Disqus Downvotes The Downvote
Commenting management system Disqus has apparently degraded the “downvote” portion of its “upvoting/downvoting” system. For those of you who have never used Disqus or don’t comment on many blogs, a number of them include thumbs up and thumbs down options where you can sort of grade other comments.
Bayard Russell supports the move (and may have caused it):
I have to say, I’m grateful not to have anonymous trolls using the down-voting system simply to attack, undermine, and annoy. As I told you all after NCR suspended its comments system some weeks back (you all know comments are back up and running there, right?), when a set of anonymous down-voting trolls migrated to Bilgrimage after that happened, I contacted Disqus to ask if they could turn off the down votes for this site or perhaps make it optional for blogs using Disqus.
If that request (which other sites may also have made) is the reason Disqus has stopped showing down votes here, then I’m surely grateful to Disqus. I don’t see this as any kind of suppression of free speech, but as getting rid of an unnecessary annoyance, since what kind of “speech” do anonymous down votes by people working together to troll a blog site really represent, in any case?
Warner Todd Huston, on the other hand, thinks this is an example of “feminizing America“:
Apparently, Disqus felt that so many Americans were getting their widdle feelings hurt that they had to take measures to return everyone’s self-esteem to tip top condition. Yes, America, each and every one of you are wonderful, smart, and gosh darn it, people love you and Disqus is going to make sure you don’t get your delicate mental balance upset.
Feel free to go through life with your badly spelled, idiotic comment forever emblazoned across the Internet tubes and given the Disqus seal of approval. You aren’t a brainless racist, a grammatical moron, a pointless troll, a dimiwtted liberal, or a knuckle-dragging conservative any longer. You are a shining light driving the world to truth, justice and the new American way where no one gets their feelings hurt.
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.
This has a discouraging effect on (ideological) minority voices, which exacerbates echo chambers. I mostly stopped commenting on a particular site for a couple of reasons, but one of the biggest ones was how frustrating it was to write a carefully considered comment explaining that a situation is more complicated than it appears gets two upvotes and ten downvotes and is followed by a “Republicans are soo stupid and you are stupid for giving them cover!!!” gets ten upvotes and two downvotes. Which is, in my experience, how it generally works. Truthfully, the fact that people seem to agree more with “Republicans are soo stupid” guy and feel the need to downvote me is more discouraging than the comment itself, which I can dismiss as a crank. Except I can’t when his view is apparently more popular than mine.
The upshot of this, in a way, is that it does democratize commenting communities. It lets people say what kind of comments they want and don’t want. Yay democracy! The views of a particular commentariat can often differ, though, from that of the people who actually run the site.
That creates something of a problem for the latter folks. 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.
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.