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Limit on voting down a person

by tye (Sage)
on Aug 09, 2000 at 09:10 UTC ( #26961=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I think the voting system was meant to rate nodes, not people. Today I saw a second report of someone noticing all of the their nodes being voted down in rapid succession (each node in turn dropping by 1, strongly suggesting that some individual was casting all of their votes against a person).

I don't know how often this happens (and indeed, can't really prove that it has ever happened). But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't just prevent it.

The easiest way I've come up with is to have the system remember the last node that you voted down on and to prevent you from voting down on nodes from that same monk on your next vote. This would require much more dedication to vote against a person, having to find a node by another monk between each vote. Sure, with the extra work you could still cast 1/2 of your votes against a single person, but the disincentive just might give someone enough pause that they come to their senses before abusing the voting system that way.

(I was "involved" in the first report, though I only voted down a few nodes, searching for the worst nodes from that person as a one-time joke to get them promoted to monk more than twice in the same day. I feel guilty for my involvement now, only a bit for my limited voting down, but very much for my unintentional promotion of the idea that seemed to have resulted in some people voting down even way passed the end of my unfortunate joke.)

        - tye (but my friends call me "Tye")

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
(Ozymandias) RE: Limit on voting down a person (Run in circles, scream and shout)
by Ozymandias (Hermit) on Aug 09, 2000 at 10:05 UTC
    The "Shadow Conspiracy" voting down nodes is a popular idea. It seems to be everyone's favorite excuse when they start to lose XP.

    The simple fact of the matter, though, is that it simply isn't important. Suppose someone decides they really, really don't like you, and they spend days voting down every single one of your nodes. In my case, that'd be 130+ nodes, 130+ -- votes - assuming they'd never voted on my stuff before.

    Statistically, under the current XP system, I'd lose 43 points. Over the course of (assuming my attacker is a fellow abbot willing to expend all their votes for this purpose) 5 days, I'd lose 43 points.

    Of course, in that time, if past history were any judge, I'd GAIN about that many points. I wouldn't lose many points, overall. Meanwhile, our friend is not accomplishing anything else; they're spending all their votes on me.

    Now granted, if enough people were to do this, it would be more effective. Assuming, of course, that I didn't simply contribute to the site with meaningful posts and hope that I were rewarded for them with the votes of my fellow peers.

    But that's not good enough. You want to make them spend 10 days wasting votes on me. You want to make vroom spend time coding changes. You want to limit the ability for expression that monks have with their votes. And you want to punish "bad" behavior by, at most, a few monks, and restrict the actions of all monks. Why?

    Because of one or two incidents that almost certainly had no effect; of the complaints I know about, none have had ANY effect that would be noticed.

    I see.

    - email Ozymandias
      I am one of the complaints you know about.

      I most certainly noticed.

      The effect is noticable by others. How much energy have I spent stating my opinion on the politics recently instead of answering questions? Can you honestly say that I (right in this post) am helping people learn as effectively as I could if I was not discussing politics?

      Perhaps you think that having me spend time thinking about how to actually get feedback from some of the people who dislike me is more helpful than having me spend time on a thoughtful post on how thinking in terms of completed transactions leads to more robust infrastructures. Well I disagree! Personally I think more people would benefit from seeing my informed opinions on how to write robust code than benefit from knowing that I think mean people suck!

      I have decided to stick it out simply because on a personal level I have so much support. But I have had conversations with others who have noticed, and I can definitely tell you that there has indeed been an effect. Both in terms of who does (and does not) contribute and the value of their (and my) contributions. You are kidding yourself if you think otherwise.

      Now what kinds of fixes are possible? Here are a few ideas:

      1. Tye's idea of making it impossible to target a person too heavily by limiting how rapidly you can downvote one person.
      2. Have a public discussion.
      3. Display next to each user a count of how they have used their votes recently. What proportion are down, what proportion are up.
      4. Give a way for the person who is voted on and that person only to know who voted how on them.
      5. Tell everyone that there is no problem, nobody should care, there has been no impact. Honest.
      This is not a comprehensive list, these are just off of the top of my head.

      They range from trivial in their impact on the culture here, to drastic. They range IMHO from quite good to extremely bad ideas. (And that is how I ordered them.) I put them out there so that people can have a somewhat richer discussion than just, "Something needs to be done!" "I don't want my freedom to be limited!"

      And yes, I listed your response at the bottom of the list for a very specific reason. Because there has been an impact, not only do I see that in my case, but I have received an earful from a number of people. One of whom made public comment: RE (3): Goodbye!.

      In short, if you think that the technical contributions that I am capable of making matter (and some here most definitely do) then there is a problem and it does no good to say otherwise. If you do not think that the technical contributions that I am capable of matter, or you have strongly negative opinions about how I make them, well you know how to chatter at me so please do.

        I think perceptions of both how much it hurts and how prevalant such behavior is are quite dependant upon the person looking at it. -40 hurts a lot at level 2, and a lot less at level 6. It's hard to say how common this really is; if it hasn't happened to you, you may think it doesn't happen much, whereas if it has happened to you, you may feel that it is common. I come from the perspective of someone that this hasn't happened to, so my opinions may be tainted by that.

        I am probably most in favor of the second suggestion, because I feel that technical solutions will fail. Having it take twice as long to vote down someone doesn't mean it won't happen (it just means, to the cynical, that you can have two vendettas at a time). I can also think of valid reasons for voting many posts by the same person down in a row. It's a way of dealing with a troll, for example, as nodes with too low reputation may be removed.

        Likewise, I do not think the third idea will work; it's easy to circumvent. It would be simple to -- one or two nodes by someone a day.

        Solution four would make the problem worse, perhaps even triggering new vendettas when a post is voted down without malicious intent. Not everyone is as gracious as lindex when it comes to accepting other people's votes. I am pretty certain that you already considered this since it is near the bottom of the list.

        In the end, it always depends on the users. It's possible to limit the potential for abuse, but it cannot be completely eliminated in a technical way (without implementing meaningless restrictions, such as removing the option of a -- vote). That is why I think a discussion is better than any of the technical solutions.

        I reserve the right to support another solution if one is suggested that I think is better :)

        You say you noticed, but here's the thing; your XP is not noticably lower than it was on Monday. In fact, although I may be mistaken - I don't even track MY XP all that closely, much less someone else's - it appears to be quite a bit higher. So tell me, in what way were you affected? Because you had to waste time and effort on this discussion? Well, there's a simple solution to that.

        As for your fixes:

        Tye's idea of making it impossible to target a person too heavily by limiting how rapidly you can downvote one person.

        I already made my opinion clear on this one, but let me say it again; I oppose this idea with all the strength and conviction I'm willing to put into it. What you are proposing here is nothing short of censorship, in the sense that voting, for better or for worse, is a form of expression. You may not like that some individuals appear to be using this as a form of expression against you, rather than against your posts, but it is a form of expression. As for you judging their impact on this site - how dare you? You have been here less than a week, but you feel qualified to comment on the community and how things will impact it? You've been making a lot of posts, and the technical details in them are for the most part excellent, but you have a long way to go before you can claim to know this community and how it works, much less what is and is not good for it.

        Have a public discussion.

        What does it say that you favor making the changes instead?

        In any event, that's what we're doing here, having a public discussion. In my opinion, you are wrong. Flat out, around the bend, wrong. I have gotten what seems to me to be more than my fair share of -- votes in the past, I will get them again. It happens.

        Also, when I say "In My Opinion", I mean that I have posted numbers in the very node you are replying to showing you how little effect an attack like this can have. Perhaps I'm wrong, and you are free to say so - but if I'm wrong, WHERE ARE YOUR NUMBERS? Don't just tell me I'm wrong and expect me to believe you. Show me why my numbers are wrong.

        Display next to each user a count of how they have used their votes recently. What proportion are down, what proportion are up.

        This "fix" does not prevent someone from attacking you, it only makes it easier for you to attack someone who may or may not have done anything to you, simply because they have made some negative votes lately. The only way to be sure you're attacking the right person would be to have a record of who voted against you...

        Give a way for the person who is voted on and that person only to know who voted how on them.

        ...which is covered here.

        And once again - no. Anonymous voting means exactly that; you cast your votes without fear of reprisal or retribution. Post good nodes, and the few spiteful -- votes won't matter. If lots of people are voting --, then evidently the community doesn't agree with what you're doing.

        Many people have suggested forcing people to anonymously give a reason for negative votes. That's also unreasonable. A -- vote expresses displeasure with a node, or, unfortunately in many ways, with the poster of the node. That's all. There's no need for a dissertation on how the node made you feel that caused you to vote that way, and no way, if it's anonymous, to force people to give true responses. I for one, if this system is implemented, will protest it; not only will I refuse to give any answer other than, say, "BORK", but I will stop giving any sort of explanation for any vote outside the system, either.

        If I vote -- on a post, I usually explain why. But not always, nor should I be forced to have to explain why. Sometimes, I vote -- because the information in the post is wrong - and when that happens, I explain why it's wrong, and give the correct information. Sometimes I vote -- because of a node's tone, particularly in the case of answers to new users' questions. Or I might vote -- because I just don't like the node, no other reason than because it seems like a waste of space - a "me too" node or a duplicate answer to a question long answered. Giving a reason there would only be a bigger waste of effort. And yes, being human, I have in the past voted -- simply because I felt the poster was being foolish, or whining about something unimportant. If you insist on asking me why I voted -- on one of those nodes, that's all the answer you'll get, too. This is a reasonable expenditure of effort? Awful strange, coming from someone who only a few paragraphs ago was complaining about wasted effort.

        Tell everyone that there is no problem, nobody should care, there has been no impact. Honest.

        Sounds good to me. One thing, though - I showed you EXACTLY how much this would affect me, were it to happen. You can calculate exactly how much it would affect you, too, the same way. In my case, assuming this attack started several days ago, such that it would end today, I can say exactly where I would be; up almost 30 points. Off of a relatively small number of posts. So tell me - why SHOULDN'T we do this? How have you or anyone else been hurt? The only time I have seen this attack be somewhat effective, it was a JOKE, with the full knowledge and in part cooperation of the target, in forcing him to drop from Monk to Scribe and back again several times in one day. At the end of the day, with as many as a dozen people cooperating to push him down to Scribe, he was a Monk. Granted, it was something like the fourth time he became a Monk that day. But in the end, it didn't hurt him at all.

        In other words, you can whine and complain about how much this hurts you all you like. But unless you can list out EXACTLY how much you've been "hurt" and make me believe that it's worth pursuing, I will continue to argue against taking any sort of action about this. The cure, so far as I can determine, is much worse than the disease, because I don't see anyone suffering any symptoms. You complain, but your XP is higher than ever. A few other people, including close friends, say they have been hit... but they also add that it made no practical difference, they made up the difference in hours.

        In short, if you think that the technical contributions that I am capable of making matter (and some here most definitely do) then there is a problem and it does no good to say otherwise. If you do not think that the technical contributions that I am capable of matter, or you have strongly negative opinions about how I make them, well you know how to chatter at me so please do.

        I disagree. I do not and have not seen the problem you are complaining about, and not for lack of looking. In examining my own node reputations while calculating the numbers I used here, I noticed several prominent nodes - my favorites, if you will - that were lower than I recall. So, perhaps somewhat hit me, too. All I can say is, it never registered in my mind when it was happening, and from the numbers that I'm calculating, I can see why. As I said above, I'm willing to admit that it's possible I'm wrong. But you had better show me the numbers before I'll admit that I *am* wrong.

        The only means by which something like this could be an effective attack are:

        1. A high ranking monk, or several, attack one low-ranking monk with a lot of posts. This wouldn't be very effective; if the monk has a lot of posts, but no XP, that indicates that not many people have been voting the posts up, anyway. If it's a low ranking monk WITHOUT a lot of posts, then there's very little damage that can be done; if I hit a user in this manner with, say, 15 nodes, then at most, I could expect to cost them 5 XP. With the XP system changes that were made recently, it would be considerably less than that if the posts were well regarded by the other monks.

        2. A majority of the community participated in the attack. On the one hand, this would indeed be a devestating attack on someone's XP... but then, if it's the community at large doing it, it's not an attack, it's the voting system at work. Besides, the people here are too individualistic for this to be a real threat.

        3. The victim is so wrapped up in watching their XP that losing a point seriously bothers them, causing them to complain about it in the chatterbox and post nodes proposing sweeping changes to systems they can't possibly know well, generating more ill-will towards themselves and wasting a lot of time and effort.

        In this case, your "Shadow Conspiracy" attackers must be laughing themselves silly.

        - email Ozymandias
RE: Limit on voting down a person
by tye (Sage) on Aug 09, 2000 at 20:35 UTC

    Several people have commented on how little negative votes affect your total XP. I never said the problem was losing XP. The problem is mostly emotional.

    If I used all of my votes against you, you'd probably notice a small drop in XP. You'd naturally wonder which node was unpopular and would probably wander over to your list of nodes to see. At which point you probably wouldn't notice anything (unless you can keep better track of your node reps than I can) which would make you wonder further. At this point, you'd likely track your node reps more closely and finally notice that a consecutive chunk of nodes dropped by 1. This would make you feel that someone is attacking you in a very underhanded way. It is like finding your name on the bathroom wall -- you don't know who did it, you doubt you'll ever find out, you are pretty certain it was a negative act directed at you. That sucks.

    I understand the reluctance to try a technical fix to what is not a technical problem. I'm not trying to fix the non-technical problem of people being jerks. I'm trying to fix the technical problem of the voting system being a good tool for such an underhanded insult.

    By all means, let's all also do what we can to reducce the person-hours of jerk behavior on PerlMonks. Be polite, don't take things personally, promote good attitudes among others, etc.

    I had originally supported being able to see the number of negative votes cast against your own nodes. This was motivated by curiousity on my part. I now think that this would just make negative votes more annoying and more likely to be used to annoy.

    In fact, I think that if it was made harder to notice that someone is targeting you, that would also solve the problem. I think very little targeting would go on if potential targeters knew that their activity would go unnoticed by the target. In that light, I'd vote for negative votes never dropping XP until a node's rep drops below, say -3 (or -NORM/2, whichever is more negative). I'm sure this will be unliked by many. To aid its popularity, I'd support negative votes after that point having a much larger effect on XP, quickly growing to 100% likelyhood of XP-- once the rep reaches, say -NORM.

    By the way, I think the term "Shadow Conspiracy" is silly. I never mentioned gangs of people conspiring against anyone. I've always been talking about a small number of individuals, each acting alone. You can't have a conspiracy unless at least two people agree to work in concert.

    I don't think displaying total ++ and -- votes cast would help. But it might be useful to have a volunteer that occasionally gets a report of the most negative-voting monks and who they voted against, so a person could decide when a warning or more drastic action was warranted.

    Finally, I've often tought (even in the very short time I've been here) "grow up and stop making a big deal about negative votes". In particular, I didn't have a picture I wanted to upload and so didn't care about XP. Then I got a negative vote that I felt I didn't deserve (and it didn't even drop my XP by 1). I was surprise how hard I took it. So now I cut people more slack when I see them react strongly to negative votes.

            - tye (but my friends call me "Tye")
      Tye, I do actually understand how you feel about it. But I just can't see making a technical fix to a non-technical problem. Something like what's being proposed here would have effects well beyond the scope of the problem, such as it is, and would have very little hope of actually solving the problem.

      As for the "Shadow Conspiracy" tag - I know you didn't come up with it. Someone else did, and I just find it amusing. Chalk it up to my twisted sense of humor.

      - email Ozymandias
RE: Limit on voting down a person
by toadi (Chaplain) on Aug 09, 2000 at 12:32 UTC

    It seems there are many discussions about PM itself. Funny, when I first joined these discussions were limited about changing the XP, nobody (perhaps the occasional newbie)_ complained at being downvoted. Is this because this PM is growing rapidly? I don't know. I could follow all nodes and all discussions. But now it gets harder to keep up and also knowing all the users, in past nodes it was mentioned there were "cliques", politics on PM? I don't chat much and just keep a low-profile so I didn't noticed this. The only thing I can say on the matter is that on all the post I made I can count the downvotes on one hand. I have also no realy high XP posts to, so I'm just a average PM like I'm a average Perl-hacker.

    The only thing I can say is that when living with other people and you have some explicit opinions the trick is to tell/post them so diplomatic as possible trying not to offend people. Being behind a computer and not seeing the other person is no excuse to offen other people.

    "I have often regretted my speech, never my silence."
    - Xenocrates (396-314 B.C.)

    In light of this quote: Freedom of speech doesnt mean you should say everything before thinking. Thinking before speaking is not always easy, but here you have to type. So you can think over what you type!
    mail etiquette found this on mailing, but some of the points could be used here!

    My opinions may have changed,
    but not the fact that I am right

      This is because you are reading in the area called "Perl Monks Discussion" which is not for discussion BETWEEN Perl Monks, but for discussion on PerlMonks.

      Just Another Perl Hacker
RE: Limit on voting down a person
by t0mas (Priest) on Aug 09, 2000 at 11:29 UTC
    I think you make a logical misstake by talking about "persons" in this case. Nothing stops no-one from having n mail accounts and get a PM login for each one.

    A evil person can have 10 PM user accounts (I hope not!) and have all of them promoted to novice level (200 xp needed), and then down vote anything he/she likes with his 50 votes (more than a saint have). Mail accounts are pretty easy to get.

    /brother t0mas
      That's a possibility, but consider the amount of time it would take to do that. Someone with that much of a vendetta and that much spare time probably knows better ways to harass someone than by voting down posts on PM.

      I think self-regulation is, as usual, a pretty good solution. I regularly hit Worst Nodes and bump up stuff that doesn't deserve more than -1 or 0. There's three or four posts of that kind every day (depending on your criteria), so higher-level monks interested in keeping the peace would do well to spend a few votes there.

        You are right of cause. It would take time and energy to do such a thing. I just tried to point out the diffrence between a person and a PM login.

        I share your view that self-regulation is a good solution and I also think that higher-level monks (or any other old-timers who vaules this site) can take on that responsibilty. Maybe then, we will not have this types of discussions all the time as more and more new users register.

        /brother t0mas
RE: Limit on voting down a person
by turnstep (Parson) on Aug 09, 2000 at 17:53 UTC

    I think the suggestion elsewhere regarding being able to see the total pluses and minuses for your node would be illuminating and help a little. In other words, a node with a rep of 10 might have 10 plus votes and 0 negative votes, or it could have 120 plus votes and 110 minus votes! I think a lot of it has to do with when the post was put up (most monks are clustered around -6 GMT and have few votes left by the end of the "day") as well as how deep it is. Top level posts tend to get voted on more than lower level ones, independent of quality. I mean, I have a post here which took a little work and I think is rather clever, but it has a rep of 2. Why? Because it is so nested. I have other nodes that have higher reps, but don't aren't as high a quality - but they were posted at a higher level, or posted earlier in the day, or earlier in the thread.

    So, conspiracies aside (see my home node for my list of why people vote a node down) these are factors affecting the rep of a node, in my opinion:

    • The quality (good advice/humor/etc.) of the post
    • The quality of the posts around it. (While on the page, why not vote on all the posts and replies?)
    • When it was posted (If you like it and have no votes, it will probably be buried by hundreds of other votes by the time you get more votes)
    • How deep it is (People may not read deep, or may use their votes on "earlier" replies, or might think someone else has already made the post (note that often times a reply can come after a post, but appear higher on the page in the default layout))
    • If a reply, how long after the original post it was made. If someone is making a reply 5 days after the original post, it is not likely to be looked at.
Limiting factor not mentioned yet
by gryng (Hermit) on Aug 09, 2000 at 22:21 UTC
    I don't think you all have mentioned one limiting factor yet. You can only vote once for each node. This means that for each login trying to attack another, you can only -- the amount of nodes the victim has.

    Which means that lower level persons would probably not have the bazillion nodes (chromatic has 652ish) needed to do serious harm.

    Or in otherwords, the amount of affect the attacker can have is based on the verbosity of the victim. So lower levels get affected less and higher levels get affected more (generally), and since raw XP means less at higher levels, it would probably balance out. (More accurately, your level is not the bases, but rather the number of nodes, but generaly more nodes means higher level).

    So anyway, my take is that it should be discouraged socially, but no action need really be taken (if a truly malicious attack was made by someone with multiple accounts, (regardless of the fact that would take a good amount of effort), something like this would be easy to spot and simply remove manually).

    If you must do something the idea of limiting consequetive -- votes on a person sounds reasonably simple and not too restrictive. (A less restrictive but harder to code example would be to limit X percent (such as 10 or 20) of your votes per person per day, -- or ++, at your option).


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