Like I said previously, social media is not all about friends and mutual help. It might also trigger unreasoned hatred, misinterpretation and misunderstanding. Well, fellow Mozzers might have noticed my highly negative attitude towards SEOMoz thumb down system; so recent discussions over there inspired me to post my opinion on general negative voting across the social media. It’s not that I am against disapproval or criticism in general – no, I am not going to put the necessity of negative voting under question – my main point is that negative voting should make sense.
What does a thumb down mean?
Different social networks treat thumbs down differently. In general, the role of voting down in social media site algorithm can be divided into three major groups (depending on the direct impact on an individual submission): active role, passive role and… well… something in-between.
Active role: a thumb down contributes to ‘burying‘ the submission (= no one will see it; an active role of general community news sorting)
Passive role: a thumb down only shows a member’s attitude (no automatic impact on the post; though this might be added to a submitter’s record)
Intermediate role: a thumb down tells the system that the submission (and the like) is not relevant to you personally (and to like-minded people) (= don’t show things like this to me and my friends; but this is not necessarily a generally bad post)
*Note: StumbleUpon algorithm has been up for debate recently; I have no official evidence to support this (like they say “The thumb down will also lessen the likelihood of your friends stumbling this content“), my assumptions are based on my personal experience and investigation.
What is the process of thumbing down?
Now what is the process of negative voting?
1/ Anonymous thumbs down (it can be either commented, or just left as it is) = the community doesn’t know who thumbed down the post (e.g. SEOMoz)
Advantages: people are free to show their negative attitude;
Drawbacks: beside being rather pointless (most often it does not mean/show/tell anything to a member), this kind of negative voting seems potentially dangerous to the overall community atmosphere and behavior: (1) it encourages ‘biased promotion/discrimination’ based solely on personal attitude (= I don’t like this person, so I will thumb him down no matter what he/she says); (2) it can limit members in their freedom of expressing their own independent opinion (e.g. members feel uneasy to voice their (opposite to the community’s) opinion at the fear to be thumbed down ‘scot-free‘); (3) it may be unfair (as often it is ruled by emotion, that’s only a one-click action!).
2/ Non anonymous (with no compulsory comment/explanation) – example: Mixx
Advantages: unlike the previous one it seems to be more thoughtful as a (cough) “thumber” knows that people will see who has voted them down;
Drawbacks: people may be afraid of showing their honest negative attitude to the submission as this is a good way to make enemies with the submitter (who most often watches his post progress).
3/ Non anonymous (with a comment required)
Advantages: an approach requiring much thought and effort; so negative votes are most often well reasoned;
Drawbacks: people do expose themselves to potential revenge (like above) plus in this case negative voting seems to take too much effort (anyway, why should a negate vote be so much harder to cast than a positive one?)
The above analysis got me to thinking about a perfect system (ok, nothing is perfect under the sun – at least the best possible combination of the negative voting role and process). So what might that be?
1/ Anonymous (with no need to comment) but also invisible to anyone except a thumber himself = StumbleUpon. Really this model seems one of the best existing – it provides both freedom of the members and healthy sleep of the submission owner. Besides, non-active role of the negative voting allows for this invisibility. After all, thumbs down don’t mean “Your post is bad” – it just means “This article is not too interesting to me but I have nothing against you personally and I do assume that you are a talented blogger“. Besides, in cases of utmost disagreement, you can always show it by commenting your thumb down.
2/ Anonymous (with the required anonymous comment). I don’t know if that model exists, but it seems quite reasonable. It requires some effort and thought (removes “emotional” factor) and at the same time gives some freedom (you are no more afraid of massive revenge).
And what are your thoughts and experiences with negative voting across social media you participate?