A couple days ago we ended the first Apply HN experiment with a big fuck-up, and I'd like to try to make it right. (For background on this, see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11633270
). I thought I'd made it clear that we'd make things up and change the Apply HN rules as we went along, but it wasn't clear. It took time and a large stack of HN user comments for me to perceive this, but I get it now.
Maciej, I'm sorry. Your interpretation of what I originally posted was not only reasonable, it was how most people read it. The fault was not yours, but mine. We changed the rules of a game you had won, to cover for my failure to anticipate an unwanted outcome, and you were right to be pissed.
We've offered Maciej the $20k, and he graciously accepted and asked us to donate it to the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness (http://www.cohsf.org/). We'll take care of doing so. (Edit 2016-05-08: We now have.)
A note to HN users: The intention behind Apply HN was to do something new to excite and interest the community and engage it with YC in an interesting way. That did happen, but it pains me that it also partly turned into the opposite. If any of you have suggestions for how to do better, I'd like to hear them.
This post is a shining example of exactly what people want to hear when they perceive a company/organization has failed (especially when it's apparent to the company/organization). It's direct/to the point, doesn't mince words, doesn't attempt to twist it into something it isn't and instantly, in my case, raised the level of respect that I have for YC. Personally, I didn't fully understand the controversy and didn't feel it was as big of a deal as it was bubbling up to be, but everyone has their opinion. Had I been on the "yes, you fucked up badly" side, though, this would have been a response I would have never expected and been pleased to see.
I know there are reasons that organizations don't offer this level of candor. Many of them are the same reasons people choose not to apologise/own up for their own mistakes. The only valid reason is the one that comes from the legal department: Outright admitting a mistake opens one up to possible liabilities and an easy win from a plaintiff in court. In the especially litigious United States, this could be a "death blow" kind of risk. When it's not, I wouldn't want to be the guy in charge of weighing the "goodwill" benefit from handling an apology correctly against the costs of litigation (I'd prefer to attempt blind-folded archery through the wake of a 747). But I deeply wish organizations could behave more like individuals and handle an apology properly: Admit clearly you've screwed up, state the cause and corrections to prevent it in the future, and possibly provide something as a show of good faith that those actions are being followed. I found seek out and find a way to do business with companies that behaved like that.
 Which is funny to say. Frankly, I'd have expected a response like this from YC because they've tended to behave in an admirable way.
 All of which are terrible ideas and require one to only get over one's ego. Be quick to apologise and quick to forgive is my rule. Just because malice wasn't intended (which is practically always the case), doesn't mean things couldn't have been handled better and people weren't hurt just the same.