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Do you get value out of contentless comments?

by DanielFilan1 min read21st Nov 201921 comments


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Some people like to receive comments of the form "Good post!", even when these comments contain no other engagement with the post. If you post on LW, I'd like to know (a) whether you like receiving these comments, and (b) whether you like receiving these comments more than you would like receiving a strong upvote by their authors.

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For me positive comments aren't a big deal in a well-upvoted, uncriticized post, but create a buffer against the stress of harsh criticism in a way upvotes do not.

I'm not sure how to interpret this. Do they "create a buffer" in the sense of discouraging critics, or "create a buffer" in the sense of a psychological buffer to the demoralization that harsh criticism would otherwise cause?

5Elizabeth2yThe latter.

I prefer comments to upvotes, upvotes feel like mindless applause lights. Contentless comments still tell me something about who found it helpful and how much (length of comment as proxy)

Good question!

Yes, and probably. The comment makes me feel more rewarded for whatever effort I put into the post.

I do appreciate the little comments but for me there's a huge benefit for even a sentence of why they liked it.

For instance this comment definitely had a much larger positive effect on me than a strong upvote:

I really appreciate seeing this kind of applied statistical analysis to a stray interesting-sounding fact you heard.

I doubt this took much longer to write than "Good post!" but the extra time was definitely worth it to me.

So, querying my preferences a bit more in depth:

  • I think literally "good post" mostly just feels sad. The variations that I appreciate sometimes at least type out a sentence or use less frequent words, which provide some evidence of the person engaging with the work, or... I dunno maybe it's a just a "costly signal of fashion" thing. "I don't have anything to add but just wanted to say I found this post helpful" crosses some threshold from "neutral or slightly negative" to "slightly positive."
  • If there are more than three "mildly fashionable 'good post'" type comments as described above, it switches from feeling net positive to net negative for me (unless there's a lot of other comments that are more substantive)
  • If I post something, and a few days go by with zero comments, and then I finally get a comment, and then it turns out to be mostly contentless, I experience a tiny-roller-coast of "ooh! a comment!" .... "oh, it's a lame comment" ... "okay upon reflection I'm still glad someone did that because it makes the comment section a feel a bit more alive, or at bumps it up in recent discussion, which gives it another shot at actual conversation.
  • If it's been years, and then someone comments on an old post of mine that hasn't been discussed in awhile, I feel mostly good and a bit nostalgic. ("Oh, people are still enjoying that post!")

I've felt happy about all positive comments, regardless of how substantial they are. Making a comment always takes more effort than just clicking upvote. Of course, more specific praise that gives me a better idea of what someone liked about my post is even better.

Comparing with a strong upvote is hard though, ideally I'd prefer both.

Yeah! I like getting positive feedback on my work, especially in a rather intimidating forum like here. Anything more specific than "good post" or whatever is better, but even that is more emotionally rewarding than seeing digits in the vote box change.

Yes to both, but I'd still rather get comments that are interesting :-)

I like comments that don't look like they could have been generated by a chatbot. I feel like whenever I'm being fine with the "Good post!" comments, I'm setting up an environment where after a while a portion of the comments will actually be chatbot spam.

No. I would rather receive a strong upvote. If I receive a comment I would prefer it contain some useful content.

I don't get any value out of content-free comments, but a sentence or two explaining what someone liked about my post gives me better feedback than an anonymous upvote. And even if it's just a phatic "Good post!", just knowing who said it can be quite useful.

If there are no other comments, a "Good post" can help the comments section feel less empty, make it feel like someone has actually read it. 

If there were several substantial comments and a mountain of content-less ones, then I suspect that the content-less ones would feel like a waste of time, but this hasn't happened to me.

7 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 4:46 PM


I strong upvoted the question.

ANY comment would be welcome on my posts.

Positive comments feel good, criticism although tough at first gives me something to think about - which is better. I love questions!

I like giving such comments (though usually I'll be more specific than "good post"), because I want to socially reward and incentivize things that I think are good contributions to the rationalist project, or that I think enact rationalist virtue somehow.

For instance that might be a post that tells me something I never would have known about the world, or a comment in which someone displays curiosity unusual curiosity instead of hostility.

I feel like these actions are good and right, and ought to be rewarded in our culture, and I guess I want to give positive feedback more than negative.

Basically, if something I read makes me feel either gratitude or pride, I want to let them know.