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Why reddit style voting is actually great

Just about every time there is a meta discussion there are people suggesting that upvotes/downvotes are just agree/disagree buttons, or that we should just get rid of them altogether.

It is less common to see a defense of voting, but I think it is desperately needed.

My main thesis is that votes are accurate at conveying information, but that many people do not like the information they convey. I believe most people treat the vote buttons as basically a like/dislike button. Users do not always enjoy learning that their posts are "disliked" or the posts of their own that they like the most aren't always "liked" as much by others. Hiding votes does not remove the underlying sentiment though, it just makes it harder to pick up on, or delays discovery for the writer.

Looking through my own "top" and "bottom" comments I am not surprised or offended by their placement. My "bottom" comments are often my controversial mod decisions, or times when I have decided to defend viewpoints that are unpopular here on TheMotte (like race blindness, or open borders). The most hated "controversial" comments also seem to be ones where I am closing off avenues of discussion rather than opening them up. My top comments are usually me sharing information/perspective on a culture war topic that others might not have. And a few times of me writing good pieces about culture war stuff. I often find it helpful to look at other user's top/bottom comments when I have to do mod related research. Top comments often provide many reasons for exoneration, and bottom comments can highlight patterns of bad behavior. An important thing to note here is that votes are great for comparing comments within a single user's history, but not between users.

The agree/disagree critique

One common critique that I linked to above is that people just use the buttons as shorthand for agree/disagree and that this signalling of agreement or disagreement would lead to favored views being rewarded too much, and unfavored views being chased off.

However, this is a problem with and without voting buttons. At best your are simply delaying this discovery for a few moments before they get flooded with comments that very clearly indicate people disagree with them. I did not need to wait 24 hours to find out that people disagreed with me on race blindness or open borders. It was very quickly obvious from the responses (and I was aware before hand that these views would be controversial).

I also think votes, and especially visible vote scores can be a bit of a pressure valve. There are sometimes people that just feel the need to express in some way "I don't like your post/views". One way for them to do this is to downvote. Another way for them to do this is to leave a short comment to the same effect. Sometimes the comment might even look like they are interested in a discussion. When I am in the position of getting dogpiled for a controversial view I would universally prefer the downvote to a go-no-where comment that basically says "i don't like your post/views". This is also one of the times when I most wish I could see other people's vote scores. I'd prefer responding to what other people consider the "best" version of the counterarguments.

Finally, what is so bad about signalling agreement or disagreement? People have views and opinions, we don't need to fool ourselves on this. I don't think we are tricking anyone by hiding the votes that these disagreements don't exist.

Ending notes:

  1. I am writing this as a user stating my preferences. There has not been internal mod discussion about changes to voting. Status quo is likely to remain in place.
  2. It is probably a little rude to go through other people's history for examples an counterexamples to voting. I'm fine with anyone doing that with my profile, but its probably best to not drag other users into this discussion unless someone gives explicit permission.
  3. The rdrama codebase that the site is based on had more features and granularity around voting, we mostly do not have those features turned on or fully working on this website.
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Hmm, I don't exactly disagree. But I think a major problem is that people optimize for votes (Goodhart's law) instead of what the votes are supposed to represent. This happens even without votes, and we can conclude that people are the problem... But still, if a lack of votes removes some of the cognitive punishment or reward of posting something that everyone agrees or disagrees with, and helps people focus on what's important, I think it might be a good idea still.

Lets assume that I'm wrong and that none of these problems actually apply to voting (that common critiques against voting are wrong). Now I want to ask: What's the benefit of votes? Do they just reveal information about what the average reader thinks about your comments? I don't think that's all that valuable, mostly because I don't trust the average opinion of a community as a judge of quality.

The crowd seems to be good at telling that something is different, and shunning it. But differentiating between "Different because it's better than what's popular" and "different because it's worse than what's popular" seems like an impossibility. The votes just steer one towards sameness, inside-jokes, preaching to the choir, saying what people already think and agree with. This is why echo-chambers and excessive use of inside-references ('circlejerking') happen.

Some places will have comments which are out of place because they're excellent or written by a highly intelligent people, and other comments will of course be out of place because they're garbage or written by mentally ill people. But votes (well, people in general) seem to protect against both positive and negative change. It seems like the familiar is felt as good, and the unfamiliar is felt as bad. To the point that people will joke about among us despite claiming to dislike it. This is probably a quirk of human nature?

I'm planning someday to write an entire post of my own proposing an alternative to the up/down vote system, but here I will provide a basic sum up of my thoughts on it: I agree that it's a good way to convey accurately the overall opinion of the community on the post/comment, it's just that this leads to biased interpretations of people of whether it's right or wrong.

Take for example the post here about Café Américain's article questioning the mainstream climate change narrative. I thought the article made some good points, most people didn't agree, that's okay. The problem is that the voting itself kinda warps the perception I already had; just seeing it made me feel the article had some problem or was mostly based on faulty reasoning/evidence. If it's downvoted, must be for some good reason, right?

Of course, you may scoff at this and reply "Oh hoho, we're rationality aspirants here, buddy, we're able to understand disapproval of someone's opinion does not mean anything regarding whether that opinion is solid or not!" However, this entire community is made (supposedly) of people who think that way, so that sampling leads to an not so subtle bias whether we like it or not: "since the community is made of people who try to be above bias and interpret opinions in a way that is unaffected by public opinion or peer pressure, any voting sample of those same people of an article must convey whether that article was well argued or not".

If we're going to be a rationality community, we can do better, and we might as well at least try having a review system for posts/comments that conveys how much light it brings. I'm thinking of something like Reddit's awards system along the lines of this SSC article on levels of disagreements: basically, the post/comment gets an award based on whether there was a genuine attempt to disagree in order to find some truth, or whether it was just made to boo some point of view and generate a negative response towards it, with an award that categorizes the post/comment as a meta-debate, an (bad) award for social shaming and gotchas, one for at least avoiding that and making an argument or a series of ones, one for high level disagreements over facts/meaning of words, and one for value disagreement, where there isn't any attempt to claim the other side is factually wrong, but states to have another moral framework.

Prone to improvement? Absolutely, but I consider it a step in the right direction.

Reddit prevents you from commenting too much if you get too many downvotes, and it causes your comments and posts to be autoremoved in many subreddits. Comments are also sorted by scores and comments with significant downvotes are hidden. Personally, I don't care when I find out that a lot of people disagree with me when I know it's because I'm just expressing an unpopular opinion. But I do mind being prevented from participating and I mind that it causes others who with unpopular opinions to leave, which leads to less diversity of opinion and more biased voting. The results speak for themselves. Reddit's famous hivemind results in communities with very little dissent and a sometimes shocking level of agreement on even highly controversial topics, resulting in an artificially narrow Overton window that makes people much less comfortable expressing disagreement.

I used to participate on a couple of sites that used the Disqus commenting system, which displays the usernames and avatars of all upvotes and formerly also downvotes. One benefit of that feature is that you can tell if the up- and downvotes are coming from regular members of the community or from inveterate lurkers, which can help you decide whether or not you should give a single thought to the downvotes. It also reduces the incentive for users to downvote every comment they see from someone they dislike in an attempt to discourage them from posting, since the “victim” can see that the downvotes are always coming from the same crank.

I don’t care about votes one way or the other as much as some people here seem to, but I’m a little surprised that the thought of de-anonymizing votes doesn’t come up more. I think one of the mods said that they can see who upvotes and downvotes any given post, so it’s something the rdrama codebase evidently already tracks.

This gives me a moment of inspiration: don't count the votes of lurkers. Set some minimum level of comments for votes to start counting.

I will say this: it is frustrating to get downvotes without replies. I'm not exactly a super-controversial poster - I think it's like 1% of my posts are net-downvoted and close to 50% have no downvotes at all - but it does grate every time I see a post get a bunch of downvotes without an explanation, and because they're anonymous I can't just go and interrogate the downvoters for what they think is bad.

Obviously, this is why my flair is what it is, but it hasn't really helped much. I'm half suspecting that a decent chunk of the voters are nonposting lurkers.

This is not a question of "I don't like the information"; it's that it teases information without actually giving the actionable details to me. And sure, the interface allows a manual downvote insofar as one can make a post saying "you suck", but those are banned here and TTBOMK not just because "the downvote button exists".

I don't think I've had this problem on themotte, but I've definitely had it frequently on reddit. Sometimes it seems to be almost random, and in those cases I don't mind, I can accept the reddit hivemind being occassionally schizo. But often it'll be because I say something right-libertarian on a standard lefty sub. And while I certainly can understand redditors disagreeing with the vibe of the post, I'm left frustrated and unknowing what their actual disagreement is.

probably because you didn't denounce Trump, or Republicans in general, in vitriolic enough language.

If you think it's frustrating as an outsider seeing lots of downvotes, imagine getting them

No, I meant when I get some (usually not as many as I get upvotes, but some). As I said, about half my posts do get at least some downvotes (and some of those don't have replies). Sorry for the confusion.

I think you're broadly correct, especially for a giver of votes/broad health of a thread perspective, but the actual number of up or downvotes can matter from a receiver point of view. Like, for downvotes (for me on reddit at least), one or two is like "okay the one person I got into a replychain with disgrees with me, big surprise" or "I knew this wasn't super popular"; some middle number is "okay did I actually have some error/wrongness?" self doubt; a lot of downvotes is usually me getting at least a little upset that something I believe and is true was downvoted in a dogpile typically without much thought.

Like, try to say anything about how maybe forgiveness should be your first instinct on /r/AITA or /r/relationships or the like and the fangs come out. It's a bit depressing. It's like people have forgotten what "asshole" really means (it's more than obligation, it's about expectation!) and seem to ascribe little value to allowing people to make mistakes or say things they don't fully mean. But I digress.

For upvotes, a few is a small warm fuzzy, a middle amount makes me feel like I made a great point, and an excessive amount makes me feel like I just got randomly lucky in the algorithm.

Makes me wonder if capping up/downvotes at some middle number would actually be the most helpful proposal, both here and reddit both! Keeps practical benefits and natural behavior as you outlined, but discourages dogpiles and karmawhoring and other mob-like behavior. Like, literally remove the button and just display "Max Upvotes" or "Max Downvotes" instead! Maybe still make it light up or react to somewhat placate people who would be otherwise frustrated in their ability to participate, while still conveying that your additional vote made no difference.

Edit: The threshold for capping should be set at the middle to upper end of the middle group, and depend on the post/sub/recent history so it's not static but relative. I think I thought this, but didn't quite say it. So it allows people to upvote things up to a certain level of quality (or badness) but then everything beyond that is superfluous. How well it works might well depend on how well the threshold is set.

some middle number is "okay did I actually have some error/wrongness?"

When I get a moderate net downvotes on a comment, it is because I've gone against an American conservative sentiment. So I don't generally question my wrongness but instead take it as a difference of opinion. Me not placing great respect for the norms of 1950s America is quite unpopular. I'm going to acknowledge it is locally unpopular and refuse to change my opinion.

I think the dogpiles for valuable comments is good information to receive. The information in that case is that the value system of the subreddit has heavily diverged from your value system and you should leave. And you can feel free to trash talk them elsewhere where you know that people do share your value system.

I don't like capping. It loses information to spare feelings. But again the votes are generally representing a true underlying sentiment. In a place like TheMotte that sentiment will just come out via comments.

Yeah but values systems can change with the introduction of new information. For example, early on during covid in 2020 comments on Hacker News that diverged from the Official Narrative were heavily downvoted. Now the pendulum has swung 3/4 the other way. I think it's valuable keeping these people around. They were not wrong but early.

Their values (downvote anyone with socially-disapproved views) haven’t changed; the only thing that has changed is which views are socially-disapproved.

For the open-minded HN commenters, sure, it’s nice to have people of opposing views stick around, since odds are some subject will come up where they’ll end up being right. But for the ones who were right about Covid and were downvoted into oblivion, why exactly would they want to stick around? Votes are information. In the case of Covid skepticism, the crowd at HN was opposed to hearing from anyone who questioned the Official Narrative. If the skeptics left and the site is now poorer for it, the user base has no one but themselves to blame. As with voters a democracy, they deserve to get what they want, good and hard.

But for the ones who were right about Covid and were downvoted into oblivion, why exactly would they want to stick around?

Because there will be no communities remaining by this criteria . There will always be some issue where there is friction for any community no matter how compatible your values are.

Maybe so, maybe not. If your primary value is truth-seeking/learning and you find out that the community you’re participating in has conflicting overarching values (social conformity, for example), then the mismatch will cause friction. To me, that seems like a cue to move on and to try to find a different community with values that more closely match your own.

Well yeah, that's exactly my point. I'd say that capping to prevent excessive dogpiling is a retention measure of sorts -- the idea is exactly that for a forum like this you want to keep people who have heavily divergent value systems around still, right? Perhaps inorganically limiting vote information is just slightly harmful to the individual but the benefit to the community is of some substance in comparison. And to some extent, all our online structured interactions already have inorganic limitations, so I don't see why capping would be off limits or a violation of some special principle.

We're already making compromises for the sake of many things. If you wanted maximal value + information exchange/interaction you'd be like, hopping on a Discord call directly with someone, but the nature of the forum is that many don't have time for that and also that this more limited form allows broader viewership and participation beyond a bilateral exchange. And text-based communication, I'd argue, is inherently more likely to result in hurt feelings than other types where you have tone and nonverbal cues and trust etc etc so attempting to set limits on drive-by casual sources of emotional hurt is completely logical. Dogpiles are like, a negative externality rather than a deliberate and attributable decision of any one person or group.

The information in that case is that the value system of the subreddit has heavily diverged from your value system and you should leave.

I thought people with heavily diverged value systems leaving, is exactly what we want to avoid?

Depends on the value systems we are talking about. Divergent political beliefs, we'd like to keep.

But divergent value systems related to discussion are not what we'd like to keep. For example, if you think its a good idea to insult everyone you speak with that disagrees with you then I don't want you here.

I suspect there are different groups here with differing attitudes on that point. Some of us like having a diversity of views (this is one reason I upvote posts that I disagree with), while others are happy to see this place turned into an echo-chamber. Votes come from both groups.

the actual number of up or downvotes can matter from a receiver point of view. Like, for downvotes (for me on reddit at least), one or two is like "okay the one person I got into a replychain with disgrees with me, big surprise" or "I knew this wasn't super popular"; some middle number is "okay did I actually have some error/wrongness?" self doubt; a lot of downvotes is usually me getting at least a little upset that something I believe and is true was downvoted in a dogpile typically without much thought.

This is a major reason why I tend to avoid diy subs on reddit. The groupthink in those trumps knowledge 9 times out of 10, even if I'm more qualified to answer the question than 99.99% of readers. Usually the result of "No, that's not correct. You should do this instead because it solves problems X & Y" gets just downvotes in response.

No, voting patterns do not necessarily reflect value, truth, or even provide useful information for that matter. I recall recently on reddit's quant forum someone asked about about which strategy an individual was using, and I answered exactly and was still downvoted a lot even though no one objected or responded to how I was wrong, nor did anyone supply a better answer. My explanation was almost verbatim as the guy's strategy. Same for dieting/weight-loss subs where people get downvoted for perfectly good or useful advice. There are many instances like this, where perfectly good, well-worded responses get downvotes.

Not just Reddit but also Hacker News has this problem. Early on during Covid, for example, commenters who questioned the official narratives about the origins of virus and mask/social distancing efficacy were downvoted heavily; fast-forward four years and even the NYTs is writing full-featured articles entertaining the possibly of a lab leak, because no better explanation has been brought forward.

Just because voting patterns sometimes convey useful information does not mean they do often enough to be considered objective or reliable. If people did downvote out of disliking something personally, that would still convey information compared to voting on things even if there is no evident reason as to how or why it is bad, only that it is. For example, downvotes on comments promoting capitalism on a Marxist sub would be expected, but imagine if pro-Marx posts got downvoted a lot too. That would be confusing, but that is what happens a lot too.

I think there should be a delay before votes are visible to prevent possible bandwagon effects but I think votes should be shown to the individual in-real time so as to be able to better-ascertain the quality of a comment. If something is getting heavily downvoted, in light of the above, it may still may me pause and think if I am epistemologically blind to something. A few comments which explicitly and strongly state where I wrong is reason enough to know it will be downvoted a lot without having to see the number.

If what we care about is incentivizing good discourse then it makes sense to separate the singular vote into different metrics:

  • insightfulness

  • concision (& citation)

  • enjoyability

  • agreement

I think these are the top four. Perhaps the “singular vote” can be an amalgamation of these, if we even need the singular value. Each of these four has its own use. Agreement serves a polemic function, insight is the actual reason and telos of all discourse, enjoyability is a requirement for all reading due to human nature, and concision is the efficiency metric which benefits total discourse by increasing the amount of reading someone can do. By separating the singular vote into four, someone can see where his posts can be improved. The number can appear like the “cardinal directions” with a value on all four sides, and if we want a singular value it would appear in the middle. The numerals can be color-coded or gradiated by opacity/boldness so it stands out to the eye.

The current “singular vote” is not optimal. It weighs way too heavy toward agreeement and effort. Agreeability serves a function but it too easily becomes mob rule. For certain issues, only the most passionate people are going to vote, so it allows the impassionata way too much influence on the exact topics that should be dispassionately voted on. Effort is nice, but if the post isn’t insightful, concise, and enjoyable, then the effort is misplaced. By having four different metrics we can now sort comments in interesting ways: which are the most enjoyable? Which are the most insightful?

I disagree that “votes” don’t matter, as I have a feeling that all discourse invariability imitates the form of the discourse. Twitter isn’t just a medium, it is itself is a message, because its form incentivizes a particular kind of dumbed-down ”common folk” quip. There’s likely an invisible effect from all voting methods and all medium formats.

I also think a user shouldn’t have unlimited votes. There should be a set number of votes they can apply per week. If they want to vote more than that then their vote should be discounted. I think the kind of person who votes on every comment they read is a unique personality profile which doesn’t represent the total community.

With a multi vote system I'd just worry that all votes would tend to heavily correlate. You could tell people to vote a certain way, but they don't listen when told "dont just vote based on agreement" so why would they listen to the rules for another system?

We also have a two vote system sort of. Reporting things is kind of a mega vote. With lots of ways things can be 'negative quality' and just one way that they can be positive quality: AAQCs. These two voting systems do tend to often correlate.

How much do votes matter to you when writing things on here? Introspectively I like knowing the vote numbers, but I care more about the feedback coming from people actually responding and commenting. It was the same on reddit. If I ever had comments that got negative amounts of karma, but then one person saying "not sure where all the downvotes are coming from, i totally agree with you". My overall feelings about that comment would be positive not negative.

I suppose I feel that the form of this website is truly text and discussion based. The votes are there as an extra thing. They are akin to facial expressions in a conversation. They can say things, sometimes quite a bit. But you also need to do the whole speaking thing for the facial expressions to even matter.

I don't like limiting vote numbers, I feel the numbers are already low enough. And I feel that the reporting system is a way of having "limited voting numbers" its not limited strictly, it just has a sort of soft limit where reporting things isn't as low effort as voting, so people tend to do it way less. I also feel that limiting voting systems creates a place where there are big winners/losers and then a huge section of middle ground where nothing gets voted on at all. So asking for it kind of feels like just asking for no voting at all, but still allowing a reporting system.

With lots of ways things can be 'negative quality' and just one way that they can be positive quality: AAQCs. These two voting systems do tend to often correlate.

What was the most controversial post that gathered the most AAQCs and "regular" reports?

I'd have to guess one of Hlynka's posts, but I'm not actually sure.

TIL that while we don't have access to the reporting numbers, we can sort all comments ever by controversial, with the most controversial comment of all time being about communication styles.

I was not surprised in confirming that it's easy to sort all posts by controversial... or really in seeing that the most controversial post of all time was about philosophy of science.

Yeah, multi-vote systems are a classic "I have a new system that if everyone uses it correctly will solve the problem of people using the current system incorrectly"

I think in interest of actual usability, two scores could be used on a positive/neutral/negative scale: 'value' and 'agreement'. You could remove the neutral if you want since it's basically the default reading of a non-vote. So then you get +/- on value and agreement. Lots of times I can see value in posts that I disagree with and my usual habit has always been to prioritize that as the metric I use. Others prioritize agreement. Maybe you could separate them out. I have my doubts that it would work, but maybe.

This scheme assumes no strategic voting. And strategic voting under this scheme is just "always vote down both value and agreement", so it's pretty easy.

A problem with “value” is that biased people will misconstrue agreement for value yet again. Value is too vague. Dunking on someone will be “valuable”. With something like “concision” and “insight”, it’s much harder to fib to yourself that you’re not upvoting it just because you agree with it.

Ultimately defectors with defect. But there must be some way to mechanism design theory our way toward to optimal discourse.

I don't think votes actually matter at all. Sure, purely theoretically it could make sense to separate the upvotes into "same opinion", "insightful" and "top kek", while the comments people should downvote should be reported instead, but I think they are just irrelevant on a website the size of The Motte. I've frequented mailing lists and internet forums that were larger than The Motte before liking content was even invented, and they all managed fine without them. It's not like we're inundated with content from people we barely know and have to rely on algorithmic sorting to choose what we want to read.

I used to be in many pre voting internet groups. There was often lots of useless comments that were basically up votes or down votes. "This is epic!" "This is bad, and you should feel bad for posting it."

Controversial opinion. It's pathetic to care about votes. They are just numbers on a screen. I don't think the motte votes any more consciously or rationally than a mainstream reddit subreddit. They are just agree/disagree buttons. If you post is long and especially detailed, you might flip the script a bit, but that happens on reddit as well.

The metric I use internally is how many responses and sub responses my comments get. And on that front, I think I do somewhat decent.

Controversial opinion. It's pathetic to care about votes. They are just numbers on a screen.

I'm sorry, but I had to downvote this comment because I disagreed with it and did not like it. If it makes you feel better, though, my downvote is just a number on a screen.

The metric I use internally is how many responses and sub responses my comments get

You might already be aware, but "number of child comments" is in fact a metric that is tracked on the motte -- it's what it means when you view someone's comments and choose the somewhat-confusingly-named "comments" sort order.

I'm sorry, but I had to downvote this comment because I disagreed with it and did not like it. If it makes you feel better, though, my downvote is just a number on a screen.


There are cases where a comment is just really good, and nothing further needs to be said. I'd say I get the most comments when people think I'm wrong or they disagree. Votes can be a second measurement in these cases. You can verify if people were reading it at least.

I think if caring about votes on themotte is pathetic then so is general participation here as well. I would rather describe it as a recreational activity.

Consider a situation where you respond to someone in depth, with some insightful first-hand knowledge and research. You spend an afternoon crafting the perfect response, to explain why the person you are responding to is just simply wrong. After submitting, no one responds to it.

Without upvotes, you don't know if no one read your response. Maybe it was too long. Maybe your writing style needs improvement.

But if you see that this response received unanimous upvotes, then it tells a different story. Maybe your argumentation was so impeccable that everyone who read it had to agree with you.

Upvotes can be the difference between a comment that is extremely well-written or an utter failure.

Upvotes/downvotes are a rough numeric metric of how high status someone is in a given online community, which is the closest thing to "vibes" people experience in a real life community. From that perspective it is perfectly reasonable to care about your arbitrary internet points.

I think this is correct on a post level. But reddit-style voting is often used for more than just posts. For example, the score often determines sorting, so high-agreement posts come first and are more likely to be read. Similarly, highly negative posts get hidden from view. Finally, on Reddit, post karma adds up to a total score for the user, which keeps people trying to get a higher score. Not to mention that some subreddits require certain karma levels to post.

It might be interesting to see explicit agree/disagree buttons and then show something like "18 votes, 86% agreement".

Agreed, measurements that become goals don't remain good measurements.

Here, you can see the breakdown.

I agree with your first bolded highlight. On reddit voting was easily gamed by subreddit brigading to create a false appearance of consensus, but that's not an issue on a single-sub-site.

I also think votes, and especially visible vote scores can be a bit of a pressure valve. There are sometimes people that just feel the need to express in some way "I don't like your post/views". One way for them to do this is to downvote. Another way for them to do this is to leave a short comment to the same effect.

Why would I or anyone else who doesn't like the upvote/downvote system care about indulging this feeling? If you feel like you disagree with someone but can't explain why, move on. Don't engage. Instead, go do something else. No one is going to hold your participation or lack thereof against you. Not any of us, anyways.

God knows most people would benefit from engaging with the culture war less.

Why don't you like the upvote/downvote systems?

I certainly like the idea of telling users to just be better. I do this all the time as a moderator. But being a moderator also gives me a certain level of practicality about how people behave. This just doesn't feel like a marginal line I'm willing to hold people accountable over. Even if I had access to everyone's voting paterns, I'd be loathe to hold a single user accountable to any of their votes.

Most people could probably engage less, as I mentioned in Wednesday Wellness thread, I'll probably be at the pool more this summer and thus engaging less. But a need to engage less is not actually an argument against voting. The voting is low effort very quick participation, only a few extra seconds compared to just reading the posts. Commenting definitely increases the time commitment.

Just because you have ceased to cater to / platform / respond to someone, does not mean that person has ceased to exist.

Why don't you like the upvote/downvote systems?

I hate that people use them as a means of enforcing what opinions are considered good or bad. I have very rarely downvoted, only doing so if I think a user is not actually trying to contribute to the thread, even if their opinions are unacceptably vile. Letting people indulge their desire to indicate a position's popularity is bad, doubly so for a platform meant to move us past shady thinking.

But a need to engage less is not actually an argument against voting.

It's an argument against fast forms of engagement, which you agree that voting is.

Just because you have ceased to cater to / platform / respond to someone, does not mean that person has ceased to exist.

No doubt. The question is whether a a person should be catered or responded to.

This just cedes the territory to people who are skilled at writing posts that are maximally annoying but time-consuming or frustrating to refute with as much evidence as they demand. (Or who ghost and return to demand the same evidence over and over, pretending the previous conversation never happened).
This is a common tactic, as you will have noticed on reddit and certain heavily downvoted users here.

Even taking your example, there is no clear indication that voting is a good solution. An unpopular argument is just as likely, if not moreso, to get downvoted than one that is maximally annoying.

But again, you don't have to engage. There is no limit on the bits available in the site. No one is getting their comments deleted if some people choose to post in bad faith the way you describe.

I don't know anything about the rdrama features, but I've been pleased with most of the results I've seen from LessWrong separating "overall karma" voting vs "agreement karma" voting. Probably some of that is just from the selection effect of their userbase, but maybe the first thing to do to get people to stop confusing quality for agreement is to allow them to easily acknowledge agreement in the absence of quality and quality in the absence of agreement.

Are people good about using the two voting types separately?

There's probably still a correlation, but it's not uncommon to see comments that are highly voted up on one sense and heavily voted down on the other, so it can't be too too bad.


I was actually expecting more push back on this, maybe people just haven't seen it yet.

Okay, more seriously, I generally agree. I think it is worth pointing out that like/dislike (as you suggest) is more accurate than agree/disagree (as some suggest)—I, at least, will sometimes upvote comments that I disagree with if I'm in a productive conversation with them, and will fail to upvote comments that I otherwise agree with if it's in some respect bad, including beyond content.

I also agree that it's useful to look at user's most upvoted and downvoted posts, even when not a mod. It helps remind me a little of their own inclinations, should I forget, and highlights good old posts from them.

I'll also do a thing where I upvote what I think of as the good conversation for a thread, and downvote the bad conversations.

If I see someone getting dogpiled I try to read through all the other responses before I write anything, to make sure I'm not being redundant. If I find that others have written what I would have then I just upvote them and move on.

It just seems like such a useful tool, but a lot of people tend to dislike it.

Oh, I also definitely do some affirmative action in the form of "normally I wouldn't upvote this, but you've already been downvoted plenty, it's good enough, and I don't want you to think everyone hates you."

My only complaint about hiding scores for 24 hours is that it makes doing this much harder and less useful. I don't want to upvote a mediocre comment on the mere guess that people are probably piling on downvotes-for-disagreement, even if I'm pretty accurate with those guesses.

You can get some information as to the current net total by going to their profile (assuming history's not hidden), and sorting by top or bottom, time restricting as necessary. For example, my "upvoted" comment at the start of this thread must currently be at 2, since it appears after the 3s and before the other 2s, and they're sorted secondarily by time. That doesn't say how it breaks down, of course, though.

I still think Slashdot came up with the best system for weighing posts of value. Give people fewer votes so they spend them on things that are really meaningful and add feedback from a larger population of 2nd level views to weigh whose views to increase and decrease in importance.

One thing I would probably do here is to boost the size impact of votes outside the culture war thread, there's far, less engagement both up and down in nearly every other thread on the site, even relatively popular ones like Friday fun or Sunday small questions.

I haven't ever used the slashdot system. It sounds like a downside though is that low user counts might lead to not enough voting to distinguish good from bad. Most comments would just hover around "not voted on", whereas reddits system gives a more granular picture.

I also like Slashdot's system, but Less Wrong has an improvement, too. They've got 2 vote counts, for more-or-less "quality" and "agreement". I think it's helpful practice to separate those two aspects in one's mind, even if one never votes.

In general, I try to use the votes here as a combination of quality and agreement. I try to upvote high quality posts even if I don't agree with them, and downvote low quality even if I do agree. But it's hard. And so because of the norms here, most of the time I use upvotes as a substitute for posting a one-liner saying "this!" or "I agree" or "this seems important" or "I think this is the part of the thread everyone should read" or "more of this please", and use downvotes for the opposite.