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Show HN: HN Demetricator – An extension that removes upvote and comment counts (github.com/brian-yu)
92 points by brianyu8 on July 11, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 63 comments

I'm curious, do others perceive undeserved upvotes as an issue? As far as communities like this go, I think HN is pretty fair about what kind of content is valuable.

Sure, maybe some high-quality niche articles don't get a ton of attention, but that's the nature of writing about niche topics.

For me, the problem was more that the highly upvoted posts were obviously good, so my time and attention were spent scrolling through HN looking for posts with more than ~50 upvotes or more than 10 comments.

After hiding upvote and comment counts, I've found myself reading more of those high-quality niche articles that I wouldn't have clicked on previously. I've also found myself reading post titles more thoroughly and reading articles first instead of immediately jumping into the comment section to get summary/judgement.

Perhaps this extension is unnecessary if you have more self control that I do ;).

> After hiding upvote and comment counts, I've found myself reading more of those high-quality niche articles that I wouldn't have clicked on previously.

That's also the reason I create a newsletter to list all the creative content of the day which didn't get visibility https://hnblogs.substack.com/

I have a problem with people down voting things that they disagree with and up voting things they agree with. I had always assumed that voting was for "quality of post" and not for agreement.

I see this same scenario played out in many forums where a very good, high quality comment is made which quotes what "someone" said and subsequently heavily down voted because of the person that said it. In other words, the message is quashed because of the person that said it, and not because of the message itself... this is a sad testament to online dialogue.

Apparently that’s their intended function according to mods[0] I just prefer downvoted comments don’t turn grey just because some may disagree with it, it’s an annoying UX personally, as I’ve actually found some interesting information I hadn’t previously been exposed to from comments a few people decided they disagreed with.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17996858

I have a problem with the greyed out posts because they are difficult to read with my poor eyesight. I usually select them with the mouse so they are highlighted, which makes them easier to read.

I always assumed that's what you were supposed to do anyway. If it's just slightly downvoted it is still somewhat readable but after that it gets hard to read quick. I don't think this has much to do with eyesight, it's by design. I guess poor eyesight might make it hard to distinguish between normal and slightly downvoted comments, but that's not too important a distinction anyway.

Yup. This is my precise annoyance with the styling. I understand not everyone will bother to read greyed out comments because they trust the wisdom of the crowd here. I do not. As a result, reading the comments adds one extra step now just to interact and engage.

Thankfully someone below our published some userstyles below.

That's interesting never thought about the accessibility problem with greyed out posts.

Especially when the downvotes are blatantly because someone disagreed and the grayed out comment is actually interesting, or the comment is actually a question that shouldn't have been downvoted at all.

> I had always assumed that voting was for "quality of post" and not for agreement.

That's how it's supposed to be used. This also applies to other platforms that have some social media or online discourse component (e.g. reddit, twitter, etc.).

But since there is no barrier to entry to these platforms, any "slob in a smelly t-shirt" can post comments and upvote/downvote at will, regardles of how unqualified their opinion may be.

I've noticed the more egregious forms of this on HN recently, where a commenter will cherry-pick a snippet of comment made by another user in an unrelated post from weeks prior in an attempt to discredit them in a current post.

I believe downvoting is a far bigger problem.

The term "undeserved downvote" can't even exist, as the guidelines state that downvoting for mere disagreement is acceptable. But, what is that if not censorship and promoting groupthink?

If one disagrees, then why not encourage them to engage and explain vs submarining the comment with which they disagree? And, if content is unacceptable for some other reason, then flagging is still available.

"If your taking flak, your over the target."

I'm new here and just getting the feel. I definitely immediatly turned on viewing of dead comments. How else to get an understanding of the dynamics of this place?

I've been downvoted for comments that I feel were honest and accurate of the way I think and feel, but are definitely outside the HN overton window. I find this a valuable signal, and potentially what I can bring to HN.

I've also been downvoted for comments that I feel were a bit too pointed or flame bate style. That is a valuable signal also.

So I'm trying to maximize the number of the first type of downvote while minimizing the second. Score goes up and down, someday I'll get that pony.

I use a modified version of the links browser on the linux framebuffer, which works very nicely for HN, and incidentally does not allow for text color changes so I never see anything grayed out. No Javascript, so no need to vote.

>Score goes up and down, someday I'll get that pony.

After some time, and upon realizing that the downvotimg scheme here encourages groupthink, I decided that as long as I'm offering my honest ideas in good faith, then it's probably a good indicator if my karma stays roughly where it is. Let some agree and others disagree. In fact, maybe a slight decrease over time is preferable. This means people are at least challenged and encouraged to consider their position.

Frankly, if this were a community wherein disagreement never occured, then it would be extraordinarily boring: just a bunch of people sitting around head-nodding and upvoting each other. You need a variety of opinions to keep things stimulating.

So, I find it interesting that the very thing that keeps a community engaging is actively discouraged.

And, that the word "hacker" appears in the community's name is whatever comes after ironic.

It's really easy to get upvotes, so if someone is posting in an honest and unbiased way I'd expect an upward trend, regardless of whether some challenging posts get downvoted. If someone's total is stable or dropping over time, I bet it's significantly more likely to be caused by bad behavior.

> No Javascript, so no need to vote.

I just double checked, voting works regardless of whether Javascript is enabled. Vote away.

Ahhh! I see. Nope for me. I also have no CSS and HN is using a div with a style. Why not just use a small image?

How can I alert the big wigs that they have an accessibility issue, as I assume anyone visiting with a text browser also has the same issue?

That makes sense.

I'd say either talk to dang about it or use the support link in the footer: hn@ycombinator.com

People will downvote for disagreement whether or not the guidelines say it is ok. The guidelines are simply recognizing reality.

There's an easy fix for that: abolish downvotes.

That's actually a great idea! I would also abolish votes in general and only sort comments chronologically. users could vote and see the posts/comments ordered by their votes that would not be public

The "first" kind of comments are easy to detect, so I think they wouldn't be a big problem

The chances that a post written later in the game will become one of the most voted because it's really a good comment are close to none anyway

Another interesting feature would be highlight and prioritize content written by users you follow, based on some simple rule like how many votes you gave them before or how many interactions you already had in the past

But downvotes are a prize and a status, you have to reach a certain amount of karma points to be able to downvote something so I guess unfortunately they are here to stay

After hearing about pol.is[0] on HN, I've wondered about a system that allows or even encourages downvotes (with all vote counts hidden), but doesn't penalize content for being downvoted. Then downvoting to disagree becomes okay.

With this kind of system, you could even boost downvoted comments as long as they also receive upvotes, encouraging more diverse discourse. If we want an online space that doesn't become an echo chamber, we need to make it okay to respectfully disagree.

[0]: https://pol.is/home - pol.is uses votes to find common ground between divisive groups

Interesting idea. But, then, I think why not abolish downvotes and just encourage people to reply? Then, you could sort by engagement (i.e. replies and upvotes). The replies could stand in for implied divergence, as there's usually not much reason to continue a long (especially deeper) thread to simply agree.

An exception to that assumption might be if people have unique additional insights that could enrichen a topic, so they're commenting a lot while not necessarily disagreeing. But, such enrichment has notable value in its own right, so is probably worth surfacing as well. Engagement should breed engagement.

>If we want an online space that doesn't become an echo chamber, we need to make it okay to respectfully disagree.

And, that's what it all boils down to. So, the central point is to encourage people to engage and reply with their respectful disagreement vs issue downvotes into a blackbox. The only way to get diverse discourse is to encourage actual discourse. Downvotes are an explicit discouragement of it.

>I would also abolish votes in general and only sort comments chronologically.

Congratulations, you invented Usenet. :)

Back in the day we didn't have voting, we had kill filters. If you didn't like another user, you'd have your reader filter out their messages. There were far fewer kids on my lawn in those days as well.

Back in the days I was there :)

In late 80s I was actively involved in some of the BBS of my city, that also gave access to Usenet, engaging mainly in cyberpunk, science fiction and C programming

Eternal September is still going on

> I'm curious, do others perceive undeserved upvotes as an issue? As far as communities like this go, I think HN is pretty fair about what kind of content is valuable.

I've used a similar extension on another forum, and the issue it addressed for me was that 1) upvotes aren't worth reacting to (for several different reasons) 2) it's hard to not react to them in some way if you see them. If you believe the first point, hiding them completely is simply the best solution.

As for why they're not worth reacting to. People have already mentioned they cause people to focus on what's already popular. They can also create feelings of inclusion/exclusion that lead to hive-minds, and mildly addictive slot-machine-like reinforcement (which people have extensively discussed in relation to Facebook likes).

Maybe, but perhaps the same could be said for downvotes.

What would be interesting is if up/down votes had a weighting based upon engagement upon that post/thread. For example if somebody comments on that post/thread then their vote up or down would hold more value than somebody who had not commented.

Unsure how that would play out, but certainly be interesting. Sadly their maybe a downside I can think of and that would be that it may encourage more fluff comments, just to garner that extra clout.

I immediately think of the comment pattern where one person says something patently wrong; when people start replying with corrections/denials/expert explanations drawing from 20y of that specific problem/etc, they dig in and start insisting they're right. High engagement can show the opposite of worth.

Active moderation somewhat suppresses this pattern but it still happens.

I believe HN is sometimes lacking profile/metadata information about posters (eg: occupation, age, location) that would prevent re-explaining the same things over and over again or see where the person is coming from. But then it introduces some biases so... shrug

Great idea. I have been having this idea for years of doing a little stream editing to change the color of the grey text to match the other comments. But I use a text-only browser so I cannot see text colors anyway.

I think what happens is we learn to "play to the crowd" when posting comments, knowing certain "inside the box" ruminations will garner support. This seems almost like a form of self-censorship that we are doing, sometimes without even realising it.

Is there really any definition of a "vote"? It is ambiguous. Better that we ask commenters "Is this what you mean?" Many times voters are probably misinterpreting comments. It is quite challenging to write comments where every single reader gleans the same meaning.

Another idea is you could pull new comments from the Firebase endpoint and insert them into their respective threads, randomising the order, or maybe just have chronological order. It would be an interesting experiment, if nothing else.

The web today has seemingly become a series of filtered, ordered "lists" where the top spots are the only content that is deemed to matter (and, for the vast majority, the only content that is seen). Not saying this is necessarily ill-advised, but one has to consider the effects, which are becoming more difficult to understand as we lose the ability to choose non-opinionated ordering (alpha, chronological, etc.).

Better that we ask commenters "Is this what you mean?" Many times voters are probably misinterpreting comments.

I’ve observed two interesting outcomes from this, even as someone who has challenged himself to seek clarity and understanding by asking more questions:

- People who ask for clarification are downvoted heavily for reasons that I can’t assume (this happened a few weeks ago, it was a positive interaction with the person who inquired of me, and I enjoyed the back and forth: their questions were relevant, they sought clarity and they were polite and deferential, I told them as much-yet all of their posts in our conversational bivouac were heavily downvoted by parties never revealed themselves or what their problems with the questions were)

- People who are asked for clarification take it as a sneaky and underhanded attack (this happened two days ago, I asked someone if they could expand on a one-line comment because I was having trouble understanding the intention of the comment, someone else came along and called me a troll).

Both of these are anecdotes, but not isolated ones, if you’ll permit the examples as far as pleasant conversation here will allow. I don’t have solutions, it’s just...there’s an awful lot of assuming going on even when people ask questions is my observation.

Always strikes me as somewhat bizarre than there can be "bystanders" to "1-to-1" conversations had on HN and then these folks cast "votes" on the conversation. Yet they are not taking part in the conversation.

To offer a different perspective, I find upvote counts useful.

Part of why I’m on HN is to follow the community and understand what the community finds important.

In practice I read submissions that look interesting to me and I also read those that received an unusually high number of votes, even if I find them uninteresting or disagree with them.

I've worked on some rules for this in my similarly motivated extension Disengaged[0].

Another thing it does which I think helps a lot is automatically collapses subreplies.

[0] https://github.com/a13o/disengaged

This looks incredibly interesting. Going to give it a try.

Everything that's on the front page is massively upvoted already anyway. I'd suggest checking the 'new' tab from time to time instead.

You can get on the front page with a handful (~5) upvotes, as long as they come in fast enough.

Sure, I'm not arguing the front page is useless or anything. In general I find it very useful for getting a quick overview of what's up. However, it's still a tiny fraction of all posts on HN. It's a bit like hiding the relative wealth among the 30 richest people worldwide in order to not let the information about their wealth affect what you think about each of them.

I have a similar script, except that it removes posts that link to domains that I've found to frequently be non-interesting or low-quality.


I actually kind of miss being able to see comment vote counts.

Now you can only see that a comment is voted higher or lower than its siblings, if any. The vote count could show you that HN thought a comment was 50 times better than a sibling, or whatever. Of course it's subjected to biases, but rank-order voting is as well in basically the same ways, but the absolute count just gives you more information.

(re: a bias towards first-mover advantage specifically, we should obviously have an exponentially weighted moving average of the votes over time decayed to the current timestamp rather than an absolute vote count, of course.)

Great. I think that social media concept is awesome. I want to follow people in my feed, I want to create discussions with them.

But how those main social networks did it, with likes or other shallow simplifications of human response, with not showing stuff from those I follow in a linear order, instead pushing "engaging" content to my face, is just terrible.

I personally rely on frontpage and comment count as an indicator as to weather I should spend anymore time to read that article/comments. I do read all titles though so metrics are not the only factor.

I do realize that in using HN in this way I'm "leeching" off of hn curators work rather than contributing to curating new things myself...

Personally, I place more weight on comment count than vote count. If I'm here for interesting articles, people discussing a topic is more interesting than votes. The only use votes have is for seeing how controversial a submission is.

I wouldn't see a good point for this. HN is focused on these counts, because only they allow you to identify the "importance" and "discussion size". Would be like twitter without a like and retweet counter. How do I know its important? Is it something I support and give a like, to boost its rank?

Something like [1] is more useful than hiding information.

1: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23804469

> how do I know it’s important?

This is an interesting topic. I’m working on a new discussion site (sqwok.im) and I explicitly opted to exclude voting. Instead to determine importance I’m using a combination of signals like live activity, publish date, etc, with plans to include further ones at a later time. I echo the sentiments from other commenters and even pg himself in regards to groupthink, and I feel that there’s room for exploration on other alternatives.

That's a really interesting premise! I'm going to keep an eye on sqwok.

Thanks I appreciate it, and hope to chat with you on sqwok! It's amazing how much the state of online discussion is being surfaced on HN and elsewhere lately... I don't have all the answers, but I believe we need more options and different perspectives to hopefully open the door to a better state of discussion online. cheers!

It's true that upvote count and comment counts are the best way we have to quantify the quality of a submission. That's why I still browse the top posts page and will still upvote a post that I think is high quality.

But for me, upvote and comment counts bias my perception of a post. I'm choosing to hide these counts so I can read articles uninfluenced by the number of points they have relative to other posts on the front page.

Thats why I read the title first, decide whether it is important or relevant to me, if so I check it out. If I like it, I upvote it and if I have something to throw into the discussion I add a comment. Personally, I use the numbers to indentify "quality" and "valid facts". Invalid posts have a large number of comments and less upvotes.

> How do I know its important?

How do you choose books to read or topics to study? Sincere question

Because they are recommended or have been explored by a lot of people. Would you buy a product off Amazon without seeing the number of reviews? How do you know it is "quality content".

More votes than comments = something worth reading and seems to be valid content. Less votes than comments = seems to have invalid points with a big dicussion.

HNs "quality index" for each post can be "calculated" by everyone. Without these numbers you don't know these kind of informations. The title of a post should always be in the focus, thats for sure. But thats why it has a larger font.

With posts, I mostly skim the titles for what looks interesting. I take fewer comments as a bonus but I can't say exactly why (less noise?). I don't look at the votes (though it obviously contributes to what I see).

With books, I mostly read based on individual recommendations (or references). It's more natural to me than going with what's popular though it doesn't exclude it. It has the bonus of being an imperfect quality filter which mixes the good (as determined by people I trust) with the unusual.

To be honest, when I have read books based specifically on popularity I've been thoroughly disappointed. Reading Thinking Fast and Slow was mostly challenging with a mixture of bad examples and bad terminology ("systems 1 and 2"). I enjoyed the book a whole lot more near the end when it was discussing the incompleteness of/problems with economics. Some of my distaste for the earlier parts possibly comes from exposure to critics beforehand (e.g. Gerd Gigerenzer) and to the optical illusions. Similarly Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman! can be amusing but a lot of the stories boil down to "aren't I clever?".

Upvoting this, ironically enough.

i use ublock rules to hide scores and disable downvoted comment fading, but i haven't blocked comment count. HN has been much better for me since making these changes.

Mind sharing your code?

this is what i use:

  news.ycombinator.com##html .pagetop:style(color: rgba(0,0,0,0) !important;)
  news.ycombinator.com##html .score
  news.ycombinator.com##html .default .commtext:style(color: black !important)

Interesting. I've often thought HN would be significantly better without downvoting. Seems it would discourage groupthink and, of course, eliminate the de facto censorship it effectively allows.

pg has an ongoing theme over on Twitter on the perils of groupthink. I find that ironic given that this very prominent platform that is associated with him encourages just that.

Agree with the sentiment, but my first HN comment was downvoted to good learning effect for me

Feel free to downvote this one :)

>my first HN comment was downvoted to good learning effect for me

Well, if that downvoting was for disagreement, then the lesson you would've learned is not to stray too far from the group's thinking.

>Feel free to downvote this one

You won't get a downvote from me. For some time I didn't downvote at all. If I issue an occasional downvote now it's for what I consider overt bad faith, but never for disagreement.

i've found downvotes are routers of (un)clear signals sent from noisy thinkers. They are a terrible guide for influencing your approach, argument or reasoning. Conversely, having someone comment and agree/disagree provides much more meaningful signal to grow and improve from.

I tried to build a similar extension for Stack Overflow that would remove the downvote button and close button, but it got rejected by the Chrome Web Store :(

do it as a greasemonkey script

I'd really like a bigger hide button.

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