Hello everyone, today I'd like to propose for your consideration a topic of discussion regarding votes.
To be absolutely clear, I am not talking about votes on policies and proposals as seen on this forum, but rather about votes that are displayed to the left of submissions such as this one or comments.
Generally speaking, I'm always trying to think about site mechanics and their effect on discourse and our interactions. Votes are something that we take for granted. Most of r/@ refugees come from reddit and votes are so ingrained that we don't think about them twice. It may as well be something that we include in the site design, mechanics, and programming because it's how we do things.
It's come to my attention that some of our members think little of the vote counters, going so far as to describe them as useless. I've also noticed that some have complained or at least noticed some posts being the target of mass upvotes or downvotes likely as part of an operation involving multiple accounts. If you also include the fact that new accounts can be whipped up in a matter of seconds to constitute a new army of votes, it becomes apparent that whether or not you think votes have subjective real value, they likely have even less objective value.
I'm now left wondering about three hypotheses and their consequences:
"Votes do have (objective) value"
This case is really problematic because if we really go through what this entails, then we'd see our lack of account verification as a threat to this model, thus doing everything we can to limit the influx of new users or imposing verification steps. Only then would votes correspond to a real intent by one person only to signify their (dis)like of some content. It seems to me that most of the userbase would be massively opposed to such a policy.
"Votes have some value"
I see this as the status quo. To my eyes, this is way less problematic than the first hypothesis but still somewhat precarious. This means that we think that in general votes aren't being manipulated and that we can tell if it is the case, which is a dubious position at best. It means that we still think we should rank posts accordingly, thus offering a different amount of attention to what people post.
If I were a paranoid individual, I would be distressed about the possibility of COINTELPRO tactics being applied very transparently by some accounts without even having to actually write posts for it to work!
Nonetheless, we could say that this has worked before and that past efforts that we know of to divert the course of conversations have either been ignored by us or foiled by moderators. Whether you consider this a satisfying situation is up for you to decide.
"Votes have no value"
In this case, a question immediately comes to mind: "Why are we even featuring vote counts as prominently as we do?" Why do we allow these numbers to influence whether the content in question seems interesting and whether we think it has the approval of the community?
In the case of a upvoted post, it seems bizarre that
10needs to be displayed when the information was already there when it was
330 minutes after being posted - the content was immediately interesting, nothing has changed. Is it a reward you seek from seeing those points?
Moreover, on that point, and I speak from personal experience but I feel like this position is shared by some here, vote counters can become as addictive as any other thing - checking them obsessively day after day when this is clearly a mechanic that plays on our brains tendency to value random outcomes. Getting rid of it might inconsciously make us more focused on content.
You can probably deduce from the content of this post so far that my natural inclination would be to agree with the third hypothesis. I have several ideas about what to do if most of us would (a) agree about which stance seems most reasonable and (b) try to do something about it. I'll detail two of those shortly below, but I can expand on them later if you like.
- Replacing counters with indicators such as "Interesting" or "Hotly debated" depending on several factors.
- Muting the text if a submission if below a certain threshold.
But I don't really want to impose my preconceived notions of what to do because that's up for debate and first we might want to actually decide what we as a group believe is the best stance. I just wanted to provide some examples in order to broaden our horizons about what it is possible to achieve if we wanted to.
Please do share your thoughts about what position you think is best adapted for Raddle, whether you have corroborating or invalidating evidence from your own experience of using Raddle, Reddit or indeed any other vote-based website, or whether you think that my assumptions are incorrect or my worries unfounded. I am very interested in what you all have to say.