30

For context: the Disciplined and Peer Pressure badges are awarded for deleting one's own content with a score of 3 or higher or -3 or lower respectively.

Earlier today, someone posted a comment that they would not delete their answer since it had accumulated a score of -3 and would stand to earn the Peer Pressure badge, and they didn't want to be identified with (in their opinion) a "badge of shame". (The answer was later deleted by the community.)

The reason why the badge exists is to entice users to delete their bad-quality content and to provide a consolation prize much like the now-retired Tumbleweed badge used to. But the above scenario got me thinking: maybe retaining that badge isn't the best idea, and perhaps it should be retired. There are three reasons I can come up with:

It publicly identifies users as having posted content that got downvoted

Like all badges, Peer Pressure will show in the user's public badge logs, and so if a user posts a downvoted post that they delete, that fact will be publicly indicated on their profile. Some users may object to this and avoid deleting their own post, just like in the above case, in which case the badge fails to accomplish its intended purpose.

Also, here on Meta, as downvoting may simply indicate disagreement, it publicly marks users who made a disagreed post that wasn't necessarily of low quality the same way that it marks a user who posted low-quality, self-deleted content on a main site.

Deleting one's own negatively-received post is discouraged by the post ban algorithms

As I said earlier, the point of the Peer Pressure badge is to get users to delete their negatively-received content. However, the post ban algorithms explicitly disincentivize this, and favor users editing to improve such content: such posts' downvotes still count toward them if deleted, and the fact that they're deleted can also count against them. It's contradictory to have an incentive toward deleting negatively-received content while having a much stronger incentive toward not deleting it and fixing it instead.

It encourages gaming the system or making troll posts

There have been documented cases in the past where a user games the Peer Pressure badge by intentionally making a low-quality post, waiting for it to get downvoted, then deleting it. This is definitely not behavior we want to encourage.


Based on these three reasons, I think it's a good idea to retire the badge, especially for questions, due to the second reason. There may be some value in retaining it for answers, and I do see that it can be used to assist others in moderating content by allowing users to see if one's posted negatively-received content in the past that they self-deleted, but I did ask around in the largest content quality moderation chat room on the network and it doesn't really seem to be used there. Plus, it ignores community- and moderator-deleted posts.

I think that a discussion of this badge would be incomplete without also discussing the closely-related Disciplined badge. Per my second link above, the purpose of this badge is to entice users to delete wrong answers that received upvotes. This badge definitely entices users to delete good-quality content that others have indicated is useful, which is definitely harmful to the site. Plus, disregarding that, the only rationale I've seen is for answers, but the badge is awarded for questions too: I don't see much value in that, since such questions are likely to get answered and we don't want users to delete questions that have been answered.

There may be something of value that I missed in one or both of these badges, so I'd like to open this as a discussion: what should be done with these badges? Should the Peer Pressure badge be restricted to only answers or retired entirely? What about the Disciplined badge?

1
  • 7
    For those without the privilege to see deleted content, I have no reservations announcing that it was me who refused to delete my post after it collected 3 downvotes. Commented Nov 13, 2021 at 11:20

2 Answers 2

15

Well, I was going to ask my own question, with respect to an ongoing discussion on this in chat, but I think it works just as well as an answer.

I guess the direction SE's taken has been to try to be 'kinder and gentler' towards new users. I don't want a scarlet letter P hanging around 'cause I was a newbie, and asked a question people felt was necessary to downvote, especially if I got better at things as time went on.

While I don't have the awesome statistics that Jon had back in the day -the retirement of the tumbleweed and reversal badges seems the direction we ought to follow.

Now, part of the problem here is I partially agree with the premise of the question:

Once we started thinking about badges and what purpose they serve, we considered behavior we’d like to recognize.

is what I think should sum up how we deal with badges.

I don't see a problem with the Disciplined badge. If I got +3 or better on a post, with no answers that were upvoted, and it turns out I couldn't actually ever solve the issue, it seems like a great idea to let someone else take a crack at the question.

Now the peer pressure badge.

It encourages people to delete poorly scored posts. It doesn't do much to educate them on what's wrong with the post. Enough downvotes and deleted posts and you get question or answer banned. While I don't have statistics - this seems like a broadly negative thing. I'd like people to at the very least get an opportunity to do better and know what's wrong.

I mean, other than being unfriendly, it feels slightly pointless. I mean, a downvote or two is nothing to be that ashamed of. It's a sign that we need to recalibrate approaches, sure, but the badge as it is does nothing to help.

To borrow a little more from Jon's post

we’ve been looking at how our incentive systems, including reputation and badges intended to encourage positive contributions, may be building discouraging barriers instead.

I'd say it's questionable how the peer pressure post encourages positive contributions. And while I get the reasoning for giving a wooden spoon for deletion in the old days, I'm not sure it contributes to post quality in any way. I think improvement and learning should be the goal here - and this does neither.

2
2

FWIW: I am just one more relatively low-rep user who holds both of the badges: Peer Pressure on SO and Disciplined on SO. I realize that this is an opinion of N = 1 person, but I do not have the skills needed to assess the effects of these badge award systems for N > 1. I think that the badges benefited me personally, and made me improve my posting abilities. For an average user like me, the badges have a net benefit, as they reward better behavior. A little nudge helps some people sometimes!

A better method to assess the (thoughtful and interesting) proposals by Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog and Journeyman Geek is through experiments. There should be some metrics (perhaps related to some fraction of reposts/copy-paste events or upvote/downvote ratio) that can be measured with different badge award systems. Let the data speak!

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .