|Syntactic Confectionery Delight|
Here are two things that we should eliminate:
First, obviously, “the spam-bots have discovered us.” No one should have to use the “reap” facility to eliminate unwanted bot-generated advertisements for cleaning fluid. Okay, that’s the easy one. (But it also means that we will have to eliminate whatever causes login-sessions to vanish.)
Second, we should take this lesson from another site that is sometimes filled with popular opinions: http://www.geocaching.com, the GPS hunting-game web site. “Why is it that you can say that you like a cache, and you can recommend that it needs to be removed for some reason, but you cannot say that you don’t like it?” I didn’t know. Somebody asked. And the answer I heard was both two-fold and interesting.
The one-sentence version of that response was simply this: that, while everyone naturally has strong opinions both about geocaches and about the other people who place them, only the positive opinions, if there be any, are actually useful to caching. (Unless the consensus is that the cache is broken or that it for some reason needs to be “reaped,” i.e. for violation of the cache placement rules, which is a separate and unrelated technical issue.) When someone wants to express the opinion that a cache (other than his or her own) is a “favorite,” then that’s useful. But if someone, say, “doesn’t like micro-caches,” that very-quickly grows into “doesn’t like anyone who places micro-caches” to an outright vendetta against both those behaviors and against every single thing that the individual does. It happens. Quickly. Inevitably. And it is not useful to the purpose of that web-site, which is: the caches, and promoting the experience of going out into the woods (or, as the case may be, lifting up the “skirts” of a lamp-post every 530 feet) to find them. If someone attaches gold-stars to a particular cache, then it might mean that you, too, really want to go after this cache. But if someone has thrown tomatoes at it, that’s just an opinion.
So, the site gives you the ability to cast positive feedback (upon anyone other than yourself, and never mind of course the “sock puppets,” but it does not give you the ability to cast negative feedback. In short, “what goes up, must not come down.”
And ... it works.
Now, there are those who will disagree with me on this. (Which is why this post probably by now has both a reputation of at least
Posts are a lasting resource. Posts that are widely regarded as being good posts are helpful and the “attaboy” peer-review incentive is therefore good. (It feels good, too.) Negativism, and of course spam, are contrary. The pure psychology, then, of being able to say “I don’t like this,” and therefore by extension to say either, “I don’t like you” or “I am going to take it upon myself to condemn what I don’t think is a ‘good’ post according to me,” is also contrary. People are going to read these posts for years to come; we all do. And meanwhile we are also people. We lose our tempers sometimes, sometimes at other participants, and these behaviors have nothing to do with the purpose of this site but are contrary to it.
In closing, then, I submit for the consideration of the Monks that “geocaching.com was right on this one.” So, I might add, are many other sites who have a “fave” button and a “report this entry” but not a “thumbs down.” This is 100% human behavioral psychology, but it is important to any site whose intended-to-be-lasting content is contributed by humans. This is not “a sideways slap,” the negative-XP of this posting notwithstanding, but the experience of encountering it (thank you again, NodeReaper ...) was an eye-opener to me concerning its significance. Therefore, I submit it and mean it seriously. The “consider” mechanism works well and should remain as-implemented, as does pre-posting “peer-based moderating,” but downvoting should be permanently removed. You can vote a posting off the island, and you can fave it, but, by design, you can no longer speak poorly of it.