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Is There A Palm Beach Butterfly Ballot Problem at Perlmonks?

by sierrathedog04 (Hermit)
on Feb 04, 2001 at 19:13 UTC ( #56310=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Postings on this site contain two radio buttons side-by-side. The symbol "++" is equidistant between the two, with the symbol "--" to the right of the rightmost radio button. To vote to upgrade or downgrade a post's "reputation" a user selects one or the other and then presses the vote button.

This layout constitutes a butterfly ballot similar to the one that the genius Therese LePore designed for the voters of Palm Beach. The "++" sign is equidistant between the two radio buttons; if one punches the hole immediately to the right of the "++" sign one has actually voted to downgrade not upgrade.

I noticed that I was downgrading posts that I actually liked this morning. Shades of Democrats voting for Patrick Buchanan!

Let's get rid of butterfly ballots everywhere, starting right here on

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Re: Is There A Palm Beach Butterfly Ballot Problem at Perlmonks?
by adamsj (Hermit) on Feb 04, 2001 at 21:06 UTC
    I think you've overstated the problem--but it wouldn't be hard to put a little more space between the buttons, and it wouldn't hurt to do so. (It might also be okay to put the null vote button between the ++ and the -- vote buttons.)


    They laughed at Joan of Arc, but she went right ahead and built it. --Gracie Allen

Re: Is There A Palm Beach Butterfly Ballot Problem at Perlmonks?
by epoptai (Curate) on Feb 04, 2001 at 19:23 UTC
    I can't help you with the difference between left and right but if you set "Null vote" to "on" in your user settings then each post contains three radio buttons side-by-side!
Re: Is There A Palm Beach Butterfly Ballot Problem at Perlmonks?
by ColonelPanic (Friar) on Feb 05, 2001 at 07:15 UTC
    I don't see any problem. In fact, maybe it's a feature. Having the less intelligent people of this community randomly ++ or -- would make their overall effect on the voting system be zero.

    Just joking, BTW. No offense intended ;)

    When's the last time you used duct tape on a duct? --Larry Wall
Re: Is There A Palm Beach Butterfly Ballot Problem at Perlmonks?
by chipmunk (Parson) on Feb 05, 2001 at 07:06 UTC
    FYI, the layout of the voting buttons on this site is not like the layout of the butterfly ballot used in the presidential election in Palm Beach. In the Palm Beach ballots, the holes were all lined up vertically, with the names on either side; hence "butterfly".

    Anyway, I do agree that separating the ++ label and the -- button here would be useful. I think a few   characters would do the trick.

      I would call the current Perl Monks voter interface a modified butterfly. A butterfly ballot occurs when a button or recording mechanism or punch hole is placed in between two labels. Only one of the two adjacent label is the applicable one, however.

      Some users, including me, may only see the ++ label and button immediately to the right of it. We are exactly like the Palm Beach voter-victim who said that he saw the label "Democratic" and a punch-hole to the right of the label. He further knew that under Florida law the second punch-hole on a ballot must go to the largest out-of-power party (which in Florida was the Democrats.) So he punched the hole to the right of the word "Democratic," but surprise! The user was supposed to read the other labels first. Bad design.

      The point is, the user looked at the interface in a different way than the designer intended. Good interface design is as unambiguous as possible. It permits even a user who only looks at part of the interface to make a wise choice.

(tye)Re: Is There A Palm Beach Butterfly Ballot Problem at Perlmonks?
by tye (Sage) on Feb 06, 2001 at 02:10 UTC

    Form elements are stripped from nodes so to see a minor modification that removes localized confusion go to my home node (for the next few days).

    I put each label adjacent to its own button and the neighbor's label so that no label is adjacent to its neighbor's button.

    Note that I changed the lable on the "null vote" option from "+=0" to "no vote" since one day I'd like to see an "abstain" option that acts like a vote in that it uses up one of your votes, lets you see the rep of the node, and prevents you from voting on that node in the future, but that is different in that it doesn't change the node's rep, and has no chance of giving you (or the node's author) XP.

            - tye (but my friends call me "Tye")
Re: Is There A Palm Beach Butterfly Ballot Problem at Perlmonks?
by cajun (Chaplain) on Feb 05, 2001 at 06:27 UTC
    How about aligning the buttons vertically rather than horizontally. Problem solved.
Re: Is There A Palm Beach Butterfly Ballot Problem at Perlmonks?
by Fastolfe (Vicar) on Feb 06, 2001 at 02:13 UTC
    I might consider an arrangement like:
    -- ( ) (*) ( ) ++
    The null vote being in the middle. I might actually go a step further and remove the "null vote" option from user preferences entirely. I view any radio button group that does not have one item selected by default to be broken, but that's just me. :)
      I think the purpose of a null vote is to allow a user to see what a post's reputation is. One can only see that information if one has already voted concerning the post.

      Otherwise seeing a post's reputation might affect the vote for or against that post.That would be sort of a late-polls-closing-in-Northern-Florida problem, but one that is effectively addressed here at by preserving the null vote option.

        A null vote does not show you the node's reputation. The existence of the null vote, to the best of my knowledge, has more to do with the browser choice of some perlmonks than to do with anything else. It also has that handy feature also mentioned - changing your mind before you hit the 'submit' button.
        The null vote does not actually cast a vote, so it doesn't let you see a comment's reputation. Its presence is just so that if you click on ++ or -- and later change your mind, you can "null" the vote out and submit the form (with the rest of your votes) without having to refresh the page to clear your click.
Re: Is There A Palm Beach Butterfly Ballot Problem at Perlmonks?
by Caillte (Friar) on Feb 05, 2001 at 21:11 UTC

    Suggestion: Drink more coffee ;)

    $japh->{'Caillte'} = $me;
Re: Is There A Palm Beach Butterfly Ballot Problem at Perlmonks?
by malaga (Pilgrim) on Feb 06, 2001 at 00:03 UTC
    when i first started using the site i didn't know what the buttons were for, and after a week or so i looked into it. it took me a few minutes to figure out WHY to punch it, and about 3 seconds to figure out WHERE to punch it. but people are different and eyes are different, and maybe some people have trouble focusing on it the way it is now.

    this is not a commentary on florida, btw.
      But don't you think that good interface design is important?

      If a feature of this site embodies bad design, then whether the feature actually gets fixed may matter less than discussing whether the feature embodies bad design and why.

      I would argue that an interface which takes a few seconds to figure out but that could be fixed to be unambiguous (e.g., listing the options one label per row in a non-butterfly fashion) is a bad interface design. That is a worthwhile observation.

      Sierrathedog04's Rule: On an HTML form, list the choices one label per row, or else space out the labels so that no radio button is ever equidistant between two labels. Since browsers ignore more than one consecutive space, one can space out labels by adding <pre>          </pre> to the start of the second label. The browser does not parse anything between the pre tags, so it preserves the extra whitespace.

        i would have done it differently myself...

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