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Should we start displaying the score of a post instead of the raw votes?

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Currently, when viewing a post, Codidact will show you the raw votes on a post, with the breakdown into upvotes and downvotes:

Screenshot of the voting buttons, showing +12 and -1.

There's been some feedback that this is a bit too much to show, especially coming from platforms like Stack Exchange where they generally just show the aggregate score of upvotes and downvotes as one number (with the option to expand the votes to see the split). We decided to show both counts automatically to better show when there's controversy.

However, we now also have another option. We have a method for scoring posts that assigns a score between 0 and 1 to each post.

Perhaps instead of showing the raw votes on each post, we should instead show the post score (e.g. 0.81363... or 0.3793...), rounded to the nearest two or three decimal places (so that it would show as 0.937 or 0.276), with the raw votes available on request, perhaps either on click or in the tools menu.

This would take people a bit of time to get used to, but it might be worth that initial adjustment time, since this... is our scoring system and we want people to be familiar with it quickly.

This has the added benefit of making it much clearer why answers are sorted the way they are by displaying their score (that's currently computed without being displayed) for everyone to see. The raw votes matter less than the computed score.

Why should this post be closed?

0 comments

4 answers

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If we show raw Wilson score I think we're going to see a lot of confusion and questions -- "is 0.65 good?" "what does it take to get to 0.8?" etc. Even if we explain that it's a value from 0 to 1 indicating some quality measure, I don't think it's all that meaningful to show that number to most people -- and certainly not as the only indication.

We should consider context. I think it's very important to show the raw votes for answers to questions. The sorting conveys relative ranking, so we don't need to show meters or scores or anything else there -- just the votes. I'm not averse to making the scores available, but they shouldn't be primary because the page already conveys this information in a more intuitive way.

Why is it important to show the raw vote counts? Because ranking, and scores were we to show them, give a sense, but if you're considering which of these answers on EE to follow to modify your phone, you really ought to know that while that answer has lots of upvotes it also has lots of downvotes. That should prompt you to look more closely. Maybe the downvoters are wrong or misunderstood, or maybe they know one missed step and you'll brick your expensive phone.

For top-level posts (questions or articles), though, our priorities might be different. Is it actually valuable to see question scores on the question list at all -- either raw scores or a meter or both? What are we trying to accomplish by showing this? If we answer that, I think we'll be in a better position to decide what to show there.

Finally, on the question page I talked about answers but not the question. Since we're showing raw votes for all the answers, I think consistency demands that we show them for the question too. And just as we're not showing graphical meters for answers (because we don't need to), I wouldn't show one for the question on the question page.

A final thought about meters on the question page: when we were kicking ideas around on wireframes, someone suggested that the meter should take other factors into account, for example that a question is closed. If the function of the meter is to highlight questions that are likely to be most fruitful for a busy skimmer, then we should take such factors into account -- at which point the meter isn't just a reflection of score. If, on the other hand, the meter is just a reflection of score, then what are we trying to accomplish by showing it? (The answer might be multi-modal communication, but I'd rather ask and find out than guess.)

5 comments

Technically, post pages do already contain the score for those who want it - hover over the vote counts. ‭‮edoCfOtrA‭ 3 months ago

@ArtOfCode oh, neat! I never noticed that. :-) We should probably enhance that tooltip a bit to at least say "score:" or something and not just the number. :-) ‭Monica Cellio‭ 3 months ago

Well, I came up with an example that's closer to reality, though in the "gadget" mode more than the "advanced circuit design" mode that I know EE is striving for. ‭manassehkatz‭ 3 months ago

Thanks for the new example @manassehkatz. That's better. ‭Monica Cellio‭ 3 months ago

Wilson Score isn't that complicated. If you enjoy math and statistics you might have some fun with figuring out how the score is calculated, but I think just telling people that 50% is neutral, higher is good, lower is bad is enough if it needs to be employed at all. (FWIW I used to use this userscript which does exactly this on StackExchange; maybe it can be tweaked to work here?) ‭DonielF‭ 3 months ago

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I agree that on a list of questions, one clear indicator of fitness is most helpful. On a post's own page, it might make more sense to also show the up- and down-vote counts.

Given that the "score," here, does not directly represent anything anyone can count, but rather is the result of plugging the up- and down-votes into a not-fully-intuitive continuous function, I think that showing the literal number that comes out of that function would be more confusing than helpful. Instead, I suggest representing it with a Likert scale, with a Help topic that provides both the formula and broad qualitative interpretations of the various scores. For example:

  • ↓↓ (Wilson score 0 - 20%): The community has expressed a clear consensus that this is not a helpful post.

  • (Wilson score 20% - 40%): There is some indication from the community that this is not a helpful post.

  • (Wilson score 40% - 60%): The community hasn't expressed a clear consensus regarding how helpful this post is.

  • (Wilson score 60% - 80%): There is some indication from the community that this is a helpful post.

  • ↑↑ (Wilson score 80 - 100%): The community has expressed a clear consensus that this is a helpful post.

In place of the ASCII arrow glyphs in this example, some variation of a traditional five-level signal-strength symbol could be used, such as:

Five-level signal-strength symbol
OpenClipart, Public Domain

1 comment

Or maybe just a color coding: red for 0-20%, orange for 20-40%, grey for 40-60%, blue for 60-80%, and green for 80-100%. You got a chuckle for the Wi-Fi symbol, but I think that'd be more confusing than anything. I give you a two-headed grey arrow for your other suggestion. ‭DonielF‭ 3 months ago

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instead of - Absolutely not!

Showing separate + and - votes is a good thing. Or as they say, that's not a bug, it's a feature.

If you want to show the score (whether integer net score or Wilson # or whatever) in addition to the + and - values, that's fine with me. But the + and - values are themselves very useful, and anyone who wants a simple net score can easily figure that out.

To answer the "redundant" part, how about always showing the non-zero parts. Examples:

  • +2, -1 - show both (as now)
  • +2, -0 - show: +2 (-0 is implied)
  • +0, -1 - show: -1 (+0 is implied)
  • +0, -0 - show either: 0 (unsigned, single value) or some "No votes yet" indication.

That cuts down on the clutter for the (hopefully common) situation where a post is all + or all -, while keeping things 100% clear when there is a mixture.

1 comment

It's a bit redundant to display it all the time, though. That's why I suggested having the raw votes be easily accessible (with one or two clicks) but not to be displayed by default. ‭Mithical‭ 3 months ago

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All the proposals so far are missing what people really want to know, which are two orthogonal metrics:

  1. How good/bad the crowd thinks the answer is.
  2. How heavily the crowd has weighed in.

The first tells you how much to believe the answer, and the second how much to believe the first point. Put another way, you want to see a score and how big the error band is for that score.

So lets show that.

The obvious formula for #1 is (up votes) / (total votes). I'd multiply that by 100 then round to the nearest integer. Values from 0-100 are easier to explain than 0.0 to 1.0. You don't really need to know the difference between 98.2 and 98.4, so keep it simple.

There are more choices how to present the confidence, but the total number of votes is a really simple value. We could get into probability, gaussian distribution assumptions, standard deviations, and the like, but too many people won't understand that and just tune out.

Examples

+5, -3: Score 63, votes 8

+20, -15: Score 57, votes 35

+0, -0: Votes 0

+0, -3: Score 0, votes 3

I would display the 0-100 score most prominently, probably without a label, then the number of votes below that in smaller font with a label.

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