We Have Comment Likes

Blog comments vary greatly in quality, and often low quality comments drive away readers and high quality comments. This blog is no exception.

We now have a “like” button in our comments section. If the people willing to like a comment have on average better taste than the people willing to write a comment, readers and authors could avoid low quality comments by focusing on the most liked comments. It isn’t obvious why this assumption should hold, but I thought likes probably couldn’t make comments much worse, so, why not give it a try.

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  • Billy Ray Cyrus

    Like dis if u cri evry time.

  • DW

    Or: writing is hard and reading/judging is easy.

    • Snackbar

      I would suggest that this is true of some people, whereas the reverse is true of others, and by and large input from the first type is more valuable.

    • Unnamed

      That’s a big part of it.

      Another part is that people avoid posting redundant comments. “Liking” allows people to keep adding emphasis to a good comment, instead of thinking “oh, someone already said what I wanted to” and leaving.  And since good comments are a narrower target than bad comments, this redundancy-aversion lets more bad comments through since they’re bad in different ways.

      A simple model: suppose that there are 10 possible good ideas about what to say in response to a post, and 90 possible bad ideas. Each reader has 1 idea, 50/50 whether it’s good or bad. If readers comment with their idea only if it hasn’t already been said, and there’s just a small number of commenters, the post will get a few comments with nearly 50% of them good. If there’s a large number of commenters, you’ll get a lot of comments with a bit over 10% of them good – much worse signal:nosie ratio. But if readers vote on comments, upvoting a comment that expresses the same idea that they had, then good comments will get upvoted 9x as much as bad comments so a larger readership will improve the signal:noise ratio.

  • Mathis
  • Vallinder

    This could also give Robin some incentive to respond to upvoted comments he would otherwise disregard.

    • Robin Hanson

      Yes, that makes good sense.

  • Mark M

    It would also be nice to have a “dislike” button to vote comments down. 

    Or maybe an “irrelevant” or “idiot” button.

    In any case, “Like” buttons on their own don’t seem to do much for readers without options to sort or filter.

    The Like button might help to encourage thoughtful posts for regular commenters if they are interested in feedback and building a reputation for high quality comments.

    • Brian Huntington

      I do think that “dislike” is just as important as “like”. Less Wrong’s Karma system seems to work very well. I suspect that the karma system there is a big part of why the discussions there are so much better than Overcoming Bias, even though OB has consistently better posts than Less Wrong (IMO).

      • Faul Sname

        Still, this is halfway there.

      • If all you want is an echo chamber, then a karma system like LW would work for that (just like it does on LW). 

        If you actually want to be aware of ideas that are outside your Overton Window and that you or others reading and posting comments might disagree with, then then you can’t set up a system to censor them before you read them. 

      • No comments are censored on LessWrong. Or at least, not purely because of downvoting. You can set your personal settings to totally ignore how other people have voted if you like, when you view comments. 

      • Tim Tyler

        That is not true – comments and whole posts have been deleted by the moderators.

      • The karma system of LW is just an elaborate scheme to confirm the world-view of Eliezer Yudkowsky and boost his status. 

        The whole EY/LW world-view consists of a few extreme one-dimensional ideas with little to no real-world justification.  Then everyone is expected to nod along and get ‘points’ by ‘confirming’  this nonsense with long-winded impressive sounding jargon.  It’s really quite bizarre.

        On the other hand, LW itself is a ‘honey-trap’ set up to stop smart people working on AI ….think about it…all the smart guys who would have been working on potentially dangerous AI are diverted into reading and writing additive LW posts all day indeed…in that sense it’s brilliant.

      • kyst

        The presence of ‘dislike’ may result in doubling the effects of votes (upvote one and downvote another). 

        Like – more people should see this
        Flag – irrelevant or malicious
        No Action – no strong opinion

        With no dislike option, you can never decide “this is relevant but less people should see this”.  It’s a reasonable decision.

    • Scott Messick

      I think “like” buttons are adequate and elegant in their simplicity.  Comments that are irrelevant/malicious will be identifiable by their lack of likes.  I find the decision of whether or not to like relatively easy compared with e.g. the decision of whether or not to downvote on LW.

      It looks like there is filtering; you can choose to sort by rating (dropdown box at the top of the comments).

      • Brian Huntington

        I suspect that a lot of malicious comments have strong narrow appeal to people who feel the same way. So someone says something that is hated by 15% of readers, disliked by 75% of readers, liked by 5% of readers and loved by 5% of readers. Lets say that only people who “love” comments bother to upvote them. If 100 people read the comment, in spite of the fact that the overwhelming majority hated or disliked the comment, it still shows up as +5. 

        That in no way accurately reflects the community’s views on the comment.

  • Vincent Arel-Bundock

    The assumption will hold in general 

  • david3368

    I wonder why Disqus doesn’t support meta-rating across sites.

  • A thumbs up/down system where comments with too many down votes are automatically hidden (usually there is an option for the user to click and open it if they want to still read it) might work better if you are trying to save people from having to read low quality comments. Not sure if you can do it with disqus though…

  • Owen CB

    I don’t think you need such a strong assumption for this to be a helpful measure. The issue with the assumption is that while liking is a matter of taste, this isn’t quite true of writing comments.

    Rather, the mechanism doing the work here seems to be that it’s easier to recognise a particularly insightful comment than it is to produce an insight of that level. And people may well contribute if they think they have something to add even if they don’t think theirs will be the best comment (or in a strong field, even above average).

    e.g. I realise this is the same point as DW made above — but it still seems worth elaborating on!

  • I have high disqus “rep.”

    Comment approval all depends on where you’re standing at the time as to how much of a hero or jerk you are.

    I see little use for it. After all, VOTING in elections is the ultimate “commentary like”
    so as we see, by the quality of the results
    just how well
    that works

    • Faul Sname

      I wonder how well a voting system with “vote for” and “vote against” would work.

    • *Super~Sayian*

      this might explain where this “high rep” came from I was referred too

  • Pingback: “Frictionless sharing” and internet speech « Blunt Object()

  • Douglas Knight

    In itself, “likes” are a good change, but they are bundled with a large number of changes to the comment system that I don’t like. In particular, javascript is now needed to read comments (and post) and the comments rss feed is broken.

    • Douglas Knight

      Also, permalinks to old comments are largely broken and only 20 comments display at a time. It won’t remember my name and email address, probably to punish me for not having an account.

      • Douglas Knight

        here is the new feed for new comments.

    • Douglas Knight

      My main complaint, reading comments without javascript, has been fixed. I think this is the only disqus site I have see that does it. Thanks!

      (PS – it remembered my name this time.)

  • Interesting thought in the last paragraph. I suspect the assumption holds because we are biased in various ways towards over-estimating the quality of our own comments. Some of it’s egotism, some of it’s just Illusion of Transparency (i.e. it’s hard for us to tell how clear we’re being.)

    Also, I participate in LessWrong, and in retrospect it often seems to me that my strongly upvoted comments are my better comments.

  • I said I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like itI said I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like itI said I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it, like it, yes, I doOh, well, I like it, I like it. I like it…

    -It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (Rolling Stones)

  • Nice article, thanks for the information.

  • *Super~Sayian*

    I think this what victor was referring too.