13 votes

Suggestion: a method for anonymous appreciation at the user level

One thing I really like about Tildes is the exemplary tags for comments. I love being able to let someone know I thought they had a great post, and I especially like that it's anonymous (though I realize some people like signing theirs, which I'm fine with too).

One thing I've found myself wanting to be able to do is give someone an exemplary label not for any one individual comment but for their contributions to the community at large. Maybe they're consistently thoughtful and insightful; maybe they go out of their way to post a lot of content for the community; maybe they're contributing code to the platform. It's less that any one particular thing they've done is amazing (though they often have individually great contributions too) and more that they've demonstrated a noteworthy and consistent pattern of good behavior.

As such, I think having something similar to the exemplary tag but applicable to a particular user could be very beneficial. I realize privately PMing a given user can currently accomplish this, but those are not anonymous, and I really like the idea of supporting others without revealing who I am, since I don't want my praise of others to influence their opinion of me. Furthermore, for the community at large, I think there's a benefit to praise of that type coming from "a voice in the crowd" rather than specific identifiable users, as it promotes community goodwill rather than person-to-person cheer.

Of course, with any type of anonymous feedback the thing to consider will be the potential for misuse. Someone could easily target/harass someone using an exemplary user feature by writing a nasty message, but this is also currently possible with exemplary tags and I don't know if it's been a problem? Nevertheless, it's something to consider. Perhaps a built-in report feature should something cross a line?

Furthermore, if such an appreciation mechanism were to be implemented, I would strongly advocate against any sort of publicly visual indicator on the site (like the blue stripe on comments). I think applying differences to that at the user level can create an appearance of user hierarchy, which is undesirable for a variety of reasons. Instead, I feel like it should be invisible to everyone except the recipient--basically an anonymous PM that they can't respond to, letting them know that they're awesome and why. I also think a similar "cooldown" system would benefit it. In fact, I'd probably advocate that it be longer than the one for comment tags.

Thoughts?

12 comments

  1. Whom
    Link
    Yeah, I find myself wanting to praise a user's contributions as a whole rather than a specific comment. An exemplary label on a comment often doesn't feel like the right tool for the job,...

    Yeah, I find myself wanting to praise a user's contributions as a whole rather than a specific comment. An exemplary label on a comment often doesn't feel like the right tool for the job, partially because it may not shine individually but instead as part of a larger whole, but also because the desire to give someone anonymous praise isn't always the same as the desire to push them up a thread.

    Though it seems to me that it would make a bit more sense to tie this in with the existing exemplary system, maybe even pulling from the same timer. I dunno if it would ever happen, but I'd like to see exemplary be expanded in general. Exemplary topics, users...wiki edits? I dunno, I just like telling people when they did a good job and any existing or future submission types can all be worthy of that.

    8 votes
  2. [6]
    Deimos
    Link
    I like the idea and intention. Do you think it needs a dedicated mechanic, or would the ability to send someone a message anonymously work? It wouldn't have such a defined purpose in that case,...

    I like the idea and intention.

    Do you think it needs a dedicated mechanic, or would the ability to send someone a message anonymously work? It wouldn't have such a defined purpose in that case, but maybe that's also good in other ways. For example, I can think of other reasons for wanting to message someone anonymously, and if the "appreciation" method enables that, I wouldn't be surprised to see people misusing it as anonymous messaging anyway.

    That would probably help with @Algernon_Asimov's concern too, if we allowed the recipient to reply back to the anonymous sender, and even let it keep going into a multiple-message conversation with one side staying anonymous. I'm not sure that preventing the recipient from replying is essential.

    Like you said, there would be some abuse possibilities, but it could be pretty easily made clear that using it to harass/insult/etc. someone anonymously would be unacceptable and a reason for punishment (potentially a ban).

    7 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      I think there's something to be said for structuring and naming the feature to be deliberately positive/affirming, rather than neutral. Platforms frequently design systems around users' negative...

      I think there's something to be said for structuring and naming the feature to be deliberately positive/affirming, rather than neutral. Platforms frequently design systems around users' negative behaviors (reports, deletions, etc.) but often leave out corresponding systems for positive behaviors. I like the idea that people who come here can use the functions of the site to both propagate and receive deliberate positive feedback. It helps promote goodwill and make Tildes a place where people can be formally, albeit privately, acknowledged for their contributions, all while being structurally encouraged to do the same for others.

      If anonymous messaging were a neutral option, I think that would cover other usecases (such as "whisper" or non-bumping responses that I know have been discussed in the past) and make it a very pragmatic solution. That said, I think it would lose some of its pro-social impact that way. Using anonymous messaging as a form of appreciation would have to become a cultural norm of the site, for example, rather than it being encouraged specifically through the site's design.

      I also think, like exemplary labels, limiting its usage helps the message mean something. Creating scarcity means there's not a flood of them, and making it consumable with a cooldown shows that someone chose to "spend" their message on a particular user, rather than just sending them indiscriminately and frequently. It adds a gravity to the recognition that would be absent if anyone could send an anonymous message at any time, I feel.

      7 votes
    2. Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      Yeah. When you suggested an anonymous messaging system, I immediately thought that this would definitely be a case for "trust users, punish abusers"! You'd be putting a lot of trust in people not...

      Like you said, there would be some abuse possibilities, but it could be pretty easily made clear that using it to harass/insult/etc. someone anonymously would be unacceptable and a reason for punishment (potentially a ban).

      Yeah. When you suggested an anonymous messaging system, I immediately thought that this would definitely be a case for "trust users, punish abusers"! You'd be putting a lot of trust in people not to abuse something like this.

      I assume you (as the admin) would have some method of seeing who sent an anonymous message, so that you would be able to take appropriate action if someone did abuse this feature.

      4 votes
    3. [2]
      Staross
      Link Parent
      I think this should be integrated into some kind of "trust" system, that could later be leveraged for distributed moderation (trusted users would be able to perform some limited moderation tasks,...

      I think this should be integrated into some kind of "trust" system, that could later be leveraged for distributed moderation (trusted users would be able to perform some limited moderation tasks, e.g. https://blog.discourse.org/2018/06/understanding-discourse-trust-levels/).

      3 votes
    4. spit-evil-olive-tips
      Link Parent
      I think "PMs, but with the username hidden" would be perfect for this, especially if anonymity were preserved across replies. Gilding on reddit only manages to do half of that, where the gildee...

      I think "PMs, but with the username hidden" would be perfect for this, especially if anonymity were preserved across replies. Gilding on reddit only manages to do half of that, where the gildee can reply to the gilder without knowing their username, but if the gilder replies to it they're de-anonymized.

      As far as preventing abuse goes, I think it ultimately wouldn't be any different than abuse that happens over non-anonymous PMs. If and when the abuse reporting process is something other than "PM or @-mention Deimos", that process should certainly be able to take anonymized messages into account pretty easily. That's probably something you'd want anyway, to be able to have some level of trusted user evaluate reports of abusive PMs, seeing the message contents but not the identity of either sender or receiver.

      2 votes
  3. [3]
    Algernon_Asimov
    (edited )
    Link
    First up: I think this is a good idea. I don't have any quibbles or niggles or issues with it. With that out of the way... I would find it personally frustrating if I ever happened to be the...

    First up: I think this is a good idea. I don't have any quibbles or niggles or issues with it.

    With that out of the way...

    I would find it personally frustrating if I ever happened to be the recipient of one of these anonymous appreciative messages. I would want to know who sent it. Who thinks I'm good? Who do I thank? WHO???

    I already find this a bit frustrating when I get an exemplary label on a comment. Some people "sign" them, as you say, but many people don't. And it's frustrating not knowing who's being appreciative, and not being able to acknowledge that appreciation or thank them for it.

    Having this happen on a personal level would be even worse. If someone were to go out of their way to send me this type of message, I would feel obliged to thank them for their appreciation. But I wouldn't be able to. They'd be sending their appreciation, and never getting any response from me. I'd feel rude.

    EDIT: I see someone is being cheeky. The 'exemplary' label on this comment (which is not worthy of being labelled exemplary) just shows a smiley face - no explanation and no name. Someone's yanking my chain. But I have a fairly good idea who it is... :P

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      I definitely understand that frustration, and I can't deny the fact that some of the signed labels I've received have been quite meaningful to me specifically because of who wrote them. That said,...

      I definitely understand that frustration, and I can't deny the fact that some of the signed labels I've received have been quite meaningful to me specifically because of who wrote them. That said, I think it's best if they're anonymous by default because I think there's the potential for social harm otherwise.

      For example, consider a user who has received several exemplaries from you over months and none from me. This can create an implicit narrative in the user's mind that can go any number of ways. They may resent me for not labeling them, or they may gravitate towards you because of the praise you've given them. They may value you over me in discussions. Or they may feel that you're trying to flatter them--perhaps your praise is false, or has an ulterior motive.

      With the labels kept anonymous by default, the user gets feedback about themselves, but with them signed they get feedback about themselves and another user. Again, I don't think this is always a bad thing, and I think there is value to identifying ourselves in a label sometimes--I just think it should be opt-in, policy wise.

      5 votes
      1. Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        I don't disagree. Not everyone wants to be forced to put their name on things. And they shouldn't have to if they don't want to.

        I don't disagree. Not everyone wants to be forced to put their name on things. And they shouldn't have to if they don't want to.

        1 vote
  4. gergir
    Link
    I like telling people I like something they did or said. If they don't reply, okay; if they do, maybe they become friends. But why anonymously? I read the arguments, but don't understand the...

    I like telling people I like something they did or said. If they don't reply, okay; if they do, maybe they become friends. But why anonymously?

    I read the arguments, but don't understand the reasoning. We're just aliases here. It seems unnecessarily complicating. NB: not knocking or ridiculing, just asking.

    4 votes