"Hide comments in downvoted threads" is now active

post by Wei_Dai · 2012-10-05T07:23:56.318Z · score: 18 (30 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 88 comments

I just found out that a new website feature was implemented 2 days ago. If a comment is voted to -4 or below, it and all replies and downstream comments from it will be hidden from Recent Comments, and further replies in that subthread will incur 5 karma points penalty. The hiding, but not karma penalty, applies retroactively to comments in that subthread posted before the -4 vote.

This seems to be worth a discussion post since most people are probably still voting things to below -3 without knowing the new consequences of doing so.

88 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Morendil · 2012-10-05T09:42:16.781Z · score: 26 (28 votes) · LW · GW

This opens up a new aspect of downvoting, which I've just now tried out, and will describe in the interest of full disclosure: you can "swim up" the chain of comment parents until you find one that is at -3, and by downvoting that cause the entire downthread discussion to be effectively censored.

Swimming upthread is something I do quite often in the course of trying to understand what sparked a particular controversy - I'm often dismayed to see that these are tangents that had nothing to do with the original question being investigated and not a whole lot to do with rationality.

This comment by Wei Dai was the trigger for my looking to use this tactic (it felt like it belonged in a low-overall-value discussion of the kind I'd like to see less of), showing up at the top of Recent comments.

No less than eight levels above was this comment by wedrifid, sitting at -3, with a total of 38 children comments. Downvoting it (without the slightest qualm, given the first non-quoted words were a rhetorical "How dare you" that I strongly prefer not to see around here) did in fact cause Wei Dai's comment to disappear from Recent. (Here's the starting point of the whole subthread.)

So, that's one (possibly unexpected) consequence of the new rule. Good? Bad? I haven't formed an opinion yet.

(Some disclaimers: I have no particular antipathy toward either Wei Dai or wedrifid, nor did I allow myself to develop a particular attachment to either "side" in that particular controversy, given that the appearance of "sides" at all didn't strike me as particularly productive. I'm aware that my commenting on this may negate the censorship consequences on this particular discussion, but it seemed to me that bringing this out in the open had greater expected value than just quietly censoring one subthread and retaining the power to do it again on other occasions.)

comment by wedrifid · 2012-10-05T10:48:51.957Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

I have no particular antipathy toward either Wei Dai or wedrifid, nor did I allow myself to develop a particular attachment to either "side" in that particular controversy, given that the appearance of "sides" at all didn't strike me as particularly productive.

Not productive in the slightest. In fact I would happily downvote my own comment (despite reflectively endorsing it) just to hide the entire pointless load of tripe.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-10-05T21:26:03.110Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Yep, there's some of my own comments I wish I could downvote for the same reason.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-10-05T21:55:38.381Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yep, there's some of my own comments I wish I could downvote for the same reason.

Really? This is a little surprising but only in a purely logistical sense. You don't tend to be in situations where that can be effective. Voting on your comments is more extreme than with most so whenever your comments form part of an unproductive conversation they already tend to be downvoted way below the threshold where less prominent users who draw less attention may only have reached -2 or -3. For this reason I suspect the current implementation handles this for you with requiring your noble self-sacrifice.

(Pardon me if I'm just being too literal and you meant "would wish to be able to downvote". The prominence and popularization factor is just what popped into my head following the "that would be redundant" thought.)

comment by thomblake · 2012-10-08T20:08:27.813Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

there's some of my own comments I wish I could downvote

Me too. And that was even a feature of the system, once upon a time. But I'm not bitter, no.

comment by maia · 2012-10-05T14:48:41.048Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This is likely the point of the rule: to discourage otherwise-high-quality comments that might inspire a wave of crappy ones.

comment by prase · 2012-10-07T16:50:19.706Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The problem seemed to be that a crappy comment can sometimes inspire a wave of good comments.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-10-05T15:22:57.583Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This is likely the point of the rule: to discourage otherwise-high-quality comments that might inspire a wave of crappy ones.

Yes, and I like it (a lot). Especially now that the comments are hidden. When the comments were still visible it was more necessary to reply (so that errors aren't accepted without correction). Now the (presumably, more often than not) bad replies don't require high-quality refutation because they are invisible to those who don't seek them out. The penalty to comment replies has very little downside.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2012-10-06T10:20:59.438Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

On reflection, I think I got a bit frustrated towards the end of my discussion with wedrifid, and lost some of my "cool", but overall I would say that the discussion has been productive at least for me, given the inherent difficulties in human communications (and the (still mysterious-to-me) refusal on wedrifid's part to answer many of my questions). While the information I got wasn't what I set out to obtain at the start, nevertheless what I got is useful. For example I've learned that there are a number of forum behaviors that he considers undesirable and is willing to "punish" (which he apparently means in a somewhat technical sense):

  • rhetorical questions aimed at convincing the audience (and not hedging/indicating uncertainty)
  • inferring ("mind-reading") negative motives or toxic beliefs in others and then stating them publicly in order to shame
  • quoting others out of context in order to making them look bad (this one was actually learned previously, but I'm including it here for completeness sake)

To be clear, naturally I don't disagree that these behaviors are bad but think wedrifid tends err in the direction of judging too many people guilty. Regardless, at least in the future I can be more careful about my uses of rhetorical questions, inference of motives and beliefs, and quoting (e.g., do not use them unless I'm extremely confident that their actual and intended effects won't be misunderstood) and hope to avoid some of the "punishments" that way.

It may be that in retrospect the amount of useful information exchanged seems really small compared to the amount of text exchanged. I think in part that's due to hindsight bias and illusion of transparency that makes us think communication is easier than it really is, but almost certainly there are also things we could have done better, that would have made the exchange go more smoothly and efficiently. If anyone has any suggestions in that regard, I think (at least speaking for myself) they would be very much welcomed.

comment by Morendil · 2012-10-06T12:59:43.438Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

suggestions in that regard

I wrote a few here, then stored them away: I want to hold off on proposing solutions. Let's discuss the problem instead.

What started the whole thing was a question asked by komponisto, presumably intended to get at some interesting aspect of the object-level discussion, but which rapidly went meta (not "meta" in the sense of discussing LW, but "meta" in the sense of discussing the discussion).

Going meta isn't the problem, per se. Losing track of the object-level inquiry altogether, while the meta discussion explodes into a 167-comment beast from a one-word comment? Yes, I think that qualifies.

The original comment which led to the explosion is upvoted at +8. (That's one way the "technical" fix of censoring descendants of highly downvoted comments might be missing its target, not so much low-quality comments as polarizing, i.e. trollish, comments.)

The thread rapidly hits the limit of reply nesting (10 levels), so that only a portion of it can be seen simultaneously with the original exchange (komponisto's question and nsheppard's one-word reply). Your replies, for instance, appear only on page 2. It's a safe assumptions that readers who are coming across your replies have lost the original context, unless they were involved in the controversy from the start.

On this first page, several of wedrifid's comments - and only wedrifid's - are highly downvoted. This further reinforces the hypothesis that the thread is polarizing and information cascades are taking place.

Reading your first intervention requires loading page 2 of the thread, and reading through to the bitter end requires one more page. This is way beyond what adds value to most LW readers except the most dedicated, and reminds me of the admonitions against thread mode.

Starting from your first intervention, the pattern becomes mostly a "ping-pong" one of you and wedrifid going back and forth. Only one other commenter is active on page 2 of the thread (TheOtherDave). A few others pipe up on page 3, but I suspect that by that point these are people being dragged into the conversation (from Recent Comments) because it has started to resemble a flamefest.

Between page 2 and 3, the discussion has drifted from "meta" in the sense of discussion-on-discussion, to "meta" in the sense of discussion-about-who-downvotes-what, i.e. into slime-dripping cancer territory.

Yes, Eliezer's "cancer" pronouncement is downvoted and ironically buried in a thread that has several ancestor comments which are Eliezer's and highly downvoted. It nevertheless captures a key truth: extended discussions of the game-theoretical aspects of the filtering features of LW do not have much potential to generate useful inferences from true beliefs. (Or stated more succinctly: most meta-discussion is neither epistemically nor instrumentally rational.)

I do think there is value in "meta" in the sense of discussion-about-discussion, however, and in particular in discussion of community norms, and I agree with your assessment of your own contributions.

That's about as much as I can say without starting to make recommendations.

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2012-10-06T21:42:31.066Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

the thread is polarizing and information cascades are taking place.

checking my understanding of this telegraphic little clause:

polarizing: those who invest the effort in following the argument will tend to pick a side they like best and vote accordingly?

information cascade: without realizing it, or, knowingly forgoing their own deep evaluation, people affiliate themselves with the winning side, piling on extra, uninformative, votes?

comment by Morendil · 2012-10-07T07:44:40.259Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yes on both counts.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2012-10-06T19:03:16.714Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks. I don't have much to add and look forward to seeing your suggestions.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-10-06T14:43:49.072Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Regardless, at least in the future I can be more careful [..] and hope to avoid some of the "punishments" that way.

This may be a stupid question, but... why do you want to avoid "punishment" (in the technical sense you reference here)?

comment by Wei_Dai · 2012-10-06T17:47:02.236Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This may be a stupid question, but... why do you want to avoid "punishment" (in the technical sense you reference here)?

  1. My tentative understanding is that "labeling something and calling it undesirable" is only one form of "punishment" that fits wedrifid's definition, and that if I ignore his milder punishments, he may escalate to more severe forms. (I started putting an example of what I think may be one of his more severe forms of punishment, but removed it in case he considers it to be either quoting out of context or mind-reading.)
  2. My expectation is that in most cases when I'm punished I will consider myself innocent but also have some doubt (e.g., perhaps I am biased about my self-assessment or just missing something obvious). I may be tempted to defend myself or ask wedrid to explain his reasons, which may cause more discussions that others consider unproductive, as well as frustration to myself if I fail to resolve the doubt.
comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-10-06T17:49:34.376Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

OK. Thanks for the explanation.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2012-10-05T23:57:10.989Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No less than eight levels above

I generally don't read deeply nested comments (except when I load the Recent Comments page, which shows me everything without knowing how deep it is). I find they're rarely worth it, especially when it's just two people going hammer and tongs at each other. Even if one of the two people is me.

comment by yli · 2012-10-05T15:13:25.609Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This could be fixed by making the hiding apply only to comments at most, say, three levels down from a downvoted comment.

comment by Exetera · 2012-10-06T03:42:22.357Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps a way to make this work would be to automatically unhide downstream comments whose upvotes are greater than the sum of the downvotes of all its negative-karma parents? In that way, a good (ie. high-karma) discussion can't be killed by a low-karma parent thread so easily.

comment by Emile · 2012-10-05T10:02:18.052Z · score: -3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

you can "swim up" the chain of comment parents until you find one that is at -3, and by downvoting that cause the entire downthread discussion to be effectively censored.

That only works when you have large discussions under downvoted comments, which should become much less common now.

comment by DanArmak · 2012-10-05T11:16:09.560Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

The interesting issues arise when a large discussion arises first, and an ancestor comment is downvoted later.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2012-10-05T12:32:46.688Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The interesting issues arise when a large discussion arises first, and an ancestor comment is downvoted later.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time."

comment by faul_sname · 2012-10-05T22:05:13.573Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Amusingly, this comment appears to be one such instance where a single downvote could remove a moderately large number of child comments.

comment by Morendil · 2012-10-05T10:13:27.812Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Care to translate that "should" into a well-specified forecast with attached probability? :)

We are assuming that the change will affect comments at -4 or lower, but it might not change the number of large discussions under comments at -3. There might be discussions that transition between censored and uncensored. The censorship might actually prevent comments at -4 from being downvoted even worse, and thus could perversely make transitions back to -3 more likely.

It would be interesting to run some stats on how frequent the event of interest is (assuming we can specify it coherently), before and after the change. Based on my memory of the LW codebase, votes are stored transactionally, so it should be possible to compute before/after statistics at any time.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2012-10-05T11:57:06.582Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

There might be discussions that transition between censored and uncensored.

This could be annoying, if we have to check all the comments upstream from the one we're responding to, to make sure there isn't a comment that might be downvoted to -4 in the future and make the effort a waste. I pointed out a bunch of potential downsides of this proposal to Eliezer but even I didn't think of this one.

comment by thomblake · 2012-10-08T20:05:43.626Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, most of the systems that do this sort of thing seem to hide the low-scoring comments but show high-voted children, avoiding that sort of problem.

comment by Emile · 2012-10-05T13:38:49.522Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Care to translate that "should" into a well-specified forecast with attached probability? :)

Very approximately, I'd say I expect at least 50% less comments posted in downvoted threads, with probability 70%.

(though I don't think that adding precise numbers adds much to the discussion)

comment by Morendil · 2012-10-05T13:52:19.060Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

adding precise numbers

That's not necessarily what I mean by a "well-specified forecast". Be careful not to confuse "precise" and "accurate"... For instance by "downvoted" do you mean "net votes below 0", "having received any downvotes", or "net votes at -4 or below"?

comment by Emile · 2012-10-05T14:00:07.378Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The last - by "downvoted threads" I meant "threads descended from a comment at -4 or less" (though there should also be an effect for threads whose most downvoted parent is at -3 or at -2). It's a bit of a pity there isn't a standard name for those.

comment by Morendil · 2012-10-05T14:58:47.292Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

OK, so to be clear: you're predicting a roughly 50% decrease of the population "comments which are descendants of comments downvoted -4 or more". This at "I'd be pretty surprised if it turned out otherwise", which is my verbal equivalent of 70%. (For 80% it's "I would be shocked" and for 90% it's "I'd seriously question my worldview on the topic in question", for 99% it's "you should really not be messing around with anything remotely connected with that topic, you're dangerous to yourself and others".)

Here are some of the uncertainties.

  • We don't know how large this population is currently. There is a subjective feeling that this number is significant and annoyingly so, but if it is small then it may be hard to detect an effect among the noise.
  • We don't know many new comments arise from replies to Recent Comments, as opposed to two people going back and forth, or people explicitly looking for new stuff in a discussion they're following, or people following a particular commenter.
  • We don't know how fast low-quality comments get to -4 before they have accrued substantial discussion, or alternately the ratio between number of comments accumulated before getting to -4 and comments accumulated after.

Sadly, I'm about 65% sure that we'll never get to have actual stats on the above, or on the prediction itself. :-/

comment by JoshuaZ · 2012-10-05T12:44:32.198Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

This confuses me. I can understand how one could think the -5 penalty is useful and I can understand having further comments not show up in recent changes. But if the primary problem seems to be signal/noise in Recent Comments then the penalty doesn't do anything useful. Worse, if a useful thread occurs in part of a downvoted thread, not only will one need to move it over somewhere else, if one wants any chance that people reading that part of the subthread will be able to follow to the new location, one will need to post a comment in that subthread pointing people to it. That will mean one will still need to pay the -5 penalty. This is a not well-thought out combination.

comment by Pentashagon · 2012-10-08T20:10:30.023Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Maybe we need a "move to open discussion thread" voting button in addition to the karma buttons. Above a certain threshold off-topic but useful discussions could thereby be moved and orphaned from an original <-4 parent, perhaps leaving a link to the new thread or more sensibly someone else could just link to the new thread in another comment if there's any lingering topicalness. This would further discourage trolls because there would no longer be any correlation between their downvoted comment and a good discussion.

comment by shminux · 2012-10-05T17:30:06.521Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Hmm, EY quietly refused to only apply this to obvious trolls (negative 30-day karma). I wonder what his logic might be.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2012-10-05T12:34:52.953Z · score: 13 (15 votes) · LW · GW

To make the fact that another downvote would push something below the threshold more evident, would it be helpful to change the colour of the score to yellow when at the threshold and red when below?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-10-05T18:52:47.383Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

The threshold ought to be a user preference. I might consider starting to have a policy of upvoting all comments currently at -4 or lower (except stuff I would delete if I were an admin, i.e. obvious spam, disclosures of confidential information, and the like) until it is made into one.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-10-05T19:41:05.756Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The threshold ought to be a user preference.

If so, then definitely of the 'opt-out' kind with the current behavior as the default. Making the (at least reasonably likely to be) trashy conversations invisible to new users is one of the most important goals of the feature.

comment by thomblake · 2012-10-08T20:18:25.309Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If so, then definitely of the 'opt-out' kind with the current behavior as the default.

Downvoted comments were already collapsed by default.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-10-06T19:05:19.210Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

BTW, comments below -4 (I guess), such as this, are collapsed by default even if I leave the “Don't show me comments with a score less than (Blank for none)” preference blank. At the very least, the “(Blank for none)” should be updated.

comment by timtyler · 2012-10-07T00:09:50.861Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

It's pretty bad. I can't read even some of my own comments when logged in without clicking.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-10-06T22:50:42.013Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

It also ignores the value.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-10-05T12:48:27.885Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

I just noticed that I got a "you have mail" indicator in my message box but there are no new messages. I'm assuming that this is related to the change here. Is it intended that replies are hidden even within inboxes or is that a bug? If not a bug it seems excessive and given a karma penalty redundant. Not that I especially mind either way but if you are going to hide messages from the inbox you need to also hide the 'new message' indicator for invisible messages.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2012-10-05T13:10:59.084Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I disagree somewhat- hiding new messages from the inbox is a bad idea. People should be able to know when new messages have been made to them. The primary advantage that would occur here is that people who browse using Recent Comments won't see them. This doesn't accomplish anything.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-10-05T21:32:13.963Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

This is indeed a bug; the feature spec said not to hide from inbox.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2012-10-07T13:39:08.505Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Well, that's good to know. Next question then: are you going to respond to any of the other concerns about this such as those discussed in this comment?

comment by wedrifid · 2012-10-05T13:21:58.358Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I disagree somewhat- hiding new messages from the inbox is a bad idea. People should be able to know when new messages have been made to them. The primary advantage that would occur here is that people who browse using Recent Comments won't see them. This doesn't accomplish anything.

(My main point was that there is a need for consistency between the notification of messages inbox and the contents of the inbox. Otherwise it is just telling you that you have mail and you need to find it yourself... somehow. I'm not sure you are disagreeing with that much at all.)

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2012-10-05T12:58:23.554Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I've submitted a bug report about that.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-10-05T12:50:57.995Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

and further replies in that subthread will incur 5 karma points penalty.

Is there still a warning given about this five point penalty? I ask because I it presumably exists but I have yet to see it, either after this change or the previous change. If it does exist I must just have never wanted to reply to a comment that has been significantly downvoted and, more recently, never have wanted to reply to a comment with a downvoted ancestor.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-10-05T14:55:37.326Z · score: 12 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Performed the following experiment:

Went to this comment, which has (right now) a score of -9 and a child with a score of +12 and a grandchild with a score of +4.

Recorded my karma score (9686).

Attempted to reply to the downvoted comment; got the warning. Didn't post a reply.

Attempted to reply to the upvoted child; got the warning (which, incidentally, warns about replying to downvoted comments, which might be confusing). Didn't post a reply.

Also performed the following experiment:

Went to this post, which has (right now) a score of -9 and some upvoted comments.

Recorded my karma score (9687).

Attempted to reply to the post, no warning.

Submitted this comment

Checked my karma score (9686). I assume the -1 is just because someone downvoted something in the minute or so it took me to do that.

(Incidentally, I would still love a feature where I could review recent upvotes and downvotes applied to me... to the extent that karma is intended as feedback for the poster, it helps to have some way of associating that feedback with the actual thing being evaluated. Knowing that I said something at some time that someone wants less of on LW doesn't really help me much.)

comment by magfrump · 2012-10-05T20:36:58.357Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

(Incidentally, I would still love a feature where I could review recent upvotes and downvotes applied to me... to the extent that karma is intended as feedback for the poster, it helps to have some way of associating that feedback with the actual thing being evaluated. Knowing that I said something at some time that someone wants less of on LW doesn't really help me much.)

Definitely this.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2012-10-05T15:16:03.119Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Attempted to reply to the upvoted child; got the warning (which, incidentally, warns about replying to downvoted comments, which might be confusing).

(There is a bug report about this issue.)

comment by [deleted] · 2012-10-06T14:46:53.946Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

(Incidentally, I would still love a feature where I could review recent upvotes and downvotes applied to me... to the extent that karma is intended as feedback for the poster, it helps to have some way of associating that feedback with the actual thing being evaluated. Knowing that I said something at some time that someone wants less of on LW doesn't really help me much.)

As I think I said elsewhere, I no longer even bother to notice the last two digits in my total karma, or the last digit in my last-30-days karma.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-10-06T15:08:34.692Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I no longer even bother to notice the last two digits in my total karma, or the last digit in my last-30-days karma.

Which sounds like it makes karma even less useful as feedback for you than for me.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-10-06T16:13:29.028Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I do skim my user page to take a look at my recent comments' karma scores about once a day or so.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-10-06T17:11:27.163Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(nods) I've concluded from a few rounds of attending to numbers that in a typical one-week period, I'm likely to see a digit or two of shift due to voting on old (knocked off my user page) comments.

comment by tut · 2012-10-05T13:39:28.624Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Is there a way to turn this off?

comment by eurg · 2012-10-05T14:28:27.586Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW
  • unnecessary link and opinion retracted -
comment by [deleted] · 2012-10-05T18:59:12.135Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

In principle, we could have different thresholds for the karma penalty to replies and for the removal from Recent Comments.

comment by drethelin · 2012-10-05T17:58:31.296Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see why not. Karma isn't that important, and if someone is losing or gaining karma because the small number of people that prefer to see dead threads up or downvote them I don't think it will really change anything. Allowing this to be an optional feature seems like it would be a perfect compromise between people who want to participate in these conversations and moderators who don't want to see them.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2012-10-05T17:39:51.521Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Another change is that comments with scores of -4 are collapsed, regardless of how the preferences are set. Preferences can still be used to collapse more comments.

I normally use LW without JS, so it's a big hassle for me to uncollapse comments. This also means that I don't see recent comments in the sidebar, which means that I didn't realize that everyone was seeing them (as opposed to the few people who go to the recent comments page) and was confused by all this concern about them. I don't have much experience with them, but they seem of dubious value to me. A simpler solution would have been just to delete them.

comment by AlexMennen · 2012-10-05T15:36:22.740Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Hiding replies to highly downvoted comments from Recent Comments seems like a good idea. And now that such comments are not clogging Recent Comments anyway, the 5 karma penalty is now even more pointlessly stupid.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-10-05T15:27:33.469Z · score: 2 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I like this change (a lot). Especially now that the comments are hidden. When the comments were still visible it was more necessary to reply (so that errors aren't accepted without correction). Now the (presumably, more often than not) bad replies don't require high-quality refutation because they are invisible to those who don't seek them out. The penalty to comment replies has very little downside.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-10-05T21:27:16.101Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I've gone through and devaporized all of eridu's comments in his epically successful "radical feminism" troll - I don't like vaporizing things (or exercising direct moderator power at all, really), and since eridu at -243 karma can't reply to anything else in that thread, it should be safe now. It also serves as an extremely clear exhibitable example of what this feature was for!

(Looking over so many at once makes me pretty sure that it was trolling (a reinforced behavior of provocation-for-attention), btw.)

comment by duckduckMOO · 2012-10-07T13:49:29.550Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

It looks to me like Eridu sincerely holds positions that you would be expected to find particularly objectionable or even have trouble believing someone could hold in part due to a huge inferential distance between what the world must look like (including perceptual valences) to the two of you. He's not presenting new ideas. Some People have been taking seriously those ideas for a long time. Is anyone who is a sincere radical feminist that bring their normal (imprecise and [even more]politicky) ways of speaking to less wrong going to be labelled a troll? If so your heuristic is broken because that's a very common way for people to express themselves.

Also trolling almost always means provocation for a negative reaction. provocation for attention is a sad and pitiable state of affairs more commonly associated with the words attention-seeking whereas trolling usually means looking to upset people for the sake of it which is a much more hostile kind of thing.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2012-10-07T19:54:58.960Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think both you and Eliezer are right. Eridu probably is sincere in his beliefs, but also has been reinforced by the attention he received into provoking people in a way that doesn't help his cause. He seems to even know this but still endorses his behavior:

I knew what I was going to get when I posted my first comment -- I just thought it'd be an amusing waste of my time, which has been roughly the case.

ETA: I'm not sure how we can try to help someone level up their rationality without at the same time giving them attention and risk turning them (by reinforcement) into a troll. The "hide downvoted threads" mechanism only limits the damage...

comment by IlyaShpitser · 2012-10-05T23:56:07.366Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks -- I was curious to look into the details of that memetic attack.

comment by Rain · 2012-10-05T13:45:13.446Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I'm glad to see this functionality implemented, as I'd hoped for someone to take on the challenge of reducing or eliminating long, useless threads for some years now.

comment by Rain · 2012-10-14T14:48:48.562Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ars Technica discusses recent changes to their moderation, including auto-collapsing threads with negative points. They're quite pleased with the reduction in trolling.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-10-05T08:57:39.370Z · score: 0 (12 votes) · LW · GW

This seems to be worth a discussion post since most people are probably still voting things to below -3 without knowing the new consequences of doing so.

There is a moderation mechanism designed to do X when users do Y. If this mechanism is good, we should keep it. If this mechanism is bad, we should remove or modify it. But we should not think about this mechanism while voting. That's gaming the mechanism.

  • Upvote = "LessWrong discussions should have more of this."

  • Downvote = "LessWrong discussions should have less of this."

That's all. There is nothing more to think about while voting. If you think there should be more things to consider while voting, please explain what and why.

I can imagine a situation where a stupid comment leads to smart discussion. How often? What is the conditional probability that a heavily downvoted comment will have a discussion worth watching? What are the benefits of watching that discussion in Recent Comments? What are the costs of watching an average discussion below a heavily downvoted comment in Recent Comments?

comment by wedrifid · 2012-10-05T11:18:41.638Z · score: 17 (17 votes) · LW · GW

There is a moderation mechanism designed to do X when users do Y. If this mechanism is good, we should keep it. If this mechanism is bad, we should remove or modify it. But we should not think about this mechanism while voting. That's gaming the mechanism.

A mechanism requiring that it should not be thought about is a significant flaw. Stable systems rely on being robust with respect to people trying to achieve desired goals via them, at least to the degree that is practical. It so happens that I don't think the 'gaming' potential of this mechanism is actually especially significant. People downvoting a comments because "they want to see less of this entire thread" is not too much of a corruption away from "they want to see less of this". People do exactly this already, without this mechanism. In fact, they go through and systematically downvote every comment in a thread. Downvoting just the one is a net reduction in 'gaming', if that label applies at all.

comment by Vaniver · 2012-10-05T15:09:11.897Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

But we should not think about this mechanism while voting. That's gaming the mechanism.

And playing to win is wrong!

There is nothing more to think about while voting.

There wasn't until karma became meaningful. Now karma has meaning.

comment by wedrifid · 2012-10-05T11:27:30.893Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

That's all. There is nothing more to think about while voting. If you think there should be more things to consider while voting, please explain what and why.

  • "This comment deserves to be at +5, not +40. The voting is totally out of proportion and I would prefer it were encouraged to a +39 degree than a +40 degree."
  • "The parent is at +8 while this comment is at +1. It is an undesirable thing for there to be such a difference in karma between these two comments because the reply is at least as good as its parent. I am going to upvote the reply."

I certainly support the heuristic: Upvote = "LessWrong discussions should have more of this." In fact, I've been advocating it for long enough that when I first advocating that interpretation it provoked controversy in as much as some considered it too cynical compared to more pure ideals along the lines of votes being obliged to mean "the point in this comment is rationally coherent". That said, it isn't quite the only consideration that it is reasonable to take in to account and I apply both of the heuristics mentioned above from time to time.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-10-05T19:01:00.141Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"This comment deserves to be at +5, not +40. The voting is totally out of proportion and I would prefer it were encouraged to a +39 degree than a +40 degree."

That's why I think upvotes and downvotes should be shown separately: that way it'd be clear whether +40 means +41 -1 or +140 -100.

comment by Exetera · 2012-10-06T03:45:24.480Z · score: -1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Replies are not necessarily as good or worse than their parents. A lot of the Sequences on this site might be construed as "replies" to more mainstream statistics, philosophy, or science, and yet I would certainly hope that the Sequence entries would get more upvotes than their parents.

comment by Wei_Dai · 2012-10-05T09:12:01.222Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I asked Eliezer:

do you expect people to change their voting behavior to not downvote to -4 except for trolling

And he answered:

And yes, I'd wistfully hope for some amount of community norm-change around, "If it's worth replying to, clearly it can't be so bad that I ought to vote it down to -4"

So apparently he does want people to be aware of the mechanism while voting.

comment by EricHerboso · 2012-10-05T19:09:22.001Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I really dislike this. It makes me feel like we all have the responsibility to upvote downvoted threads if we happen to notice discussion going on downstream. After all, if discussion is happening, then it should be greater than -4, and so we should upvote in circumstances where we otherwise would have not voted.

I like the option of not voting. I upvote when I see something I think we should have more of, leave alone the majority of stuff, and downvote only when I see something inappropriate. Our choices are NOT binary, but ternary. Yet this new system of hiding at -4 takes away my choice to not upvote. If I see worthwhile discussion downstream, I feel obligated to upvote.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2012-10-05T14:43:23.460Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"If it's worth replying to, clearly it can't be so bad that I ought to vote it down to -4"

I'm not sure how I'd even notice if this norm were in place or not. After all, a -4 comment with replies is not evidence that there exists a person who both voted it down to -4 and replied.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2012-10-05T09:38:20.746Z · score: 2 (8 votes) · LW · GW

Thank you for the link!

However, my (motivated, I admit) reading of that text is that Eliezer wants to bring attention to a paradox of downvoting a comment and discussing below the comment. Either the comment is an interesting discussion-starter, and then it should not be downvoted; or the comment is worthless, and then people should not start a discussion below it. Downvoting a comment and discussing below it is kind of supporting something you oppose.

comment by [deleted] · 2012-10-06T14:52:21.537Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

If it's a seriously misguided but good-faith comment by a newbie, I might want to downvote it and explain why I did it. Hanlon's razor.

comment by Nighteyes5678 · 2012-10-09T01:05:25.198Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But, if it's a newbie and you knew that changing it from a -3 to a -4 would end the discussion, wouldn't you just not down vote it, and explain your problem or correction?

This new change seems to me to be a way for someone to end a conversation, though they had to have 3 other people help them get it there. Is that an intentional change we want to make?

comment by [deleted] · 2012-10-09T07:38:23.210Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I was arguing against EY's argument mentioned by Viliam_Bur in favour of this change, which I'm opposed to. Of course, given that the change has been implemented, I won't downvote a post at -3 unless it's obvious spam or something.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-10-05T21:35:57.584Z · score: 2 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Not just metaphorically. People are behaviorally reinforced into trolls because attention is reward and provocation gets attention. By downvoting something and commenting in reply to it, you are building positive associations to getting downvoted, a rather psychologically-sick sort of internal state that is a very bad thing to do to anyone. Would you consider it a nice thing to do to follow somebody around and give them a smile and a kiss each time they lost their temper or experienced some other failure of will, so as to reinforce that behavior? No, right?

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-10-06T00:49:03.316Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Could you taboo "trolling". I think several distinct things are being lumped under that word. Here are the kind of posts that tend to get downvoted:

1) Simply being obnoxious, e.g., "First Post!!!!". As far as I know, these are almost non-existent here.

2) Someone arguing for a crazy position they don't believe.

3) Someone who genuinely believes a crazy position.

4) Someone arguing for a reasonable position that causes some voters to get mind-killed.

Which subset of these do you mean by "trolling" and what do you think is the appropriate response to each?

comment by Kindly · 2012-10-06T01:35:05.559Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

You forget 5) Someone arguing for a position (crazy or otherwise) in a deliberately provocative way.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2012-10-06T07:53:57.224Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Trolling: Provocation for the sake of response.

comment by Eugine_Nier · 2012-10-06T22:56:28.995Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Ok, the next question is whether being voted below -3 is a good proxy for a comment being provocation for the sake of response.

For example, I strongly suspect eridu simply honestly believes the insane ideas he espouses, does he count as "provocation for the sake of response", if not what do you think the appropriate response to his comments should have been?

comment by MixedNuts · 2012-10-10T19:44:41.302Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Pattern-match:

why do so many people accuse others of wanting attention when the actions prompting it are entirely not focused on other people at all, while they don’t tell people that starting conversations is attention seeking even though it is?

Almost all comments are posted at least in part for the sake of response. What's provocation? In particular, how is it different from nonconformism?

comment by Emile · 2012-10-05T08:31:35.394Z · score: -1 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Nice! This looks like a better way of preventing long discussions in buried downvoted threads than the previous karma penalty to simple replies.

Hopefully now in reply to crappy posts, people will either create a new thread (or use an open thread) if they have something interesting to reply, or not reply at all if they don't; and people will be less willing to post if they expect to be downvoted - in all cases, it's a win!

comment by drethelin · 2012-10-05T18:05:34.846Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Why do we want to encourage spreading discussions around? If it's a good conversation then it makes more sense in context and people should just keep it together, and if it's crappy you're just crapping up more of the forum. We don't encourage good replies to good posts to also post elsewhere.