FB/Discord Style Reacts

post by Raemon · 2019-06-01T21:34:27.167Z · score: 77 (19 votes) · LW · GW · 71 comments

Contents

  Separating Enthusiasm from Approval
    Boos/Yays vs 'approve/disapprove'
    Other things vs 'approve/disapprove'
    "Viscerally Fun but Low Signal Buttons" should be easy to access. "Higher Signal" buttons should require more effort and thought.
  Social Entanglement, Epistemic Entanglement and Common Knowledge
  Making it lower effort to give feedback. 
  An issue re: Simplicity of Concepts
None
71 comments

For the past year I've wanted LessWrong to include something like Discord, Facebook or Slashdot style reactions.

Facebook Style means "there's a few key reactions that people use"

Discord Style means "there's nigh-infinite reactions and you can add more, but there still end up being a few commonly used defaults."

Slashdot Style means "after upvoting or downvoting, you have the option of clicking a button that clarifies why you upvoted or downvoted."

Of these, I'm most excited for Discord-Style. But I think any of them would be improvements (if done well)

Habryka recently wrote a shortform comment on this subject [LW · GW]. My own thoughts come in a few different frames.


Separating Enthusiasm from Approval

Boos/Yays vs 'approve/disapprove'

Empirically, people want to cheer for their causes, boo causes they dislike, signal their social allegiance and try to ensure the overton window moves in the direction they want. I don't think you can really fight this. But you can nudge people to disentangle this from "what gets attentional allocation on a site about rationality."

I think it's important that when you see a comment you like, and you feel the impulse to go "yeah! good point! go team!" the first impulse you have, the first button available and exciting to click, is a button that doesn't send any signals about how that comment should be sorted, and doesn't aggregate into an overall user-score you can check (that, for good or for ill, people will tend to associate with social status)

Other things vs 'approve/disapprove'

Boos/yays aren't the only thing I'm worried about. Ideally, I want LessWrong to reward good thinking over things like being funny, or exciting. (Being funny and exciting should still get rewarded, but no amount of clever injokes should add up to something greater than "wrote an actually useful, insightful point.")

"Viscerally Fun but Low Signal Buttons" should be easy to access. "Higher Signal" buttons should require more effort and thought.

With both of the above in mind, I think it's important that "Yay", or "Funny" buttons should be the first, most obvious thing to click on. They should feel satisfying to click, and you shouldn't feel motivated to click more things if that's the only reason you were upvoting.

The buttons that send more important signals should require a bit of extra effort, and force you to at least notice some cognitive dissonance if you're upvoting people just because they're on your side.

Social Entanglement, Epistemic Entanglement and Common Knowledge

One react someone expressed interested in was a simple "acknowledged." Votes are totally anonymous, and that means if you want someone to know that you have read a thing, you have to actually comment, which is moderately high effort and takes up a lot of vertical space on the page. Whether someone has read a thing is fairly important information about how to continue a conversation.

By default, on many social-media platforms, likes are public. They were also public on the old Intelligent Agent Foundations Forum (and I think probably on Arbital, although not sure offhand).

This does two things, which I have mixed feelings about.

One is social entanglement. Visibly liking each other's comments is part of the process by which people build social trust and alliances. I think there's reason to be cautious about LessWrong directly facilitating that.

Another is clarity on who believes what, and whose judgment you trust. When you're building a serious, complex idea, it's actually important who understands what concepts, who thinks different concepts are important. There are people I do in fact trust more intellectually than others, and it's higher signal to know that one of them liked a post than some rando. It's also more informative when I know that multiple people I trust disagree.

My current best guess is that it's best for the voting on LessWrong to be anonymous, but for reactions to display usernames on hover-over. It might or might not be feasible or desirable (from a UI complexity standpoint) to let people choose whether to react publicly. But I can imagine changing my mind about this.


Making it lower effort to give feedback.

Receiving a downvote without explanation sucks. Some people complain about this – "can't you provide reasons for your downvotes?" Well, no. Trivial inconveniences matter. If you force people to provide information and figure out how to articulate what's wrong with something, people will probably just stop giving feedback rather than actually providing reasons.

Not only does this require figuring out how to write a comment, it opens up a line of engagement that you might have to put even more effort into defending.

[this is an empirical claim, it's perhaps worth the experiment of requiring downvotes to always require reasons, but I'm not optimistic about it].

But I think there are some fairly common reasons why a comment gets downvoted, that could at least make it lower-effort to give feedback:

It's also nice to improve the reward signal for particularly good actions:


An issue re: Simplicity of Concepts

You'll notice some issues, comparing the above feedbacks to Facebook Reacts.

Facebook reacts are "haha!" "love!" "sad!" "anger!" "wow!"

Everyone knows what those mean. Everyone knows that everyone else knows what those mean. They are very short words. They are (due to millennia of evolution, genetic and cultural) conceptually simple.

"This comment seems to be rounding things off in an oversimplified way" is a less common concept. It's more complicated. And if you simplified it slightly so that the button said "Oversimplified"... that would... actually be an oversimplified button. It's important that I'm just saying "yo this comment was oversimplified", but rather that it seemed (probably) to be making a subtle error.

I think this is really important. I think something LessWrong needs to do is nuanced critiques easier to chunk. This is pretty tricky, since, well, the whole point of nuances is that they're nuanced.

A rationalist friend once commented, in non-rationalist circles, that when they tried to say "I agree with your point but I think this particular part has a logical error", they would often have people... just completely fail to parse that. It wasn't in their schema at all.

On LessWrong, we have some shared context where we mostly all understand not to just have Arguments Be Soldiers and whatnot. Our schema includes Local Validity. But there are many important, key concepts that still take a lot more effort to express than "yay/boo" or "haha!"

And thing is... it's not like "Love" is a simple concept. When someone clicks 'Love' on one of my facebook posts, there is a fairly rich wave of senses I get (depending on my post, and depending on my relationship with the person in question). When someone posts about their pet dying and I click 'Love', there's this whole shared context about how we're both human and we know what it is to lose people and my heart goes out to them and I chest tenses slightly and there's... just a whole lot going on.

Still, I'm able to chunk that complexity into a concept called "Love", and it's easily available for me to access.

There's a potential longterm vision for LessWrong – maybe not the right vision, but possible – where part of what we're doing here is distilling concepts down so thoroughly that a single word can communicate a lot of nuance.

Language real estate is limited, and I'm not sure which concepts make the most sense to distill in such a way. There's also certainly room for this to fail, where instead of being able to more-easily-express nuanced concepts it ends up destroying nuance.

Facebook has cheapened the word "friend", and that's important. But... I also have an impression of it having made it easier for me to express love, in a way that so far seems net positive.

It feels exciting to me to imagine one day living on a world where "this changed my mind" or "this was well thought even though I disagree" feel like basic, obvious concepts that are important enough to be communicated with a single word.


71 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Zvi · 2019-06-02T00:47:01.907Z · score: 24 (10 votes) · LW · GW

Reactions will raise the toxicity and blight levels of LessWrong. Non-anonymous ones would raise it more.

I have large uncertainty about the magnitude of these effects.

But I do know that I try very, very hard to never use reacts on social media to (among other reasons) avoid there being information in my failure to react to things or any pressure to see things in order to react to them.

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-02T01:11:48.192Z · score: 25 (9 votes) · LW · GW

There's a fairly weird idea that's possible here (I have a similar sense for Shortform Feed).

LessWrong has a fundamental problem where I want the top contributors to easily be able to write short, off the cuff stuff that fleshes out their thoughts in realtime without having to stress about getting nit-picked. I want top contributors to lower their standards for engagement. I don't necessarily want newcomers to lower their standards of engagement.

A possibility for both reactions, and shortform feed, is for them to only be available to people with N karma. A lot of the blight I associate with social media has to do with large numbers of people smashing into each other without sharing context. If the number of people who receive nudges towards low-effort interactions is fairly small and high quality, it might be better than giving those nudges to everyone, or to no one.

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-02T01:08:13.267Z · score: 23 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The equation I see is something like:

default-LW-world – tribal alliances and overton fights and other things I associate with toxicity are channeled into upvotes/downvotes, and comment storms.

Reaction-World – seems like it'd spend that energy differently. I think naively implementing it would increase it's visibility, but also channel a lot of the energy into activities that don't gain you karma. I also think implementing it carefully can force people to notice and pay more attention to what they're doing.

A thing that I actually like about Facebook "Love" reacts is that... they come with my name attached, and it says something about me how freely I'm willing to use it. It's use doesn't need to be limited by explicit rules, it's limited by vague self-regulating social norms.

I don't clearly see why Reacts should be dramatically different from commenting – if you'd have been willing to write a comment (except that it was too much effort), why not use a React? I do get that the there's a high level change in the culture when some actions being easier. But this seems like it moves the world closer to in-person communication. In-person communication has microexpressions of gratitude and camaraderie and confusion and annoyance and this is all real valuable. Yes, somewhat stressful, but mostly good.

How much Reacts contribute to toxicity seems like it has a lot to do with a whole lot of other factors, including the high level design of the site, the degree of gatekeeping and moderation, the incentives (i.e. twitter and FB want billions of users so they don't really want any particular standards, and angry discourse plays right into their hands).

comment by Ben Pace (Benito) · 2019-06-02T01:04:38.790Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

When you say social media - do you avoid using them in team slack/discord?

comment by Zvi · 2019-06-02T01:28:00.373Z · score: 18 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I have never used them in team slack or discord, and also haven't been tempted to do so. I mean, I can just type stuff, that's what I'm there for, and we already had emoticons, so I don't really see the point?

comment by Rana Dexsin · 2019-06-02T02:36:05.820Z · score: 15 (5 votes) · LW · GW

My experience in other circles with Slack and Discord is that the niche of emoji reactions is primarily non-interrupting room-sensing (there are also sillier uses in casual social contexts, but they don't seem relevant here). I don't feel any pressure to specifically have read something, and I haven't observed people reading anything into failure to provide a reaction. The rare exception to the latter is when there's clearly an active conversation going on that someone's already clearly been active in, which can be handled by explicitly signaling departure, which was a norm in those circumstances anyway.

Non-interrupting room-sensing in a fast-flowing channel environment has generally struck me as beneficial. Being able to quickly find the topic-flow of the current conversation is important, and reactions do not have to be scanned for topic introductions. Reactions encode leafness: you can't reply to a reaction easily, which also means giving a reaction cannot induce social pressure to reply to it. They encode weaker ties to the individual: people with the same reaction are stacked together, and it takes an extra effort to look at the list of reacting users. Differentially, reactions can also signal level of involvement: someone “conversing” in only reactions may not be up for thinking about the conversation hard enough to produce text responses, but is able to listen and give base emotional feedback (which seems to be the most relevant to the proposed uses here). It serves a similar function to scanning people's facial expressions in a physical meeting room.

I'm very unclear on how these patterns would play out in a longer-form, more delay-tolerant environment like a comment tree. Some of the room-sensing interpretation makes less sense the less the timescale of the reactions corresponds to unconscious-emotion synchronization; there's a lot of lost flow context.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2019-06-02T15:34:35.253Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

My experience from seeing emoticons used on Slack/Discord is that they help combat the muted signal problem of online communication, and thus actually reduce the toxicity of discussion.

People want to feel respected, loved, appreciated, etc. When we interact physically, you can easily experience subtle forms of these feelings. For instance, even if you just hang out in the same physical space with a bunch of other people and don’t really interact with them, you often get some positive feelings regardless. Just the fact that other people are comfortable having you around, is a subtle signal that you belong and are accepted.
Similarly, if you’re physically in the same space with someone, there are a lot of subtle nonverbal things that people can do to signal interest and respect. Meeting each other’s gaze, nodding or making small encouraging noises when somebody is talking, generally giving people your attention. This kind of thing tends to happen automatically when we are in each other’s physical presence.
Online, most of these messages are gone: a thousand people might read your message, but if nobody reacts to it, then you don’t get any signal indicating that you were seen. Even getting a hundred likes and a bunch of comments on a status, can feel more abstract and less emotionally salient than just a single person nodding at you and giving you an approving look when you’re talking.

My hypothesis is that the lack of such subtle "body language" signals is often the cause of toxicity, because generic likes feel more abstract and then people ramp up their outrage in order to elicit reactions and feel like they have been noticed. Whereas, in my own experience at least, the kind of somewhat personalized (in the sense of having been selected from a vast set) reacts on Slack/Discord do have some of the "body language felt sense" that makes me feel genuinely noticed in a way that a mere upvote doesn't. (And the point of the signals being subtle is that they're not major enough that you would normally bother expressing them in a comment.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2019-06-03T15:20:01.520Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Reading a message takes more cognitive resources then seeing a single emoticon. It's easy for people to click +1 to get an opinion of what multiple people think then when every person lays out "I agree with you", "I think we should adopt your proposal" etc.

comment by sirjackholland · 2019-06-03T14:54:25.581Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Other than both being pictographic, I'm not sure emoticons and reactions are that related. Emoticons are either objects (neither here nor there for our purposes) or facial/bodily expressions. Reactions are emotional or high-level responses to information.

You can't really express the thumbs-up reaction with a facial expression emoticon. You can use a smiley face or something similar, but thumbs-up means approval, not happiness. If someone says "I'll be five minutes late - start without me" I don't want to express happiness at this, but I do want to acknowledge it and (if this is the case) say it's OK. A thumbs-up does this wonderfully: by definition, it means I have acknowledged the message, and it signals approval rather than disapproval, but nothing else. You can't really do that with emoticons.

I think there are lots of situations in which reactions can do things emoticons can't, and I've found that I notice nice opportunities for reactions more when I'm in an environment in which they're readily available.

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-02T19:27:42.163Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Team slack is the domain that most clearly motivated me to consider reacts for LW. They also especially made me long for them in google docs.

Emoticons etc still take up a full line of text, and easily get mixed in with other discussions that are happening. Reacts allow for much higher information density, which allows the overall conversation to be more complex.

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-01T22:37:57.670Z · score: 21 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Experiment: Comment on this thread whenever you notice that you wanted to respond to a comment with something that could be encapsulated with a simple react, by adding a comment with that react.

Top level comments in this subthread should be the simplest possible expression of a reaction that conveys the right nuances. (Child comments can have fully fledged conversations)

Only add things here if a real comment that actually happened led you to wish you could do a simple react to it.

comment by Kaj_Sotala · 2019-06-02T15:42:49.615Z · score: 9 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"That clarifies it to my satisfaction, thanks for explaining."

(I often see something like 👌 or ✔️being used for this on Discord/Slack, though those are more about acknowledging the explanation rather than the expression of gratitude.)

comment by Zvi · 2019-06-02T00:40:33.936Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

"Agree with central point but logic flawed."

comment by eukaryote · 2019-06-04T02:15:07.650Z · score: 7 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This gif:

"Whoa there, friend, you might need to slow down"

(See also: "This is a reach", "you need to explain this more", "I don't understand why you said this", etc)

comment by Zvi · 2019-06-02T00:36:12.103Z · score: 7 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"Important."

comment by steven0461 · 2019-07-04T17:05:35.533Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"This is wrong, harmful, and/or in bad faith, but I expect arguing this point against determined verbally clever opposition would be too costly."

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-04T00:40:06.319Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

"Uses anecdotes on a question that's asking for more rigor"

comment by Raemon · 2019-07-03T20:39:32.133Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I think "this comment makes the thread subtly worse given opportunity costs of reading time" is really important, and I really want a 1 or 2-word handle for it.

Edit: Options, which potentially work but each 1-word loss of nuance seems to matter quite a bit:

  • "Hmm. This comment makes the thread subtly worse."
  • "Makes thread subtly worse."
  • "Hmm. Makes thread subtly worse."
comment by mr-hire · 2019-07-04T00:31:11.080Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe, "Not value adding"

comment by Raemon · 2019-07-04T00:34:55.137Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Usually the situation is that it's adding value, but also reducing a (different form of) value. (And in some cases I think it's locally adding more value than it's destroying, but I expect it to divert the thread in a direction that is longterm net negative)

comment by Dagon · 2019-06-10T18:22:21.761Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Here's a challenge: I was about to make this (low-value) comment on: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/cnBGXGSFGpfvknFc3/ramifications-of-limited-positive-value-unlimited-negative-1 [LW · GW]

"Upvoted because it's relevant and perhaps important, but the premises are too far from both my intuitions and reasoned beliefs (which I acknowledge are deeply entwined with intuitions, and not necessarily "truth") for me to participate. I look forward to seeing the conversation. "

I'm not sure what the emoticon or short phrase for that looks like. perhaps thumbs-up+shrug.

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-10T19:13:42.036Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

FYI I think that's a complex enough sentiment that just making the comment is fine (and in a React world, once you've made that comment, anyone with similar responses can say 'agree' to your comment).

Possible shorthand might be something like "Interested in seeing the discussion" (which I expect to be commonly used for topics that seem important but require domain expertise to contribute meaningfully)

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-12T23:11:33.060Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Nod

comment by Alexei · 2019-06-02T01:19:54.756Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

“Muddled thinking but very interesting direction”

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-01T22:38:17.054Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"Thanks!"

comment by Rob Bensinger (RobbBB) · 2019-06-01T22:42:28.296Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

On slack, Thumbs Up, OK, and Horns hand signs meet all my minor needs for thanking people.

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-01T22:48:12.866Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Nod.

comment by Rob Bensinger (RobbBB) · 2019-06-01T22:43:33.318Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

(If I want to express stronger gratitude than that, I'd rather write it out.)

comment by Raemon · 2019-07-03T20:37:59.065Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Shrug"

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-26T00:57:44.008Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Could use more examples.

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-26T00:57:26.612Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sounds plausible. Would be interested in seeing more evidence that this works.

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-08T00:57:39.499Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Sheds more heat than light"

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-02T21:59:37.209Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"lol [LW · GW]"

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-04T00:36:59.732Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The comment that triggered this [LW · GW] is actually a pretty good case study of a particular kind of thing.

I think there's a place for humor on LW. I think there are some places where humor in the middle of a serious discussion can happen. But if it happened all the time it'd be extremely disruptive.

I think an actual good equilibrium is "you can make jokes at the expense of the discussion clarity. If so, you may get a combination of 'downvotes that effect your longterm karma', but also 'haha' reacts rewarding your humor. And it's sort of up to you whether this is worth it." (I would change my mind if it happened a lot)

(On the original thread, someone suggested making the joke as a comment rather than an official Question Answer. I think the joke is funnier if it's an answer, and so long as that doesn't happen often I think it's fine. I personally found it pretty hilarious in context, but admittedly I'm fairly far on the 'likes bad puns and worse meta-humor' spectrum)

[I expect this to be a more controversial opinion that other mods don't necessarily share, curious what people think about the general principle]

comment by Zvi · 2019-06-04T15:58:06.273Z · score: 12 (4 votes) · LW · GW

If I'm deciding whether to post a comment, and my worry is an impact on my long term karma versus how many little dopamine hits I'll get from reactions, that feels like exactly the types of questions I want to avoid in my life. If either of these things is driving my decision, rather than what would help build knowledge or be useful to myself and others, then I'd consider it time to pack it in and stop posting entirely.

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-04T22:00:29.938Z · score: 6 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Huh. This feels like the exactly the sort of question I'm normally navigating when deciding whether to make a bad pun in the middle of a serious meeting. Maybe the joke is good enough that everyone likes it and I come out neutral to positive on "business relationship points", but maybe not, but maybe I actually care enough about the entirely orthogonal "guy who makes bad puns points" to do it anyway.

The choices come down to either:

  • people are encouraged to make jokes on LW willy-nilly
  • people are encouraged to not make jokes on LW
  • people can make jokes sometimes but it's highly context dependent and you have to navigate social situations to be able to do it.

And it sort of seems like it just has to be the third one.

I'm somewhat surprised that this is your view, in part because awhile ago someone on LW asked a slightly annoying question, and lost some karma, and someone said "it seems kinda bad that this person lost karma for asking a question" and you said "I dunno they asked a sort of annoying question, paid some karma, but got the answer to the question, which seemed like a fine trade that should be okay to make sometimes." It's not exactly the same concept here but seemed like a pretty similar principle.

(Since then we've implemented the questions feature which sends different signals about how and whether it's okay to ask questions, but I think the original principle was pretty fine at the time)

comment by Zvi · 2019-06-05T12:12:43.293Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It's not that you don't have to track those points in the meeting as part of your decision. You definitely do. It's that if the primary reason you're doing anything in the meeting is so that you can maximize various point totals to seem like a good meeting-attender, then the meeting is no longer serving its original intended purpose and you're stuck in a signaling nightmare (and likely a moral maze). Remember that (almost) everyone hates meetings and wants to avoid them. Being caught in a continuous permanently-available meeting of that type seems like something to avoid.

I do agree that we want there to be jokes when they are high-value and not when they are low-value, like most other things, but I'd like this to be about questions like "will this help this discussion accomplish something worthwhile and illustrate the questions involved?" and "is it funny and therefore Worth It to tell this?"

In terms of the answer I gave earlier, I totally stand by that - losing a little karma is a (small) price of a negative dopamine hit and a small hit to total karma, and the karma gives the message that the question was annoying so they can update that they're imposing real costs, and sometimes it's worth imposing real costs and taking small status hits to do things anyway. I was more pushing back against this idea that "If you get negative karma on a post/comment you should react as if this is a crisis situation and you are bad and should feel bad."

comment by Bucky · 2019-06-06T07:30:24.627Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

"I especially like/benefited from this bit:

Quote from post/comment"

comment by Pattern · 2019-06-05T19:45:22.938Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A vision of hell.

comment by ChristianKl · 2019-06-05T15:14:59.321Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This comment changed my mind.

comment by Rana Dexsin · 2019-06-02T02:46:39.244Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

“Agree.”

comment by Rana Dexsin · 2019-06-02T03:25:10.575Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

“Wariness, thoughtfully following, should think about this more.”

comment by shminux · 2019-06-01T22:25:13.558Z · score: 11 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I am very much looking forward to a low effort way to give and receive more nuanced feedback! Hope you guys come up with a test version soon.

comment by Dagon · 2019-06-13T18:12:20.303Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Note that low-effort is one side of this. Low-interruption-of-comment-stream is far more important to me. Threading on LW is not great, and having short, lightweight reactive comments inline with substantive ones can be quite distracting.

comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2019-06-13T20:14:13.483Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
Threading on LW is not great

Is this compared to other sites, or do you just think threading in general has some problems?


comment by Dagon · 2019-06-13T22:11:29.803Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It's about on par with other sites. Conversational threading has never worked well on websites, AFAIK. trn did fairly well on Usenet, there have been some e-mail clients (none currently, AFAIK) that do a fairly good job. LW (and other reddit-like sites) does well for topics with comment trees that are bushy for the first level or two, and narrow below that.

The killer feature that nobody's been able to replicate is zoom/filter to one unread path down the reply tree, and then to advance to the next branch which contains an unread reply from a followed ancestor. Basically depth-first reading of new comments (with an option to go up to ancestors for context). All web comment systems I know of show breadth-first, including both read and unread comments (or with context loss when switching between all and unread).

I presume nobody's been able to replicate it because the idea of a conversational tree AS A NAVIGATION TREE is too complicated and techie for the vast majority of modern participants. It might actually work on LW, but it's different enough that there's not much reusable stuff out there and it'd be a lot of work.

comment by habryka (habryka4) · 2019-06-13T22:44:44.761Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Interesting. Do you have any screenshots or more concrete descriptions of how trn works? Or maybe recommendations for other things?

comment by Elo · 2019-06-02T22:14:07.173Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

My experience is reactions are important for real time conversations with too many people at once. It allows one person to speak and several people to agree without adding another line of text and clogging up the discussion.

There is another use case of "supportive" emojis where I would react hug to "I've had a rough day" from a friend of mine.

There's all the humour uses of emoji too but that's not what we want on lw.

comment by Zvi · 2019-06-02T00:39:30.461Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Brainstorm question: Are we sure this type of feedback needs/wants to be public? I see a mode where it would be helpful to know the reason, but where having the reason by default stamped onto posts is even more demotivating than not knowing.

Not sure how this interacts with possibly being non-anonymous.

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-02T01:15:14.744Z · score: 9 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I've thought about this a bit, and I can see arguments for both sides, but I think it makes most sense to think of these as "times when you might have made a public comment but the comment was too high effort". I think there's a different set of pathologies that come up when different people have access to different hidden information.

Hypothetical Example:

Person A: "X"

High status Person B clicks "Likes X"

Person C: "X is dumb. I bet high status Person B would hate X"

Person A... is now in the awkward position of knowing that High Status Person B actually liked X, but it's sort of private information. What to do?

comment by Zvi · 2019-06-02T01:25:28.693Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Example-specific note, but perhaps not a coincidence: Person C's comment seems like it's not a great thing to say on LW. Almost as if someone is using social pressure slash arguing from authority that isn't even theirs. If we get into a question of which high-status people are clicking like on which things, that seems very bad.

And of course, hidden information is everywhere all the time, social and otherwise, so these aren't new pathologies.

My default would be to have a norm that this is indeed private information, and if Person A wants B's backup in public they can ask for it.

comment by Rana Dexsin · 2019-06-02T02:55:32.362Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I intuitively believe that anonymous reactions will be more likely to lead to gaming, becoming a way to snipe or brigade from the sidelines in a more emotionally impactful way than downvotes and upvotes. Being able to weight the reactions by status is important.

There is also less pushback possible versus toxic anonymous uses of emoji-like reactions, because they often encode emotions less abstractly than votes do, and norms like “you should vote based on certain criteria that promote the purpose of the space” don't translate well to “you should emote based on certain criteria” (even though the latter does happen in human societies).

A place where I see private information as potentially beneficial, in a way that isn't reflected in any previous reaction systems I've seen, is actually “reacting user reveals reaction only to comment owner”. This would be to a PM response as a visible reaction would be to a comment response, and would serve a similar function when someone doesn't feel comfortable revealing a potentially low-status emotional reaction to the group nor being clear enough about it to raise the interaction stakes, but where such information especially in aggregate could still be useful. If a lot of people have a good or bad feeling about something, but few of them feel comfortable showing it in public, that can be very useful dynamics information.

(My previous comment's caveats about how I'm not sure how well any of this works in a comment-tree situation apply.)

comment by steven0461 · 2019-06-15T17:27:53.629Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

A lot of the benefit from reacts would be the ability to distinguish between "this comment makes the thread a little worse given constraints on attention and reading time" and "die, monster, you don't belong in this world". Downvotes are aversive because they come across as a mix of those two despite being mostly the former.

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-17T01:09:29.279Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Endorsed. "This comment makes the thread a little worse given constraints on attention and reading time" is a concept I wish I had a short handle for which wasn't going to immediately degrade into "this comment is bad and you are bad."

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-10T19:54:51.346Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It occurs to me that I have somewhat different expectations and desires for reactions on Question posts, over regular Post.

On questions, it's usually a lot more clear which comments are making concrete-progress towards answering the question, and which are not. It also seems like there's more useful feedback to give people in terms of why an Answer was useful or un-useful. (and being able to see lots of micro-feedback might help people learn to write more useful answers)

Some things that I might want to react with include:

  • "Helped me become less confused"
  • "Nicely empirical" (something something "thanks for actually going out and checking")
  • "Nice scholarship" (something something "thanks for actually going out and checking what the rest of the field said about something)
  • "Nice distillation" ("this summarized stuff that otherwise would have taken me forever to get through")

With negative things including:

  • "Too anecdotal" (sometimes questions are asking for anecdotes, but often they're specifically asking for non-anecdotal stuff and the anecdotes are just noise)
  • "Citation needed"
  • "This argument-chain is wrong"
comment by Dagon · 2019-06-05T16:45:57.374Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · LW · GW

How are you thinking about the time-value of such react tokens? Are you trying to fix a problem with votes, or to introduce a new mechanism for a purpose orthogonal to voting?

I'd like to see more signal in the voting: slashdot-style "why are you voting this way" would naively fit that, but I don't actually like any implementation I know of, so I may be wrong in my understanding of my preference on that front.

One of the things about the current "votes" mechanism that consumes my mental energy with no value is that they're summed up and kept forever, and impact your ability to give more of them (more karma = stronger votes). I want not to care, but I do. Adding another signal for my brain to goodheart on (caring about the metric rather than the signal) is a strict loss for me. If it's intentionally lightweight and ephemeral, that solves this problem, but perhaps makes it less useful if it's intended to motivate some behavior.

Separately, but also related to the signaling value of LW posts/comments/votes/reacts, I'm also totally flummoxed by recent comments that most of what I see in /allPosts aren't "really" part of LW, and votes there should have different standards and meanings.


comment by Raemon · 2019-06-05T19:28:10.593Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The way I'd implicitly been thinking is "Reacts would be added to a particular comment, and probably live on that comment forever, but not contribute to any kind of long term metrics."

I was thinking of them mostly as "very lightweight comments, which are easier to see at a glance."

In some cases I saw them as trying to provide an outlet for lightweight-feedback other than votes, for feedback (such as "yay/boo" that I don't think should ideally be handled by the voting system)

comment by Dagon · 2019-06-05T21:03:01.183Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Cool, I like having reacts tied to ideas and expressions rather than to people.

Your comment about feedback other than votes makes me wonder, though - wouldn't it be in addition to votes? Do you expect people to react and not vote (or vote and not react) very often? I rarely (not never, but not usually) comment without voting.

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-05T21:10:50.839Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm. Don't know the common use cases but once I'm having a conversation in a thread, I usually only upvote things if they seem particularly good or bad, or particularly standalone. (in particular when there's a high volume of comments in the thread)

comment by Dagon · 2019-06-05T22:15:50.198Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ah, true. deep comment threads are different. I vote on most posts I comment on, and most top-level comments that I reply to. I generally only vote on deeper comments if that's where I'm entering the conversation.

comment by Ruby · 2019-06-05T16:52:05.341Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW
I'm also totally flummoxed by recent comments that most of what I see in /allPosts aren't "really" part of LW, and votes there should have different standards and meanings.

Can I trouble you to say more about what you're referring to with that sentence?

comment by Dagon · 2019-06-05T19:00:31.382Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It came up in this thread: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/WwTPSkNwC89g3Afnd/comment-section-from-05-19-2019#5wECFA9o8T6ohzrNE [LW · GW] . I can't easily find the other comments from people who say or strongly imply that they think of LessWrong being mostly promoted posts, and have different content and topic expectations for blog posts on the site.

re-reading the comments makes me realize that "totally flummoxed" is a massive overstatement - I was surprised, but I kind of get it (and kind of don't - there's not enough separation to make me believe that they're not mostly the same).

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-05T19:21:00.182Z · score: 7 (3 votes) · LW · GW

One note is that since then we wrote this post:

Site Guide: Personal Blogposts vs Frontpage Posts [LW · GW]

And we've also added some features the help clarify things a bit – personal blogposts now have a little "person" icon when you're looking at lists of posts (such as the home page, or all posts). It also appears directly on the post itself (similar to how GreaterWrong does it).

In several places there are now tooltips that explain what sorts of things are good fits for personal blogpost and what is good for frontpage.

comment by Dagon · 2019-06-05T22:10:08.582Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I would like to react to this in some positive way :)

I was away for a bit and had missed that post.

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-05T23:09:48.627Z · score: 3 (1 votes) · LW · GW

:)

comment by Ruby · 2019-06-05T19:35:41.883Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not sure I've properly understood the complaint, but I think the recently posted Frontpage/Personal site guide [LW · GW] post sheds light on what kind of content is welcome on LessWrong and where it goes.

Posts on practically any topic are welcomed on LessWrong [1]. I (and others on the team) feel it is important that members are able to “bring their entire selves” to LessWrong and are able to share all their thoughts, ideas, and experiences without fearing whether they are “on topic” for LessWrong. Rationality is not restricted to only specific domains of one’s life and neither should LessWrong be.
However, to maintain its overall focus while still allowing posts on any topic, LessWrong classifies posts as either Personal blogposts or as Frontpage posts.

If you go to the AllPosts page and apply no filter, you will see personal blogposts too on which there are few restrictions of topic.

I don't think I would quite embrace a distinction of "really part of LW" vs "not really part of LW", though I do expect the Frontpage vs Personal Blogpost distinction will map to a fair extent onto "is material representative of what people associate with LW" vs "material on lots of random topics."

As with that recent post, we're working to make it clear what material is welcome on LessWrong, where it can be seen, and how people can use the site to see what they want to see.



comment by Viliam · 2019-06-04T21:28:20.432Z · score: 5 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I believe that "like" and "dislike" are good choices, especially if you want people to make a lot of votes, without spending too much time thinking about it. Anything more complex, and most people will not use it; and if that means they cannot vote, then less people will vote (and the results of voting will represent a smaller set of people, mostly the compulsive voters). Time spent voting (not per one comment, but site-wide) is a limited resource.

I think that when websites try to measure more than one dimension, the usual outcome is that the answers correlate so much it was worthless to distinguish between them. No matter how precisely you specify the voting rules, when people like something, they will usually give it the highest rating in all dimensions (even completely irrelevant ones), and when they dislike something, they will give it the lowest rating in all dimensions. The ones who think deeper about it will be "less productive" voters than the ones who don't.

So it should be like/dislike first, and then optionally a flavor next. (Different flavors for likes and dislikes, obviously.)

Perhaps adding a third option, "meh", would still work okay. I mean, "meh" is neither an upvote nor a downvote; it means no strong reaction in either way, it doesn't provide information for others, but it could be useful for you to distinguish between comments you already voted "meh" from the comments you haven't voted yet. And, if we go the way of "vote + flavor", there could be a collection of flavors with "meh" (probably with some overlap with the flavors for "like" and "dislike").

Maybe it should be possible to write your own flavor text for a vote, and the most frequent choices (for the specific vote type: upvote/meh/downvote) should be offered as a menu. So you could choose between what other people mostly use, or write your own text.

comment by Raemon · 2019-06-04T22:02:53.926Z · score: 8 (4 votes) · LW · GW

This is precisely why I'm against adding a single additional voting system for "agree/disagree" – I think it will mostly be adding complexity without actually adding an additional stream of value.

But the way Facebook handles Reacts is much more about emotional expression than "+1/-1". I think if Reacts are primarily about nuance rather than being at-all about "+1/-1", they can serve a pretty different niche.

comment by ChristianKl · 2019-06-03T08:14:21.612Z · score: 4 (2 votes) · LW · GW

There's an interesting parallel between Slack reactions and the wiggle fingers applause from sign language. If we have reactions on LessWrong that can express more nuance, I think it would be great to have corresponding hand gestures that can be used for offline interaction within our communities.

comment by mhelvens · 2019-06-24T16:36:27.099Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Should we consider a mechanism to reduce conformity bias? For example, we could allow users to blind themselves to (the nature of) existing reactions until they choose to reveal them or react themselves.

Such a mechanism may come with its own drawbacks, of course. And it's possible I'm just overthinking this. But I hadn't seen the idea discussed yet, so I thought I'd bring it up.

comment by Pattern · 2019-06-03T22:42:26.499Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · LW · GW
I think something LessWrong needs to do is [make] nuanced critiques easier to chunk.