Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Comment author: steven0461 22 January 2017 06:24:44PM 4 points [-]

Random opinions on hot-button political issues are off-topic, valueless, and harmful; please take them elsewhere.

Comment author: username2 20 January 2017 10:44:32AM 1 point [-]

There is additionally the point that the ban leads to people compartmentalizing rationalist thought practices from politics. How do you become a rationalist political being if you aren't able to practice rationalist politics in the supportive company of other rationalists?

Comment author: steven0461 22 January 2017 06:15:13PM 3 points [-]

"How do you get a clean sewer system if you insist on separating it from the rest of the city?"

Comment author: NatashaRostova 19 January 2017 07:22:43PM 4 points [-]

The things most people are interested in discussing are frowned upon/banned from discussion on LW. That's why they go to SSC. The world has changed in the past 10 years, and the conversational rules and restrictions of 2009 no longer make sense today.

The rationalsphere, if you expand it to include blogs like Marginal Revolution, is one of the few intellectual mechanisms left to disentangle complex information from the clusterf* of modern politics. Not talking about it here through a clear rationalist framework is a tragedy.

Comment author: steven0461 22 January 2017 06:13:09PM 1 point [-]

I don't think LW is, in fact, capable of talking about politics rationally; if it did, it wouldn't have much influence; and trying will harm its core interests through divisiveness, distraction, drawing bad users, and further reputational damage.

Comment author: Raemon 19 January 2017 11:30:02PM 2 points [-]

I don't things were particularly good a month ago when we had downvotes.

Comment author: steven0461 22 January 2017 06:04:32PM 2 points [-]

Many, arguably most, of the consequences of downvotes don't show up in the immediate term. Habits and expectations take time to change, posters choose whether or not to leave altogether, and so on.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 20 January 2017 03:45:51AM 4 points [-]

Removing low-quality content has increasing marginal utility, like removing drains on your attention; you're not going to notice a big difference until most of the low-quality content is gone. Getting downvotes back is one tool for removing low-quality content but plausibly others are needed. It would be great if most of the posts in Discussion were high-quality, for several reasons, e.g. people feel more like Discussion is a place they could put their highest-quality content.

Comment author: steven0461 22 January 2017 06:03:00PM 6 points [-]

The difference between having 50% bad content and 30% bad content isn't just the 20% of bad content; it's also the contributions from all those who would keep visiting if they anticipated a 30% chance of seeing bad content but would not keep visiting if they anticipated a 50% chance of seeing bad content.

Comment author: Viliam 21 December 2016 02:16:58PM *  3 points [-]

You can't have friendly debates on a web forum containing a stalker psycho who will take offense at opinions you expressed and then will keep "punishing" you. It's simply not fun. And people come here for intelligent debate and fun.

In the "before Eugine" era, we had once in a while also debates on more or less political topics. People expressed their opinions, some agreed, some disagreed, then we moved on. The "politics is the mindkiller" was a reminder to not take this too seriously. Some people complained about these debates, but they had the option of simply avoiding them. And whatever you said during the political debate stopped becoming relevant when you changed the topic.

The karma system was here to allow feedback, and I think everyone understood that it was an imperfect mechanism, but still better than nothing. (That it's good to have a convenient mechanism for saying "more of this, please" and "less of this, please" without having to write an explanation every time, and potentially derailing the debate by doing so.) The idea of using sockpuppets to win some pissing contest simply wasn't out there.

Essentially, the karma feedback system is quite fragile, because it assumes being used in good faith. It assumes that people upvote stuff they genuinely like, downvote stuff they genuinely dislike, and that there is only one vote per person. With these assumptions, negative karma means "most readers believe this comment shouldn't be here", which is a reason to update or perhaps ask for an explanation. Without these assumptions, negative karma may simply mean "Eugine doesn't like your face", and there is nothing useful to learn from that.

(At this moment I notice that I am confused -- how does Reddit deal with the same kind of downvote abuse? Do their moderators have better tools, e.g. detecting sockpuppets by IP addresses, or seeing who made the votes? I could try to find out...)

Articles and debates influence each other. People come to debate here, because they want to debate the articles posted here. But people decide to post their articles here, because they expect to see a good discussion here... and I believe this may simply not be true anymore for many potential contributors.

At this moment, the downvoting is stopped, but it exposes us to the complementary risk -- drowning in noise, because we have removed the only mechanism we had against it. We yet have to see how that develops.

Comment author: steven0461 21 December 2016 05:06:21PM 1 point [-]

Some people complained about these debates, but they had the option of simply avoiding them.

Not if we wanted to use the "recent comments" page, and not if we were worried about indirect effects on the site, e.g. through drawing in bad commenters.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 21 December 2016 12:28:31AM 3 points [-]

In the hopes of making things easier for me, I've been referring to centuries by their number range-- "the 1900's" rather than "the twentieth century". I've gotten one piece of feedback from someone who found it confusing, but how clear is it to most people who are reading this?

Comment author: steven0461 21 December 2016 04:55:20PM *  1 point [-]

I find it confusing as well: the century already has a different name and the decade does not, so it's natural to assume "the 1900s" refers to the decade.

Also, I guess technically "the 1900s" includes 1900 but not 2000 and "the 20th century" includes 2000 but not 1900.

Comment author: ChristianKl 18 December 2016 08:41:22PM 2 points [-]

I don't think having a few anonymous amount of high voting power users and most users at normal voting power would get around the problem of Eugine's sockpuppets. A page-rank like algorithm on the other hand would make the forum robust against attacks of that sort.

You can additionally seed the algorithm with giving specific individuals higher voting power.

Comment author: steven0461 18 December 2016 08:45:18PM 0 points [-]

Yes, we'd need a separate solution to sockpuppet attacks, like disallowing downvotes from accounts below a karma threshold, or the one about moderator database access that's currently in the pipeline.

Comment author: ChristianKl 18 December 2016 08:25:31PM 1 point [-]

Hand-picking has some advantages but it also produces problem because it induces political discussion about who deserves to be in the hand-picked group of high voting power users.

Comment author: steven0461 18 December 2016 08:27:15PM *  3 points [-]

The hand-pickers can be anonymous to everyone except the site owners. The picking needn't even be a continuous process; it can just be done once with no possibility of discussion. People would still yell at us for the abstract fact that we implemented such a scheme, but we'd have to weigh that against what I expect would be a substantial increase in voting quality. (Nobody would lose their vote and this would help make it palatable.)

Comment author: Error 17 December 2016 10:27:51PM 6 points [-]

I've written a bit about this, but I never finished the sequence and don't really endorse any of it as practical. Some of the comment threads may have useful suggestions in them, though.

Discussion quality is a function of the discussants more than the software.

I think we are better off using something as close to off-the-shelf as possible, modified only via intended configuration hooks. Software development isn't LW's comparative advantage. If we are determined to do it anyway, we should do it in such a way that it's useful to more than just us, so as to potentially get contributions from elsewhere.

What's the replacement plan? Are we building something from the ground up, re-forking Reddit, or something else? I've nosed around contributing a few times and keep getting put off by the current crawling horror. If we're re-building from something clean, I might reconsider.

Comment author: steven0461 18 December 2016 07:55:23PM *  2 points [-]

Discussion quality is a function of the discussants more than the software.

I agree with this and suspect that a willingness to keep out low-quality users is more important than any technical feature. The decision to remove all downvoting is worrying in this regard.

View more: Next