In the last couple of weeks there's been some healthy debate on my blog about the Dislike button and what it would mean to lose it. Consensus amongst commentators who have thought about these issues seems to be that losing it altogether is not the solution (especially as a number of strange photos floated to the top of the Popular section when 500px experimented with disabling it for one week-end).
However, it's also commonly believed to be abused, essentially in two ways:
- first, by people whose photos are in the Popular section who will use the dislike to "knock down" pictures that are just above theirs in order to creep up in the ranking, be better viewed and presumably accrue more likes as a consequence,
- second, by people using it out of spite, as a retaliation for a comment they didn't like on one of their photos or a blog post they disagree with (I experienced the latter...)
The commonly mentioned "solutions" to fix the Dislike button were discussed but all seem to have weaknesses: making dislikes non-anonymous would likely result in most people not using it (in which case, why have it at all ?) and a number of retaliatory dislike wars that would serve no-one. Only allowing people with a certain affection level to use the dislike button - which according to some is currently implemented although I can't find a confirmation of that anywhere - doesn't seem to address any of the issues above.
If 500px wants to address the issues associated with the dislike button without ditching it entirely, then here are the three avenues that seem interesting to pursue:
1. Weighing Likes and Dislikes
The first one, and in my opinion the best one is to take into account the giver and receiver of a dislike (or, for that matter a like) into the weight that said dislike has. This was suggested by Pedro Fiol
, based on the mechanics of a Spanish website called Menéame. The basic concept is as follows: each interaction (like or dislike) is logged, and the system weighs that interaction on the basis of past history between the giver and the receiver. If someone systematically likes or dislikes the photos of someone else, they would weigh less and less.
I believe this would have all kinds of virtues in fluidifying the community. It would effectively eliminate suspected like or dislike cliques, it would make lasting hatred meaningless, and it would lower the importance of huge following in the emergence of content. However, it wouldn't on its own address the two specific issues of the dislike button listed above: dislikes could still be used to "kill" competition in Popular and spiteful use would still be possible (note that I'm not sure there's a solution to eliminate that...) Still, I would love to see something like that implemented although I understand there's some coding wizardry involved. The good news is that the Menéame code is free and open access, as detailed here
2. Rates Anonymous Dislike Comments
Another approach, suggested by Phrasikleia Epoiesen
would be to force a comment on every dislike, but make the comment anonymous in the photo so that retaliation would not be an option. However, viewers of the comment could then rate the comment, and if a given users dislike comments all took huge negative ratings, said users ability to dislike could be curtailed, temporarily or permanently.
In theory, this would allow the community to punish abusers. There's a lot of uncertaintly into how it would be used however, and you could imagine voting cliques affecting the ratings of the dislikes to skew it too, although that would make clique disliking harder than it currently is. Another benefit is that it could potentially address, at least in part, the spiteful use of the dislike button. It would, however, be realtively easy for people using the dislike abusively to simply state neutral things like "this isn't really my kind of photography" which would likely not attract outrage from other viewers.
Implementation, while probably not as complex as the first solution, would still be somewhat complicated from a coding perspective, it seems to me.
3. No Disliking if you're in Popular
I suggested this fix in the comments. It's a very simple fix, although it only addresses the first issue of dislike voting cliques (unlike Phrasikleia's solution) and and unlike Pedro's solution doesn't do anything against potential "like" voting cliques).
The idea would be to simply disable the dislike button for users that have a photo in Popular. The assumption I'm working on is that most of the attempts at rigging occur when users have photos in Popular, so by making that impossible, you eliminate the tool with which negative rigging would happen.
In the comments, Phrasikleia suggested that you might need to do it for the Upcoming section as well, but I'm not sure. The Popular section is ranked by photo Rating, so it's very easy for someone to click on the 5 photos higher than yours and kick them back (I believe that after 5 dislikes you're forced to comment when you dislike). In Upcoming, all photos with a 65 Rating or higher (I believe) are listed by time of upload. That makes it a lot more complicated to fish around for photos that might compete with yours in making it to the Popular section. Still, if worse comes to worse, the disabling could be extended to the Upcoming section.)
The virtue of that is that it would eliminate the suspicion or the reality of dislike being used abusively to get higher in the Popular section. It wouldn't address any of the other issues, but it would be dead simple to implement.
In conclusion, there are ways to keep the dislike button alive and tweaking it slightly to make it a more integral part of the ecosystem by eliminating the suspiscions of abusive use. I hope 500px looks at these suggestions and assess them. At the very least I hope it furthers their thinking on these issues.
Interestingly, a number of other issues came up during the debate, including:
- frustration at not knowing how many likes and dislikes a given photo has
- frustration at the fact that any photo that hasn't been seen enough in the first 24 hours after posting will never be seen again
- frustration that a binary rating system (like/dislike) wasn't granular enough
- generally, frustration about comments rarely being meaningful...
None of these are directly relate to potential abuse of the dislike button, so I won't address them here. But they're interesting topics for discussion!