Please do not downvote every comment or post someone has ever made as a retaliation tactic.

by Will_Newsome1 min read21st Aug 2011130 comments


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People who go back and downvote every post or comment a Less Wrong user has ever made, please, stop doing that. It's a clever way to pull information cascades in your direction but it is clearly an abuse of the content filtering system. It's also highly dishonorable. If you truly must use such tactics then downvoting a few of your enemy's top level posts is much less evil; your enemy loses the karma and takes the hint without your severely biasing the public perception of Less Wrong's discourse.

(I just lost over 200 karma in a few minutes and that'll probably continue for awhile. This happens to me every few weeks. Edit: I mean it's been happening every few weeks for a few months for a total of only three or four. Between 400 and 700 karma lost total I think? I don't mean to overstate the problem.)


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Voting buttons have now been removed from user profile pages. There was no good reason for them to be there in the first place, really.

Rationalists: Not above vindictive behavior if somebody is wrong on the internet.


Makes me wonder how many times people have done this to me; it's gotta be quite a few, given how much stuff I've written and how, erm, assertive I can sometimes be.

People actually do this?

What's worse, since downvoting is limited by karma, it's not some random lurkers. Users with fairly high karma must be wasting their time doing this.

3loup-vaillant10yDefinitely []. I also think it happened to me a second time, though I'm a bit less sure (not all my comments where visible through my user page any more). (Edit: other examples in this very thread [] )

Are you sure that someone went ahead and did that and that you didn't just have a few downvotes of old top-level posts happen to occur within a short span of each other? Or alternatively someone could have been going through and reading your comments systematically and they disagreed with a lot more than they agreed so they downvoted more than they upvoted?

(I just lost over 200 karma in a few minutes and that'll probably continue for awhile. This happens to me every few weeks.)

This is a really interesting statement. This has never happened to me. And I think of myself of having multiple opinions that strongly disagree with common views here. I wonder if that indicates that I'm not being vocal enough. The strange thing about this is that in order to get a 200 karma downvote someone needs to have a substantial minimal karma (you cannot downvote more than four times your total karma). So someone would need to be putting in a lot of effort to downvote your comments or you are irritating a lot of people. Is there any opinion or attitude of yours that you think would be particularly likely to trigger this sort of response?

9Will_Newsome10yNah, they were dropping in clumps of like 6 a piece every few seconds as I refreshed the page. It happens to other people too. Partially it is because I write about things like Thomism in a really obscure way that appears masturbatory. I generally disregard local norms of communication. People have no idea why I do this but they assume it's because I am either insane, extremely prone to compartmentalization, or choosing to defect against the tribe for some reason. It seems to them that I consistently choose not to provide evidence that would lead them to expect otherwise. I assume that they think that allowing such blatant defection makes LW look bad or generally sets a bad precedent and so feel justified in downvoting many of my comments into oblivion and occasionally downvoting all my posts. They don't often downvote all my comments too. Maybe they're trying to be subtle? The first time I checked LW and had 300 karma less than the previous day I wasn't quite sure what had happened and just ignored it. It's easy to miss. The most recent mass downvoting could have been caused by one of two things. I think it's because I repeatedly told Eliezer that he sucks at reading in a very public thread but I'm not certain of that.

This is news. In a reversal of the usual order of things, your karma got run over by your dogma.

5Desrtopa10yWho else has this happened to? The only other person I'm aware of this happening to is Curi after his conjunction fallacy post, and someone had apparently already done the opposite so he would have the karma to post it in the first place.
4Eugine_Nier10yOne person I observed this happen to is peterdjones [] when he was arguing for moral realism in a very contentious thread.
3saturn10yI think I remember pjeby claiming it had happened to him, but I can't find the post.
3khafra10y [] See also []
2loup-vaillant10yIt happened to me []. I find that a bit surprising since I was (and still am) so insignificant here.

When we get very low quality users, I've been known to look through their comments downvoting all the ones I think should be downvoted; does that come under this heading?

[-][anonymous]10y 13

I refer to this as "karmassassination".


I don't really get why people downvote at all. I don't do so unless I feel very strongly about something - a comment explaining my disagreement or disapproval is more productive, doesn't make the downvotee feel bad, and I frequently get karma because people will upvote my comment. Win-win-win.

Asymmetric voting reduces the informativeness of the karma ratings. See also EY's point here: that if views are distributed evenly, but people speak up only when they're on one of the sides, then you get the wrong impression about the consensus.

7nazgulnarsil10yI rarely if ever downvote someone's initial post on a conversation branch, even if poorly formed. I'll ask them to clarify their position and if they have a massive rationality failure in their response to this THEN I downvote.
6JenniferRM10yI try to vote according to policies I think of as "Pro-social Content Promotion" mixed with "Debate Judgement" mixed with "Personal Appreciation Sessions". A personal appreciation session involves no downvoting and is the opposite of karmassassination, except its not indiscriminate upvoting -- instead I work through someone's oeuvre looking for unappreciated diamonds to upvote. Mostly I do this for newbies with new and interesting perspectives who I want to come back and say more in the same vein. The first two policies can involve downvoting. They require making relative judgements (between sibling content for promotion and between parent-child content for judging) and then voting so as to nudge the content closer to my ideal. If a superior comment has few votes relative to a worse comment, I'll vote the better one up and the worse one down. If I come back later and the relative votes have become too unbalanced some other way (say with sibling comments of mixed quality bubbling into the system), I may reverse votes to bring the total closer to my ideal again. However, I use 0 as a floor, so most of my voting involves trying to pick N/2 comments with 0, 1, or 2 votes to upvote from among the N that I found at that level... to upvote all but one "0 voted" comment would inject relatively few bits into the system, whereas upvoting roughly half of them maximizes the informativeness of my votes :-) The only things I push negative are things which I believe actively lower the sanity waterline of the community by bringing up issues we are unlikely to be able to handle reasonably (for example "politics is the mind killer" triggers) and then I use -4 as the target value for "the least offensive such thing" and only go deeper into negative if many negative comments are siblings, to express gradations of displeasure (-4, -5, -6... which basically never happens in practice). Mostly I upvote things that are already negative where someone else presumably "didn't like it" but
4lessdazed10yThis is exactly what I do, in every detail, except that I use -3 as my least negative target for least offensive, and I have an additional inclination to give a point for effort to what look like extensively edited and-worked on comments that have 0 net votes, even if the obvious effort was not obviously well spent.
6satt10ySometimes, sometimes not. If I see a comment that's most likely wrong but sounds belligerent, confused or pedantic (or was posted by someone with a track record of being belligerent, confused or pedantic) then I sometimes predict that posting a reply would just suck me into a futile, time-wasting argument. In those cases I happily downvote without bothering to reply. (Other times I prefer to reply to and downvote very misleading comments.)
5prase10yAlso more costly and sometimes useless, if somebody else has already explained the same reasons. Disagreement often makes people feel bad, even if explained (and sometimes more because it is explained). If all people never downvoted like you suggest, having positive karma would mean nothing. Paradoxically, the worth of karma you get for not downvoting depends on other users' occasional downvoting.
0[anonymous]10yI agree with you, but also further believe that karma is a meaningless metric for sorting comments and etc. A cursory glance of the highest karma users demonstrates that it's mostly used for political reasons.

A cursory glance of the highest karma users demonstrates that it's mostly used for political reasons.

Would you please elaborate on that? I'm somewhat new, but I don't see it that way at all.

Edit: Also, what do you mean by political? Upvoting because you agree with the authors views on, say, cryonics, and not the way in which he reached those views? I've rarely seen something that would traditionally be described as political discussed on here.

Edit again: The only example I can think of is this.

[-][anonymous]10y 10

My experience with karma-based community systems in the past leads me to believe frequently people upvote things on the basis of who wrote them. There does exist a kibitzer, but 1) one loses valuable information in the process and 2) the people swayed by political values like this are the not very likely to use it.

I suppose this post is evidence that the opposite direction is true as well.

Edit: I suppose "tribalistic" is a word with closer connotations than "political."

Aside: Every time someone says "would you elaborate," I think of Derrida.

I think there's probably merit to your point, although I'd like to think that's not as true for LessWrong. But I probably don't have enough experience here to have a reliable estimate either way. And even if I did, causality is always difficult to determine, etc. But there are certainly examples where what you say is not the case, although they are obviously not the majority. Often I think that people are more inclined to downvote someone like Eliezer who has the Karma to spare it - had I made Eliezer's comment, I highly doubt it would have been downvoted as strongly.

Edit: Perhaps "has the Karma to spare it" is not the best phrasing, but rather "Is also wildly upvoted all the time and won't feel bad."

Why all the karma bashing? Yes, absolutely, people will upvote or downvote for political reasons and be heavily influenced by the name behind the post/comment. All the time. But as far as I can tell, politics is a problem with any evaluation system whatsoever, and karma does remarkably well. In my experience, post and comment scores are strongly correlated with how useful I find them, how much they contribute to my experience of the discussion. And the list of top contributors is full of people who have written posts that I have saved forever, that in many cases irreversibly impacted my thinking. The fact that EY is sometimes deservingly downvoted is a case in point. The abuse described in the original post is unfortunate, but overall the LessWrong system does a difficult job incredibly well.

8Normal_Anomaly10yI've noticed a similar (or worse) effect in my own voting patterns. More than once I've neglected to upvote something I thought was good because it had very high karma and was posted by a very-high-karma user. My thought process is something like, "Lukeprog has already gotten more karma for this post than many users have altogether. Does he really need another upvote?"

The largest bias in voting I've noticed in my own thinking is when someone else has voted down a comment, and I see no reason it should be either up or down voted. It is very difficult for me to not upvote it to counteract the, in my opinion undeserving, downvote.

I've seen voting patterns like that and my example described elsewhere as being, not exactly biases, but a product of there being two or more ways people use the karma system. AFAICT, different people decide to upvote or downvote based on the answer to one of the following questions:

*Is this comment above my threshold of "good enough to upvote," below my threshold of "bad enough to downvote," or in between?

*Does this comment need more or fewer karma than it currently has?

*Does having posted this comment make the poster deserving of another karma point (or "more karma points than ey has already gotten from it)?

People who see the karma system more as a tool for ranking comments will probably use question 1 or 2. People who see the karma system as a tool for ranking users will use question 3. Also, people who ask question 1 will probably use the anti-kibitzer, while people who use question 2 probably will not.

2RobertLumley10yI had considered one and two before, and strongly prefer one, but it hadn't occurred to me that people might operate by three. And I don't use the anti-kibitzer, mostly because I'm too lazy to get it working, and believe (probably erroneously) that I am not influenced by that. Also, I'd constantly be turning it on and off and then on again, so much so that it would only be frustrating.
1Normal_Anomaly10yI mostly use one, with occasional instances of two. For instance, I never downvoted the Popper troll from a few months ago, because every comment of eirs I saw was already at -20 and downvoting seemed pointless. My not upvoting Lukeprog is mostly two with a little bit of three. I used to use the anti-kibitzer, but it was preventing me from getting to know the other users, and long conversations with three people in them got confusing. I kept having to turn it on and off, and in the browser I had at the time that meant scrolling all the way to the top of the page and losing my place.
2jhuffman10yI suspect the same thing. Actually I think there are a couple of biases - the name brand association you describe and also an affect I have noticed in myself where I feel inclined to upvote posts that have been upvoted a lot. Following the herd I guess. If a "famous" poster who regularly accrues a couple dozen or more Karma a day just from popular comments they post would post for a few days under a pseudonym (but otherwise do not post any differently then they would have done) we might get some data about the former affect as you describe it.

Conversely, when we got trolled an unspecified length of time ago, an incompetent crackpot troll who shall remain nameless kept having all his posts and comments upvoted by other trolls.

It would help if there was a restriction on how much karma one could add or subtract from a single person in a given time, as others are suggesting.

[-][anonymous]10y 8

It isn't really clever, but I think biasing the pubic perception of LessWrong discourse is the point of doing so. I don't know how much good it will do to try and alleviate this by appealing to their sense of honour.

I used to think this kind of thing isn't much of a problem, since karma is eventually restored, but then looking at my own and some other posters history I've noticed that the older comments don't seem to recover karma, or recover it so slowly that they haven't done so in 8+ months. In effect this reduces the amount of information one can glean... (read more)

4Will_Newsome10yFrom what I can tell the point is sometimes to discredit and warn people who someone thinks are straying close to topics that the someone doesn't like. Bleh, too tired for clear grammar. Anyway. If so, this is incredibly dangerous; it can easily provoke escalation. Don't be stupid. (Edit: I mean, "You who are considering engaging in the above-mentioned retaliation, don't be stupid." Sorry that wasn't clear.)
2[anonymous]10yCould this be a quiet way for people to express ideological tribalism that is suppressed by the "no mind killers" taboo (which I find one of the most refreshing things about LW)? The hypothetical LWer or random reader enraged enough to register, see something that isn't politics but in their mind (perhaps mistakenly) clearly attacks some tribal attire they are attached to, so that this is therefore clearly wrong and that it is incredible no one is calling this guy out, and guess it falls to him to fix this clear bias by taking a sledge hammer at some of the comment's author's other writings. This is indeed dangerous, since if a fraction of people think others are employing such tactics they may start their own campaigns to try and "balance" this. Do you have any idea of what these topics could be? The one or two times I've had this happen I haven't been too sure about the triggers. If you think you have a good idea, but don't wish to inflame the situation by paining a bullseye on anyone please PM me. Eh, is that directed at me?
3Will_Newsome10yNo no! Sorry, 'twas directed at humans in general. I'm sort of scatter-brained at the moment. My apologies.

I've a few self-imposed rules on downvoting, I'm wondering how other people handle it :

  1. I never downvote someone in a thread I'm active in (like, I never downvote an answer to one of my comments). Even if I feel the answer is a troll, because I can't trust myself to be judge and party at the same time.

  2. I never downvote someone just because I don't like him. Not that I'm on LW since long enough to really dislike anyone for now - but still. Downvoting (or upvoting) is on the content, not on the person.

  3. I never downvote something just because I disagree. S

... (read more)

I don't know if I'm disappointed or pleased no one has ever done this to me. Apparently I need to be more threatening to people's worldviews.

That said: plausible code solutions for this? Anyone remember what if any restrictions there currently are on downvotes? If I recall it was somehow limited by total karma. Would a hard limit on the number of downvotes you're allowed to give each user per-day make sense?

plausible code solutions for this?

I really don't like the idea of "legislating morality", i.e. building community norms of behavior into the structure of the site (such as, for example, taking away the ability to delete comments because of widespread disapproval of the way this feature has been used by some [Roko]).

Having said that, I'm really surprised that no one has suggested the most obvious "fix", which would be to disallow voting from user pages. (I don't necessarily endorse implementing this, but if something is going to be "done", this seems the least harmful.)

But I think voting from the user page has a 'legitimate' purpose- in a way that downvoting every contribution from a user over the last 6 months doesn't. I know I've seen insightful comments and thought "Hey, komponisto's contribution on this subject seems sharp, lets see what else he's written" and then proceeded to vote up a bunch of comments from the user page. Voting down comments this way seems somewhat reasonable, too (most obviously in the case of clear trolling).

As for "legislating morality" obviously not every misuse of the site functions requires a code fix and obviously there are some code fixes which have harms that outweigh the benefits. Taking away the ability to delete comments, for example, would leave us with more redundant and obviously wrong comments. But I don't think there is such thing as a 'neutral' site structure that lets community norms float uninhibited. No matter how the karma system is set up it will encourage some types of behavior and discourage others. We can imagine all sorts of alternative karma systems that would encourage very different commenting behavior. Right now the karma system encourages using downvotes as part of a personal vendetta in a way that is not conducive for rewarding contributions or accurately representing the value of comments. If we think such behavior is bad, and we can think of a way to alter the karma system to discourage that behavior while not losing benefits of the current karma system- why not do it?

9Douglas_Knight10yI think the main problem with how people vote is that they vote for individual comments without reading the context. Well-written non sequiturs are highly upvoted. Reading from recent comments and especially user pages encourages this.
1Kaj_Sotala10yThe basin had been a mold, shaping me to look roughly like a human. But I was still far from perfect. The figures that carried me put me down on a long stone bench, and then left. There were other shapes on both sides of me, other early-stage embryos. I did not yet understand anything. Time passed, and the lava I was made of grew more solid. My innermost parts were still hot and liquid, but I had a firm outer crust. When I had become hard enough to be worked on, the mason had me brought to him. He studied me for a long time, examining me from every direction and seeking out any imperfections. Whenever he found one, he reached for his hammer. Gradually, he shaped me into a man. After the mason was done with me, I was taken to the clay maker. The beings carrying me were cautious, for the mason had opened holes from which my innards might spill. I don't know whether they spilled any, but when I reached the clay maker, I was still viable. He studied my shape, and then molded a layer of lifeclay around me. It was much softer than lava was, and more sensitive to heat. The clay maker filled the pair of holes the mason had made, fashioning there eyes. Below them he made a mouth, and on their sides a pair of ears. The clay was as good in shaping heat as the walls of the towers were, if not better. It collected warmth and funnelled it deep into my core. My eyes had been made with particular care, and it now that I slowly began to see. From the clay maker, I was carried to the edge of a great hall. They placed me next to the other infants, on a belt of heatstone close to the wall. The stone burned hot, keeping us sated. I rested there, together with the others. We watched and listened to the things happening in the hall, enjoyed the ever-shifting flows of warmth inside the stone. For a long time, we remained still.
7Manfred10yI don't think that's low-level enough. You probably have to threaten peoples' group standing or hunting territory or something.
3wedrifid10yThat is my observation too. It's not about ideas.
6RobertLumley10yIn this [] comment, JoshuaZ says that it's 4x total karma. And I don't think you need to make it per day. Five downvotes allowed per person per 5 minutes solves this problem.
4Kaj_Sotala10yEvery useful code fix that I can imagine also blocks some valid voting behavior. But perhaps a more manual approach would help: if the karma of user X drops by more than Y points within time period Z, flag his account and have an admin review the sources of his karma loss, possibly taking disciplinary action towards the downvoters. Downsides: takes a lot of coding to implement, requires effort on part of the admins, violates downvote anonymity.
1[anonymous]10yCould something like Slashdot's metamoderation system be implemented for LessWrong? The upvote/downvote system and content management in general seems to be based on reddit's system, and so I don't know whether or not the above would be nontrivial.

This is happening to me on a regular basis. I'm not sure what to do about it.

1Qiaochu_Yuan8yI see that people are downvoting you but it's not clear to me but it's as a retaliation tactic. Have you considered the hypothesis that you're just writing comments that many people think are bad for one reason or another?
5ialdabaoth8yI have tested this hypotheses the first 3 times it happened. If you check my comments, you will note that most of them are not the sorts of things that would be downvoted normally - they're either clarifying questions, or things that multiple people had previously up-voted. If 6 posts with high positive karma all get downvoted at once, along with every other post made within the past few days, I'm inclined to believe that it's retaliatory, especially if it always happens within a few minutes of a particular poster making a post, and especially if that particular poster is someone that I once had a contentious argument with about a political subject.
4TheOtherDave8yFor what it's worth, I've just looked over a few pages of ialdabaoth's comments and they seem consistent with this hypothesis (although the bulk of the comments are now at 0/50%, suggesting that someone subsequently upvoted them back to zero). And ialdabaoth has a ~70% positive rating at the moment, which seems anomalous given the content of their contributions. As for what to do about it, I'm not sure either. That said, I don't want to see it become a common practice, as it corrupts the information content of karma totals. So whoever is doing this, please cut it out. You're soiling the commons.

Obviously. On the other hand, does it really matter? The person doing so is harming themselves by wasting their time. You're not really harmed.

I guess you're arguing that most comments have a low number of votes, so the retaliation damages the comment-score-signal. That's reasonable.

4Eugine_Nier10yWell, I've seen this happen to newbies who take contrarian positions.

Well, I've seen this happen to newbies who take contrarian positions.

I see it happen more to newbies who make incoherent arguments with a belligerent attitude. This is, we can hope, correlated with them taking contrarian positions. (If not we are doing something wrong.)

I don't think that I use poster-karma much to gauge how useful a comment is likely to be -- I do have a rough mental ordering of how competent I think people are in different areas, but this is based on reading their writing, not their karma. So unless you're trying to lower their karma to the extent that they have trouble posting, reducing people's karma doesn't have much of an impression on me.

OTOH, I do use the karma levels of posts to rank their likely usefulness -- I usually sort the comments of a post by 'Top' and only read a portion of the comments ... (read more)

I would love to see a post on the rational behind the reputation system on this site.

Imagine a thousand professional philosophers would join lesswrong, or worse, a thousand creationists. If that happened, would someones karma score still reflect the persons rationality? I'm not saying that this is the case right now, since most people who don't agree with lesswrong won't join or bother to stay around for very long. But technically the lesswrong reputation system is susceptible to failure, it would just need one call by someone like P.Z. Myers to have thou... (read more)

[-][anonymous]10y 33

Imagine a thousand professional philosophers would join lesswrong

Completely off topic but my ... a few hundred LWers vs. thousands of professional philosophers. That sounds like an idea for a fanfic webcomic.

"A thousand proponents of mainstream philosophy descend upon you! Our down votes will blot out the sequences!"

Imagine a thousand professional philosophers would join lesswrong


EDIT: In response to downvotes, I will explain:

Philip turned to Sparta; he sent them a message, "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city." Their laconic reply: "If". Philip and Alexander would both leave them alone.

7gjm10yIt may be of interest that the word "laconic" is exactly the right one. Laconia = Sparta (well, strictly Sparta was just one part of Laconia) and its people were famously terse.
0lessdazed10ySuperfluous [] .
8[anonymous]10y"Then we shall argue in the shade!"
4[anonymous]10y"Then we shall argue with citations!"
0[anonymous]10y"Tonight, we posit far-fetched cosmic torture scenarios in hell!"

If people had to actually write a comment to voice their disagreement, everyone would benefit.

No, if someone e.g starts randomly insulting people, or being utterly clumsy in their reasoning, and then everyone would have to voice their disagreement, repeatedly, that would be noise atop of noise. It would crowd out any signal in the discussion.

Some types of disagreement at least need be able to be expressed without noising up the place. One of these is "You're very obviously wrong, and this comment is bad for this place, and it's bad for this place that I even have to use two sentences to you to explain why".

The person who is wrong would benefit by being provided an actual explanation for why someone disagrees

Even in the better cases scenario where there are no trolls or spammers involved -- what makes you think that you have to choose between only the options "Someone disagrees with you and you don't know why" and "Someone disagrees with you, and you're told why" -- and you don't consider the third option "You have no way of knowing if anyone agrees or disagrees with you"?

You seem to think that the only alternative of "downvoting ... (read more)

7ScottMessick10yRight on.

I'm hoping you meant this ironically.

Ah, now I feel extremely silly. The irony did not occur to me; it was simply a long comment that I agreed with completely, and I wasn't satisfied merely upvoting it because it didn't have any (other) upvotes yet at the time. Plus, doubly ironically, I was on a moral crusade to defend the karma system...

0XiXiDu10yRight, what about an agree/disagree feature?

The availability of a reputation system also discourages people to actually explain themselves by being able to let off steam or ignore cognitive dissonance by downvoting someone with a single mouse click. If people had to actually write a comment to voice their disagreement, everyone would benefit.

An extremely doubtful assertion - it seems much more likely that a raised feedback threshold would have the effect of reducing feedback levels.

An extremely doubtful assertion - it seems much more likely that a raised feedback threshold would have the main effect of reducing feedback levels.

Indeed. This is my experience in discussions anytime there isn't reputation feedback "So, does everyone just agree with me or did no one read my comment?"

7ScottMessick10yThis test seems rather unfair--it's pretty much a known that people who join LessWrong are likely to be already sympathetic to the LessWrong's way of thinking. Besides, the only way to avoid a situation where thousands of dissidents joining could wreck the system is to have centralized power, i.e., more traditional moderation, which I think we were hoping to avoid for exactly the types of reasons that are being brought up here (politics, etc.). True, but I think you have missed a positive incentive for response that is created by the reputation system in addition to the negative ones--a post/comment with a bad argument or worse creates an opportunity to win karma by writing a clear refutation, and I frequently see such responses being highly upvoted. This is a problem, but based purely on my subjective experience it seems that people are more than willing to upvote posts that try to shatter a conventional LessWrong belief, and do so with good argumentation.
7Morendil10yQuoting Eliezer []: The basic rationale is filtering; the current system is satisficing, given some reasonable assumptions as to how online communities work, and has the "feature" of being inherited from a successful web site and thus being a "proven solution" rather than something speculative designed from scratch. The major issue with LW's current karma system is information cascades; that has been acknowledged almost from the start of LW []. Yet solutions intended to correct this have not been widely adopted.
6Kaj_Sotala10yThe main reason to have a karma system, IMO, is to make discussions more readable by ordering comments by quality. This seems to work very well. Providing feedback to commenters is another important reason. But keeping a record of everyone's accumulated karma isn't necessary for either of those functions, and that feature could possibly be gotten rid of entirely.
0komponisto10y"Readable" is the wrong word here -- especially since the resulting distortion of the chronological ordering often makes discussions less readable. The actual intended object of maximization is not readability but rather impressiveness (showing off how "good" LW's comments are to new readers), or something like that (see here [] ). I disapprove of this, and think the purposes of karma are/should be these two: (1) to make trolls invisible; (2) to reward the authors of high-quality comments, thereby incentivizing the latter.
7Kaj_Sotala10yWhen I used the term "readability", I was admittedly thinking of big sites like Reddit (or Slashdot, though it seems to have less traffic these days), where sorting-by-karma is pretty much obligatory if you don't want to spend a lot of time reading through dozens of garbage comments for each interesting one. The signal-to-noise ratio is much better here, so maybe "readability" isn't the right to term to use on LW (though that could change). But sorting by karma certainly makes discussions much more pleasant/convenient/useful to read on LW as well. Thanks to karma sorting, the worthwhile parts of the discussion are easy to find and you can limit yourself to only reading the best comments. I don't find the mixed up chronology to be an issue. In my experience, the only problem with it was that new comments were hard to find, and that issue has mostly been solved by the highlighting of new comments. Your point that it may be confusing to newcomers is valid, but then there are other sites that use sorting by karma as well. It's not like we're the only ones using it.
4timtyler10yWell, reputation systems are good. More could be said, but that is the gist.
1orthonormal10yHuh. I tend to disagree with you quite frequently, but I give your opinion on the karma system a lot of weight because you have a great many comments heavily upvoted and heavily downvoted.
-1timtyler10yMy "universal karma []" rant explains some of my views. Karma seems to be a potentially-important tool for calming rogue corporations. We want corporations to be well behaved - partly since they may become powerful by developing mechanical hearts and minds. Just in case anyone is about to tell me that you can't use a carrot and a stick on a machine intelligence, I do know all about the issues there. FWIW, I tend to mostly ignore the karma of my own posts here - not wanting to be excessively influenced by the masses.
4[anonymous]10yI'm kicking myself for not registering my prediction.
0ArisKatsaris10yWhat prediction was that?
1[anonymous]10yThis one. []
1Aleksei_Riikonen10yRelax, I doubt anyone with the ability to produce high-quality thinking is so insecure that (s)he'd be scared of getting a few downvotes on a website. (Myself, I once got an article submission voted to oblivion, but it just felt good in a feeling-of-superiority kind of way since I thought the LW community was the party being more wrong there -- though I think that to have found myself to be more wrong than I think I was would have felt good too.) In general, I find it weird how some people manage to take the karma system so seriously. I thought it was acknowledged all along by the community that it's a very crude thing with only very limited usefulness (though still worth having).
4Kaj_Sotala10yI wouldn't be surprised to hear that the ability to produce high-quality thinking actually correlated with insecurity. People who spend time developing intellectual skills often neglect developing social skills, and a lack of friends/real social contact then makes them feel insecure.
0Aleksei_Riikonen10yI think you're probably right if we count more stuff as "high-quality thinking" than I was meaning to do. But if we're rather strict about what counts as high-quality, I think I'm right. (Also I'll emphasize that I wasn't talking about insecurity in general, but being insecure to such an extent that one refrains from posting high-quality stuff to an anonymity-enabling website because of a fear of getting downvoted.)

Perhaps one could track downvotes and upvotes separately. A post that is at +25 and -25 at the same time is clearly more interesting than one that is at 0 or +2 because no one much cares about it one way or the other.

On the plus side: I just noticed my 30 day karma spike by more than my recent comments rose. I suspect my last assassination went out of scope. :D

Yup, this is a bannable offense on other boards. Ask Louie, he's the only one that has ever audited Less Wrong for voting shenanigans.

[-][anonymous]10y 2

Public user karma graphs for users as well as posts seem an interesting if slightly cluttering user interface addition [a neat little graph icon next to the quote bubbles and the chain link], that might help combat this while having the neat benefit of making it easier to infer all sorts of things.

I see my karma go up without anything on my first page of comments changing all the time; it makes me wish I could see all recent changes to my karma so I could go back and participate in any older discussions that might be re-opening.

2RobertLumley10yUpvoting isn't enough. I agree so much. I'm marginally obsessive about it - I don't have very many, so I'm often able to sift through my comments and see what has changed.
1NancyLebovitz10yI don't have the link handy (the site could also use much better search), but I've mentioned wanting the same thing for the same reasons.
3wilkox10yPerhaps sparklines [] would work for this. They compress the recent history of a measurement in a space-efficient way which can fit inline with text.
1shokwave10yThey would fit neatly next to the upvote / downvote buttons. However nicely they would fit, they should not be used, though. I am in the mind of the diagram [] about the effect Google's proxy is having on web content - to the extent that karma is not a perfect proxy for good content, sparklines will make it easier to identify that proxy and where it can be gamed.

A way to prevent such retaliation tactics would be if the system only allowed one upvote/downvote by a person per five minutes. At least when directed against the same person.

Personally I'd prefer if the limit was only on downvotes. Sometimes I see a really good conversation and want to upvote 5 comments in quick succession.

Sometimes I see a really bad series of comments by the same person and want to downvote 5 times in quick succession.

Both of these suggestions would be incredibly overbearing solutions to a relatively minor problem.

I just lost over 200 karma in a few minutes and that'll probably continue for awhile. This happens to me every few weeks. Edit: I mean it's been happening every few weeks for a few months for a total of only three or four. Between 400 and 700 karma lost total I think? I don't mean to overstate the problem.

I know the feeling. I get this on average once a month when I'm posting actively. Well, not every comment I have ever made. That would take about 5 hours for someone to do. Just a couple of hundred. About 3 days of karma when commenting actively.

There may be a use for systematic downvoting.

This is my own opinion, JoshuaZ's comment is merely illustrative. I don't intend to put words in anyone's mouth.

We really should have some actual piece of software that prevents this and punishes those who try it. It shouldn't be that hard to detect.