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We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting

by sundialsvc4 (Abbot)
on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:12 UTC ( #940809=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Here are two things that we should eliminate:

  1. The ability of Anonymous Monk to post entries.
  2. The ability of anyone to down-vote any entry (and thereby, any Monk).
And here is why:

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:, 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 -1 -2 and counting, and perhaps an “anonymous” rebuttal, both posted by a person to whom I owe (and give) an apology and who otherwise does not need to be named.)   It is also why, after cooling down a bit, I am grateful to the NodeReaper.)   But this post actually isn’t “a sideways response to that individual.”   Instead, it is an observation of how the psychology of the thing gets in the way of the purpose of the site, which is both to promote the Perl language and to rapidly answer questions concerning it.   It is possible for people to be both provocative and provoked.   Neither of these have anything to do with the quality of the posts, both now and, very importantly, in the future.

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 “ 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.

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Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by Corion (Pope) on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:26 UTC

    You will have noticed that most of the spam that gets through the defenses, and gets subsequently reaped, is not by Anonymous Monk.

    As for the rest of your proposed mechanics, I don't see a future for them. The site has worked well with these mechanics for some time now, and I don't see your arguments making a case why Perlmonks should change away from them except that other mechanics seem to work well elsewhere.

    I don't see how eliminating "negativism" contributes - there are actual bad answers, and also out-of-place answers, and for both, downvotes seem to work well enough. If you take a "I don't like this" downvote as identical to "I don't like you", that's a personal problem, but nothing that this site or its mechanics can rectify.

Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by Ratazong (Monsignor) on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:57 UTC

    I totally agree to the opinion of Corion (thats why I upvoted his node) and disagree with your proposals.

    Furthermore, I don't think that your description of is correct:

    On that site, negative feedback IS given to the cache-owners. It is not done by a number (favourite points are only positive), but with the log-entries: From time to time you find log-entries stating the location is a boring or even horrible place (e.g. used as a garbage-dump by the locals). And I use that information before deciding wether I go for a cache or not.

    Additionally, there are rating-add-ons like gc vote, which have the possibility of negative votes to caches - and that addon is very popular with my caching-friends.

    So there seems a need to be able to express negative opinions even in the perfect world of geocaching.


    Note: According to the guidelines (How should I spend my votes? -- General Voting Guidelines) I have downvoted your post. Which is nothing personal. But it is my only way to indicate I don't want that proposed change in perlmonks without cluttering the site/thread with a me-too-posting.

Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by CountZero (Bishop) on Nov 30, 2011 at 13:38 UTC
    I think the Perlmonks system is not broken so we should resist all urges to repair it.

    Eliminating down-votes would definitely take away a very valuable element of appreciation of a post's (relative) merit. I am not blind to the fact that a very small minority uses down-votes to personally punish some other Monks, but that is such a rare occurrence (IMHO) that it disappears in the random fluctuations of all voting. And to make things clear, I upvoted your post since I think any post which shows that the OP was honestly thinking on how to improve the Monastery merits a plus-vote, even though I think your proposal is wrong.


    A program should be light and agile, its subroutines connected like a string of pearls. The spirit and intent of the program should be retained throughout. There should be neither too little or too much, neither needless loops nor useless variables, neither lack of structure nor overwhelming rigidity." - The Tao of Programming, 4.1 - Geoffrey James

Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by wazoox (Prior) on Nov 30, 2011 at 13:04 UTC

    I disagree completely with you, and I have two examples of other communities where downvotes exist and work well:

    • reddit
    • hacker news

    It's too bad that it's not possible to take back a downvote on PM, though, like you can on reddit (but not on hacker news; furthermore HN small arrows make it very easy to miss, particularly on touch devices).

    I didn't downvote you, because I don't downvote people I disagree with on matters of opinion, and I think it's wrong to downvote you for this. However, downvotes are extremely useful to express the "crowd wisdom" on technically wrong messages. I don't think you to be technically wrong, only misguided.

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Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by Anonymous Monk on Nov 30, 2011 at 10:29 UTC
Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by dreadpiratepeter (Priest) on Nov 30, 2011 at 13:03 UTC

    I disagree with your views on downvoting, but I am totally in favor of not having Anonymous posting. This is a technical forum, not a support group. There is no reason not to stand by what you have written. If you are using anonymous to avoid negative xp for trolling or ad hominum attacks, you shouldn't be posting.

    I have never posted anonymously, I stand by everything I have ever posted (despite the accusations of a certain resident troll that I do post anonymously). People should be accountable for their words. Using internet anonymity to be a rude, disruptive bully or tool is cowardly and petty. If you wouldn't say something to someone face to face, don't say it on the internet.

    And when it comes down to it, we are all Anonymous anyway. My real life name is not Dread Pirate Peter (although how cool would it be if it was). But I would have no problem attaching my real name to my account. I stand by what I post, and I would have no issue if my employer or my grandmother read it.

    As the great philosophers said, "Be awesome to each other"

    "Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere."
      How do you plan to distinguish between anonymous postings, and postings from throw away accounts? I mean, it's trivial to set up a new account, and while anonymous postings don't really excite me, they aren't worse than postings with throw away accounts.

      Besides, if postings should be judged by its content, it doesn't matter who posts them, does it? Who posts something only matters if we would have individual filters, so I could ignore certain people - or make certain posters more prominent. And then when you have individual filters, everyone could decide whether or not (s)he wants to see postings from anonymous monks.


      As it happens, "" seems to have utterly forgotten about me, somewhere in the past four minutes, and, as it happens, I do not care and I have utterly nothing to prove by it."

      Let us therefore, as we may continue to “discuss this,” sharply delineate any “mere technical forgetfulness of this site” from any perhaps-intentional efforts to don some cloak of erstwhile anonymity.   The distinction may indeed prove to be significant . . .

Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by talexb (Canon) on Nov 30, 2011 at 17:58 UTC

    I disagree with your two proposals, but I upvoted your post.

    Some folks don't want to join the community, but they do have a quick question. Slashdot works the same way -- it's possible to post anonymously. I have used it myself, on the rare occasion that I need to contribute to a discussion that's employment related, for obvious reasons.

    Yes, getting downvoted is a drag, but it sends a message, a) that's wrong; b) that's stupid; or even c) I disagree. Perlmonks has worked well in the close to ten years I've been here -- I think downvotes are here to stay.

    Alex / talexb / Toronto

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

Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by jdporter (Canon) on Nov 30, 2011 at 21:51 UTC

    With regard to the issue of down-voting: if I were to argue your viewpoint, I might point out that very popular social networking sites such as Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn only support up-voting, not down-voting. But when I'm on such sites, I often find myself gravely disappointed that they don't support down-voting.

    /me also notes that StackOverflow supports both up/down voting, fwiw... ;-)

    I reckon we are the only monastery ever to have a dungeon stuffed with 16,000 zombies.
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Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by blakew (Monk) on Nov 30, 2011 at 19:17 UTC

    I would prefer Anonymous postings versus throw-away accounts.

    I haven't seen downvotes become a problem, ever, on this site. A worthy post is never hidden because of downvotes - if it's controversial and somewhat abrasive then it invites downvotes for disagreement. Reporting is not a valid way to communicate disagreement. Plus my understanding of the mechanism is downvotes don't much matter unless there's an overwhelming number of them.

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Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by BrowserUk (Pope) on Dec 03, 2011 at 21:58 UTC

    I've refrained from posting till now. (I've also refrained and will continue refrain from voting on the OP.)

    Three things to say:

    • One, perhaps my main, reason for down-voting, is when I wish to track the community response to some post on a subject of interest to me, but which I cannot bring myself to up-vote.

      I justify this action on the following basis. I only have one vote per post. If my vote is out of kilter with the majority of the monastery, it will disappear in the flood of upvotes. If my vote is in accord with the majority, then it is only one more.

    • I rarely, (maybe never, but I cannot guarantee I never have), down-vote people for disagreeing with me.

      Indeed, I often up-vote good counter argument if it is well made. Even when I disagree with it.

    • I don't usually down-vote obvious -- to me -- errors. None of us know everything; we are all capable of misunderstanding or misreading things; we all make mistakes.

      In these cases I prefer to just post a correction.

      But I reserve special ire for those that repeatedly post the same misinformation, despite having previously be taken to task for it and corrected.

    So, no. Down-voting is an integral and important part of this place and should stay.

    As for AnonyMonk, whilst many of the most annoying posts come from that source; so also do many of the most insightful answers. I'll put up with the bad in order to retain and learn from the good.

    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 start of some sanity?

      so also do many of the most inciteful answers

      Did you mean inciteful as in provocative, or insightful, as in perceptive?

        The latter. Now corrected. Thank you.

        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 start of some sanity?

Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by Plankton (Vicar) on Dec 03, 2011 at 08:19 UTC
    What I do not like about limiting Anonymous postings and restrictions on down voting is that doing so is merely treating the symptoms of disharmony not the actual cause. Someone responded to you negatively and you in turn responded with negativism, that is the real problem. The solution to this problem is not to make rules and tell others what they need to do. The solution is to improve yourself, to free yourself from your ego, so that you can respond to negativity with compassion and love.

      ++ but s/with compassion and love/meh, some persons suck. Think Iíll go bake a pie instead of getting engaged/.

Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by JavaFan (Canon) on Nov 30, 2011 at 11:14 UTC
    I've downvoted your post. If you think that that means I don't like you, go ahead, and think that way. I don't care.
Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by thezip (Vicar) on Dec 02, 2011 at 06:04 UTC

    I do *not* believe we need to eliminate anonymous postings.

    I do, however, find myself constantly ignoring (and wishing that I didn't have to view) anonymous posts. It is in my nature to ignore all anonymous posts, and I would prefer to have a PM configuration setting that defaults to not displaying anonymous posts.

    By having a mechanism such as this, some monks may participate in the flamewars, and others can happily go about their business without being burdened by the unnecessary noise.

    What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof. - Christopher Hitchens

        It does work but the threads are still there so if/when anyone else participates you'll see those nodes in Newest or Recent Threads. While I do use the blocking css you posted, I still sometimes end up stumbling into a thread I would have otherwise preferred to ignore ( like this one ;-) ).

        Same Day :: 3:28 PM :: Turns out I was wrong. As long as tables are displayed as divs in the Display Settings, MidLifeXis' css works well. Apologies.

        "...the adversities born of well-placed thoughts should be considered mercies rather than misfortunes." ó Don Quixote
      You know I'd actually agree with that, most of the crap that was thrown at me came from anonymous monk comments. If I could of ignored them so easily I wouldn't of wound up looking like a troll myself and ending up in a situation where a post with my name on it no matter what it's about getting massively downvoted, probably without even being read.
Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by Xiong (Hermit) on Dec 03, 2011 at 22:04 UTC

    When I'm done blathering, I'm going to go back and downvote the OP. Then I'm going to have a cup of coffee. If I'm feeling as bitchy then as I am now, I'll go through and downvote some more.

    Why would you take this away from me? I'm annoyed at this thread, I'm annoyed at OP's author, I'm annoyed at a lot of people, places, and things. I can, will, and must vent my rage in some direction. Either I downvote some nodes that offend me; indulge in personal rant in CB; or visit the liquor and gun stores and go on a rampage. You pick.

    One thing that annoys me so much about this thread is the naive assumption that, as a group or as individuals, we want to be helpful, constructive, loving, or even honest. This may or may not be true but it's fantastic to assume it. So long as we're talking about humans, we'd better recognize the existence of "impure" motives. If no outlet exists for their expression -- believe me! -- more than one will be created.

    The other thing that annoys me so much is the naive presumption that anybody who runs this site cares what you think. Again, somebody might but it's madness to presume it. Like most communities, online or in meatspace, PerlMonks is controlled by a small group of people who started it or got in early. They are not going to share much power. A large number of people who got in later are content with this leadership and will support them in any battle. As in most online communities, such a battle is especially one-sided since the group in power has the keys to the rack room -- and you don't.

    Just in case you don't understand how this site works, XP is pretty much worthless. You do not get to join the gods, no matter how many points you get. You do not get any money. Downvoting a node may lead to the author losing XP. But since he can't go out and buy a beer with that XP, so what?

    The most significant effect on an author whose posts get downvoted is... he has fewer opportunities to vote on other people's nodes. The most significant effect on a post getting downvoted is that it may get reaped... which means you have to click a little harder to read it. Either way, everyone knows that somebody doesn't like you; and yes, that hurts. But never fear: if tomorrow downvoting disappears, people will still find a way to express their unlove.

    What you really want is a way to shoot dead anybody who even tries to downvote you. You don't get that; you can downvote back. And that's it.

    My big suggestion today is to replace upvotes and downvotes with smileys and bloody bullet holes. These would have the same effects as ++ and -- but might make it more clear to OP's author that it's all just a game.

    Feste: Misprison in the highest degree. Lady, cucullus non facit monachum. That's as much to say as, I wear not motley in my brain....

      :D :D

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Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by Argel (Prior) on Dec 01, 2011 at 19:21 UTC
    Disagree on the downvotes. But anonymous posting has become problematic as of late. And it's disingenuous for Monks to claim the system is working just fine when anonymous posting was just recently temporarily turned off. Not sure what the answer is, but wearing rose tinted glasses is certainly not part of it.

    Elda Taluta; Sarks Sark; Ark Arks
    My deviantART gallery

Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by Xiong (Hermit) on Dec 03, 2011 at 21:22 UTC

    How did anyone conflate these two issues? Anonymous Monk and downvoting are barely related. I'll put a smiley face on that and say I fail to see the connection.

    So instead of making an ass of myself trying to respond to two different issues in one post; I'll make two asses of myself. Please downvote them individually, thank you.

    Feste: Misprison in the highest degree. Lady, cucullus non facit monachum. That's as much to say as, I wear not motley in my brain....
Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by Xiong (Hermit) on Dec 03, 2011 at 21:32 UTC

    Anonymous posting (here or anywhere else on Da Internet) is the default; it's extremely difficult to suppress without killing off almost all participation. On Da Internet, you are who you say you are; and if tomorrow you say you are someone else, nobody can prove or disprove it.

    If a site does not allow "officially" anonymous posting, those who wish to post anonymously just create throwaway accounts. If the site requires email verification to create an account, the evil little villains just create throwaway email addresses.

    So the chief point of Anonymous Monk is not to permit or condone anonymous posting. It's merely a small convenience: it makes it easier to decide who to ignore, downvote, or reap. If I see a post by this "author", I feel less inclined to approve it. And anything that makes the stack of paperwork go by more quickly is a Good Thing.

    Feste: Misprison in the highest degree. Lady, cucullus non facit monachum. That's as much to say as, I wear not motley in my brain....
Re: We should elminate: Anonymous, and DOWN-voting
by TJPride (Pilgrim) on Dec 03, 2011 at 22:47 UTC
    I agree that nobody should be able to post without getting an account first. If you care -that- little about getting an answer, you're probably going to make a lazy post and waste our time. I've already seem some examples of this in just the past couple weeks. Not that registered users are necessarily perfect either, mind you.

    As for downvoting, this is entirely necessary. Some people post horribly bad code, or troll, or whatever, and these people deserve to be downvoted to tell them they're doing something wrong. I rarely downvote people myself, but when I do, it's well-deserved. Given, this can again be abused by regular users - the account I had years ago was being automatically downvoted every day by one user's entire supply of votes, and the site admins wouldn't tell me who it was or do anything about it - but one would hope that if people doing nothing but downvote becomes a widespread problem, the admins will do something about it. It would be much worse to NOT allow downvoting and promote useless trash posts.

        It's called "Apophenia"

        Sometimes however there really is a pattern.

        I would get a large number of downvotes every single day, and they were being systematically applied to all my posts. In addition, one of the mods checked into it and verified that I was in fact being systematically downvoted, he just wouldn't give me the person's name or do anything about it. It wasn't paranoia, I know a systematic attack when I see it.

        I'm not an XP whore and don't care -that- much about XP, but it's the principle of the thing - people shouldn't be allowed to abuse the site or the users on it.

      Yes; but that's the point. If the node is written by Anonymous Monk then you can downvote it without even reading it, if you so choose. You don't even have to think about whether you like the poster or if he's done better at another time. You just click -- and it's Problem Solved.

      If nobody could post anonymously, then the same people would continue to lazy-post... but I at least would have to think twice before downvoting, perhaps even give the post the courtesy of a read. That would really waste our time.

      Feste: Misprison in the highest degree. Lady, cucullus non facit monachum. That's as much to say as, I wear not motley in my brain....
        If down-voting entailed a risk, people would not be so quick to judge.
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