I get that you're outraged because someone asked you to read or post something, or vote for something; but come on - surely you have a little more faith in the intelligence of the people here that you don't think that we're just going to blindly submit things because someone has asked us to.
This sort of submission doesn't accomplish anything except starting arguments. Even if a thousand people vote this up, nobody is going to stop asking other people to vote for their submissions, nobody is going to stop emailing people from out of the blue and asking for them to submit stories, nobody is going to stop posting links to their submissions from other sites with a plea to upvote it.
Instead, the top story is now about how someone was once again done wrong by the dark and terrible forces of the internets, conspiring to destroy the very fabric of Hacker News.
It's the sort of story where everyone can weigh in, because there's no barrier to entry for having an opinion. You can already see the race to the right margin starting, and this has only been up for 2 hours.
Good content has its way of making it to the front page. I can generally tell when I submit something if it's going to make it to the front page; I haven't had to ask anyone for any votes and yet they get there.
I guess I'm a little irritated about the insinuation that we don't have the capability to make decisions as to whether or not we vote or submit something. The suggestion that we can't is just getting old.
However you can't ignore the fact that as HN gets more readers there's more skin in the game for startups. Getting your story to the front page could get you some of the momentum you need to attract that first angel investor, or to find your first seed group of alpha users. There are plenty of forces that will tend to corrupt the process as HN gains more readership.
We can't just consider the issue at hand, you must also consider the precedent this sort of thing sets and how that could evolve in the future.
Edit: I find it a tad ironic that the people saying this stuff isn't happening are also linking your comment in IRC and asking for it to be upvoted. Point being: it just rings false to 'lobby' for votes. Nothing personal, just an observational, I get that it is at least partly tongue in cheek.
This site is very simple. Post article/comment. Get feedback. Post more. Why make it more complicated than that?
I don't particularly see anything wrong with this as long as there is a degree of transparency and the poster adds an initial comment to the effect that:
Bob from example.com asked me to post this and since it is clearly neat, I have.
Bob from example.com asked me to post this and since he paid me $500, I have.
... as appropriate.
I am unsure in what relevant respect contacting someone to post something to HN is different than contacting someone to post on their blog. Is it that we have a reflexive allergy to being marketed to? I find that people generally don't mind, as long as they're buying what you're selling. For example, every once in a while I get an email from startups about the new foozit they're working on, particularly for A/B testing.
Heck yes, I want to hear about that. Please, send me email. I understand you're not sending it to me because you woke up this morning and decided "What can I selflessly do to brighten Patrick's day?" That's OK -- we're all businessmen here. If you know my name and have given enough individualized attention to believe I will like it, I'll at least give it a looksie. (Running /bingo/ against whois records does not count as personalized attention -- and no, I'm also not impressed that you have a fake female persona do the letter.)
While it is extremely unlikely that I'd ever submit something from ReadWriteWeb or your tech blog of choice (simply because if it was worth reading y'all would all have already seen it probably days in advance of me), I wouldn't feel particularly dirty submitting something that I discovered via an email. I mean, since you guys are my main source of startup/software/etc news, and I don't submit duplicates, eliminating the "somebody told me about this" route would pretty much mean that the only way to find something to submit would be to write it myself.
Not that I have a problem with that, either. :)
By asking 'well known' people in the community to submit stuff for them they're trying to ride the reputation of others in order to maximize their exposure, while at the same time hiding the fact that these are not 'natural' submissions.
It's like using other HN users as your personal sock puppets.
Anyhow, suppose some random email startup convinces Bob that their thingee is worthwhile enough to post about. Yes, I would trust that endorsement more than I'd trust randomHacker123's post. That is because Bob's endorsement matters to me, because I can use it as a filter for things I am likely to enjoy.
I understand they're using Bob's endorsement to maximize their exposure. I'm just not troubled by that. Bob's endorsement matters to me, at least on the subject of email marketing. He's doing the work sifting through the email marketing pitches so I don't have to. Yay! Bully for Bob.
Anyway, for the record, I will happily get any story on the front page of Hacker News for the right price. I'm not kidding, I've done it before, on purpose. I once set out to teabag Hacker News and get a story about my own balls on the front page. It only took me two attempts. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org and I am more than happy to take your ducats.
Feel free to rag on all the "drama" it creates, but that's because people here actually care about the quality of this site. Is that stupid? Naive? To you, clearly. But I think it's perfectly reasonable to desire that your favorite stomping ground not become just another place where the almighty dollar trumps all.
Standard response: don't feed the trolls (even the well-known trolls)
_this community means nothing to you other than being a great place to advertise._
That conflates a community with a site, and attention-seeking with profit-seeking.
_before long the front page is nothing but posts about balls_
How long is before long? I actually think that would take a while, although I'd certainly be impressed if it happened overnight.
As for conflating a community with a site, I fail to see the problem. This site does have a community, and I'd hate to see that community change dramatically. I suppose the community could just meet somewhere else if this site goes down the drain, but I'd much rather avoid an exodus if possible.
And I'm not conflating attention-seeking with profit-seeking, actually. You just presented an offer to all of HN (and the entire internet, really) that you'll get their post to the front page for the right dollar amount. Seems pretty profit-seeking to me. Were you kidding? Trying to get a rise out of us? Maybe, I don't know. But even if it was a joke, I didn't find it particularly funny, because that behavior has ruined sites before.
I think you need to get off your puritanical high horse about "keeping HN pure". You're doing more harm than good. So far, the main HN problem I see with "canvassing" or "voting rings" or whatever other cabalistic conspiration theory you think up, is the fact that you're polluting HN with these pointless finger-pointing exercises.
There's far more a problem of awesome posts getting zero upvotes than of crappy posts getting too many. Far too many times I stumble on something that is a great, great post, I submit it, and I find that it was submitted 2 days ago and got no upvotes. This sucks.
* TO CLARIFY:
If anyone runs a blog and thinks their last post is AWESOME and they reckon HN will love it, but for whatever reason they don't wish to post it under their own nickname, please DO send it to me. I will read it, and if I like it and I feel it is indeed an AWESOME post worth putting up on HN, I will post it.
PS: I will not post things that I don't think are in fact worth posting.
PPS: If you can't figure out my contact details by yourself, then you can't send me stuff.
You are simply mad with me because I pointed out your little group voting each others stuff up under the banner of being 'the defenders of HN', whereas that sort of behaviour is a part of the problem, not part of the solution.
I'm sure you didn't like that but to pretend I'm making it up is really funny, here is a transcript of #startups:
<swombat> fuck jacquesm.
<wheels> swombat: +1 for mention of the great magnet.
<raz> who is that?
<wheels> And clearing up that there is no cabal.
<swombat> there is no cabal, just a more efficient mechanism for bringing cool articles to the attention of more than 1 person so that they have a snowflake's chance in hell of actually being read
<wheels> raz: It's like the force, except that it wipes your hard drive.
<tomh-> free upvote for your comment swombat
<tomh-> that jaques guy has to know his place and stop being such an asshat
<raz> ya, belt him!
The Defenders of HN, like much of what's said in the channel is tongue in cheek.
And for the record, and I think this goes for any of the regulars in there, sure, if somebody mentions an article that I like and points it out in there, I'll vote it up. If somebody mentions an article that's crap, I won't. I do the same on HN by subscribing to the RSS feeds (via searchyc) of a handful of HN users that I find consistently post stuff I want to read.
As I see it, #startups is a channel which has very smart people involved in the startups community including many people working for YC companies. As the channel is realtime we have the great opportunity to point others to interesting stories before they will go to hackernews and see what's new themselves. Certainly not all people will just up vote articles blindly without seeing if it's actually a good article. Just like I think swombat's response was good, I gave him an up vote. If you sticked around in our channel longer you would know that we often joke about taking money and "giving free upvotes". Hiding in the channel anonymously and posting the logs on this channel is exactly why people get annoyed with the content you submit which in turn results in calling names (which I should also apologize for) in an informal semi-private setting..
The people in the channel submit interesting and relevant articles on regular base and I think those submissions are one of the main reasons I visit this site on a daily base. The channel is certainly part of the solution and not the problem. We submit good content, why worry about the way it happens?
and. crucially. nobody forces anyone in the channel to upvote or post anything. I only ever upvote links posted in #startups if I think they're interesting, which is exactly the same criteria I use on any HN link.
This discussion was started in the open and I'd prefer to keep it in the open. I don't like 'backchannels', what I have to say can stand the light of day.
> As I see it, #startups is a channel which has very smart people involved in the startups community including many people working for YC companies.
Nobody denies that.
> As the channel is realtime we have the great opportunity to point others to interesting stories before they will go to hackernews and see what's new themselves.
Which is fine up to a point, and that's where our disagreement probably begins.
> Certainly not all people will just up vote articles blindly without seeing if it's actually a good article.
But some do, and it is more than enough to make a noticeable difference, and not always for the better.
If it were always for the better that would be one thing but plenty of times the upvotes are based on 'who' and not on 'what'.
Invariably the biggest effort to 'upvote' centers around self posts by the people from #startups, even when their stuff is pretty lame.
It rarely happens that the power of #startups is used to 'rescue' a really good post from falling of the new page without upvotes, but it does occasionally happen.
> Just like I think swombat's response was good, I gave him an up vote.
That's fine with me. But let's be fair here, there has been enough 'anti jacquesm' sentiment on #startups to fill a couple of buckets with. The reason why I decided to post that bit of log is simply because I'm being told to my face I'm making this up while it's happening right under my nose.
For the record, I started hanging out in #startups after receiving several emails with a bunch of stuff that was said behind my back, so I got curious what you guys are up to, this was right after some weird emails to my address regarding HN and I figured maybe that's where the source lies.
> If you sticked around in our channel longer you would know that we often joke about taking money and "giving free upvotes".
You joke about it, and at the same time there is plenty of it happening. If everybody on HN would hang out in #startups it would be a different thing, elsewhere in this thread someone claims that
> The folks on #startups are the HN community.
but that would be off by at least two orders of magnitude.
> Hiding in the channel anonymously and posting the logs on this channel is exactly why people get annoyed with the content you submit which in turn results in calling names (which I should also apologize for) in an informal semi-private setting..
I think you have the order confused here, I first received a bunch of logs by email which suggested that there was a fairly concerted effort to downvote my stuff, no matter whether it was on topic or not. This has happened to more than one person on HN, so my feeling at the time was that #startups is not only used to promote content but also to squelch certain individuals.
I'm not sure about the latter, but given some of the stuff said in #startups and the resulting votes on those comments I would conclude that the accent is on upvotes but that group-downvotes definitely do happen if only occasionally.
If you have absolutely never ganged up on someone in a group setting then of course this does not apply to you.
> The people in the channel submit interesting and relevant articles on regular base and I think those submissions are one of the main reasons I visit this site on a daily base.
There is plenty of stuff submitted by others, that do not hang out in #startups that sinks without a trace, if you wanted to upvote interesting stuff then you could do that by basically scanning the new page every couple of hours.
#startups is for the most part limiting the bundling of upvotes to a relatively small group of people.
There are two positive effects from the group there, the one is flagging spam, the other is to upvote interesting articles, but as I said elsewhere that is the beginning of an arms race that eventually will spiral out of control.
I can probably muster plenty of upvotes because of the people on HN that I know or have met but I would never ever dream of doing that.
I once mailed someone about something I wrote and it was immediately interpreted as 'oh, I'll vote your stuff up', I never did that again.
> the channel is certainly part of the solution and not the problem. We submit good content, why worry about the way it happens?
I'm not sure that I'm able to explain this well enough, but let me try:
When a society forms, around a theme or some set of common interests the idea is that the 'one man one vote' principle will guide that society to stay on the rails.
If a small group of people, even with the best of intentions starts to control a dis-proportionally large part of the conversation we are well under way to 'stage 2', which will culminate in people using voting rings, botnets and all kinds of other strategies to drown out each other in the battle for control of the homepage.
Already there is substantial code in the HN core to deal with that sort of thing.
You are accelerating that process, and possibly the decline.
I think this falls under 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions'.
That's an easy statement to make. How do you know that your well-intentioned crusade doesn't cause more harm than good?
Historically, I've found that self-righteous crusades cause a lot more problems than they solve.
Also, apologies for the "fuck jacquesm", but I do get annoyed by puritanism and other moral crusades.
But I think you're going about it in the exact opposite way, you are starting an 'arms race', which will eventually runaway with voting blocks controlling what gets posted on HN.
That site is called 'Digg' I believe.
The first group of guys that gets away with it will engender the second and the third, after all, if it's ok that you do it why would it not be ok for other groups to do it?
I've seen first hand how effective it is what you are doing but I simply disagree with it, even if it is content that I like.
To pretend that I'm 'making it up' is disingenuous, especially since you - of all people - are most aware that it is very real.
No need to apologize, I'm not made of sugar, I just like to know what rules we're playing by.
Essentially you're saying HN is fair game and you can gang together your votes in order to gain effective control of the site to maintain a certain character, and I would like us all to retain our individuality in order to do exactly the same.
So we disagree - strongly - about the means but definitely not about the goal.
You are trying to create a solution by staging a 'behind the scenes coup' I would like a solution that creates a level playing field for everybody.
Translation: "What you're doing works, but I disagree with it based on abstract principles, even though I like the results."
You are trying to create a solution by staging a 'behind the scenes coup' I would like a solution that creates a level playing field for everybody.
We already have a level playing field: it's called "Google". The point of a site like HN is not to create some kind of abstractly idealist "level playing field", but to provide content that people (me included) want to read.
Ultimately, you could disagree with what we do on the basis of "fairness" - but actually our system is more fair. There are many cases where someone brought up an excellent link that was from a site never before posted on HN, and/or posted by an unknown user. We're actually achieving the aim of fairness even more. Remember, this is an open channel, everyone (you included) is welcome to show up and be a part of it. There's no "karma check" at the front door. Hell, some people on #startups don't even have HN users.
Unlike the digg cabal that you compare us to, joining this channel requires only that you fire up your IRC client and join freenode#startups. And no one is under any obligation to vote up anything. Hardly a voting ring, I'd say.
I see us as an optimisation mechanism to help great content get to the front page - there's nothing dodgy about it at all. Which is why, unlike your earlier suggestion, I am not "mad because you pointed out our little group". I think it's bad form in general to post stuff from an IRC channel onto a public forum, but I'm not made of sugar either.
In fact, I'd say, please do join us there (and this applies to anyone reading this). We're a friendly bunch and very welcoming, and a lot of the most active HN users hang out there. Find us here:
That's what they want you to think.
Which I'm fine with. I've been much more disappointed with newbie contributions than anything I've noticed from the #startups crew. I don't want democracy here, I want quality.
I think that's part of the problem. (not that it justifies things).
Asking a mate for a bit of support or to help (see wolfire comments below) is fine IMO. But contacting fairly random individuals with the aim the build a relationship and get you to post stuff is clearly well over the line.
(ironically they can't have done much research into the community because anyone who did would realise that your a poor target for this kind of social engineering :P)
Incidentally I've had some completely unrelated contact with the French part of RWW and I find them charming and ethical. :) Could be just one bad egg?
That being said, I've never been approached to submit a post.
Thanks for posting here.
I'm not a community leader by any stretch of the imagination, as I already wrote to you, just someone that in episodes spends way too much of his time on HN.
My 'nomination' will never be given to stuff I'm asked to submit because that already stacks the deck, I'm no longer unbiased towards what you wrote.
I'll post the stuff that I find on the net while surfing, irrespective of the source of my relationship with a source.
As a rule, if someone mails me their submissions I'll read but not upvote, unless it is excellent stuff.
If I come across readwriteweb articles that really interest me - and not through my inbox - then I'll definitely post it, or upvote it, but otherwise definitely not.
I understand that the pragmatic view is that 'everbody does it' but I simply don't feel comfortable with doing this.
It suggests some kind of collusion, possibly in the long term a quid-pro-quo and I like to be independent.
Over the years I've had plenty of press on my projects but not once was there any kind of behind the scenes dealing going on, and I frown on the cozy relationships that some press people build with people in the industry. Having press contacts is one thing, getting too close is imo not good.
As for HN, I'd expect readwriteweb.com content to be caught by enough people to be submitted anyway if it warrants that, I doubt you'd need to go out and solicit it (I could be wrong there), so for that you really don't need me or any other HN user specifically.
The best 'nomination' you can get here is to simply post your stuff and see what sinks and what swims. It's far from perfect, good stuff will fail plenty of times and fluff will rise to the surface but on the whole it is better than anywhere else, and to carefully read the comments, there is plenty of really good feedback there.
If not the banned domains list, perhaps pg could nofollow their links for a while?
It is a very well known fact that in most of the social news websites people always contact the users with the most reputation ask them to submit/upvote their articles.
If you want to get featured in Techcruch or RWW or any high profile blog, you have to send them emails to get their attention (opposed to they noticing you because you are a promising startup).
This is the way the world works. There is no point in blaming someone who comes from that world for contacting you privately. If you think it is against the spirits of HN, great; now let Dana Oshiro understand the same by telling him this privately.
There is nothing black hat in what he did. It is what they always do. It is their standard operating procedure - contacting powerful people in other fields and build a reputation from there.
I don't want to sound as if I don't care about the quality of HN. I do. I just want to suggest that people from outside may not know these norms and it is not polite to disgrace them in public like this.
With HN's roots in the startup community, it's much more in the DNA for people to have an angle they're trying to hustle and there's never been a vibe of don't-self-promote. It may just be that the relative outsiders don't know that it's all good to post their own stuff here.
Articles have been written about this sort of thing -- and more direct vote-swapping -- on Digg and Reddit. If I'd stopped to think about it, I'd have realized it's bound to happen here to some extent. But I didn't.
I feel sorry for Dana Oshiro if this is ventureblogging SOP, but maybe the threat of exposure will make attempts to manipulate rankings less attractive in the future.
"Hey everyone, did you ever notice John talking loudly to get attention?"
> attention (opposed to they noticing you because you are a promising startup).
I don't know about Techcrunch, but RWW started featuring my company without me contacting them at all, and with zero PR push other than word-of-mouth. It's possible to be too cynical about the process.
Sounds glib, but render down the actions and incentives of participation on the site. In a business-focused environment where there's opportunity to influence a large group, whether for direct commercial gain or reputation-building, competition will necessarily arise.
We're all socially engineering each other all the time.
Take away posting attribution and karma and it mightn't be that way, but those are big incentives for continued participation, once a person is invested. Could the site exist without them?
-Jeff from Wolfire
In Dana's defense, she wasn't asking for a submission. She was trying to put the story on your radar in the event that you were interested in the topic.
I'm sorry you saw this as her trying to turn HN into Digg - which RWW certainly doesn't want to do. We'll be submitting our own stuff from now on.
In the end, whether you're talking about Digg, Twitter, Reddit, or a more niche site such as HN or Slashdot, the best content comes from active members of the community. I guess ReadWriteWeb needs to have more startup writers as active participants, not just content creators.