Who cares about ratings?

At the suggestion of a regular In Box reader, I have added a feature to the post comments that allows readers to “Like” or “Dislike” a comment. Here is part of what he said:

I wish there was a way that I could simply register  a “like” statement to a post  or comment… I often read something  I like,  have nothing to add to [it], but  would like to make my positive reaction known to the writer…   This was true for me, for example, with Bret4207’s  comment at the end of the string of comments that followed Brian’s “Excellent Schools” post.  I would like Bret to see that someone saw, read, and liked his comment.

It was fairly easy to make something like this happen; a simple comment rating tool was available and I put it into place last week. And the fact that so many readers have rated comments already, without any real promotion of the feature, tells me that it does strike a chord and is easy to use.

Here is how it works: If you like a comment, click the up-thumb, if you dislike, click the down-thumb. Well-liked comments show a yellow background color, hotly debated (with a mix of likes and dislikes) are labeled “Hot debate,” etc. You can only rate a comment once, and you can’t rate your own comment (I bet some of you have tried).

The built-in feature that I like the least about the rating system is that it will collapse a comment that is widely disliked so that you have to do an extra click to even read it. Since I believe that unpopular views are sometimes the ones I would profit most from reading, I have set the range pretty high on that feature. I would turn it off altogether if I could figure out how. But I was an English major, not a comp. sci. guy.

And one glaring lack in the rating tool is that a reader can rate the comments of others, but can’t rate the blog post itself. Sauce for goose should be sauce for the gander. I will be looking for a tool to rate the posts as well.

All of which begs the question, “Is any of this a good idea?” I have mixed feelings.

One fear I have is that regular commenters will shy away from weighing in, particularly if their views prove unpopular with other readers. And another is that people will automatically dislike comments by people they frequently disagree with, without even reading them.

But I also have hopes for the feature–that more people will read comments, and that readers who have been lurking in the wings will start to engage by rating the comments of others, and will graduate to joining in on the conversation directly.

Let me know what you think of the rating feature in a comment below. Suggest changes/improvements. Or just like someone else’s comment who represents your viewpoint.

22 Comments on “Who cares about ratings?”

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  1. Brian says:

    I think this will say less about the quality of the posts and more about how many liberals and conservatives read this blog. I actually made a point to ‘like’ a post by JDM in an earlier blog that I didn’t agree with but considered well thought out. I hope others will try to do the same but I doubt it.

  2. TurdSandwich says:

    I like this new feature. There are times when I dislike liberal comments, like more conservative comments and visa versa. I think you’ll find more confident posters when people have support for their opinions even when an opposing view is expressed in a later comment. Of course you will always have trolls that will tip the system in either direction.

  3. phahn50 says:

    I’m personally not sure the like/dislike choice is appropriate for this blog discussion. Other boards use agree/disagree, which allows people to weigh in without actually writing anything – also probably not needed on this blog. We generally know what the score is just by reading the post.

    I guess my question would be – What does it mean to like or dislike someone’s ideas or writing? I dont dislike reading ideas or thinking I disagree with. I suppose we could be commenting on the quality of the writing/thinking, but that is pretty much a proxy for whether or not we agree (although not always)

  4. oa says:

    Agree/Disagree would be an improvement, but rating systems like this are for simpletons.
    Afraid to comment? Then don’t.

  5. Dale Hobson says:

    OA says: Agree/Disagree would be an improvement…

    I think that Agree/Disagree would be better language than Like/Dislike–which reminds me too much of school recess clique formation. But it is a difference in kind, too. For example, I could agree with someone’s point of view, but dislike their tone–often do, in fact.

    In some ways I think it is less important to register what you agree with and disgree with, than it is to register how you feel about the way the commenter engages in the discussion. My hope would be that people would be more reflective, respectful and thoughtful about how they weigh in, if they were getting quick feedback on their remarks.

    Dale Hobson

  6. oa says:

    Dale said: “I think it is less important to register what you agree with and disgree with, than it is to register how you feel about the way the commenter engages in the discussion.”

    I disagree. How the commenter says something is irrelevant to the content. The message, and grasp of facts, matter more to me than the messenger or the tone, or my feelings. If I’m wrong, and somebody calls me on it rudely, I’m still wrong. Which is what matters.

  7. Dale Hobson says:

    oa says: “How the commenter says something is irrelevant to the content… If I’m wrong, and somebody calls me on it rudely, I’m still wrong. Which is what matters.”

    I don’t think Right/Wrong is any better than agree/disagree, or like/dislike, as a dichotomy for this feature. Sometimes, facts are in evidence that might be demonstrably right or wrong–but more often opinions are debatable, with potential evidence going either way. In those situations, tone does matter. And as someone who wants to foster debate, rather than win one, or shut one down–how commenters behave is of high importance to me.

    Dale Hobson, NCPR

  8. Walker says:

    I agree with Agree/Disagree.

  9. scratchy says:

    Get rid of it.

  10. Pete Klein says:

    I don’t care. A non issue. Me thinks some people protest too much. Touchy, touchy, touchy thin skinned people are out there just waiting to claim they are sooooo offended.

  11. JDM says:

    Because of the nature of the issues, and the nature of the posters, when threads having a political component are posted, the “likes” tend toward one political direction, and the “dislikes” toward the opposite political view.

    On topics that are less easy to parse politically, the “like” and “dislike” system works ok.

    Because of the political implications, I don’t think it should be possible to limit the view of a comment based on votes. That would unfairly penalize someone who holds that particular political view.

    I think agree/disagree is a better solution, with no possibility (or some number bigger than 1000) of limiting someones comment from being seen.

  12. Bill G says:

    I don’t think the feature adds anything. Subsequent posts are used to express agreement or disagreement and are meaningful because they add detail and context to the author’s opinion. If someone disagrees with my point of view, I’m more interested in why than in the fact they disagree. The feature is a blunt instrument with no discernible value (to me).

  13. oa says:

    I don’t want a Right/Wrong feature, either. I don’t want Agree/Disagree. Most of all, I don’t want Like/Dislike, especially if it throws Bret’s comments, however much I may dislike them, off the board. And for the record, I do not want green eggs and ham.
    If I’m factually wrong, though, I do expect the good (or even the bad) people here to call me out on it. If they’re rude about me being wrong, I believe it’s their… right.
    The facts are what is important. Without facts, there is no real debate.

  14. Walker says:

    OA: “rating systems like this are for simpletons. Afraid to comment? Then don’t.”

    And Bill G: “I don’t think the feature adds anything.”

    I often agree with a previous poster who has well expressed everything I would have to say on a topic. No fear involved, but why put up a “like he says” post, when a click can register my agreement. And even if people don’t want to take the time to agree or disagree with a post I put up, I’d like to know how it hits them, even in a simple binary. Of course, there’s always “Agree 1 2 3 4 5 Disagree” if you want more info!

  15. Bret4207 says:

    I don’t see much use for the system. Reminds me of those stupid notes that used to get passed around class, “Who do you think is the prettiest/handsomest/coolest/stupidest/dumbest/smartest/etc.”

    I am going to join those attempting to subvert the system by leaving false likes/dislikes. BWAHAHHAHAAAHHAAAA!

  16. newt says:

    I really like the idea of being able to record a favorable reaction to a comment. I think the NY Times site let you “recommend” comments. Highly recommended ones get their own list.

    I’m not sure about “don’t like/disagree/ wrong” . This reaction might rightfully require a comment, not just a check-off.

    Finally, why should the check-er remain anonymous? Most of the systems I know show who, at least by screen name, is making the evaluation. Or am I missing something, again?

    But I appreciate this attempt to make In-Box even better.

  17. JDM says:

    If the “like” and “dislike” is to remain, then I second newt’s proposal of showing screen names of “likes” and “dislikes”. This would be analogous to the facebook “like” system, where you know who is “liking” your comment.

    Actually, it would be an improvement, as there are some occasions, when a friend posts that they are sick, for example, where facebook could benefit from a “dislike” button.

  18. JDM says:

    Have you noticed that the “anonymous” posters are very, very few on this blog, and it has become a place where recognizable persons debate issues.

    The anonymous “like” and “dislike” may drive the blog back to the days of anonymity if it gets abused.

  19. newt says:

    I like the idea of “recommend” only (ID’d by screen name) box. If you don’t like it, make a comment, or keep your peace. Like others above, I can think of comments that I don’t agree with, like, or think are true, but still might recommend.

  20. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    To paraphrase Lincoln (sort of), you can’t please some of the people all of the time, and you can’t please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t not please all of the people all of the time.

  21. Brian says:

    It’s silly that this entry has generated so many comments. I happen to think the feature adds nothing useful so I won’t use it or refer to it. Others who dislike it should do the same rather than complaining. If there is someone who does like it, good for them.

  22. Brian says:

    Forget like/dislike… what this blog really needs is a way for authors to delete or edit their comments. I don’t know how many times I’ve posted something and either noticed a typo or mistake or remembered something else to add and ended up having to post another comment.

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