New feature: Voting

Voting has arrived!

Two kinds of voting are now possible on Sequiturs: you can vote whether a proposition is true or false, and you can vote whether an argument is valid or invalid.

Voting on propositions

Every premise or conclusion in an argument on Sequiturs consists of a proposition. The proposition is the text content of the premise or conclusion. You can think of propositions as the atomic element on Sequiturs, since they are shared across arguments, whenever two premises or conclusions have the same text content.

You can now vote on whether you think a proposition is true or false.

To vote, just click the buttons beneath a proposition:

Proposition vote buttons

This is a big deal! Votes are a simple, well-defined way for users to provide feedback. Vote totals can be used to gauge the strength of an argument and where its weaknesses are. Eventually, votes could be used to create powerful metrics around argument quality and create a more efficient user experience on Sequiturs.

For votes on propositions, it’s important to clarify what they are not. A vote on a proposition is not a vote on whether you think the proposition is being used correctly in the argument where it appears, or whether you agree with that argument, or anything else besides the truth or falsity of the content of the proposition itself.

Restricting the definition of proposition votes like this is essential to their usefulness as information. It keeps proposition votes independent of the argument context in which the proposition is used, so that votes on a proposition can follow the proposition wherever it’s used. (And they do: when you vote on a proposition, you’ll see your vote reflected in all instances of that proposition in other arguments.) As votes accumulate over time and consensus (or lack thereof) about the truth or falsity of a proposition is revealed, that can inform the development of other arguments on Sequiturs.

Voting on arguments

You can also vote on whether you think an argument is valid or invalid.

A valid argument is one in which the conclusions follow logically from the premises. Note that an argument can have false premises and still be valid. Validity is about the logical relationship between the premises and conclusions.

Here’s a simple example of a valid argument which has a false premise:

The conclusion follows logically from the premises, so the argument is valid. But premise 2 is false—obviously!

Here’s an invalid argument, where the conclusion does not follow from the premises:

The premises and the conclusion of this argument may all be true, and yet the argument is clearly invalid, because the truth of the premises does not entail the truth of the conclusion. You could say this one is a non sequitur

If you’re familiar with the distinction between deductive and inductive reasoning, you may be wondering how those relate to the concept of validity being used here on Sequiturs. For those interested, see this footnote.[0]

To vote on an argument, use the buttons in the Meta panel on the argument page:

Argument vote buttons

Privacy

User privacy considerations around voting were foremost when developing this feature. As a result, we’ve made votes anonymous, except to the voter herself.

What this means is that any user who is able to view an argument can see the vote totals on the argument’s validity and on the truth of its propositions, but not who the voters were. Only the voter herself can see how she has voted on specific arguments or propositions.

In the future, we may give users the option to de-anonymize their votes, or to associate their vote with a comment or challenge (which would have the same effect). This would enable the best of both worlds: privacy for those who want it, and a richer, more accountable discussion for those who want it.

What’s next?

There are many other ways in which voting could be added to Sequiturs. We’re considering upvoting (and downvoting) for: prompts, responses to prompts, comments on arguments, and challenges to arguments. Each of these would further empower users to shape discussion on Sequiturs and enable a more efficient user experience around discovery of quality content.

Next up, though, we’ll have an announcement about adding Sequiturs functionality to any site!

-Ian


[0] Sequiturs is suitable both for deductive arguments and inductive arguments. That is, the Sequiturs argument format accommodates arguments where the conclusions are necessarily true if the premises are true (deductive), and arguments where the conclusions are very likely though not necessarily true if the premises are true (inductive). For the purposes of voting on an argument’s validity on Sequiturs, you should consider an argument valid if it meets the standard corresponding to what type of argument it is. It might not always be clear whether an argument is deductive or inductive—you can discuss that in the comments!