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Negative voting

by mtmcc (Hermit)
on Aug 06, 2013 at 22:54 UTC ( #1048205=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I am a relative new-comer to perl and perlmonks. Having received valuable advice from monks on various perl issues, I try in turn to make an honest and genuine effort to help others, when I feel I can contribute to a question.

While contributing in this way, I have had useful feedback from several monks when my suggestions in reply to questions are in someway deficient, or better alternative approaches exist. This feedback is really valuable to me, because it helps me learn faster.

I understand in this respect why negative voting could be useful. For example, it would be useful for an original poster, or someone searching for threads on a previous topic, to be aware that a particular reply was felt to be good or bad by the general voting population.

I'm not so sure about the usefulness of anonymous negative voting without feedback. Particularly for someone like me starting out, knowing that an anonymous person doesn't like my reply isn't very helpful to me by itself. And I find that the negative votes I've had are generally without feedback. This also seems to me to be of little use to the general readership, who can't see that a post has been voted negatively (or positively), unless they have votes themselves, and want to vote on the post, just to see the score.

Would it be a better system if either the current vote tally on all posts was visible to all users? Or at least that if someone feels compelled to vote a post down, they should give some reason as to why? Surely, that would help people learn faster generally?

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Negative voting
by kcott (Chancellor) on Aug 07, 2013 at 05:22 UTC

    G'day mtmcc,

    I had a look Worst Nodes. You're not listed there so it looks like you haven't posted anything atrocious.

    I then had a look at your home node. XP=550; Posts=127; Average=4.3307 — Current average for all posts by all monks in the last week = 6.2142 (see Voting/Experience System). So, overall your posts have been below average but not disastrously so.

    I next looked at your posts ordered by "lowest reputation first".

    I'm not interested in going through all of your nodes; let's just look at the first two. The second from the top of the list looked like a complete script but didn't compile due to a syntax error. You wrote "I can't test it on windows" but you could have tested it on any OS: I simply put the code in a temporary file and tested it like this (on Mac OS X):

    $ perl -c junk Can't find string terminator "'" anywhere before EOF at junk line 4.

    Anyway, you got a response pointing out your error. You said thanks, but then went on the blame windows for your mistake: "Reason #121 not to use windows!!" — that's the top of the list! Furthermore, you made no attempt to update the node with the error: it's still there and still wrong.

    So, those would be reasons why your two worst nodes were downvoted. I suggest you look at the others and see if you can work out the reasons for yourself. You can also look at nodes with a high reputation (Best Nodes and Selected Best Nodes) and see how they differ from yours.

    [I haven't voted on those nodes so I don't know exactly how poorly they were received.]

    Here's a few pointers that may improve the reputation of future nodes you write:

    • Don't post unless you feel you have something concrete to offer.
    • Check any code that you post actually runs and does what you claim (e.g. it performs the specified function, it produces output in the correct format, etc.).
    • If you can't run the code, at least attempt to check it has valid syntax.
    • If you offer opinions, back them up with links to documentation or other references.
    • When you make mistakes (as we all do from time to time), write an appropriate update: read (or reread) How do I change/delete my post?.

    [Just so you know, I don't recall downvoting any of your nodes (although I may have done); I do recall, on a number of occasions, choosing not to upvote your nodes because I thought they were poor quality; and, I have corrected dubious information you supplied at least once (I'm not going to go searching for it but it was something to do with Tk).]

    -- Ken

      Hi Ken,

      Thanks for taking the time to go through all that. (And the Tk question was Re: Tk-messageBox -padx - and thanks for the feedback!).

      I guess I was trying to make a more general point. I certainly wouldn't expect replies as comprehensive - as yours are - in every setting. But for example, I'm pretty sure I'll be a better poster in future having read your reply, than if I just saw a negative score on this thread, and couldn't see why... And maybe, in general, people who are down-voted most frequently are most in need of feedback?

      Thanks again!

Re: Negative voting (system redesign)
by tye (Sage) on Aug 07, 2013 at 06:28 UTC

    Yeah. Pretty much. Anonymous sniping isn't particularly useful as a means for communicating to the recipient.

    But getting rid of downvoting won't eliminate anonymous sniping. Neither will getting rid of it and also of posting without logging in.

    The cheap jedi mind trick is to get most people to sate their urge to anonymously snipe in the least disruptive way possible while also getting the recipient to usually ignore it (but without the sender feeling obviously ignored, of course, because that would thwart the sating). And the major point of that is reducing flame wars.

    So downvotes rather suck at communicating useful information to the recipient. (Though, in my experience, they often aren't completely useless on even that front.) But that isn't really their primary purpose. And I think that you have indeed identified a usage model of this system were at least some users following that model would be better served by the lack of downvoting.

    But that is rather far from determining that the whole system would be better without downvoting. Heck, I'll even agree that downvotes aren't extremely effective at any one particular purpose. But I still find them worthwhile as part of a rather complex system that tries to balance a lot of competing interests. And taking downvotes out of this system would indeed make it better in some ways, IMHO. I expect it would also make the system worse in other ways.

    I think none would really disagree with the proposition that eloquent replies are better than downvotes in (almost?) every way. But not all replies are eloquent. Not all potential repliers possess the eloquence for the message they feel the need to send.

    I, in general, encourage people to reply eloquently if at all possible over downvoting. (I also encourage people to simply wait if they aren't feeling particularly eloquent in a particular situation as, very often, somebody more eloquent will come along soon enough or the passage of time will be sufficient to improve their own eloquence.)

    But I don't make blanket suggestions that everybody in every situation should choose to reply over downvoting. And I believe that I have even witnessed situations where downvoting was a much better choice than replying. Though I also find that to be true in only a small minority of cases.

    So, when you get a downvote, just think "At least s/he didn't create a throw-away account and use it to reply to me with just 'You suck!' (or worse)." That's what I do. :)

    - tye        

      Thanks tye!

      I guess I don't think negative votes are a bad thing - I see your point. I suppose I'm not talking about this because I get downvoted particularly often, I just think that a reply with any useful information content, whether eloquent or not, beats negative voting without feedback. And people who get down voted often are the people who would benefit most from some feedback.

      Thanks for your thoughts - fair points!

        And people who get down voted often are the people who would benefit most from some feedback.

        some folks are quite immune to feedback, trying to engage them with constructive-feedback is quite pointless, there isn't enough time in the day to accomplish nothing repeatedly -- downvote (if ye can) and move on

        I just think that a reply with any useful information content, whether eloquent or not, beats negative voting without feedback. And people who get down voted often are the people who would benefit most from some feedback.
        How could you read several threads on downvoting and still be so naive?!?

        Anyway.... One obvious reason for downvoting without, or in lieu of, an explanation is if someone else has already provided a good explanation. It's not like that magically exonerates the offending node. Massive downvoting could even help drive home the point (if the recipient is open to learning, or at least open to accepting/adapting to the way things are).

        And I'm pretty sure that spammers will not be reading any explanations, but a certain number of downvotes are necessary before a node is reaped.

        Regardless, your post is a good reminder that constructive criticism can be very beneficial, so thanks for asking.

        Elda Taluta; Sarks Sark; Ark Arks
        My deviantART gallery

Re: Negative voting
by marinersk (Priest) on Aug 12, 2013 at 20:47 UTC
    I don't get downvoted often, but it has happened.

    My sentiment matches yours -- In one case I absolutely could not figure out why I was downvoted. I'm pretty good at figuring things out, and in the one or two other cases where I noticed a downvote, it was pretty clear I hadn't added anything useful to the conversation, and probably said something a bit snippy.

    But I had one where I was absolutely unable to ascertain what was wrong -- and I seem to recall it had been downvoted more than once, so it wasn't just a bad hair day drive by.

    The irony is I posted a response asking why I had been downvoted, and that post got downvoted.

    So I clarified with another response, asking for an opportunity to improve my posting style. That post also got downvoted.

    I finally realized I was only feeding trolls who were, for whatever reason, not going to help me. So I stopped commenting on it (as I was dangerously close to being a troll myself at that point), and eventually others took pity on me and upvoted them.

    I still have one sitting at -2, a nice reminder to not take it personally LOL.

    Still, watching variations on this discussion over the years I have been here, I am forced to agree with tye -- I can't see any solution that doesn't have an equal and opposite reaction component. Improve one aspect, another goes a bit further south.

    I am unfortunately also of the opinion that trying to implement a whole infrastructure under it a laWikipedia or what have you would simply be a lot of effort for almost no gain.

    A drive by downvote (assuming the reason is not already posted by others) is less helpful than one with a reply, but it still serves a few useful purposes -- not the least of which is to remind us to not take it personally.

    Most of the time, if you are creative enough to work well in Perl, you're probably smart enough to deduce at least the general reason for a downvote. My advice:

    { my $insight = &UseTheForce::glean(\%downVote); if (defined $insight) { &ObiWan::learn($insight); } &ObiWan::moveAlong(); }

      Most of the time, if you are creative enough to work well in Perl, you're probably smart enough to deduce at least the general reason for a downvote.

      And this, I think, is where “the human psychology of this particular site” stands, and probably always will:   “downvotes mean that you, personally, are not “–(whatever)– enough,” ergo they are used (merely) as a form of peer-pressure.   Even though they are necessarily attached to a particular post, they are in fact an expression of opinion about a particular person as it was felt by “the minority who actually vote” at that particular point in time.   Not of the post, and accompanied by no explanation of any kind.   All of which therefore generally makes the vote-tallies (and the per-user vote accumulations ...) useless as a metric of post-quality.

      The reason why I would quietly harp about this point is, actually, not “a wounded ego.”   To me, a web-site such as this one is primarily valuable as a source of information ... for many years to come.   The day-to-day bickerings among the individual contributors, some of whom might well be dead by the time I stumble-upon their post, are of no importance at all.   Instead, what I am faced with is:   “hundreds of threads in response to my Super Search, and right now I need to determine which three of them I need to read in their entirety.”   I don’t care whether the Peanut Gallery, at that point in time, did or did not feel that the poster was “creative” or “smart.”   But I do care about what the peers, at that point in time, expressed about the quality and relevance of the thread, and especially, why.

      PerlMonks runs on very-old software (and not-particularly “beefy” servers ...) that as far as I can tell has never been updated in many years.   But it is, nonetheless, a “go-to source” for information about Perl.   The contributors who cast votes probably will always smugly consider themselves to be the smartest kids in school.   That, too, is of no concern to the information resource.

        downvotes mean that you, personally, are not "–(whatever)– enough," ergo they are used (merely) as a form of peer-pressure.
        I am inclined to disagree; I can't speak for others, but my observations suggest that a few types of content and a few types of presentations clearly attract up- or down-votes fairly regularly, and I find the trend pretty consistent.

        But having read a few of your posts on this matter, I suspect you and I are both fairly set in our views, so I will honor your opinion as having sufficient evidence for your needs; mine has sufficient evidence for my needs.

        I do hope your opinion becomes more positive over time; but I suppose there's no particular harm if it does not.

        As to the more general point that the culture here is unlikely to change, though we might disagree on what the nature of what that culture actually is, I think I agree that it is fairly stable.

        Likewise for the value of this site and its source of information. For all you and I might complain about some of the detailedly unfair nature of the voting system, the truth is I see the system being very successful in the long term for having kept the mood here light and helpful.

        Whether because it rewards the conscious mind in some subtle way, or because it rewards the subconscious for confirmist behaviors (drinking the Kool-Aid?), my experience weighs in with a resounding acknowledgement of a very long-running, largely self-sustaining system which has succeeded long after most others I have seen fail, assuming the goal included keeping things topical and helpful.

        I dunno. I could be talking out of my left ear here. But it sure seems like for as long as I have been here, the environment has remained surprisingly focused, positive, and helpful.

        In the words of Joss Whedon, via Capt. Reynolds -- that's not nothin'.

        “downvotes mean that you, personally, are not “–(whatever)– enough,” ... they are in fact an expression of opinion about a particular person
        If downvotes are merely "an expression of opinion about a particular person" how come your best node has a reputation of +105 while your worst has a reputation of -40?

        Your best is reported as having "no significant downvotes" while your worst has +18 upvotes and -58 downvotes.

        “downvotes mean that you, personally, are not “–(whatever)– enough,”

        Bullshit! When you post good information, I upvote your posts. When you post crap, I downvote them.

        You've obviously forgotten the stats and sentiments expressed in Re: Proposal: eliminate down-votes. I haven't.

        With the rise and rise of 'Social' network sites: 'Computers are making people easier to use everyday'
        Examine what is said, not who speaks -- Silence betokens consent -- Love the truth but pardon error.
        "Science is about questioning the status quo. Questioning authority".
        In the absence of evidence, opinion is indistinguishable from prejudice.

        The contributors who cast votes probably will always smugly consider themselves to be the smartest kids in school. That, too, is of no concern to the information resource.

        Wow, you read minds, accross time and space, you're awesome sundialsvc4 , what am I thinking now? What stocks should I buy? Thanks man

Re: Negative voting
by parv (Priest) on Aug 09, 2013 at 00:32 UTC
    How does listing here that I downvoted the OP due to its repeated nature (pointed out already near the beginning of the thread) help you?
      I'd say that it's a better contribution, in comparison to just casting the vote. It makes the thread better than it would have been if those who commented above had instead just down-voted and moved on. That's just my view.

      And thanks for the feedback...

      If I could reply to that ... straight-up-and-down and without fear (which BTW I don’t have) of “downvotes” ... my very simple reply would be this:  

      “It does not help me at all,” because:

      • I have no idea why you did it.   (Do you object to the content, or to the author, or are you (were you, five years ago...) just having a bad hair day?)
      • If I am searching for this thread, three years hence, your “(up/down)vote” adds absolutely no semantics (tags, attributes, etc...) to the thread.

      WikiPedia might be the best illustration of what might usefully be done:   a system for commenting about the content, expressed as categories that can be tabulated.   A “vote” is merely a number, unless it is paired with attributes and intended to be useful “for years to come.”

Re: Negative voting
by Anonymous Monk on Aug 06, 2013 at 23:05 UTC
      I've already read through all the threads I could find on the topic. I'm not upset by negative votes. I know I won't get it right all of the time. It seems to me that comments on poor advice are much more helpful to current and future readers of a thread than anonymous, hidden negative votes, particularly for people starting out...
        It is what it is, sometimes you'll get feedback for why votes went one way or other, most times not. If you're trying to be helpful, and aren't a jerk about it, you'll garner positive votes pretty easily.

        I do remember something I thought was weird when I was new to the monastery, it seemed like I would instantly get one negative vote as soon as I posted, I never pursued how/why that was happening, but if that's what you're seeing, I think you can ignore it.


        I've already read through all the threads I could find on the topic.

        Really, don't they answer the questions you posed?

Re: Negative voting
by sundialsvc4 (Abbot) on Aug 08, 2013 at 17:21 UTC

    I seem to be quite the downvote-magnet.   (Witness the number of negative votes that, by now, I’m quite sure this post has accumulated.   I rest my case.)   I’m sure that I am therefore seen dismissed-outright as biased (when I am not), but I think that what you see here is just a well-entrenched psychology of this site.   People here apparently like to make negative comments “Anonymously,” so that they cannot accumulate downvotes as a result of being exceptionally rude.   And, they definitely like to downvote.   So, I never expect the web software to be changed.

    What sort of changes would I consider to be useful?   I’ve said them before ... and they come straight from the standard practices of other sites:

    1. No more Anonymous Monk.   You can’t post if you don’t have an account, and if your session times-out while you are waxing loquacious, you must log-in again to proceed.   I know of no other site that permits comments without identification and accountability.
    2. Separate tallying of “up” votes, “down” votes, and the total of votes-cast.   If a very popular thread gets 5 upvotes and 5 downvotes, it got 10 votes, which makes it quite popular, yet the total is zero ... the popularity cannot be seen except by the gods, but it just might be the number I most want to see when deciding whether to read this one or not.
    3. The ability to sort postings in ascending or descending order by any of these three numbers.
    4. Show the current counts whether-or-not you have cast a vote yourself.   (Right now, the number is hid unless/until you vote.   If I am (see below) seeking to use that number as a quality-metric, I need to see it!)

    I am indifferent to “XP” and have no aspirations to the Papacy, but I do use PM constantly as an information resource.   “Positive votes” are, to me, a very strong indication of how useful therefore how relevant the posting is, or was at the time.   “Negative votes” are useless to me.   “Total votes” are an indication of how much attention the posting received; another potential indication of information quality.   When I am faced with almost any new problem, I pretty-much know that “someone has already banged their head against this before, and someone else has come up with something brilliant.”   Therefore, I search first.   But I have, right now, very limited ability to make the big-fish bubble to the top of what is sometimes quite a long list.

    I sometimes wonder if we should have a different approach to the same thing, e.g. “Did you find this post helpful?”   And, especially if not, to provide feedback such as WikiPedia supports, that is ... “Why or why not?” and expressed as categories.   I would also like to filter my searches by these categories, e.g. to exclude them.   (Remember that I am often searching about things that I, at that time, know relatively little about, so peer-rating categorizations made “back then” are another bellwether of information quality.)   I don’t care about “the person.”   I care about the (then-)perceived quality of the post itself even if it is six years old now.

    Some things about the site, however, are relatively unique and work exceptionally well, IMHO.   The “consider” mechanism enables ordinary users, of sufficient yet moderate ranking, to collectively act in the capacity of a Moderator ... such that the general level of information quality is here, and the spam content is low, all without burdening a small-handful of users with that thankless duty.   The “approve user questions” system works well, and I generally agree with the collective’s “front-page” selections.   The Super Search facility is also well-implemented.

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