishment for doing that is just that their flags will have less numeric weight. Having it be a socially enforced rule, counterintuitively, can often lead to better behavior overall compared to having a technical enforcement mechanism.

                            1. 1

                              Good thoughts. On Lobsters, if I know that a user is going to continue using flags vindictively, I would rather just ban them… of course, I’d talk to them first.

                              Automation in this sort of thing can be a false savings because if we set up a certain automated rule, we are implicitly sending the message that any behavior that falls within the rule is allowed. So in your example, I would expect to see users who intentionally stay just below the threshold for having their flags de-valued, as well as users who intentionally go past the threshold and flag in a wanton manner because they know that the punishment for doing that is just that their flags will have less numeric weight. Having it be a socially enforced rule, counterintuitively, can often lead to better behavior overall compared to having a technical enforcement mechanism.

                        2. 5

                          The moderators of r/TheMotte (a subreddit which has the best moderation IMO) observed pretty much the same:

                          No one who has seen a mod queue would be surprised by this. Even those of you who are always very calm and nonconfrontational, with middle-of-the-road opinions, might be shocked how often your posts are reported. Some of the most reasonable, unspicy posts get marked as “It’s targeted harassment.” Some people will report “Inflammatory claim without evidence” just because they don’t agree with the post.

                          I pretty much started brushing aside (like several other users reportedly do) the red warning that lobste.rs throws in your profile for this reason, as well as for that condescending final phrase “Reconsider your behaviour or take a break” which rests on the erroneous assumption of there incontrovertibly being sound rationality in this community’s flagging behaviour.

                          I have a theory that this became worse after the site removed the downvote functionality thus removing a potential anger-outlet for users, who have now shifted to channel that affective energy via flagging. This theory however can only confirmed by doing a simple analysis of the data (was there an increase in flagging right after disabling downvoting?)

                        3. 12

                          It’s irrelevant that it is impartial if it is exploitable. Which it very much is.

                          So the system allows for a mob to harass an user into leaving the site, but you claim that it is important to note that anyone can be harassed. That is the matter subject to challenge here, not “important context”.

                          Yes people are trigger happy, for that reason, the flagging feature might be counter productive.

                          1. 5

                            you claim that it is important to note that anyone can be harassed.

                            I’m not sure I see where you got that from my post.

                            The ability of the mob to harass users here exists, and is exploited, at scale and quite apart from this notice that “yo, you’re getting a significant number of flags.”

                            It doesn’t make sense to optimize for people who run away when told others disagree with them.

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                              No one wants to be told they don’t belong here. I really enjoy Burntsushi and a system that is constructed that make it so people like that dont want to be here is a system that needs to be fixed.

                              Your response of “I don’t want people with a thin skin”, is itself thin skinned in the opposite direction.

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                                OK I see an important distinction here. I tried to point this out to burntsushi on Twitter.

                                If you read the message he got VERY carefully, it sets forth a very specific sequence of potential and suggested routes to mitigation. They are:

                                1. Take a breath. Take a break. Step away for a bit and think about whether maybe the problem might exist at least partly in your head and the resultant behavior you’re exhibiting in the community.

                                2. Talk to a moderator about the situation.

                                3. Then, and ONLY then, does the message point out that you can if you so choose also delete your account.

                                Having gotten the big red warning myself a ways back, I DO sympathize that it’s an ouchy thing to have happen in the moment, but I strenuously believe that the intent here isn’t to make anyone feel unwelcome. Just the opposite, my read of the intent is an earnest attempt on the part of the community to help people moderate their behavior, and if that’s not possible or applicable, to seek other options for mitigation.

                                1. 11

                                  No one wants to be told they don’t belong here.

                                  I’d agree, but we have done very poorly by some of our users in that regard already and the mob likes it that way. Remember that time recently the mods banned one of (if not the) current expert on evidence-based software engineering because of an off-hand comment touching culture war stuff? Peppridge farm remembers.

                                  There are no shortage of Lobsters who will clack and freak out if made aware of anybody who doesn’t appear to be in their political tribe–and they’ll get even angrier if you suggest that maybe, possibly, we should focus on something else.

                                  So, while I agree in principle with you, the community has through its actions demonstrated that it does not care.

                                  Your response of “I don’t want people with a thin skin”, is itself thin skinned in the opposite direction.

                                  I don’t believe that it is. You are, of course, welcome to your own interpretation.

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                                    Remember that time recently the mods banned one of (if not the) current expert on evidence-based software engineering because of an off-hand comment touching culture war stuff?

                                    IIRC he had a pattern of problematic behavior, and also I’m not sure how much of an expert in ESE he actually is: his book is overwhelming, but keeps giving me bad vibes. I’m struggling to explain what it actually is, but I’m really suspicious that there are serious problems with it.

                                    1. 1

                                      I’d definitely be interested to hear more.

                                      I’m struggling to explain what it actually is

                                      Mind giving it a try? I couldn’t see anything particularly bad (relatively speaking) in their comment history, nor anything related to the ban rationale. Seems like you’ve been paying more attention, haha

                                    2. 14

                                      There are no shortage of Lobsters who will clack and freak out if made aware of anybody who doesn’t appear to be in their political tribe

                                      The basic problem with statements like this is that nearly everyone can feel it applies to the angry mob that’s disagreed with them.

                                      Personally I’m on record as believing that there is no way to separate “politics” from what we do (simple example 1, simple example 2) or to write software without considering the impact it will have on people.

                                      But I also see plenty of “oh woe is me, the cancel culture and the woke and the leftist and the SJW are taking over” stuff that gets left in place and even highly upvoted, which says to me that it’s not that people don’t want “politics”, it’s that their definition of what is and is not “politics” is at issue. The hypothetical guy (example 2 above) with no criminal record who can’t get bail because the system could only store his name as a bunch of “aliases” is “politics” to me, but apparently not to many other people (it’s just “falsehoods programmers believe about names”), while holding a software project’s leader accountable for misbehavior is “politics” to many of those people and common sense to me. A staggering percentage of actual “political” fights really are that sort of thing.

                                      1. 3

                                        But I also see plenty of “oh woe is me, the cancel culture and the woke and the leftist and the SJW are taking over” stuff that gets left in place and even highly upvoted, which says to me that it’s not that people don’t want “politics”, it’s that their definition of what is and is not “politics” is at issue.

                                        I mean the proof is at hand right? A “let’s not discuss politics” non sequitur as successful troll.

                                        1. 0

                                          But I also see plenty of “oh woe is me, the cancel culture and the woke and the leftist and the SJW are taking over” stuff that gets left in place and even highly upvoted

                                          I don’t think I’ve ever seen this on Lobsters, only on others sites. Do you have any examples?

                                        2. 1

                                          I think we disagree about what it means to be thin skinned. I thought you were admonishing the people who leave into toughening up. If that is the case, I think it will lead to either an echo chamber or a dungeon of trolls or both.

                                          But based on your other comments, I don’t think you meant what I interpreted.

                                          You in this context means, us, or the offended user that flags people into quitting. How about we make flags public and you can only spend them in certain ways? Do comment points even mean anything? There is a huge distinction between “this person is harmful” and basically anything else. if someone is harmful, they should be removed. Otherwise … if you don’t want to see their posts, then that would be a personal choice.

                                          1. 2

                                            Making flags public is a terrible idea.

                                            1. 2

                                              I agree. I DO think that people here are overly trigger happy with the flagging, but given other comments in this thread I’m willing to believe this is simply human nature at plan and unavoidable. Making flags public would be in effect shaming someone for trying to make a small contribution to the community by flagging a post.

                                              1. 2

                                                I feel that maybe 60% of flags are not trying to contribute to the community, but rather to avenge themselves, or to have an outlet for disagreement without having to engage. It’s part of the problem with the Internet at large: for digital natives, disengagement is no longer an option. People can’t just ignore stuff they disagree with; they have to respond to it, and if it’s a troll, they shouldn’t engage directly, so they instead engage indirectly by flagging. There’s a reason why Twitter’s first option when reporting is “I disagree with this”. It’s just human nature.

                                              2. 1

                                                Because? Without justification your statement is opinion, what am I to do with that?

                                                1. 1

                                                  Because it can lead to retaliatory, tit-for-tat flagging of the flagger’s comments. Mods can already see who flags what and can take action against those who misuse it.

                                          2. 2

                                            a system that is constructed that make it so people like that dont want to be here is a system that needs to be fixed.

                                            Who are “people like that”? To me, this sentence seems to extrapolate based on a single data point, which is based on some observations of another person. That is to say, we don’t know Burntsushi well enough, and maybe no matter how we setup the system, he would find something to quit. And striving to optimize for one would put burden and alienate others.

                                            1. 5

                                              people like that

                                              Hardworking, smart, helpful, writes a lot of great Rust. Reddit and github

                                              I am talking about specifics not a generalized idea of a Lobste.rs user.

                                            2. 0

                                              Since that person left, I’m not getting a flag on every single of my comments anymore.

                                              An interesting coincidence. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

                                              1. 0

                                                Obligatory “correlation is not causation”.

                                            3. 5

                                              That is the problem right there. It.s not a “disagree” link, it’s a “flag” link. Obviously, looks like there are people abusing it because they disagree with something rather than unacceptable behaviour being reported.

                                              Personally, I wouldn’t take it too seriously much less posting on other websites about it. But it is rather shitty to be told to take a chill pill just because one’s opinion is not widely accepted.

                                              1. 1

                                                Accounts with low “karma” can’t downvote but can flag. Perhaps this needs to be looked at..

                                                1. 6

                                                  There are no downvotes, only flags.

                                                  1. 2

                                                    TIL. I stand corrected

                                                    1. 1

                                                      Thanks for clarifying this. I was wondering where the downvote links were.

                                                      1. 4

                                                        iirc the downvotes were the flags, just with a downvote arrow instead of being hidden.

                                                2. 3

                                                  It doesn’t make sense to optimize for people who run away when told others disagree with them.

                                                  I think discourse is improved when all participants feel safe. Then instead of spending energy in handling negativity emotionally, they can make better arguments. Moreover I don’t want to see valid viewpoints shut down due to mob shouting. I think human discourse works well with a variety of opinions.

                                                  1. 16

                                                    I think human discourse works well with a variety of opinions.

                                                    I agree!

                                                    I think discourse is improved when all participants feel safe.

                                                    The problem we’re seeing in the last several years is that there are people who will never feel safe, at least not without massive sacrifices from everybody else in a community, often including systematic self-censorship and topic avoidance. The great online community question of the age is how to strike a balance between being welcoming and letting your demographics become taken over by–for lack of a better way of putting it–people who are not robust enough to survive or flourish in a sufficiently diverse/hostile memetic ecosystem.

                                                    1. 9

                                                      people who are not robust enough to survive or flourish in a sufficiently diverse/hostile memetic ecosystem

                                                      I’m not sure what kind of online future you’re envisioning but I don’t want any part of it.

                                                      1. 15

                                                        An (only slightly contrived) example:

                                                        You run a message board that hosts tech content.

                                                        On one extreme, you tell everybody “hey, we want you here! everybody is super nice and you’ll never be criticized!”.

                                                        After some period of time, you end up with a bunch of users of C and a bunch of users of Rust.

                                                        Some of those users cannot bear any perceived slight of their chosen language. There are C people that go off in a tizzy if anybody points out the memory safety issues in C, and there are Rust users that freak out if anybody complains about long compile times. The house rules–because remember, we’re optimizing for welcoming and that means supporting everybody, no matter how thin-skinned they are!–end up including “Never talk about shortcomings of another language.”

                                                        Since engineering is all about tradeoffs, and since no language is actually good for all things, strict adherence to this rule ends up with only the most optimistic and vapid discussion–worse, it infects other topics. It’s really hard to explain why you might like immutability for concurrency if you can’t talk about memory safety issues because you’ll trigger the C programmers. It’s really hard to explain why you like dynamic or interpreted languages if you can’t talk about how much long compile times suck because you’ll trigger the Rust programmers.

                                                        On the other extreme, you tell everyone “hey, we talk about tech and things on their own merits here, and if you can’t stand commentary that offends, fuck off!”.

                                                        Our C users and Rust users come in.

                                                        Some of these users are just assholes. There are C programmers that strictly use bizarre sexual analogies for anything involving pointers, there are Rust coders that sign all of their posts with Holocaust denial, frequently threads devolve into seeing who can outlast who in massive shit-slinging, and in general a sport is made of making miserable and hazing anybody who won’t stick around.

                                                        Obviously, there will be users who would be knowledgeable assets to this community but who are squicked out by this stuff and leave. There are other users who can put up with the rampant nonsense but who don’t want to spend the cycles required to weed through the bullshit to talk about what they want. Over time, the community stagnates unless it can find a way of attracting and retaining new users, and odds are that’ll be based on its reputation for no-holds-barred “discussion” rather than actual technical insight…this userbase will also skew towards younger folks who have a deficit of experience and all of the time in the world to share it. This is, incidentally, how /g/ works.

                                                        ~

                                                        I’m not sure what kind of online future you’re envisioning but I don’t want any part of it.

                                                        My point isn’t to advocate for one or the other, but to point out that it’s a central question of community.

                                                        It’s also a question whose answer shifts over time, as groups tweak the trajectory of their tribe.

                                                        1. 8

                                                          Some of these users are just assholes. There are C programmers that strictly use bizarre sexual analogies for anything involving pointers, there are Rust coders that sign all of their posts with Holocaust denial, frequently threads devolve into seeing who can outlast who in massive shit-slinging, and in general a sport is made of making miserable and hazing anybody who won’t stick around.

                                                          And there’s a pretty easy way to fix that – kick ’em out. There are communities which do that.

                                                          Because as the saying goes, there are two ways to be a “10x programmer” and one of them is to have such an awful effect on people around you that they drop to 0.1x their prior productivity while you stay average. And even if someone really is “10x” (whatever that means) on some aspect of technical skill or knowledge, it’s still likely to be a net loss to put up with “asshole” behavior from them.

                                                          1. 2

                                                            This is good advice and knowledge for me as I try to build one or more Open Source communities. I think you are correct that such communities should have no room for such users.

                                                            1. 1

                                                              For the purposes of that thought experiment, we take the position in the second case where we do not eject members for being assholes.

                                                          2. 3

                                                            I saw another attempt at creating a HN clone go down a few years ago, not because of flaming or lack of interesting users but because some early users decided they and everyone else decided they needed to be much nicer than HN.

                                                            I quit commenting soon after.

                                                            You can check my comment history, I’m not at rude person but those rules made me feel unsafe. I started carefully considering each word. Then stopped posting,

                                                            I wasn’t the only one. The “super nice” crowd didn’t have anything else to contribute and the site was down a few months later.

                                                            1. 8

                                                              Honestly, one of my main issues with HN has always been the focus on superficial civility. You can be an absolute horrendous awful drive-others-away-in-droves trainwreck of a poster there so long as you do it the “right” way. And you will be valued and rewarded for it.

                                                              A real “anti-HN” would care less about those superficial aspects and more about dealing with the actual trolls and assholes.

                                                          3. 4

                                                            people who are not robust enough to survive or flourish in a sufficiently diverse/hostile memetic ecosystem

                                                            Perhaps I don’t see this as an issue. I believe, in my ideal community (where I’m stressing “ideal” because it’s probably not practically realizable), that any commenter with a good-faith argument should feel empowered to make that comment, even if others in the community viscerally disagree. There are two problems at hand here, one is defining what “good-faith” mean and the other is protecting arguments from being shouted out. When it comes to “good-faith”, due to the nature of human ideology, there will be disagreements. In my mind, the easiest way to come to a consensus on what “good-faith” means is to clearly define it. This is why I’m a fan of Code of Conducts. They lay bare what a community considers “good-faith”, so the minimum bar of participation is met. Ideally the CoC would change infrequently and have community buy-in so that it acts as a minimum bar to entry.

                                                            Ideally (again the ideal here not the practice, probably), we can create a community where there is no hostility after agreeing to “good-faith” rules. It’s one thing to enter heated discussion, but I’m hopeful that a community can use its own moderation tools to ensure that a heated discussion does not turn hostile.

                                                            I just don’t see a world where diversity and hostility are equivalent.

                                                            1. 1

                                                              When it comes to “good-faith”, due to the nature of human ideology, there will be disagreements.

                                                              I make good-faith arguments all the time that seem to fall into the class of bad-faith arguments that @bitrot points out, so I get what you’re saying.

                                                              I just don’t see a world where diversity and hostility are equivalent.

                                                              In the interest of naming things, it seems what’s under discussion is the paradox of tolerance. I’d link to Wikipedia, but it seems it’s a Marxist idea, which I know not everyone would be comfortable with 😄


                                                              At some point, I think you just have to go by how things seem. Which is a shame, because that makes it a game of “survival of the fittest”, where those who are best at branding, or putting things “the right way” to seem good to other people, survive; while those who are prone to misrepresenting themselves, or discussing “untouchable subjects” such as the example in @friendlysock’s comment, are booted out.

                                                              1. 2

                                                                In the interest of naming things, it seems what’s under discussion is the paradox of tolerance. I’d link to Wikipedia, but it seems it’s a Marxist idea, which I know not everyone would be comfortable with 😄

                                                                Indeed, I am familiar with the Paradox of Tolerance. My hope is that a CoC or otherwise similar guiding document or constitution would provide a floor on tolerance, but everything beyond that would be tolerated. Not only does that set community baseline rules but it keeps rules distinct, clear, and constant. There’s a reason many real, representative governments go through due process to change laws.

                                                                At some point, I think you just have to go by how things seem. Which is a shame, because that makes it a game of “survival of the fittest”, where those who are best at branding, or putting things “the right way” to seem good to other people, survive; while those who are prone to misrepresenting themselves, or discussing “untouchable subjects” such as the example in @friendlysock’s comment, are booted out.

                                                                Perhaps the conclusion I should arrive to is that direct democratic (e.g. “upvote” and “downvote”) discussion sites just lead to dynamics that create and sustain echo chambers. I’m not sure, it’s certainly something I’m mulling about myself.

                                                          4. [Comment removed by author]

                                                            1. 2

                                                              To be clear, I’m not saying a community should not have moderation tools of its own, such as flags, downvotes, or the like. I’m saying that these need to be judiciously used. An “ideal” environment (for me) is one where participants are free to disagree but where good faith disagreement does not lead to a minority being mobbed on or flagged to “death”.

                                                          5. 2

                                                            when told others disagree with them.

                                                            But that’s not what flagging tells you… If you’ve been doing everything alright, it tells you that others who disagree with you have leveraged a system unrelated to disagreement to make you look unreasonable, unkind, and/or trollish.

                                                          6. 4

                                                            I’d be interested in learning if mods have any way to detect brigading, possibly such as by looking at correlations in users who consistently flag the same comments.

                                                            1. 13

                                                              Yes, we do. If you look at the mod log you will see that people are banned for this practice now and then. Don’t do it.

                                                              1. 1

                                                                I’m not sure why you needed to admonish me like that at the end. I wasn’t probing your defenses. I was merely going to suggest this if you didn’t have it.

                                                                No need to reply, I know this is a tough time for all the staff.

                                                                1. 7

                                                                  Sorry, I should have been clearer that I wasn’t directing that at you in particular. I know you were trying to help.

                                                          7. 8

                                                            Preface: I don’t have his comments handy and am just looking at the system. Despite this I will be embarrassed if it turns out he was actually making an enormous mess 🤣

                                                            Also want to add whoever worked on the existing system clearly put a lot of thought into it (e.g. factoring in flags on multiple stories, percent-flagged, and limiting to N users all seem wise, and thought went into the message). Probably no fun to see someone armchair quarterbacking with much less time thinking about the problem space than they have. Hope this at least crosses the threshold of possibly useful.

                                                            The thing here being complained about? It’s in the source code, it’s very clear how it works, and it provides impartial, statistical feedback about what’s going on.

                                                            It looks like this is it. My guess is if you’re prolific, it’s inevitable you’ll pop over the hard numerical thresholds sometimes and the 10% of comments is the biggest barrier, followed by the top-30 ranking.

                                                            10% of comments seems not that unlikely if 1) your recent comments are seen by lots of people (upvoted, early, etc.), 2) they address things a lot of people disagree about, and 3) some % of folks who disagree will flag, which seems likely as long as flagging is one of the easier ways to express disagreement (more below). You could do something like subtract the upvotes/N from the flag count (lots of fiddly options), just because there isn’t a number that represents visibility directly.

                                                            The top-30 ranking has has the same considerations as flag count, and also if discussion is going well enough, the 30th “worst” person might not be that bad. (Somebody’s the least polite person in a group of absolute diplomats.) The histogram/rank data does seem interesting to expose to the more flagged folks. Given all that, I’m not entirely sure what I think about the wording of the message–definitely already phrased to aim for “stop and consider this” not “you’re a bad actor”, but I can also see how humans get defensive.

                                                            People are really flag-happy, and this is what happens when you are.

                                                            (Added clarifications here in [brackets] after friendlysock’s comment.)

                                                            A nice thing about [the idea of downvotes for simple disagreement, as used on some other sites, is that it lets] people who simply don’t like something say “I don’t like this” without putting noise in the channel that’s used to catch abuse, spam, and so on. I think the dream behind the current system is that not having [no-reason] downvotes leads to a very pluralist site where many people disagreeing (or fewer disagreeing strongly) doesn’t count against a comment as long as there’s no objective problem with the phrasing/on-topicness/etc. Realistically it seems as if without another outlet, some fraction of disagreement will get funneled into the flag system (even just through people looking hard for technically valid reasons to flag) even if you try to discourage it.

                                                            Just as a random thought, you can offer downvotes without treating them as -1 upvote (-0.5 or -0.25 or whatever in a ranking algorithm), or disagree flags that you treat differently from others.

                                                            tl;dr if I guessed at possible tweaks they might be allowing [no-reason] downvotes or disagree flags that have less impact than existing flags, just to keep that self-expression out of the flagging system; look for a way to factor in that being more-read will get your comments more negative attention; and maybe there’s something to do with the message wording, though it’s clearly already had a good amount of thought put in it.

                                                            1. 16

                                                              A nice thing about downvotes is it lets people who simply don’t like something say “I don’t like this” without putting noise in the channel that’s used to catch abuse, spam, and so on.

                                                              Yes, I very much agree with this. On Reddit and Hacker News, which lobster.s is modelled after, I think of as:

                                                              • upvote: “I would like this to appear higher on the page”
                                                              • downvote: “I would like this to appear lower on the page”

                                                              Flag is a totally different thing than downvote – it means that the user is abusing the site, and continuing that behavior SHOULD result in getting banned from the site.

                                                              But expressing minority opinions (thoughtfully) may result in downvotes (*), but it should NOT result in getting banned or encouraged to leave.


                                                              As far as I can tell, the burntsushi warning was a result of mixing up these signals. I only read a portion of the Rust threads, so I haven’t followed everything, but from what I understand he was probably just expressing some opinions that people disagreed with, not actually abusing the site.

                                                              So I think you have diagnosed it correctly – the lobste.rs UI is sort of mixing these 2 signals up by omitting downvotes. The “flag” button has 5 reasons, and “off topic” and “me too” should be a downvote, not a flag IMO.

                                                              Again, the difference between the two is whether continuing the behavior should lead to a ban, and that’s a very important distinction.

                                                              (Honestly I am surprised that I haven’t gotten this banner ever, given that there is a minority of people who disagree with my opinions on shell. Since I’m writing a new one, I’m opinionated about it, but also invite disagreement)


                                                              (*) Some people may want opinions they disagree with to appear lower on the page, and some people might not. In my view it’s up to person to exercise that discretion – that’s why you get one vote :)

                                                              1. 3

                                                                upvote: “I would like this to appear higher on the page” downvote: “I would like this to appear lower on the page”

                                                                That’s not actually what they mean on Reddit:

                                                                Vote. If you think something contributes to conversation, upvote it. If you think it does not contribute to the subreddit it is posted in or is off-topic in a particular community, downvote it.

                                                                ‘I would like this to appear higher/lower on the page’ is so ambiguous that it leads to different people misunderstanding it and applying it differently.

                                                                1. 6

                                                                  I’d say that’s a prescriptive definition, but a descriptive one is more useful [1], and thinking about it that way will be more likely to solve the problem.

                                                                  That is, “users don’t read documentation”, and it means whatever the users think it means, and it changes over time. FWIW I’ve been using Reddit since 2007, and HN since 2011 or so, and there’s never complete agreement on what these things mean.

                                                                  I’ve seen the debate about downvote vs. disagree several times over the years on the sites. I choose to sidestep it with the vague definition – that’s a feature! :) It’s OK to be vague sometimes.

                                                                  In cases like this, where the number of flags leads to either banning or encouragement ot leave, I think it’s better not to be vague, and have 2 distinct mechanisms. This isn’t a big change, as lobste.rs had both downvoting and flagging until very recently.

                                                                  [1] https://amyrey.web.unc.edu/classes/ling-101-online/tutorials/understanding-prescriptive-vs-descriptive-grammar/

                                                                  1. 2

                                                                    This isn’t a big change, as lobste.rs had both downvoting and flagging until very recently.

                                                                    I don’t think it had both, rather the flag button just looked like a “downvote” button. You still selected from the same reasons that flag presented. This change is the one that altered the styling I believe. There’s plenty of places that refer to it as “voting” in the code still, but unless I am mistaken there was only ever the one mechanism.

                                                              2. 7

                                                                A nice thing about downvotes is it lets people who simply don’t like something say “I don’t like this” without putting noise in the channel that’s used to catch abuse, spam, and so on.

                                                                So, the purpose of downvotes was emphatically not to express disagreement…it was to signal one of a handful of error conditions (bad information, factual inaccuracy, etc.). There is very little utility in seeing how many people merely disagree about something, especially given how fast people are to be mean to each other.

                                                                As a historical point, @jcs at one time disabled downvotes. It did not last more than a week or two before it was brought back.

                                                                1. 11

                                                                  Sorry, I see how it was worded unclearly. I understand that the intention currently is to have no “disagree” button. I’m saying that having that button could reduce how often people flag comments they disagree with as having one of the error conditions, which they might do by by stretching definitions, picking a random reason, or just preferentially noticing real flaggable issues when they happen to dislike the content. (I think the unclarity comes from me using “downvotes” to mean “a no-reason downvote button” as opposed to flags as they exist–I edited to clarify above.)

                                                                  It may be useful to let people push a button for disagreement even if your algorithms assign a low weight to those clicks. I say low weight rather than zero because having a 100%-placebo button in the UI raises other issues, even if moderators give zero weight to an easy expression of disagreement. I’d probably give a no-reason-given downvote nonzero weight in my head but I don’t expect others to adopt my weights.

                                                                  Shorter, the idea is that people sometimes find a way to “downvote” for disagreement however you set up your UI, and you might get a net harm reduction by just giving them the button they want and then deciding what to do with the data.

                                                                  1. 6

                                                                    Ah, so kind of like the buttons on crosswalks?

                                                                    Anyways, thank you for elaborating further. :)

                                                                    1. 4

                                                                      Very well said. Even if the system is not equipped with a “disagree” button, some users may desire one and use whatever means are at hand to express themselves. The phrase, “the purpose of a system is what it does,” comes to mind.

                                                                      If existing mechanisms are not meant for use in disagreements, then we might ask if that is actually how they are being used.

                                                                    2. 4

                                                                      That’s nice, but you can’t make users behave the way you want them to behave, if you’re not going to actively act against it. People not only downvote because they disagree, but they’ll also flag things as spam or off-topic or “troll” just because they disagree, or feel you’ve insulted their particular religious (as in vimacs-vs-spaces) beliefs.

                                                                      1. 6

                                                                        I think I’d prefer a system that discourages misuse of flags. Maybe a similar message for people who flag a lot

                                                                        1. 3

                                                                          Sure, folks determined to game things would still flag. My theory is decently many who flag today are not determined to game things, and would click a down arrow for “just no” given the option. That’d reduce noise in the flag system even though it wouldn’t eliminate it. (And not saying you couldn’t do other changes too.)

                                                                      2. 4

                                                                        in fact, you can have placebo downvotes that show up for the person doing the downvoting but do not affect the vote count otherwise. that would keep (almost) everyone happy, i think.

                                                                      3. 6

                                                                        Agreed.

                                                                        I think it’s fair to discuss whether the wording of the warning message can be improved, but various comments here that pretty much amount to “person X is popular, he should be exempt from the rules” are just tiring.

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                                                                          How is being flagged a rule? It’s not a rule. That is the whole problem.

                                                                          Anyone can flag any comment any time.

                                                                          1. 2

                                                                            Receive too many flags, get a notice. That’s the rule.

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                                                                              That is not a rule in the sense of rule that can be followed by users. I did’t read a single comment suggesting that shouldn’t apply to some user because of its popularity, but rather many people pointing out that this is a clear case illustrating that such system is broken and should be fixed for all users.

                                                                        2. 5

                                                                          rather than continue to engage in a community they don’t fit into

                                                                          Is lobster a community that accepts a plurality of opinion? If it is, then you will always have people disagreeing with you and therefore be liable to be reported by some of these people.

                                                                          Democracy leads to lynching. Mass reporting is basically the lynching of internet persona. Any kind of automatic penalty that can be initiated via reporting is simply giving power to the angry mob. Autoban and autosuspend based on reports have always been abused.

                                                                          1. 3

                                                                            You’re still here, so evidently the suggestion doesn’t apply to you. You’re glad to contribute.

                                                                            Why not show the warning to flag-happy people? I don’t have stats but I feel like that could be a better indicator of who doesn’t want to be here.

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                                                                            Why do we need this passive aggressive banner anyway? It looks bad for Lobster, not for the person seeing it, and it’s not clear what problem it’s supposed to solve.

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                                                                              We consistently see the vast majority of bad behavior come from the same few users. There’s a phenomenon, called the normalization of deviance, whereby people whose behavior is far away from the norm often genuinely don’t realize just how far it is. The banner, and the histogram that it links to, are intended as a way for people to self-correct. I personally am a big believer in giving people opportunities for redemption, and the histogram makes the point in a way that mere words can’t.

                                                                              1. 6

                                                                                far away from the norm

                                                                                Far away from the norm doesn’t mean bad. You seem to be assuming that it is.

                                                                                1. 8

                                                                                  I appreciate you raising that. On the contrary, I agree that sometimes people’s behavior is far from the norm for positive reasons. I do think that, even in those cases, everyone can benefit from a heads-up and a chance to reflect about whether it’s what they want.

                                                                                  1. 3

                                                                                    As in reflecting on do you want to be good when everybody else is bad?? Am I reading that right?

                                                                                    1. 7

                                                                                      Well, yeah. I know for a fact that people have left Lobsters for that reason (or at least, that’s how they see it). While I am sad when people leave, I don’t think anyone is obligated to stay somewhere that doesn’t make them happy. It would be wrong of me to try to trick or coerce people into staying when their free choice, with all the facts available, would be to leave.

                                                                                      I’m not really sure why you’re asking this, though. The flagging system doesn’t have the ability to determine who’s right and who’s wrong. Even if I wanted to take my personal concept of “good” and write code that ignores flags that aren’t “good”, there is no existing technology that can do anything like that. If that’s what you’re advocating for, feature request noted but I’m not able to do it.

                                                                                      1. 3

                                                                                        I’m not really sure why you’re asking this, though

                                                                                        I am not asking anything. I was commenting on an implicit bad argument you made (the implication that the norm is correct). You decided to double down by arguing that even if somebody was correct, they should ‘reflect about whether it’s what they want’. I simply then pointed out that this doesnt reinforce your original argument, because it itself is bad, because having a bad feature (aggressive warning about being reported) is not validated by having that feature also be useful to do useless thing (letting people reflect on whether they should be good, because the answer is always yes).

                                                                                        I don’t think anyone is obligated to stay somewhere that doesn’t make them happy.

                                                                                        Of course not. The point is that assuming that lobsters want a community that engage in meaningful discussion, then it should make people want to stay and be happy, that is a worthy goal. all of this is following your argument for the banner, the argument which I consider to be invalid, as pointed out.

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                                                                                          Being distant from the norms can hold little moral judgment and yet be relevant when operating in a constructed community.

                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                            Okay, I guess that’s fair.

                                                                                            I think we disagree about something in there, but it sounds like figuring out what isn’t a high priority for either of us? I appreciate the discussion, anyway.

                                                                                    2. 1

                                                                                      I at least didn’t read that implication into the post. Not all ways of being far from the norm are likely to result in seeing the banner. It isn’t a perfect system but it’s definitely not symmetric, so that assumption isn’t necessarily required.

                                                                                    3. 2

                                                                                      Thanks for clarifying. But I still think it doesn’t make Lobster looks good because this feature implies that “deviant” behaviour should be corrected and can be automatically detected, and I expect most people (especially in tech) aren’t comfortable with either of these.

                                                                                      I’m wondering what’s the worse that could happen if the banner is not displayed? Maybe the person who’s being flagged all the time will get the point and adjust their behaviour, or maybe they don’t need to adjust anything and it’s other people that will start seeing that perhaps that person has a point. I also believe in giving people a second chance but I don’t think the solution to everything has to be algorithms, sometimes simple human interactions are preferable.

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                                                                                        The hypothesis that motivates the banner and histogram is that, by displaying them, those conversations about what to adjust will happen sooner and be more productive. The goal is to head off situations where somebody doesn’t believe mods when we tell them something needs to change, and they ultimately leave the site. It may be right or wrong but that’s the motivation.

                                                                                      2. 1

                                                                                        Do you think that the banner has an observable positive effect? Do you see a change in behavior from the few users you say produce the majority of bad behavior? As friendlysock says above, they see the banner nearly all the time. Do you think they have been falsely-flagged by this system? If so, can you estimate how high the false-positive rate of showing this banner? If friendlysock has been appropriately warned by this system, have you seen any change in their behavior onsite?

                                                                                        If it is truly only a few users producing undesirable behavior, could it be more effective to simply reach out to those users personally?

                                                                                        1. 4

                                                                                          I’m not going to publicly discuss my personal feelings about specific community members. It wouldn’t be fair to anyone.

                                                                                          I don’t have a methodology to conclusively determine how much influence the banner has had, but the site has a lot less flagging in general than it did a couple years ago. I take that to be an indicator that things have calmed down significantly, and I do think that’s good.

                                                                                          I do reach out to people personally from time to time, as do the other mods. The banner and histogram were created to address a shortcoming in that approach, where sometimes people aren’t willing to listen to criticism unless they’re presented with data that validates it. I’m skeptical of going fully data-driven for everything, but I think it’s nice to have at least this one particular metric for those who find it easier to take concerns seriously when there’s a metric.

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                                                                                      Additional suggestion to all the previous improvements: make that banner a thing that’s moderator-initiated. I of course don’t have statistics on how many people see it (I never got it, so I just learned about it now, anecdotally) but I could imagine that this is rare enough that moderators could just evaluate sending this message to users by hand after the system flags the user internally.

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                                                                                        I of course don’t have statistics on how many people see it

                                                                                        I don’t have that statistic either, but as I posted elsewhere, only 13 people have been flagged more than me in the last month and I haven’t seen it. Only 7 people have been flagged 10 or more times. I’d therefore expect that trimming it down to 5 people that moderators need to take a look at per month is quite feasible.

                                                                                        If even that is too much of a load for the moderators, then it might be possible to select a dozen people who have been active recently but not participated in any of the flagged threads to do a triaging pass. At that point, having someone reach out to the person and say ‘you’ve had a lot of things flagged recently, is there anything going on in your life that you want to talk about?’ would be a fairly low load.

                                                                                        1. 3

                                                                                          You can a chart that gives you a clear idea how many people see it at /u/you/standing. So you can see it at /u/david_chisnall/standing and I can see it at /u/hoistbypetard/standing. The red Xs should represent users seeing the warning.

                                                                                          I’d never suggest that someone else should just add a thing to their plate, but it does seem like the kind of thing where, if there were a few active moderators, requiring someone to approve the red box might be an improvement for a relatively low effort. That feels like the kind of statement I should only make if I’m accompanying it with a patch, though, and I can’t offer that right now.

                                                                                      2. 15

                                                                                        Yep, I think the current wording will probably trigger exactly the wrong people “have I overstepped a border? Probably” and the people who are actively engaging in a little bit of flaming won’t be bothered.

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                                                                                          Following on the “let’s get shit done” vibe, is there an open issue for discussing this in more detail on github? I did a quick lookup and didn’t find any, would be cool if it was posted here (even better if as a top comment)

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                                                                                            Good idea, thanks! (Obvious in retrospect, like many good ideas.) I created an issue.

                                                                                          2. 4

                                                                                            I mildly agree with both of those things, but I also think that the suggestion further down the thread to re-introduce downvoting as “non-bannable feedback” could address the issue more directly.

                                                                                            https://lobste.rs/s/zp4ofg/lobster_burntsushi_has_left_site#c_padx5h

                                                                                            Some people may misuse flags and downvotes, but overall I think these guidelines are intuitive and easy to remember:

                                                                                            • upvote: this should go higher on the page
                                                                                            • downvote: this should go lower on the page
                                                                                            • flag: if the user continues this behavior, they should eventually be banned
                                                                                            1. 2

                                                                                              In my post I’m trying to focus on an easy thing to do to help reduce this problem. I have the impression that rewording the banner is something that’s reasonably easy, while “let’s reintroduce downvotes” or “the banner should be approved by moderators before being shown” are important change in process that require a lot of discussion. They may be excellent ideas, but it’s a lot more work to discuss and turn them into action, so I think it’s best not to mix the two kind of suggestions if we want to change anything at all in the short term; they should be discussed separately, and maybe differently. (I could just send a PR to rephrase the banner; any of the other suggestions requires more discussion with contributors, etc.).

                                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                                Yes, it makes sense to do the easy things first. My impression was that we had downvotes several months ago, so it shouldn’t that big a change to restore them, but I’m not involved so I could be wrong.

                                                                                                I was mystified by the removal of downvotes, and never saw the rationale for it. I saw one thread discussing it 3 or 6 months after they were removed, which still didn’t answer my questions about why they were removed. It made the site worse for me, but not enough to really complain about it. I know this is an all-volunteer effort and I didn’t have time to look at it myself.

                                                                                          3. 65

                                                                                            I got that banner once too, after a string of good faith but slightly controversial comments which got many upvotes and a few flags. From what I can tell, the banner is less serious than it sounds, but being nudged towards deleting your account definitely leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

                                                                                            I don’t think the ratio of upvotes to flags is taken into account, just the pure number of flags. That would mean that people who post frequently are likely to see the banner, unless everything they post is 100% uncontroversial.

                                                                                            The banner suggests talking to a mod, I tried sending a PM to a moderator asking what I should change in my behavior to not be prompted to delete my account again. I never got a reply. I suppose there are higher priority things to take care of.

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                                                                                              Yep. I’ve seen it twice.

                                                                                              The first time, I had no clue what it was about, and tried to PM every mod. I got a response from one about a week later I think, and then later from pushcx saying that he’d added a page to show you your own ‘standing’.

                                                                                              The “flagging” for me was based on just two comments:

                                                                                              1, where I expressed an opinion about systemd, that got 30+ upvotes and 1 “incorrect” downvote, and then replied to myself to question how an opinion can be “incorrect”, and that comment got 5 ‘off topic’ down votes.

                                                                                              2, I make a sarcastic comment about the irony of using docker to distribute all-in-one Go binaries, and of course, it was downvoted -5 as ‘trolling’.

                                                                                              I am convinced from my use here, HN, /. - using user input via ‘downvotes’ as any kind of trusted heuristic about the quality of a comment, is a stupid fucking idea. It’s never been done well, even here, which is already better than most places.

                                                                                              The only thing that makes it better here is that the banner is all that happens automatically - there’s no automatic banning or anything. But it really doesn’t make that clear, and the hint about closing your account is just ridiculous IMO.

                                                                                              1. [Comment removed by author]

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                                                                                                  It doesn’t help that it seemingly applies to any downvotes, and doesn’t evaluate context. Heck it doesn’t even consider the total of up/down votes: the second one still ended up +14 after 5 downvotes, and yet somehow “you might want to consider GTFO bro”

                                                                                                  There are far worse cases of active moderation on the internet, and Lobsters generally handles user content and moderation well (making moderation actions transparent is a big step in the right direction), but this particular warning feels like a really low-effort attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

                                                                                                  1. 4

                                                                                                    The explanation of this on the /u/?/standing page is pretty good:

                                                                                                    We count total number of flags because that’s the most direct measurement of harm: occasionally one or two really nasty comments that hit deep negative scores, but most often it’s a consistent pattern of inappropriate, rude, dismissive, or abusive behavior poisoning many discussions. We’ve tried more complicated measurements, but they correlate almost perfectly to a simple count and are a lot harder to explain than the total number of times another user has flagged your behavior as inappropriate.

                                                                                                    The warning (and appearance on a mod dashboard) doesn’t kick in until an author has received an unusually high number of flags across several comments on several threads because anyone can have a bad day or a bad thread. The problem is a pattern across many threads, especially if it’s gone on a while.

                                                                                                    To address some common objections: This isn’t based on the percentage of the author’s comments flagged or the average score because good comments don’t excuse bad ones. This doesn’t ignore comments where you feel provoked or justified because you’re still responsible for your words. This includes flags on comments with net positive scores because Lobsters isn’t a contest to write comments that are slightly funnier or more insightful than they are cruel. If you think the people you’re responding to don’t deserve courtesy and respect: why do you spending time talking to them at all?

                                                                                                    IMO the result was not good this time, because it made someone who has been a very constructive presence on the site delete their account. I don’t like that. But the rationale is well-explained.

                                                                                                    1. 3

                                                                                                      IMO consideration of the ratio of up:down votes makes sense for a user. But a post that receives 19 upvotes and 5 downvotes is by definition polarizing, and probably should have been written differently.

                                                                                                      Of course, we all write things that could or should have been written differently, and if we were to revise every comment until it is worded perfectly, we would never have any comments. There is always a tradeoff between time and benefit. As Edith Schaeffer said, “when people insist on perfection or nothing, they get nothing”.

                                                                                                      1. 7

                                                                                                        The fact a comment is polarising has almost no reflection on the way it is written, and is nearly always simply caused by daring to comment on a controversial topic, or believing something is really Y when most people think it’s X.

                                                                                                  2. 5

                                                                                                    I remember that discussion (I was the one who responded). I did find it to be an important example of how sensitive the system is, precisely because it’s based on user input. I looked over those two comments carefully at the time, and I still bear them in mind every time we’re discussing feature changes.

                                                                                                    1. 4

                                                                                                      And I’m still thankful for your efforts!

                                                                                                      I know moderation is generally a thankless task.

                                                                                                      I hope it’s clear from my comments, that the actual moderation (ie the actual actions you take) on 🦞 is among the best Ive seen, if not the best.

                                                                                                      My issue is very much with the way regular users use the tools available to them, and thus the tools that are available.

                                                                                                      Lobsters doesn’t have downvotes, so (some) people use flags to signify stuff they disagree with (although I think someone mentioned the incorrect flag is gone now?) as well as flagging actually “bad” stuff.

                                                                                                      In theory the orange site should do better at this because it has both downvotes and flagging - the problem is the downvote action has consequences that actively encourage the production of echo chambers.

                                                                                                      🦞 still manages this much better overall, but I also wonder how much of that is down to sheer size. Would unpopular opinions be flagged to death here if the population grew ten-fold?

                                                                                                      I don’t know. But I wouldn’t bet my carefully hoarded internet upvote points on it!

                                                                                                      1. 3

                                                                                                        Good thoughts, and it’s very welcome criticism.

                                                                                                        Yes, “incorrect” is gone now.

                                                                                                        1. 1

                                                                                                          “Incorrect” is gone, but “unkind” remains?

                                                                                                          That’s sus.

                                                                                                    2. 5

                                                                                                      (edit: I’ve removed a quote here, since the post I was replying to had been deleted by its author.)

                                                                                                      (Slightly later edit: I suspect the author removed that post because it brought up the problem of flagging abuse, and mentioned their own post as an example. Taking a look at my standing page, I absolutely understand why that’s the case though. I have two flags this month: one flagged “troll”, which I don’t wanna argue about, and another one flagged “spam”. It’s on a post that’s on-topic, contains no links, no mention of any product except the one the topic is about, no self-promotion – actually no promotion of any kind. I’d love to know why someone thought it might be spam, but since there’s no way to appeal flags and no way to know who flagged a comment, that’s anyone’s guess.

                                                                                                      That being said, since some decisions are taken based on flags, there should be a way to appeal them, just sayin’ ;-))

                                                                                                      It’s also my experience that metrics really don’t help. Way back when phpBB was still a thing I was part of a moderator team that tried to test-drive one of those up/downvote plugins that started popping up around 2006 or so (or maybe earlier? I don’t recall anymore… anyway, it was a long time ago). It was terrible, and we tried a couple of “soft” versions (one that allowed upvotes but not downvotes, another one that allowed for various positive flags like helpful, funny, whatever, the way Slashdot did) – we eventually turned them off for good.

                                                                                                      All of them had a negative impact not only on the community – which, 15 years of Facebook later, is probably easy to understand – but they had a negative impact on the moderation process, too. We routinely had to weigh obvious decisions against metrics that didn’t tell the whole story (e.g. banning users who slipped subtle neo-Nazi crap into their posts on a 400-page topic and rarely got called out on it because there were like 10 people keeping that topic alive anyway vs. not banning users expressing an unpopular opinion about a recent game or whatever and getting downvoted to hell).

                                                                                                      There’s always a point at which you admit that the metrics just don’t tell the whole story, like the one above (I remember the systemd post, too). After that point, no metrics tell the whole story anymore. If you have to decide, for every post, if the metrics are trustworthy or not, then you’re already in subjective land, and the metrics only enforce a decision that’s already made. Dumping the metrics entirely at least enables some more freedom to articulate your thoughts and make a good call.

                                                                                                      Large social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, need to show metrics because they depend on projecting an image of an objective information dissemination platform, otherwise the ad funding dries up. And even in their case it’s bullshit, and they gather more stats, and make more automated decisions, than anyone else. I don’t think acknowledging the subjective nature of mod actions would be hurtful for lobste.rs in any way. Many of us are here precisely because things don’t work the way they work on FB or HN – doing things exactly the way those platforms don’t do them, and could never do them, sounds like a good call ;-).

                                                                                                      1. 3

                                                                                                        It’s funny you mention Slashdot: I’ve always been interested in their moderation/meta-moderation approach and wonder why it hasn’t caught on in more places.

                                                                                                        I think metamoderation could work well here. Present comments with churn, positive or negative, and have the community decide if the vote was appropriate. If the community says “you, user, are using your flags incorrectly”, perhaps they decay in value?

                                                                                                        1. 5

                                                                                                          I wasn’t specifically talking about the metamoderation part, but Slashdot’s system has a problem related to that of downvote-based systems: when allowed to do something other than reply, butthurt users will abuse the flag system, too. If someone expresses an unpopular opinion, it won’t be downvoted, but it will be flagged as “flamebait”, “troll”, “redundant” and “offtopic” without any consideration, because that’s just what mobs do – if booing (downvotes) isn’t available, they’ll take slogans (flags) as well.

                                                                                                          I know this sounds cold-hearted but it is what it is, I’ve been a butthurt user who acted irrationally more times than I can count, and I still find myself indulging in flamewars and the like even when I’m perfectly aware it’s stupid. I try to keep away from flags for this precise reason. Flames are a whole different story :).

                                                                                                          That being said, it’s worth remembering that Slashdot’s policy dates from a whole other era. I think many younger people have slightly different exectations from moderation these days, shaped by large social media platforms and the like.

                                                                                                          Any moderation policy is going to have some impedance mismatch. Some people are going to find it intolerable, and many of them will be smart people who have a lot of interesting things to say. Such is life.

                                                                                                        2. 1

                                                                                                          I’d love to know why someone thought it might be spam, but since there’s no way to appeal flags and no way to know who flagged a comment, that’s anyone’s guess.

                                                                                                          I imagine one could have a system where the flags would be required to be accompanied by a motivating comment by the flagger, only visible to the receiver, and perhaps moderators.

                                                                                                        3. 1

                                                                                                          I am convinced from my use here, HN, /. - using user input via ‘downvotes’ as any kind of trusted heuristic about the quality of a comment, is a stupid fucking idea. It’s never been done well, even here, which is already better than most places.

                                                                                                          How would you do it then? You can’t expect moderator(s) to be on top of every thread, so you need some way to alert them that something’s up. AFAIK using downvotes (which Lobsters doesn’t really have, just “flags”) is still the best way to do that.

                                                                                                          1. 12

                                                                                                            I agree, I think lobste.rs is basically the best possible solution I can imagine. It has upvotes to show support, but not downvotes to show “disagreement”. Instead, it lets you flag comments for being off-topic, spam, troll, unkind or me-too; I suspect that the threshold for “I disagree with you, so I’m gonna flag your comment as a troll” is much higher for most people than the threshold for “I disagree with you, so I’m gonna downvote you”. It’s not like actual moderation decisions are made automatically based on the flags.

                                                                                                            To be honest, the only real issue I see with the lobste.rs system is that the message is so harshly worded. I wouldn’t even be against the current low flag limit if it just said something like, “Your recent comments have been heavily flagged. Maybe you should consider taking a break to cool down”. Maybe it would be nice if it also took into account the ratio between flags and upvotes, rather than just the flags. But it’s where the banner suggest deleting your account that it really goes off the rails IMO. It’s also a bit weird that it suggests contacting a moderator, when the moderation team clearly doesn’t have the time/patience/desire/whatever to respond to inquiries about it.

                                                                                                            1. 33

                                                                                                              If we must have such a warning, which I wouldn’t be in favour of really, then I’d phrase it as “Your comments have been flagged a lot, this may or may not be a problem but here are your comments to review; kindly take a look and see if there’s something you could have done better” or something to that effect. Right now, and in your suggestion as well, it kind of assumes you did something wrong, which may not be the case at all.

                                                                                                              1. 9

                                                                                                                I would also change the background from red to something more neutral. It would still be visible, just not that “alarming”.

                                                                                                                1. 5

                                                                                                                  This is really nicely worded and I can’t agree with you more. Cooling off assumes it was a heated debate, which itself might not be bad, yet the original text was quite aggressive in blaming the recipient, instead of following though that it might have been an honest mistake, or even no mistake at all.

                                                                                                                2. 4

                                                                                                                  I suspect that the threshold for “I disagree with you, so I’m gonna flag your comment as a troll” is much higher for most people than the threshold for “I disagree with you, so I’m gonna downvote you”

                                                                                                                  I suspect so too, but maybe i’m just projecting.

                                                                                                                  What feels weird to me about Lobsters flagging system (or at least of the impression i get of it form reading this thread) is that while flags definitely have a cost for the flagged person, they seem to not have any cost on the flagging one? If that’s true, then i think that’s a glaring problem and should be addressed. Someone that’s mass-flagging comments should be as much a red flag for moderation as someone who gets mass flagged.

                                                                                                                  Regarding the wording of the flag notice itself, i completely agree with others in that it’s quite bad and should be improved in tone and clarity (and probably in color too).

                                                                                                                  NB: take this comment with a grain of salt, as i’m mostly a lurker here and not much of an active member :)

                                                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                                                    while flags definitely have a cost for the flagged person, they seem to not have any cost on the flagging one?

                                                                                                                    I got told-off once for flagging something that I shouldn’t have (the mod was correct), though I also didn’t understand that flagging actually got a human involved. My mental model was more like a downvote (from other comments here, I don’t think I’m the only one). So I felt bad about wasting a mod’s time. It probably says how flags work somewhere on the site, but it’s not on the “flag” dropdown :)

                                                                                                                    Maybe there should be a low limit on flags-per-week, or something like that. You could get really economicsy and a debt system - if you’re out of flags, and you see something you really think should be flagged, well that’s going to put you in flag-debt and cost you two of your flags from next week. With a limit on how far into flag-debt a user can go.

                                                                                                                    And or some down-weighting of users who flag heavily vs those who flag rarely.

                                                                                                                3. 7

                                                                                                                  As @hauleth correctly points out, the issue is not that people can signal they see a problem with a post.

                                                                                                                  The problem is assuming that signal is (a) trustworthy and (b) even remotely close to correct.

                                                                                                                  The idea that people don’t downvote (or flag, in lobster’s terminology, the effect is the same) comments simply because they disagree with the view, is laughable. It definitely seems to happen less here than the orange site, but that’s like saying America has less gun violence than a literal war zone, so there is no problem.

                                                                                                                  As I said, Lobsters gets a lot of things right, and it wouldn’t take much to improve it.

                                                                                                                  The threshold for the warning message definitely should be smarter - a fixed number of flags makes zero sense if the goal is to have other users feedback be meaningful. 100 people upvoting and 11 people marking as ‘off topic’ or ‘troll’ because they don’t like the content, doesn’t really signify “you should reconsider your words” to me, unless of course the goal is an echo chamber.

                                                                                                                  If a post doesn’t go below “0” effective ‘score’, it should not qualify, and even then I’d expect a much higher threshold than 11 such instances.

                                                                                                                  As multiple people have said, the message itself is just bizarre right now. If you have to have a message it should be a lot more aware of the context of how it’s probably being read.

                                                                                                                  If someone is genuinely just trolling, the message won’t mean shit to them anyway, they’re not likely to stop because of it.

                                                                                                                  1. 4

                                                                                                                    That this warning is not great because of the wording and threshold is something we can quickly agree on, as I already expanded on in some other messages in this thread.

                                                                                                                    I’m not so cynical about the value of downvotes in general though;I don’t think that “flag for disagreement” are “flag for unconstructive” mutually exclusive. We’re all more sensitive when someone is being an ass about something we disagree with and less sensitive when we do agree with it.

                                                                                                                    It’s a bit of a tricky balance; early today I saw a thread where an author was just being obtuse IMHO, responding with short messages that were essentially just refutations instead of actually having a conversation. I considered flagging it as it’s not a constructive conversation, or … because I don’t agree with it? Kind of both. I didn’t end up flagging it btw.

                                                                                                                    I did flag another comment a few days ago which consisted of little more than “oh, you must not have understood it, let me explain it to you again like you’re an idiot who needs to be educated”. It was actually a fairly substantive comment, but also very condensing and not constructive. At that point you’re just being an ass, so -1 troll. I probably wouldn’t have if I had agreed with the gist of the post.

                                                                                                                    And this also works two ways. I mean, Drew DeVault got plenty of upvotes as well even when he was demonstrably outright lying in his posts just because people vaguely agreed with the sentiment.

                                                                                                                    Overall, “+1 because I agree with it” is actually a far bigger issue than “-1 because I disagree” IMHO.

                                                                                                                    1. 3

                                                                                                                      You’re right. I don’t really agree with the concept of simple ‘upvoting’ or ‘downvoting’. I think it encourages knee-jerk “ooh I agree with one sentence so clicky clicky” responses, rather than requiring people to actually articulate when they agree or disagree with something.

                                                                                                                      Of course then you end up with “+1” etc type comments.

                                                                                                                      But the bigger issue IMO is still the conflation of agree/disagree and “this is inappropriate”.

                                                                                                                      Flagging something means a moderator should intervene and review the comment. It should be unrelated to whether the person agrees or disagrees with the content.

                                                                                                                      1. 4

                                                                                                                        I don’t really agree with the concept of simple ‘upvoting’ or ‘downvoting’. I think it encourages knee-jerk “ooh I agree with one sentence so clicky clicky” responses, rather than requiring people to actually articulate when they agree or disagree with something.

                                                                                                                        How would you sort comments then? Perhaps Lobsters is small enough that it can get away without them, but on HN with hundreds of comments it gets hard and you need some form of mechanism. In spite of the problems with voting, I don’t really know of anything better.

                                                                                                                        1. 3

                                                                                                                          Posting order (i.e. chronological) wouldn’t be terrible.

                                                                                                                          On a small site like this, sorting by ‘agree’/‘disagree’ is probably not necessarily as bad, it that’s all it’s used for.

                                                                                                                          On the orange site the problem is that they encourage ‘downvote to disagree’ and then hide downvoted comments both visually, and then literally.

                                                                                                                          If that’s not the poster child for group-think and echo-chambers, I don’t know what is.

                                                                                                                          1. 4

                                                                                                                            I want to say that I’m reading this whole discussion and I appreciate it, though I’ll resist the temptation to weigh in on every single point.

                                                                                                                            Lobsters is what it is and I think removing the use of upvotes to sort comments would significantly change the site and the kinds of discussions it’s good for. Many people would leave. When I see people building their own new spaces, however, I do advocate for chronological order. I think it’s very difficult to have anything that even remotely resembles a game mechanic, without attracting users who treat social interaction as a game that they want to win.

                                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                                              You’re probably right that removing upvotes would change lobsters somewhat. Perhaps then the solution is the downvote mechanism that I detest so much, because if it’s purely attached to sorting order, that’s still a better outcome than having posts flagged simply because someone disagrees.

                                                                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                                                                Would it be possible to display separate upvote and downvote counts, but still sort by the sum (“overall score”)? That way voting still does affect reading order, but the UI makes it feel less onerous if you’ve been downvoted. In essence, hopefully normalizing a UI pattern to indicate disagreement quickly.

                                                                                                                      2. 1

                                                                                                                        And this also works two ways. I mean, Drew DeVault got plenty of upvotes as well even when he was demonstrably outright lying in his posts just because people vaguely agreed with the sentiment.

                                                                                                                        Is the lying still demonstrable, or was it only demonstrable back then?

                                                                                                                        1. 8

                                                                                                                          Stuff like this (and some more on the same topic at HN), and stuff like this. There have been some other discussions as well. I can’t be bothered to track them all down.

                                                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                                                            I’m sorry to say it, but the web browser scope looks less like lies and more like methodology that you do not like. I cannot judge the other one, though.

                                                                                                                            1. 5

                                                                                                                              I’ve looked at now 100+ documents from that list. Not a single one has had actual content related to the web standard.

                                                                                                                              That’s not a minor methodology error; that’s just completely wrong and he’s more than smart enough to see that too, especially after multiple people pointed it out to him. An honest response would be to fix and correct it.

                                                                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                                                                I disagree. At the very least, a person still has to sift through all of those documents, even if they don’t have to read them.

                                                                                                                            2. 2

                                                                                                                              “Demonstrably outright lying” doesn’t fit what I see here. Maybe there were better examples at the time; I know much of the record was lost when drewdevault was banned due to Lobsters’s policy of deleting posts.

                                                                                                                              1. 5

                                                                                                                                He deliberately said things that were not true and defended it with “but my point us correct anyway”; I don’t know how to call that anything else than lying. Granted, he’s probably just a victim of his own anger and bias, but that’s a poor excuse and the end result is the same.

                                                                                                                                Anyway, this thread isn’t about Drew, so I’ll leave it at that.

                                                                                                                                1. 3

                                                                                                                                  Deliberate outright lies could be demonstrated by a direct quote of the lie. What I see is a disagreement over whether an estimate is fair and what it means.

                                                                                                                                  1. 9

                                                                                                                                    The estimate makes a really serious methodological error, one that can scupper an otherwise strong paper. It’s fine to make mistakes, but doubling down on them is bad.

                                                                                                                      3. 3

                                                                                                                        I think the keyword there is trusted heuristic. No-one says that downvotes/flags cannot be one of the metric that there is something wrong, just it shouldn’t be used to “automatically notify users”. Human interaction for showing “big red banner with “go f… delete account” should be required.

                                                                                                                        1. 3

                                                                                                                          It seems to me that the problem is determining who are the trolls - eg the person criticising Go, or the Go fans downvoting the criticiser. One solution might therefore be to limit the downvote to never less than -1, and greyed. Downvote trolls might be satisfied by this enough to not flag, and anything serious would still get flagged, and genuine criticisers wouldn’t be harassed by people who can’t handle criticism of their favourite whatever.

                                                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                                                            I don’t know if you’re talking about a specific discussion, but in general I find Go discussions tiring because it’s always the same “Go bad” arguments over and over again, whether that’s relevant to the story posted or not. It’s really tiresome.

                                                                                                                            If you don’t like Go then that’s fine, but maybe you should be careful interjecting on Go stories unless you really have something of value to add. I don’t go around “C++ bad” or “PHP bad” on every C++ or PHP story.

                                                                                                                            I think the same applies to Rust from what I’ve seen on occasion, although I don’t read most Rust stories so I’m not sure.

                                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                                              Your response seems to have nothing to do with my comment.

                                                                                                                      4. 12

                                                                                                                        Previous: Flagged comment warning should have tiers.

                                                                                                                        IIRC there were some other discussions as well, but I can’t find them right now. I actually thought this warning got removed last year, but it seems not.

                                                                                                                        I have the impression false positives are fewer since the “incorrect” flag reason got removed; I used to get this warning fairly regularly before that, but haven’t since.

                                                                                                                        According to the standing page (https://lobste.rs/u/arp242/standing, put in your own username in there) you need to net 11 in the last month to see that page. End up in two or three conversations where one or two people get their panties all in a knot, and yeah … say hello to your 11 flags.

                                                                                                                        Either way, automatic moderation never really works all that well IMO, or at least should have a really high bar. There is automatic moderation on Stack Overflow (and other SE sites), but the bars are so high that if you hit them, you almost certainly deserved it. And before you get to that point, you usually get flagged in the moderator interface first. IIRC there isn’t even a way for moderators to override these bans, because it’s simply not needed.

                                                                                                                        I don’t know the details of the single person who has 59(!) flags, but that’s really a excessive outlier (and almost certainly not burntsushi, who is probably close to those 11 flags) so doing something about that automatically might be okay. But 11 flags in 30 days seems really low. And given there are just 7 users in total who see this warning it seems to me that automating this costs most than it’s worth. Lobsters isn’t that large.

                                                                                                                        1. 2

                                                                                                                          IIRC there were some other discussions as well, but I can’t find them right now. I actually thought this warning got removed last year, but it seems not.

                                                                                                                          It was shown on the Replies page, which was offline for performance reasons for a long time.

                                                                                                                          I’m probably one of the few who took a peek at my /standing page nevertheless.

                                                                                                                        2. 5

                                                                                                                          I can promise we’re aware that the voting/flagging system penalizes controversy. The formula doesn’t have any way of knowing which posts and comments are difficult-but-necessary conversations vs. which ones are behavior that should be changed, but we do take it into account behind the scenes.

                                                                                                                        3. 52

                                                                                                                          For context, this is one of the most prominent Rust programmers, of ripgrep and [xsv]https://github.com/BurntSushi/xsv fame.

                                                                                                                          This is perhaps a good time to re-iterate on lobsters moderation design as it was intended. I don’t mean that the concept should be challenged, but rather continuing changing/improving the way moderation works so it stays truthful to the original vision. This site set itself the goal of overcoming problems with typical moderation features found on most websites, and specifically the orange site.

                                                                                                                          This is, to an extent, a matter of opinion, but if we look at this soberly, virtually everyone will agree that Burntsushi was not by any measure a problematic user. Hence, the message was clear misfire and such feature should be rethought. Such features exist to mitigate the damage of users that repeatedly post inflammatory, condescending or offensive comments. It is not at all the case. Whatever burntsushi opinions are, whatever percentage of people agree with them, or however strongly he has stated them, we’re talking about a regular user with common online etiquete and not a person that throws offences or other abusive behaviour.

                                                                                                                          Online discussion is suffering gravely from the politically-correct stick. Dissent it and hellfire will rain upon you. Lobsters rejected this mindset. It doesn’t have downvotes for example. It is values any unusual opinion rather than throwing it to an angry mob. Flagging is a clear hijackable target in this regard.

                                                                                                                          I don’t know how I would react to such a warning, probably woulnd’t care as much as burntsushi did, but warning a user based on an amount of people essentially not agreeing with (or possibly not liking for whatever reason) him, is clearly against the philosophy of this website.

                                                                                                                          1. 3

                                                                                                                            This is, to an extent, a matter of opinion, but if we look at this soberly, virtually everyone will agree that Burntsushi was not by any measure a problematic user.

                                                                                                                            Agreed: not on comments that I had seen. So which comments drew the recent ire of flags/downvotes/etc? Controversial ones?

                                                                                                                          2. 102

                                                                                                                            +1, iirc burntsushi was one of my most upvoted accounts, always providing insight on Rust stuff.

                                                                                                                            1. 30

                                                                                                                              burntsushi is exactly the kind of poster this site was supposed to be for.

                                                                                                                            2. 42

                                                                                                                              The logic showing that warning tries to avoid false positives. I don’t know what burntsushi saw it - he disowned all his comments when he deleted his account, so I don’t know what his last few comments were to see what the flags were or who made them. In the last three years no mod had a private conversation with him, either about his posting or anything to do with the site (the mod notes were added three years ago, so I can’t speak confidently about before then). I don’t have more insight into why he deleted his account and I’m sorry to see him go.

                                                                                                                              1. 15

                                                                                                                                The disowned comments might be a bug: https://twitter.com/burntsushi5/status/1399716212028985351

                                                                                                                                1. 36

                                                                                                                                  I found the line in the logs, it’s a very unfortunate bug:

                                                                                                                                  Parameters: {"authenticity_token"=>"[FILTERED]", "user"=>{"password"=>"[FILTERED]", "i_am_sure"=>"1", "disown"=>"0"}, "commit"=>"Yes, Delete My Account"}
                                                                                                                                  

                                                                                                                                  I’ll take a look at the threads linked there, thanks for the reference.

                                                                                                                                  EDIT: filed the bug

                                                                                                                                  1. 7

                                                                                                                                    Is there a way we can get his name back on his comments? Most of his comments were excellent and helpful, and it seems a shame to not have his name on those (not to mention making this whole scenario look a lot worse for Lobsters).

                                                                                                                                    1. 7

                                                                                                                                      The code is:

                                                                                                                                        def self.disown_all_by_author! author
                                                                                                                                          author.stories.update_all(:user_id => inactive_user.id)
                                                                                                                                          author.comments.update_all(:user_id => inactive_user.id)
                                                                                                                                          refresh_counts! author
                                                                                                                                        end
                                                                                                                                      

                                                                                                                                      So it just runs an update comments set user_id=-1 where user_id=42 query. Unless you’re going to restore from a backup, I don’t think this can just be corrected.

                                                                                                                                      Unfortunate indeed :-(

                                                                                                                                      1. 17

                                                                                                                                        Well, if there are database back-ups, it would certainly be possible to make a query against a back-up to find all the comments made by burntsushi, then run the queries to change those comments’ owner to burntsushi’s deleted account against the live database.

                                                                                                                                        1. 5

                                                                                                                                          If this is to be done, it should probably be done for not just burntsushi, but also other users since december 2018 (which is when the bug was introduced). And if that commit contains other bugs as well, not just disowning comments, should it be done for it as well?

                                                                                                                                        2. 1

                                                                                                                                          If the generated SQL statement is in the logs, it might not be too difficult to reverse.

                                                                                                                                          1. 3

                                                                                                                                            You would need the data. The statement itself won’t tell you what specific rows were affected by it at the time. If it somehow logged the ID of the stories and comments it was updating it would be trivial but that would be somewhat unusual to log.

                                                                                                                                      2. 1

                                                                                                                                        I guess I’m wondering why this is logging people’s access tokens and passwords?

                                                                                                                                        1. 3

                                                                                                                                          I think that’s a literal [FILTERED] in the logs, see here.

                                                                                                                                  2. 39

                                                                                                                                    That is very sad indeed. I’ve found him to be one of the most patient OSS contributors out there. Sometimes direct and clear but not hurtful.

                                                                                                                                    1. 39

                                                                                                                                      I’d prefer every downvote to cost karma points for the downvoter as well (not just for the downvotee).

                                                                                                                                      1. 11

                                                                                                                                        Maybe not cost, but those who flag a lot should get the same banner. Perhaps they already do. I haven’t flagged or seen that banner before.

                                                                                                                                        1. 4

                                                                                                                                          It’s an interesting idea (though I can think of a few downsides as well). It adds a cost to flagging. Though I’m not sure how effective it would be on heated discussions with minority viewpoints where the commenter will feel the brunt of the flags but each flag costs a user a single point of karma.

                                                                                                                                          1. 3

                                                                                                                                            It adds a cost to flagging.

                                                                                                                                            That’s exactly the point - to prevent people from blindly flagging everything they disagree with.

                                                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                                                              Indeed, that was in agreement, apologies.

                                                                                                                                            2. 2

                                                                                                                                              Maybe we could play with the concept of “refunds” where an administrator certifying a flag (i.e. spam or self-promo) would give the karma back? Limiting the scope of said refunds would also prevent any ethical quandaries for the administrators.

                                                                                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                                                                                I thought about this as well, but this then places additional work on the admins or mods to actually go back and mark a flagged comment is valid. I also presume, especially because of the current usage of flags being used as “disagree” buttons, that many comments are flagged in a day. Hopefully a “currency” style of flagging helps, but I’m not certain.

                                                                                                                                            3. 2

                                                                                                                                              Feels a bit punitive. You can get a similar effect by having different downvotes weighted differently. E.g, every user has a base outgoing downvote scale of 1, each of your downvotes in a given calendar day has a base downvote power of the inverse of the number of downvotes you cast that day. That is: if you cast 2 downvotes in a day, each one has a base power of 0.5; if you cast 10 downvotes in a day each one has a base power of 0.1. That way people can just cast as many downvotes as suits the way they use the site, but the mechanics don’t add an incentive to cast more downvotes.

                                                                                                                                              You could also take the base power of a downvote in a given thread and multiply it by the total number of upvotes that user received in that thread on that day. Or like, score every user according to pagerank for each topic and weight their actions based on their relative expertise in that topic (although that probably favors old accounts)

                                                                                                                                              This is all assuming “democratic discourse” actually works, which I’m not particularly convinced of. It seems that on all the sites that structure discourse by popularity that a form of tyranny of the majority takes hold, and gets more and more severe as that network grows.

                                                                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                                                                That you refer to flagging (i.e. identifying something as inappropriate) as “downvoting” is the key take away here, IMO.

                                                                                                                                                I don’t know what the official word is, but my view is that if you flag something because you disagree with it, you’re Doing It Wrong (TM).

                                                                                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                                                                                  Which was the key issue here. If we let everyone “flag” things and give that flag any authority (such as, suggesting that a user takes a break or deletes their account), then we’ll just end up with like-minded people that only approve of each-others thoughts. If, on the other hand, we make this a signal for the mods, then the mods get the banner in question, the mods can have further authority to decide if this really is an issue. Context matters, and flags or downvotes system do not look at context.

                                                                                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                                                                                    I think it is mostly a signal for mods now. But while Lobsters has an upvote, but no downvote, people are going to mis-use the flags to indicate “I disagree with this”.

                                                                                                                                              2. 34

                                                                                                                                                I have seen him stepping into heated discussions and making them better.

                                                                                                                                                I haven’t reviewed all his comments, obviously, but this just makes me sad.

                                                                                                                                                1. 27

                                                                                                                                                  I get at least 5 flags per post where I criticise open source licenses for failing at their primary purpose: letting us see the source code in the age of the three clouds. If I were to take the advice of the banner I should never talk about licenses again since it’s predictable that a loud minority will make their displeasure felt. Somehow I don’t think that’s what the original intent of the flags was.

                                                                                                                                                  1. 53

                                                                                                                                                    Licensing is one of those topics where no matter what you do, you’re evil.

                                                                                                                                                    • I prefer permissive licenses: “zomg, you’re in favour of Big Capitalist Abuse!!!”
                                                                                                                                                    • I prefer copyleft: “zomg, horrible anti-freedom viral licenses!! Also Stallman is a transphobic woman-hating nonce!!”
                                                                                                                                                    • I like not-quite-OSD-license X: “zomg, it’s not true open source! You’re against freedom!”
                                                                                                                                                    • I don’t like not-quite-OSD-license X: “zomg, are you against developers making a fair wage?!?!”
                                                                                                                                                    • I don’t like ethical licenses: “zomg, you don’t care about exploitation and oppression?! Are you literally Hitler?!
                                                                                                                                                    • I like ethical licenses: “zomg, you want to enforce your ethics for your own power!!! Are you literally Hitler?!

                                                                                                                                                    🤷

                                                                                                                                                    1. 4

                                                                                                                                                      Scott Adams once wrote about a thought experiment in politics (I’d include software licensing in that).

                                                                                                                                                      Imagine an issue where people are split between two choices - say, BSD vs GPL licensing. Now find the most intelligent people in the debate, and see where they stand. There are two possible outcomes:

                                                                                                                                                      1. All of the intelligent sample agree. That’s great! But clearly the effects of large-scale politics are to neutralise the effects of intelligence in this case.

                                                                                                                                                      2. The intelligent sample is split just like the entire population is. Clearly intelligence is irrelevant to the issue.

                                                                                                                                                      1. 7

                                                                                                                                                        I don’t think this is a particularly good thought experiment (though that is a reflection on Scott Adams, not you).

                                                                                                                                                        I question lots of assumptions here,

                                                                                                                                                        • That it’s possible (in a non-trivial sense) to have a completely well defined and agreed upon binary choice is … improbable, at best. Your licensing example implies (For all people/communities, for all software, for all purposes, for all places, for all legal situations, at all times),
                                                                                                                                                        • That there’s a objective verifiable way to determine who the “most intelligent” people are (there isn’t). There are multiple domains for intelligence; are these “most intelligent people” supposed to be intelligent in all of them? What if it requires domain knowledge (not intelligence), how does that get factored in?

                                                                                                                                                        There are certainly more than 2 outcomes, additionally

                                                                                                                                                        • The “intelligent people” agree that… it depends.
                                                                                                                                                        • Some of the intelligent people disagree, but in a different proportion than the general public.
                                                                                                                                                        • Some of the intelligent people have a clear answer, but some don’t.
                                                                                                                                                        1. 6

                                                                                                                                                          This is a cute bit of both-sides rhetoric which is worth pulling apart. Noting that intelligence is usually left undefined out of difficulty, we could replace “intelligence” and “intelligent” with any other undefinable or even unmeasurable attribute and not affect the central problem that finding “the most intelligent people” involves a personal value judgement. For example:

                                                                                                                                                          • Clearly, beauty is irrelevant to the issue.
                                                                                                                                                          • Clearly, sanity is irrelevant to the issue.
                                                                                                                                                          • Clearly, having lots of justifications for a choice on the issue is irrelevant to the issue.
                                                                                                                                                          • Clearly, being well-informed about the issue is irrelevant to the issue.
                                                                                                                                                          • Clearly, truth is irrelevant to the issue.

                                                                                                                                                          This all suggests that political issues cannot be resolved by value judgements upon members of political parties. Instead, issues must be resolved by ethical consideration of the particular effects of the available choices.

                                                                                                                                                      2. 8

                                                                                                                                                        I get at least 5 flags per post where I criticise open source licenses for failing at their primary purpose

                                                                                                                                                        Oh! I thought that, these days, its purpose was to allow the three clouds (and others) to monetise the work of volunteer programmers. Seems to be doing quite well at that.

                                                                                                                                                        Not that I’ve ever written anything with that sort of uptake, but I’ll be using the AGPL for my stuff in future, and encourage anyone writing open source software to do likewise.

                                                                                                                                                        1. 11

                                                                                                                                                          The problem with relying on user flags for moderation purposes is, a lot of people aren’t interested in opposing views or views that aren’t exactly in line with their own.

                                                                                                                                                          I completely disagree with your thoughts about AGPL and licenses. I deliberately use MIT, BSD or similar licenses wherever I can.

                                                                                                                                                          That doesn’t mean I think your view is invalid or deserves to be downvoted and thus be less likely to be read via the various methods (On the orange site, hidden from view; On here, moved to the bottom of the list, or you get a “hey bruh maybe you should just leave” type notice as the OP talks about).

                                                                                                                                                          I don’t know what the solution is, to facilitate removal of actually bad comments (e.g. spam, illegal stuff, racist/misogynistic bullshit, etc) without having false positives that mean the conversation becomes an echo chamber.

                                                                                                                                                          1. 4

                                                                                                                                                            Quite true! These flags remind me of DMCA takedowns — no one investigates is they are done in good faith.

                                                                                                                                                            1. 11

                                                                                                                                                              I promise, we do investigate before we take action. The banner and histogram are purely advisory.

                                                                                                                                                            2. 1

                                                                                                                                                              I completely disagree with your thoughts about AGPL and licenses. I deliberately use MIT, BSD or similar licenses wherever I can.

                                                                                                                                                              It feels like we may be optimising for very different things with our choice of licenses. MIT / BSD you’d be optimising for adoption?

                                                                                                                                                              I don’t know what the solution is, to facilitate removal of actually bad comments (e.g. spam, illegal stuff, racist/misogynistic bullshit, etc) without having false positives that mean the conversation becomes an echo chamber.

                                                                                                                                                              Narrowly constraining the topics of conversation seems to help, a lot. Every time I chafe about stories being removed that aren’t explicitly tech-focused, I remind myself that the alternative seems to be flag- and downvote-mediated culture wars.

                                                                                                                                                              1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                I guess you could call it ease of adoption?

                                                                                                                                                                I don’t buy into the common copylefter’s view about proprietary software being immoral or whatever, or have concerns about people taking what I’ve written, and making money from it.

                                                                                                                                                                I generally don’t have an issue contributing to projects that have chosen gpl or other projects. I doubt I’d bother if they wanted me to sign paperwork and assign ownership.

                                                                                                                                                                My goals with open source are mostly pragmatic. Better code (more eyeballs), less ‘legal’ confusion (eg if it were say just unlicensed completely).

                                                                                                                                                                Essentially: here’s a thing I made to solve a problem I had/have. If it helps you, feel free to use it. If you want to improve it somehow feel free to do so. If you feel like sharing those improvements, that’s great too.

                                                                                                                                                        2. 23

                                                                                                                                                          I gues it’s better to leave on your own terms than to get your domain blocked or get kicked out.

                                                                                                                                                          The wording on the banner is far from being a friendly advice - I’d call it antagonistic and confrontational, hostile even.

                                                                                                                                                          BTW, the code itself has been added last year in this commit.

                                                                                                                                                          Ironically, lobste.rs was created by /u/jcs as response to HN heavy-handed moderation.

                                                                                                                                                          1. 40

                                                                                                                                                            His engagement with lobste.rs was much more polarising than burntsushi. The latter didn’t jump into comment sections to deliberately kick off a flame war that may not have otherwise occurred; the former did so deliberately and unashamedly. I heartily respect both their views but I can understand why they might be moderated differently.

                                                                                                                                                            1. 13

                                                                                                                                                              Thank you for saying this in a far more polite way than I was about to.

                                                                                                                                                              1. 8

                                                                                                                                                                And why would that result in banning the domain? Drew wasn’t even the one posting his blog posts here and they were always upvoted.

                                                                                                                                                                1. 11

                                                                                                                                                                  Because many of his posts were explicit flamebait; look at the last two posts on that domain for instance.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                    Then clearly this community is not what the admin intended it to be before banning this domain because the stories from that domain were routinely getting above 30 points which is rare for most stories. It is time to shut this whole website down and just change it to be a private RSS feed of the admin.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                      It’s an attempt to avoid the Repugnant Conclusion; the mere addition of a steady attractor of upvotes can degrade the quality of life for everybody else.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. 1

                                                                                                                                                                      Did you mean to include the one about a finger server and io_uring as one of the two? I found it interesting and informative.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. 5

                                                                                                                                                                        I meant what was submitted to Lobsters, which were the final straws,

                                                                                                                                                                        1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks for the clarification. Not sure why I didn’t read it that way.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. 1

                                                                                                                                                                    This was just an example - there’s more in the moderation log if you care to look.

                                                                                                                                                                  3. 15

                                                                                                                                                                    Wow, this ban message from your second link:

                                                                                                                                                                    Please go be loudly disappointed in the entire world (and promote sourcehut) somewhere else.

                                                                                                                                                                    I really hope that this happened at the end of a process of attempting to politely engage, rather than as the immediate response. That reads like something from a burned-out moderator who needs to take a break.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. 26

                                                                                                                                                                      This was a sustained pattern of behavior over months.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                        That reads like something from a burned-out moderator who needs to take a break.

                                                                                                                                                                        Pro tip: moderators are always burnt-out.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. 8

                                                                                                                                                                        oh wow, Drew got banned ..

                                                                                                                                                                        I don’t like anyone getting banned for anything. I have a lot of respect for how much DeVault puts into his open source contributions and am envious he can live off of it. That being said, he banned me on Mastodon forever ago because I reposted an open letter a professor made during the eight of the 2020 US riots. We had a discussion over DMs and he blocked me in the end.

                                                                                                                                                                        The more I lean about some of the stuff he’s said and done, I realize I can still respect his work while still agreeing with all the others who’ve come to the conclusion his actions are often inflammatory or childish. I’m not surprised he’s banned. He left the Fediverse a few months back too.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. 13

                                                                                                                                                                          Yup. I was actually pretty interested in Sourcehut, but in the end I didn’t really want to use a service run by someone that hot-headed.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                            because I reposted an open letter a professor made during the eight of the 2020 US riots. We had a discussion over DMs and he blocked me in the end.

                                                                                                                                                                            What was the nature of the letter?

                                                                                                                                                                          2. 7

                                                                                                                                                                            There are two issues here:

                                                                                                                                                                            • banning the user
                                                                                                                                                                            • banning the domain

                                                                                                                                                                            The reason for banning the user account was reported by the admin as apparently rude comments/encouraging arguments/arguing? The comments were usually upvoted though as far as I remember so I think the decision was mostly arbitrary.

                                                                                                                                                                            The domain was blocked just because the admin banned the author from lobsters, not because there was something wrong with the content on that website. Drew wasn’t even the one posting his blog posts here.

                                                                                                                                                                            Therefore at least one of those decisions is nonsensical.

                                                                                                                                                                            You can try to create a website with semi-transparent moderation policies but that will never fix the standard power abuse by moderators like in this situation. The personal grievances usually win and no moderation log will fix this. The community enjoyed the content and @pushcx didn’t => the comments and the domain get nuked off the website.

                                                                                                                                                                            I tried to get an answer at least to why the domain was banned but of course I never did (in the name of transparency).

                                                                                                                                                                            1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                              The reason for banning the user account was reported by the admin as apparently rude comments/encouraging arguments/arguing? The comments were usually upvoted though as far as I remember so I think the decision was mostly arbitrary.

                                                                                                                                                                              The domain was blocked just because the admin banned the author from lobsters, not because there was something wrong with the content on that website. Drew wasn’t even the one posting his blog posts here.

                                                                                                                                                                              I disagree with your opinion that his behavior on the site was not rude, though I didn’t look closely at all of his posts so I can’t say for certain. What I do agree with is the domain ban. The ban itself seemed unclear and arbitrary. Moreover, as you mentioned, a domain ban affects much more than just a user, it affects all content on that domain.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                                Negative comments are deleted when users are banned or leave; you won’t find any of his egregious comments here.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. 5

                                                                                                                                                                              For my sins I’m tracking every submission to lobste.rs.

                                                                                                                                                                              Here’s a gist with an extract of submissions matching ‘drewdevault’ in the URL. I consider a comments/score ration above 1.25 “controversial”.

                                                                                                                                                                              Hopefully this can give a sampling of how Devault’s content was received by the community here.

                                                                                                                                                                            3. 16

                                                                                                                                                                              I am also sad with the news, both because I used to enjoy /u/burntsushi @burntsushi comments (as well as ripgrep), but also because he decided to leave instead of “sleeping on it” [1].

                                                                                                                                                                              Lobsters is one of the few communities I feel is transparent enough to make me feel comfortable to explain my ideas, and I found the banner a blunt version of the “dude, chill a little, get a glass of water and let the dust settle” I would get from my co-workers if I would go three meetings straight talking controversial points. Thus, I am sad he took it as a “fight or flight” message.

                                                                                                                                                                              But back to the transparency of Lobsters. Many of us are aware of the moderation log, which I find impressive to exist in such a site, and that the website is open-sourced.

                                                                                                                                                                              Today, though, I learned one more “transparency feature” of Lobsters: the standing, which is a break-down of all the flagged users.

                                                                                                                                                                              (As of the time of writing, there are 7 users flagged, one of them with 59 flags!)

                                                                                                                                                                              If you receive a banner such as the one shown in the tweet, be aware it is not about a single comment you did: it requires you to be flagged in more than at least 10 times, more than a story, more than four comments, in a span of [1 minute, 1 day].

                                                                                                                                                                              I hope this comment gives us all a new perspective on the situation.

                                                                                                                                                                              And Rubysts or moderators, please correct my skimmed interpretation of the Lobsters’ code.

                                                                                                                                                                              [1]: That is how I interpreted his tweet, at least.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. 7

                                                                                                                                                                                Also, the flagged comments are shown, along with the flag reason. So you can make the decision yourself whether the comment actually deserved a flag.

                                                                                                                                                                                That said, whether one wants to be a part of a site is an individual choice. I won’t hesitate to leave if participating cost me more mentally than I got out of it.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. 12

                                                                                                                                                                                We had a thread about this warning a while back. IIRC the primary complaints were that the trigger mechanism was too sensitive and the language was too aggressive.

                                                                                                                                                                                I don’t know that I mind such a banner in principle, and the existing trigger would be fine with me if the language were toned down. I got the banner once because I made a stupid joke about Emacs. I’d like to think I’m a good member of this community, and I’ll admit it kinda stung that I was basically being told that it might be time for me to leave over a text editor joke.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. 11

                                                                                                                                                                                  As someone who recently saw this banner I can say it did concern me at first. I mostly have positive experiences here and it seems I got the banner only because one comment got misundertood and heavily downvoted (and I had delted this comment shortly after writing it because it was clear it was not being well understood). A full review of my data thus calmed me down, but it’s a pretty scary banner

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. 10

                                                                                                                                                                                    Thanks for opening that discussion. I’d really like burntsushi to come back. The invitation he got to delete his account is very passive agressive. Would be great to rephrase this and invite him to come back.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. 10

                                                                                                                                                                                      As someone who has been soured by this site a couple times. To me, it is going the way of Kur05hin and Wikipedia. The community if it can be called that is insular and not very empathetic. The topic/off-topic wars are tiresome and smell of True Scotsmen.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I don’t think I have ever flagged anything. Maybe someone should have to earn flags and only be able to spend them at a specific rate?

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. 5

                                                                                                                                                                                        As somebody who tries to avoid ever using flags, I understand your position. However, Lobsters is nothing like Wikipedia; we’re an invite-only community focused on critique of computing culture via structured conversations, while Wikipedia is an open-access wiki-style continually-revised encyclopedia. The social dynamics are extremely distinct, and the moderation processes are quite different as well. Lobsters user moderation is unilateral and takes under 5min, while Wikipedia moderation is done by committee and with a detailed court-like due process.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                                          I agree and I believe that its insularity and lack of empathy are what cause these issues. If toeing a thin line is what it takes to not get flagged or mobbed, then really, what’s the point of a discussion site? Sounds more like a social club to me then.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                                            The off-topic wars are kinda important for keeping us from getting colonized.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. 8

                                                                                                                                                                                            Here is a list of comment threads I made to make things easier for myself, and to counteract the effect where replies to the main thread are higher on the page than replies to other threads. In my opinion, these comments add the most to the discussion. But of course, that is objective :) The comments are in forward chronological order.

                                                                                                                                                                                            As an aside, there are so many names here I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. I think that’s fantastic! I’d love it if we had nearly as many people making PRs as we did talking about this (I know I’m one).

                                                                                                                                                                                            Also, @Irene and @pushcx are too good for this world <3

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                              You’re very kind. <3 I appreciate you putting this together.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                                                Thanks for taking the time to compile this, but most permalinks don’t work. Please check the syntax.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. 6

                                                                                                                                                                                                I guess it’s good there is a banner at least. I got banned from HackerNews with a comment on a thread, and then my entire website got shadow banned:

                                                                                                                                                                                                https://battlepenguin.com/tech/this-website-is-shadow-banned-from-hackernews/

                                                                                                                                                                                                I haven’t used HN since. I like how Lobster isn’t typically political and tries to actively mod those stories off the platform, but I have seem some huge thread removals here lately that have rubbed me very much the wrong way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                I dunno. I don’t like the way people are becoming more afraid of ideas.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. 5

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I get told by this system that I’m the 11th (or whatever) worst monster in here on the regular. Mostly because somebody gets offended by something and then goes back and downvotes a bunch of completely on-topic reasonable comments as “trolling” or “off topic” in an effort to teach me some sort of lesson.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  It’s not a great system, and certainly younger or less-self-assured users would be likely to abandon the platform completely when they encounter it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Edit to add: maybe something like the “captain’s challenge” where you earn the right to appeal what you feel is a bullshit flag campaign on a specific comment, and if the moderation gods approve you keep your challenge-right and the flaggers get some angry letters or their flags simply don’t get counted for a month or something. If you lose your challenge, you don’t get to make another one for a month or something like that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Obvs more thought would need to go into the details :D

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. 5

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Speaking as someone who was in a back and forth with him in the Python/string thread, I …. really don’t feel like anything I’ve ever seen him write deserves flagging…

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I do feel like there’s an increase in antagonistic discussions going on in the community as a whole, and there are usual suspects (I end up triggering some of these, tbh). I kinda feel like we need to take some collective chill pills and not try and provoke people as much (looking at waves hand at half the site for every single Rust post that has screeds about C memory safety that have been treaded over and over. We get it! I say this as a Rust lover)

                                                                                                                                                                                                    And honestly, I would be pretty curious about who flagged this stuff (I’m not literally asking who flagged this, or to “witch hunt” them or whatever). I flag stuff submissions that I feel are offtopic, but I guess some people are flagging for “being annoying”? And… yeah, personally I would rather whoever is going around flagging a bunch of these (pretty good in my experience!) comments be gone than this user.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. 4

                                                                                                                                                                                                      It saddens me that BurntSushi felt compelled to leave. I find his contributions to be very valuable and have never seen any comments of his that were made in bad faith. I hope changes can be made to help avoid this situation in the future.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. 4

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I find it saddening that we had to have such a prolific and valued user as burntsushi to leave before we could agree that that banner was too abrasive.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I do not believe that we had to have @burntsushi leave in order to agree on this.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. 4

                                                                                                                                                                                                          is there anything that prevents one user from flagging all of the comments made by another user?

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I’ve seen this banner once myself, maybe a year ago or so. It happened after a sorta contentious discussion about something stupid, I don’t remember what the topic was. I found that after that discussion, every comment I made, even very mundane comments, was getting downvoted without explanation. Comments that were +3 or +4 from a day or two before were suddenly a few points down. That went on for a few days, and then I was muted. Things went back to normal after a week or two, but the whole experience was very discouraging, and seemed to indicate some pretty clear flagging abuse. I’m pretty confident I know who it was, and I generally just avoid any threads where they’ve commented. While I do think things are better here than on HN, they’re by no means perfect. To be clear, I think @pushcx is doing as good of a job as someone can do on their own, this is just a very hard problem.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. 6

                                                                                                                                                                                                            We have noticed mass-flagging behavior in the past, and we have reached out to users who engage in it. It is unacceptable and repeat offenders will be banned.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                                              So the only thing that stops someone from engaging in this behavior is manual moderation?

                                                                                                                                                                                                              umm if all flags are given equal weight, and all users can issue as many flags as they want, doesn’t the system by its very definition give more power to the users that issue more flags?

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. 6

                                                                                                                                                                                                                The only actions we take against site members are manually initiated. We don’t pin anything of significance to the automated scoring, precisely because it is gameable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. 3

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I’ve suspected that to happen to me, and even drafted a PM to the mod team before deciding to let a few days go by.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I also suspected I knew who it was. That user is now banned, for what it’s worth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Flags can be and are removed sometimes, search for “Nesh” in the current modlog (timestamp “2021-05-31 17:04 -0500”).

                                                                                                                                                                                                            3. 3

                                                                                                                                                                                                              As someone who has seen, and had, puzzling interactions with burntsushi, I will say this. An algorithm should not be showing a ‘Hey, maybe you’re the baddie, think about quitting’ message to people. Real human beings are reading the messages you’re coding in your application. You can’t predict the effects it will have on them but you can try to avoid hurting people like that, maybe on a mass scale, based on other replies I’m seeing in this thread.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              My suggestion to the moderators, if a user is getting heavily flagged, don’t show a weird message; just shadowban them. If they want an explanation, sure, provide one–it’s quite reasonable to be shadowbanned if you’re in the top whatever percentile of flagged users.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              But it shouldn’t be showing messages like ‘Hey, you’re no good, reconsider your choices’, because to be honest, if I’m going to reconsider my choices, a big one is being on this site.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. 10

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Shadowbans would be contrary to the site’s principles around transparency, and I don’t think we’ll ever do that. We place a heavy emphasis on talking things through and making sure people have a chance to change. That’s why we have the banner and the histogram; it lets users know what’s going on.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                For anyone who strongly prefers the kind of fear-driven atmosphere that shadowbans and other forms of secret punishments lead to, I would indeed advise that those people should go elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  fear-driven atmosphere that shadowbans and other forms of secret punishments

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  That’s the opposite of what I suggested. Did I use the wrong word perhaps? When I say ‘shadowban’ I really just mean something like HTTP 429 ‘Too Many Requests’, like ‘you’re in a cooldown period right now so you can’t comment’. And of course with an explanation and a nice chart if desired. That’s really all I’m saying here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. 5

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Oh! Sorry, I see. I understand the term to mean “you’re banned, but the site pretends you’re not”. I think an explicit cooldown period makes a lot of sense.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. 3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sounds like lots of people are seeing these banners. I think they should maybe be turned off. Mods can review flags and reach out to problem members directly in the rare case that that’s appropriate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Agree that if flags are routinely being used inappropriately that should also be visited: perhaps “-5 unkind” is usually just upsetting/demotivating rather than constructive feedback (perhaps highly flagged users could have this information hidden or frequent flaggers could have their flags ignored or something).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. 14

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I would like to give a different perspective.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sounds like lots of people are seeing these banners.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  So far, except @burntsushi, just other two users saw those banners, in three different instances.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I think they should maybe be turned off. Mods can review flags and reach out to problem members directly in the rare case that that’s appropriate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I think it is quite a toll on the mods, assuming they are volunteers. (I think so.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  For example, just yesterday, the moderators intervened in six different moderation activities (see moderation log).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Also, it seems there are only three active mods (Sysopt hats), and effectively just one (seeing the moderation log), out of 959 user shown in the standings, out of which eight users are seeing the banner today.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Is it fair to put such burden on moderators because one (famous) user felt the banner was a nudge to leave the community?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Do not get me bad: I do think it is healthy to discuss whether the heuristics are valid. However, I think we should make educated decisions based on the facts we have available.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In defence of Lobsters, I must say:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  All in all, I think @jcs, @pushcx (and the other collaborators) did a great job on the algorithm: in clarity, in permissiveness and in coding skills.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Agree that if flags are routinely being used inappropriately that should also be visited

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I am not sure how it is done nowadays (I would have to dig even further, and unfortunately I don’t have any more spare time now), but I think it is a good idea, indeed: a “frequent flagger” is also not an example member of the community.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. 10

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    So far, except @burntsushi, just other two users saw those banners, in three different instances.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If it’s really triggered this rarely, …

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I think it is quite a toll on the mods,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    … would it really be a toll for this heuristic to instead send a message to a mod and have them trigger something better worded to the user?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. 5

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      … would it really be a toll for this heuristic to instead send a message to a mod and have them trigger something better worded to the user?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The mods already send messages to work with people, and many of the user bans in the past have been from people who were repeatedly warned over months.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        … would it really be a toll for this heuristic to instead send a message to a mod

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I think so because, as I stated in my comment, in the last day:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • eight users has seen the banner (according to the standing page);
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • the mods have performed six moderation actions, and those seem uncorrelated with the flagging.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Thus, instead of six, the mods would have had to perform 14 operations in the same timeline, which implies an increase of 133.̅ 3 % of their duties. If I were would be in their shoes, I wouldn’t appreciate this volume increase, especially in a volunteer task.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The “just other two users” were the ones who commented in this story that had seen the banner, which was the context I replied to.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        and have them trigger something better worded to the user?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        As I said in the other comment,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I found the banner a blunt version of the “dude, chill a little, get a glass of water and let the dust settle” I would get from my co-workers if I would go three meetings straight talking controversial points.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I guess, though, I am immersed in a culture way blunter than most people.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        But if re-phrasing the banner would satisfy the community standards and avoid fleeing of active members, then I think it is a worthy effort.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think so because, as I stated in my comment, in the last day:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. That “in the last day” was not at all clear to me. The phrasing sounds like there’s been three people since it was implemented.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. How did 3 users from your previous comment become 8 in this one?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            That “in the last day” was not at all clear to me. The phrasing sounds like there’s been three people since it was implemented.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I noticed it might have caused confusion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            What I meant is:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • the standing page shows the people currently flagged;
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • it seems the flagged people are shown the banner after a day;
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • I saw, at the time of the writing of my comment, eight flagged more than 10 times.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            How did 3 users from your previous comment become 8 in this one?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Well, it was only, at the time of writing, two users, in a total of three occasions (thus, two occasions for a single user), who had stated, in this story we are all commenting, they also saw the banner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The original comment from @cmcaine was

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Sounds like lots of people are seeing these banners.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            which, at that point, let me infer he has taken at position based on the comments of the other two users in this story.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Therefore, given that context, I answered

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Sounds like lots of people are seeing these banners. So far, except @burntsushi, just other two users saw those banners, in three different instances.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            What has accidentally happened is that your original comment removed a lot of context, and thus a common interpretation diverged.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I hope I made myself clearer, now.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. 7

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        In answer to your curiosity about flags being used inappropriately, I can say that flags are quite rare. This entire thread, despite being about a controversial topic, has hardly any. I am personally confident as a moderator that most community members understand that flags are for exceptional situations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think this thread has fewer because the thread itself scrutinizes over-use of flags, so people are more aware of that. It’s sort of like how someone can seem aware of what they’re doing wrong when you talk to them and make them conscious of it, but then go right back to doing it later on because now it’s _sub_conscious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Sure. That’s a fair point. I haven’t looked at numbers recently, but I do know that even a couple years ago, there were certain topics that would reliably turn into voting wars, with people taking polarized positions and either upvoting or flagging based on their preconceived views. I am pleased that I don’t see much of that any more, I think the site has made some real progress since those days. I think that’s something everyone here should be proud of.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I also like that Lobste.rs is a community that is designed to be transparent and to keep conversation healthy and on-topic, but this is a case where the design has almost certainly not worked as intended: a prominent community member who makes good contributions has left (I have never seen a bad comment on lobste.rs by burntsushi).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think it is worth examining why they have left and correcting something: maybe just the text of that warning; maybe requiring a moderator to examine it; maybe something else.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Regarding the burden, I think that the standing page shows that it is probably not such a big burden: every month or so the comments of ~8 users might need to be reviewed (churn into and out of the danger zone is likely to be slow). Some number of them may warrant a short message from a mod or the display of the banner. That’s not a big increase on the dozens of actions mods already do each month.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I agree - this wasn’t a positive outcome. I can’t promise anything but we’re thinking about what we can change, behind the scenes. The discussion in this thread is certainly part of that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Nice. Thank you for being part of the moderation team.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I agree and would add that that any automatic behaviour taking the number of flags as input should be completely hidden from the users. Not only the authors, but also all website readers.The testimonial by @antt is very clear.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        4. 3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          As people seem to be unfamiliar with the “you’ve accumulated a lot of flags” banner, it strikes me that I’ve actually never seen the histogram this “calm” before, and I wonder if it could be because the “Replies” tab was deactivated for so long.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I’d be interested if the mods could see if disabling Replies had any effect on the number of flags submitted by users.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          My theory here is that a big fat red “REPLIES” banner triggers the fight-or-flight response of the internet commenter, and maybe someone replies in haste when taking a break is what they need to do.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          If there is an effect, maybe we should consider acting on that, and deemphasizing the feature. Suggestions include

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • toning down the color
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • only showing you have unread replies after 24h
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • the feature could unlock at a certain karma level

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          und so weiter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Note that this would not hide the replies themselves from Threads or Comments views.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            It’s fine for people who aren’t healthily engaged in understanding a community and their behaviour in it to leave.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. 15

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              How does this describe burntsushi, though?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. 9

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                If someone says: ‘hey maybe something is up’ in a community then a reasonable thing to do is engage to see if there is something up and what you can do about it if you need to do anything; or maybe there’s something up with the person who told you something’s up and it certainly would be useful in that case to challenge it constructively. People who freak out at being told ‘hey maybe something is up’ are people that won’t lead to stable healthy communities, so it’s good that they leave - the remaining community is more stable and healthy without them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                If you compensate and put up with bad behaviour because someone e.g. has a high reputation number or is considered an expert, eventually there’s a net cost to the community.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. 16

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I’ve personally never seen burntsushi being anything other than excellent, in comments or content, so to me this seems like a fairly significant false positive in the detection algorithm. As others have discussed, the message lobste.rs gives you is also worded rather more strongly than “hey maybe something is up”. I’d think that someone who calmly and willingly removes themselves from a community when receiving an official message saying “you should consider removing yourself from the community” is not exactly unstable or unhealthy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. 5

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If I’d have got this banner, I’d honestly assume I got into a pissing match with someone unless a moderator messaged me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. 7

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If you compensate and put up with bad behaviour because someone e.g. has a high reputation number or is considered an expert, eventually there’s a net cost to the community.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I fully agree, but was there actually any significant amount of bad behaviour? No doubt there are things that could have been done better, as there usually are, but from what I’ve seen in the last two years, which is no doubt a limited set, is that Andrew’s behaviour is anti-toxic: the exact opposite of a disruptive community member.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I can’t speak for burntsushi, but I’m fairly sure there are some more frustrations than just this banner; it’s just that this banner was the final drop. Engaging with the free software/open source people can be frustrating, especially if your views are roughly sympathetic towards the core goals but don’t agree on the methods on how to get there. I’ve felt this frustration myself as well; I almost rage-quit once after being called a “bootlicker” for saying that I don’t think GitHub is that bad in a somewhat lengthy post and seeing that upvoted. Really, wtf is wrong with some people; why would anyone upvote such a shitty comment? Funny enough, that same person ragequit Lobsters over “toxic behaviour” 🙃

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If you’re already frustrated and then see this “you did something wrong!” message, then, yeah, I can understand “well, fuck you too then, bye!” response.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I fully agree, but was there actually any significant amount of bad behaviour?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The bad behaviour I’m talking about is the tweet and the ragequit and the lack of any apparently constructive engagement - that smacks of someone who thinks that they deserve better because of their rep. It would be hard to imagine this post getting any upvotes from someone with no rep score or expert status.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It’s also super unconstructive if people know something is up, which is getting hinted at here a lot, if it’s not brought out into the open and a ragequit is an especially good time to do that: this particular situation could have been transformed from ‘I’m leaving this community because it’s not cool with me any more kthxbai’ into ‘I’m leaving immediately because I find X,Y,Z to be unacceptable. I tried to address this with A,B,C but that didn’t work out’. I didn’t see any of the latter but I didn’t look too hard. This would be great because it opens up the fact that X,Y,Z is happening and not doing that makes you look like you took personal offence - and at an automated message… it doesn’t add up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I’m not around here that much but I applied for the last moderation thing here https://lobste.rs/s/mox75k/2021_mod_applications . I checked a couple of times but there was no followup on that thread and I have no idea what the result of that was which I’m vaguely annoyed about. I lost interest in understanding what’s going on with moderation or caring about how things work at lobste.rs because of that, so I can imagine that people who are here more might be experiencing something stronger.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Well, it’s not the best response, sure, but like I said: there’s some context to this (or at least, I think there is – can’t really be 100% sure). And as far as bad behaviour goes, I’ve seen much worse. We’re all human; sometimes humans get frustrated and we need to allow for that too. To be honest I think especially your first comment is extrapolating far too much from a single data point.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It’s also super unconstructive if people know something is up, which is getting hinted at here a lot, if it’s not brought out into the open and a ragequit is an especially good time to do that: this particular situation could have been transformed from ‘I’m leaving this community because it’s not cool with me any more kthxbai’ into ‘I’m leaving immediately because I find X,Y,Z to be unacceptable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        You’re always going to end up frustrated if you’re one foot in a community where you don’t agree with some core principles on which the community was founded. I don’t think there’s any way to really avoid that without some draconic measures.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I don’t think it’s necessarily indicative there’s “something up”. Basically, it’s just human nature.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I mean, I really hesitate to use the word ‘community’ for lobste.rs these days. It doesn’t really feel like that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You’re always going to end up frustrated if you’re one foot in a community where you don’t agree with some core principles on which the community was founded. I don’t think there’s any way to really avoid that without some draconic measures.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yeah, the sad state of tech (by which I mean privileged white men in patriarchy and capitalism who ‘don’t do politics’) is that it doesn’t really know how to do anything that approximates healthy community, but healthy community is totally possible it’s just a shitload of work. Real world communities spend time and effort working on exactly what you’re referring to here and making things at least comfortable and understandable for members so that you need not be continually ‘frustrated’ about anything. There are plenty of ways for drawing out, talking about things and coming to ‘resolutions’ about things but these things have prerequisites and particular contexts. Seems like lobste.rs has some issues bubbling away but no way at all of dealing with them?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. 3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I think the community is mostly the Free Software/Open Source crowd. I think that almost everyone here has some sympathies towards it, although with varying intensities and opinions on it of course (MIT vs. GPL anyone?) That’s mostly what I was referring to.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Also, I think there’s a difference between a “healthy community” and a “community without any incidents”. It will be virtually impossible to have no incidents, especially if you want to allow a plurality of worldviews, opinions, and communication styles. The “best” and most friendly communities tend to be fairly homogeneous. That’s okay, but the further you move away from that the harder it becomes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. -1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I think you are right about good communities being work, and wrong in your casual racism–and that sort off-hand remark is exactly the sort of kindling that ends up causing flagging and flamewars.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. 1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Sorry I didn’t respond to your point. I’m not really extrapolating because I’m just reflecting on one single behaviour/action. I’m taking for granted that all the other reports of this being an excellent person indicate that this probably is an excellent person. But for me, this reinforces my point because excellent people don’t get a free ticket to occasionally do shitty things, which is what I’m describing this one thing that happened as. Anyway I feel like I’m overmaking that point and don’t need to belabour it if it doesn’t make sense or people don’t agree.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I get that there’s a ton of context I haven’t seen first hand but there is huge value in someone (anyone, jesus) bringing that context up together with their resulting action so that it’s being clearly talked about somewhere in a complete context where there’s a hope of constructive conversation leading to change. I feel like that should have been burntsushi but it wasn’t which was a wasted opportunity to improve the community. Now I feel like that should be you because you seem to know what is going on and you sound like a straight up person with a good balance of emotional sensitivity and reason. Is it more than a few paragraphs to make a post or comment with a clear description of what’s going wrong on lobste.rs?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. 4

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The problem users aren’t those that are excellent 999 times and have a (fairly mild) rare outburst one time (justified or not). That’s just human nature. The problem users are those who are frequently and consistently unpleasant but not quite unpleasant enough to warrant a ban.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The worst are the people who are genuinely insightful and helpful quite a lot of the time, but also an ass a lot of other times. “Excellent people don’t get a free ticket to occasionally do shitty things” definitely applies to these people as far as I’m concerned. Way too often have I seen people like this be tolerated (and have done myself, too) because “oh, they were so helpful those other times”. They contribute to a bad “vibe” and chase people off.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                But that’s quite a different situation than “someone who is consistently good and has one singular outburst”. Burntsushi didn’t contribute to an overall “bad vibe” on Lobsters, quite the opposite. I think people like that do get a sort of “free pass” (within limits, of course). They’re certainly not the people to focus on.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                At least two people he interacted with in the last few weeks squarely fall in the group I mentioned before: smart, often helpful, and also an asshole.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Is this a sign of an unhealthy community? Kind of. They chase people off, as I have written about that before. But on the other hand, if we only allow people who are always patient and non-assholes then it will be exclusionary too, just in a different way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                In this case, I have rarely have I seen either really step out of bounds. Would it be enough to warrant action? I don’t know. I probably would send a message to both though if I was a moderator with the gist of “you really could have done better there” (and perhaps this has happened, I don’t know).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Either way, my point is: it’s all about the patterns people exhibit, not incidents.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I get that there’s a ton of context I haven’t seen first hand but there is huge value in someone (anyone, jesus) bringing that context up together with their resulting action so that it’s being clearly talked about somewhere in a complete context where there’s a hope of constructive conversation leading to change.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                To be very clear: I haven’t spoken to burnsushi about this, and I’m just assuming things here. I think I have a fairly good idea, but I’m not sure and it’s entirely possible I’m just wrong and projecting my my own thoughts and feelings here. You really need to ask him this.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I feel somewhat uncomfortable going in to specifics here because I’m not really sure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Also, the difficulty with these things is that you can point to something and people will go “ah, that doesn’t smell of roses but it’s not that bad, is it?” This is often true, but as I mentioned above: it’s part of a general pattern and “vibe”. It’s really hard to explain this kind of thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. 3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          If someone says: ‘hey maybe something is up’ in a community then a reasonable thing to do is engage to see if there is something up

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But nobody said ‘hey maybe something is up’ though. It was an algorithm. It can’t know the specific circumstances, it just shows the message based on whatever numbers it calculates. Why should people take that seriously?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I believe you should read up on the person before saying stuff like this. It just sort of reads like you’re weighing in on something you don’t actually know about.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I made this comment not because I wanted to start a talk (which you are welcome to, but I may or may not reply since I’ve already spent literal hours here), but because I wanted to explain my flag, since over-use of flags is the subject at hand.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. 1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Yeah, it’s tiring isn’t it. It can be an easy thing to confuse ‘this behaviour was wrong’ with ‘this is a bad person’, but they’re extremely different and distinct, I said the former not the latter. It’s below but in back and forth with arp242, but summary is I’m not making any judgement about the person’s general behaviour, I’m saying this was a single specifically bad thing which, on its own, is an extremely unhealthy behaviour especially when it was an opportunity to bring things out in the open in order to at minimum have an open clear criticism of problem points. I don’t know anything about them and fully accept all the positive reports, but, doesn’t that make it worse? Why didn’t they put the time and effort into trying to explain why they were leaving or call out something specific as that would have avoided a bunch of bs internet drama and also created an opportunity for positive change?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks for the flag reason, I also probably won’t respond much but wanted to explain my position a bit as many people seem to have quick reaction like yours.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I can’t help but wonder if more people incorrectly flag as a way to air their frustrations, when in the past they would have downvoted instead.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I’m sure it’s impossible to measure accurately, though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I’ve gotten that too, and initially got a bit pissed off but then realized that a pause from social media is never a bad choice. If you think that burntsushi didn’t deserve this then we might disagree on how little of a punishment and how much of a vacation this actually is.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. 5

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            He posted on Twitter immediately after, it looks like? So not really a vacation from social media.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Same thing happened to me a year ago. My message exhorted me to contact a mod if I didn’t get it. Here was my message to a mod, which went unheeded:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Hi [REDACTED],

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I got a notification on my messages page stating I’ve been heavily flagged across “several stories” over the past 30 days. I riffled through my history for a minute, and I found three of my comments that each got a -1 “troll” docked off them, all on the same story: here, here, and here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            None of these seems like a troll comment to me, but maybe you could enlighten me? I’ve been here for a while, so I hope I haven’t just been getting nasty over the past 30 days; hopefully it’s just a misuse of the downvote button by one or more people.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This is the message that was on my dashboard (emphasis added):

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Your comments have been heavily flagged across several stories in the last 30 days. This notice appears conservatively: if you’re seeing it, something is unusual and bad and you need to make a change. Reconsider your behavior or just take a break. If you don’t understand why you’re seeing this after reviewing your recent threads, talk to a mod about what went wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            If you are outraged by this notice from a site that’s full of idiots and led by mods who are power-tripping assholes, you can delete your account from the bottom of your settings.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Thank you for your time, as a mod & community member!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Best, [REDACTED]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            PS, regarding the second part of the message: I wouldn’t think about leaving Lobsters for a second, I love this site and its community. I do get that some people feel otherwise and this message is meant for those people and not me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            However, reading that part of the message, I detected a note of sarcasm, and the sentiment made me feel kind of sad :/ I know this is just an automated message, but I hope it’s not being suggested—as the message seems to imply—that if this message alarms/offends me, then I am unwanted/confrontational and should see myself to the door.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. 2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I like the idea of a “beef button” rather than a “flag button”, to show that you have beef with what someone has said. That makes the language more mutual, and signifies that both the flagger and the flagee might not be making Lobsters a welcome place, or might not feel welcome here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. -8

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Good, this place doesn’t deserve him.