The way this sounds is that you are more concerned about politics as in people who take party positions and may feel excluded as a group when the majority of the community takes a different position. This is a slightly different issue i.e. party politics, and I think it is fine/a good thing, but it is also important to distinguish the two. This should essentially be under the same umbrella as personal attacks, as they are essentially the same thing.
I'd rather see HN go politics-free forever. Political discussions do not enjoy the same level of objectivity that technical and business discussions do. Frankly, it may be impossible to expect objectivity within political discussion because our political feelings are so deeply-held and tied to our individual upbringings, culture, and locale.
Unless HN can figure out how to give fair treatment to minority opinions, it's best to exclude these discussions entirely.
I'm all for flagging uncivilized discussions, but eliminating discussions outright because they might make people feel uncomfortable or might turn uncivil seems like we are missing a really important piece to the news we discuss here.
Minority opinions are never going to have "fair treatment" by the majority. I've been down voted several times for my opinions and I'll take it again just to be able to have the discussion here.
I also don't think that the hacker spirit responds well to barriers of thought and discussion.
It's just an anecdote, but I know my views have been greatly affected in part by hacker news. I was once a staunch libertarian, but reading a lot about universal basic income and other approaches people have offered to income inequality and social issues, while talking about the technology trends first and foremost, have convinced me to broaden my beliefs.
There is something about having a stated goal outside of political points scoring that helps everyone see themselves as part of the same team. I've always felt hacker news is largely about understanding things related to technology - trends, weird bugs, how startups work, etc. With that as our main focus we can defer to each other and learn from each other. When the main force is to debate the other side there is no room for concessions or finding common ground.
What I want in a community, is for people of all different views and backgrounds to think about a topic with the end goal of solving some problem. Hacker news isn't perfect there but it's close.
I know I just learned something from this meta discussion, about the argument that the economy can't support UBI based on GDP numbers, and I'm eager to go read more. Most arguments I have seen say it won't work because of moral hazards and I haven't seen an argument that says it flat out can't be done, because there are so many different approaches and different ways it could play out.
So many of the technologies that we use have political consequences or undertones—the reason that we have these discussions here is that otherwise it's not possible to have a substantial discussion about the technology at all. We'd be reduced to meaningless small talk.
The reality is that the "latest and greatest JS framework" and how I can use it to make my clients happy is likely to have far greater impact on my family's situation than arguing endlessly about national and international politics. Arguing about politics online is about as useful to your personal situation as arguing about football team uniforms or Dancing with the Stars celebrity scores.
We can clarify, though. The main concern here is pure politics: the conflicts around party, ideology, nation, race, gender, class, and religion that get people hot and turn into flamewars on the internet.
But it is no secret that US conservatives are a lot more pro-fossil fuels and US liberals are less anti-renewables. In that context, who is in power determines who is approving budgets and who is giving subsidiaries and incentives.
To remove the ability to acknowledge the political aspect of things would lead to
"I wish we spent more on wind power." being responded to with "Well, we would if <COMMENT REMOVED DUE TO RULE VIOLATION>"
I don't think that should be political, I don't think it should be red-versus-blue. But it is. Should that be banned?
And it's not just about finding out that I'm completely wrong. Sometimes it's just a new light, and sometimes it's just the reminder that really smart people too believe some things that I didn't think were possible for a "reasonable smart person" to believe (if you don't think you need constant reminding of this, ... well ... haha ;-) )
I trust that the admins want the best for the community.
I know I could just be very sensitive to anything that smells like censorship right now, and that could be coloring my visceral reaction here.
Still, I afraid of this becoming a thing. One week is a while and while I don't think the mods would ever dream of intentionally doing this, it could happen during important events.
It is really hard for me to imagine what metrics after the fact would justify this. How do you measure the effect of self censorship has on influencing people's beliefs here?
I am worried that this will generate some numbers that seem to justify the practice and it becomes a regular practice around politically charged events.
Yes, absolutely! I said this in another comment, I'm curious to see how this experiment goes but I'm also glad it's just for one week :)
What about Uber's woker policies? Facebook censorship/curation? Data privacy?
Hiring and firing policies in tech companies?
How to manage rogue IoT devices? ICANN domain policy?
This is just a sample of topics that feel pretty "Hacker News". They're all political (or at least have strong political angles), and they're all pretty popular topics of conversation here.
Now I've felt the moderation here has worked in good faith, and is likely trying to reduce flamewars here. But I'm a bit worried that the things that get marked political will mainly be around discrimination issues.
And considering the amount of SV "leadership"(scare quotes but you get the idea) on Hacker News, this is a _very_ effective forum to talk about the difficulties of certain people to get work, get funding. Talking about it here can jumpstart more ways of tackling these issues, and thinking about what the community as a whole wants to do
Unless grounded and significant structured, discussion about discrimination aren't going to bring any new ways of addressing things. What it commonly do is just expanding the battlefield and pushing people further apart. Even between those that agree on the goal, people can and do still disagree on how to reach it. I have described it in the past as comparing left and right politics, with both side wanting prosperity and liberty. Each side has fundamental different views and values for how that will be accomplished, so the discussion circles around the disagreement rather than the agreements.
On these sorts of discussions, talking about what is actionable, what we can do to reach common goals.
Though there are pretty fundamental disagreements among people on these as well, and I'm not sure where the discussion can go (for example University quotas).
But trying to get HN to be more positive overall would be encouraging. I believe this was done for Show HN stuff, having it done overall seems like an interesting next step.
Even just a msg above the reply box like "Hey, you're talking to another human being! And probably agree on a lot of things"
> Each side has fundamental different views and values for how that will be accomplished
counter this though: the left (at least at the moment) feel pretty comfortable flinging labels around? Is this just a vocal minority calling Trump/supporters a fascist(s)?
To perhaps abuse an analogy, when a neighborhood gets well known for arson, people will move away. At some point it may make sense to forbid certain types of structures in the neighborhood to see if it reduces the instances of arson. (okay, that's admittedly pretty tortured :)
It's a trade off, and while I'd like the world to be perfect and people talk about everything calmly and with respect, empirically this is very much not the case for certain topics. A limited test (detox week) makes sense to me. And it might not work, which is why it's a test.
That's all you can ever really achieve with any online discussion about a topic that has no "right" answer.
Places like /r/politics are often devoid of any real debate or critical argument, and are stressful and tiring to involve oneself in.
I do welcome a week without politics on HN, though I would not like to see it permanently in place such an exercise lets us fall back on what makes us happy.
If the non-political solution antibody makes itself a permanent resident of the HN community as a result of detox week, I know I'd be pleased.
The idea that major social ills can be solved with no governmental intervention is itself very political.
The "broad" definition is the one in most dictionaries; the narrow one you suggest seems to be the overlap of partisan tribalism with a society with a single overwhelming axis for the reason described above.
In any case, simple utterances of tribalism are already clearly off-topic on HN, whether they are centered on political ideology or not, so clearly an experiment of the type here must be targeting something broader (though apparently also narrower than the dictionary definition of poltiics.)
I think the better explanation is that a lot of tribalism is slipping through the filter, so the filter is becoming more strict for a time.
Is this a quote with a source?
(Unsurprisingly, Arkady is my favorite character.)
To many, a comment that doesn't follow their personal logic or point of view is not a good comment. And you end up with echo chambers where only the comments that align with the majority of a community pop up, while the extremists (for lack of a better term) of a community are pushed to the bottom. Those extremists could easily be individuals sounding the alarm on something that's happening, such as skepticism for a story.
On Reddit and HN, I almost never downvote anyone because I think it's a terrible system that is too often abused and reduces the ability to have meaningful conversations about controversial topics.
Tech (No politics, etc.) / Not Tech.
The trying to force it all into a single view seems to be creating some friction.
For example "why did Trump win" is a political topic that can be discussed on HN the HN way: share confirmed figures and stats, links to informed opinions, bundle these together to form an explanation and test its predictiveness on other similar cases. All of that can happen without anyone ever stating their own personal (dis)taste for Trump. (Edited for typos)
I do think the purely political forum that a minority of users here seem to want, would best be served by a different site.
Privacy issues, opinions on hiring practices, etc. are all topics that have heavy polarized sides with little to bridge the divide and would likely benefit from a shift in separating those topics from the solidly tech related ones.
Although, to be honest, I'm more concerned with the fact you are oblivious to this than I am about the fact you call change ignorance. I guess it does not really matter, I'll be off HN for a long while.
I have to admit, it really irked me at first when I came here. How can all these people that like the same things as me, have ideas that are so ... "wrong?!" (just kidding, honest :) ) But then I learned to listen and realize that these opinions will be here whether I engage them or not.
Of course, I see subthreads that aren't very "objective in the way I want them to be". But I don't share your experience with downvotes. I try to refrain from trying to convince the person I'm directly replying to if their view is directly opposed to mine, that never works any way. I just state my own personal position and how it reflects. Sure I get the occasional downvote but that's almost always when I've let myself be confrontational about it. Also, there's a big difference between providing a link to some facts that a person might not know, and a very opinionated link (that may also have facts and numbers) that is arguing your point.
So yeah, while I support the experiment (it'll be interesting to see), I really hope they don't extend this to forever, but just occasionally after particularly turbulent US elections.
> fair treatment to minority opinions
Come on what does that even mean? I don't know what your opinions are. You don't know what mine are (you can read my comment history but good luck). I have no idea what "fair treatment to minority opinions" should even mean. My opinions are minority opinions too (I'll change them if you don't believe me), but I know this; People that complain their opinions aren't getting fair treatment are very rarely worth listening to, regardless of position. I prefer a better signal-to-butthurt ratio.
> People that complain their opinions aren't getting fair treatment are very rarely worth listening to, regardless of position. I prefer a better signal-to-butthurt ratio.
Downvoted comments are subject to being greyed out here, which is a stigma. Yes, it happens. The downvote in a political story has such a different meaning than downvotes in other stories. I feel like people use them as an agree/disagree vote in political threads, whereas they serve as an informed/uninformed vote normally.
Also, yes, in a strongly charged political thread, up and downvotes are used very differently (compared to the wide variety of ways people use up/down otherwise, definitely not just "un/informed", take a breath and a step back and you can see that). I've seen it, and it seemed mostly there was wild voting going on, and if it changes the meaning in any sense, only to make the votes less meaningful, so just don't worry about it.
I've personally seen maybe two of those threads, cause as a non-US citizen I don't have much of a beef in it. I think stuff like that is what prompted this detox-week.
But from what I saw, the up/downvotes really went both ways. I know for sure, because that's when I realized the voting was going wild, reasonable comments on both sides voted in to greyness.
BTW the recent discussions about the new Macbook being sufficiently "Pro" or not, followed pretty much the same pattern and I'd love to have a detox week for those as well.
edit: Hey. So, we were explicitly not talking about our personal political points of view, but just about dealing with opposing views and reactions there on. Now I see you're getting greyed out. While I'm getting mad upvotes (you guys). Can we maybe agree that it's maybe perhaps not the political points of view that make the difference here, but rather the earlier-mentioned S2B ratio?
Whether personal or no, submarining comments simply because people disagree with them has always struck me as an intellectually awful "feature". I mean, think about that. People are actively encouraged to effectively censor comments simply because they disagree. What else can that do but encourage a pernicious group-think?
In fact, we should be doing the opposite: if it's stimulating discussion we want, then people should be encouraged to upvote well-made points, even if they don't agree with them.
And, if there's a downvote at all, then it should be for poorly constructed arguments that don't contribute to the quality of the discussion.
Edit: Looks like the two of us have discussed this before :)
And both times I've appreciated the civil discussion. Thanks for that!
Most importantly, this change was made before dang became moderator, to try and fix certain ways the community worked, and nearly all of those ways have changed a lot because of the changes in moderation, so I wouldn't mind seeing that decision to be revisited. I doubt that'll happen though, it's just too safe and easy not to show vote numbers.
As for actual greying, I dislike the fact that it makes reading harder very much. If some people have downvoted it, doesn't mean I don't want to read it. For the same reason I have 'showdead' on in my profile settings (I really wonder how many people have this btw), also because (as I have explained in older comments of mine) I am very much against the concept of hellbanning as it is applied on HN. Again only last week I saw a few 'dead' accounts posting just reasonable (not super-informative or upvote-worthy, but just "fine") comments. Checking their post history I could see some "bad" comments that surely deserved all the downvotes they got, that probably triggered the hellban, but that doesn't excuse in any way to waste these people's time like that, writing reasonable comments, thinking they are participating in conversation, unknowing that the large majority of users won't even see their posts. There's no justification for that, if they need some kind of lasting sanction, have them be notified about it, maybe a posting timeout or something.
What would be better if comments with a certain number of downvotes would auto-collapse, like Reddit does. Even better, adjust the threshold per subthread so the total number of visible direct replies is between 10 and 15, or some number. I'd have locally scripted this myself a long time ago if the downvote-numbers were available.
However, you also seem to have a problem with the greying that it's signalling "unpopular opinion!" to other users, if I understand your remark about "stigma" correctly. Meaning that even if it didn't hamper legibility, if they used a different colour or perhaps a sad smiley in various states of desperation (I dunno), you'd still find a problem with that? Cause I'm not very concerned about that at all. IMO, the signal is the message, like say your posts in this thread, came off to me as somewhat whiny, regardless of the actual opinions in your post history that you were complaining about getting downvotes (which I still haven't looked at, btw, but I'm not sure I would want to), that kind of tone signals a lot stronger to me, downvotes or no, grey or no, opinion that I agree with or no. But maybe once you manage to take downvotes less personally, this particular side of the issue will become less of a concern for you as well.
That's the rub: political disagreements tend to go beyond facts and into the realm of values, at which point it's no longer a matter of informedness. This phase change in the debate can be hard to detect, as even the debaters might not realize they are no longer arguing from facts (since their deeply held values may 'feel like facts'), but IMO it's the reason political discussions tend to decay in quality at a certain point, because one side is no longer honoring the previous terms of the debate, knowingly or not.
For what it's worth, I think political debates on HN are worth having and can be very productive, because my subjective sense of the HN population is that a higher percentage of us are open to reevaluating our beliefs (and potentially our values) in the face of new information than the human population at large.
This is exactly why people are compelled to speak up politically in every space they can. You are not affected by the policies other people are afraid of and you feel slightly inconvenienced by talk of them and want talk swept under the rug. Whereas the other side says "we cannot sweep this under the rug because of how important it is to our well being."
I feel this opinion falls into that category
Unless you mean something different, maybe the line could have used some qualifiers. So it's not the opinions themselves that aren't worth listening to, to be clear. It's just that given two people of the same position, the one that's not complaining their opinions aren't getting fair treatment is usually one that can argue their position a lot more clearly and therefore is just generally more worth listening to. Although that's the less-accurate positive version of that preference of mine. In my personal experience, the negative version is almost always on point.
> given two people of the same position, the one that's not complaining their opinions aren't getting fair treatment is usually one that can argue their position a lot more clearly and therefore is just generally more worth listening to
You didn't say "more" or "less" worth listening to, you said "not"
I believe banning politics is a bad idea even for a week.
The status quo is fuzzily defined at this moment so bias towards it is not as harmful as usual.
Let me try to understand your reasoning. If everyone agreed with your critique of the "status quo", why would it be the status quo to begin with?
A critique of the status quo that doesn't generate controversy is probably irrelevant.
We should probably try to stay on the descriptive side as much as possible. Whenever making normative statements, we should probably make sure they are based on an unbiased collection of facts (and not ignoring inconvenient facts), with solid and clearly explained reasoning, and assumptions made explicit.
When people talk about "the average HN reader", or the "prevailing slant", I'm always curious what they mean.
For me, it's always felt more like a back-and-forth struggle between radical liberals and hardline libertarians. That's always been the general nature of pretty much every tech-oriented forum historically (e.g. HN, Reddit, Slashdot, Usenet, etc). When Mike Judge was once asked about the core insight behind his "Silicon Valley" TV show, he cited his belief that the tech ethos is a conflict between liberal and libertarian values.
As a pragmatist who just likes to read about tech, I find both sides annoying.
Personally, I tend towards liberal politics. I interperent this statement as "Liberal politics dominates HN, and conservative politics is a minority that gets downvoted"
Even assuming that's accurate, I tend to find more conservative viewpoints on this forum, compared to other forums I browse, and I find those conservative viewpoints better argued, and more likely to affect my view.
That said, not wanting to talk about politics is a political act. It's basically saying, "let's let the status quo keep going for now", because most things involve politics on some level.
Can we get away from namecalling and toxic behavior? Sure. But having a politics free space isn't the way to do that.
Are there any online communities where their political opinions match more with yours? Why don't you hang out there instead? I realize that's reinforcing an echo chamber, but it sounds like you're looking for more of an echo chamber, right?
> even though I have made my points in an informed and respectful way
Maybe an example of a time you made a point in an informed and respectful way only to be downvoted and derided would help clarify?
> Unless HN can figure out how to give fair treatment to minority opinions, it's best to exclude these discussions entirely.
I strongly disagree. I don't know what "fair treatment" means, but if enough people on the site feel a topic is worth talking about, we should talk about it. Specific incidences of abuse should be flagged, but again, it's hard for me to say one way or another without examples showing what you mean.
As to the overall question of whether politics should be allowed on HN, HN started as "Startup News". It's always been a site about entrepreneurship, mostly in the tech industry. Entrepreurship is intimately linked to politics in obvious and non-obvious ways. Politics has to do with taxes, healthcare, immigration, legality of certain types of research, market size and access, shifting demographic trends, financing sources, and much more.
Edit: I removed a final sentence because it's moot and doesn't add to my actual argument.
For one week.
> "Forbidden topics" because some people's feelings are getting hurt?
It's about a lot more than that, as I tried to explain in the text above. There are two different kinds of site—intellectually curious and politically combative—and we cannot be both of them.
Then I hope it's just for a week. I know HN weights certain topics down already. I think there's a good argument for some of that, but I don't see an argument for more of it.
> There are two different kinds of site—intellectually curious and politically combative—and we literally cannot be both of them.
FWIW, as a user, I have not noticed an uptick in politically combative discussion on HN, although I have noticed the uptick in political posts. If your target demographic is basically founders/hackers/entrepreneurs/whatever, having a place to find relatively sane discussions about politics is a good thing. HN is pretty much that, I can't think of a place that's better.
I do think having lots of strong opinions in one place is a good thing and helps those opinions evolve towards something better. Echo chambers result in the information equivalent of inbreeding.
But that's my point, I very much don't want HN to become an echo chamber by, for example, banning political posts for more than 1 week (which is a weird experiment, but fine).
I disagree. You cannot support intellectual curiosity without healthy, relatively unrestrained (in subject matter) debate.
Now, simply tribal displays that aren't debate where people engage with each other, are a problem and need to be corralled effectively to avoid becoming.the dominant form of activity.
But not only is "politically combative" not opposed to "intellectually curious" in a site, the former is essentially a necessitate to accept if you are going to have the latter.
What actually constructive on balance came out of these discussions? How can we improve the signal-to-noise ratio/reduce the tribal displays? This is a topic I'm genuinely interested in, so your take on it given your experience here on HN is of particular interest to me. I think it's not putting words in dang's mouth to say reducing the tribal displays (as opposed to stifle intellectual curiosity) is exactly what detox week is attempting to accomplish.
I'd love to understand the intent of detox week. I don't (either in terms of the intended scope of the policy or the motivation and intended goal state.)
And the issue I'm taking with elements of the description of either by dang (in a couple places in this thread) are both because I disagree with them phrased, and hope that pointing that out will lead to responses that better elucidate the whole picture.
But I suspect that the whole thing is trying to deal with a change in the political climate outside HN by modifying what is already a near-optimal policy in HN to one that is far worse.
They through out more baby, but do nothing additional about the bathwater we want to deal with.
Thank you! That felt like pulling teeth, and I didn't think was controversial at all. I'm not trying to score points.
[Edit to add: For me, this is part of finding common ground, and "they are perhaps predictably problem threads" is perfectly in keeping with your earlier statement about the existing guidelines and policies being "near optimal". No human social system is going to be perfect.]
I think that detox week (note: week, not permanent forever) is an attempt to reduce the problems these threads represent. You obviously disagree that detox week will do anything to improve this, which is fine. I think it's understandable that the mods would want to reduce these types of threads if they can.
You've also said that the current guidelines are near-optimal. Does that mean that any attempt to improve on the guidelines shouldn't be attempted? That's a legitimate position to hold. I think it's also understandable for the mods to try to improve the behavior on the site to more closely cleave to "civil and substantive". Hard to fault them for trying.
Thanks again for your contributing to this thread. I appreciate it.
Even then, I scrolled back through your comments. The last time you got grayed out was over a month ago (although I'll agree that that thread was a little like what you describe, and I was really unhappy to see 'idlewords and 'tptacek say what they did, not least of all because of how much I respect them... I was in that thread too, and I'll remind you that the moderators closed it because it just turned into an all-out flamewar).
I agree with your political opinion, for what it's worth. But I don't agree that you should feel anything based on downvotes. Sometimes people will disagree with you. Sometimes they won't.
But never, ever let a little number next to your name control your life. Don't let it become who you are. Make your comments when you feel they're appropriate, and don't take it too harshly when you get knocked down.
I want you to know that you're welcome on HN.
Consider how that would sound to someone who's "karma-poor," i.e. anyone new to HN.
> But I don't agree that you should feel anything based on downvotes....never, ever let a little number next to your name control your life. Don't let it become who you are.
Yes, Eleanor Roosevelt was right, of course. However, the fact remains that people are people, and people are social animals, and, despite being virtual, these are social interactions with real consequences.
One of the problems with downvotes is that they have no cost for the voter, but they inflict a social penalty upon the receiver. Their being anonymous-yet-public is part of that problem.
Imagine being in an office environment that had a corkboard on the wall divided into columns, one for each employee. Anyone can anonymously post a card, and anyone can read posted cards. Downvotes are the equivalent of someone posting a card saying, "You're wrong and stupid and you should feel bad for saying that thing you said earlier today at lunch." The person making the accusation incurs no social cost, expends no social capital, but the person about whom the comment is made suffers a social penalty, an anonymous-yet-public shaming, without even an opportunity to defend himself or face his accuser.
Would anyone deny that such an environment would have extremely negative consequences for social interactions in the group? Imagine walking up to the board and seeing a number of cards equivalent to over half the group in your column, all of them shaming you for something that happened earlier. Who in the group hates you now? When you interact with someone, and they seem nice, are they putting on an act? Are they talking about you behind your back? Are they one of the ones who posted those cards?
Yet here on HN, people think this kind of interaction is acceptable, even good. It makes no sense.
Another serious problem with downvoting (or, at least, the way downvoting is implemented here) is that it discourages discussion. Every time someone takes the time to write a thoughtful comment, and it gets downvoted into invisibility, that person is discouraged from doing so in the future, because it would effectively be a waste of his time. Why should he bother, when it only takes a few people to click a button and make his words vanish. And in this way, the whole community is worse off.
For example, see here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13118453 I made a relevant comment with a good point supported by a clear example. Then someone responds with a bunch of strawmen that have no relevance to what I said and my comment starts getting downvotes. His comment wasn't even relevant, which is exactly the kind of comment that should be downvoted--but does his get downvoted? No, of course not--he gets approbation, and I get shamed. A few more downvotes and my comment won't even be seen by anyone who might have something interesting to say about it, which disenfranchises me of the opportunity to have a discussion at all.
I wanted to have an interesting discussion on the topic, but a handful of people have the power to deny me that opportunity, while remaining anonymous and refusing to even engage in the discussion themselves. It's just plain cowardly. So why should I bother? It's a waste of my time. HN becomes a read-only medium to me. But of course, to them, that's a good thing, because I'm an outsider, and they don't want to hear from me.
> I want you to know that you're welcome on HN.
That's nice of you to say, but it's not the case according to the people who downvoted him, because such downvoting is directly discouraging further such participation, i.e. saying, "Don't do that again," which is exactly not welcoming.
... absolutely not. You can sign out of Hacker News whenever you please, and none of the people here follow you into your real life. Posting here has very few "real consequences". You might get a boost on traffic to your blog or find someone interesting to start a company with. But I won't pity you for getting downvoted. No one picks up a resume and says "that's interesting, but how much karma do you have on HN?"
> [downvotes] have no cost for the voter
Well, perhaps, but they're not free either. Voting down is a privilege, one that many people on this site have earned.
Also, many users will vote up a comment that's been grayed out if they feel that it shouldn't have been. If your comment is good, it will get rescued by passersby.
> Downvotes are the equivalent of someone posting a card saying, "You're wrong and stupid and you should feel bad for saying that thing you said earlier today at lunch."
Downvotes are the equivalent of someone posting "I don't think your opinion is valid/interesting."
And I scrolled back through your comments, like I did with the other guy. And I actually agree with many of your comments being downvoted. Being in the middle of a flamewar three weeks ago (and not stopping until 'dang prodded you), being factually wrong, and mentioning downvotes over and over again (seriously, I had to scroll back three pages of comments to not find "downvote" in the page somewhere): none of these things are interesting.
Especially amusing was the comment you posted before this. You posted four paragraphs that would have been better expressed with a downvote. There is a reason that they exist, and a reason that they have no cost per use. You can signal your opinion in a way that doesn't require you to post many paragraphs. (Humorously enough, I can't vote your post down, as it's in reply to me. I guess I have to post many paragraphs then.)
Sometimes you will randomly see a single downvote here and there on a comment that you thought might be legitimate. Don't overthink it. It's just a little internet number. Move on.
> For example, see here:
You post a relevant comment with a good point, supported by a clear example. Someone points out one way that your argument's premise might be flawed (although that person doesn't refute the argument you made).
Your mistake was posting an overlong recap of your previous comment, in a cynical and near-polemic tone, instead of pointing out the flaws in that person's argument. You get "shamed" for not furthering the discussion.
> [...] he gets approbation, and I get shamed.
The intent isn't to shame you. It's to filter communications that most people don't find useful.
People can still see your comments. They're not gone. If you feel disenfranchised, that's on you; you're still welcome to continue posting, just as long as you don't continue posting in the way that you did.
> a handful of people have the power to deny me that opportunity
Deny you what opportunity? You're still able to continue posting. In your linked thread, for example, you were the one who didn't respond.
> because I'm an outsider, and they don't want to hear from me.
It's not you, it's your comments. You're implicitly reading this as an ad hominem argument. I want you too to know that you're welcome on HN. You even seem like a reasonable person. But in my opinion, some of your comments are overlong tirades that generally don't lead to productive discussion (and I hope I don't offend you by saying so).
You're being told, both passively (through downvotes) and directly (by moderators), that certain kinds of comments are not acceptable here. Hopefully you'll see the pattern. I know it took me some time to find the correct commenting pattern too. Don't feel bad about it.
With that setup, we can finally tackle the first point you presented:
>> You've got over 2k karma. You can afford to lose some.
> Consider how that would sound to someone who's "karma-poor," i.e. anyone new to HN.
I wouldn't tell that to someone new to HN. If they haven't earned much karma, they probably haven't learned the ropes yet. In which case, they should learn to walk (make directly on-topic and guaranteed constructive comments) before they run (make comments that deviate slightly but still lead to respectful and interesting conversation).
Don't take HN too seriously. It's just a website that people talk to each other on.
> [...] all of them shaming you for something that happened earlier.
"Shaming" you for something that isn't related to your comment?
> Who in the group hates you now? When you interact with someone, and they seem nice, are they putting on an act? Are they talking about you behind your back? Are they one of the ones who posted those cards?
I'm trying to read this charitably and failing. Are you intentionally accusing people of voting your comments down because of the user they're attached to, or am I simply failing to read your comment in the way you intended?
At other times... well, as I once posted, "One thing I've learned around HN is that sometimes you have to wear your downvotes with pride."
They are just internet points, after all.
Those who die with the most Internet Points win, don't they?
You should learn to take feedback less personally.
It doesn't feel good and I don't come here to feel like crap.
If someone uses emotionally charged language to denigrate you, then I think you have a valid complaint. But the interpretation you assign to a downvote is just that - your interpretation.
Trying to diversify discourse here sounds like the opposite of looking for an echo chamber, and the 'tech community' is in dire need of it, at least as far as politics is concerned
I'd like to point out that this site is called "Hacker News", not "Technical and Business News". While there is no single "hacker political stance", there are ethical principles embraced by the community that can be applied usefully to policy questions.
As many have pointed out, it's really the subjective content of this site (here in the comments) that has the most value.
You see this kind of problem on debates about climate change. Once people learn about environment and ecology they tend to assume that humans have an unavoidable impact on the planet. Climate change "deniers" simply have a different intuition. All the science in the world is not going to change that. Which is why it is political, and not objective.
Really the entire point of politics is to debate things that lack definitive truth. Of course that is probably true of anything that is discussed on a forum to a lesser or greater extent. Otherwise the answer would already be on Wikipedia.
But then, I guess, that person has every right to conflate moral and legal rights ... so sue me? :)
Given that cultural and political values and assertions are diverse within relatively small communities, never mind a global audience, I'd suggest this would be very difficult to pull off.
For a moment, consider speaking about a topic that was settled decades or centuries ago in your community, but is still a controversial topic elsewhere. What topic are you thinking of? What other communit(y/ies) were you thinking of? What issues and communities do you think other people would offer? I bet there would be a lot of different perspectives on these questions, which is the reason political discussion should be limited.
I think that being able to discuss political issues such as regulations that impact startups is important, and will certainly resume after the political detox week is over.
For example, you could use your justification for banning any discussion about HN's rules since that would also be subjective and have minority viewpoints unfairly downvoted. People are often passionate about any rules changes as we can see by the upvotes on this submission. Do you think discussion about this rules change should be banned too?
It would be nice to be able to consider HN a welcoming, warm community but, on the other hand, I don't want it to be a fake sense of community -- I'm glad when people vilify me for my beliefs so that I can mark and avoid those people.
The forums on the internet should not be solely to affirm your opinions, but also to challenge them and allow growth as an individual.
The problem isn't with politics -- it's with the people misusing the voting system.
I would be surprised if this had much of an impact. I've encountered a lot of people even on HN who truly seem to believe their ideology is somehow 'fact'. Those who are sufficiently self-aware in this regard are probably not abusing the downvote button to begin with.
This is insane. Why are people worried about internet points. I'm guessing you are an adult right? and you don't want to express your points of views because someone might click the little arrow?
Why? Please, honestly, explain this to me.
1. Internet Points are a social signal.
2. Some HN features are restricted to users that have more than a certain number of Internet Points.
3. If you are expressing yourself in a comment with the aim of communicating, having the comment downvoted enough to grey it out (making it harder to read) will frustrate you.
It absolutely doesn't have an overwhelming majority favoring any one US political party or candidate .
It's a bit like the distinction between true democracy and a democratic republic. True democracy is mob rule. Democratic republics are slightly better at maintaining some sanity and objectivity.
In recent threads, I've made some factual observations, only to have people imagine a slant or motivation, then argue with that commenter of their imagination. I think HN is succumbing to the "Arguments as Soliders" antipattern:
I'd suggest not caring about downvotes.
This community already has its head in the sand. Political topics are flagged to oblivion, and even those that aren't inevitably inspire so much discussion that the flamewar detector goes off and nukes the thread.
Imagine: in an era where we rail against filter bubbles, a website punishes threads that are too active!
The Devil's Advocate says "Hey now, there's certainly a time and place for political discussion, but HN is a tech forum, not a political forum." Good point, but HN is also a Third Place (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_place), and being a Third Place means promoting Civic Engagement. I agree that HN should strive to stay on topic, but there is plenty of overlap between tech and politics and I think that space deserves to be explored by the community.
Others have stated this elsewhere in the thread, but it's often impossible to avoid politics altogether. I'm completely with you about posts that are purely political in nature.
If an article clearly has a pro-left/right spin, I don't want to read it.
The world is political and everybody's trying to sell you something. You can't opt out of it. Sorry.
I agree that HN does not need walls of bickering partisan flames, but outlawing discussions of politics and ethics is not the way to go in my mind.
But as we know, some parties prefer more stringer voter identification at the expense of supression, and vice versa.
In fact, most voting machines don't check ID at all; they leave that to the humans. (If they did check ID, the machines could secretly match votes to names.)
You don't get problems with large swaths of demographic groups being disenfranchised/turned away from the polls, because everyone is on the electoral roll.
And oh look, this is how a technical discussion about voting machines will drift in to non-technical political discussion. Viva la detox week I say.
Politics seem to work like religion in the brain. I'm not sure it's possible to have a good discussion.
I would argue that the opposite is necessary, as a general rule of discourse: we should calmly and confidently talk about politics with anyone and everyone. We should be able to have discussions about things like taxes, the military, and technology, without resorting to screaming and shouting names.
One could make the argument that Hacker News is not a political forum, but I think explicitly discouraging political discourse is not healthy in the long run.
I don't think this is the problem.
The problem is the echo chambers people surround themselves with (and tech companies explicitly try to cultivate) and a slowly dying news media desperate for views, and whipping up outrage in order to get them.
There are a ton of other sites where you can follow and debate politics all you want.
I'm starting to stick my nose into local politics here in Bend, Oregon, but there's no reason I need to talk about it on HN. I'm ok with compartmentalizing things: HN for tech/startups/'interesting things', and other sites for other things. I love bike racing, too, and feel that it's the best sport in the world, but I see no need to introduce bike racing articles here.
But where do you draw the line of what is 'politics' and what is 'cool nerdy tech stuff'?
Is a breakdown of 538's method of poll aggregation too politically charged, even if there's a perfectly good overlap of math and statistics?
If Trump makes an out-of-left-field statement about repatriating corporate money, are we prohibited from talking about how it will affect Apple?
A blanket ban of 'political threads and topics' seem harsh, even if just for a week. I personally haven't found the political content on this site to be out of bounds, considering the monumental political upheavals we've been witnessing over the past year.
It's often pretty obvious from the ensuing conversation what kind of post it is: are people discussing the politics, or the technical thing that's kind of related?
See, that right there is a political statement in and of itself.
An extreme case would be a Dr Evil figure who will not examine his own heart and needs the world to burn just so he can pretend to himself that he's a good person. So he makes the world burn. At every stage convinced of his own righteousness.
This explains why 'war is the continuation of politics by other means'. What passes for peace is trench warfare where the only progress is sideways. Improving the machinery may be desirable but in practice politics is dominated by preventing inevitable perturbations from escalating into open hatred and violence.
(More parochially one can tell when politics is influencing the discussion because there is always blaming going on.)
Politics is about how resources are allocated in society and can often be a very effective solution to problems.
If you start a business, politics impact you. If you are an employee, politics impact you. If you invest in businesses, politics impact you in a huge way.
Uber and AirBnB are no longer just startups, they are very politically active corporations. But they both started, if not from here, then from other communities just like this one.
That's another reason why it should be banned, because it will crowd out other topics by dint of being more important to more people - which is also a feedback loop, as more people get drawn in for the politics.
The equivalent analogy might be that the HN magazine has published too many politically slanted stories in recent issues and worries about losing sight of their larger editorial goals.
It's too easy and too cheap to make another politically provocative cover story. It might make sense to totally stop writing political stories altogether for a bit to break the habit.
I don't feel this need to be an explicit policy. I mean it gets into the entire "what is politics debate."
Hackernews is about hacking (software, hardware, life), and I still see tons of that on here -- well that and Amazon spam, but that's mostly due to their recent conference/product announcements and will probably die down soon.
I think what dang is after getting of is tribalism, where people show group membership with displays of insults, meme-dropping, etc.
Different things, but if any group can separate tribalism from politics, through thoughtful community-making, I'd say HN can.
That is all anecdotal of course.
I think we should entertain this experiment of Dang's for the time being.
You'll need 'showdead' set to 'yes' in your profile if you want to see all the comments in it.
Thanks for the policy, although I honestly just thought this had always been the policy anyway.
When I look at the tone of the downvoted/flagged "dissident" comments (not a value judgment, just an objective description of perspectives that are not generally well-tolerated in intelligent, cultured, Western circles today), and compare it to the tone of the "normative" comments, I see very little difference.
They are both slightly snarky, hostile, exasperated and dismissive. If I was moderating on tone to oppose conflict, I would not like seeing either kind of comment. But I would not consider this tone level worthy of the Giant Banhammer.
But the banhammer is applied very asymmetrically -- both by voters/flaggers, and by moderators. Or so it appears to me.
The result is a context in which "dissidents" feel like they're essentially sitting in the back row next to the teacher's pet. Any time Jamal has a spat with Andrew, the teacher's response is the same: "Jamal, why did you hit Andrew!" "Jamal, stop being mean to Andrew!" But Andrew can say pretty much anything to Jamal.
And both sides argue vociferously that the teacher is unfair. Jamal feels it's unfair that the rules seem to be different for him and Andrew. Andrew feels it's unfair that Jamal, that annoying idiot, is even allowed to be in the same class as him.
It's relatively easy to adopt "both sides complain about the teacher" as the definition of "the teacher is just enforcing fairness and good behavior." But in fact, whatever the teacher draws the line, one side will always want it farther to the left, and the other side will always want it farther to the right.
I think you missed the part where this was mostly one guy, evading their ban by re-registering new accounts. So it looks like dang was very ban-happy to just one of the sides, but it was one guy.
Apart from the multiple bans of one guy, I see comments from both sides of the argument getting called out about their tone.
And of course, we'd never know if the people who aren't banned would stoop to the foul crime of ban evasion. As they used to say, the law in its majesty commands that neither the rich man nor the poor sleep under the bridge.
Moreover, I was describing a general pattern of discourse, not just this one thread. If you don't feel you see this pattern, there's not much to argue about...
And of course, it is not just the mods. Downvoting polite discourse for content is something some people feel a social responsibility to do. We certainly can't avoid the consequences of the secular growth in this popular sense of responsibility.
Well, okay: one solution, if there's no practical way around the asymmetry, would be to make it explicit in the guidelines. You could say: when expressing unpopular views, make a quadruple-strong effort to ensure your perspective is presented clearly, sincerely, civilly and humbly.
What really rankles Jamal isn't even that he's a second-class citizen. He could deal with that. What rankles him is that everyone keeps denying that he's a second-class citizen, while in practice treating him as one.
Very much agreed. I find dang having a problem with political accounts amusing, given it was dang's moderation that inspired me to make mine.
I see this great move as a way of the community lifting its head out of a sandy quagmire to glance at the shining beacon, the vision on the hill, the where we want to be, unsullied by political nausea. Sure, in a week we can get back into the grim reality, the tech-noir crapsack future, but perhaps for one week we can focus on a positive future and its soaring aspirations. Go Dang!
The vision of where we want to be is the central political debate of all time, to which all other political discussions are peripheral appendages. So, no, banning political discussion doesn't let us focus on that, it prohibits even considering it.
I don't think politics have overtaken the site or even become a significant part of it, so I wonder why politics-averse individuals cant just avoid political threads?
HN is a community for the the intellectually curious, who come here for a wide range of interests (some of which have political aspects, of course--there's no getting away from that). But there's a different kind of users, ideologically committed ones, who use HN primarily for political battle. That's not something that sits well with the purpose of this site, as I tried to explain above.
Those users really want a different kind of site than HN, and need to find another, or maybe start a new one. Plenty of new sites have spawned from HN; that's partly a function of our not trying to be all things. HN has always been in the lucky position of not needing to grow for growth's sake, so we're happy when people who want a different kind of community find it, or create it.
(It's interesting how the "this is just for a week" thing hasn't seemed to enter the conversation.)
Because the YC/HN culture is to experiment to inform future direction. "just for a week" probably means "just for a week, so that we can see if it negatively or positively influences the quality of discussion... and, if the effect is positive, we may implement a similar policy for the long term"
Thus, "just for a week" doesn't appear to have much relevance since the experiment is (presumably) part of a longer term plan to curb hostile commentary.
The long-term plan is to protect the values of this site (intellectual curiosity and thoughtful conversation), or at least, it's our intention to find such a plan. But there's no longer term plan to ban politics. I understand why people would react with that concern, of course, but it really is just an experiment for a week.
That was definitely not clear to me from the post (although it is reassuring).
Also, I've gotten in trouble using that word "experiment" before. It turns out to mean weirdly, wildly different things to different people. But I'm attached to it.
On the other hand, the idea of an interminable ban on political discussion has many obviously salient implications, emotions, and such. A sort of half-baked analogy is that it's like lighting a tiny, contained trashcan fire in the middle of a nuclear reactor--it's not really a big deal but it's easy to see how it could trigger high-magnitude reactions from onlookers.
That's a creative analogy though.
I think that's just because people are natural cynics, and as such default to the assumption that a temporary state of emergency will be permanent.
It is indeed possible to avoid clicking on a specific kind of topic. From what I understand, the issue here is more that it just isn't a fit for the purpose of this community/website.
Technology and politics go hand in hand, unless we'd like to head back into the dark ages.
EDIT: I'm not hear to offend or persuade with politics talk. I'm here to provide or obtain new perspectives and understanding. If I want an echo chamber that reinforces my perspectives and beliefs, I can head back to Facebook.
This just reads like a cop-out to me, in the same way that large media orgs have been parroting the "it's impossible to be truly unbiased" line as if it were an excuse to throw up their hands and stop trying altogether.
Not that I'm saying you're being disingenuous here, mind, it just reads like defeatism. "All tech is politics so it's pointless to try delineating them". This mentality gets worse and worse as you go down the main thread...
Not all, or even most tech talk is political related. I'm just looking down the front page right now.. a new Golang web framework, Elixir and Ruby IPC, OpenAI, new SSDs..
Those topics aren't even tangentially political in nature.
And these are the articles that matter the least to me. I come here to discuss applied technology, not theory. How can technology improve quality of life? How are we going to deal with automation replacing the need for jobs? How are startups and their culture effecting both their employees and society as a whole (I'm looking at you AirBnB and Uber).
To each their own. I don't believe it's a cop out, but that's my opinion. You can have your threads and I can have mine without any interference. That's my problem. There's no need to censor politics threads if you simply skip them because you have no interest.
Short answer: Because oftentimes a thread about a technology is about its concrete operational characteristics and applications, not it's social effects.
When you start dragging those into the topic, there's shockingly little depth to probe. AI will automate people out of jobs eventually - okay, and? You've moved the thread off topic. I came to read about how OpenAI works, not what the left, right, center, and upside-down think about the larger concept of AI, rather than the specific implementation called out in the thread title.
Here's the thread I was talking about: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13103742
A cursory reading suggests that somehow, that particular rabbit hole was avoided by everyone there. This kind of goes into what dang was saying, broaching the topic you just did in that thread would have just been unwelcome noise.
Do we really to relitigate "what about the jobs?" any time an AI or deep learning framework comes up? Is that really an interesting discussion to have in every thread?
That said, sure, not every thread should re-hash the same conversation, but that's neither exclusive to politics (see the discussions in every thread about JS frameworks) nor is it the problem being called out by the moderator.
Again. Do we really to relitigate "what about the jobs?" any time an AI or deep learning framework comes up? What if there are sites that are not Hacker News that are better for that kind of discussion?
As for other sites, no, absolutely not. Politics is unavoidable. You can enforce a silent acceptance of the status quo, but that's in itself a strong political (reactionary) position.
These two views are mutually exclusive. Either technology discussion can be separated from politics discussion (and given the other thread, we have evidence that it can), or it can not.
You're telling me that I can't discuss a topic without touching this other topic, and yet here that is happening right in front of us.
There are times and places to have political discussions - the fact that I do not engage with my mom on political topics over Thanksgiving turkey does not mean I am not interested in politics, it means I am not interested in politics in that particular context.
Mostly because I know that the discussion will end in anger, hurt feelings, and not a single changed mind. It has happened enough on this board that people, myself included, start getting very flag-happy when they get a whiff of partisanship in the air.
I especially do not appreciate the implication that not wanting to have the discussion "here" is a political statement of anything other than wanting to avoid a headache. I must point out that insisting that X be talked about when someone has expressed disinterest in the topic is hard to interpret in any way other than hostile disregard.
EDIT: Which HN is totally within its right to do.
The thing is that we all have very different visions on the hill of where we want to be, and that friction is what's playing out in these threads.
If you want to enforce the code of conduct more strongly, fine. But highlighting political discussion as somehow worse than other kinds of discussion involving competing views is incredibly frustrating and only serves those who may benefit from engineers putting their political and ethical agency to bed in a work/work discussion context. Politics is about choice, its about reasoning out decisions and coming to a consensus on those decisions. Work life is not exempt from the scope of those decisions, and trying to keep that discussion out is a pretty questionable practice.
My wife and I, on several occasions each day, will say to one another, "we're describing two different things. We need to take this discussion far deeper, or end it altogether." That's the person with whom I talk more than any other person, and we aren't on the same page on divisive issues tens of times each week.
Without unpacking an issue to a level far beyond the length of forum posts, we cannot possibly hope to be on the same page in our discussions here when they veer into politics. It's better to favor the format of discussing interesting issues about which most of us are unfamiliar. That way, we get fresh eyes thinking about the issue, more polite discourse, and a more educational experience.
I wonder why it is called an experiment at all. In the end this just the mods upholding the part of HN guidelines  that I like the most:
If they'd cover it on TV news, it's probably off-topic.
Mundane politic topics interfere with HN being the exception place it is.
Edit: but it's only a change for one week!