If you like a post, tell the author!

I wonder whether I should write more comments pointing out what I liked in a post even if I don’t have anything to criticise instead of just silently upvoting.

- Denise Melchin

I’ve heard this question quite a few times, and the answer is: Yes! Absolutely yes! Tell authors when you like something they’ve written!

Imaginary case study

Consider the experience of a Forum author who writes a post most readers like, in a world where people only comment if they have a critique.

They go to the Forum and see a string of comments:

  • “You’re wrong about A.”

  • “You’re wrong about B.”

  • “Why didn’t you mention C?”

The post could have dozens of upvotes, but if it looks like anyone who closely engaged with it found something to criticize, the author may not feel great about their work.

(This doesn’t mean that criticism isn’t valuable: If you find something to criticize, you should also probably tell the author.)

In a world where people share what they like about posts, the comments might be:

  • “You’re wrong about A.”

    • “I see what the above poster means about point A1, but I thought point A2 was actually an interesting take, and could be correct under assumption Q.”

  • “I hadn’t read this post you linked to — thanks for the reference!”

  • “You’re wrong about B.”

  • “I really liked your discussion of B!”

  • “Why didn’t you mention C?”

  • “Your points about D and E were really helpful for a project I’m working on.”

The criticism still exists, but I’d expect the author to feel better about responding if they know the post was valuable to some readers.

Also, positive reactions are useful feedback in their own right!

Frequently asked questions

What if my positive comment is just “thanks, I enjoyed this?”

Still good! Even a generic nice comment will be much more salient to most authors than a silent upvote.

What if my positive comment just takes up space in a way that distracts from more important critical discussion and intellectual progress and whatnot?

This is paraphrased from things I’ve actually heard when talking to Forum users.

While I understand the concern, I must emphasize that the Forum exists on the Internet, a system of interconnected computer networks where space is effectively unlimited. We also offer the “scrollbar,” a feature people can use to skip over comments they don’t want to read or discuss.

If someone finds your positive comment distracting, they can scroll past it. But there’s at least one person who probably won’t find it distracting — the author.


If you like a post, tell the author!

If you don’t like a post, it’s also fine to tell the author!

But at the very least, let’s try to make sure authors don’t get a negatively-skewed view of how people think about their posts.