17 votes

Should there be a way to turn off replies for a comment?

One thing we take for granted in social media is that any comment may receive a reply from anyone. Maybe we should rethink that? What would happen if it were optional?
For example, for someone posting in "What's a widely criticized thing that you feel is worth defending?" topic, I am not sure that everyone posting there really wanted to start a discussion.
Having replies shut off might be frustrating sometimes as a reader, particularly when something you disagree with gets a lot of upvotes. But it would make the author's intent clearer. If you're inviting further conversation, leave replies on. If you're not, turn it off.
Everyone has the right to walk away from conversation. This would make it explicit. Maybe it would make heated threads less likely, since they'd stop sooner? It seems like it's more difficult to walk away when you're also letting the other side get the last word?

40 comments

  1. [17]
    Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    The "to do" list already includes a suggested feature to ignore replies to your posts/comment (not to stop people replying, but to stop those replies showing in your notifications). @cfabbro or...

    The "to do" list already includes a suggested feature to ignore replies to your posts/comment (not to stop people replying, but to stop those replies showing in your notifications). @cfabbro or @Bauke can provide you with a link to the relevant issue in GitHub.

    11 votes
    1. [3]
      hwb
      Link Parent
      I think this solution is sufficient (and possibly preferable) the proposed change, because it allows discussion to continue while also mitigating the impact of group-think as a chilling effect on...

      I think this solution is sufficient (and possibly preferable) the proposed change, because it allows discussion to continue while also mitigating the impact of group-think as a chilling effect on potentially-controversial comments.

      That being said, I think to succeed it also needs an active moderation team to enforce some clearly stated community norms, to prevent a descent into "I will say whatever I want without consequence." (in other words, to prevent contentious flame-war threads). Does such a thing already exist here?

      11 votes
      1. suspended
        Link Parent
        @Deimos is the only one (for now at least) that has those types of 'powers'.

        Does such a thing already exist here?

        @Deimos is the only one (for now at least) that has those types of 'powers'.

        5 votes
      2. AugustusFerdinand
        Link Parent
        @Deimos has removed comments and banned people already, so yes it exists.

        @Deimos has removed comments and banned people already, so yes it exists.

        2 votes
    2. [13]
      Bauke
      Link Parent
      I think this is the one specific to this subject. But there's many more accepted to-dos that deal with allowing people to handle notifications in all sorts of ways. Also you said GitHub but it's...

      I think this is the one specific to this subject. But there's many more accepted to-dos that deal with allowing people to handle notifications in all sorts of ways.

      Also you said GitHub but it's actually GitLab. ;)

      1 vote
      1. [10]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        That doesn't seem the same at all. Part of the point is to actually discourage a reply with an indicator that you've stopped listening. It also saves the other person the effort of writing a...

        That doesn't seem the same at all. Part of the point is to actually discourage a reply with an indicator that you've stopped listening. It also saves the other person the effort of writing a reply.

        Silently turning off notifications wouldn't do it; it's more like ghosting.

        2 votes
        1. [3]
          Algernon_Asimov
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Why do you want to block other people from writing replies to a comment you wrote in a public thread? Is it because you want to remove other people's right of reply? Or is it because you don't...

          Why do you want to block other people from writing replies to a comment you wrote in a public thread? Is it because you want to remove other people's right of reply? Or is it because you don't want to see their replies and then get dragged into an argument?

          I think it's unfair to post something in a public forum, but tell other people they can't reply to it. If you don't want people replying to, or discussing, your opinion, then don't post it in public. Posting your opinion in a public forum is an implicit invitation for other people to reply to, and discuss, your opinion.

          However, I can understand the desire to not see negative, critical, argumentative replies appear in your inbox. I've had times where I have decided not to write a comment, just because I know the amount of flak I'll cop for saying something. For a real example, I thought long and hard about whether to write this old comment in a thread asking for minority opinions because I knew it would attract arguments. Sometimes, rather than get dragged into that, I just don't comment at all. People can't argue with something I don't say.

          I can therefore understand the usefulness of a feature which would allow me to ignore any replies to a comment. I can say what I want, other people can say what they want, but I don't have to see it, and I won't be tempted to get into a pointless argument.

          (And, I'm hyper-aware that some people want this feature in order to be able to avoid me. I'm not blind.)

          However, I don't think it's fair to post an opinion, and then block other people from discussing that opinion.

          EDIT: Minor typo, plus formatting.

          12 votes
          1. [2]
            skybrian
            Link Parent
            Here's one (hypothetical) example: someone might ask a question. And you want to respond to them, but you don't really want to start a sub-discussion about your response. There are times when...

            Here's one (hypothetical) example: someone might ask a question. And you want to respond to them, but you don't really want to start a sub-discussion about your response. There are times when people ask questions as a survey of what other people think, not to start a lot of sub-arguments.

            In the absence of an explicit way to control responses, I think we see worse behavior. (Consider the meme about "Sealioning".) Maybe we should do something to honor people's right to disengage, and then that will lead to better behavior?

            But this is certainly not an obvious move and I don't know whether it would work. I think it's an interesting idea to think about.

            1. Algernon_Asimov
              Link Parent
              By posting their question on a public internet forum, an OP knows they're going to start sub-discussions about the answers they get. In the case of the thread which prompted your suggestion here,...

              By posting their question on a public internet forum, an OP knows they're going to start sub-discussions about the answers they get. In the case of the thread which prompted your suggestion here, that was probably @kfwyre's intention. He makes a lot of thoughtful posts like this, in order to prompt discussion.

              If you don't want to participate in that, then don't respond. That's what I did (or didn't).

              I know: that's the whole point of your suggestion. People like us shouldn't be discouraged from responding to threads like that. We should be able to post our responses and not get dragged into an argument about them.

              But deactivating replies isn't the only way to achieve this.

              An "ignore replies" feature would honour people's right to disengage - it would give someone the ability to disengage from a discussion. They post their comment, but they don't see the replies, so they've disengaged.

              And, during this discussion, I've remembered that I have previously argued against an "ignore" feature. Yay consistency! Or, it just means I can see both sides of this argument.

              7 votes
        2. [4]
          gpl
          Link Parent
          Part of me feels like if you’re that adverse to getting a reply, maybe you should rethink the post in the first place. The point of comments, in my opinion, is discussion. Removing replies turns...

          Part of me feels like if you’re that adverse to getting a reply, maybe you should rethink the post in the first place. The point of comments, in my opinion, is discussion. Removing replies turns it into soapboxing.

          I totally understand wanting to ignore replies after a point. But to prevent them entirely? I’m not sure that would be a good feature.

          7 votes
          1. [3]
            skybrian
            Link Parent
            My hypothesis is that one thing that keeps heated discussion going is the need to have the last word. This sort of like saying you can have the last word at any time, should you choose. But will...

            My hypothesis is that one thing that keeps heated discussion going is the need to have the last word. This sort of like saying you can have the last word at any time, should you choose. But will you choose it?

            I don't expect people to use it much, but since you could, that means that if you don't turn off replies, you're implicitly inviting more discussion.

            It's hard to say how this would change things. I think it would be an interesting experiment. If there are people who use it a lot then you'd know to avoid them.

            1 vote
            1. [2]
              Eylrid
              Link Parent
              You don't win an argument by being the last to say something; you especially don't win it by saying something and then silencing the other person. The answer to ending an unresolvable argument is...

              You don't win an argument by being the last to say something; you especially don't win it by saying something and then silencing the other person. The answer to ending an unresolvable argument is to just walk away. Stop responding yourself and you won't need to force the other person to stop responding.

              7 votes
              1. skybrian
                Link Parent
                Oh, I agree. But this takes a while to learn.

                Oh, I agree. But this takes a while to learn.

        3. Bauke
          Link Parent
          I was referring to what Algernon said, I don't think there's an issue for disabling replies entirely.

          I was referring to what Algernon said, I don't think there's an issue for disabling replies entirely.

          not to stop people replying, but to stop those replies showing in your notifications

          4 votes
        4. leigh
          Link Parent
          Adding an (optional?) indicator to posts when the poster mutes notifications for them is another alternative that'd accomplish that.

          an indicator that you've stopped listening.

          Adding an (optional?) indicator to posts when the poster mutes notifications for them is another alternative that'd accomplish that.

          2 votes
      2. [2]
        Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        I knew there was a 50/50 chance of being wrong. I can never remember which one people are using here.

        Also you said GitHub but it's actually GitLab. ;)

        I knew there was a 50/50 chance of being wrong. I can never remember which one people are using here.

        1 vote
  2. [11]
    joplin
    Link
    I guess I'm kind of torn about the idea. When I think of that feature, I mainly think of 2 use cases: I want to say something inflammatory or blatantly false, but don't want to hear people object...

    I guess I'm kind of torn about the idea. When I think of that feature, I mainly think of 2 use cases:

    • I want to say something inflammatory or blatantly false, but don't want to hear people object or correct me! (Corporations often do this to put out an idea, but stop anyone from pointing out how stupid it is.)
    • I want to say something that a small but very vocal group of people dislike, so I'm going to turn off comments because an otherwise normal post will be ruined by trolls

    I guess the bigger question is, will this really stop anyone from commenting? If replies are off for your comment, a determined user can still quote the text in question and post another comment not in reply to yours, but containing the text from your comment and continue the conversation. (Though having said that, I note that HackerNews has some sort of limit where some comments don't have a reply button. Not sure whether it's a thread depth issue or a number of posts by that person issue, but I've not seen this thing I just suggested happen. So maybe it's a non-issue?)

    11 votes
    1. skybrian
      Link Parent
      It's a declaration of intent and a speedbump. As you say, nothing prevents continued discussion somewhere else. But I think sometimes the reply button might be a bit too inviting? I would leave...

      It's a declaration of intent and a speedbump. As you say, nothing prevents continued discussion somewhere else. But I think sometimes the reply button might be a bit too inviting?

      I would leave corporations out of it. People like to say what they think without being contradicted or getting into an argument about it.

      3 votes
    2. Eylrid
      Link Parent
      That would be a clear violation of manners that should be against the rules, especially if they use it to keep an argument going.

      If replies are off for your comment, a determined user can still quote the text in question and post another comment not in reply to yours, but containing the text from your comment and continue the conversation.

      That would be a clear violation of manners that should be against the rules, especially if they use it to keep an argument going.

      2 votes
    3. mrbig
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      When a topic I created becomes too popular, the notifications can be overwhelming, making it hard to prioritize what to answer first (if at all). In those cases, I much prefer scanning the thread...

      When a topic I created becomes too popular, the notifications can be overwhelming, making it hard to prioritize what to answer first (if at all). In those cases, I much prefer scanning the thread every once in a while.

      1 vote
    4. [7]
      arp242
      Link Parent
      Another use case: I post a story that I think is interesting, but aren't really interested in having a discussion about. I think certainly for posting stories this would be useful.

      Another use case: I post a story that I think is interesting, but aren't really interested in having a discussion about. I think certainly for posting stories this would be useful.

      1. [6]
        anahata
        Link Parent
        That defeats the point of a site that's about high-value discussion, though. Seriously, what would the point be of posting something to a discussion site if you don't want a discussion? We value...

        That defeats the point of a site that's about high-value discussion, though. Seriously, what would the point be of posting something to a discussion site if you don't want a discussion? We value going in-depth here, and being denied the ability to discuss lowers the response you can have to "oh. that's nice, I guess." and moving on.

        9 votes
        1. [5]
          arp242
          Link Parent
          Why should the poster of a story always be expected to participate in the discussion? I don't see how anyone will be "denied the ability to discus".

          Why should the poster of a story always be expected to participate in the discussion? I don't see how anyone will be "denied the ability to discus".

          1. [4]
            Diff
            Link Parent
            They don't have to participate. If emphasizing that is your goal, a better feature would be to disable notifications for the comment instead of saying "No, no comments allowed here." Where else...

            They don't have to participate. If emphasizing that is your goal, a better feature would be to disable notifications for the comment instead of saying "No, no comments allowed here." Where else are people supposed to talk about your comment if not below it? You don't have to get involved, just don't stop other people from talking.

            5 votes
            1. [3]
              arp242
              Link Parent
              I'm not talking about comments at all, but when posting a link/story. And of course others should be allowed to post comments, I just don't want my inbox full of notifications I don't care about.

              I'm not talking about comments at all, but when posting a link/story. And of course others should be allowed to post comments, I just don't want my inbox full of notifications I don't care about.

              1. anahata
                Link Parent
                "I don't want my inbox full of comments" is not "no one should be allowed to comment at all, ever". These things are different and your original comment didn't distinguish them clearly.

                "I don't want my inbox full of comments" is not "no one should be allowed to comment at all, ever". These things are different and your original comment didn't distinguish them clearly.

                6 votes
              2. jacoblambda
                Link Parent
                Yep and I think their point was that there should be a checkbox for "I don't want to receive notifications for comments connected to this" for both comments and actual posts. It should be noted...

                Yep and I think their point was that there should be a checkbox for "I don't want to receive notifications for comments connected to this" for both comments and actual posts. It should be noted that this feature is currently on the TODO list for the site.

                I should add in as an aside that I agree with this sentiment that you should be able to disable notifications but not necessarily disable comments.

                3 votes
  3. [2]
    Keegan
    Link
    I don't think it's a great idea to do that. If someone is being harassed in comments that can be handled via report. Also, I can't see why someone would post but not want conversation about what...

    I don't think it's a great idea to do that. If someone is being harassed in comments that can be handled via report. Also, I can't see why someone would post but not want conversation about what they posted. The only real example I could think of is argument deescalation, but that is simple. Just let them comment and not reply. Locking the replies reverses the problem of getting the last shot in, because now the person who disables replies can say whatever they want without any chance for the other user to defend themself.

    Say I got in an argument with [insert username here]. They are making great points, and my position is weakening. I attack their character by saying they aren't being genuine, then lock replies. What happens now? That user did nothing wrong and is left with a sour taste.

    I agree something needs to be done for deescalating arguments, but I don't think this is the way to go about it.

    6 votes
    1. skybrian
      Link Parent
      I think that would be bad behavior, but there was no winning move. If someone doesn't want a response, it's temping but counter-productive to respond to them. So it seems like you're not really...

      I think that would be bad behavior, but there was no winning move. If someone doesn't want a response, it's temping but counter-productive to respond to them. So it seems like you're not really losing anything?

  4. [10]
    suspended
    Link
    YouTube and Reddit (Moderators/Administrators) allow users to disable comments for example.

    YouTube and Reddit (Moderators/Administrators) allow users to disable comments for example.

    1 vote
    1. [9]
      zptc
      Link Parent
      Youtube allows channels to disable comments, but does reddit allow you to disable comments on your own post if you're not a mod? What OP's suggesting seems much more like the latter, which afaik...

      Youtube allows channels to disable comments, but does reddit allow you to disable comments on your own post if you're not a mod? What OP's suggesting seems much more like the latter, which afaik reddit doesn't do, unless I missed it.

      1 vote
      1. [6]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        My proposal is different from both YouTube and what you're suggesting. I'm not suggesting that we disable comments on topics, just replies to comments. So, you could post a top-level comment on a...

        My proposal is different from both YouTube and what you're suggesting. I'm not suggesting that we disable comments on topics, just replies to comments. So, you could post a top-level comment on a topic without allowing replies to it, but other people could post their own comments in the same topic. (Just not in response to yours, or at least, not officially.)

        2 votes
        1. [5]
          cfabbro
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          As others have mentioned, a user being able to disable notifications generated by any replies they received to a comment they made is essentially the same as getting no replies, from the...

          So, you could post a top-level comment on a topic without allowing replies to it

          As others have mentioned, a user being able to disable notifications generated by any replies they received to a comment they made is essentially the same as getting no replies, from the perspective of that user... so what would the advantage be of allowing users to selectively disable all replies to their comments instead of that?

          IMO, all that allowing a user to totally disable replies would likely do is encourage soapboxing, stifle dissenting opinions, allow misinformation to spread unopposed, and potentially cause drama from that act spilling into other threads or topics.

          1 vote
          1. [4]
            skybrian
            Link Parent
            There is the effect on the larger community. Are you sure that replying to someone who isn't listening is useful? Maybe it's a waste of time that adds noise?

            There is the effect on the larger community. Are you sure that replying to someone who isn't listening is useful? Maybe it's a waste of time that adds noise?

            1 vote
            1. [3]
              cfabbro
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              In the case of challenging misinformation, I would say that it is still undeniably useful to reply, even if the OP doesn't see it. And I think in general, even if the OP doesn't see a reply to...

              Are you sure that replying to someone who isn't listening is useful?

              In the case of challenging misinformation, I would say that it is still undeniably useful to reply, even if the OP doesn't see it. And I think in general, even if the OP doesn't see a reply to their comment, they are still useful in most cases since they can often expand on what the OP said, open up more discussion, etc. And if that were not the case then nobody would ever vote on replies other than ones to their own comments, which isn't the case. IMO whether the OP sees a reply or not has little bearing on its value.

              3 votes
              1. [2]
                skybrian
                Link Parent
                Challenging misinformation is certainly a reason why people feel strongly that they should reply. However, I'm unsure whether it's actually a healthy response. Maybe it's one of the ways...

                Challenging misinformation is certainly a reason why people feel strongly that they should reply. However, I'm unsure whether it's actually a healthy response. Maybe it's one of the ways discussions go bad?

                One thing I've occasionally done is reword what I want to say as not a direct reply and post it at top level. The exercise of rewriting the response to be stand-alone when the audience is not actually the person you're replying to seems useful.

                Hard to say though, without doing more experimenting. This isn't a rule change I'm convinced will work, but it's one that I'm curious about trying.

                It seems like we should approach this like game-testing. It's hard to say whether a game is fun without playing it a few times to see how the rule change works out in practice. How could we experiment with odd forum rules without making them seem permanent?

                2 votes
                1. cfabbro
                  (edited )
                  Link Parent
                  Letting misinformation remain unchallenged and allowing it to spread unopposed on a site is the exact opposite of helpful and healthy IMO. I would even go so far as to call it downright toxic to a...

                  Letting misinformation remain unchallenged and allowing it to spread unopposed on a site is the exact opposite of helpful and healthy IMO. I would even go so far as to call it downright toxic to a community and detrimental to society as a whole. And sure, challenging someone on their statements may incite them to misbehave by escalating the argument, but that is on them, not the person disproving their statements if they have done so using objective fact and presenting it in a civil tone. And yes, some things are also entirely subjective and can't really be objectively disproved... However despite that, I still firmly believe that the ability to challenge someone directly on statements they make publicly is absolutely vital to healthy discussions and communities.

                  I am not opposed to potentially experimenting with your idea, but I think the problem with that is it will not necessarily be immediately apparent what the issues with it are, because currently there isn't much misinformation being spread on the site (that I can see anyways)... but that will definitely not remain the case as the site grows. If/when Tildes gets to even 1/100th reddit's scale, then that particular issue would undoubtedly become a major problem as there are quite a number of organizations out there (government, corporate, and political) that target notable social media sites with disinformation and astroturfing campaigns. And allowing those bad-faith actors to intentionally disable replies to comments they make will only compound their effectiveness, since that will put the onus entirely on admins and moderators to counteract that behavior, as users will not be able to counter them via direct replies anymore.

                  p.s. Despite my disagreeing pretty strongly with the idea, I have now added it as a feature request to gitlab so @Deimos can decide whether to accept or close it:
                  https://gitlab.com/tildes/tildes/issues/643

                  3 votes
      2. [2]
        suspended
        Link Parent
        What I'm saying in the parenthesis is that Reddit moderators and administrators have the power to lock a post from comments.

        What I'm saying in the parenthesis is that Reddit moderators and administrators have the power to lock a post from comments.

        1 vote
        1. Eylrid
          Link Parent
          Deimos can and does do the same here.

          Deimos can and does do the same here.

          2 votes