This page is an (incomplete) description of the mechanics on Tildes. None of these mechanics are particularly original—Tildes is intended to be a refinement of community sites, not an entirely new type.
The different subject-oriented sections on Tildes are called "groups". They have a tilde symbol in front of their name—for example, the group related to music is "~music".
It's not being used yet in the alpha, but groups will eventually be organized hierarchically. That is, groups can have sub-groups, and be organized into a "tree". In the future, the ~music group could have sub-groups such as ~music.metal, and it could have its own sub-groups like ~music.metal.instrumental. This concept should be recognizable to anyone familiar with Usenet.
Groups are not "owned" by users, and (at least for now) can not be created by users. This may change in the future, but the lack of user-created groups initially will make it simpler to keep the hierarchy organized, as well as concentrate activity in fewer groups while the site is still small.
A small set of active groups is far better than a large set of inactive ones, and the hierarchy will allow different subjects to easily split into more-specific groups as activity increases.
The posts made to groups are called "topics". There are two types of topics: link topics, which point to a specific url; and text topics, where the text is posted on Tildes itself by the author.
Users can vote on other users' topics, but there is only a positive vote, not a negative one (see below for more about this).
Topics can be tagged in order to categorize them. Currently, tagging can only be done by the same user that posted the topic, but other users will eventually be able to add/edit/remove tags as well.
A topic can have any number of tags, and the valid characters in a tag are letters, numbers, and spaces.
It will most likely not be used very frequently, but tags also support a hierarchy. For example, a topic tagged
ask.recommendations is using the hierarchy for a "sub-tag" of the
ask tag. This has some interesting possibilities—someone filtering out all
ask posts would also not see anything tagged
ask.recommendations, but someone else could choose to filter only
ask.recommendations and still see posts with other tags like
ask.help or plain
It's worth mentioning that the hierarchy and naming restrictions of topic tags match up exactly with how groups work. This is deliberate—there's a lot of potential here with the parallels between sub-groups and tags.
Tildes has nested comments, which form a tree structure. Similar to topics, other users' comments can be voted on, and there is no downvote (see below for more about this).
Note: This feature is currently being experimented with, and is available to users whose account is at least a week old.
Comments can also be labeled, which is separate from voting (you can vote on a comment, or label it, or do both). Labels help to categorize comments and can have effects such as changing how the comments are sorted. Currently, there are 5 options for labeling comments:
- Exemplary - Comments that are exceptional and deserve special recognition. Users can only label a comment as Exemplary once every 8 hours, and it requires entering a message/reason that will be displayed anonymously to the comment's author.
- Offtopic - Comments talking about something unrelated to the actual topic
- Joke - Comments posted for humor purposes (actual jokes, puns, references, etc.)
- Noise - Comments that don't add anything to the discussion. This includes obvious non-contributing comments like "lol", "I agree", and responses to the headline like "finally!", but can also cover anything where the comment's presence doesn't add anything meaningful.
- Malice - Comments posted in bad faith. Comments should be labeled as Malice if they're trolling, personal attacks, or other types of behavior that have no place in high-quality discussions. Using this label requires entering a reason, and serves as a method of reporting the comment.
Comment labels serve multiple purposes overall. Tildes has no downvoting, but some labels can effectively act as "downvote with a reason". Labels will also make it possible to support various methods of filtering comment threads, such as both "show this thread without jokes" and "show only jokes from this thread".
Overall, voting on a comment should mean something like "this is a good comment and I think other people should read it", while labeling a comment adds more information. With the combination of both, you can express things like "this is a good comment, even though it's off-topic", and "this is a joke, but it's a good one".
Lack of downvoting
As mentioned above, Tildes does not have negative votes for either topics or comments. The reason for this is that I believe we can implement different mechanics that replace the "proper" use of downvotes without also enabling all the misuses of them.
The ideal usage of a downvote is a generic way to express "this doesn't contribute", but in practice they tend to be used more as "I disagree" or "I don't like this". High-quality posts will often get downvoted because other users disagree with the opinion, and in taste-based communities (such as ones related to music), entire categories of valid posts might be unviable because they'll just be downvoted by users with different taste.
On Tildes, I want to find ways to accomplish those valuable uses through other mechanics. For example, the comment labels described above can be used to communicate why you don't think a comment contributes. Topic tags will allow users to simply filter out certain types of posts that they're not interested in, instead of downvoting them and hurting them for other users that do want to see them.