If we had developer resource, we’d have buttons on each comment that allowed us to register one of several standard opinions on a comment, like “broadly agree” etc. I once again wonder whether hacking on LW would be high-value activity.
I have been practicing intense automation for a consider amount of time now and I feel as though I could easily provide advice (effectively: lead a team) to make the task of hacking on LessWrong significantly trivial. In such a case, there would be no question as to the value of the experiment because it could be conducted so readily.
However, we already have buttons for what you describe in the generalized upvoting and downvoting options. The issue is not that we do not have such functions, but we are not utilizing them optimally; replies that may be exceptionally relevant are being ignored in whole.
What about a wider variety of options for buttons?
This is poorly explained
This is irrelevant to the conversation at hand
This is too obvious
This is something I’d never considered and it strikes me as worth further consideration
This comment will make eveyone who reads it stupider
Also, is there any current incentive to vote at all?
I do not like the “This is too obvious” button. I think people will press it often on things that are not actually obvious, and this will discourage stating the obvious.
In this case I want an FML button, a “Here’s a cute kitten” button, and a “Mothers Against Drunk Posting” button. To start with. :-D
I think a single extra “duh” button, that does not reduce karma but does affect the percentage of positive votes, would do.
Also maybe turn the thumbs up into a “thanks!” button and the thumbs down into a “waste of time” one, or something.
Precedent: the science subreddit got way better after they renamed the upvote button into “solid science” and the downvote button into “not science”.
Because the karma is numeric, those buttons should all also have numeric values +1 (want more of this) or −1 (want less of this). It would be probably good to preserve the old-style “upvote” and “downvote” for people who just want to vote and not analyze why exactly they felt this way (because having to analyze everything would be a trivial obstacle to voting).
So perhaps the good mechanism would be to first show the choice of downvote and upvote, and after the vote is made, display relevant subcategories and let voter optionally choose one of them which fits most.
Upvote—nice, interesting, informative...
Downvote—trivial, wrong, off-topic, flamebait, trolling...
Then the total score of the comment should also display a most frequent flag or two. Such as “5 points, interesting”, or “-10, trolling”. Maybe display the flag only if overwhelming majority of voters agree on it; otherwise just numerical value without flag.
Would such buttons be used or useful at all? Is expressing your opinion in general useful? Won’t such buttons be even more susceptible to the humility issue? Is it just a problem of showing up?
There is an argument to be made, I think, that merely the fact of your wanting such features is evidence of their being likely to be used, but I do feel it should be made rationally beyond, “This would be cool for me.”
I do not deny that such a thing is useful, and I have thought about it considerably, even to an implementation level, but I question if it is the solution here. I don’t think it is.
One possible value of more diverse buttons would be more specific feedback to the comment author, as well as providing data to all participnats about what type of comments “do well” here.
As it stands, highly upvoted comments appear to me to mean the group agrees, strongly downvoted comments just disappear & comments with low votes are ??? (possible answers: ignored, too technical, wrong, redundant, obvious, disagreed with but not strongly, poorly written but so poorly written that no one wanted to make fun of that guy, late to the discussion so no one saw it because no one reads that thread anymore, some combination of the afformentioned, other group in-fighting and politicking I’m not privy to, etc.)
Of course the buttons would only be valuable to the extent readers will participate and use them. Is there an incentive to voting beyond the general good & welfare of the forum?
As the premise of the topic, I think so, yes. If relevant and definitive comments such as those described are being ignored, I think that poses a tangible problem. I’ve actually thought this for awhile, and I thank Kaj for having the guts to say-so. I’m not concerned with what kind of posts do well; I feel confident I could play the part if there were motivation for me to do so. What I am personally interested in is optimizing the ongoing discussion. The votes I receive on the comments I’m making here will let me know a deeper quality of information about LessWrong’s understanding of the value of conversation.
The general good and welfare of this forum is not protected, in my opinion, by vote rating. Rather, if we had that kind of problem, I would allocate none of my effort to trying to resolve the issue of the topic. I see potential far beyond such trivial apprehensions.
Isn’t the point to have a karma system that incentivizes post & comments that contribute to an optimized ongoing discussion? Wouldn’t that system simultaneously reward (1) the poster & (2) the community?
As it is, and as the OP notes, decisive, relevant comments often escape the mechanism that is supposed to rank them. We have no idea how well we, as a community, are objectively doing in the pursuit of resolving the issue of the topic. Popular opinions and posters may be strongly biasing the discussion and steering the whole group into dubious positions. Dissenters (who are less altruistic than you) may grow tired of a format that tends to push their comments to the bottom of the pile and provides no feedback.
If the karma system does nothing to protect the general good and welfare of the forum, then get rid of it. And then test that hypothesis. (I posit you will see a decrease, both quantitatively and qualitatively, in contributions.) After eliminating karma, if LW indeed has “that kind of problem”, then you will know definitively and can move on to the pursuit of less trivial matters.
If little numbers are all that motivates contribution, I don’t think the motivations lost are or were rational.
I’ve written more in this single comment section in a few hours than I have in my entire experience on LessWrong outside of this topic. If I were looking for upvotes, I would not act in nearly the same manner or with the same motivation for quality of reasoning. Really, if not for this topic, I would sacrifice principles and reasoning I consider rational for the sake of blending in and seeming more acceptable in the eyes of the voters for the express purpose of getting to 20 karma points in case I decide I have a purpose posting something at the discussion level that I would expect to be immediately downvoted on. If not for this discussion, I’d be here solely to blend in until I have something nasty to say loudly.
As cold as it sounds, no, I wouldn’t consider it a loss. It really is a Boolean for me, which I feel isn’t giving you the proper feedback your argument deserves, but the individual contributors to LessWrong either have the potential to seriously address and rationally discuss this issue or else there will be a stasis of extremely unoptimal discussion practices that carries no value to me (beyond what amounts to advertising).
Do it! :)