New feature: Vote comments up/down

New feature: Vote comments up/down

As part of our ongoing redesign we've added a new feature: the ability for logged-in users to vote comments up and down.

At the moment, all this does is display the number of up and down votes under the comment. This follows feedback from users that many people lurk but don't post. This means people often find a post useful or informative, but don't have a quick and easy way to show their appreciation. In this sense, an 'up' is analogous to a Facebook 'like'. Ups will also help admins spot useful links or additional info to edit into news articles, as we'll be making more effort to convert breaking news threads in the forums into news articles for the newswire.

On the other hand, people may find a comment unhelpful or rude, without it necessarily meriting being reported for breaching the site rules, and this gives a quick way for people to express that without getting into an argument about it (as ups/downs are anonymous).

For now we want to try this out and see how people use it and see how well it works. In the future, it will make various things possible, though we haven't decided what to do with it yet. We would be able to create blocks of 'most popular comments' as well as most recent e.g. in the side bar of forums or blogs. This would help stop valuable contributions disappearing so quickly.

We might also be able to auto-collapse posts that receive X number of down votes with a link to display them (a bit like YouTube does), or even to auto-unpublish such posts. We'd need to set the thresholds right for this to be useful though and to prevent abuse. We could also potentially do things like colour code comments according to which have been most/least popular and things like that too.

Posted By

libcom
Feb 26 2012 18:50

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Picket
Feb 28 2012 14:21

The only use I can see for this is UP as a means of acknowledging a poster who makes a post which states the case completely and clearly for everyone, rather than posting "This" or "Well said" or whatever.

If you agree but can expand or clarify, that requires a post.

If you disagree, that requires a post. [or admin action if the disagreement is about something that is not really debatable i.e. abuse etc]

THE END.

Epilogue
It would be strange if a discussion forum hosted only those views which were the consensus or mainstream. One of the points of discussion is to achieve some kind of consensus, and a forum is where that takes place. I would expect the historical posts on a forum to represent (many instances of) a process of discussion which leads somewhere. By definition, then, the forum will contain views which are not representative of a consensus (as it documents the process of achieving such).

To assume that any one post on a forum is representative of the site's consensus is idiotic. Therefore to seek to highlight those posts which are not representative, just in case the reader thinks they were, is to assume that the reader is an idiot!

Evie
Feb 28 2012 14:26

Hello.

I’ve been reading the site for a while but have yet to post because I dislike the aggressive/ macho tone of much of the discussions. I’ve read this blog and comments with interest, and as far as I can tell the new vote up/down looks like a good addition.

On many occasions I’ve found the substance of a discussion really interesting, but have not got involved because of the aggressive tone of some of the posters. If other ‘lurkers’ feel this way then the up/down vote will allow that to be expressed - and will mean I for one will be more likely to get involved in a discussion, knowing that some people (silent as they may be) have my back if the discussion gets aggro. Basically it will be good to know that while individual posters may act like dicks, the group as a whole at least recognises this.

Disappointingly (but predictably) the comments under this blog are by the usual suspects, and are exactly what I’d expect from people who like to dominate discussions.

Seen as revol68 has the most to say about this I thought I’d engage fully with his concerns, so below is my argument for the up/down votes.

revol68 wrote:
a vote down option is hardly more likely to encourage shy or nervous posters from posting their thoughts

Because a shy and retiring poster such as yourself would know exactly how they feel?
I disagree, for the reasons given above.

revol68 wrote:
That's before we even get into the whole post modernist crap of pseudo accountability and feed back.

It would give an impression of what users thought was unacceptable posting behaviour, yes.

revol68 wrote:
an opinion backed up with nothing more than a click is worthless.If you disagree with something enough you should post why, not click a button

If you agree with someone but have nothing to add to what they’ve said, an up vote does this perfectly well.

If you think someone is being unreasonable, bullying, macho etc, then by voting them down you can express that without the unreasonable macho bully shouting you down. Being able to show you dislike bullying is not “worthless”, and being able to do so without then being subsequently bullied for it is important.

revol68 wrote:
If people are put off posting for whatever reason we should seek to address that

Agreed. And this feature is a step in that direction.

I am put off posting by posters having massive tantrums and shouting down everyone who disagrees with them. I am put off by regular posters immediately dismissing changes that intend to encourage new users (e.g. such as the emphasising of the posting guidelines a short time ago) as being bad or populist.

Frankly I also find it depressing that so-called revolutionaries are so terrified of a minor change to a website. And rather amusing that it’s “populist” to take on board widespread criticisms but also: “wah wah wah, I don’t like it, why won’t the admins listen to ME?!”.

revol68 wrote:
If you can't be bothered enough to articulate why you think something then I'm afraid your opinion is next to worthless

If there’s a debate and I disagree with an opinion, then voting down is pretty pointless as it doesn’t offer an alternative. However, if I think what someone has said is unacceptable for its tone, e.g. if the poster is being macho/aggressive, then voting it down is far from worthless. For one, it allows me to express this without getting into an unpleasant argument with an aggressive poster. And more importantly, if several posters vote it down it demonstrates to any lurkers that, while one poster might be a dick, in general the users of libcom do not believe that this behaviour is acceptable. Which will help change the atmosphere/impression of libcom as being a macho and unwelcoming place. Which will encourage more people to give it a chance. Which will widen participation in discussion.

revol68 wrote:
A voting up and down system as a means of alleviating a perceived culture of macho one up manship and encouraging a wider range of voices to be heard?

Vote up = I agree with this post
Vote down = I think this post is unhelpful/ unpleasant

God yes, how terribly macho. It’s so much better to post 12 times on one thread shouting loudly how everyone else is wrong. That’s much more conducive to discussion.

Btw, while voting up/down might not be ‘getting involved’ in a discussion, posting 12 times on one thread is about the same as shouting in someone’s face. Hardly discursive. And a hell of a lot more macho than a simple up/down vote.

revol68 wrote:
also this kind of anonymous superficial "interaction" is everything communism rejects and sits perfectly well with the consumerist logic of capitalism.

I’m mainly quoting this because it’s hilarious. So, moving on...

revol68 wrote:
it just produces another layer of interpersonal bullshit that gets in the way of the actual substance of a discussion

No one is suggesting that the up/down votes replace discussion.
Like I’ve already said (as have you in fact), a vote up is a quicker way of typing “I agree”. If you agree and have something to add, then great, comment too.
And if you disagree with the substance of an argument, obviously a comment is necessary to begin a discussion. But if you disagree with the tone of a post, if you believe it to be aggressive etc, then you are able to point out that this is unacceptable without diverting the thread into a argument.

So in fact it should do the opposite of what you claim – it should allow discussion to remain on topic and substantive, rather than turning into an unrelated row and/or losing posters by remaining aggressive in tone.

revol68 wrote:
Revolutionary groups have always rejected anonymous voting as bourgeois, if you can't hold your hand and head up in front of the rest of your class and stand by your vote then you don't deserve to have one.

It allows you to agree with a post, or mark a post as unhelpful/unacceptable. The votes don’t do anything per se, but they will hopefully create an environment in which non-regular users feel more welcome. If you’re going to make an analogy, it’s less a vote and more the nodding and shaking of heads while someone speaks.

And being unable to back up your opinion is very different to being afraid of backing up your opinion. If my opinion is baseless, then fine maybe I don’t deserve a vote. If however my opinion is being silenced by my supposed comrades who can’t shut up long enough to let me speak, then maybe you’re not as revolutionary as you think.

revol68 wrote:
this kind of thing leads to ill feeling and most likely create a more aggressive/defensive mood on the boards

Funnily enough the only people being aggressive and defensive about this are posters who are often aggressive and defensive, i.e. the people afraid of being voted down and suddenly being shown to be less popular than they think they are.

revol68 wrote:
You hate posting? The what are you doing on a forum?
A bulletin board designed to encourage those who don't like discussion, hilarious.

This is exactly the problem. Someone who says they don’t like posting on libcom because of the tone and attitude of some of the posts basically gets told to piss off. I can’t imagine why people don’t feel able to enter a discussion.

And just fyi, a discussion isn’t the same as who can shout the loudest/ post the most frequently.

revol68 wrote:
Certainly my experience of macho bullies is that they are very quick to anger in the face of reason, resorting to posturing such as threatening violence (hilarious on the internet) or vague claims to being "the real deal" and how others are "all talk".

“Quick to anger” – You’ve posted 12 times about two words on a website.

“posturing” – You’ve basically told an infrequent poster to piss off.

“how others are “all talk”.” – You’ve accused libcom of bourgeois consumerism. Said that these two words are an example of “everything communism rejects”.

...

Anyway... in my experience, macho posters also like the sound of their own voice, like being in the in-crowd while claiming to speak for everyone else, hate criticism, cannot admit when they are wrong, and like to have the last word

revol68 wrote:
I also pointed out that it doesn't actually help encourage reluctance lurkers or the like to get involved as the ability to down vote anonymously adds another layer of judgement

As you are a regular poster who has been registered on the site for 8 years, might I suggest that you won’t know how reluctant new users will feel when posting on the site, or why they choose not to do so.

Speaking as someone who has read the site without posting for quite some time, I am far more worried about people shouting about how wrong I am/ telling me to piss off etc, than I am about a couple of votes.

And like I’ve said, I expect down votes to be used less to show disagreement with an opinion, and more to signify that a post is unacceptable in its tone.

Steven.
Feb 28 2012 15:01

Thanks for that thoughtful contribution Evie. As you say here:

Quote:
On many occasions I’ve found the substance of a discussion really interesting, but have not got involved because of the aggressive tone of some of the posters. If other ‘lurkers’ feel this way then the up/down vote will allow that to be expressed - and will mean I for one will be more likely to get involved in a discussion, knowing that some people (silent as they may be) have my back if the discussion gets aggro. Basically it will be good to know that while individual posters may act like dicks, the group as a whole at least recognises this.

This is basically the main reason we are trying this out.

Also, just to reassure you that even in the absence of up/down votes the site admins and most of the regular users will have your back if you are attempting to engage in discussion in a productive fashion, again someone being aggressive bullying. So I would urge you to speak your mind on here, and report any breaches of the posting guidelines. Cheers,

Caiman del Barrio
Feb 28 2012 15:25

Revlol68...

Juan Conatz
Feb 28 2012 15:37

Yeah, that needed to be said.

Picket
Feb 28 2012 16:01

Is my post (the one with the "epilogue") macho, aggressive, or bullying? It's been down-voted three times so far. I thought it was a fairly straightforward expression of my view on the up/down system, in a jocular form.

Evie wrote:
revol68 wrote:
a vote down option is hardly more likely to encourage shy or nervous posters from posting their thoughts

Because a shy and retiring poster such as yourself would know exactly how they feel?
I disagree, for the reasons given above.

This could mean that up-votes for your posts will be encouraging, and down-votes for aggressive posts might also be encouraging. I can see how that would be helpful to a shy poster.

But the reason for voting is left unspoken and although it might discourage aggressive posters, they might not know why they are being discouraged, they may have good ideas or be founts of knowledge but be in the habit of expressing themselves aggressively. I think they need to know the reason for the down vote if they are to alter their behaviour rather than just ceasing to post.

Another forum I used to use a lot, slashdot.org, has a system where posts may be marked (by users) as, for example, offtopic, insightful or troll. Maybe Down could be replaced by Aggressive or Bully or something?

EDIT whoever keeps voting my posts down is going to be sent to the gulag.

gypsy
Feb 28 2012 16:23
Evie wrote:
Hello.

I’ve been reading the site for a while but have yet to post because I dislike the aggressive/ macho tone of much of the discussions. I’ve read this blog and comments with interest, and as far as I can tell the new vote up/down looks like a good addition.

Quote:

The vote up and down feature is not going to change the tone of the discussions.

gypsy
Feb 28 2012 16:24
gypsy wrote:
hopefully its achievable.

Who the fuck voted that comment down? WTF!

sabot
Feb 28 2012 17:24
gypsy wrote:
gypsy wrote:
hopefully its achievable.

Who the fuck voted that comment down? WTF!

just memic what youtube does.

"5 people have peado-mustaches"

Choccy
Feb 28 2012 17:58

just in, voted every comment down
load of shite

jef costello
Feb 28 2012 18:25

The idea has its advantages. I'd like to be able to put 'likes' to a news article or library piece to acknowledge the work of whoever wrote/posted it. I've been trying to bookmark pieces I like or even just post thanks instead.
In terms of posting dislikes/downs etc the issue is what are they for.

-Are they to stop poor behaviour? Doubtful, is someone going to look at the dislikes and change their behaviour? Probably not, mainly because they'll have no idea why they've been disliked.

-Are they to show posters that we think something is unacceptable? On one level they do, but again we're not justifying it and we're not actually challenging it in a meaningful way. If there is something wrong with a post why isn't it being reported? Or challenged?

Evie wrote:
On many occasions I’ve found the substance of a discussion really interesting, but have not got involved because of the aggressive tone of some of the posters. If other ‘lurkers’ feel this way then the up/down vote will allow that to be expressed - and will mean I for one will be more likely to get involved in a discussion, knowing that some people (silent as they may be) have my back if the discussion gets aggro. Basically it will be good to know that while individual posters may act like dicks, the group as a whole at least recognises this.

I see your point but it is also showing that no-one cares enough to actually say anything about it. Sympathy rather than solidarity.

Evie wrote:
Disappointingly (but predictably) the comments under this blog are by the usual suspects, and are exactly what I’d expect from people who like to dominate discussions.

I might be missing something but revol isn't a very frequent poster here any more I don't think. The board culture when he was 'king of the shitheap' is largely gone.

Evie wrote:
If you agree with someone but have nothing to add to what they’ve said, an up vote does this perfectly well.

up smile

Evie wrote:
Which will help change the atmosphere/impression of libcom as being a macho and unwelcoming place. Which will encourage more people to give it a chance. Which will widen participation in discussion.

Out of interest is this a personal impression, and is it one you formed just from lurking?

Evie wrote:
If however my opinion is being silenced by my supposed comrades who can’t shut up long enough to let me speak, then maybe you’re not as revolutionary as you think.

You can post no matter how many times someone else posts. Unlike a real-life meeting everyone gets to talk and one person going on doesn't use up all the time and kill discussion.

revol68 wrote:
Certainly my experience of macho bullies is that they are very quick to anger in the face of reason, resorting to posturing such as threatening violence (hilarious on the internet) or vague claims to being "the real deal" and how others are "all talk".

*threatens revol*

revol68 wrote:
I think for your idea to work it would need to be made clear that the down button was for "unacceptable" behaviour and the like and not for political differences or whatever.

Yes, but even then apart from the issue of anonymity (bearing in mind we are on the internet), there's the question of who sees the info, and where it is displayed. Do we have a raw number on the post and then details on a drop down? For anyone to see or just the writer? or those who up/down

One other thing is that it would be quite easy for a group to make a concerted effort to vote people down. Whether it be a 'left' grouping (SWP putting 'down' on anything criticising them for example.) a far-right grouping, assuming the BNP 'attack dogs' can cope with the captcha or another unfriendly grouping such as a bunch of Ron Paul libertarians.

The ethos of the site has to be defined via debate, but I think it has to be expressed in the same way.

Armchair Anarchist
Feb 28 2012 18:49
gypsy wrote:
Instead of this voting daftness. I suggest that when someone quotes your posts, you are notified by a pm/alert. This will keep debates going along nicely. Don't know how hard this would be to implement as my programming knowledge is non existent.

Good shout. Also I would have thought a mobile-friendly version of the site would be more of a priority, it is a pain in the arse to navigate round on a mobile.

ps no down votes on this post please

gypsy
Feb 28 2012 19:18
revol68 wrote:
Embarrassing amount of paragraphs opening with "I think" in that post, I'd downvote myself for that alone.

Twin Peaks FTW!

Hieronymous
Feb 28 2012 20:26

I quit Facebook after watching The Social Network and seeing what a capitalist racket it is.

Shallow copies of Facebook's banalities, like anonymous "Up" and "Down" posts, just confirms how alienated the internet is making us as social beings. Psychological studies (e.g. Stephen Ilardi at University of Kansas) have shown that prolonged use of electronic media causes depression.

So this voting reminds me of immature grade school popularity contests where you like people with no other criteria than they are your friends.

Just another reason for me to stop posting on the forums and spend more time face-to-face with friends and comrades.

Thanks, libcom, for making that decision easier.

Steven.
Feb 28 2012 20:00

Facebook doesn't have a "down"

plasmatelly
Feb 28 2012 20:29

Just looked at this thread again - 48 new posts - it looks like everyone has gone mad.
Voting up or down is bollocks!

mons
Feb 28 2012 21:23

Dunno whether I think it's a good idea or not and there's valid points either way, probably trying it out is a good idea, but a couple of points.

revol68:

Quote:
Likewise the number of short posts I make doesn't drown out other voices, this is an internet forum not a real life meeting, it isn't zero sum, my posts have no bearing on your ability to post.

jef costello:

Quote:
You can post no matter how many times someone else posts. Unlike a real-life meeting everyone gets to talk and one person going on doesn't use up all the time and kill discussion.

This isn't true. When you post you help create a culture; if you post loads then you have a much bigger say in creating that culture. That culture can be off-putting or inclusive, but just by posting so much it's kind of an expression of a feeling of entitlement to be someone playing a big role in creating that culture. I think that's macho, and it mirrors dynamics in face-to-face social groups where loud, confident people - who tend to be men - normally dominate.
It does drown out other voices, because if you post more than your opinion is disproportionately heard, and other people's disproportionately under-heard.
It kills discussion and use up time. It uses up time to read the comments. It kills the discussion by derailing discussions (in the direction of the interest of the person who's doing all the commenting).

Alasdair
Feb 28 2012 22:23

I agree with Revol, so I have upped all of his comments to make this clear.

communal_pie
Feb 28 2012 22:55

I think you should have to justify your up's and down's with small comments and none of them should be anonymous, then it would make sense.

Armchair Anarchist
Feb 28 2012 23:01
Steven. wrote:
Armchair, the way this module works does allow you to both wrote something up and down, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work.

It's like a questionnaire question with a yes/no answer, where you can select both yes and no - the information has no value.

Steven.
Feb 28 2012 23:05
Armchair Anarchist wrote:
Steven. wrote:
Armchair, the way this module works does allow you to both wrote something up and down, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work.

It's like a questionnaire question with a yes/no answer, where you can select both yes and no - the information has no value.

yes it would, it would only have no value if people were to always answer both yes and no to every question. If what you are interested in is essentially a relative difference in numbers of yeses and nos then it does the trick, as if someone votes both up and down then numerically they cancel each other out and you can see it is equally approved/disapproved of.

That said, we may switch to a different module which doesn't allow both if it's a viable module at some point

jef costello
Feb 28 2012 23:13
mons wrote:
This isn't true. When you post you help create a culture; if you post loads then you have a much bigger say in creating that culture. That culture can be off-putting or inclusive, but just by posting so much it's kind of an expression of a feeling of entitlement to be someone playing a big role in creating that culture. I think that's macho, and it mirrors dynamics in face-to-face social groups where loud, confident people - who tend to be men - normally dominate.
It does drown out other voices, because if you post more than your opinion is disproportionately heard, and other people's disproportionately under-heard.
It kills discussion and use up time. It uses up time to read the comments. It kills the discussion by derailing discussions (in the direction of the interest of the person who's doing all the commenting).

It is true. You can still post regardless of how many other posts there are.
A person who posts more is not disproportionately heard, their opinion is disproportionately expressed (assuming they post the same thing and don't change, develop, engage). You can always skip posts, if the poster is genuinely repetitive or offensive then ignore them. They can't force you to respond.
It might drown out other voices to an extent, but it isn't the same as someone who dominates a meeting to the exclusion of others. While it might visually dominate the posts, it doesn't actually prevent them from being expressed.
Derailing is another issue, although to be honest the two most persistent derails in the history of libcom have been the situation in Ireland and criticising revol/forum culture.

If the person's behaviour is that disruptive then I stil fail to see how this will have any kind of effect.

Alasdair
Feb 28 2012 23:19

So I can up, down, both up and down, or neither up nor down. If only I could both up and neither up nor down.

Arbeiten
Feb 29 2012 01:25

lol @ thinking internet relationships are any more or less alienating than any other social relationships (excluding fam obviously).

Oenomaus
Feb 29 2012 04:24

Well, there is perhaps one thing that has gone unmentioned in this discussion: what should we do about it? If perhaps the majority of users here do not like the new comments feature, then should it be kept simply because the admins happen to think it will improve the site? Although I agree with Evie’s concerns about the macho/aggressive tone that can sometimes be seen on this time, I still remain unconvinced such a comment feature will mitigate it, and I agree with revol68 and Hieronymous’s criticisms. All it seems like it will do is turn libcom more into a “libertarian communist” version of Facebook. The most innovative thing libcom should really be doing, however, is going beyond superficial capitalist-mediated “interaction” as much as possible.

So why not hold a vote to see if the majority of users actually agree libcom should have this comment feature? You could have the voting start at a certain date and then end it at another date. I don’t really see how this would be such a problem to do.

Of course, it's possible my suggestion in this comment here will just be ignored by the admins, but I, and I'm sure others, think it would be in the interest of the users who frequent the site and libcom itself.

no.25
Feb 29 2012 04:08

Evie, I truly anticipate your response to Revol68.

Juan Conatz
Feb 29 2012 04:41

Let's see how much this can be dragged out into a discussion about whether a click of the mouse is buying into the spectacle.

gypsy
Feb 29 2012 08:33

In the future can we not introduce a vote system.

Basically a poll could be open for a week.

Do you want to see the facebookisation of libcom-yes or no? Or something along those lines! Then we could go with the majority?

Armchair Anarchist
Feb 29 2012 09:19
gypsy wrote:
In the future can we not introduce a vote system.

Basically a poll could be open for a week.

Do you want to see the facebookisation of libcom-yes or no? Or something along those lines! Then we could go with the majority?

Just don't allow people to vote both ways wall

Steven.
Feb 29 2012 09:24

What we plan to do is trial it for a month to see if it makes the site better.

People here have opposed pretty much every suggestion for change we have ever proposed, including for example changing the name from enrager to libcom, at the time, but later have come to appreciate it. So better than voting we think is looking at the concrete results.