Lite Blocking

November 5th, 2019
ideas, tech
There are people I would like to interact less with online: perhaps they post inane things, perhaps they pull comment threads off in bad directions, perhaps they make terrible arguments for things I agree with. The standard tools social networks offer for this sort of situation are:
  • Blocking: you can't see their stuff, they can't see your stuff, you can't interact.

  • Hiding: you don't see their stuff, or you see less of it. You can still interact.

I'd like another tool:
  • Lite blocking: as if they'd hidden you.

Social networks generally have far more things they could show you than you'll be able to look at. To prioritize they use inscrutable algorithms that boil down to "we show you the things we predict you're going to like." You can think of hiding as "dramatically lower the prediction that I would like seeing their stuff," and lite blocking as "dramatically lower the prediction that they would like seeing my stuff."

Lite blocking could be symmetrical or not, but the important thing to me is that the network would stop encouraging people to interact with me if I don't want those interactions.

Perhaps I should just block people? I'm glad blocking exists, and there are times when it's the right tool. But other times it's much too powerful:

  • Blocking is obvious, but with the level of "who knows why the things decided to show me what it did" lite blocking maintains plausible deniability. This is important for people you want to avoid interacting with but need to stay on good terms with for other reasons.

  • Blocking is too thorough. Maybe I don't like the way you tend to come into threads I host and derail them, but I'd still like you to be able to find our past discussions and reference them if intentionally seek them out.

  • Groups often have high thresholds for kicking people out, but an in-between level where someone would just see fewer group posts in their feed would be helpful in cases where the moderators think someone's posts are generally making the group worse.

Since lite blocking explicitly overrides the network's prediction about how much someone will like things, you could imagine a change to add it being difficult to get past launch review. It would probably look bad on the core metrics, with a decrease in estimated user satisfaction and engagement. But the metrics don't capture the ways "so and so isn't showing up in my discussions any more" would make others happier and improve their experience using the network.

Comment via: facebook, lesswrong

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