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Abstain option?

by sauoq (Abbot)
on Sep 10, 2002 at 02:09 UTC ( [id://196504] : monkdiscuss . print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I have seen some questions that cover subjects with which I am not very familiar but would like to be. Often in these threads, I find a reply which I am unable to judge the accuracy of on my own. In these cases, I would be willing to abstain from voting on the node in order to learn its reputation.

I think this feature would make sense for two reasons. First, the reputation provides some meta information that I could use to better judge the quality of the node and thereby increase my knowledge on the subject. Second, by abstaining, I could avoid polluting the reputation of a node about a subject in which I lack expertise thereby generally increasing the usefulness of the reputation system.

To be clear, I am suggesting that abstention would be a permanent decision. You could not choose to abstain and change your mind later. As I see abstaining as a choice not to vote I don't think it should decrease your votes for the day nor do I think it should have any effect on experience.

I have no real idea whether this would be easy to implement but I suspect it would be.

"My two cents aren't worth a dime.";

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Abstain option?
by Ovid (Cardinal) on Sep 10, 2002 at 04:27 UTC

    The only issue I have with this idea is that it really doesn't solve any particular problem. If a node is front-paged, it will get a disproportionately high reputation. Some people suffer personality downvotes and, as a result, have nodes with a lower rep than should be the case. I get personality upvotes and some of my nodes have a higher reputation than is reasonable. In fact, I've seen some well-regarded monks give completely incorrect information and get upvoted and less well-regarded monks give great answers but not get votes (in fact, there are a few times that I have seen fantastic nodes with a negative rep).

    For whatever reason, the maintainers of this site have decided not to make XP visible unless you vote. I think that's fine. Node reputation is often a function of node quality, but it's also often a popularity contest. Of course, that's easy for me to say, given where I am in terms of XP, but it's true. merlyn, as the classic example, if judged solely by node content, should have a much higher XP than myself given the number of nodes that he has authored. However, people like what I have to say and how I say it, so I can offer a less than perspicacious node and gain a higher rep than some others. I feel awkward about that, but that seems to be the way this works here. Reputation at Perlmonks is a function of the community, not of raw knowledge. Once people start to understand that, they can start learning who is interesting to read (me, sometimes) and who is providing great information (I had a list of monks here, but there were far too many :).

    As with any endeavour, we must learn our craft well enough to be able to judge the quality of an idea on its own merits. For that, there is no quick and easy solution. For example, Abigail-II posted an incredible OO technique that I was able to consider and vote on. As of this writing, it only has a reputation of 13, but it deserves a much higher reputation because it's brilliant. It would be sad to see people "abstain" and not consider it because its reputation doesn't meet their standards.


    Update: Another thought occurred to me. You also have to consider the context in which a reply is given, and perhaps to whom the reply is being offered. Imagine that I post a node saying that I have the following Perl snippet and want to know why it only works on occasion:

    open FILE, '<', $file or die "Cannot open $file for reading: $!"; print "Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1\n"; print <FILE>; close FILE;

    Right off the bat, one might guess that the reason it sometimes works is that the file I am opening has a newline at the beginning, thus completing the headers. Now someone might come along and say "Always use!". Frankly, there's not much need to load 6,000+ lines of code for one header. Typically, that advice would be good, but in this context, it's overkill to load several thousand lines of code for a missed newline.

    Further, what if in my post I had explained that I didn't use to print a header because this script was so frequently requested that I was having performance problems? In that case, seemingly good advice is actually bad advice. Once again, the node must be judged on its merit, but it might pick up some ++ votes from people with an automatic reaction to seeing someone mention Thus, we once again fall back to the need for people to be good enough at their craft to be able to judge things themselves, rather than rely on the judgment of others.

    Of course, I must confess that I'm very curious to see the reputation this node earns, given its contents :)

    Join the Perlmonks Setiathome Group or just click on the the link and check out our stats.

      What follows is my rather lengthy reply to Ovid. I know that this isn't a new debate. Many thanks to grinder for all of the reference material. I read it and found some of my own. I was especially amused to see that this exact idea was discussed at least minimally as early as May of 2000 in a response to Votes & Reputation.

      I think this is well thought out and fairly well written but I didn't feel it was fair to make you scroll half a mile to the next node below if you wanted to ignore it.

      If you would like to, then please. . .

      "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";
        This means that the system is suboptimal in that its total value cannot equal its potential value because monks are limited to only benefitting from the knowledge of the reputation of a relatively small percentage of the total nodes.

        I think you're working from the assumption that node reputation was designed to be an absolute quantifier of the value of a post. I disagree -- at best, it's only relative, considering the number of people who read a post, the time at which it was posted, the context of the discussion, and the available votes. To say that one node "deserves" more votes than another is a step towards madness.

        I've always seen voting as a way for the community as a whole to promote things it values and to discourage things it dislikes.

        It sounds like your expectations of the system are completely orthogonal to the system itself. The best I can offer you is to enable the user setting that orders replies by descending reputation. That will give you the relative ordering of nodes beneath a parent. It may not be what you want, but it's how the system works.

Re: Abstain option?
by grinder (Bishop) on Sep 10, 2002 at 07:33 UTC

      Thank you for the references. They made for some very interesting reading.

      ...because that would allow you to make an informed judgement of its quality ? :)

      For some definition of "quality" anyway. I think the key word there is "informed." :-)

      I don't think anything that could be said about the subject has not already been said, somewhere, sometime.

      You are probably right but I think I might bring up a point or two in my reply to Ovid that aren't sufficiently covered in the nodes you listed. I'd be honored if you took the time to read it and offered your view but it's long and I'd understand if you've had enough of this debate.

      "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";
Re: Abstain option?
by bilfurd (Hermit) on Sep 10, 2002 at 02:21 UTC
    I like the idea, but wouldn't it be better to abstain on the entire discussion rather than an individual reply? This would let you see what ultimately proved to be the best solution and the most credible alternates.
      wouldn't it be better to abstain on the entire discussion rather than an individual reply?

      That might be useful as an additional option but I think that some nodes can be judged even by someone with less experience in the subject matter. For instance, if I see a node that clues me in on the fundamental issue at hand, I'd like to be able to upvote it. Then, if I see another node in the same discussion which addresses a specific point about implementation, I might want to abstain to see if the node has a good reputation.

      "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";
Re: Abstain option?
by talexb (Chancellor) on Sep 10, 2002 at 13:07 UTC
    Interesting idea, but to paraphrase Ovid, this is a solution looking for a problem. I don't think it would improve the Perl Monks experience (no pun intended).

    In fact, the nice thing about never seeing the current rep of a node you haven't voted on (well, except for Best Nodes and Worst Nodes) is that you are forced to take the post at face value.

    I know there are some Monks whose posts I pay much more attention to, but I don't ++ anyone unless I feel their post has added something to the discussion, either by way of providing new information or a new approach, or warnings about what not to do.

    I occasionally use the dreaded -- when a post is a waste of bandwidth, or, on rare occasions, when I strongly disagree with the writer. The reputation of a node is feedback, but that feedback is only allowed after you've cast your vote.

    I don't think adding an abstention option would add anything to the current system.

    --t. alex
    but my friends call me T.

Re: Abstain option?
by kschwab (Vicar) on Sep 10, 2002 at 03:22 UTC
    I like this idea, as is.

    What's the button look like though ? +=0 is already taken for the null vote...

    ++sauoq in any case :)

Re: Abstain option?
by RMGir (Prior) on Sep 10, 2002 at 13:04 UTC
    It's an interesting idea, but I think the site's voting system is a reasonable compromise already.

    If I'm interested enough by a node to be curious about its reputation, I'll upvote it to find out. That's not a huge problem...

    BTW, Ovid++ for pointing out Abigail-II's inside out objects post. It's up to a rep of 23 after my upvote. There's one node I didn't have to wonder about upvoting... :)

Re: Abstain option?
by tjh (Curate) on Sep 10, 2002 at 14:33 UTC
    No offense meant at all, but I don't understand the point:

    "I (who?) was in attendance at this node, and whether I read it or not, I constructively notify you (who?) that I abstained from voting."

    Who or what gains from knowing that someone (an anonymous someone at that) abstained? Is the real goal here to get the #nodeviews along with voting history made visible? (Wow, I hope not.) And is simply not voting inadequate?

    However, as long as we're on the topic - I'd rather be able to toggle names from a list of PerlMonks so that I could see how they voted on any given node...

    That'd be very interesting, and possibly more useful (to me) than almost any other use of XP ... :)

    Imagine; I could open a node and see a little box with the names of my selected Monks and their vote on this node! I could see that Merlyn, Ovid, Perrin, and others all agreed on a node's positive vote; how interesting would that be?

      No offense meant at all, but I don't understand the point

      It would simply be in order to see the node reputation. Given that a saint who uses all of his votes everyday still couldn't learn the reputation of half of the new posts daily, I think this makes good sense.

      As for your idea about seeing how other Monks voted, I think it is horrid. There are a myriad of reasons why voting should stay anonymous. I think your proposal would encourage a dangerous mix of bandwagon voting and personality voting which might be described as "idol voting." In other words, we might find people voting for a node based only on the fact that their favorite saint already voted on it too.

      "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";
        As for your idea about seeing how other Monks voted, I think it is horrid.

        True, I agree. I wasn't proposing it. But, given the proper self restraint, it would be interesting. :)

        Meanwhile, I too am in favor of having to take nodes at face value as talexb mentioned earlier. It's the simplest, most elegant answer to having votes and XP at all.

        Every thread I've read, and each time I too have tried to think about additional value that might be wrung out of the point/XP system, ends up in a variety of dead ends with more complication than one would want.

        Ultimately, I end up back at being ok with a simple, unalloyed, voting/experience system such as we have. So far, any other complexity or augmentation just seems to fall flat in debate.

Re: Abstain option?
by itub (Priest) on Jun 11, 2007 at 12:40 UTC
    (Replying to five-year old thread!) I was thinking of making a similar proposal, but decided to search first because I suspected someone would have thought about it before, and here it is.

    Sometimes I really want to see a node reputation but can't decide which way to vote. Not because it will help me evaluate the node better, but because sometimes I have a morbid curiosity to see what the community's reaction to the node was. This happens with some controversial nodes.

    It's sad that the powers that be decided not to add such an option. An alternative we have is to vote at random when we wish to abstain. In the long run, these pseudo-abstain votes should mostly cancel out. ;-) But a big drawback of this approach is that we would lose information about the "controversiality" of the node (a node with a community reaction of zero reputation and zero votes is not the same as a node with zero reputation resulting from 50++ and 50--).

      Same here. Although, it took quite a bit of searching to find this thread. :)

      Sometimes I really want to see a node reputation but can't decide which way to vote.

      My position is, unless it deserves a negative vote, if you want to see the rep, give it a positive vote.

      As it so happens, i am posting to an 8-year-old post which was a 5-year-old post as it was. I'm curious to see the rep on your post and see how it fared, as PM is quirky with regards to old posts. Starting a new thread is often met with disdain because the old thread exists, but posting to an old thread seems to receive a higher degree of down votes. So, i was curious how your post was received. Regardless, i have no votes left anyway today. Oh well.

      I still want to see an Abstain vote. tye explains here that "we'll just have lots of people mass-abstaining then wishing they could vote when they see how things stand." Though just conjecture, it is a valid fear. However, that does not rule out spending a vote to find out.

      Another reason to vote Abstain, is to mark the vote as "read." well, it works. :)

      An alternative we have is to vote at random when we wish to abstain.

      Yeah. That's an old idea too. ;-)

      "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";