The Value of Voting Systems – Web 2.0

Dr. J made a comment today in the Social Media Mania thread that made me think a bit about how people perceive value in community. His comment was directed specifically at voting and community input.

What is wrong with having people vote on something? Isn’t that exactly the point? To have user input and that input is where the real value of community lies?

Input is certainly valuable. But how valuable is a vote? Digg, Netscape, and many other ‘Web 2.0’ properties place a large degree of importance on voting.

My answer to Dr. J’s question though is that voting as input is perhaps the least valuable interaction for a community. The real value of community lies in the conversation and the exchange of ideas. Breaking down complex ideas into yes/no and calling the result input works quite well for computer programs, certainly less well when people are involved.

Why bother to explain your point of view when you can simply shout down the opposing point of view with sheer numbers? Bury conflicting viewpoints. Add to that a system that can be manipulated by creating false voters and the result is a propaganda machine. Unpopular ideas are simply buried.

So does voting add value? Does voter credibility count? I’d like to explore the issue quite a bit more. I’m going to add voting capability to a few blogs I run and examine the impact. I won’t be using this blog as it doesn’t have the traffic yet that I need to make determinations so I’ll add it to a couple of more controversial blogs in which the comments are a bit more heated and the topics more divisive.

If you have a WordPress blog or blogs, and you’d like to add voting abilities, Dan Grossman created a plugin that makes it simple to turn your blog into a review engine. Just download the DG Review Site plugin for WordPress.

For a very reasoned and well-thought out opinion on voting and social bookmarking, read Ashok’s aptly titled post, On Voting and Social Bookmarking.

An excerpt:

My concern is with the “voting” on these sites, mainly. The voting is secret, which leads to things like this:

* People voting down anything they don’t like without giving a response as to why they don’t like it.
* People arguing seriously, when they do respond, that a large number of negative votes upon an argument constitutes the defeat of an argument.
* The same sorts of stories making it to the front page – usually they’re bland or things everyone knows already, because everyone agrees that the content is relevant.
* Conspiracy theory posts or openly false posts not getting voted down or declared to be false in the comments getting to the front page.
* Such posts like the former being used as the basis for argumentation or other posts entirely.


  1. I tried sending a trackback to this post, which is like my first trackback in years, so I wonder how that’ll work out.

  2. I guest posted on another blog about user generated headaches. I think it really applies in this case.

  3. DG

    Thanks for that link Ahmed. My gut feeling is that the more popular the site, the less valuable voting becomes. What I’ve noticed immediately is that allowing voting instantly polarizes the community.

  4. Very interesting – thanks for the food for thought.

  5. DG

    Hello Craig, thanks for stopping by. I’ll be posting the results of my voting experiment on March 3rd. I wanted to give the test a full month to run before I made any judgments.

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  1. 1 Rethink.

    Re: Voting – In Agreement.

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