The one-way thumb

Disqus, the commenting system favored by some of the bigger sites, has gone on one of those “If you can’t say something nice…” kicks and has deprecated the downvote — though the upvote remains. Will Truman is okay with that:

I used to like the idea of upvotes and downvotes, but the more I saw them in action the more skeptical of them I have become. It was my hope, when I was introduced to the concept, that generally polite and well thought out comments would get upvotes and pointless snark would get downvotes. At least on the sites that I read and participate on which tend to have commenters that are more polite and thoughtful.

However, even “good” commenting sections have their bad apples, of course, who seem to be there to disrupt the discourse. They also tend to have lurkers who don’t comment but do vote who may veer hard on one side or the other. In either case, voting seems to attract people looking for “Boo-yah” comments instead of carefully considered ones, because the upvotes and downvote tallies I see tend to lean towards which side of the argument they’re taking instead of the actual content of their message.

Yep. Stephen Stills anticipated this in 1967: “A thousand people in the street / Singing songs and carrying signs / Mostly saying, ‘Hooray for our side’.” It’s hard to expect much more from them under the circumstances.

And I can’t argue with this:

If wanting a more positive commenting atmosphere makes me a namby-pamby feminized dude or whatever, I am pretty okay with that. Heaven knows there are more than enough sites that are battle arenas. So eliminating downvoting makes a lot of sense from their point of view. Obviously, Hit Coffee doesn’t generate the sort of comment traffic to make such an endeavor worthwhile, though if it did I would try to go in the upvote direction.

It would be better if Disqus gave siterunners the option of upvotes only, downvotes only, or both. But absent that, I would prefer upvoting only over a requirement for both.

Some nonblogs have comment systems based on thumbs. Yahoo! Answers allows for up- and downvotes on any answer given to any question. I don’t pay the slightest bit of attention to them, except when someone has reported me for excessive snark. (There have been two such incidents; I won one on appeal and blew off the other.)

And then there’s Fimfiction, where I post my pony tales. I am extremely sensitive to downvotes there, and I have noticed that they come a lot more quickly than do upvotes. The most reasonable explanation for this, I think, is that some people simply object to some subjects being covered and won’t actually read the story before thumbing it down. Certainly The Sparkle Chronicles, which ventures into some territory a substantial percentage of the fandom finds disquieting and perhaps distasteful, followed this pattern: after a month or so, the thumb ratio was 15 up, 5 down. Today it’s 82 up, 6 down. (For all the stuff I’ve posted there, it’s 278 up, 22 down.) Still, I’m bound to take these particular votes personally, since they represent, or pretend to represent, a referendum on whether I have any talent or not. (Most days, I lean toward “not.”)

IntenseDebate, which I see mostly at Equestria Daily, is upvotes only; weirdly, if you’re registered with them at the outset, you get +1 on a comment the moment it’s posted.


  1. backwoods conservative »

    7 June 2014 · 5:23 pm

    I recently hit the roof with one local TV station over their comments section. WYFF uses Disqus and readers have the option of flagging comments they consider inappropriate. That option is being abused badly by some bad apples who are succeeding in getting comments removed just because they don’t like them. The response from WYFF is that they believe in letting the community set the standards and that I have the option of voting down comments I don’t like.

    That’s a very noble sentiment but it isn’t working well in practice. A liberal commenter with whom I have very little area of agreement engaged in an honest and civil debate with each other. He conducted himself so well that I thanked him for the civil discourse. Most of our exchange with each other either disappeared altogether or were listed as waiting for moderation, and he told me it would happen.

    If that’s the way it’s going to be WYFF should quit pretending they have a discussion forum.

  2. fillyjonk »

    7 June 2014 · 9:05 pm

    It’s like a version of Gresham’s Law. Only here, the Morlocks win.

  3. McGehee »

    7 June 2014 · 9:32 pm

    Take away the down-twinkles and you’ll get mass flaggings. I think the downvote tally needs to be brought back.

  4. CGHill »

    7 June 2014 · 11:44 pm

    Speaking of Fimfiction, a plaint arose today with the title “Will The Mods Please Get Their Heads Out Of Their Collective Asses?” One paragraph therefrom:

    I remember a time where the featured box was actually important. And then they moved it out of the top corner where it used to be, and around the same time shit started making it in. I’m not talking about my personal opinions, I’m talking about the upvotes and downvotes. There are only two statistics that matter when judging the quality of a story: Upvote to Downvote ratio and Upvote to View ratio. Total views are not important, as they are based on the success of your past works and your ability to market yourself as a writer, rather than on your abilities or the quality of your story. If a story has a lot of views but most people don’t like it, it’s not worthy of being paraded on the front page. You’re rewarding stories for sucking ass, at least according to popular opinion, and we all know how fickle that can be.

    Having never made it to the featured box, I probably won’t say anything.

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