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Newbies and votes

by kiat (Vicar)
on Dec 08, 2004 at 03:28 UTC ( #413086=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Hi all,

I was at the node Use 'param' in if statement. by krachen. I upvoted that node and saw that it had a net -1 vote. That got me thinking about the votes...

For newbies to PM like krachen, I'm wondering whether the more enlightened seasoned monks here should be more forgiving in their voting. Krachen may not have phrased his question in the clearest possible way, but he was genuinely seeking help to solve a CGI problem.

A downvote can de-moralise someone who's new here seeking enlightenment. Let me relate an experience I encountered recently...

I'm helping to man a site for school-age children. There's a forum and the young members can upvote but not downvote a particular post. The rationale for that is that allowing the downvoting would lead to tit-for-tat reactions. Moderators (I'm one of them) on the site can upvote and downvote - though the downvoting is rarely used.

Recently, a few posts by a member got downvoted because they were rather useless, spam-like posts.

That member got so upset that she posted hate messages to smear the site. After some reasoning with her, she realised what she did wasn't right and became more positive. But the fact remains that negative feedback (downvoting) can have rather strong demoralising effect on the person...

I'm not saying downvoting is bad. I'm just saying that, especially for newbies genuinely seeking help, care should be exercised in giving a downvote.

Just my 2 cents.



I recall my uni days when I got an A for my essay but it made no difference to me because everybody else was getting an A from the same tutor. The point is, I'm not saying every post by a newbie deserves an upvote, because then the upvoting would lose its meaning. What I'm saying is that, at the receiver end, a downvote is usually harder to comprehend and is likely to elicit a negative response, especially for new members who have yet to learn about the culture of this community.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Newbies and votes
by Old_Gray_Bear (Bishop) on Dec 08, 2004 at 06:36 UTC
    A node has to be pretty stinky before I will down-vote it. I just don't vote for it; disaproval in abstentia.

    By and large, if a Querant has put some time into the problem, or generated an interesting thread of responses, I will up-vote the posting. I am at the point in my life where I learn from almost everything I see and hear; either something brand new, or something that I thought I knew once, but find I have forgotten the details. (The later case is the much more often occurance. I have a mind like a steel bear-trap -- lots of empty space and cob-webs, things sail right through from one side to the other and don't strike anything solid in between.)

    I Go Back to Sleep, Now.


      Agree. A post has to be pretty stinky (facts, tone, effort) for me to downvote it. Usually I read and ignore the goofy posts.

      If the user appears to be new-ish I do give them some latitude, but if they join and immediately start posting without doing a little work (like familiarizing themselves with the site and its customs), they deserve the downvotes.

      To me, there's a paralell with merging onto a highway. You don't just merge and start barging around the lanes. Merge, stay in your lane for a minute or two, then power up and start to move once you've got your bearings and got into the groove of being on the highway.

      Alex / talexb / Toronto

      "Groklaw is the open-source mentality applied to legal research" ~ Linus Torvalds

      I think you mean "in absentia", but really I don't even think that's what you mean -- I think you're thinking of some form of "abstaining".

      (I'm not trying to be annoying or critical -- I just thought you might want to know that "abstentia" isn't a word.)

Re: Newbies and votes
by pg (Canon) on Dec 08, 2004 at 04:30 UTC

    I agree with your point, but technically it is not always easy to know whether someone is a newbie.

    Usually one does not check the guy's personal node before vote, even you check, a new user of this site is not neccessary to be a newbie.

    Maybe you can judge this by the content of the post, but I suppose that is not always straight forward ;-)

    But I agree with your point. Look at this deeper, people come here ask for help, not come here to ask you to judge them.

Re: Newbies and votes
by bradcathey (Prior) on Dec 08, 2004 at 15:51 UTC

    I don't see how you know it's a "newbie", although in this case it obviously was someone new to CGI. And, if you read my reply, you'll see I was gentle.

    This brings up an oft-raised issue around here, and that is spelling out the reason for a -- vote. I've been lurking here long enough to know why I got -- myself, but it's helpful for less XP'd monks to hear the reasoning.

    "Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up." G. K. Chesterton

      Yes, it would be much less traumatic for the new member to rather than just 5 downvotes to instead get 5 downvotes along with 4 replies saying something along the lines of "WTF?! Don't you even look at the preview?! Don't be such a lazy prick!".

      If someone downvoted a new-member's node, then they likely aren't in a particularly eloquent mood. So I don't think that encouraging downvoters to add replies is productive in this particular case.

      Perhaps a more useful response would be for someone in a calmer and more eloquent state of mind (and thus probably not one of the downvoters) to reply explaining a few of the problems. But the problems are almost always selected from the same set of typical new-member problems, so such replies boil down to boiler-plate spam pointing to any of the dozens and dozens of "wouldn't it be great if new members would read this before getting themselves into trouble" nodes. And such spam gets complained about, as could be seen when one member decided to make a habit of doing this regularly and anonymously quite recently.

      Going a step further, it would probably work to have those like yourself who take the time to formulate a gentle and helpful reply to also help with the site-related procedural problems presented by the node, however unintentional. So if you had noted that they didn't appear to have made full use of the preview and the helpful suggestions and links included with it and perhaps point out the "Need Help??" link which will let them find answers to question such as what downvoting is about and where to find good site introductions...

      Then the boiler-plate spam is folded in with a helpful reply which makes it easier to stomach for both the new member and the tired veterans.

      But I doubt my hoping for such action on the part of others will be any more successful than your hoping that downvoters could just write polite and informative replies explaining why they downvoted or all the many people hoping new members would just read this wonderful introduction to the site that they wrote.

      - tye        

        IMO we should decide which of the boilerplate nodes you mean is the best and then set it up so that newbies ALWAYS see it on the front page. I don't know if we would want to make it show up for AM though.

        The other thing we could do is give Editors the ability to push a button that /msgs the user in question with a link to the appropriate docs.


        I see you using the term "member" which I don't recall seeing around here much. Monk or user seem to be more common. "Member" kinda jarred, particularly with "prick" in the same post.
      You can check the Querant's node for the 'User Since' data. In this case, the Gentle first registered two days ago. (And yes you were gentle and very tactful in your reply.)

      I Go Back to Sleep, Now.


        I like "Querant". True about checking the user node, but registering just two days ago doesn't mean you're a newbie to Perl, just PMs.

        "Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up." G. K. Chesterton
Re: Newbies and votes
by wolfger (Deacon) on Dec 09, 2004 at 19:21 UTC
    I recall my uni days when I got an A for my essay but it made no difference to me because everybody else was getting an A from the same tutor. The point is, I'm not saying every post by a newbie deserves an upvote, because then the upvoting would lose its meaning.
    I recently got a bad taste in my mouth from voting... I was looking at nodes I've written, and noting which nodes got the most XP. My second-highest upvote total was on a slightly funny and quite snarky reply I made. In contrast, I recently spent a good deal of my time writing a script to solve somebody's problem that I found interesting, and that work resulted in a meager 2 upvotes. Now maybe the low vote total is because most people didn't find the problem interesting enough to read the node, or maybe not.... It just kinda upset me that a non-helpful post can be rated so much higher than a genuinely helpful one.

    All in all, I think the voting system works pretty well, though. It's a good way to engourage and discourage posts we like and dislike.

    Linux, sci-fi, and Nat Torkington, all at Penguicon 3.0
      I agree...I was a n00b and posted a silly remark as my first post and without warning, WHAM! -20+ downvotes. Not encouraging for a n00b, esp. without warning. ONE polite monk simply msgd me about it, but it was ineffective and too late. From my pov PM looked like a very closed priggish and unwelcoming place to newcomers.

      I have taken to ignoring XP more or less. But I noticed also that when I posted a solution/hack I came up with, the 0 XP I received was a bit stingy imho.

      :) Im over it now so it doesn't bother me anyway! It is a shame that newbies might see the negative reputation first, because there are a lot of helpful, friendly monks here.

Re: Newbies and votes
by McMahon (Chaplain) on Dec 08, 2004 at 22:03 UTC
    I've noticed the same thing. I figure it's my Civic Duty to surf Worst Nodes occasionally and upvote anything that doesn't deserve to be -1 or -2.
Re: Newbies and votes
by Happy-the-monk (Canon) on Dec 08, 2004 at 09:51 UTC

    (Ok. Let's stop upvoting 413019 now, lest it will be in Best Nodes soon =).)

    Cheers, Sören

What's wrong with -1?
by DentArthurDent (Monk) on Dec 10, 2004 at 16:43 UTC
    I think the misconception here is that -1 is necessarily bad. That's really close to zero. That means that just as many people upvoted as downvoted. Now if the reputation of one of my nodes was like -40, then I'd be put off, but -1 is nothing, IMHO. Perhaps a new user FAQ or some such thing could explain something like this to reduce the stigma that someone might feel for having their question voted to -1.

    Just my opinion of course!
    My mission: To boldy split infinitives that have never been split before!
      What's all about the voting system anyway? I came looking for perl stuff - which I see a lot that I have to read in the upcoming months - and I'm astonished about the "XP" interest of so many users. Just why?

      Does it really mean a man with more "XP" is more experienced? Or even that he knows better? No.

      You respect Mr. Schwarz and Mr. Wall not for their experience, but for what they have done, written, programmed, isnt't it?

        It's quite magical. At the very least, say you've provided a solution to someone's question, it's helpful to know how your solution is received by other members of the community. To someone seeking solutions, the node's votes can help that person decide which solution is the most favoured (but not necessarily the best).

        I got most of my XP's from asking questions, not providing answers. So to your questions about whether someone with more XP is more experienced or knows better, the answer is NO.

        I think if you see the X in XP as standing for Involvement rather than Experience, then you'll be less likely to equate higher XP with more experience (knowing more).

        Hm...can't delete this node. Was meant as a reply to Mr. Lee's node.

        Ah, but note it maps fairly 1:1; Saints.

      Another newbie question: What purpose serves the Worst Nodes page?
        Two purposes:
        1. They show what not to do.
        2. Utter and complete novelty. :-)
        My mission: To boldy split infinitives that have never been split before!
Re: Newbies and votes
by Rev_DrT (Initiate) on Dec 12, 2004 at 13:53 UTC
    Greetings, as I get my feet wet in a truly significant string: By not (downvoting) chastising improper behaviour immediately and without fail to a child that is clearly abusing the system is to fail the child and his or her classmates. It is important for both young students and even some adults to learn that misbehaviour has its rewards and that as surely as s/he misbehaves shall come the reward immediately thereafter.
    If we fail our children by not providing them a brightly-lit path of "right", how then will they respond when they age and the rewards of their faults are very significant and will scar much more deeply than a word or two of gentle correction when they are children?
    Receiving an "A" grade is something to be earned through diligent study and the anticipation of the success that follows it, peddling the value of that grade so the teacher can give himself the love and admiration of the pupils is so terribly wrong. He shirks his duty to the students in two very important manners: 1) he undervalues and makes meaningless that grade for the student that worked to earn it, and 2) he made meaningless the need to study for the others, failing them in that the behaviour of poor study habits is reinforced within the students that deserved much less. This is often seen in younger, inexperienced teachers that have difficulty handling their classes...... "I'll give you a good grade if only you will be nice to me. I want to be your buddy and pal," the teacher says to them by his actions. But what the students hear come out of his mouth is "I am so weak that I cannot control you and I am trying to bribe you with this grade. Please, come walk all over me and don't worry a bit about learning and studying." He is stealing their future with his laziness and cheating. He is flaunting his position and penalizing the good students and the good teachers that will come in his wake and by giving his students a stew of puke and piss instead of education to bring to their future lives. Dr. Al
      Given that a certain newbie was (like) a child, would downvoting necessarily be a (helpful) punishment?
      It could be, but it could as well be, like already said, discouraging (newbie leaves and chooses "easier" community instead of learning) or give some sort of defiant pride to the childish newbie about having "upset" "elder" monks and gotten downvoted and had his/her node displayed in the worst nodes section.

      Given that the vast majority of newbies are hopefully not childish at all, we should just tell them that votes should not be taken too seriously. (But voting should.) It should also be noted that the majority's vote is not necessarily the right vote. And finally, that the voting system here at Perlmonks is still some kind of indication / information about "good" (informative, new, important) and "bad" (incorrect, ignorant, trollish) content.
Re: Newbies and votes
by Anonymous Monk on Dec 14, 2004 at 09:51 UTC
    I find your post pretty insulting for newbies. You compare them with children, who in the example you gave take even minor critisism of their post personally.

    I think this site would be better if we all assume we're dealing with adults.


      This site would be better if we assume we're dealing with human beings with souls.

      And what's your nick @ PM btw?

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