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Why do I downvote something?

by ibanix (Hermit)
on Jan 29, 2003 at 03:38 UTC ( #230851=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Hello fellow monks.

I've been doing some thinking about the moderation system lately. I'm not intending to turn this into a full-fledged discussion over the merits and problems of the XP and voting system. God help me if it does turn into that.

What's been troubling me lately is how I apply my votes. At this point I have 25 votes per day. That's a lot! I rarely read the site long enough to spend all my votes everyday. I'm too busy trying to get some piece of code to work.

I usually find that I apply different rules to upvoting and downvoting nodes depending on where they are. Well-written or thoughtful top-level nodes always get a ++ from me; good or clever code responses also get a ++ from me.

But why do I downvote something? I have a short list for myself: It attacks someone or something; it's a completely incorrect answer; the post is spelled very badly; the post is one giant long line with no breaks, or similar gramatic snafus; it's a rip-off.

Some of those make me pause. The voting guidelines are a great start, but they don't address things like horrible spelling and grammar. Should I downvote those people for not taking the time to clean up their questions; or should I have more sympathy for our non-english speaking friends? What about nodes that appear to be honest questions, but the poster just wasn't very smart in how he posted them, ala this node? Then there are the questions which aren't really perl questions,

Hi I'm trying to make this cgi script work on my apache server, but I just keep getting a blank page in the browser, can someone please help me with this, k thx bye

and it turns out after much discussion to be a problem with how Apache is configured, not the script. Downvote? Ignore? Upvote the people who answered and downvote the top node? It's a weird, vague line, and I'd like to know how other monks handle the power of the downvote.


$ echo '$0 & $0 &' > foo; chmod a+x foo; foo;

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Why do I downvote something?
by diotalevi (Canon) on Jan 29, 2003 at 04:37 UTC

    I find it's not worth stressing over. Sure you could work up some completely self-consistent logical system for voting but wouldn't you rather be out dancing?

    Seeking Green geeks in Minnesota

      Agreed; it is not worth stressing over. Given that, I have 3 main rules:
      1. If a nodes is likely to be helpful to someone, ++
      2. If not, no-vote
      3. If a node is mean or rude (very rare IMO), --

      I am here to learn and am thankful to all of you for making this a wonderful site.

      "That is the best engineering, not which makes the most splendid, or even the most perfect, work, but that which makes a work that answers the purpose well, at the least cost"
      --Ashbel Welch, President ASCE 1882
      wouldn't you rather be out dancing?

      No, I have two left feet. Give me a good movie or some anime any day.

      I'm so unsocial I don't even notice the lack of it anymore...


      $ echo '$0 & $0 &' > foo; chmod a+x foo; foo;

        Okay, wouldn't you rather be out programming a better moderation system? It would save the Perl(monks) community about 1000 programmer hours/week.

        If you need other suggestions, just ask. I have lots of work I'd like done for free 8-D

Re: Why do I downvote something?
by Coruscate (Sexton) on Jan 29, 2003 at 08:54 UTC

    You have to do as you are doing: using your brain to decide with each and every vote applied. I find that in one day, I rarely vote on different nodes for the same reason. The entire contents of a node (as a whole) need to be evaluated to come up with an honest vote. You can't just look at one element of a node and make your decision on that: if you do, your votes most likely do not reflect what the answer, question or comment deserves to receive.

    Myself, I vote based on the following things, from least important to most important:

    • Title: This is the tiniest matter and I have yet to downvote a node** based on its title. But I do admit to looking at the title once in a while: I'm waiting for the day when someone prepends "God you're stupid, here's how to do it:" to their title. Will it ever happen? Probably not, but I wouldn't want to upvote a node with such a title now would I? :)

    • Spelling: I have never downvoted a node** because of its spelling. Yes, some of the content may be difficult to read and some may be downright annoying to read through (ie: the ones that look like a 5 year old wrote them), but you really must keep in mind that not everyone on this planet speaks/writes/types perfect English. If perlmonks were a Spanish site, I know I'd be wishing for merciful people here :) On the other hand, it seems as though some people write the least amount possible: all they are looking for is an answer, so all they post is "I need {insert some short description of a problem} to happen. Do it for me. Help.". These do often irritate me, but I have no way of knowing whether it's a lazy and demanding person or if it is someone that cannot speak better English. In these cases, I simply do not vote on the node at all: no negative vote given**.

    • Formatting: This one can sometimes be difficult to handle. If someone forgets, doesn't know, or incorrectly uses tags such as <code>, <readmore>, <p>, <br />, the first thing I do is look at the source for the page. Probably around 90% of the time, the contents of the node (including code snippets) is quite readable from the source. Besides, I know that the node will be considered for an edit and the formatting will be fixed. I don't go "damn, stupid people who don't format their nodes properly", I look at the user's home node and their previous posts. If they are a new user, they shouldn't be expected to immediately know about the <code> tags, etc. Yes, it'd be nice if everyone first read the site docs before attempting to post, but that is an unrealistic request. So, if they're new, I cut them some slack. If they are level 5 (like me currently) or even level 10, I still cut them some slack and don't -- them**. Yes, by now they should know how to format their nodes, but everyone makes mistakes. Though by level 5-10, I would hope people knew the use of previewing their posts.

    • Introduction: For root nodes in any section on the site, I look for a decent introduction to the problem, question, code snippet, or whatever else is being posted. In a perfect world, I'd be able to ++ or -- a node** based on the first paragraph of the node. There should be one or two paragraphs that explain the nature of the post, followed by readmore tags. Reading that/those first paragraph(s) should tell me whether or not I am interested in clicking 'Read more...' to see more. However, this is not a perfect world, and sometimes the quality of the introduction does not match that of the node content. So, while the introduction sets up my first impression of the node, it does NOT determine my vote for the node.

    • Node content: This is, of course, the most important aspect of any post: if your post is completely void of content, there is nothing to read and nothing to base a vote on. Even with a great introduction, if you're setting up for absolutely nothing, well... that doesn't get you anywhere. Besides, I doubt people write up an intro to their question, answer, code or comment and stop there. :) There are several ways that I look at node content:

      • If this is a root node that asks for a solution to a problem, is there any evidence that the user has even attempted to solve his/her own problem? Is there code that the user tried that for some reason or other fails to get the job done? I like to see that the person has tried something (heck, anything!) to get things going. There have been a couple of times where I've --'ed a node** because all that was said was more or less a rude 'put together something for me that does this that and the next thing'.

      • If this is a reply to a node, is the answer relevant to the question? I am waiting with my -- vote** for the day that someone asks 'How do I turn taint mode on in a CGI script' and gets a response of 'Look at'. :}

      • If it's an answer to a question, was the answer provided well thought-out or researched? I like to see replies that attempt to answer the user's question or that recommend methods in which to figure it out for themselves. Yes, 'add use strict and -w' can be helpful, but not if the user doesn't know what 'use strict' means, let alone where in a script to put it. IMO, it's nice if the reply indicates what kind of error strict or warnings might produce and what this error may indicate. I don't expect to see a full explanation as to what each and every error or warning means, but maybe an indication as to where the problem(s) lie.

      • Does a pereson replying to a node look at the other replies before posting their own answer? And/or is the answer provided a carbon copy of someone else's reply? This one is a little irritating but I can't *always* make a clear judgement on this one. If I understand things correctly, the timestamps shown on posts are those of the timezone in which the user who posted the node is. So yes, it often happens that more than one person is typing in the same solution to a question at the same time, and you end up with multiple people providing the same answer to a question. This is one time where Newest Nodes comes in handy. If two replies to one question answer it in the exact same manner and appear on the Newest Nodes page together or within an hour or two of each other, I tend to not vote -- on the second one supplied. However, if a day passes between responses and the exact same answer pops up in a second reply, I get slightly irate. This shows me that either the person replying did not read through the existing replies to see if his/her answer was already posted, or they saw someone else answer it and copied their answer in hopes of gaining a few measly XP. Now, as for replies that come in later that answer the same question using __different__ mechanics, I usually ++ those. I love seeing different views as to how to attack a problem, especially when it motivates many people to try new ways of solving things.

      • User's signature: This is the most important part of a post! Man, nothing irritates me more than a crappy user signature. Some of the ones out there are so crazy and useless that I -- any nodes** of the authors who think they can get away with such things! Ah okay, I lie. A signature has nothing to do with the quality of a post, so these don't even come into play with my voting 'procedures.' I am most lucky that signatures aren't quite so important, otherwise I'd be at -99999 XP! I needed to throw in some dry humor to craze things up a bit after all that typing :)

    ** Disclaimer: these are the general guidelines of the way I myself vote. In no way whatsoever am I hoping to change the way you vote, as everyone views things differently. Heck, I myself don't always follow the guidlines I posted above, as they sometimes just don't apply to the node in question. There are always exceptions! I doubt that any two people here vote on nodes based on the same criteria. It may not appear evident from the above, so I'll state it here: I rarely actually downvote a node: I almost always just leave the node alone, not voting in either direction. I prefer to upvote good-quality nodes over downvoting ones that "I, supreme ruler of the entire universe", deem to be bad. :)

    (Finally, as for formatting, I hope the embedded lists don't make the page too wide for anyone. I need to learn of ways to stay away from <ol> and <ul>. Perhaps I need to learn how to write in paragraphs!)

          C:\>shutdown -s
          >> Could not shut down computer:
          >> Microsoft is logged in remotely.

    A reply falls below the community's threshold of quality. You may see it by logging in.
Re: Why do I downvote something?
by Marza (Vicar) on Jan 29, 2003 at 06:18 UTC

    At least you have a system. I suspect many vote for the sake of voting(xp whoring).

    I tend to not hold grammer or spelling against people. You simply don't know if english is a second language.

    As to your quandry; well as diotalevi suggested; it is not worth stressing over.

      At least you have a system. I suspect many vote for the sake of voting(xp whoring).

      Why would it make a difference? XP doesn't matter, right?

        No it actually doesn't matter. People get too concerned over titles/levels and XP. It is the same all over. A game site I am on, people rush to get the highest level and get rather violent if posts get deleted, or they loose levels. As I have said there and vroom has said here "A million XPs and a cup of coffee gets you a cup of coffee"

        What I am calling is the voting for the xp is when you see a post that basically says "Yea you're right" and it has 10 votes. Heck, Merlyn can make a strange post and he would probably get 15 points for it.

        My only gripe about the XP whoring is the fact they rush to get bad posts(ie --'d heavily) removed. Sometimes these posts can actually teach things.

Re: Why do I downvote something?
by Gilimanjaro (Hermit) on Jan 29, 2003 at 15:59 UTC
    I don't have much to add to the previous replies, except that I must say that anyone that downvotes a post because it's 'not written in proper English' in my opinion should be booted from perlmonks for of unholy behaviour...

    If a foreign person decides to post, and tries his best English, always remember that his English is probably better than your mastery of the poster's native language...

    I'm Dutch myself, and the Dutch usually have a pretty decent control of english (or languages in general even) but that is mainly because our culture doesn't shield us from the English language by dubbing every single tv programme, which does happen in almost every other (non english-speaking) country...

    I'd like to see one of you yanks try a post in Dutch! :)

Re: Why do I downvote something?
by Bismark (Scribe) on Jan 29, 2003 at 12:54 UTC
    I have to agree with drat on this one. If the post looks like it might prove useful to several Monks, and is well written, eg. succinct, history to the issue, straightforward question, etc. then ++. Otherwise if it is just an uneducated way at asking a question, then I am most likely to ignore. If the post is insulting, rude or shows that the person did not read the rules for posting then I might consider a downvote. Since I was in that position myself just a short time ago I am more likely to just learn from the more experienced Monk's that reply.


    "Yet what are all such gaieties to me
    Whose thoughts are full of indices and surds?"
    quotes the Lama
Re: Why do I downvote something?
by blackstarr (Friar) on Jan 30, 2003 at 06:30 UTC
    This is not an issue particular to PerlMonks, but to any forum of any Special Interest Group. In my (admittedly limited) experience, the choice of whether to vote for or against a specific thread is almost always subjective.

    If I, as an enlightened and unbiased person (yeah, right!), were to choose the criteria for up or down voting a specific person’s opinion/question/rant on a specific issue, how would I go about it? What constitutes an OBJECTIVE criterion? In whose opinion? No matter who you ask, you’d get a different list, with different prioritisations within those lists.

    So, in my own enlightened way, I ignore others’ criteria and choose my own, they being:

    1.) Does it pertain to the Special Interest shared by the specific forum? (A great discussion of the pros & cons of swing-arm shock absorbing systems for dirt-bikes vs. street bikes would be great at a Hells Angels get together … and absolutely inappropriate here.)

    2.) Does it communicate one central point/question clearly, or does it either ramble incoherently over the countryside (like this post), or communicate the one point poorly. Here I am not talking about grammar, spelling, or style, but about CLARITY. The use of language is to take an idea/fact/question from my mind and implant it in your mind. If that is achieved, I care less about how polished that language is.

    3.) Does it show that the person posting has done their bit in researching the issue (by Reading The Fabulous Manual, searching previous posts, etc, etc)? Personally I think there is no such thing as a stupid question (Here on PerlMonks, I am “stupid”, elsewhere, in my own bailiwick, I am considered an expert – not in Perl), but there are certainly “stupid” people. They are the ones who are not prepared to think about something first before asking for a free ride from the community.

    4.) Does it stick to the subject, or does it get "personal"? Granted there are people who need a sharp answer now and then, but most poor average Joes (or Janes), just need to be gently told what is expected of them to do it right next time.

    Those, for what it’s worth, are my criteria. Undoubtedly they are not those shared by a large number of the Monks, but that is my whole point … it is, and will always be, subjective.

    The moment we start “voting”, we admit to subjectivity, that is the nature of the human beast.

    So Long

Re: Why do I downvote something?
by sauoq (Abbot) on Jan 29, 2003 at 20:38 UTC

    Here's a method I like...

    In your user settings, set "Note ordering" (in the Miscellaneous section) to "Best" and then use your votes to try to arrange the replies in a thread.

    For instance, if there are two replies in a thread and the first (reading from the top) is not as good a reply as the second one, then upvote the second. If that doesn't make it rise to the top position, then downvote the first one. Whether you succeed in swapping their positions doesn't really matter. Recording your opinion of the nodes relative to each other does.

    "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";

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