Twitter came up with a Trump policy.

That is, what should they do when public figures (guess who) say things that violate the content moderation rules? Answer: they’ll leave it up but with a label. Seems trivial but this gets at the deeper problem of how uncomfortable both these companies and the broader world are with the idea of a private company deciding what speech is allowed, outside of any broader social and political process. Link

Welcome Wagon: Classifying Comments on Stack Overflow

I (Jason) wrote The Stack Overflow Comment Evaluator 5000™, a simple application that presents you with a comment thread from a post on Stack Overflow and asks you to rate each comment in the thread as Fine, Unwelcoming, or Abusive.

Prevalence of comment categories

If we take a majority vote on the rating of each comment (with ties going to the worse rating) comments on Stack Overflow break down like so…

Rating% of comments


According to those of us deeply involved here and familiar with Stack Overflow, about 7% of comments on Stack Overflow are unwelcoming. What did some unwelcoming comments look like? These combine elements of real comments to show typical examples.

  • “This is becoming a waste of my time and you won’t listen to my advice. What are the supposed benefits of making it so much more complex?”
  • “Step 1. Do not clutter the namespace. Then get back to us.”
  • “The code you posted cannot yield this result. Please post the real code if you hope to get any help.”
  • “This error is self explanatory. You need to check…”
  • “I have already told how you can… If you can’t make it work, you are doing something wrong.”

This stuff isn’t profane, hate, or outright abuse, but it’s certainly unwelcoming. Looking at majority voting is one approach, but the experience of being not welcomed is not a majority vote kind of thing; it’s deeply personal. What if we looked at the distributions of the ratings by individual?



.. Firstly the “unwelcoming” comments aren’t unwelcoming. They’re all valid criticisms, I imagine. You haven’t given us the context in which they’re said, which’d be extremely helpful here.

The abusive comments make up 1 in 250. Which is tiny. That’s such a small amount that I find it hard to believe you’re even worrying about it. It’s -genuinely- impressive that it’s so much lower than a great deal of other websites that seek to achieve the same thing as this one. You should be extremely proud of this. It’s never going to be perfect.

I love this site and I love what it does. It’s genuinely a great platform for doing what it does. But you should work on improving the parts of it that are lacking (like chat!) before you try to handle such a minutely small problem.


.. The unwelcoming comments are valid criticisms, that can be expressed in a much more welcoming manner. The problem is large enough that StackOverflow is stereotyped and memed as being unwelcoming. That warrants attention, in my book.

.. I think you’re coming at this from the wrong angle. You’re thinking “let’s calculate a metric, and if that metric is below X, we don’t have a problem. Everyone who thinks there is a significant problem is wrong.”

Whereas I think the reality is: a huge number of people think there is a problem. Women in particular, who don’t contribute because they think it’s an unwelcoming place. So I’d reframe it as “let’s calculate a metric X, and now we know that at level X, we have a problem. We don’t yet know at what level we don’t have a problem anymore, but it must be less than X’.


.. SO claims to be a Q/A platform for professional and enthusiast programmers and for questions about programming that are tightly focused on a specific problem. So the questions must exactly tell that specific problem. This is often nothing what a beginner can do. So in my opinion SO is not a Q/A platform for beginners in programming. So this user group will always feel not welcoming here simply because it is not. Maybe SO should providing a special beginners Q/A portal additionally?


.. Maybe my personal bias is showing, but these 5 example “unwelcoming” comments don’t look like that to me at all. I’ve definitely gotten way harsher ones on my posts in the past and at no point did I feel them to be unwelcoming whatsoever.

And leaving these up so readers can identify the users leaving them, or even completly citing them so they can be easily found in SEDE is a privacy violation in my opinion and nobody deserves to be put in a hall of shame like that, especially not on stackexchange where the standing policy has been to allow people to correct their misgivings in private. Disappointing.


.. As it was stated above, those examples of unwelcoming comments above weren’t actual comments pulled from SO; they were pieced together from little bits and pieces of unwelcome comments. You can’t identify the writers of the original comments, as they weren’t written by a user. There is no privacy violation. No one has been put in a hall of shame.

The Republican Waterloo

Conservatives once warned that Obamacare would produce the Democratic Waterloo. Their inability to accept the principle of universal coverage has, instead, led to their own defeat.

.. At precisely the moment we were urging the GOP to march in one direction, the great mass of conservatives and Republicans had turned on the double in the other, toward an ever more wild and even paranoid extremism. Those were the days of Glenn Beck’s 5 o’clock Fox News conspiracy rants, of Sarah Palin’s “death panels,” of Orly Taitz and her fellow Birthers, of Tea Party rallies at which men openly brandished assault rifles.

.. AEI would provide a home for the emerging “reform conservative” tendency. Its president, Arthur Brooks, would speak eloquently of the need for conservatives to show concern for the poor and the hard-pressed working class.

.. The mood then was that supporters and opponents of the Obama administration were engaged in a furious battle over whether the United States would remain a capitalist economy at all.

.. it was precisely because I appreciated its unwelcomeness where I worked that I had launched an independent blog in the first place.
.. I fruitlessly argued through 2009 and 2010 that Republicans should do business with President Obama on health-care reform.
.. It seemed to me that Obama’s adoption of ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s—and then enacted into state law in Massachusetts by Governor Mitt Romney—offered the best near-term hope to control the federal health-care spending that would otherwise devour the defense budget and force taxes upward.
.. I suggested that universal coverage was a worthy goal, and one that would hugely relieve the anxieties of working-class and middle-class Americans who had suffered so much in the Great Recession.
.. They had the votes this time to pass something. They surely would do so—and so the practical question facing Republicans was whether it would not be better to negotiate to shape that “something” in ways that would be less expensive, less regulatory, and less redistributive.
.. Increasingly isolated and frustrated, I watched with dismay as people I’d known for years and decades incited each other to jump together over the same cliff.

.. There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or—more exactly—with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters—but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say—but what is equally true—is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed—if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office—Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.

.. Over the next seven years, Republicans would vote again and again to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Total and permanent opposition to the law would become the absolute touchstone of Republican loyalty. Even Donald Trump, who dissented from so much of the old orthodoxy, retained this piece of the doxology.

.. Some of the conservatives who voted “no” to the House leadership’s version of repeal may yet imagine that they will have some other opportunity to void the law. They are again deluding themselves.

.. Too many people benefit from the law—and the Republican alternatives thus far offer too little to compensate for the loss of those benefits.

.. America committed itself for the first time to the principle of universal (or near universal) health-care coverage. That principle has had seven years to work its way into American life and into the public sense of right and wrong. It’s not yet unanimously accepted. But it’s accepted by enough voters—and especially by enough Republican voters—to render impossible the seven-year Republican vision of removing that coverage from those who have gained it under the Affordable Care Act.

.. Paul Ryan still upholds the right of Americans to “choose” to go uninsured if they cannot afford to pay the cost of their insurance on their own. His country no longer agrees.

.. Health care may not be a human right, but the lack of universal health coverage in a wealthy democracy is a severe, unjustifiable, and unnecessary human wrong.

.. As Americans lift this worry from their fellow citizens, they’ll discover that they have addressed some other important problems too. They’ll find that they have removed one of the most important barriers to entrepreneurship, because people with bright ideas will fear less to quit the jobs through which they get their health care.

.. They’ll find they have improved the troubled lives of the white working class succumbing at earlier ages from preventable deaths of despair.

.. What I would urge is that those conservatives and Republicans who were wrong about the evolution of this debate please consider why they were wrong: Consider the destructive effect of ideological conformity, of ignorance of the experience of comparable countries, and of a conservative political culture that incentivizes

  • intransigence,
  • radicalism, and
  • anger over
  • prudence,
  • moderation, and
  • compassion.

Facebook’s 2016 Election Team Gave Advertisers a Blueprint to a Divided US

All in all, this is why there is no dislike button. The entire Facebook system incentivizes division because division creates revenue. It’s a perpetual loop.

Let’s walk through how it works:

Step 1) A person posts, or shares, something incredibly divisive. Note: There is no feedback button to let the poster know the content is hateful and that broader society disapproves of it. There is also no consequence to posting it most of the time.

Step 2) The content attracts likes. Since there is no dislike button, or negative feedback, any likes received makes the poster feel good.

Step 3) The poster is emboldened and increases his/her frequency of posting divisive or hateful content. This attracts a following and more engagement for the original poster. The poster has no need to create inclusive content. They are incentivized to find and highlight divisive thoughts from their life because it rewards them with engagement and the Facebook system re-enforces those thoughts.

Step 4) Repeat

Each subsequent post creates more comments, more engagement, more passion. This is great for Facebook because it means more time on site and increased usage frequency. The handout Facebook is giving advertisers is proof of that. They are monetizing the system. Make no mistake, it is designed to work this way and they are profiting from it.


.. I think there’s more psychology at play then just this though. In a way, Facebook helps minorities find each other, and then isolate themselves virtually to be “just amongst them”. Possibly its the no consequence framework that has given them the courage to continue to pursue finding others of similar values. As they grow though, and realize they are not alone, the isolated group can now open itself to others and recruit into the group, promoting its values.

Now, for a lot of minority groups, this can be great, maybe positive overall for society. Unless a group with vicious values comes along, then it turns into a problem. Especially if it is found that this minority was in fact never small, just very well amortized across all of our society.

.. I think there is a bigger danger in this sort of isolationism (quite the euphemism!) than just vicious values being allowed to coalesce. The isolationism results in individuals’ values not being challenged, which can push them further and further away from reality. Let’s create an imaginary example. We’re trying to solve a math problem. The correct answer to this problem is 0. However, one side believes the answer is absolutely at least 50. And the other side believes the answer must be no more than -50. When these two groups remain within contact, they counter balance each other. But now let’s isolate these groups. In the past when the -50 side chose to go -60 there would be some push back against that and it would help create a more of a central equilibrium. But in isolation without opposition, -60 sounds awesome. Why not -70, or even lower? And on the other side an equal but opposite push for 60, 70 and more is simultaneously happening.

Taking this into real life, I think this is arguably what is happening with politics today. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being right leaning or left leaning. But as we have begun to segregate ourselves into ‘only right leaning’ or ‘only left leaning’ the individuals within these groups have started becoming increasingly radicalized

.. This study on the community effect of downvotes [1] came to rather different conclusions. They conclude that downvoting has a paradoxical effect. It actually incentivizes the poster to post even more content, of even lower quality. And just as importantly, upvotes similarly have no positive effects. They do not result in users posting more regularly, nor generating more well received content. Upvoted users actually tend to leave the community more quickly than downvoted users. The one and only response that negatively incentivizes users is no response at all – which causes them to leave much earlier than up or down votes. And it gets even better. Downvotes tend to spread. Downvoted users tend to downvoter others who in turn begin downvoting others as well. This study on the community effect of downvotes [1] came to rather different conclusions. They conclude that downvoting has a paradoxical effect. It actually incentivizes the poster to post even more content, of even lower quality. And just as importantly, upvotes similarly have no positive effects. They do not result in users posting more regularly, nor generating more well received content. Upvoted users actually tend to leave the community more quickly than downvoted users. The one and only response that negatively incentivizes users is no response at all – which causes them to leave much earlier than up or down votes. And it gets even better. Downvotes tend to spread. Downvoted users tend to downvoter others who in turn begin downvoting others as well.