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I Downvoted Because (idownvotedbecau.se)
118 points by vincent_s 4 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 171 comments

My current strategy is to never downvote (not counting the rare accidental misclicks that I don’t know about). Instead, I try to upvote other things that deserve to stand out.

Leaving something at 0 upvotes is still a signal, although it’s less distinguishable from “no one saw this”. This approach makes the decision of voting binary (to upvote or not) rather than one with 3 choices, which reduces mental overhead. It also allows me to focus on positivity and finding comments that provide value, and pay less attention to ones that don’t. In the end, I think there can be value in downvoting, but I personally just don’t feel that the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs.

I mostly feel the same, but I think there are differences in context - for example:

- HN: Some really repugnant attitudes from time to time need to be downvoted. For example, personal attacks and things that would have been moderated out of existence on other platforms.

- Stack Overflow et al: Answers that are objectively and dangerously wrong. And I don't mean answers that just misread the question - those actually might be useful for someone else who stumbled on the page looking for exactly that thing. I mean answers that are dangerous, vulnerable, misleading, or represent an extreme viewpoint as fact ("buhh object orientation is dangerous, you must write C++ using functional paradigms, it's the only way to make good programs")

I worry that if stuff like this doesn't get downvoted by some, these things will be considered valid - or even acceptable - by others.

Re: Stack Overflow, while I agree with you, most of my experience with SO downvoting has purely to do with other members thinking "I feel this is a stupid question so I will downvote you".

Usually SO is a last resort for me once I have done enough research and read through lots of documentation for hours trying to understand why something does not work as expected. I ask a question on SO, and rather than being answered, am downvoted and belittled in the comments. It has made SO a toxic place where honest questions that are researched prior are punished. I do understand why it happens though because for every honest question, there's probably thousands of questions from people who obviously don't do any research.

Then having your "Thank you for answering my question" comment removed by SO moderators because they don't want thank you's on the platform... It's just turned into too much of a toxic place and is an absolute last resort.

IMO. Others experiences may be different :)

The point is that people generally downvote for whatever reason they want. Even with community standards that help to educate people, by empowering people to downvote, they just exercise that right and it has consequences for the community.

> Re: Stack Overflow, while I agree with you, most of my experience with SO downvoting has purely to do with other members thinking "I feel this is a stupid question so I will downvote you".

This has been my experience too. For someone like me who's a non-professional programming hobbyist, SO has been one of the most toxic and unhelpful communities. My only helpful experiences there are with the people who also happen to have their real names for their user ids.

I've had questions downvoted because I omitted something that "should have been there", downvoted because I included some things that "should not have been there", downvoted because I "asked for a suggestion" (eg: which type of DB is better for this kind of data?), or because I asked for something "that has been asked elsewhere", even though the two questions might have different tech stacks and use cases altogether.

I recommend most beginner programmers to go to reddit instead, where there's a less barrier to entry and visibility for questions. People are happy to answer you in Reddit for some karma, while on SO, the people who answer correctly have to subtly beg the questioner to mark the answer as correct.

"Answers that are objectively and dangerously wrong."

I don't think anybody reading an Internet discussion has so little time not to add to the downvote: "This part of your comment is horribly wrong, I warn others against doing it."

Actually, I think I would be more convinced to be careful with that sentence than just seeing bunch of downvotes.

Absolutely. Usually there's no problem in doing both (hence, I guess, the OP)

But commenting without downvoting skews the ordering algorithms, and of course if someone else has already made a similar enough comment that you wouldn't be adding materially to the conversation, adding a similar comment just makes the post look busy an therefore, potentially, interesting.

In my other comment here, I suggested a solution to the duplication problem - you can downvote only if you either create a reply or upvote an existing reply (as a sign of agreement).

That would be a nice feature. Or much like a "report" button on some platforms, if clicking downvote meant you had to say why you had disliked, and it gives you the usual moderation options, all the other comments that it could auto-upvote, or a free-text field that automatically creates a comment... that would probably be the least-friction way of dealing with it.

That would be great! I agree with parent comments that sometimes downvoting without commenting serves no purpose.

You got a downvoted comment with no replies. Now, why was it downvoted? You can reread it and see if you were rude/offensive, but besides that...

There's a report option. If something is dangerously wrong, then put the effort into saying so - perhaps explaining why; the person who posted the content that's "dangerously wrong" won't learn that either if no one shares it with them.

> HN: Some really repugnant attitudes from time to time need to be downvoted. For example, personal attacks and things that would have been moderated out of existence on other platforms.

What are things that are moderated out of existence on other platforms and not on HN?

> Some really repugnant attitudes from time to time need to be downvoted.

I disagree. Just call them out. I don't like it when anything is disappeared

Since when is avoidance of OOP an extreme viewpoint? Few pieces of advice have served me as well as that.

It seems fine to disagree - but if that is your standard of “extreme” or “dangerous” it makes you seem like a crank and makes your justifications for downvoting seem very biased and wrong.

(love the fact that this comment was downvoted! Sorry for the effect that has on your karma though)

The dangerous part is presuming that no good software can come from OO. A comment like "I would prefer to see this in a functional paradigm, with as few side effects as possible" is absolutely fine.

The statement that all OO is bad makes an absolute out of a subjective, rubbishes the work and effort of millions and may cause a relative beginner to ignore learning a paradigm that is fundamental to their growth and learning as a developer.

Now then, that said... if you wanted an argument over avoiding OOP, I would argue any statement that categorically says "Avoid X" is an oversimplification. Everything is a balance of strengths and weaknesses, and there are times when OO is the right tool for the job. You are welcome to disagree, and I wouldn't downvote you for doing so _in this context_, but in a Stack Overflow context, depending on how you say it, I very well might if I considered your words dangerous enough.

(i.e. Silver bullets kill more than just werewolves)

You did not explain how this is dangerous whatsoever. What about all those companies or teams out there using exclusively functional programming and succeeding? Their own experience would be evidence that avoiding OOP is good (as it has been good, demonstrably, for them). If they merely spoke from their own experience and attested to the good things that demonstrably came from avoiding OOP, you would consider that dangerous?

That’s a ridiculous perspective.

Again, it’s totally fine to disagree with them, and make solid counterpoints if you can, but calling them dangerous is completely ludicrous.

This makes you sound like a narrow OOP zealot who gets cranky when people point out the truth that any use case solvable by OOP is also solvable with at least equal quality and equal satisfaction of the constraints using functional programming.

Again, merely disagreeing is one thing, and raising pros vs cons of some specific OOP design. But to call it dangerous to suggest OOP may never be needed is just completely unreasonable. I question your understanding of the concept “dangerous” in that case, and if it were up to me, you’d lose downvote privileges treating people like that and misrepresenting their sincere, evidence based software ideas with a derogatory term like “dangerous.”

> You did not explain how this is dangerous whatsoever. What about all those companies or teams out there using exclusively functional programming and succeeding? Their own experience would be evidence that avoiding OOP is good (as it has been good, demonstrably, for them). If they merely spoke from their own experience and attested to the good things that demonstrably came from avoiding OOP, you would consider that dangerous?

I can't tell whether you're intentionally building a straw-man here. My original example of a downvotable comment had three statements:

"object orientation is dangerous": It clearly isn't. Badly written object oriented software can be dangerous, and you can argue that OO languages could do more to promote safety within themselves, but that doesn't make OO as a theoretical construct a bad thing, or all OO code bad, or all OO developers wrong.

"you must write C++ using functional paradigms": Again, there are separate challenges when writing fully FP-style C++, certainly there is nothing to say you MUST write C++ that way. And many projects would probably not welcome you rewriting their codebase in that way. If someone goes back to their employer / open-source project / teachers and tells them they are doing it wrong because their code contains OO, they may well be laughed out of the door.

"it's the only way to make good programs": This is obviously a lie.

Then, look at the context - I said "answers that are dangerous, vulnerable, misleading, or represent an extreme viewpoint as fact (...)" - I intended the above three statements to be an example of the latter, I figured that people can easily imagine dangerous / vulnerable / misleading SO posts themselves. But yes, while I do consider there to be dangerous effects from stating a subjective viewpoint as an absolute like this, I do think that the above statements take a reasonable yet subjective statement like "Few pieces of advice have served me as well as [avoid OOP]" into a totally unreasonable objective statement "it's the only way to make good programs"

Also, take a look at my later statement "Everything is a balance of strengths and weaknesses, and there are times when OO is the right tool for the job." I thought it would be relatively clear from this that there must always be times where OO is not the right tool for the job. My original statement was not an attempt to bad-mouth FP. But telling beginners to never use X because it's evil for whatever reason does have its dangers, whether that paradigm is FP or OOP.

> any use case solvable by OOP is also solvable with at least equal quality and equal satisfaction of the constraints using functional programming.

I suspect games programmers and kernel devs might disagree with that. But even if not, I would say that the bar you have set is terribly low. To my mind, a good program should also be readable, expressive, and in keeping with the project's coding standards. Generally, that's where I find that even some well-written FP code may fall down. But again, that's not an argument against FP itself, because I would not argue against FP. As I said before...

> A comment like "I would prefer to see this in a functional paradigm, with as few side effects as possible" is absolutely fine.

In fact, I would go as far as to say I might even agree with that statement. I certainly wouldn't downvote it. Sure, I'd like to see better arguments about why the side effects in that case are a problem, and why FP might be able to improve the code. But that is a perfectly valid and true statement. But hopefully now you can see why that statement is materially different to "object orientation is dangerous, you must write C++ using functional paradigms, it's the only way to make good programs".

Nope, you are completely trying to misrepresent what your original post said. You said that you downvote other ideas because they (the ideas) are “dangerous”, here is your quote:

> “ I mean answers that are dangerous, vulnerable, misleading, or represent an extreme viewpoint as fact ("buhh object orientation is dangerous, you must write C++ using functional paradigms, it's the only way to make good programs")”

So you are claiming that an idea expressing “OOP is dangerous” is itself dangerous as an idea and that this danger is what merits your downvote.

Yet you’ve done nothing to explain such an extreme and unreasonable point of view.

It seems lame to downvote due to a debatable disagreement. It stomps out unpopular ideas in a forum where they should be allowed and discussed/debated. I don't agree with the viewpoint that OOP should be avoided, but I would like to hear why some people are opposed to OOP.

Again, I agree, but only in context.

On Hacker News, I totally agree that downvoting debatable views that are expressed poorly is totally unnecessary. If it isn't a statement that is outright dangerous or intentionally hurtful, my bar for downvoting here is very high. I would trust the audience to discern for themselves.

On Stack overflow, you are essentially there to teach people something. "Don't ever do X" is not going to teach something. Unpopular ideas (and even some popular ones) should be backed up with cogent reasoning, and I think downvoting (with an explanation) is the best way to tell future visitors "this is (probably) not the answer you are looking for".

It’s nice to hear that others have this strategy too. I’ve never used the downvote on HN (unless I bumped the teeny tiny arrow accidentally on my iPad while trying to upvote), and the main reason is because receiving downvotes feels so harsh to me, and upvoting good things mostly has the same overall effect on the order of the conversation. It made me see clearly the good reasons why downvoting privileges are withheld from new accounts, that period did help me learn how to be more positive and constructive in my comments.

But - lately I’ve been second guessing myself and wondering whether there’s any virtue in continuing to not use this feature, which is sometimes useful. There are a minority of comments that should be downvoted and I agree with downvotes they receive even if I don’t hand any out.

One reason I’ve been questioning my personal policy is because I’ve recognized that - in the spirit of the article here - that downvotes on HN are given for a wide variety of legitimate reasons that don’t necessarily amount to disagreement. Sometimes comments are very off-topic, sometimes they make assumptions, sometimes they’re polite and nice but factually wrong, sometimes they’re jokes that aren’t funny. I’ve started to view downvotes as being symmetric to upvotes, and I give upvotes liberally and for a huge number of reasons. There’s nothing really wrong with downvotes being seen in the same light... other than negative feelings it might cause and the times it leads to destructive responses rather than constructive responses.

I’d love to hear what others thing, should I start using downvotes now, or continue to abstain?

> other than negative feelings it might cause and the times it leads to destructive responses rather than constructive responses.

Well there are two good reasons, maybe they're good enough?

Agreed, and they’ve been good enough so far for me. Its just that I’ve come to recognize there are cases when downvotes are appropriate, and won’t lead to escalation, as well as cases where downvotes send the right signal and lead to overall constructive behavior. The downvotes I’ve received have helped me introspect and learn. Even if my immediate reaction wasn’t constructive, it has helped me become more constructive in the long run. I think I’ve seen this happen with others here. Without downvotes feeling harsh, I might not have worked as hard to see the positive in other comments and to say the positive in my own.

Yes, in contrast to the upvote, the downvote button is overloaded: it can signify disagreement, or it can signify a violation of community standards. I think the former is a poor use of the downvote, as it adds little or no value. What good is it to say you disagree with something, if you offer no reasoning? The whole point of a discussion site like HN is to explore ideas and learn. Downvoting to disagree does nothing to further the goals of the site.

I think HN would be improved by simply eliminating the downvote entirely and rely on upvoting alone, as the parent suggests.

I liked Slashdot's qualified votes ("Interesting", "Insightful", ..) or Facebook's "reactions" for that as it gives an indication on the meaning of the vote. And sometimes I just want to read the trolls for the lolz.

I don't have enough points or whatever they're called to downvote anyway, but I can't think of anything I wanted to downvote. Either update, ignore, or flag it for moderation (I can't do that on HN either but apparently some can).

If it's not egregious enough for flagging just ignore it and it'll sink to the bottom. No need to downvote.

Getting rid of downvoting in the sense of violating standards without also getting rid of upvoting in terms of agreement would result in popular opinions being promoted, without regard to their value (as an argument, or truthiness).

As much as HN is far from perfect, I still think there's some healthy disagreement visible and bad faith arguments don't get promoted.

...would result in popular opinions being promoted, without regard to their value...

I believe that's the case now. The only difference would be that, if you felt the existing top response was incorrect and there was no better post for you to upvote to try to overtake it, you would have to write one. I think that would be a positive development.

Here's the way I think they should be used:

Up == agreement

Down == disagreement

Flag == violates community standards

I generally try to add a thoughtful response to anything I downvote, but I am guilty of downvoting and moving on a couple of times.

I think requiring a response to downvote would be better than removing downvoting entirely.

... I am guilty of downvoting and moving on a couple of times.

Guilty, guilty, guilty! :-)

Seriously, I think all of us have done it. But for most it's an occasional thing and we wouldn't miss it if downvoting went away, since most of the time we either write an opposing view or upvote an existing one.

The key thing you've said though is "comments that provide value", a metric by which both up and down votes are important.

In the perfect world, I'd come to HN and the top 2 voted comments would be the most succinct and well argued sides to the discussion (assuming there's a traditional for+against), then the top voted comments the tier down would be the best refutations of those points. That way I can read both and get to my own balanced view quicker. If all the voting system tells me is "this is what the average HN reader agrees with" that's far less valuable.

That gives me an idea. Given enough data, might it be possible to create a system that automatically identify "sides" to a controversial discussion based solely on how people are voting, and adjusts the sorting algorithm appropriately to counteract groupthink?

For example, if a group of people who tend to vote the same way on certain things all downvote a particular comment, but a smaller group of people with a different voting history vote a different way on the same comment, the system could mark that comment as a minority opinion rather than simply a "bad comment" and give less weight to downvotes from users of the opposing position when sorting that comment.

I know what you're saying, but for some reason it makes me uneasy. I guess because anything trying to categorise people as either X or Y is fundamentally tribal.

The HN readers are good at moderation overall, not perfect but definitely good. Maybe it would be enough to have an "agree/disagree" button as well as a "good/bad" button.

That's a great idea. Made me think of Amazon, I think, that categorized reviews and highlighted the top positive and top negative views. So combining your idea with your parent's, HN could determine the "sides" and highlight the most upvoted of each as top comments.

One thing to keep in mind is that people who are judicious in their use of upvotes/downvotes are going to have much less impact than those who haphazardly upvote/downvote. Such is the nature of giving people limitless votes (and comments, for that matter). Platforms like this (and Reddit, and a large portion of social media) are structured in such a way that they give an outsized voice if people behave in a way most would find problematic.

Another issue is that places like HN and Reddit only show the total score, and not the upvote/downvote breakdown. I saw a topic here where all the comments on one side were downvoted and grayed out, but when someone put up a poll asking for the opinions that side got about 40%. It's hard to know if a greyed out comment is because the community as a whole feels the comment is bad, or if it's simply in an emotionally charged discussion where the opposition has a slight majority.

Are there any major platforms that give users a limited number of votes? How does this work? Are votes rationed constantly or by site usage (ie for every twenty comments you read you get one vote credit)?

Slashdot did this (maybe still does). I don’t know the exact mechanism for determining how many. They also had meta-moderation where they’d give you a list of posts and votes and ask if you thought the voting was fair. Doing that was supposed to make it more likely you got votes. I got them regularly and then one day never got them again. I suspect it was because I “failed” in the meta-moderation voting, but I had also been critical of the site and there were rumors of a blacklist.

I reserve downvotes for comments that harm the discussion. Usually this is because of spam or needlessly inflammatory remarks. Though some people have managed to present arguments that are not otherwise objectionably but so utterly wrong I'll downvote them anyway.

My strategy is to not vote at all — both because I'm never thinking about it and it's simply wasted energy, and because I dislike the existence of such systems.

I much præfer discussion fora that lack a voting system. The order of comments and submissions can purely be determined by last reply bumping whatever tree had it to the top.

Same here. Never downvoted a single post. What I did notice though it looks like sometimes if someone does not like a particular post that someone will go wild and downvote few other totally unrelated posts from the same author.

> not counting the rare accidental misclicks that I don’t know about

Relevantly, I have found myself accidentally tapping the downvote button a few times on mobile — if you tap and hold on Safari, it brings up a link preview which has the same effect as [up/down/flag] voting deliberately.

I have the same strategy. I also try to only vote rarely and not use voting as an indication of "I agree, disagree".

Good lord.

You know, a lot of downvotes are rooted in "You and I come from vastly different backgrounds and will probably never see eye to eye" and it's a giant, giant, humongous, painful can of worms to dig around in that. A downvote (or ten) is the least painful way to let very different people "say" things like "Wow. I think you are stupid because I'm a racist/misogynist/classist asshole and the way you said it tells me you are the wrong color/a woman/poor." or "I'm from a different country or culture or religion and, good, god, there is so much baked in implicit assumptions that it would take weeks, months or years to sort out why we don't agree."

I mean, if you participate regularly and remain civil, some of that may get sorted over time. But it's not going to get sorted today because you submitted the downvote equivalent of a "bug report."

Downvotes are annoying. And they are often kind of like that saying about democracy: "the worst thing ever....except for all the other options."

(Edit: I wish there were a word that meant simultaneously misogynist and/or misandrist. I don't mean to suggest it's just "men hating on women." (if only because plenty of women hate on other women) I just have been up all night and I'm failing to find the elegant way to say that in a more gender neutral or even-handed way. Sorry 'bout that.)

I might go a step further. I downvote anyone who uses broad brush strokes especially when using traits like race, sex, gender, political ideology, etc... These days that ends up meaning if you are anyone who takes and espouses a strong political cultural leaning, you get my downvote. Anything that's bad faith, like complaining someone has a perspective of "both sides" immediately gets a downvote. I have voted independent since I could vote and constantly having these camps attack me for my unique perspective and life experiences has taken its toll on that way.

I've been all around the world by now and I've realized people are rarely what you think they are. Even when you can point to stated political ideologies, I've argued and debated with enough people to know that the box almost never fits. I can judge your comments at point in time, but I've often found myself scrolling someone's post history on here and saying, "They're not so bad, they just lack perspective or experiences in this area." It's also possible they've had overwhelmingly negative experiences in that area, but a bad opinion nonetheless gets a downvote.

The whole point is I can rarely bring myself to judge a person as a whole. That takes some overwhelming information about them for me to do. I can judge individual criterion and that's exactly what the downvote gets used for on this account. I don't expect people to change and I don't really expect my fraction of an opinion to matter much.

I think we all want to have every explanation neatly "packaged" and settled but the truth is there are 1000 reasons for someone to do or say something and 1000 reasons to misinterpret each. When I was younger my go-to explanation was that any aggression is because of a certain class I was part of (read: gender, race, nationality, religion, etc.). It took me a while to realize that while people can always use a reason to act the way they do, they don't actually need that reason. The advent of the internet just made it easier to see this and to do it.

One of my comments on HN was repeatedly downvoted for saying something like "I don't use more than a bit of a particular ingredient in food because it gives me a throat burn".

This makes you realize sometimes a downvote is just "because". In someone's mind anything can trigger a "penalize" response towards the comment or the author. But I'm fairly certain most times guesses for the reason are very likely to be wrong.

Well said.

> I wish there were a word that meant simultaneously misogynist and/or misandrist

You mean “sexist”?

Misanthrope is sometimes the correct word for what I'm talking about.

But have an upvote.

I don't want to be nitpicky but I am sorry I have to be: Is that feeling not better expressed by "misanthrope"?

Misanthropy is more generalized. And even a misanthrope will engage with people of the opposite sex in lively (though, IME, very depressing) debates, and even be respectful within that context. Many misanthropes I've known will even respect people who are well-educated or otherwise "successful" (by some measure). Most sexists won't. Similar to racists.

Misogyny: women bug me

Misandry: men bug me

Misanthrope: people bug me

Indeed. We lack all the delicate little signals of disapproval here, the sighs, eyerolls, refusal to make eye contact, edging away. All we have are the two reward/punishment levers for our fellow rats in the cage.

Indeed, not only do we get more and gentler feedback in real-life, but we get more-on-point feedback than the downvote. We have cues for boredom, skepticism, annoyance, confusion.

Of course then again, all of this body-language pales in comparison to a well-written response.

Well, if you want to take sex out of it entirely, misanthropic has served well enough for centuries. If you wish to just say dislike of a sex without specifying which, well I'd have to punt and let the classicists come up with something.

Personally I rarely downvote posts as I believe everyone has the right to be heard and the implementation of downvoting on HN is tanamount to censhorship. I feel upvoting alone does the job well. On these rare occasions where I downvote a post, I feel I really owe it to the person to explain why.

I don't generally use the downvote button to express disagreement, but I do use it to say "Yeah, this is a violation of the rules and not cool and doesn't belong here."

And if it's egregious enough, I will flag it.

As someone who is a demographic outlier, I'm okay with getting downvotes as part of the feedback mechanism for trying to figure out how to navigate this social space. I think it's problematic to err too far in the direction of "Everyone needs to be nicey-nice to everyone all the time, no matter what they really think or feel about it."

FWIW I value your input as an outlier; you nearly always have something interesting and different to say, whereas for many posts half of the arguments are traditional, predictable and stale.

" to let very different people "say" things like "Wow. I think you are stupid because I'm a racist/misogynist/classist asshole and the way you said it tells me you are the wrong color/a woman/poor."

Funny, because I see it more often as "I think you are stupid because you have an opinion which I don't agree with and has triggered me due to my hypersensitivity, assumption of ill will, and inability to handle issues which may require nuance which my ideology won't allow for, which therefore causes me to suppress you"

I see overt racism (or even 'classism' or misogyny) on HN very, very rarely, certainly not remotely common enough so as to be a primary impetus for down-voting.

Edit: as an exercise in reality, I'd urge anyone interested to have a cruise through top, say 100 current threads, and point out the examples of misogyny/racism/classicism, or at least this as a basis for voting patterns.

triggered me due to my hypersensitivity, assumption of ill will, and inability to handle issues which may require nuance

That's often part and parcel of things like racism and sexism. Most such things do not get openly painted as "I don't like you because of your skin color or gender."

Metafilter is a great example of this. When I was there, it was not only a cesspit of ugly classism, it was horribly misandrist in ways that I found just pure evil.

But of course no one there described themselves as misandrist. They described themselves in amazingly wonderful and glowing terms as woke, pro women's lib, welcoming of the LGBTQ community, etc.

But rather than being pro women or something, it was mostly a space where it was okay for women and the LGBTQ crowd to be openly hateful to men.

One guy posted a question asking for support to help him cope in the aftermath of his wife's rape and one of the comments nailed him to the wall for supposedly "making this about him" because of him seeking support for himself separately from and in addition to supporting her recovery from this awful incident.

I left a long and helpful comment that moderating staff deleted and when I asked why, I was told it was "tangential" and "not providing resources" -- a test not applied to the long comment handing him his head for seeking support on the grounds that he was clearly some misogynistic piece of shit of a human being who only treated his wife as a sex object, clearly, as that could be the only possible reason he would ask such a question.

I kept a copy of my comment and posted it on a blog of mine in hopes he would find it somehow. He messaged me a few hours later and was very thankful for what I had to say on the topic because the comment handing him his head for asking the question (which had like 80 "likes") had him just losing his shit. It was a poisonous message delivered by people who simply hate all heterosexual men and I just don't know why any men participate on that site, it's so openly hostile to men. Meanwhile, a lot of them parrot the party line about it being all woke and wonderfulness.

Being openly hateful to men is not and never will be pro women's rights. Kicking the shit out of men does not redress the lack of status for women. Kicking the shit out of heterosexual men for the crime of being in a hetero relationship does not make the world a better place for the LGBTQ crowd.

What helps them is...helping them. Weird as that may sound. That's what helps them.

And it's a shockingly hard message to try to get across. About 99 percent of the time people seem to think "I know! The answer is: let's find some man to lynch!" when what I would like to see is, oh, more money in my bank account or something.

Me watching men get lynched doesn't fill my belly.

I fully respect that racism and sexism exist, that sometimes people and groups may not be fully aware of their insensitivity, and would never deny anyone's real material victimhood.

However ...

... the default characterization of a system or group of people as being 'sexist or racist' because they may 'downvote' something, or may not agree with a specific statement of social or moral justice ... just isn't right.

HN just isn't a racist or sexist system.

Contentious statements regarding race/gender aren't really that common, moreover, when they are it seems to me that discussions are generally well within the bounds of civility and at worst, there might be some misguided ignorance.

I don't for a second doubt people (such as yourself) have a really crap experience now and again - and there's no excusing that (there's no reason for people to have to put up with that kind of crap) but I don't think it's very representative of the system, or a problem with the culture or moderation for example.

HN just isn't a racist or sexist system.

That's debatable, but there's probably nothing to be gained by debating it here and now.

It is the least worst thing I know in that regard, which is one of the reasons I hang here.

But my firsthand experience over the course of more than 11 years suggests that, yes, sexism is an issue here, though it certainly isn't overt. The fact that it is subtler than usual actually makes it harder to root out.

Another reason I hang here is "I'm too truthful to be good." and people here are willing to tolerate that personality defect. Unlike Metafilter and some other forums, I haven't (yet) been banned for sometimes pointing out what I see when I'm sufficiently fed up and cranky and having a bad day and unable to keep erring on the side of giving people credit for their many virtues and I, thus, feel compelled to say something like "...and, yet, I remain dirt fucking poor and no amount of virtue on my part of adding value or some shit -- like people say I should -- ever seems to remedy that."

To be clear, I count it as a tremendous virtue that so many people here are willing to tolerate my presence in spite of me being too truthful to be good. It gives me hope that HN will be the space in which the internet figures out how to do things better, in spite of all of us being human and having inherited so much awful crap from the past and the inherent challenges involved in redressing large-scale social injustices.

I don't really care to discuss this further at the moment. I hope you have a great day in spite of making the egregious mistake of having spoken to me.

You can disable the downvotes with any decent ad blocker.

To me, an upvote just means "I think more people should see this" and a downvote just means "I think fewer people should see this".

If I simply disagree with someone, I prefer to reply (or upvote someone else's reply) with an explanation of why I disagree. I try to only downvote posts with whom I disagree if I believe they are being mean.

As for my own posts, I do get frustrated when I am downvoted but nobody replies with an explanation for why they downvoted me. I leave comments on sites like HN because I want to evolve my own thoughts on the subject and help others evolve theirs. So to me a downvoted post with no replies is a missed opportunity to evolve my thoughts and better understand those who disagree with me. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like this site applies to HN comments.

> I think more people should see this

I'll often upvote posts I disagree with if I feel others should see the the counter arguments..

Similarly, if the best comment in a thread is deep in a thread, I'll upvote every one of its parent comments too, regardless of their content.

The person who downvoted has to look out for themselves though. They may earnestly want to explain their choice so you can engage with their counter-points, but other observers on HN are extremely discourteous. Signaling disagreement usually just causes a flood of tribalistic downvotes or upvotes for in-group voting, as well as people disingenuously using the flag option, and spamming rebuttals, especially disingenuous calls for data or evidence or “citation needed” requests that aren’t actually in the spirit on engagement, just serve to DDoS real disagreement out of the conversation.

A silent downvote lets you avoid a lot of that, even if you respect the premise of the original post you downvoted.

I've tried to be transparent on another site by explaining why I downvoted a comment, but the aggravation of being downvoted in retaliation, having to engage in back-and-forth with the commenter defending themselves, and being stalked and downvoted consistently afterwards made it frankly not worth it.

This is a noble goal, and might work on StackOverflow, but I doubt it will get much traction.

I think more people should see this.

I can't agree more with your comment about wishing people would reply with reasoning rather than simply downvoting.

When I jump into a heated conversation or comment on an emotional topic, I am fully aware that I'm asking for downvotes without responses. But that has served as a negative reinforcement for making said comments, which leads to me engaging in those conversations much less often.

My point is, I'm not sure this is a bug. I'm pretty sure its a feature.

>"I think fewer people should see this"

Would not it be better not to play nanny and let readers decide for themselves?

You could certainly take that approach, but then why have a voting system at all? My understanding is that the voting system for HN comments is intended to promote the best comments to the top.

Ok, here comes timeless saying: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Most voted and the best can be two different things.

I completely agree. Comment voting has plenty of problems. However, I haven't found or thought of a better solution so I try to make do with what we have.

This is probably the best: https://idownvotedbecau.se/noattempt/

I'm barely active on StackOverflow anymore, because posters show less and less effort. I'm somewhat of a senior WordPress developer and eager to help, but the sheer amount of absolute basic stuff, without any effort made by the poster, just kills it for me.

And it's not even the "can you recommend a plugin"-questions, but those which show that somebody has been given a task (or took it by themselves) without knowing anything at all. It's like getting into a car and then asking what that round thing right in front of you is for.

I just downvote and flag those questions. I think nobody should answer those questions at all and we have to discourage behaviour where people, without any knowlede and effort, try to collect breadcrumbs to (somehow) reach a goal without even trying to understand the bigger picture.

edit: Why the bigger picture is important? Because we are talking about systems that are, in most cases, facing the internet. And the internet is a hostile place where attacks against your systems are starting right after setting them up.

It's ultimately important to know what you are doing and what the consequences are (or could be) when you start tinkering with theme files, "how WooCommerce works" and whatnot. That's especially true for shop systems which contain private data of customers but it's also important for any page that could be misused to send spam, distribute malware and whatnot.

I was came across a stackoverflow question where someone was confused as to why their production database was being wrecked repeatedly. The answer was that they had rampant sql injection vulnerabilities in their code. The original poster refused to take down their site or notify users of a breach.

It has a passive-aggressive feel similar to LMGTFY.

It would feel less like it, if there were some ready made text one-liners with a compassionate summary and a link to the longer version.

Also, if you want to help - why would you downvote? Just help!

I think it ought to be the commenter's job to write the compassionate summary tailored to the situation.

It ought to be the newbie's job to write what the problem is in complete sentences and not post screenshots of code, but we can't have everything.

Being new means you might not know you need to do that, though.

Complete sentences shouldn't be a foreign concept for people new to programming. I personally don't agree with the spirit of the parent comment, but I agree with the letter: it's ridiculous seeing half-formed sentences and screenshots with bumbling red-line diagrams made in the Windows Snipping Tool that somehow already have jpeg artifacts.

ESL is a separate problem.

Which removes the last shred of utility the linked site might have. (which is totally fine)

Not necessarily, it could help to address common counterarguments

The reasons listed are grouped as "code review" or "stack overflow", places where I would usually want to help, and having a list of pre-written mistakes to copy-paste might be usefull.

But the first half of the webpage only talk about communities in general, so I first assumed this was meant to be used on places like hackernews and reddit, places where downvotes most of the time mean: "you are an idiot/troll, I'm downvoting this to save other people from having to read this garbage."

A situation where I really don't want to help the poster...

I don't have the time for that and I don't want someone else to loose human time for this. Why would we if OP didn't?

The question IMHO is, if people want to have a discussion, do downvotes without an explanation help to facilitate it?

I don't think they do; there are many ways to disagree, while with agreement there is often little to add.

Therefore, downvoting a comment should always require either upvote to a direct reply or another reply. Then this reply can also be judged for its value.

I understand some people are tired of hearing the same old argument, or a wrong fact, and so they downvote without response. But consider that you're doing the moderation for others, not yourself. If you're tired of explaining the problem (even in the obvious cases, with one word), then perhaps do not get involved at all in negative moderation.

Of course, the things that are obviously spam or offtopic should be deleted, not just downvoted, and that should be a different mechanism.

The question IMHO is, if people want to have a discussion, do downvotes without an explanation help to facilitate it?

I think they do, but I don't think it's an open and shut case. I see downvotes as dual-purpose. They are a behavioral nudge for the commenter, and they are a signal to everyone else that the comment does not contribute to healthy discussion. I'm fine if they fail to be the former in some cases.

I've met a decent number of high functioning people in real life who are emotionally incapable of introspection and will go down the rabbit hole to defend something they've said/done that was clearly an asshole thing to say/do in the moment. Responding just gives them a target (you) for the inevitable defensive reaction. There are few people like that, but I've had enough interactions with the internet equivalent of this over my lifetime that I've long since given up on the idea that anybody who clearly comes across as an asshole on the internet will get reformed by a nicely worded "stop being mean".

The other case where I might downvote and not respond is when it's a tired debate (usually political, often over diversity/equality related topics) and the comment is arguing with common talking points that use incorrect facts or is arguing with common bad faith talking points. I've been in too many of those over the years too. I'm not going to be the magical person who gets the other anonymous internet poster to recognize the error of their ways.

Outside of those cases, I tend to respond after downvoting. Or just not downvote and respond anyway.

A downvote is behavioural nudge with no guidance - it's a nudge in a pitch black cavern that you're somehow expecting them to navigate and learn from? "Oh, maybe I said something bad or wrong or they didn't understand me or ??????" Even worse maybe emotionally they'll start thinking people hate them or something is wrong with them without knowing why, and then they'll disengage. Is that really how we want to treat people?

Likewise, how do you determine if it's a quality downvote - as in, is the downvoter actually interpreting what's being said adequately? Maybe the downvoter is biased somehow, e.g. suppressing anti-CPP commentary seems to be more common even when they are thoughtful and critical responses. If the downvoter is forced to actually reply with a qualitative response, then the OP would be able to either realize they didn't explain clearly enough - or we'd all be able to determine the would-be downvoter isn't reasonable or with incongruent logic.

I'd say the cost of spending time to think through enough to respond with writing is a fair, good cost, in order to participate vs. getting a quick hit of dopamine with a downvote click; everyone grows then and refines themselves and help to refine others.

> it's a nudge in a pitch black cavern that you're somehow expecting them to navigate and learn from

Exactly. I expect in the end, downvoting without any explanation will just keep people in their eco-chambers, as at least there they are not downvoted.

OK, let's assume you're not interested in "nudging" the poster. (I don't think downvote is a nudge, because that requires an explanation or direction, but put that aside.)

"The other case where I might downvote and not respond is when it's a tired debate (usually political, often over diversity/equality related topics) and the comment is arguing with common talking points that use incorrect facts or is arguing with common bad faith talking points."

Well, consider that these common bad faith talking points are repeated because nobody bothers to rebut them properly. If other people (not the OP) see these, they might think of them as valid arguments. If you respond to them, you are also explaining to others, why they are not valid. It is a lot more helpful (you can actually convince someone) than just downvoting. And if your counter-argument is really good, it might be picked up by people on your side, too.

I'm sure you've encountered the type of talking point, especially in political discourse, where the rebuttal is commonly available and you can more or less guess what the rebuttal to the rebuttal is, and what comes after that, until it's reduced to the same points you've seen before. Every time diversity issues in Silicon Valley come up on HN, there are at least several of those in the thread. Those discussions are almost always polarizing, even for bystanders.

If the goal is to be helpful and to convince bystanders, then I think it's much more productive to find and engage with the comments where people are asking thoughtful questions, engaging healthily, or giving an overview of the common points made on the topic. Or just upvote those for visibility instead.

> The question IMHO is, if people want to have a discussion, do downvotes without an explanation help to facilitate it?

And the answer is ”yes”.

> Therefore, downvoting a comment should always require either upvote to a direct reply or another reply.

If something spurs productive debate which deserves an upvote, or supports a response which is worth having, it doesn't deserve a downvote. Requiring a downvote to be accompanied by things which only make sense if the thing being downvotes doesn't deserve a downvote in the first place is nonsensical.

> And the answer is ”yes”.

I disagree (without downvoting). I have some downvoted comments without replies that I suspect I'll never now why they were downvoted. So, if there was anything wrong with my opinion, or the way I expressed it, I won't correct that.

ASTM (some standards group) has voting on work items. And, IIRC when voting any negative vote requires a comment but on Approve the comment is optional. I like this system.

That sounds like a very good idea for work items in a standards group. HN isn't a standards group and comments aren't work items, though.

I just thought of this. I made a comment about a certain technology being double-edged and saw a couple of down votes. I really would have loved to know what caused the ire and have a polite discussion with the person.


Technical forums have more than code being discussed. You may want to add categories or groups.

Idea/HN feature wishlist: When you downvote a comment, you can add a reason right there. When you hover on any comment which was downvoted, you can see the reasons why it was downvoted.

Your proposal sounds similar to the flagging mechanism on many online forums, where the person who flags the comment is asked to specify a reason so it can be triaged by a moderator.

In the case of downvoting, it doesn't rise to the level of needing to be triaged by a mod, but I suppose you could argue that by giving the commenter a signal about why you downvoted, you're allowing them to self-triage (e.g. update the post to address the issue, or at least try to do better next time).

Being able to choose from a short list of predefined downvote reasons -- even if it were between "This breaks forum rules" versus "I simply disagree" -- would be useful.

So the comment stating the reason for downvoting is meant for the person whose post was downvoted, even though everyone can see it. Yes, as you said, I guess it will be a type of opportunity to self-triage - in a public way. It will also (hopefully) make the person who downvotes pause and think about the reason for downvoting.

Edit: typo/words

This would be a great feature, it would definitely help users grow and become more self-aware.

I would welcome it.

I like the system here where you cannot downvote until a certain aging process has occurred. Granted I’m not there yet, but not being able to downvote doesn’t impede the value I find on HN.

HN has a lot of similar design choices in that respect that I've grown to like over time. For example:

1. You can't downvote direct replies to your own comments

2. You can't see comment scores other than your own

3. Heavily down voted comments aren't hidden, just greyed out

4. New comments are initially sorted near the top of the thread, so they aren't immediately buried and have a chance to get voted on

5. Comments on older threads can't be downvoted

>You can't see comment scores other than your own

I wish you could also see the scores of direct replies to your comments, so you know if the replies are popular and merit being addressed.

As it stands now, if you see 2+ replies, and they aren't greyed out or responded to, you have no idea if they're heavily upvoted, or just got ignored.

I tend to start a new account when I reach the threshold here. I have no desire to downvote, which I see as a poisonous replacement for good moderators.

500 karma is the threshold.

Out of curiosity, is all this stuff documented anywhere? I've been on HN for years now and I had no idea what that threshold was set at. Heck, I'm not even sure I fully understand how basic features like flagging work.

I miss the slashdot Insightful/Informative/Funny/etc dropdown that was required to vote.

It would add a lot of value to the downvote button and the "I disagree" option could silently not apply any modifier to prevent groupthink.

Soylent added several extra levels. But they then added in more points per day. What ended up happening is the same that happened on slashdot. Everything is either +5 or -1 on a conversation that is only a few hours old. Early items dominate the conversation. Late ones get no interaction. Things that are like a 2-3 are bumped out to +5. Things that are 0-1 get knocked down to -1. Even then it depends on the group you get into the conversation and who posted earliest.

My slashdot id is in the low 6 digits and everything you said was true 13 years ago. I suspect all online discussions are a Pareto distribution in terms of votes and visibility regardless of moderation tactics.

I think the aggressive comment folding also aggravated the lack of interaction. There was no point in replying to a discussion more than 2 levels deep, nobody would see it.

That and everything falling off the first page. If you ended up on the second page forget it.

While I mostly agree, there needs to be some function to filter out trolls and lies.

But I do agree that simply disagreeing with someone shouldn't work the same way.

Yes, the Slashdot options for downvotes are: Offtopic, Flamebait, Troll, Redundant

If it were up to me, and aside from the neutral "I disagree", I'd add one for "Factually incorrect" because that's pretty much the only time I downvote on HN.

I notice that often comment blocks will have a confidently incorrect technical post at the top of the discussion followed by a gish gallop of derailed technical debate.

On HN upvote counts on comments aren't shown in discussions but downvotes can lead to greyed out comments or dead comments.

An upvote is communication to the person who posted the comment that it was positive in some way. For me, it usually stands in for "that's a good point", or "my thoughts exactly", or "this comment was unjustly downvoted".

Downvotes, on the other hand, are a communication to everyone involved that that comment crossed a line in some kind of way. There's almost a social shaming that goes along with it. "Keep expressing that opinion and what you say will be increasingly harder for everyone else to see." I'm not a big fan of trying to suppress ideas. Much better to respond to them explaining why you disagree or, alternatively, to just ignore them and move on. I guess I don't feel it's up to me to work with others to make comments harder to read. People can make their own minds up without me having to tell them what they shouldn't agree with.

That's why I only upvote and don't downvote.

I feel that both upvotes and downvotes have a negative effect on conversation, but having seen way too many "me too" and "+1" replies to things on other platforms, I can't really think of a good replacement.

I feel like github's emotes (thumbs up etc) are good enough if you don't want a full blown upvote/downvote system.

There's also the SoylentNews approach, based on the Slashdot approach. Positive scores are capped at +5, negative scores are capped at -1 (iirc), a reason must always be selected for a positive vote (e.g. Insightful) or a negative vote (e.g. Flamebait), and you also have the option of neutral votes (+0 Agree and -0 Disagree).

I like these on slack as well, and it's particularly nice that they're almost always positive or celebratory

Really? This is inconceivable to me. I think they are essential for sorting good comments from bad.

Here's an experiment -- Try reading your next HN thread from bottom (most downvoted) to top, and see if it's an equal experience.

I find that any service that doesn't do vote-ranking (e.g. newspaper forums) usually turns atrocious almost immediately.

The problem is downvotes allow for people to affect the environment with very limited effort, so there's selection bias that gives you that view point that better comments are at the top. Likewise, those comments at the top arguably would already be at the top simply with the upvote mechanism - the "lower quality" comments would be at the bottom anyway, no?

Reddit is interesting: its default (?) sorting is by controversial.

Really bad universally unacceptable comments get buried.

But comments with mixed upvotes and downvotes ("controversial") are shown higher than simply upvoted comments.

This promotes interesting conversations and exposes readers to broader world views without shattering readers faith in humanity.

Perhaps a like/dislike button pair that just adds a single EM height bar in the thread with your username and a + or -, without moving comments around otherwise.

It could be collapsable, with a "overview" of likes/dislikes.

Clear rules and an active moderation can help solve this. If posters of "me too"-answers will receive negative feedback for those kind of posts, they will probably stop.

Maybe an idea for YouGotBlockedBecau.se/me-too ;-)

Upvotes need no further abstraction for their purpose. Good can be good. But if we are to police and shame bad, justice deserves more nuance than this. Downvotes hinder the discussion experience, and it limits participants to those with agendas or characters who can withstand that experience.

Downvotes help you avoid confrontation and discussion. You get to slap anyone on the wrist without them knowing it was you, or why. It's self-policing by censorship that directly counteracts free speech and free thinking. It's too convenient, too powerful, too disrespectful, too arbitrary, and too anonymous. Here comments literally fade out. You're voting to "cancel" a comment.

Why respectfully reply when you run the risk of being downvoted yourself? Being wrong and downvoted is one thing, but what if you were not wrong? The votes are a measure of opinion and sentiment, not fact. And we can police comments, but we cannot police the downvotes. To then call this tally "karma" and equate this with your worth on a platform is a sure way to encourage thought alignment, not debate.

Bottom-line, if anyone feels they've been unjustifiably downvoted, or even "sour" for being downvoted, the feature is being followed by a negative experience for the user. If there is nothing that can be done to improve the experience, then that is the price you pay for the positives that feature brings (in this case moderation), but if there is something that could be done, then you have no excuses not to do them, if you are to put the user experience first.

What I would immediately do to improve the experience on HN:

1. As others have suggested, add a score for upvote/downvote total. So 50 upvotes and 51 downvotes = 101 points. Any points cancelled out could even be double Karma, or just the negative flipped to a positive. Engagement is worth valuing, and an upvote/downvote pair is healthy intellectual drama.

2. I would have a small list of keywords to select from displayed next to the comment title AFTER you click downvote. Downvoting should be a rare occasion (and I think it is), and adding one more step to add nuance to the downvote should be positive for the downvoter and the downvoted.

So a comment after downvotes would look like:

unabst 16 hours ago [–] troll 1 tone 2 incorrect 4 flagged dead

This could be done for upvotes too, but maybe make the selection optional.

I have a feeling on HN the shaming and bitterness of downvoting is not a bug but a feature. It's democratic, it's power to the user, it's fair, yada yada yada.

Personally, at this point I am certain downvoting features lead to polarization, toxicity, bullying, group think, hesitation of substantive discourse, and a lot of negativity with the experience. And all the notable platforms with downvote features have suffered.

For users, downvotes are low cost influence without participation or accountability, and for forum owners, it is a feature to reward the long tail of the least valuable users, who together make up a huge cohort, and it keeps that cohort engaged.

Good of this site to be earnest, but I'd argue there is no meaningful "why," for downvotes, it's just a way to pander to the worst part of peoples nature.

I don't understand why a person who couldn't bother to copy and paste their code would bother clicking this link and read 3 paragraphs of passive-aggressive text on why they're wrong.

What problem does this solve that "please post your code" doesn't?

For me downvoting should be for at least one:

1 - Not relevant to the discussion

2 - Rude/Offensive/Prejudice, etc

Downvoting means the comment get less visibility. In real life conversations, when you don't agree, you don't turn down someone's voice so nobody can hear them. You either reply saying that you don't agree, or you get them out of the discussion if they are 1 or 2 above.

If any opinion that is different than the prevailing opinion get downvoted - thus, less visible - people are not going to see the different angles of the discussion. Even if it's an opinion based on wrong assumptions/facts, other people might benefit from seeing the correction on the replies

I think that the site is a nice idea in theory, but it's another technological solution for a social (interpersonal) problem, and I see two major aspects of it.

1. The people who would rely on this site should really consider upping their reading and social skills to determine if they should even consider expending the effort to respond in the first place. If it's deemed worth it to respond, get a feel for the language the question-asker is using to see if it's someone with vast dev experience but new to a certain system, someone with mid-level or just enough experience, etc., before one types out a response. This could be its own article, but this is a huge problem.

2. There are a lot of people who simply do not care that HackerNews/StackOverflow/etc. are communities and are just looking for answers to their questions. I've come to see that people can make all sorts of guides and resources like https://xyproblem.info/ and community-specific resources like for IRCs, Discord channels, etc. but there are simply people who, while they aren't vindictive, don't give a shit about a given community's etiquette. The people who care enough will at least scan these guides and try their best.

My biggest concern is that both of these aspects overlap and if this was actively used, there'd be situations where:

- Experts/those knowledgeable in a certain domain but lacking in social acumen will lazily link these answers to people who are new but who have at least scanned community guides and have tried their best to create a post, leaving the new user feeling like they're simply being turned away

- The same group noted above will perform the same deal with someone who doesn't care about the given community and just wants an answer, inciting this individual's vitriol and perpetuating the cycle of apathetic or "control freak" experts and outsider chumps expecting free work for no effort

Solving the StackOverflow empty downvote problem is hard, but simply adding a hyperlink to someone else's pre-written words as a SO comment is not the right move.

How about "I downvoted to increase the visibility of my answer relative to others to get more useless internet points."?

It's not just the useless internet points, it's moving your point of view or points of view that you agree with higher on the page so it's seen by more people. Downvotes often have less to do with the quality of the content and more to do with gaming the page layout to get more impressions.

This reminds me of a reddit copypasta:


I just downvoted your comment.

FAQ What does this mean? The amount of karma (points) on your comment and Reddit account has decreased by one.

Why did you do this? There are several reasons I may deem a comment to be unworthy of positive or neutral karma. These include, but are not limited to:

Rudeness towards other Redditors, Spreading incorrect information, Sarcasm not correctly flagged with a /s. Am I banned from the Reddit? No - not yet. But you should refrain from making comments like this in the future. Otherwise I will be forced to issue an additional downvote, which may put your commenting and posting privileges in jeopardy.

I don't believe my comment deserved a downvote. Can you un-downvote it? Sure, mistakes happen. But only in exceedingly rare circumstances will I undo a downvote. If you would like to issue an appeal, shoot me a private message explaining what I got wrong. I tend to respond to Reddit PMs within several minutes. Do note, however, that over 99.9% of downvote appeals are rejected, and yours is likely no exception.

How can I prevent this from happening in the future? Accept the downvote and move on. But learn from this mistake: your behavior will not be tolerated on Reddit.com. I will continue to issue downvotes until you improve your conduct. Remember: Reddit is privilege, not a right.

> But learn from this mistake: your behavior will not be tolerated

downvoting has divulged into shaming. That's the real problem here. It trained millions of internet users to be hypersensitive to how others might react to their comment.

As many others have said, I try to only downvote those not adding value to the discussion, or not following the guidelines. I have also (as I'm sure many people have) been the victim of downvotes simply from people disagreeing, which I think is not what downvotes are for.

Which got me thinking. How about a system where we penalize downvotes that are on comments which also have several upvotes? If a comment is genuinely not adding value, or against the guidelines, one imagines it would not garner many upvotes. So if a comment gets upvotes as well, this probably indicates that the downvotes are for simple disagreement, and those downvoting should lose karma.

I'm not sure what the ratio should be, or how much the penalty should be. In my mind equal numbers of up and down indicates that the downvotes are misplaced. So perhaps something like if upvotes = downvotes/3, or maybe some hard limit like 4 upvotes would trigger downvote penalization. Perhaps this would make people think twice before downvoting for disagreement.

As an aside, on StackOverflow downvoting costs you 1 point. I don't think that's a good system because sometimes a downvote is warranted, but something like the above seems more fair.

Counterpoint: comments that are counterfactual or fallacious deserve to be downvoted. "Not adding value to the discussion" is far too broad, since it includes many other things that can be extremely subjective, so I think it's not useful as a guideline.

> penalize downvotes that are on comments which also have several upvotes

Seems like a version of automatic meta-moderation. I'm not strictly against the idea of modifying someone's "voting power" based on past voting behavior - frequent vs. infrequent, positive vs. negative, conformist (for lack of a better term) or contrary. However, such systems have to contend with the issue of reinforcing groupthink rather than actual quality, and the last thing HN needs is more groupthink. Also, any implementation is likely to involve the manipulation of values that aren't small integers, and apparently that's Too Hard.

I've frequently felt that HN could be (even) more engaging if we could see a 'controversy' score of some sort. Simply put, the % of upvotes vs. all votes for a comment.

I feel this would be interesting because with the current approach, a comment can have +1 (yay!) upvotes, where in reality, 61 readers voted, 31 up, 30 down. Knowing that, I'd see the comment and discussion with more depth.


With all due respect, it seems many are overthinking this. So concerned with winning the conversation that it becomes a contest. Perhaps this upvote/downvote feature is getting to be more of a distraction. Why not just enjoy being part of a conversation and listen. It doesn't have to be about promoting your agenda.

My first reaction was oh great a private comment reply so no one can see who wrote that comment and is only visible to the original poster. I think it’s an incredibly nuanced subject why people downvote. On sites like stack overflow or quora where there is more structure around answers and questions a cookie-cutter type response as to why somethings are downvoted may be a good approach but not on hacker news type sites. It would be a great idea to create a tool that allows others to leave a private reply anonymously so one can learn at least what others are thinking when they downvote even if one does not agree with the provided reply.

The anonymous reply could be visible to everyone also as long as it remains anonymous I think is the key.

In fact it could even improve the community if serial downvoters are required to leave replies instead of downvoting an unpopular comment to the abyss.

Having been on a variety of forums for about three decades now, I think a lot about how this and other features can so heavily influence a site. Flat chronological versus threaded versus a "one-level nest" model. Upvoting, downvoting, flagging. Being able to directly reply to someone. Anonymous by default versus usernames versus sockpuppets versus anon-by-request-to-moderators versus "tripcodes" and so on. Does sorting exist, and if so, what is the default? And then the impact of upvotes and downvotes on that. Up/down versus favorites and bookmarks, favorites versus karma. Everything2 and the long-vanished "XP Pack Rape." The ease of account creation versus the ease of duplicate account creation.

My suspicion is that, even more than moderators, nice FAQs, and such, these can influence the forum experience the most.

People downvote me all the time without saying why. I figure it's because they don't like what I'm saying but they simply cannot come up with a good rebuttal.

So whenever that happens, I feel like I've won. Thanks for all the downvotes suckers!

That's actually a great way of thinking! I'll try to do that more often, thanks

To quote some true words of wisdom

> Ain't nobody got time for that

No time for the poster to read through a page of text, or for the downvoter to find the most appropriate link describing their rationale.

I think it is much better for the commenter to post in a reply why they downvoted. It shows they are willing to engage. To simply post a link may signal to the original poster that the downvoter couldn't be bothered, or that he just pushed a button and ran.

Second, even for a broad class of entries downvoted for a similar reason, each one has some nuance which may get lost if all the poster has to go on is a preachy page.

Upvotes and downvotes are worthless. We need authorship identification analysis tools to visually identify shills, astroturfers, bot armies, people paid to promote things and the koolaid drinkers who back them up.

For example, my posts would be marked as a F/OSS Zealot/Linux Fanboy. Or something like that.

And further, if my account downvotes something about Apple, it should have less impact than if someone who is an Apple fanboy does it. Balance.

Just an idea. ;)

How about leaving a comment explaining why you downvoted?

I think this is a great idea. I can think of four possible improvements:

1) Require a selection of one of the reasons when a downvote occurs (require HN cooperation & implementation)

2) Add a similar capability for upvoting reasons

3) Require a selection of one of the reasons when an upvote occurs

4) Add a 'save this' feature to HN, so an upvote is not used as a bookmark to quickly search HN posts you wanted to find again.

I use the "favorite" feature to save/bookmark HN posts.

I'd love a "favorite" or "save" for comments too.

It exists, you just have to be looking at the comment exclusively. Click on the timestamp next to the poster's name, and the 'favorite' button will be on the page.

You can already "favorite" comments. Click on the "n minutes ago" link next to the commenter's name and you get the option. To view favorited submissions/comments, click your user name to go to your profile info. The links to favorited submissions and comments are there.

Thank you to the folks who told me about favorite option.

I would say then that my request would be that favorite is a link with the main set up links under the post entry on the main page, rather than just on the page for that post.

I have long been a proponent of using upvotes to increase the signal over downvotes to reduce the noise.

As long as upvotes can be manipulated (multiple accounts/bots) then having downvotes in places to reduce noise is necessary IMHO

I downvoted because I disagree with your comment, but didn't have anything new to add. The other option would have been to add a comment that boils down to "nuhuh" which would be rude to everyone else reading.

Now I just need a plugin to paste that for everytime I downvote.

I downvoted your comment to demonstrate that, in a hypothetical system with commented downvotes, if you add an unhelpful response with your downvote, that response itself can be downvoted as not contributing to the discussion.

I don't understand why slashdot's old moderation and metamoderation tools aren't in more wide use.

a downvote has to have a reason. votes are metamoderated to see if they are reasonable and if you are determined to not be reasonable, you lose moderating privileges.

Discussed on meta.stackoverflow.com including an answer from then-employee Jon Ericson: https://meta.stackoverflow.com/q/355950

I like the idea, but the title feels aggressive. I'm no psychometrist, but when people feel like they are being attacked, they don't respond in a positive way.

Downvotes may be feedback, but they don't feel like it.

Making use of this website at HN in comments would be a direct violation of the guidelines, as I read them anyways, since they specifically warn against discussing downvoting in this manner.

Submissions like these make me think that Slashdot's moderation was ahead of its time, even ahead of the current time.

You could just communicate with words, like an adult though?

The grey text color of your comment seems to suggest that there is at least one HN member with at least 500 karma (hence the ability to downvote) who finds the mere mention of such an outrageous imposition to be worth a downvote. How dare you insinuate we could act like grown-ups?

The greyed out text color of your comment proves you are right!

I strongly dislike the downvote mechanism, it teaches laziness and limits/prevents learning.

I'm copy/pasting a comment dang made not so long ago, followed by my reply:

dang's comment: "Yes, I'm a moderator here. Sorry about all those scoldings and chidings. I know they're annoying, and if it helps at all, they're even more tedious to write than to read [1]. But unfortunately the system can't regulate itself without feedback from some dedicated component—this is very clear. If we went by upvotes alone, the site would be dominated by indignation and sensationalism [2]. It's interesting to ask why. I thought about that for years and I think I found an answer. It's because although the community has many smart and well-intentioned people, each is giving only a fragment of their attention to HN (at least I hope they are). Some critical functions, like optimizing the site globally rather than just reacting to specific stories or comments, require someone whose job it is to give full attention to HN [3]. It's not that we're better—except in the sense that one gets better at anything with practice—it's that we play the role of looking out for the community as a whole.

Actually the system has three components: community and moderators, but also software. That's interesting too, because it has always been a property of HN that the core moderators were also the programmers. We rely heavily on software to help manage the portions of the problem that can be handled that way, with the intention of freeing more of our attention for the optimization problem. It only works up to a point, but without it we'd be doomed.

[1] https://hn.algolia.com/?query=tedious%20write%20read%20by:da...

[2] https://hn.algolia.com/?query=%22upvotes%20alone%22%20by:dan...

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22863209"

My reply:

'Re: "... each is giving only a fragment of their attention to HN"

Yet even based on this "you" think downvotes are a good idea to keep them, compounding the issue of partial attention with laziness by allowing a single click for a dopamine hit to satisfy someone's half-or-less attention interpretation of something - not required to spend the mental effort to actually qualitatively reply (that you/HN are seeming to strive for) where they'd be forced to pay more attention or their lack of attention will be exposed for fair ridicule via getting responded to; or the qualitative reply will help educate or cause the author being responded to hopefully learn something (that a downvote won't teach them) even if that is that they weren't clear enough with their writing and it's being misinterpreted. I'd implore you to do a multi-month to year trial of no downvotes on comments - I'm sure it'll piss off those who like to think they're right at half-or-less attention and regularly downvote click for that sweet sweet dopamine - and ironically those who normally downvote may actually comment their grievances/complain that there aren't downvotes.

I'm not trying to pick a fight, though I'm really curious how you see these truths I explained above? Having downvotes seems to support a lower quality, less discussion, and less requirement for attention - which seems contrary to what you seem to be working towards?'

Re: “If we went by upvotes alone, the site would be dominated by indignation and sensationalism [2].”

dang offers no evidence of this, however I imagine anecdotally he sees how many upvotes/downvotes all comments receive. In reality what happens is those the upvoted comments at the top would already be at the top simply with the upvote mechanism - and the "lower quality" comments would move to the bottom anyway.

If indignation truly is a problem - have that as a Flag option. If reviewing that is too much for the paid moderators, then find volunteers who will review and confirm - and then manually suppress anger, hate, and whatever else qualifies. Adding that Flag mechanism in to solve that problem would then undo the pitfalls of having downvotes.

It’s odd too to me that dang/HN or anyone would allow a “mob” of people who you know will upvote angry commentary, meaning they’re reactive emotionally - getting a sweet hit of dopamine to reenforce the crowds anger - and then you’d also allow those same people the power on the other end of the spectrum, for them to unleash that reactiveness to downvote/suppress comments as well.

No downvote option + have a “Flag for indignation” option to then require review by paid or volunteer mods would be a precision weapon compared to crowdsourcing this mob, expecting them to do a rational job of moderation duties. If it ends up being substantial more work that gets created then start asking for monthly contributions to pay to support for more moderators.

Finally, is it really a good idea to allow people to get a reward for downvoting - just like giving the people who heavily upvote indignation a reward? Obviously it’s necessary to keep upvotes - I’ll hope that the precision moderation option I mention above will be implemented instead of downvotes.

I hope this is satire.

HN don't do humour, so no it's real.

This is not true. I've seen satire posted here.

I don't think this is satire, but I have seen it here.

Previous commenter forgot to insert <sarcasm> tag.

Downvotes are mostly weapons against people you don’t like.

Believe it or not, I once had a very high karma here on HN. Over time it has dwindled and been withered away by downvotes. Nearly every post I make these days seems to get downvotes now, even for fairly innocuous posts. I don’t get it. I am almost certain that I have now been targeted by some downvotes cabal, and perhaps the same individuals continue to downvotes my posts and then dig into my post history to find even more posts to downvote.

In my opinion, downvotes should not be anonymous. If someone disagrees with you then you should know their name. Instead, we have these forums where people hide like cowards while inflicting harm.

I looked through your comment history. You claim got me curious.

Most of your downvoted comments (usually one liners) have comments under them (usually paragraphs) disagreeing with you and explaining why.

Meanwhile, your downvoted comments that have no explanation added are simply out of place for the HN community. Swear words, short controversial statements, very political messages, etc.

Do you truly believe this comment was downvoted because of a cabal and not because of its content?: "I’m tired of trashy Chinese tastes gaining so much influence in the world." https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25527391

That example is not even one of my most downvoted comments, it actually had upvotes before sliding to -1 downvotes over all. The op you are replying to has more downvotes than that, sitting at -2. Why?

Don’t forget the fact I used to have close to 1000 karma on HN. So clearly something changed at some point and my decline in popularity picked up momentum. I really wish I could see data on my upvotes and downvotes history.

When you know you’re going to be downvoted regardless of what you post, it’s easy for your writing to take on a bitter and cynical tone. That said, most of my comments aren’t even like that and still get inexplicable downvotes.

> When you know you’re going to be downvoted regardless of what you post, it’s easy for your writing to take on a bitter and cynical tone. That said, most of my comments aren’t even like that and still get inexplicable downvotes.

I believe that you hit the nail on the head there. If your reaction to feedback from your peers is to turn bitter you are creating a vicious circle.

When I get a downvote, I analyze my comment and try to detect the mistake or social faux pas I commited. For example, most *chan or Reddit lingo is frowned upon so I avoid them.

This is an account I created 4 months ago because my previous account was named after a domain I no longer own. I am already at 811 karma. My previous account, created in 2013, had 5930 karma with long periods of inactivity. Karma is meaningless if you do not use it as a metric to detect how your peers perceive you. It's points without a scoreboard and no one is keeping track.

This does not mean I bend backward and follow the opinions of others. I do stand by my comments that are downvoted and would repeat them verbatim if the same conversation arise. But that's an exception and it's usually about controversial topics.

Remember that the words you write are going to be read by someone (or what's the point?). So make sure you are either helpful to other users or that you bring the discussion forward. Otherwise you are simply wasting someone's time and they will quickly click on the downward triangle.

This is not an attack, I am genuinely trying to help you get out of that catch-22.

That type of commentary is definitely crude and distasteful, ignorant at least - however OP's points still stands. Downvotes are a weapon of oppression, not only to readers but it also allows others to easily dismiss something - to turn an impulse or urge into a simple downvote click for a hit of dopamine, so arguably it's suppressing and perhaps placating others who feel strong enough emotion where they feel the need to act - but instead of a qualitative response so we can see if their criticism is critical, they get to act with a click.

Oppression is a bit strong word, I'd say downvotes promote groupthink.

People with opposing worldviews simply stop commenting after receiving downvotes (and especially when banned from commenting for some time because of downvoting). Currently HN is very progressive, although there is a lot of people with conservative views, who simply don't comment.

It could the the opposite: conservative majority with quiet progressives. It would be equally bad.

Yes, oppression is too strong of a word to use - the feeling I had would have been better described to state that suppression of ideas is on the spectrum towards oppression, a sign that that's not the best direction to go in, the better direction to lead towards is closer to freedom, and expression vs. suppression.

> Currently HN is very progressive, although there is a lot of people with conservative views, who simply don't comment.

Currently, HN has a robust (though definitely skewed in ways one would expect of a forum dominated by people who are, if not always currently well-off, in possession of excellent economic prospects in first-world economies) mix of views, though the meme about conservatives being suppressed in tech is well-represented among HN’s conservatives, so we see lots of HN conservatives commenting about how HN conservatives don't comment.

Also, we see lots of them commenting about other things, too.

(In fact, others have argued—though I think this is also, but only equally, wrong—that the dominant viewpoint on HN is right-libertarian.)

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