[meta] New LW moderator: Viliam_Bur

by Kaj_Sotala1 min read13th Sep 201451 comments

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Some time back, I wrote that I was unwilling to continue with investigations into mass downvoting, and asked people for suggestions on how to deal with them from now on. The top-voted proposal in that thread suggested making Viliam_Bur into a moderator, and Viliam gracefully accepted the nomination. So I have given him moderator privileges and also put him in contact with jackk, who provided me with the information necessary to deal with the previous cases. Future requests about mass downvote investigations should be directed to Viliam.

Thanks a lot for agreeing to take up this responsibility, Viliam! It's not an easy one, but I'm very grateful that you're willing to do it. Please post a comment here so that we can reward you with some extra upvotes. :)

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Thanks for the trust! I hope my services will not be necessary, but I'm here if they are. Feel free to send me a message, but please have a patience if I don't respond quickly, because it's all new to me.

Thanks for stepping up!

One proactive action a mod could take is to figure out the forum ethics, make it explicit and summarize it in a post, so that people could refer to it and refer others to it. This way if there is an argument, the participants could check their actions against the explicit written norms. In my experience a forum ethics is some combination of consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethics. Some examples from other forums:

  • strive to make only positive contribution and leave the comment thread in at least as good a shape as you found it (vaguely consequentialist)
  • no spoilers (a common ground rule in fiction discussions)
  • no trolling (sort of virtue-based)

Admittedly, this forum has been working reasonably well without explicit guidelines, and a discussion of forum ethics might be a net negative, so maybe one should leave well enough alone.

Several of the high-quality forums* I read explicitly (ha) do not have formal rules; the rationale being that having them written down enables the antisocial behavior of doing the worst thing that's still within the rules. However, these forums also have attentive and active moderators (as opposed to silent-except-when-things-go-seriously-wrong moderators) who speak up to discourage bad patterns early, which is not the case for Less Wrong and probably can't be made the case.

* forums in the general sense, not in the genre-of-web-site sense.

I consider my role to be a cop, not a lawgiver. Describing forum ethics is not a part of my job. We already have tools to enforce the things you said: if someone writes stupid comments, spoilers, or trolling comments, anyone can downvote them. My superpowers will be needed if someone starts abusing these tools, e.g. by mass downvoting, because that's what other users cannot investigate.

What I said is orthogonal to whether having explicit debate about forum ethics is good or bad. I can imagine it going either way. I think most people would agree with the examples you gave here. Anyone should feel equally free to initate this kind of debate, and my opinion should have no special weight there. Opinions of people from MIRI or CFAR should have extra weight, I think, but I am not in that set.

I consider my role to be a cop, not a lawgiver.

Right, As long as you know what laws to enforce.

Thanks for the trust! I hope my services will not be necessary, but I'm here if they are. Feel free to send me a message, but please have a patience if I don't respond quickly, because it's all new to me.

I've been patient, it's been 3 months since my last message. Have you had a chance to look into the mass down-voting I was hit with a while back?

Sorry for the delay. You were not downvoted by Eugine_Nier / Azathoth123 (nor by any other single individual), and the pattern of downvotes to you was not similar to how other people were mass-downvoted. Downvotes of you were much more evenly distributed among voters.

This per se does not exclude the possibility of motivated downvoting, but that would have to be someone else, using a different modus operandi. (I tried to develop a finer technique to detect "artificial" voting patterns, but I didn't finish it.)

Sorry for the delay. You were not downvoted by Eugine_Nier / Azathoth123 (nor by any other single individual), and the pattern of downvotes to you was not similar to how other people were mass-downvoted. Downvotes of you were much more evenly distributed among voters.

Are you sure? I recall losing lots of karma points in one period over a few hours, right after an unpleasant confrontation with a couple other posters.

ETA:

Who downvoted these three posts, my hypothesis is that it is the same person or persons.

http://lesswrong.com/lw/1s4/open_thread_february_2010_part_2/1myj

http://lesswrong.com/lw/i4/belief_in_belief/1mbj

http://lesswrong.com/lw/1ir/you_be_the_jury_survey_on_a_current_event/1bnt

At the moment I am reading this, there seem to be no votes (no upvotes, no downvotes) on two of those three comments:

At least this is how I interpret "0 points, 0% positive". If someone would downvote it, it would not be 0% positive.

Correct. (Of course it's possible that someone downvoted those comments and then removed the downvotes later.)

The way LW displays votes is a bit strange. From the points total and the %positive, you can deduce the numbers of up and down votes in all cases except for "0 points, 50% positive", from which you can tell only that there were some positive number of upvotes and the same number of downvotes. (Well ... if the numbers are really large then the rounding-to-integer of the percentages gets in the way a little.)

I think that given (1) the usually-small number of total votes and (2) the generally high level of numeracy of the LW readership, the only disadvantage to changing from "1 point, 67% positive" to "+2 -1" is that it would require someone actually to make the change, and there are very few Round Tuits[1] available for that task.

[1] "Oh yes, that's a good idea. I'll do it when I get a round tuit." I have seen shops selling Round Tuits. Unfortunately they don't actually generate increased motivation or spare time.

Or perhaps to make it easy to read: "1 point" with "+2 -1" in the tooltip.

Sorry, yes, that was what I actually had in mind.

At least this is how I interpret "0 points, 0% positive". If someone would downvote it, it would not be 0% positive.

My recollection is that at that time, a comment started with one point and you ended up with 0 points only if someone downvoted you. You disagree with this?

Scores have always started at 0.

Reddit does it the way that you are describing, with scores starting at 1, but Less Wrong has never done it that way.

Scores have always started at 0.

Ok, maybe I confused the karma system here with that of Reddit.

I've heard it used to be that way, but when I first joined LW around 2011 (under a different account than this one) comments already started from zero, and the tooltip with the % positive wasn't implemented until much later (around 2013 IIRC).

% positive wasn't implemented until much later (around 2013 IIRC).

Yes, I agree with this. Anyway, the bottom line is this:

  1. I am very confident that I was karmassasinated or whatever you want to call it. Because I clearly remember having a heated exchange with a couple other posters and right afterwards my karma score dropped a huge amount in a short time, I checked and it was clear that one or more people went back and downvoted lots and lots of my posts in a short span of time.

  2. Apart from my own observations, there is decent evidence that this happened -- otherwise I would not have been mentioned in the earlier thread on this subject.

  3. Viliam_Bur seems quite hostile to any suggestion that it happened to me, it seems he is looking for reasons to deny or downplay it.

  4. The obvious explanation for this is that it's political. The one poster who was banned had politically unpopular views. As I recall, the issue I was karma-killed over was one where I had taken the politically unpopular view.

  5. I do not lose sleep over my karma score or even care about it that much, but what I loath is when politics informs peoples' judgment like this, especially on a discussion board where people are supposed to be on the lookup for this type of behavior.

I do not lose sleep over my karma score or even care about it that much

And so after seven months of being absent from LW you pop up to remind everyone how you were karmassasinated and implying that the moderator was fine with that...

And so after seven months of being absent from LW you pop up to remind everyone how you were karmassasinated

Pretty much. Do you think there's a contradiction there?

and implying that the moderator was fine with that...

Implying that political considerations were more important. I have a feeling that the persons who did it are more popular than the fellow who was banned over this stuff.

Do you think there's a contradiction there?

Yes. Specifically, with the "do not .. even care about it that much" part.

Yes. Specifically, with the "do not .. even care about it that much" part.

Do you think I am lying or mistaken when I state that what bothers me is the (perceived) political influence on the situation?

I have no basis to judge. And these two things are not exclusive, of course.

I have no basis to judge. And these two things are not exclusive, of course.

Ok, so you are reasonably confident that I am wrong, but you do not know whether I am lying or mistaken or both. Why are you so confident?

Because you caring about karma is a simpler explanation that fits my priors well and is entirely consistent with the evidence that I see.

Because you caring about karma is a simpler explanation that fits my priors well and is entirely consistent with the evidence that I see.

Would you care to summarize the evidence?

  • You came back after seven months of absence to talk about your karma
  • We are having this very conversation

You came back after seven months of absence to talk about your karma

Well I also talked about the political issue too, correct?

We are having this very conversation

Have you ever known me not to engage with anyone who asserts I have acted in a contradictory way?

Well I also talked about the political issue too, correct?

Yes. See here :-)

Have you ever known me not to engage with anyone who asserts I have acted in a contradictory way?

I don't know -- I haven't paid that much attention. But are you saying you're entirely free of contradictions..?

Yes.

Ok, so this piece of evidence is equally consistent with my caring primarily about the political issue.

I don't know -- I haven't paid that much attention.

Then this piece of evidence isn't so great either. See below.

But are you saying you're entirely free of contradictions..?

Nope, but I have a strong tendency to engage with anyone who makes such an assertion. Mainly because I'm an argumentative person and also somewhat vain, but also because there is a chance I will learn something useful.

In any event, the point is that the fact that I am having this exchange is not evidence of my caring either way -- I argue with pretty much anyone who asserts that my position is contradictory.

The evidence, of course is weak. But then I have a fairly strong prior which says that someone who is "an argumentative person and also somewhat vain" will care about proxies for respect and status -- such as karma -- more than about political possibly-issues at a forum he does not frequent any more.

But then I have a fairly strong prior which says that someone who is "an argumentative person and also somewhat vain" will care about proxies for respect and status -- such as karma -- more than about political possibly-issues at a forum he does not frequent any more.

When did you become confident that I was an argumentative person and also somewhat vain?

The argumentativeness was always visible, as to "vain", your previous comment was very convenient :-) but you never looked like you were indifferent to your image.

The argumentativeness was always visible, as to "vain", your previous comment was very convenient :-) but you never looked like you were indifferent to your image.

Ok, so let's see if I have your argument straight:

Someone who is argumentative and not indifferent to his image probably cares a great deal about his karma score, to the point where even weak evidence leads to a high degree of confidence that a complaint which relates to karma is primarily due to his concern for his karma score per se and no other considerations.

Does that pretty much sum it up?

Does that pretty much sum it up?

No, not quite. Would you like to extract the straw you stuffed into that paragraph and try again?

No, not quite. Would you like to extract the straw you stuffed into that paragraph and try again?

Umm, I would like you to explain exactly how I have (according to you) mischaracterized your argument.

Let me ask you first whether you believe you have characterized my argument fairly.

Let me ask you first whether you believe you have characterized my argument fairly.

Yes I do. Now please answer my question: How exactly have I (according to you) mischaracterized your argument?

probably cares a great deal about his karma score

I have never said anything about "much", "a great deal" or anything like that.

even weak evidence leads to a high degree of confidence

A twofer! :-) First, I explicitly said that "the evidence, of course is weak" and that I rely on my prior. Second, I never characterized the degree of my confidence.

concern for his karma score per se and no other considerations.

I explicitly said "and these two things are not exclusive, of course."

I think your beliefs are in need of updating.

I have never said anything about "much", "a great deal" or anything like that.

It's pretty much implied since it leads to reasonable confidence despite weak evidence. However, I will tweak my summary. See below.

A twofer! :-) First, I explicitly said that "the evidence, of course is weak"

Right. So even weak evidence is enough to make you reasonably confident.

Second, I never characterized the degree of my confidence.

You said you were "reasonably confident." Confident enough to accuse me of misstating my motivations. Anyway, I will tweak my summary of your position. See below.

I explicitly said "and these two things are not exclusive, of course."

It seemed that you were talking about the distinction between lying and being mistaken. However I will be charitable and give you the benefit of the doubt. See below.

Anyway, it seems your position is this:

Someone who is argumentative and not indifferent to his image probably cares about his karma score enough that even weak evidence (e.g. that he continues to behave in an argumentative fashion) leads you to be reasonably confident that a complaint which relates to karma is due in large part to his concern for his karma score per se, as distinguished from his expressed concern about the politics of the situation.

Does that accurately summarize your argument?

I think your beliefs are in need of updating.

I have a feeling it is your beliefs which are in need of updating, but first I would like to nail down your exact argument.

You said you were "reasonably confident."

You seem to have a habit of confusing what I actually said and what you imply about me. It's not me who used the expression "reasonably confident", it's you.

Anyway, it seems your position is this:

An improvement, but still not exactly there. To speed things up I'll rewrite it a bit with my changes in bolded parts:

Someone who is argumentative and not indifferent to his image probably cares about his karma score enough that even weak evidence (e.g. coming back after a long absence to enter extended discussions about his karma) along with a strong prior leads you to believe that a complaint which relates to karma is due in large part to his concern for his karma score per se, as distinguished from his expressed concern about the politics of the situation.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

You seem to have a habit of confusing what I actually said and what you imply about me. It's not me who used the expression "reasonably confident", it's you.

And you seemed to agree with that characterization of your position:

Me: Ok, so you are reasonably confident that I am wrong, but you do not know whether I am lying or mistaken or both. Why are you so confident?

You: Because you caring about karma is a simpler explanation that fits my priors well and is entirely consistent with the evidence that I see.

But perhaps I was mistaken: Are you "reasonably confident" or not?

along with a strong prior

What prior are you referring to?

And you seemed to agree

I did not and do not intend to correct everything that's wrong in your comments.

Are you "reasonably confident" or not?

"Reasonably" depends on the context, just like the word "useful" it asks "for which purpose?"

For the purpose of posting my opinion on LW I am reasonably confident.

What prior are you referring to?

That one.

I did not and do not intend to correct everything that's wrong in your comments.

For the purpose of posting my opinion on LW I am reasonably confident.

Then it seem not to be wrong after all. Please refrain from nitpicking.

That one.

I'm a little confused. How is that different from the prior of being "argumentative and not indifferent to [one's] image " Is it different? Or merely redundant?

Please refrain from nitpicking.

As I just told you, I don't nitpick. However I do object to people inventing fake quotes of me complete with quotation marks.

I'm a little confused.

Well, why don't you re-read the thread and unconfuse yourself?

As I just told you, I don't nitpick.

Yes you do. You just agreed that you were "reasonably confident":

For the purpose of posting my opinion on LW I am reasonably confident.

It's true that I should have said "you seemed to agree that you were 'reasonably confident,'" but now you've said it anyway, i.e. that you are "reasonably confident." (for purposes of posting your opinion on LW) So my position stands. And please stop nitpicking.

Well, why don't you re-read the thread and unconfuse yourself?

I'm trying to give you the chance to clarify your position. It seems that the "strong prior" you are referring to is essentially the same as "argumentative and not indifferent to your image." But if I am mistaken, I would like to know. Otherwise, I will assume that you are merely repeating yourself.

I don't consider pointing out fake quotes "nitpicking".

I'm trying to give you the chance to clarify your position.

That's OK, I'll pass on that chance. My recommendation to go unconfuse yourself still stands.

I don't consider pointing out fake quotes "nitpicking".

Even if (1) it turns out to actually reflect the person's position; (2) the quoter admits that he was quoting his own language which he thought the person had agreed with; and (3) the quoter admits that he should have made this clear? (Which I do in fact admit.)

That's OK, I'll pass on that chance

Suit yourself. I will now scrutinize your argument:

First of all, your "weak" evidence (and yes, you actually used the word "weak") can reasonably be described as non-evidence. Because arguing about something related to karma a few months after the initial exchange is at least as consistent with being "argumentative and not indifferent to one's image" as it is with being focused on karma per se.

Second, your "strong priors" are extremely weak at best. Being argumentative is not particularly consistent with being focused on karma scores. Indeed, being argumentative frequently results in a loss of karma. Being "not indifferent" to one's image is at least as consistent with "not caring about one's karma score too much" as it is with caring about it to the point of caring about it more than the (possibly) political aspects of the situation.

So it seems that your beliefs do not stand up to scrutiny. You assert that you have "strong priors" but you offer no evidence or coherent argument as to why these "strong priors" are so strong. So as I alluded to above, it looks like you are the one whose beliefs need to be updated.

Even if

Yes, even if. Of course, everything that "the quoter admits" he admits only after I pointed out that the quote is fake.

I will now scrutinize your argument

Not much of a scrutiny. You just restated that you disagree and, well, we knew that already. My position is unchanged.

Anything else?

Yes, even if.

Ok, enjoy your nitpicking then.

he admits only after

Of course, because I was not aware of my mistake until after you pointed it out. Again, I should have said "it seems you agree that." So I hereby take back my statement (with my apologies for giving the impression that I was quoting you) and replace it with "it seems you agree that."

My argument stands. But please feel free to continue your nitpicking.

Not much of a scrutiny. You just restated that you disagree and, well, we knew that already

Not at all, I explained why you were wrong. For example, I pointed out why "being argumentative" is not a very good proxy for "being concerned about karma." To borrow an idea, I suggest you re-read and attempt to un-confuse yourself.

Hi, so did you look into the mass down-voting I was hit with a while back?