Voting etiquette

Not all that sur­pris­ingly, there’s quite a lot of dis­cus­sion on LW about ques­tions like

  • just what should get voted up or down?

  • what con­clu­sions can one rea­son­ably draw from get­ting down­voted?

  • should down­votes (or even up­votes) be ac­com­panied by ex­pla­na­tions?

  • should the way karma and vot­ing work be changed?

This gen­er­ally hap­pens in dribs and drabs, typ­i­cally in re­sponse to more spe­cific ques­tions of the form

  • Waaaa, how come my supremely in­sight­ful com­ment above is cur­rently sit­ting at −69?

and there­fore tends to clut­ter up dis­cus­sions that are meant to be about some­thing else. So maybe it’s worth see­ing if we can ar­rive at some sort of con­sen­sus about the gen­eral is­sues, at which point maybe we can write that up and re­fer new­com­ers to it.

(The out­come may be that we find that there’s no con­sen­sus to be had. That would be use­ful in­for­ma­tion too.)

I’ll kick things off with a few un­fo­cused thoughts.

What vot­ing is for: es­tab­lish­ing the near­est thing we have to the con­sen­sus view of the LW com­mu­nity, so as to (1) help read­ers guess what might be most worth read­ing and (2) help writ­ers ad­just their writ­ing (if they wish) to please the au­di­ence more. Note that these pur­poses are some­what sep­a­rate from …

What karma is for: mo­ti­vat­ing peo­ple to par­ti­ci­pate, mo­ti­vat­ing peo­ple to par­ti­ci­pate well, giv­ing read­ers an in­di­ca­tion of which writ­ers are most worth read­ing.

It seems to me that vot­ing is work­ing rea­son­ably well—I find a rea­son­able cor­re­la­tion be­tween com­ment rat­ings and com­ment qual­ity. I’m not con­vinced that karma is work­ing so well; what’s re­warded by the sys­tem is pro­lific post­ing at least as much as high-qual­ity post­ing. Do­ing away with the auto-self-up­vote (and mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble to up­vote one’s own com­ments) seems likely to be an im­prove­ment. Or maybe mak­ing each com­ment count for (say) 14 as much as an up­vote.

Ex­pla­na­tions for votes: Lots of com­ments get voted up; quite a lot get voted down. The prac­tice of ex­plain­ing votes (even just down­votes) would make for clut­tered threads. Also: up­votes and down­votes are anony­mous, which is largely a good thing. So, here’s one pos­si­bil­ity. (It might just be un­nec­es­sary com­pli­ca­tion). When you vote some­thing up or down, you get the chance (or the obli­ga­tion?) to write a brief ex­pla­na­tion of why; it doesn’t go into the thread as a com­ment, but gets as­so­ci­ated with the com­ment you voted on (with­out your name at­tached). Then hov­er­ing over a com­ment’s score (or some­thing) could pop up a list of votes each way and their ex­pla­na­tions, if any. Still anony­mous; out of the way when not speci­fi­cally asked for; but gives some hope of find­ing why some­thing was down­voted, and also a way of dis­t­in­guish­ing be­tween +1 −0 and +14 −13.