Irrational Upvotes

post by mwaser · 2010-11-01T12:10:38.277Z · score: -7 (14 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 17 comments

"This premise is VERY flawed" (found here) is the sole author-supplied content of a comment.  There are no supporting links or additional content, only a one-sentence quote of the "offending" premise.

Yet, it has four upvotes.

This is a statement that can be made about any premise.  It is backed by no supporting evidence.

Presumably, whoever upvoted it did so because they disagreed with the preceding comment (which, presumably, they downvoted -- unless they didn't have enough karma).

This *could* be viewed as rational behavior because it *does* support the goal of defeating the preceding comment but it does not support the LessWrong community.  If premise is fatally flawed, then you should give at least some shred of a reason WHY or all you're doing is adding YOUR opinion. 

This blog is "devoted to refining the art of human rationality".  If the author is truly interested in refining his rationality, he has been given absolutely no help.  He has no idea why his premise is flawed.  He is now going to have to ask why or for some counter-examples.  For his purposes (and the purposes of anyone else who doesn't understand or doesn't agree with your opinion), this post is useless noise clogging up the site.

Yet, it has four upvotes.

Is anyone else here bothered by this or am I way off base?

17 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Kingreaper · 2010-11-01T12:28:58.597Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Umm, notice the way zhe capitalises "VERY" just as you did?

Zhir post makes the point that your point was unsupported and non-obvious. If a premise is unsupported it shouldn't be used. That is obvious; else you wouldn't demand that zhe support ZHIR point.

Now, I don't think his post is deserving of an upvote, but it does contain content.

And by posting this to the discussion section you are trying to create a villifying discussion against a comment that disagrees with you.

In future, if you feel that there is some form of irrationality around, look for examples that don't involve you before posting, so that you don't seem to be simply lashing out.

comment by mwaser · 2010-11-01T13:18:07.446Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree with "In future, if you feel that there is some form of irrationality around, look for examples that don't involve you before posting, so that you don't seem to be simply lashing out."

I strongly disagree with "you are trying to create a villifying discussion against a comment that disagrees with you."

I would agree with "it appears as if you are trying to create a villifying discussion against a comment that disagrees with you"

Wouldn't you agree?

comment by Kingreaper · 2010-11-01T14:07:59.703Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Indeed. I had intended to post "it looks as if..." but I guess I didn't.

Intriguing.

Possibly this is because at one point I got into the habit of using "it looks as if" as a distancer, to prevent people from attaching my opinions to me, and I now avoid it subconsciously.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2010-11-01T12:23:51.737Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd be interested to see examples where you agree with the comment but still feel the upvotes are irrational.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-11-02T04:40:53.468Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Can other people give examples? I have multiple examples of comments where I made a comment and then had people tear it into little tiny pieces but my comment got upvoted. I also have examples where the upvote was simply disproportionate to anything my comment should have gotten.

comment by Emile · 2010-11-01T12:41:10.941Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I wouldn't pay too much attention to the details of upvoting and downvoting - karma works as a rough filter for comment quality, but it has it's flaws, and paying more attention to karma doesn't reduce those flaws. So as a general rule, I don't get too worked up about what gets upvoted and what gets downvoted, unless I see a really unhealthy pattern (which I haven't seen yet).

In this specific case, I don't see a big problem - wedfrid points out what he sees as the biggest flaw in your reasoning, and the upvoters (which don't include me) probably agreed that that was a big flaw without needing any extra explanation (and I agree).

If you say "X is true, therefore blablabla", and most people would tend to believe that X is false, it seems reasonable to attract attention on that point - not necessarily providing a proof of non-X, but just pointing out "hey you're taking as a premise something most people here would disagree with, couldn't you at least give a bit more reasons for that?".

Yes, he didn't phrase it as politely, but your EXCESSIVE use of SHOUTING doesn't exactly encourage polite answers.

comment by David_Allen · 2010-11-01T17:30:31.499Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The value provided by wedrifid to the community was to mark one of your ideas as flawed. With his reputation on this site, that assessment is given weight. Even without additional support the value of his comment stands.

comment by jfm · 2010-11-01T15:38:34.708Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I generally don't trust karma systems on discussion/comment sites, period. They seem to tend over time to get subverted into one of several different failure modes:

  • Enforcement of group-think
  • Status games unrelated to site/discussion content
  • Mechanical manipulation of karma thresholds for the lulz ^W ^W trolling purposes

I was going to mention examples of each from other sites, but decided that that wasn't very useful, because it would require familiarity with those sites, and possibly inspire quibbling over particular cases. I haven't been around Less Wrong long enough to observe how well it works here.

comment by David_Gerard · 2010-11-01T16:23:41.204Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The general case was analysed by Clay Shirky in A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy.

[Those of us around Wikipedia reading Shirky's article in 2004-2005 giggled in horror at Wikipedia being named as an aversion of this trope.]

Basically, every social space (in general) grows and dies. This is normal. Start new ones as the old ones go bad.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-11-01T13:34:08.909Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

"This premise is VERY flawed"

This is a statement that can be made about any premise. It is backed by no supporting evidence.

A statement needs to be backed by arguments if that's necessary to make people agree with it. Some statements people already agree with, in which case no supporting arguments are necessary. Not every premise is such that people already agree with a statement that it's "very flawed".

Of course it's a bad argument when considered as directed to you (because it fails to move your beliefs), but a good one when seen as directed to other readers.

comment by mwaser · 2010-11-01T14:09:28.427Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Some statements people already agree with, in which case no supporting arguments are necessary.

Arguably then, for the audience of people who agree with the statement, the statement itself is not necessary either.

Obviously, the comment is courting the undecided. Obviously, many humans are swayed by sheer numbers of people who believe certain things. But that behavior is not rational. And this site is "devoted to refining the art of human rationality".

Of course it's a bad argument when considered as directed to you

Prejudicial strawman. I never said that it was a bad argument. I never said anything close.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-11-01T14:15:06.531Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Arguably then, for the audience of people who agree with the statement, the statement itself is not necessary either.

Arguments work by drawing attention to certain things you already know. The act of drawing attention is not void, it's almost the whole point (more so when there are multiple steps, of course, but it's often one step at a time).

Obviously, the comment is courting the undecided. Obviously, many humans are swayed by sheer numbers of people who believe certain things. But that behavior is not rational.

Making conclusions from comments' rating would be largely misguided. On the other hand, paying attention depending on comments' rating is a necessary evil with limited biasing effects.

Of course it's a bad argument when considered as directed to you

Prejudicial strawman. I never said that it was a bad argument. I never said anything close.

Hmm, do you mean that you agree with the statement? Something else? I don't understand.

comment by mwaser · 2010-11-01T20:09:44.933Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes. I agree with the statement but not it's relevance to the current discussion. It's clouding the issue/diverting attention away from the issue with irrelevant facts. Surely you know what a "Strawman Argument" is. If not, does the term "Red Herring" help?

comment by Kingreaper · 2010-11-02T21:18:37.001Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

A strawman is an argument that your opposition doesn't believe.

If you are casting yourself in the position of the opposition, then that is not a strawman. You do believe it's a bad argument when considered as directed at you.

A strawman is a specific fallacy. If you believe it was a red herring, call it a red herring.

comment by mwaser · 2010-11-03T21:49:54.450Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

From Wikipedia

A straw man argument is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position.[1] To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.[1][2]

My position never included the any claims about the value of the statement as an argument. To imply that my position was that it was a "bad" argument is to misrepresent my position. My position was exactly the two sentences that I wrote:

This is a statement that can be made about any premise. It is backed by no supporting evidence.

Did he disagree with either of these two sentences? Or did he strongly imply that I said that the upvoted comment was a bad argument and attack that?

comment by Relsqui · 2010-11-01T17:29:26.459Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, the person who posted the comment being replied to clearly didn't agree with it, and surely that's the most useful person to convince.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-11-01T17:43:50.026Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, the person who posted the comment being replied to clearly didn't agree with it, and surely that's the most useful person to convince.

Not a given, although actually noticing the person you are talking to is a good heuristic for keeping discussion focused.