Noding about not noding

A thought-terminating cliche is a one-liner which, when used in an involved and detailed discussion, halts that discussion. It does this by reducing either the speaker's or his opponent's opinion to an extremely short, blunt and overused cliche, thereby establishing that the speaker either

  1. thinks very little of his opponent's stance, or believes it to be so simplistic as to be not worth devoting any kind of intelligent thought to, or
  2. is himself too lazy to devote any intelligent thought to developing his own stance and opinion beyond this cliche.

It establishes that at least one member of the discussion does not have the inclination to pay attention to it, and thereby effectively terminates the discussion.

Examples of general-purpose thought-terminating cliches are:

"This place needs more actual content. Let's begin." is a thought-terminating cliche.

It is not always referenced verbatim. The reason I'm noding this now, however, is because it does appear fairly often. Recently, I was involved in a fairly complex discussion about nodeshells, and what kind of place they have in the future of Everything2. My nodeshell proposal is currently on my homenode, and most noders disagree with it for various reasons. The nodeshell discussion itself is not relevant to what I'm trying to explain here.

After a few minutes of this discussion, which wasn't becoming heated but was fairly noisy because a lot of people were speaking simultaneously, another noder entered the conversation and remarked that E2 would be much better off if we devoted half as much time to noding as we did to discussing the nodeshell issue.

Well, that made me angry.

It was a transparent attempt to terminate a discussion on a subject which the newcomer evidently felt was inconsequential. The implication was that we were wasting our time, writing new nodes is the only way to contribute anything of value to Everything2, and anybody who is not writing right now is not contributing anything. The implication was that writing more new nodes is the solution to all of Everything2's problems, and that in-depth discussion of E2's internal workings is taboo.

Do I need to articulate how wrong each of these statements is?

Welcoming new users, mentoring, reading, voting, CSS development for the Zen Theme, HTML development, content editing, UI development, chattering, soft linking, godly admin work, patching existing code, developing new code, nodermeeting and server maintenance are all ways you can contribute to Everything2 without writing new nodes. You can do all of these things and never write a single node and still be a hugely valuable member of the community. Plenty of these activities improve our community. In particular, interface shapes usage, and a good interface encourages usage, so improving Everything-Two-Dot-Com-The-Website indirectly results in a higher profile and more users and more noding and ultimately an improved database. Most importantly, discussing all of these topics at length, in the Everything2 public forum that is the Chatterbox, is not a waste of time. It is, in fact, the Chatterbox's highest purpose.

Everything2 already has a huge mountain of great content. However much any one person contributes now, we are really just sprinkling dust on top of that mountain. Making that content easier to get to, then, is arguably an even more worthwhile endeavour.

"Write more" is not the means. It is the end. This place needs more than actual content.

Dear Policy Makers,

I feel that the decision to not allow down-revoting was a bad one, on a UI design level as well as a violation of our rights as voting noders.

There are two main arguments I can conceive to disallow down-revoting. One of them is that down-revoting might happen, but happens so rarely as to not be worth coding for. In fact, a recent discussion with Swap even said as much (verbatim from the archive):

So you downvote something, the person makes corrections, you revote it upwards. People seldom or never work on a writeup to make it worse to merit a downwards revote. This is just the rationale given, btw. Not necessarily my opinion, but the argument went (archive cuts off -GA)

This is not kosher. I feel it's a violation of our right to downvote at all. As a voting noder, I feel that we should have the ability to negatively impact a writeup whenever we want, for whatever reason we feel like. In a sense, this is akin to being able to smoke or drink whenever we feel like: though you may never actually exercise your ability to take in mind-altering substances, you still possess that ability. Not allowing the ability to revote downwards is a direct refusal to allow us our free ability to downvote in the manner we are accustomed to, even if we might never exercise it.

Second, I feel that not allowing us to down-revote discourages voting in the first place. To draw from the same policy decision quoted above: the intended end result seems to be that the only votes on a writeup will only ever be upvotes. If this is the case, why bother downvoting at all? If the exemplary writeup will eventually reach a state that merits an upvote, there's fundamentally no reason to vote anything than an upvote, since that's what it's going to reach anyway. I admit that this is possibly a flawed argument, since in practice, a node that merits a downvote due to the views described within the writeup are not likely to change, but downvotes of that sort cannot possibly be the only downvotes cast within the system.

In addition, this is a bad decision from a user interface standpoint. Shortly after my quote above, another noder mentioned that he was now unable to revote downwards after accidentally upvoting a few writeups. The recommended solution (albeit from a non-staff noder) was to turn off quickvoting.

This is a ridiculous notion. If the user has a problem with a feature, then it is the feature that is broken, not the user. This is even more ridiculous when you consider the fact that addition of revoting essentially allows the correction of accidental downvotes. If revoting is even partially intended to be a way to correct accidental quickvotes (which, regardless of intent, it is certainly going to be used for), then only implementing half of that accidental voting protection is Bad Design.

Let me speak as a member of chanops for a moment and ask, what the hell am I supposed to tell a new voter when he misvotes by accident and discovers he cannot change it to what he actually thinks? Because as of right now, the only thing I can think of is that they're out the vote, and that the writeup they didn't like is forever stuck that way. What sort of message does that send?

Give us the ability to down-revote. The decision to not allow it was made on faulty reasoning and is both bad interface design and a violation of our privileges as voting noders.

5/16, 14:43 PST: Edited for clarity.

Dear policy makers,

As a not-so casual observer, I'd like to record my opinion here too. But first, I would like to recount more or less what happened in the staff lounge.

I implemented revoting, with basic functionality, many moons past, about two months ago, if not a bit longer. It's been so long that I've forgotten. It seemed like a feature that our userbase has been demanding for a long time, and I know that until someone goes out and does things, they'll never get done, no matter how much they get talked about. I know that I am not enabled in any capacity to influence directly the policy changes around here, but I did want to nudge the eds and admins towards approving some policy change, whichever decision they might choose. Showing them an implementation was a first step towards enabling that decision.

There was lots of debate between the eds and admins about what to do with revoting, which is the main reason this took so long. Some are in favour of a very laissez-faire revoting policy, others in favour of tightening the laws one way or another. After it seemed to me that debate had run its course, and because I was afraid that this idea would stagnate again for who knows how many years (strike while the iron is hot, I say), I tried to nudge the editors again by calling an informal poll on what the revoting policy should be. Full disclosure, the options I polled them about were

  1. Allow revoting both ways, XP neutral
  2. Allow revoting both ways, XP tracking
  3. Allow limited revoting both ways, XP neutral
  4. Allow limited revoting both ways, XP tracking,
  5. Allow only revoting up, not down, XP tracking.

These were almost all the options that were discussed during the debate. There was also an Option 0: postpone debate and think more about this, which personally scared me a little. Here "XP neutral" means that a revote doesn't affect anyone's XP and "XP tracking" means that a revote upwards gives one XP to the votee and and a revote downwards takes it away. Option #5 was the last one suggested as a compromise, since it's a partial implementation of revoting, and seems to avoid the largest qualms people had with revoting: that someone for personal reasons would serially revote someone else down without consideration of the quality of the writing, only the perceived moral quality of the revotee.

Options 2 and 5 came out very close to each other, with option 2 winning by a few votes, but not by much. In the end, the executive decision came, and I was ordered to disable revoting downwards and bringing my revoting code live, which I cheerfully did, because I was glad that at least something was happening, and the eds and admins didn't decide to postpone this feature for who knows how much longer.

If you consider the choices, you'll see that Option 5 is the most conservative of them all, changing very little policy-wise. It doesn't change the meaning of an upvote, since it tracks XP (so that your XP can still be directly calculated from number of writeups, upvotes, and chings). It doesn't break the "never lose XP" model that was part of the latest XP changes. It doesn't allow serial revoting down. In fact, it barely allows revoting at all. As a first foray into revoting, Option 5 seems sane in order to at least test the waters with a new feature that changes much about how E2 has worked since voting was first introduced.

Nevertheless, I agree with the apparent majority from what I've heard in the catbox that the option that should have been implemented was Option 2, not 5. In fact, my code evolved from Option 1, which seemed like the first favourite, then to Option 2, and finally to Option 5, which roughly indicates my order of preference. Options 1 and 2 allow the most freedom to the users, and well, I believe that the more liberty you give users to make up their own choices, even if it's a bad choice, well, all the better. Option 5 seems like unnecessary nannying and not giving users the full range of freedom that they deserve.

Thankfully, except for ecore, nothing here is set in stone (and even ecore can be sculpted, with some difficulty). I am quite happy that this much-needed change happened, at least partially. I think that you, policy makers, would do well to discard the last of your reservations and give the freedom to your users for which they clamour.



Hello Everythingians,

This is a short one. Simply - I endorse everything GhettoAardvark said above about the implementation of re-voting. A few weeks have passed since he said it, and I can see that this issue has been allowed to fall fallow... I had assumed you management types would change your mind on what is so obviously a bad call, but you haven't. The time has come to add some additional weight on this issue.

I treat this place like a town I live in... And in your town you're free to misbehave, and you're free to get busted (and end up a social outcast) for it... But it's up to you if you want to. This is different, a type of positive reinforcement of niceness that smells like soft paternalism (a coersive school of economic thought that says you should encourage people to do the right thing). Freedom of expression means standing up for the right of assholes to be assholes.

It's not about the quality of the individual writeup - if you let people re-vote then you should let them do whatever they want with it. In this town you have to earn suffrage. Once you've earned that right, your choice to use it should be respected.

Please can you stop insulting us. Treating us like errant children if we choose to love, hate and embrace the full flood of human emotions... Well, it's just not cool.

Yours, with love.


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