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Data Mining Shows How Down-Voting Leads To Vicious Circle of Negative Feedback

Soulskill posted about 4 months ago | from the vicious-circles-are-the-best-circles dept.

Social Networks 293

KentuckyFC writes: "In behavioral psychology, the theory of operant conditioning is the notion that an individual's future behavior is determined by the punishments and rewards he or she has received in the past. It means that specific patterns of behavior can be induced by punishing unwanted actions while rewarding others. While the theory is more than 80 years old, it is hard at work in the 21st century in the form of up- and down-votes — or likes and dislikes — on social networks. But does this form of reward and punishment actually deter unwanted actions while encouraging good behavior? Now a new study of the way voting influences online behavior has revealed the answer. The conclusion: negative feedback leads to behavioral changes that are hugely detrimental to the community. Not only do authors of negatively-evaluated content contribute more but their future posts are of lower quality and are perceived by the community as such. What's more, these authors are more likely to evaluate fellow users negatively in future, creating a vicious circle of negative feedback. By contrast, positive feedback does not influence authors much at all. That's exactly the opposite of what operant conditioning theory predicts. The researchers have a better suggestion for social networks: 'Given that users who receive no feedback post less frequently, a potentially effective strategy could be to ignore undesired behavior and provide no feedback at all.' Would Slashdotters agree?"

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293 comments

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BS (4, Funny)

marcello_dl (667940) | about 4 months ago | (#47027639)

This story sucks.
Let the game begin :)

Re:BS (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027741)

Don't feed the trolls.

Re:BS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027907)

I don't post on slashdot because the system is abused. 1st and last post ever. You people suck at modding.

Re:BS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027973)

I agree. I comment more on youtube now that the down thumbs is broken and the ability to delete and block trolls is easy. Commenting here is suicide. The people who get mod points are assassins.

Re:BS (5, Informative)

Zamphatta (1760346) | about 4 months ago | (#47028361)

I totally agree. I was getting 15 mod points every 3 days or so. I generally upvote stuff that I find worthy of it, and ignore comments "bad" comments unless they were seriously bad/trollish/obvious flambaiting. Recently, somebody down voted all of my comments in one thread so they were 0'd, and then /. suddenly decided that I'll only deserve 5 mod points every few days. That, to me, is obviously weird. I thought my comments weren't that bad, even if they weren't great. This is the 2nd time this has happened to me, and it happens far too easily. So I just stop commenting 'cause I don't want to risk losing all my karma over 1 comment just because somebody might not agree with my viewpoint.

For the record, I'm hesitating to submit this comment. I could do it anon, but, I'd like my thoughts to be attached to my identity..... otherwise it just feels like free speech is really dead around in this community.

Re:BS (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | about 4 months ago | (#47028097)

> 1st and last post ever
the 1st post was mine, BWAHAHAHA!

Re:BS (3, Funny)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 4 months ago | (#47028133)

I don't post on slashdot because the system is abused... You people suck at modding.

That's one possibility.

Re:BS (4, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 4 months ago | (#47028167)

It's correct. Slashdot's moderators routinely downrate good posts on the basis of "disagree", and the system itself hides good conversations, muzzles the moderators, incorrectly presumes anonymity is a bad thing for posts (wrong), while assuming anonymity is a good thing for moderators (wrong again), and does nothing effective about moderation abuse. The best thing you can say about it is that it can be ignored if you properly configure your browsing options. By far the best way to read slashdot is at -1. I've been doing it for years.

Re:BS (5, Interesting)

the_povinator (936048) | about 4 months ago | (#47027917)

I read TFA, and unfortunately the research is very weak. They did not do a proper randomized study, they merely trained a classifier to figure out how good they thought a post was, and then divided up posts into pairs where their classifier thought they were the same but the feedback was different. They assume that their classifier is accurate, i.e. really reflects the goodness of a post. The rest of their research follows from this assumption.

If it had been a proper randomized study (i.e. roll a dice and up/down vote posts) I could have believed it.

Re:BS (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 4 months ago | (#47028067)

To achieve optimal results, I'm going to ignore this story.... Oh. Shit.

Not that funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028071)

medium.com is too tablet-focused for me to read. It's so full of stuff that reinvents the wheel, badly, while phoning home constantly it's driving me nuts. And now I can't even tell'em so because they'd just get worse. So the only recourse is "ignoring" bad behaviour. Therefore: stop linking to medium.com. Please.

In other words... (5, Insightful)

Dr Fro (169927) | about 4 months ago | (#47027647)

Don't feed the trolls?

I have to disagree with TFA. (2)

khasim (1285) | about 4 months ago | (#47027719)

Don't feed the trolls?

I'd agree with not engaging them. At least not the trolls we have today.

But mod'ing them down? I like that. It means I don't have to wade through hundreds of trash messages to find anything worth reading.

And a clarification. "Troll" is NOT the same as "I have a different opinion".

Re:I have to disagree with TFA. (-1, Troll)

Sardaukar86 (850333) | about 4 months ago | (#47027911)

Don't feed the trolls?

I'd agree with not engaging them. At least not the trolls we have today.

Probably a wise sentiment. The real trolls are incapable of rational discourse, goodness knows I've tried. Yes, I'm looking right at you, APK.

The only logical conclusion is that they are incapable of viewing their own behaviour in context. Whether this is due to brain injury, mental illness or simply a defective personality is arguable but the effect is obvious to all but themselves. APK certainly puts a great deal of effort into his stalking and crapflooding but it seems, genuinely doesn't understand how poorly this reflects on him.

Interestingly, he also seems to have trouble with people who are trying to simply engage him in conversation. One example is when APK simultaneously smooches up to people before shifting to shrieking invectives in the very same post, suggesting he's on a hair-trigger ready to see criticism in just about anything said to him. Why is he so sensitive to criticism? Why on earth does he care so much what people think about him here? The poor man must be living a hellish life if he gets so worked up over anonymous people on the Internet.

So yeah, sometimes it's best not to engage; judging by APK's use of circular logic, extremely childish behaviour (such as re-posting his hostfile shit five times in the same threat) and his by-rote arguing style the guy's just not all there. There's no sane conversation to be had out of him for the most part.

Sardaukar86's & IRrational discourse (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028065)

Sardaukar86 "FoaMiNg-@-The-MouTh" priceless "ReAcTioN" #1 http://news.slashdot.org/comme... [slashdot.org]

Sardaukar86 "FoaMiNg-@-The-MouTh" priceless "ReAcTioN" #2 http://news.slashdot.org/comme... [slashdot.org]

Why?

He had to "eat his words" vs. APK http://it.slashdot.org/comment... [slashdot.org]

Re:I have to disagree with TFA. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028081)

After seeing your irrational discourse in the reply above mine? You're full of shit. ROTFLMAO!

Re:I have to disagree with TFA. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028091)

Your own foaming at the mouth (lol) ravings didn't look good for you hypocrite http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

Dear SourDildoInACar from 1986 (rotflmao) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028111)

Seems you got a little "worked up" there (lmao) http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

Re:Dear SourDildoInACar from 1986 (rotflmao) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028289)

R O T F L M A O @ 'SourDildoInACarFrom1986' Hahahahaha

Sardaukar86's idea of rational discourse (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028237)

Sardaukar86 "FoaMiNg-@-The-MouTh" ReAcTioN #1 http://news.slashdot.org/comme... [slashdot.org]

Sardaukar86 "FoaMiNg-@-The-MouTh" ReAcTioN #2 http://news.slashdot.org/comme... [slashdot.org]

Why?

He had to "eat his words" vs. APK http://it.slashdot.org/comment... [slashdot.org]

Sardaukar86's idea of "rational discourse" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028243)

Sardaukar86 "FoaMiNg-@-The-MouTh" ReAcTioN #1 http://news.slashdot.org/comme... [slashdot.org]

Sardaukar86 "FoaMiNg-@-The-MouTh" ReAcTioN #2 http://news.slashdot.org/comme... [slashdot.org]

Why?

He had to "eat his words" vs. APK http://it.slashdot.org/comment... [slashdot.org]

SourDildoInACarFrom1986 & rational discourse (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028259)

Sardaukar86 "FoaMiNg-@-The-MouTh" ReAcTioN #1 http://news.slashdot.org/comme... [slashdot.org]

Sardaukar86 "FoaMiNg-@-The-MouTh" ReAcTioN #2 http://news.slashdot.org/comme... [slashdot.org]

Why?

He had to "eat his words" vs. APK http://it.slashdot.org/comment... [slashdot.org]

SourDildoInACarFrom1986 & rational discourse (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028273)

Sardaukar86 "FoaMiNg-@-The-MouTh" ReAcTioN #1 http://news.slashdot.org/comme... [slashdot.org]

Sardaukar86 "FoaMiNg-@-The-MouTh" ReAcTioN #2 http://news.slashdot.org/comme... [slashdot.org]

Why?

He had to "eat his words" vs. APK http://it.slashdot.org/comment... [slashdot.org]

Re:SourDildoInACarFrom1986 & rational discours (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028301)

Wow man. Sardaukar86's snow job of a post falls apart when you see how he really is from your post.

Re:I have to disagree with TFA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028309)

I read those posts you tried to hide SourDildoInACarFrom1986 with downmods. You're full of crap, hypocrite.

Yea right (go away lying troll) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028327)

You tried "rational discourse" alright you douche http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

I wanna know 1 thing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028335)

How'd "eatin yer words" taste? Like a "SourDildoInACarFrom1986" (lol) perhaps? http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org]

Re:I wanna know 1 thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028343)

Hahahahahahahaha oh man my stomach hurts from laughing

Re:I wanna know 1 thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028359)

NO! Don't laugh @ "SourDildoInACarFrom1986" or he'll "get rational" (not) on you http://slashdot.org/comments.p... [slashdot.org] like he did in the links of his there. Somehow, I don't think ole' SourDildo understands the meaning of the phrase.

Re:I have to disagree with TFA. (1)

udachny (2454394) | about 4 months ago | (#47027913)

"Troll" is NOT the same as "I have a different opinion".

- actually that is exactly what 'troll' means here.

Re:I have to disagree with TFA. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027939)

You disagreed, and got modded down. imagine that. the mod's abusing their power.....

Re:I have to disagree with TFA. (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | about 4 months ago | (#47027971)

Well that and they thought a joke wasn't funny or simply didn't understand the joke in the first place.

Re:I have to disagree with TFA. (1)

rhodium_mir (2876919) | about 4 months ago | (#47027987)

Sometimes it means "sockpuppet".

Re:I have to disagree with TFA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028023)

Don't you exist to reply to his comments based on your comment history? A troll dictionary should have your face as the perfect specimen.

Re:I have to disagree with TFA. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028321)

Clearly you didn't read my sig.

Re:I have to disagree with TFA. (1)

cryptoluddite (658517) | about 4 months ago | (#47028021)

If you mod a troll post down to -100 or more like on reddit, that means 100 people read the post and that is a huge boost to trolls that want attention.

On the other hand, if you have no means to downvote like the majority of hacker news, then it rewards cliches that upvote their own content even though it sucks and you get stupid "Hello World... in Go" posts every day.

Re:I have to disagree with TFA. (2)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 4 months ago | (#47028051)

Disagree when you have a published study supporting your side.

If it actually hurts the community, you're going to have to get over it. A troll voted up definitely needs to be flagged as troll, either with a reply or moderation, but otherwise behavioral science is pretty much telling you to shut it.

The end result is, in my experience with 4 or 5 user names here since 2001, is "you aren't listening to me, it won't matter, I'll shit on your floor" acting out.

Remember the "fuck beta" stuff where people who got up votes were saying that comments were being moderated by admins? They set a deadline, overstayed the welcome, and got in the way. I and apparently several others moderated them down just to get them out of the way, as you say, to prevent having to wade through trash messages. Did it help?

Consider actual behavior that you have witnessed, and the points raised in this story, and let me know honestly if you still think that your desire to have clean comments will result in clean comments. As opposed to more jackassery that has to be downmodded.

Re:I have to disagree with TFA. (3, Interesting)

swillden (191260) | about 4 months ago | (#47028249)

But mod'ing them down? I like that. It means I don't have to wade through hundreds of trash messages to find anything worth reading.

On slashdot, I think negative feedback does result in more trollish activity, but it also pushes the activity below the threshold at which most people read, so the community doesn't see it and isn't damaged by it. Trolls also don't get mod points so they can't visit their wrath on others.

All in all, I think it works pretty well. I'll leave it to others to discuss if the mechanism to suppress trolls has negative side effects.

Re:In other words... (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 4 months ago | (#47027721)

No, the replies were not studied, only moderation. +1 has no effect on the poster's future comments, but -1 makes them more troll-like. The "solution" seems to be only allow +1, and not downvotes (or mask downvotes past 0). That will result in the best evaluation of comments, while not encouraging bad behavior.

Re:In other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027813)

Even so, the most requested feature on Facebook is a way to "dislike". Personally I believe in downmods to make trolls more trollish and thus more irrelevant. There's also the problem that no matter how weird people are, with a network the size of the internet, they'll always find encouragement.

Re:In other words... (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about 4 months ago | (#47028095)

There is a dislike in Facebook. You un-friend or hide the individual item. The people asking for dislike on facebook are asking for censorship. They want it to be harder to find things they don't personally like. I hope Facebook doesn't do it.

Re:In other words... (1)

Jack Griffin (3459907) | about 4 months ago | (#47028329)

What's wrong with that? I've found Facebook quite valuable for keeping in touch with friends and family around the world I don't see every day. However lately I seem to be inundated with the same old feed of celeb gossip, pictures of food and babies. I really don't want to keep seeing that same drivel so should have that choice. Facebook is not the world. I'm not suppressing political or idealogical debate, simply the brain-dead crap that pollutes the rest of the Internet.

Re:In other words... (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about 4 months ago | (#47028355)

If you want to block the spam, it's easy. Block the people posting it. The "dislike" is wanted so I can block *you* from seeing political opinions *I* don't like.

Re:In other words... (2)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 4 months ago | (#47027817)

i agree, the up vote / down vote system works well here because people who have low karma can't post as much as people with good karma. another solution is the "alternate reality" approach, where a troll's posts are visible to him but not to others. he thinks he's being ignored.

Re:In other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027963)

I used to use forum software (Beehive) which had this feature. Usually it was someone who was trolling, so I'd enable "worm mode" on the troll, and watch his posts get nastier and nastier until he either gave up or he started making death threats, and then, I'd go do the usual IP tracing and hand that over to a LEO after they went bananas.

I say that Slashdot's karma system is different from the up/down vote system. After being on Slashdot since the 90s, I think it works well, and there is always the outlet for posts that are not trolls, but unpopular (the overrated mod), and IMHO, that does have to be there. The other thing that makes the karma system here work is the fact that moderators are moderated, so there is some responsibility.

Re:In other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027979)

Google+ has this alternate reality approach. You will never know when your result-of-hard-work troll reached your audience.

Re:In other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028013)

In case you were wondering, that "alternate reality" approach has a name. It's called hellbanning [wikipedia.org] .

Re:In other words... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 4 months ago | (#47028015)

(or mask downvotes past 0)

So, kind of like Slashdot does, where the worst rating is -1, but the best is +5?

You might be right. But that system is only helpful if -1 posts can be filtered out of my feed (which Slashdot allows).

I'm just now reading this study, and I'm not sure it's really that well designed. I also wonder if with the proliferation of commercial speech in social media, if there's not a strong desire on the part of corporations to eliminate negative moderation of their speech. It wouldn't be the first time that research was done with an agenda.

Re:In other words... (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 4 months ago | (#47028119)

Perhaps the fix is more slashdot-like. mod down for reason. -1 commercial advertisement. Then let me set commercial advertisement to -3. I'll almost never see it, if I don't want to see astroturfing.

meta. (4, Interesting)

stoploss (2842505) | about 4 months ago | (#47027657)

I look forward to observing the many ironic and humorous mods this topic will induce. In fact, the act of moderation itself may be the actual discussion more so than any of the content.

I would mod my own post as insightful troll, for example. I mean, this is just pandering, right?

Negative mods (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 4 months ago | (#47027691)

Negative mods
Are like shaving cuts
And come from those
With hairless butts
Burma Shave

ignore (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027667)

Ignoring you

No shit, Sherlock.. (2)

Xiph1980 (944189) | about 4 months ago | (#47027677)

In the category of "No shit, sherlock" research....

Don't feed the trolls. Thought this was fairly common knowledge...

Re:No shit, Sherlock.. (2, Informative)

timeOday (582209) | about 4 months ago | (#47027769)

On slashdot, downmodding trolls serves the purpose of filtering out the messages you they are mostly invisible if you don't want to see them. I call that a benefit.

Re:No shit, Sherlock.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028057)

What I see though is that the only really interesting comments are rated 0 on Slashdot. I'd love a reverse filter, get rid of the high rated trash comments.

Re:No shit, Sherlock.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028107)

There's a big difference between downmodding trolls and feeding trolls. Feeding them makes them visible. Downmodding makes them invisible. Trolls hate being invisible (hell, so does everyone).

Re:No shit, Sherlock.. (1)

Noah Haders (3621429) | about 4 months ago | (#47027819)

the finding here is that "don't feed the trolls" can be rigorously demonstrated as true.

mynuts won; hired goon troll panic ensues (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027709)

just don't call it a spiritual non-violent (r)evolution,, momkind new clear options; no bomb us more mom us,, no drone us no bone us,, no more 'bugs' in our rugs,, free the innocent stem cells,, feed the millions of starving innocent children,, all creative life extending stuff,, thanks moms http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=world+wakes+up

Common sense (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027711)

The findings seem to be common sense. Or, as the saying goes, "Do not feed the trolls". Alternatively, the popular wisdom is, "Ignore them and they will go away." I have seen this in action on many forums. Debating a troll or a bad writer will just cause them to post more and more, they become more combative. Ignoring a troll or someone who is behaving badly and they usually pack up and go someone else to annoy other people. Postive feedback can encourage additional posting, at least that has been my experience.

Re:Common sense (2, Interesting)

Baby Duck (176251) | about 4 months ago | (#47027781)

Don't Feed the Trolls means don't engage them will novel comments you crafted yourself. The impersonal act of downvoting without comment doesn't fit in their diet.

The researchers are really bad at establishing causation. People who generate content awful enough that others actually bother to make the clicks to Downvote ... are more likely to make inferior content again in the future. It's because they suck at critical thinking and/or writing. No combination or up or down voting will magically bestow these skills upon them. The "shame" of being downvoted in a non-personal way is not enough behavioral impetus to motivate someone to acquire skills (to do better "next time.")

Re:Common sense (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 4 months ago | (#47028009)

They don't always go away. One troll amazingly sat on the rec.bicycles.* groups for years and hastened their decline with his ceaseless vitriol.

Such a shame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027723)

Which is such a shame since this would seem to imply that people who suffer some form mental illness causing them to spew bile (such as the infamous apk) will just spiral into a negative feedback loop from which they can really never escape. :(

Negative feedback removes visibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027731)

Most places that use feedback also use it as moderation. The two should be split apart because unpopular opinions should not disappear just because the masses don't like it.

Re:Negative feedback removes visibility (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 4 months ago | (#47027877)

it's not uncommon for forums to record both up-votes and down-votes separately. While a lot of places - like slashdot - record only the arithmetic total (up-votes minus down-votes) there are places that do it properly - recognising that *any* vote can be considered a good thing. Just like in real life: the worst you can have is apathy.

So (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027759)

By contrast, positive feedback does not influence authors much at all. That's exactly the opposite of what operant conditioning theory predicts. The researchers have a better suggestion for social networks: 'Given that users who receive no feedback post less frequently, a potentially effective strategy could be to ignore undesired behavior and provide no feedback at all.' Would Slashdotters agree?"

If positive feedback doesn't have much impact at all then presumably it's much the same as no feedback. Otherwise it does have an impact.

So everyone gets either no feedback (they post less frequently) or positive feedback (much the same as no feedback. so they post less frequently) or negative feedback (the quality of their posts go down).

This explains the internet.

That has to be (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027775)

the DUMBEST idea I've ever heard.

This is an awesome result. (1)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 4 months ago | (#47027785)

Let's hope it can be replicated.

Do not feed the trolls. (1)

Snufu (1049644) | about 4 months ago | (#47027799)

The behavior described in the study is expected. We've all seen the effects of giving trolls the attention they crave.

A more interesting study would be into the coupled nature of troller and trollee. Why are some incapable of ignoring negative provocateurs? We are told "Do not feed the trolls." But some cannot resist. Why are some incapable of letting the troll starve and vanish?

Plonk (1)

frisket (149522) | about 4 months ago | (#47027821)

On Usenet there is the killfile, so at least people who know what they're doing can trash the crap, and these would typically be the kind of people the negatively-rated posters would have been trying to impress. The problem remains that newcomers and those unaware of the 'k' button remain exposed to the idiocies of such posters.

Elsewhere, it's not clear whom the negatively-rated posters are trying to impress — if anyone. More likely they're just trying to get something, anything, out on the interwebs, so that their visibility increases.

The ones I'm most familiar with (from running lists and web forums) are like the loudmouths in bars, with an opinion on everything, and almost all of it wrong; but it's not clear if this is the type of poster the researchers were dealing with.

Re:Plonk (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 4 months ago | (#47027949)

it's not clear whom the negatively-rated posters are trying to impress

They aren't trying to impress anybody. Since nobody knows before they post whether any given post is going to be upvoted or downvoted (OK, it is possible: simple even to craft posts that will reliably achieve broad acceptance or anger on pretty much any forum), there's little incentive for trying to impress. It's also impossible to predict which forum members will see a post and which will choose to judge it by voting.

As it is, I suspect that a large number of up or down votes are obtained simply from the biases and beliefs of the voting population - and that hardly anyone is impressed or influenced by what they read on internet forums (any more) - and even fewer people care whether a bunch of people they've never met hold a strong opinion in agreement or disagreement with what they have said.

You don't say. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027823)

The researchers have a better suggestion for social networks: 'Given that users who receive no feedback post less frequently, a potentially effective strategy could be to ignore undesired behavior and provide no feedback at all.' Would Slashdotters agree?"

Basically "Don't feed the trolls", in a nutshell. Trouble is there's always someone around who takes the bait. Surprised there isn't a study that spells out the obvious here as well.

Slashdot's moderating system (5, Insightful)

Solandri (704621) | about 4 months ago | (#47027843)

That's the criticism, well maybe that's too strong a word... That's the critique I've had of Slashdot's moderating system. By allowing both up-votes and down-votes, you create a system where the voice of the majority can drown out the voice of the minority. I've often seen people here express the mistaken belief that if a minority viewpoint is introspective or informative, it will survive the unfair downvotes and rise to the top. It doesn't work that way.

The average ranking is not rank = up - down. It's rank = p1*up - p2*down. Where p1 is the size of the population which would rank it up, and p2 is the size of the population which would rank it down. A minority viewpoint consequently gets a disproportionate number of unfair downvotes simply because it's a minority viewpoint, and thus has to garner a lot more upvotes just to obtain an equal ranking to a majority viewpoint.

For an apolitical, non-religious example, consider Windows vs. Linux. Say Windows users outnumber Linux users 50:1. Now imagine if a search engine let you rate search results based on whether they were useful or not useful, which is then used to prioritize subsequent search results. In every population, there's going to be an idiot segment who votes stuff down simply because they don't like it, not because it was inaccurate or irrelevant it was to their query. Consequently, if a search for hard disk repartitioning brings up four Windows sites and one Linux site as the top results, the Linux site is going to have 50x as many downvotes from those idiot users who never specified Windows in their search but were upset that an "irrelevant" Linux site was included in the search results. If the idiot segment of the Windows population exceeds 2% (numerically equivalent to 100% of the Linux population), that Linux site will end up with a negative rating regardless of how useful or informative it is.

I say "criticism" is too strong a word because neither way is the "right" way to do it. They are just different. A moderating/ranking system which only allows upvotes simply generates different results from a moderating system which allows both upvotes and downvotes. Sometimes the former is more useful; sometimes the latter is more useful. The important thing is to understand the limitations of both and how it will bias the rankings, and not fall into the mistaken belief that a minority viewpoint has just as easy a time reaching +5 on Slashdot as a majority viewpoint. If a contrary viewpoint reaches +5 on Slashdot, it must be making a helluva good point.

Idiot segment (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027923)

The idiot segment in windooze users is largest! Windooze population has most viruses!

Re:Slashdot's moderating system (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 4 months ago | (#47027997)

For an apolitical, non-religious example, consider Windows vs. Linux.

Surely that's the greatest and most politicised holy war ever? You make a good point though.

Anyway, when I read TFS (no, of course I didn't RTFA) I immediately thought of Bennett. Somehow the story moderating system (firehose) fails and lets through a lot of his stories, which are always ripped to shreds by the comments. This only seems to encourage an even lower standard in the future.

Re:Slashdot's moderating system (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 4 months ago | (#47028233)

Somehow the story moderating system (firehose) fails

Somehow? Are you not aware that firehose is advisory only, and that the rankings attained in it have no effect upon which stories post?

I disagree (3, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 4 months ago | (#47028011)

Yes larger population could in theory tromp down a smaller one.

But generally a larger population is more complacent and less likely to do anything, where a smaller population is more vigorous.

I've voiced some unpopular opinions here. Yes sometimes I'm modded down. But pretty often I'm also modded up, so on average I feel the result is actually pretty fair - over time my voice is heard, despite blips of silence.

Read at -1 for a bit before you truly claim that down-moderation is not needed... or at least if not down, some people just need an off switch.

I think a combination of user moderation along with a handful of overseers that address the more egregious moderation abuses by the mobs, would be the way to go.

Re:I disagree (4, Interesting)

dbc (135354) | about 4 months ago | (#47028059)

What I find interesting is that over the years here on Slashdot, when I've posted an unpopular opinion it tends to simply get ignored. But.... unpopular *data*, now that is what brings out the pitchforks and torches. There is nothing that angers people so much as to be confronted with uncomfortable facts.

Re:I disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028131)

A smaller active subgroup of majority viewpoint is still much much greater than active subgroup of minority viewpoint.
It's not a theory, it's a known and well-researched consequence of direct democracy, and why democratic countries are not direct, but representative.
Often on social media sites like /., the common "someone is wrong on the internet"-reaction will ensure to activate enough members to overpower the minority as well.
And, let's be honest: As long as you can cherry-pick the "right minority", the minority is ALWAYS leading the next trend and being more insightful.
IOW, the masses are statistically always "more wrong" and behind the curve.
However, this does not mean every minority has more right though.

This post will get modded down because it is entirely individual, insightful, conflicts with herd-think and does not massage egos with a straight-forward conclusion that supports an already established and unfounded viewpoint.

What's funny about "rational people" is that even though their entire "machinery" can be proved irrational, they themselves manage to convince themselves to be entirely rational and believable. It's kind of a mental disease, or a quest for perfection, by an imperfect being that does not tolerate to analyze itself honestly.

Re:I disagree (2)

fyngyrz (762201) | about 4 months ago | (#47028245)

This post will get modded down because it is entirely individual, insightful, conflicts with herd-think and does not massage egos with a straight-forward conclusion that supports an already established and unfounded viewpoint.

It starts out modded down because your anonymous status is incorrectly conflated with low value by the site's basic posting and default reading mechanisms.

Re:I disagree (2)

SunTzuWarmaster (930093) | about 4 months ago | (#47028297)

I agree with the parent poster. I feel that my voice is rarely silenced due to simple unpopularity. Browsing at -1 indicates mostly that -1 posters suck. More common than this is that my posts are average (in the noise), which is probably an accurate reflection of my posting nature (small additions filling the the corners or highlighting a previous argument).

On the moderation side, I rarely downmoderate. I downmod in one of a very few cases: poster is a jerk/troll, poster has contributed nothing, poster is provably wrong in a manner which indicates erroneous conclusions.

Re:Slashdot's moderating system (2)

Vellmont (569020) | about 4 months ago | (#47028255)

I think you're onto something about up/down votes. Reddit has a system where you can sort by "controversial" but that in itself is a problem since it's just a pain in the butt to have to sort through two different systems of moderating.

The one system I REALLY dislike is the only positive system of upvotes. The most obvious problem is there's little means to correct information that turns out to be innaccurate.

Say someone posts something that initially looks extremely promissing and gets highly rated. Someone else posts a rebuttal that completely destroys the argument, and only create miss-information. But yet that initial high rating is very hard to get rid of, since there's no negative feedback.

The other problem is that with no negative feedback, it's hard to filter out the utter dreck and crap. If everything starts at 0, and can never go lower than 0, how do you get rid of the spam, nonsense, offtopic shit, poor posts, etc? That needs to get lowered down to a level below the fresh posts, otherwise it's just hard to wade through all the dreck to find something to boost.

Unintended consequences (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 4 months ago | (#47027849)

authors of negatively-evaluated content contribute more

So if you want to increase the number of posts to your forum, down-vote everybody?

I guess this is the problem when people try to apply the psychology of the real-world to entirely made-up worlds, or forums. Places where nobody really has any idea about the true identity (or identities) of the participants - and where reputation counts for little: since anyone can "press the button" and start again with a new identity - placing a value of zero on their forum-persona's reputation.

Re:Unintended consequences (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 4 months ago | (#47027983)

You cannot really be active in a forum and start over as too many people will find similarities in your posting styles and wording and connect the dots. You can usually find out who has sock puppet accounts in much the same way, people will make mistakes and allow the account's styles to bleed into each other giving someone notice if they interact a lot with them.

That being said, increasing the number of negative votes may increase the number of posts, but it sort of races to the bottom as posters will not openly share their ideas or thoughts. Nothing becomes truly insightful or interesting anymore if the topic have cultist like followers. With some categories or topics, some posters will completely ignore them because of it too. Take global warming for instance, there are about 2 dozen die hard fanatics who will post and argue with about everyone on it if your get anything outside of the script they believe to be the truth. If you reply and argue with them, then you end up with mass down modding of posts not even in that article that could have even received up modding previously. While the practice has gone down here, it still happens. People get mod points and pick someone's posting history and wastes most of them on down modding that person in an attempt to remove any karma benefit or discourage their posting. And yes, with bad karma, you are limited to how much you can post- even posting AC.

The two biggest topics I see this with is generally anything political and global warming which is mostly political.

Re:Unintended consequences (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 4 months ago | (#47028053)

You cannot really be active in a forum and start over as too many people will find similarities in your posting styles

But there are so many forums - few of which are any better than any other - though some are more popular. So there would be no reason to start a new account on the same one (even if you'd got banned) you were on previously - and for forums with thousands of contributors, I doubt that anyone would notice if you did. If people really do only post for their own entertainment (which might be a more truthful reason than the conceit that they have something IMPORTANT to say) then they'd just switch to a new forum and post their stuff there.

I can't speak about global warming, but I do have experience on some forums and (shock) I do get downvotes on occasion; Does it deter me? no! Does it encourage me? Again, no. Why not? Because I am not personally invested in the audience and I am not trying to "win" any arguments - or trying to convert any of those stranger to my own beliefs - just like I would never stand on a soap box and start preaching. Sometimes I post simply for LOLs and sometimes I post to "have my say" and other times I regard posting as just a way of carrying on an open conversation that others may join in - just like talking to people at a party. But I'm too realistic to think that anyone who reads my stuff is a "fan" or respects my views, or even understands what I say. I would suggest that most posters are similarly motivated and that if there was a hostile group who continually criticised them, they'd most to a more welcoming forum.

Re:Unintended consequences (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 4 months ago | (#47028263)

I'm not a fan of the people here, I'm a fan of the conversations- that used to happen and sometimes still does happen here.

There are other forums like you pointed out. Most of them are crap if you want to read anything half way intelligent that isn't locked in to a specific genre or area of expertise. It's certainly the reason why I've been around here for a little longer than you (actually, this is my second log in ID because I lost the password to my first years ago and had it associated with an email address I got rid of long before that but I didn't post, mostly read with my old UID). But there are times after they started allowing politics as a topic that I have second guessed that.

It's not really about what I do that attracts me to this site, it's about the conversations that take place- sometimes I'm involved sometimes I am not. Some of them are outright comical, some very intelligent and insightful, some trollish, and some just entertaining. You read true things about what you like and don't like and it doesn't always match your own opinions.

There are some who do think pushing their opinions or points are worth it. I've seen more than one thread dominated with people calling out sock puppet accounts. But if this is a forum you like, there is no reason to go elsewhere. Especially when you will not find most of what you can here.

Dislike function is positive reinforcement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47027901)

The prediction of operant conditioning predicts that positive reinforcement will increase behavior and negative reinforcement will reduce behavior. The report is not contesting operant conditioning it is only determining what sort of reinforcement the like and dislike function provide; reporting that the like function of these sites actually has little or no reinforcement and that the dislike function has a positive reinforcement toward unwanted behavior. This shows that it would be appropriate to say that there could be some debate on the meaning of like and dislike functions and what some appropriate alternatives may be.

    - Corbett Dehring

Re:Dislike function is positive reinforcement (1)

pipedwho (1174327) | about 4 months ago | (#47028041)

The prediction of operant conditioning predicts that positive reinforcement will increase behavior and negative reinforcement will reduce behavior. The report is not contesting operant conditioning it is only determining what sort of reinforcement the like and dislike function provide; reporting that the like function of these sites actually has little or no reinforcement and that the dislike function has a positive reinforcement toward unwanted behavior. This shows that it would be appropriate to say that there could be some debate on the meaning of like and dislike functions and what some appropriate alternatives may be.

    - Corbett Dehring

In addition to this, I'd suggest that trolling can be likened to bullying in the sense that the negative response of the victimised party (or group) encourages continued trolling behaviour. And negative in this context is really about the negative feelings of the reader being communicated through the use of the like/dislike up/down vote.

Without that communication or feedback, the trolling/teasing/bullying behaviour has no reinforcement path, and the troll/bully moves on to greener pastures.

I for 1 am proud of my 1 (0)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 4 months ago | (#47027915)

<pedantic>

Score 1 is great. Means large portion offended. Means masses
don't like outliers. Means so what else is new. Means got if off
my chest and good night baby.
</pedantic>

Technical Subjects need Correct Answers (3, Interesting)

wispoftow (653759) | about 4 months ago | (#47027991)

I'm afraid that this article touches on what I perceive as a growing problem: it's the notion that "Everyone's answers and opinions are right and have value."

This might be fine in some areas where many things are subjective, in which case the axiom "there's no disputing taste" is appropriate. In these cases, then I agree that one should probably hold one's criticism.

But especially in the technical areas, such as computer programming and the physical sciences, the laws of physics and logic often times point to a more correct answer. In my own work, I find that I am constantly wading through massive amounts of literature, and wondering -- what the hell happened to peer review that used to weed much of the crap out? Eventually, wrong answers and half-baked opinions stack up to warp reality, such that it is difficult to find or promote the few rigorous and correct.

I think it's a similar situation on peer-reviewed sites like Stack Exchange. Often times, the posted opinions for solution to a problem run the freaking gamut. I am glad that a lot of the good opinions (based on sound reasoning and experience) are boosted up, but the dreck (based on fuzzy thinking, old wive's tales, and "antipatterns") are ranked downward, thus giving some help to an interested third party (such as me) who really doesn't have time to be patient and P.C.

Disclaimer: the right answer can be the minority opinion -- which may have been knocked hard by other reviewers. Here I am speaking about the 99% of the time that the best answer is the most highly rated.

looks a lot like sponsor censorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028005)

maybe it's just me http://tech.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=5171465&cid=47027709 or this http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=world+wakes+up

Who gets to "vote"? Is there "meta-moderation?" (1)

davidwr (791652) | about 4 months ago | (#47028043)

It probably makes a difference.

If "just anyone" can vote and there is no way to evaluate the quality of the voters, then the "wisdom of the crowd" may not be so wise and those who are "voted down" and whose goal is to maximize the number of voted-up posts may simply "route around it" by increasing the number of total posts, sacrificing quality along the way.

In the /. model, "votes" are scarce resources (5 moderation points every few weeks with a quick expiration), only usable for topics which you probably aren't "involved" in (if you comment while logged in, all of your related moderations are un-done), handed out only to those who have demonstrated some sustained level of "good conduct" (low karma = no mod points for you) and they are "watched over" by the community (meta-moderation). From the looks of things when I meta-moderate, Slashdot moderators are more likely to think before voting something up or down and as a result the "quality" of the "total vote" is likely to be higher.

As a result, if you take out the "inexperienced newcomers" and "immature commentators" whose first few posts happen to get down-voted and the trolls who don't care or who thrive on "-1 troll," most people will have the pleasure of seeing some of their posts "voted up" before the first or second time they see one get down-voted, and are therefore in a position to see what kinds of posts are likely to get them "good karma" and what kinds are likely to get "voted down." Since most "regulars" probably CARE about "good karma" for the perks it brings or at least they care about not being marked as "karma = -1," they will be motivated to not routinely post low-quality stuff.

Preparing to see my karma drop in 3...2...1...

Depends a lot on the "negative" feedback (3, Insightful)

seebs (15766) | about 4 months ago | (#47028103)

People who are trying to get "negative" responses are not getting negative conditioning, they're getting what they want.

The trick is to give them feedback they don't want, not necessarily obviously "negative" feedback.

Re:Depends a lot on the "negative" feedback (1)

NotInHere (3654617) | about 4 months ago | (#47028215)

I don't think so. I think most trolls always like attention, whether they get negative feedback or positive.

What is upvote/downvote really for? (2)

Vellmont (569020) | about 4 months ago | (#47028195)

I've never thought it was supposed to promote one kind of behavior or another. Upvote/Downvote is a means to improve signal/noise ratio, and make it possible for tens of thousands of people to communicate. It's a form of moderating, and frankly that's how it's always been. That's how slashdot was designed, and why we call it moderating, not "social conditioning". It works relatively well for what it's supposed to and certainly better than nothing at all (though I prefer reddits moderation system where there's not a limit of 5 to a post, and everyone can moderate all the time). I've never heard anyone express the idea it's a form of conditioning.

To me the idea that receiving attention (no matter if it's good or bad) is encouraging behavior, while being ignored discourages behavior isn't all that surprising. We're social creatures that evolved in groups of 150. Being "cast out" of the group is the ultimate in shame. People have used ignoring others as a form of punishment for a LONG time. Hell, that's what a kill list was for way back in the 90s on Usenet. That's exactly what the Amish do via shunning when they want to control peoples behaviour. It's the same with other social species like dogs as well. If your dog bites you for instance, the best thing to do is to ignore it for several days. Don't look at it, act like the dog doesn't exist. When it's time to feed the dog, have someone else from outside your house feed the dog. Dogs DO NOT want to be outside the pack. If you punish the dog, you're really just engaging it and playing a dominance game. If you simply ignore it and make the dog think it's no longer in the pack... it'll get the message. Being outside the pack= death. The same is true in human interaction as well.

Pharyngula (2)

AndyKron (937105) | about 4 months ago | (#47028209)

Oh, like Pharyngula.

better alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028261)

I think that, much of the time, it would be to provide negative feedback in a more constructive manner. See, for instance, Crucial Conversations by Patterson et al, or Marshall Rosenberg's work on nonviolent communication.

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47028315)

I'd like to see either /. or reddit implement a policy where users can upvote comments they like but offer no votes on comments they don't like. Let's make this an experiment. I'd hypothesize that reddit's content in particular would vastly improve and the influence of its mods on what gets on the front page reduced. Which would be a good thing.

My two cents (3, Interesting)

hduff (570443) | about 4 months ago | (#47028387)

My thoughts are that posting in on-line communities is done mostly for reasons of self-esteem (although there are obviously other motivations) by people whose task is to share and receive useful-to-them information.

If your self-esteem is high, the post itself provides the validation and positive or negative comments have little to no effect on what you post since validation is intrinsic.

If your self-esteem is low, validation comes through feedback. Positive feedback is then seen to come from kindred souls and negative feedback from trolls. In both cases, validation is extrinsic and therefore has a volatile effect on the poster.

My problem with TFA is what they quantify as "better" content. People post using words, phrases and grammar that they come equipped with; their level of education is fixed for the most part; their real-life experience and socialization is essentially fixed for the short run. Their ideas and opinions are already formed. There will not be any substantial improvement in the quality of what people post, no matter what the feedback is.

Obviously, we need to fund more studies, especially studies done at exotic locales and funded by government money.

Other uses of feedback (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 4 months ago | (#47028395)

The key is that not all feedback is directed at the author. As in the case of slashdot one of the biggest benefits of feedback is to clean out the cruft. Without this slashdot would be one big "make money fast, lose weight, and invest in Nigeria" forums.

Also the question isn't always one of looking at the authors as an average. I suspect that many authors are able to use any feedback quite nicely. If you read the comments on New Scientist (which I love) the comments are pretty much useless. But in some forums I learn great things. Slashdot has given me some real gems, an appreciation for Python, a better domain host, a better server host, and interesting product lines such as Arduino. But in obtaining these gems I have still had to wade through miles of religeous arguments of Java vs C++ and so on.
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