An Invitation to Refrain from Downvoting Posts into Net-Negative Karma

I originally wrote this as a comment on a post which had negative net karma when I first saw it. I figure what I wrote is worth also posting to the top level, so that it can have more chance to be seen and thought about

When I came upon this post, it had a negative karma score. I don’t think it’s good form to have posts receiving negative net karma (except in extreme cases), so I upvoted to provide this with a positive net karma.

It is unpleasant for an author when they receive a negative karma score on a post which they spent time and effort to make (even when that effort was relatively small), much more so than receiving no karma beyond the starting score. This makes the author less likely to post again in the future, which prevents communication of ideas, and keeps the author from getting better at writing. In particular this creates a risk of LessWrong becoming more like a bubble chamber (which I don’t think is desirable), and makes the community less likely to hear valuable ideas that go against the grain of the local culture.

A writer who is encouraged to write more will become more clear in their communication, as well as in their thoughts. And they will also get more used to the particular expectations of the culture of LessWrong- norms that have good reason to exist, but which also go against some people’s intuitions or what has worked well for them in other, more “normie” contexts.

Karma serves as a valuable signal to authors about the extent to which they are doing a good job of writing clearly about interesting topics in a way that provides value to members of the community, but the range of positive integers provides enough signal. There isn’t much lost in excluding the negative range (except in extreme cases).

Let’s be nice to people who are still figuring writing out, I encourage you to refrain from downvoting them into negative karma.