But then two things happened. First, Kevin and Maciej had the good-faith conversation described at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11441978, and Kevin reluctantly concluded that Maciej doesn’t want to participate in the program as intended. I don't know the details and can't speak for Kevin, but that's his call to make as the partner who runs YCF, and I know he hoped and expected it to go the other way. Getting into a YC batch isn't a cash prize—it's a close working relationship, and that's something that has to be right on both sides or it won't work. Both Kevin and I wanted it to work (if we hadn't, we'd simply have dropped Pinboard from the runoff and said why), and I felt sure that a good-faith conversation would be enough to bridge any remaining gap. It turned not to be, which is disappointing.
Second, we found evidence of vote brigading, something we'd disqualify others for. I don't believe that Maciej organized a voting ring (actually I don't believe he'd give it a second's thought), but when we dug into the data we found that the votes for Pinboard look dramatically different from the votes for the other startups. I presume this is the effect of Pinboard's (deservedly) large audience being asked to promote the post, e.g. at https://twitter.com/Pinboard/status/727255170594131968 and https://twitter.com/Pinboard/status/719599297604390912. We didn't know about those links earlier; we only found out about them from user complaints after the runoff was posted. But we would and did disqualify people for soliciting votes on a small scale, so it wouldn't be right to allow soliciting them on a large one.
We're sad about this. As I said, Kevin and I both really wanted it to work--I thought it would be good for HN and Kevin admires Pinboard. We also appreciate that humor and irony and "a variety of publicity stunts" (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11443463) are Maciej's style, and he was simply practicing it. That part is not a problem--as readers, we enjoy it too, and creative cleverness has always been prized on HN. I both take Maciej at his word that he wasn't trolling and Kevin at his word that he tried to find a way to accept Pinboard into YCF and in the end just couldn't.
We're going to have a community discussion about things that didn't go so well with this first Apply HN experiment, but I'm not sure I'd put this in that category. I'm glad that we chose to believe the serious parts of what Maciej posted. I think it was the right call, I still believe them, and under similar circumstances would do the same again. It's not always easy to tell the joking bits apart from the serious bits, but that goes with the territory.
The way this experiment was presented, the Hacker News community would be allowed to select two YC Fellowship recipients. According to the announcement, "all the interviewing and evaluating will be done in regular HN threads."
But that's not what happened here. I won the voting by a yuuuge margin, and then the vote was nullified in a vape-filled room after it became clear that Hacker News might have its own agenda, separate from YC.
Accusations of soliciting votes by tweeting the HN threads would carry weight with me if there had been any published guidelines about what kind of publicity was allowed. But rules about "vote brigading" on HN are intentionally kept secret.
People have repeatedly accused me of trolling, but I don't think it's me who just trolled you all.
I want my twenty grand.
I didn't think of this experiment as having fixed rules, but rather as something we'd figure out as we went along. I tried to make that clear up front: "Note that word experiment! We'll start small and figure it out as we go. But here are the initial conditions." I can see why that wasn't enough.
It occurs to me only now that "figure it out as we go" and "changing the rules" are the same thing. So yes. We changed the rules, and I'm sorry.
"We'll change things next time based on the results of this experiment" and "We'll change things this time as we see fit and appropriate" are very different, though your initial statement can be read as implying either.
I don't even think one is better than the other - I would just be more careful about communicating which it really is, next time. You guys are free to do what you want, heh. This entire "debacle," if you can even call it that, is actually a great case study in how and why clear communication is so important. The problem wasn't the decision that was made, but rather how it was communicated.
That's not what I meant at all. This is the first time this interpretation ever occurred to me.
If that's what people thought I meant, I can certainly understand some of this thread better. But it floors me that my intent would have failed so completely to come across.
It gets a little more muddled with social experiments, where it's often hard to delineate an "ending point" of the experiment, and there's often real collateral damage in the process. Even with social experiments, though, you get a more accurate signal if you let them run past the point where your gut tells you it's a bad idea.
no rule of law -> automatic bullshit.
HN has never been a rule-driven, legalistic kind of place, and isn't going to get that way. But I've had to learn a lot about people who do feel this way and obviously have a lot to learn yet. My own temperament is very far from this; it's almost impossible for me not to read "we'll figure it out as we go" as a good, fine thing.
The issue was that it wasn't clear there would be rule-changing or experimentation /during/ the experiment, rather than after the experiment.
From my point of view that sentence about making it up as we go was the most important thing in the original post. It meant that we didn't have to plan a fixed set of rules: if and when something unforeseen came up, we'd adapt to it then. That's why I said "initial conditions". I'd never have proposed anything that took away our ability to adapt in the middle of this, and especially not about something so untried.
I think, at this point, the issue is that it's clear to most of us what happened, but YC is still trying to put a gloss on it.
The more you and Kevin Hale try to mitigate this, the more polarized it gets, and the meaner some commenters get about Maciej, who didn't do anything wrong. You don't have to accept Pinboard into YCF, but you have a responsibility not to let him take any of the blame for this.
Yes. I wasn't arguing against that.
Or maybe, now that you've figured out what this experiment is supposed to be, you should actually run this experiment, i.e., start it over, with a clear understanding of what's going on and what the parameters are. It's unsurprising that people were confused about the parameters since you yourselves were confused about them. Their confusion is on you.
About that, I like the point zellyn makes: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11633818
According to the same announcement, "We can talk about this in the comments, but to answer one question I know will come up: Upvotes are an important factor but they're too brittle to rely on exclusively; doing so would encourage the wrong kind of trying to game the system."
They said from the start that votes alone would not decide the results.
I certainly didn't think that saying "Please don't give money to Pinboard, I don't think Maciej will act appropriately and it will spoil any chances of following this process again" fitted into "nice". Now some people did post (generally more constructive) versions of that comment, but I refrained base on the stated policy.
There was no way to vote Pinboard down other than to just vote for the other options.
The process did not actually offer any way to determine the HN community's overall view, only that were was a large subset that wanted to fund Pinboard. That subset might be greater that the subset that specifically didn't want to fund Pinboard, but there's no evidence available to determine that.
This might be worth dang and others factoring into the next iteration of this stuff. Some way for people to express agreement without being mean. Might be one post saying "Disagree or voting against" that they can upvote if they want opposition to be tallied. Maybe even make it stay in one spot on page so it doesn't get in way of rest of discussion.
What yall think?
The original announcement said:
At the end of the month, we'll rank the startups and YC will fund two. The ranking will depend both on upvotes and on the quality of discussion, similar to how the ranking of stories works. We can talk about this in the comments, but to answer one question I know will come up: Upvotes are an important factor but they're too brittle to rely on exclusively; doing so would encourage the wrong kind of trying to game the system. So we're going to gauge community interest both by upvotes and comments, and in case of doubt I'll make the final call—or better, figure out a way to put the final call to the community.
All this says is that (a) upvotes and comments will be used to rank the startups, and that (b) YC will then fund two. It doesn't say they'll use the ranking as the sole criteria. It seems obvious that an organization giving away bags of $20k will exercise some kind of discretion beforehand.
While the upvotes are an indication of support for your position, it wouldn't have accurately captured the number of people who disagreed with you (and thus supported Pinboard), since disagreement is not grounds for downvoting.
I'm sure there's others given I know specific people's position on comments I made that they could've downvoted. So, parent's claim stands but we can't know how much. Maybe worth considering modifying downvote concept to deal with this somehow in another forum as an experiment.
But Maciej is right.
From a fairly outsider perspective, Maciej/idlewords seems to dislike SV & VC culture (for lots of reasonable reasons) and YC by extension, and is trying to joke/troll here as a form of protest or publicity; OK.
On the other side, the YC/HN guys are actually trying to do something innovative, with YC fellows which is more accessible than vanilla YC (can do remotely), and now with a community choice, which is a step in a more innovative/accessible direction again.
Surely this is a step in the right direction? If not, could someone explain why? If they are trying to make good faith steps in the right direction, and someone is trolling them (by which I mean for humor/protest, not bad intentions), isn't it fair enough to exclude that application?
Meanwhile, look at the the post Kevin Hale just wrote. It says, "We ran a poll for the top applications and the voting was so close that we decided to fund one extra startup. Here are the winners." But that's not true at all. The fact that Pinboard took more than 3x the number of votes as the 2nd place vote-getter is mentioned nowhere in Hale's message.
But that's not the worst, dumbest thing about this. The dumbest thing is that YC would have gotten the most benefit out of giving Maciej the money, and they let their fear and discomfort keep them from doing that.
Their money on the line, their call. I have never felt "out of the loop" because I didn't influence their investment decisions. The value I get from HN is the conversations and things I read about and learn.
"We had an idea for figuring out where we'd spend our money. We didn't like what happened so we spent it based on other criteria."
So the experiment was maybe the voting / HN selection, but they don't get to paint it as the experiment was "let's see who HN selects, then compare their outcome with traditional participants" like we were led to believe...
Did he want the YCF spot, or the $20k? I don't know him, but the fact that his immediate response was "I want my twenty grand" reinforces my belief that Kevin made the right decision here.
(That being said, for someone not familiar with Maciej's approach to things, I can perhaps understand why you'd think that way.)
> Did he want the YCF spot, or the $20k? I don't know him, but the fact that his immediate response was "I want my twenty grand" reinforces my belief that Kevin made the right decision here.
I agree, Kevin made the right decision as well.
P.S. I voted for Pinboard.
I understand completely why the complete rulebook on how you can't and can't promote your posts isn't posted clearly on the site. Voting ring suppression is an arms race, and posting the current rules helps the vote-ringers.
But a general statement about not soliciting support for applications could have been made clearer. And, more importantly, the vote ring really had nothing to do with this. Kevin Hale didn't want Maciej in the program. That's all there was to it.
Getting into YCF even with 100 more votes than the next 3 combined is not a right. If YC doesn't feel comfortable working with him and think that he'll negatively affect the batch and the alumni network, that's their call. (Just take this thread for example, what was supposed to be a post mortem of the contest and a place to give suggestions and feedback has turned into a complaint fest).
I did somethings which the mods didn't approve of in their judgement and my application itself was disqualified (it was ranked at 5 by upvotes) but I don't feel entitled so I'm not complaining.
Is it because you don't feel entitled? Or because there's a vast chasm of difference between "5th place" and "1st place by several miles in each of two separate races"?
1. where are these rules published?
2. why would someone (except in this one case involving money for votes) solicit upvotes for a post?
I voted for pinboard... and I'm curious why Kevin decided that it wasn't in the spirit of the program.
I respect 'dang and 'kevin both, a ton. Have always had nothing but pleasant interactions with them, and the amount of care they put towards managing this community is seemingly boundless.
With all of that said, 'idlewords is absolutely right here. The HN mods and/or YCF made a choice here not to fund Pinboard, regardless of whether HN wanted to or not. It's not really OK to say that it's an experiment where HN gets to make choices and then not support them, unless there were explicitly some bad blood or trolling occurring. Based on everything 'idlewords has posted, it would appear that he is not trolling. Sure, perhaps he has a bit of a 'let's watch the world burn' attitude, but it's not entirely clear to the rest of us that that isn't just a persona.
If I had applied for the "Apply HN" experiment, there is no way in hell I wouldn't have tweeted or asked customers to upvote - of course you would! Sure, perhaps this doesn't reflect the true nature of HN's vote, since these may or may not be regular HN users, but unless you only count users that have some age or karma, you can't prevent that. Alternatively, you can make it a stated rule that this isn't a popularity contest and thus you should not ask for votes elsewhere. That was not made clear at all - it was implied, or at least I perceived, that this was intended to be 'an experiment in democracy,' for better or worse.
I do think, if 'idlewords is truly interested in the fellowship and all of the requirements therein (Skype meetings or whatever else), that it would be good to stand by the original rules. With that said, these are investment decisions and aren't intended to be taken lightly, and obviously you guys have the final decision anyway (this was always true, no matter what HN said - you're the ones putting up the money and time).
I just think it's more 'right' if you follow along with the original plan of the experiment. Hell, maybe 'idlewords ends up getting so much value out of YCF that he becomes even more serious about Pinboard and it's the next Pinterest (no pun intended). If nothing else, YC/HN may learn something from it.
The thing with YC is startups can’t do the program in a vacuum. Even with the remote nature of the Fellowship, the founders affect the partners they work with and the other founders they work alongside, both in their batch and among the alumni community. We made the decision to call all the startups we’d consider taking on through Apply HN and make a decision on fit. I know that’s changing the rules at the last second, but we didn’t realize this until Pinboard entered the fray. I'm actually grateful for the head's up. Like all our experiments at YC, we design them to adapt as things happen, and they certainly did here.
I made the same phone calls with the other founders and they felt completely different. I wasn’t looking for gratitude or devotion or deference. My minimum was connection, my ideal was simpatico—evidence that I could spend a lot of time with the founder, which is what’s needed to make this relationship work well. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a good rapport with Maciej. Regardless of the vote situation, I’d make the same decision.
Maciej is clearly brilliant and quite witty and knows how to build and direct a passionate following. Pinboard is unique and I’m glad it exists. More opinionated software should exist in the world. Even though we couldn’t find rapport together, I sincerely wish him and his startup the very best.
We're grown-ups and don't have to like each other to work together effectively.
However, I appreciate your being honest about arbitrarily changing the rules on me.
This times 1000. A working relationship is not a friendship nor does it require any particularly strong "rapport". Though the idea that there's no difference between a working relationship and being best buds is, I guess, not uncommon in SV---something to protest against the next time an experiment like this is run, I guess.
YC is much more of a "mentor+mentee" relationship than a regular "coworkers on a team" relationship. A mentor relationship is much less effective if there's no personal rapport between participants.
To put it another way, suppose the best advice YC can give is to focus on something other than pinboard (or something like that), would idlewords listen? Because if not, what's the point?
I can see this is disappointing for idlewords, but overall, this seemed fair and reasonably transparent to me.
I'm worried the overall outcome is that instead of being a fun and interesting experiment, it's going to be a 'bad and sad' in YC's minds, and any future contest is going to have a lawyer writing the rules.
So, here's to a clearer 'judge's decision is final' next time and that the three accepted applicants turn out successful.
I realize it's inadvisable to wade into this discussion, but this just leaves me indignant and disappointed on behalf of my whole industry and profession.
The reason this experiment was so interesting was that it would bypass their biased human filtering and let in people based purely on their merit.
Not accepting Pinboard undermines the entire experiment. Pinboard could likely be a huge company with YC's help, and it would be fucking hilarious to watch.
Let Pinboard in and do the experiment again. He's smart and he's not crazy. Any founder able to win the votes is someone you can work with. Consider it a diversity program, which it would be.
This kind of statement is broad, and covers anything from "he said he'd use the money to breed a race of robotic nazi grizzly bears" to "his voice reminded me of my ex-spouse's".
YC is y'all's thing, you run it however you want, but the lack of details here does make it seem like it really is about the fact that Maciej routinely criticizes the whole VC/startup fairy tale that YC peddles, and that changing the rules at the last minute is the only way you came up with to dodge having to work with him.
I generally agree with what Maciej has to say, and have a fairly negative opinion of YC (despite enjoying the HN community, and respecting some of the people involved with YC) - I thought I'd be pleasantly surprised by YC here and see what happens when they're willing to work with one of their smarter critics.
But in the end, there's just disappointment, and no reason to reconsider my perception of YC.
"We changed the rules at the last minute. We're sorry, but that's the way it goes."
I can live with that. What you did instead, first by pretending Maciej didn't win in your post, and then by blaming him for not being selected in Dan's follow-up, was a mistake, and not a great way to treat him. I don't know you at all, but Dan likes you so you can't be a bad person, and I can't believe Dan is happy with this.
Were the real reason, as stated here, published the first time, I wouldn't even have bothered to comment.
But when you're inconsistent, you should bear a special obligation to be generous and charitable to the people you're disadvantaging. YC didn't live up to that obligation here.
I was about to even agree with one saying the evidence looked fishy given spotting or countering subversive behavior is kind of my thing. Then, kevin's comment appeared just as I was about to write mine to confirm opposition angle a lot.
Full disclosure: First time I've ever found out who idlewords is, I don't use that product, probably didn't give it a vote, I give mixed reviews of Silicon Valley politics/VC's, and say whatever I think facts lead to regardless of blowback. As in, near zero bias in this and people's concerns are still obvious to me.
Now, if this is your whole argument, then I don't disagree with it. Yet, tptacek's reply to you is still true based on what's in the comment you replied to and the others. Your counter doesn't apply to what he wrote.
If Pinboard had no votes, we wouldn't be having this conversation. It was specifically because it had the most votes that there was any expectation that it might be chosen. But it was always Kevin's prerogative to say no, and he did. They were clear that it is an experiment, and that we would figure things out as we go. I don't see how you can accuse "changing the rules". There were no set rules.
You would be dishonest if you tried to say that Pinboard didn't initially approach this as a funny/protest entry ("Let's make YC great again"). Whether he changed later is irrelevant. Whether some voted for Pinboard because they liked it is irrelevant. Others voted for it for it in the same spirit as he entered it, and suddenly (whether he intended it or not) you have the Wonka Factory's doors open and a bunch of people finding it fun (and maybe cathartic) to act like Veruca Salt. Don't blame Kevin or Dan, blame Maciej.
1. As other posters have said, "we couldn't find rapport" is a warning sign of unconscious bias. And, as you said, the rules were constructed "on purpose: we don't want to bias it along the lines of how YC already operates."
2. It's pretty clear that "we decided to privately call all the startups rather than do everything in public" only happened because of Pinboard's success.
3. You guys dropped the ball on this one, big time. DQ-ing Pinboard isn't the real problem. If you think the Pinboard business is no good, or the founder would squander the money, whatever, that's your call. But it should have happened far earlier in the process. Waiting to drop Pinboard until after after two rounds of votes were tabulated is ridiculous.
>Maciej is clearly brilliant and quite witty and knows how to build and direct a passionate following. Pinboard is unique and I’m glad it exists. More opinionated software should exist in the world. Even though we couldn’t find rapport together, I sincerely wish him and his startup the very best.
I find this a little confusing in that it seems to conflict with what I had taken as the entire purpose of the experiment. If not trying out people who have positive attributes who others seem to like that you don't connect with then honestly, what's the point of this?
Everything HN readers know about choosing successful founders comes from reading material written by you guys and seeing your results in action. The facts were never going to be radically different in that our primary criteria would be things like "company name has lots of strong letters" or "that guy has a power beard", no the things discussed in the comments were stuff we've read from VCs and are effectively regurgitating. Nothing revolutionary there.
The true value I thought you were going for was to take the bias of "do I connect with this guy" out of it. But instead you say you think he's great, companies great, but just don't connect with him. You don't need us to be able to find great people with great ideas that you do connect with.
You've taken a system that would remove your own intuition bias, and then created a step at the last minute where the only apparent intent appears to be to introduce that bias. :/
I sort of hope this is just a polite "this isn't a business decision. It would just suck to work with this guy and I'm successful enough to not have to do things that suck for money", in which case fair enough.
Disclaimer: I didn't vote for Pinboard and hadn't even heard of them before this voting.
Gut feels are often valuable signals, but without further examination and specificity they are a gigantic bias bomb waiting to explode.
An organization that widely permits this type of vague assertion to pass unchallenged is institutionally incapable of improving inclusivity or diversity, and one has to wonder if it's institutionally interested in the same at all.
Some concrete questions: what is YC's policy on ensuring employees/partners have received training re: bias? Have YC decision makers all participated in de-biasing education? If not, how does this reflect on YC's apparent dedication to improving diversity in our field?
If the point was to experiment I think YC missed out on a big opportunity.
Pinboard is in a relatively unique situation amongst all the other companies in that it is beyond finding product-market fit -- it's got an established userbase and a founder with proven chops and a large following. It seems like he is in the exact position where something like YCF can help pour gasoline on the things that he's doing that are already working.
I understand YC's tremendous focus on finding a right fit with founders when they join the regular batches. But, at least at first, it's not entirely clear that this criterion should hold as much weight with YCF. They'll talk less frequently, invest less money, etc. -- maybe the optimal strategy for YCF is in fact focusing much more on the present stage of the company and whether or not the little bit of cash/partner influence can cause an inflection??? Who knows, really... but it sure sounded like accepting Pinboard -- not in spite but because there were these issues with Maciej -- would make it an especially interesting case to try out.
Retroactively doing so, sure, is your right but it's fairly underhanded.
Is what I would say.
"...but we aren't going to be the ones to help that happen."
Hi Kevin... :-)
Understand your feelings and agree with the choice in the context of YC/YCF - but to me this is a massive opportunity to grow YC beyond what it is now; to me, it feels that instead of looking for a way make it work, YC bailed out.
To that end, on a trial basis, I'm offering to start YCX, which would allow YC and the community to work together to make this possible.
While I wouldn't pretend to know the all the answers now (or in the future) - I deeply believe in bridging the gaps between communities to form new communities that in the end will be in sum stronger, more diverse, create opportunities, etc.
Very possible that I've misunderstood, but the main issues I'm seeing are: (1) how YCX relationships would work with YC/YCF and (2) insuring that the way capital is provided works for YC, the startups, and community.
To that end, to me, some solutions might be to have the funds provided by the community via non-equity crowdfunding, have YCX only mentors, allow YC/YCF to opt-in to relationships with YCX fellows, etc.
Happy to talk more offline if you're open to trying to make this work; also, completely understand if it's not a path YC wants to consider too.
If that's what you mean when you say 'the votes for Pinboard look dramatically different from the votes for the other startups', then I think you've unfairly confused my deliberate intentions with 'vote brigading'.
Things turned out exactly how I expected they would here, but it's still disappointing.
I hope single-votes are not being called out as part of some 'vote brigading' conspiracy :\
But I made a single vote, explicitly for Pinboard, and had not seen his tweets. I probably look like a voting scheme. But it was a legitimate and intentional vote because I believe in Maciej and what he could do to grow his business and improve YC through the fellowship.
Yeah, this is disappointing, but also completely predictable.
Is the true YC? For all the talk about funding radical new ideas in their normal batches, they fund a lot of companies that look and act alike. So, when YC backs out of its own experiment because it turns out unexpected, it's not really disappointing; it's just a reminder of how seemingly conformist its attitudes are.
If your aim with this contest was to pilot something new and unique that might further distinguish YC, I suppose you've done just that, even if in the opposite direction. Sometimes karma is more than just a column in your database.
(Disclaimer: I did not vote.)
Rather than presuming, you could check your logs and subtract the votes from users who arrived at the thread via one of these referring URLs. What do the vote totals look like if you do that?
I exchanged a few emails with Dan, and based on those I can say that this is definitely not what happened. Rather to the contrary, he was concerned that having a poll among "leading candidates" would make it too easy to game.
How in the world do you come to that conclusion from THIS:
> Kevin: If you were seriously interested, I'd be delighted to work with you.
> Maciej: I feel like after seven years, I have a pretty good sense of what bookmarking/archiving needs people have, but am at the limits of what I can personally build. If the votes swing my way, I'd be happy to have a good-faith conversation with you.
And then how do you reconcile this statement from above:
> Kevin was excited by the prospect of working with [pinboard].
with this from below?
> tptacek: You weren't turning the knobs to see what would change. The outcome was clear, you didn't like it, and so you prevented it from happening.
> Kevin: Yes. I wasn't arguing against that.
if you wanted to work with Maceij, and he said he'd be happy to have a good faith conversation with you if he won, then why would you a) not like the outcome or b) prevent it from happening?
I don't really care who won, but these claims have no internal consistency and literally don't make any sense.
Is it possible to address the points raised by `beeboop' and `killwhitey' above with the data available -- would long-term HN members have been enough to put Pinboard over the top ? (i.e. the vote brigading had no substantive effect and it was just the phone conversation that prompted the decision)
If it's more than what one of the "winners" got in the second poll, then the whole argument is over.
Surely this is not hard to check? I think many people are justifiably curious, given that "vote brigading" is in my mind an accusation. (I understand that the decision has already been made and that it will not be changed.)
What do the totals look like if you filter out new accounts, or accounts with little karma?
Examining the data, we found that there were oddly more votes cast for Pinboard than the other contestants, which smelled fishy so they were disqualified. Seriously, don't ask for people to vote for things and then ignore the results. Just don't ask them to vote in the first place.
I hope this is sarcasm.
Where, exactly? His Twitter feed contains a single link to each of his original Apply HN and the later poll (plus one link-less joke about the poll). I mean, yes, he has a big following, and yes, he promoted his application (which everyone involved admits he would not have done if he had thought it was against the rules). But "explicit and repeated" makes it sound like a lot more than one (humorous) tweet per poll.
And it's not like he used a personal account, either. That one doesn't mention it at all. It's just @Pinboard - and frankly, it would be weird if you didn't think current customers would want to support you in growing your business.
And sorry, claiming they were just jokes can't be a free pass. Everything about that application was framed as a joke from start to finish.
I think it is dodgy to have an online election, and then disqualify participants for mentioning it to people who might want to vote for them.
Regardless, the tweets in question were around a long time before Pinboard was disqualified without expectation. The first one certainly predates kevin's phone call, for instance.
(And of course one of the tweets in question was contained a link to the general poll, which was not a submission of Maciej's, and the other, technically, was a link to all the Apply HN posts, not to his.)
Certainly it never crossed my mind that the rules about voting rings would be any different than with regular posts. HN users are passionately opposed to the voting system getting gamed; we'd have been skinned alive if we allowed it. But tptacek makes a good point about that not being obvious to everybody.
Your rules about voting rings are not public. I think that you're so used to modding the site that you forget this, but take a look at the letter of what it actually says in the FAQ.
I'm confused by your second paragraph—I just don't get it—but if there's a way to make the FAQ clearer I'd like to. There's no question that I have trouble seeing this stuff from an outside viewpoint. I'm too immersed in it.
By the way, I didn't reply to the bit about the voting rules because I think it's the only important point in your post; it isn't. It's just something that I knew how to respond to. I'm trying to write something in response to the larger substance, but am having trouble because my feelings (bad, and sad) have the better of me right now. I'll get there.
I told him when I noticed the same Twitter post that it was going to cause problems (too late!), and he was genuinely surprised.
But that says nothing about the Apply HN situation. That's new, had a different set of rules (hell, you wrote a polling solution), and the regular guidelines didn't necessarily apply. That they did should have been made clear.
Again, nothing against it this time, since it's all up to you guys - just feedback for the next time.