Upvotes, knowledge, stocks, and flows

by Jameson Quinn 1 min read10th May 201813 comments


This is a short post inspired by "EXEMPLIFYING EQUITABLE GROWTH: MR. GOOGLE SERVES ME A BAKER'S HALF-DOZEN FROM THE WCEG WEBSITE, AND WHAT I LEARN THEREBY...". Delong looks at google results for his blog archive, and finds they are very weakly predictive of what he thinks is useful about his blog. He thinks about that in terms of the "flow" of intellectual discussion — what people are talking about — versus the "stock" — what is known.

I think that's a productive analytical frame. Websites live and die off of their salience to the flow, but their long-term value is what they contribute to the stock. Twitter is optimized for flow to the point where it's nearly useless as stock; but high-quality work that never gets into the flow ends up so unread and hard to find that it has little value as stock.

For sites like Less Wrong, I think that thinking about stock and flow could help to improve how upvotes work. To some extent, upvotes help promote a healthy flow, which is an important and useful goal. But that is essentially a short-term value, and so upvotes like that should decay. On the other hand, upvotes also serve as long-term markers of valuable stock. That kind of upvote shouldn't decay.

One place this kind of thinking could lead would be to having different kinds of upvotes. "Thanks" and "good question" would be more flow-y and thus decay faster; "well said" and "good link" would be more stock-y and last longer.