You disagree strongly with the idea of HN taking a one-week break from politics. I get that, and would even sympathize (edit: by which I mean agree) if I thought one week were a huge deal. But it doesn't mean you can vandalize this place. And even if we're 100% wrong, 8 years as a user should be enough to know that we're wrong in good faith.
dang and sctb don't see every comment. If you see something and flagging it hasn't worked I think emailing hn@ycombinator is a good idea. Especially if it's a pattern from that particular user.
Still, the email option is still open and I hope they're receptive and responsive to trying to stop the appalling comments, although I recognise that it's sometimes frustratingly slow for terrible accounts to get banned.
Also: Why should i "engage productively" with a site full of people who are constantly (i use the word advisedly!) saying awful things?
One of my main use cases for HN is as a bookmarking service. I find something interesting, I post it with the bookmarklet. Same as I do with OneNote, except HN is faster. That's where the overwhelming lion's share of whatever collection of internet points I have amassed has come from. Frequently from the very least interesting of the articles that I post...
Just this week, I wracked up some ridiculous number of points from a throw-away release about Juypiter notebooks supporting F# that came up in one of the newsletters I get.
I don't bother flagging other than as a protest statement.
I'd be happy to be wrong about it though; reading intent precisely is impossible and we do get it wrong on a regular basis. Moderation is largely guesswork. FWIW, the behavior I banned that account for is so far outside the community norm here that it didn't strike me as a close call.
Edit: reflecting about this, though, I realize that I broke with our usual practice, which would have been first to ask the user to stop, and only ban them if they didn't. Given that, I've unbanned ubernostrum and let him know.
It's indeed the case that politics is inseparable from many clearly on-topic-here things and that it's impossible to define "politics" in a way that would justify banning it outright. I told pg that very thing when he was training me to do moderation here, and he agreed. Questions around this have come up so often, though, that proposing one experimental week off from politics, just to see what we could learn, seemed worth trying. And we've already learned quite a few things, one of which is just how inseparable the political dimensions of these stories really are.
This dichotomy that keeps being presented on HN --- that one either supports politics on HN or is oblivious to politics --- is obviously false, and a little offensive. People who feel a proprietary ownership over political awareness are often missing something.
I don't know what your politics are, but I'm going to hazard a guess that they're comparable to my own. Respectfully, I'm going to keep playing this card until my deck runs dry of them, which could be awhile: I think there's might not be anybody else on the site who has put more effort into political persuasion about racial and gender equity than I have (not because I'm a great person, but because I'm a quintessential message board nerd that happens to have strongly held beliefs about structural injustice in our field). I've learned a couple of things in that work:
* It takes way more effort to compose a careful, persuasive comment about political issues on HN than it does to compose a shrill, superficial, partisan appeal to one issue's pole or the other. The bad comments have a structural advantage.
* Political threads on HN are invariably nastier than technical threads, in part because they attract a lower grade of commenter that thrives on accumulating karma from shrill partisan appeals.
* The rest of the tech community does not appreciate thoughtful political commentary on HN, and in fact has created an ongoing schtick whose premise is that HN should be written off --- politically engaged tech people are less likely to have an active HN account than a Wicker Park hipster is to own a TV.
* Despite the almost total lack of support I feel from the rest of the tech community (or at least that portion of the community that shares our beliefs about structural injustice) --- really, the almost total lack of awareness of HN they have, apart from the circulation of egregiously awful comments in the few moments they exist here before people like me flag them off the site --- these people all have curiously strong opinions about how the site should be moderated.
* The net result of all these bullets is that political threads on HN are a shitshow --- they're almost guaranteed to be a shitshow, because all these people who feel so strongly that repressing politics on HN represents further repression of the underrepresented are unwilling to put the effort in to doing the required amount of writing to ensure that political threads are productive, rather than just an awful joke to share with each other on Twitter.
It's all a little galling.
I have zero issues with your position here, which I think is well-thought-out and held with integrity. I don't even disagree that HN is a poor venue for many kinds of discussions - that's why i almost never come here, because of the repulsive bullshit. My problem is with the laughable inconsistency of a community that thinks "diversity in tech" is a "political" topic but "cryptocurrency" and "East Asian investment in the US" are not. That is a fucking ridiculous, dishonest, and supremely entitled position to hold. "No political topics", in practice, just means "anything we don't want to think about" or perhaps "anything people might have strong reactions to". HN's mods and members are making a political statement here and they refuse to acknowledge it.
Anything even vaguely related to race, gender, or class, or in general anything that challenges HN members' certainty that they are übermenschen, is going to go poorly here. And probably always will, because it is a self-reinforcing issue. Good moderation is hard, especially when a community and its moderators tend toward free-speech absolutist positions. HN won't get better on these topics until the moderators stop putting up with horrible bullshit, and i have zero confidence that they're ever going to do that.
Hacker News can do what it likes, frankly, because i am positive that i will never feel welcome here. I do, however, think that it's a perfectly cromulent and civil gesture of protest for people like ubernostrum to point out topics that are, in fact, "political" - even if the vast majority of Hacker News wants to pretend that they're not. They're upholding a toxic fucking status quo, and they are allowed to do that! But i see zero problems with making them own it.
But oddly, this doesn't describe HN, because another aspect of the moderation is in favor of blandness, for the sake of avoiding flamewars. In college I was taught that good writing entailed taking strong positions, but the moderation here sometimes sees strong positions as being the same as flaming.
Tammarrian Rogers and I used that tweet of Anil's in our Open Source Bridge session on "A new approach to software".
>* The rest of the tech community does not appreciate thoughtful political commentary on HN
Maybe the two are related? If someone wants to have a meaningful discussion about, say, structural injustice in tech, I bet there are places they can do that _without_ having to start with an argument from first principles about whether or not racism and misogynism have any value.
>apart from the circulation of egregiously awful comments in the few moments they exist here before people like me flag them off the site
Yes, the most egregiously awful comments get flagged. But that's not a very high bar to clear, compared to what I've seen on other sites.
This is the point where your opinion and mine diverge, and much of my anger at the "detox" is due simply to the inability of HN and the broader tech community as a whole to realize the scope of "politics". I know that you get this, so I'm unsure why you chose to phrase it that way, but I'll consolidate my thoughts here.
Tech is doing amazing things right now and has the potential to do many more amazing things. But there is an almost wilful blindness to the consequences that's unbearably frustrating.
People are developing machine-learning tools that can do lots of cool stuff. But those tools can just as easily "learn" the prejudices baked into our culture, and begin reinforcing them. This is how you get systems which mysteriously decide that people of certain races shouldn't get bail when arrested, or should face much harsher sentencing, or shouldn't get a prime-rate mortgage or shouldn't get a business loan or shouldn't be hired into certain jobs:
People are experimenting with new ways to develop software and new methodologies to make development more efficient. Which is great until the software accidentally issues instructions to arrest people who shouldn't be arrested, or tells people convicted of drug crimes to register as sex offenders, because somebody screwed up the categorization check.
That actually happened: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/12/court-software-gl...
But try to suggest some rules about being careful, checking and testing everything, getting feedback before a deploy, etc. and you'll be told it's burdensome regulation in need of "disruption". Try to tell people to think up-front about the consequences, and you're yelled at: "why do you always have to bring politics into everything?"
And that's just the obvious stuff. Going deeper: companies are interviewing and hiring based not on reliable metrics, but on a bundle of cargo culting, prejudice and in-group nepotism. VCs are funding based on this crap. Entire large market segments don't get anything which meets their needs because the biases prevented hiring or funding anyone who'd know the needs first-hand, and doing some research would violate "move fast and break things".
But don't dare try to talk to tech people about this, least of all on HN. Don't suggest that people examine their biases or how their lives have benefited from being sheltered from many economic or social ills. Don't ask them to think through the consequences, or to ask not just "how could this be used" but "who could this be used against". Because that's "bringing politics into it", and is bad.
But the politics was already there, in plain sight, for anyone to see who was willing to look. It cannot be separated out or isolated or made into something that we pretend isn't there. When I went through and flagged almost 50 stories yesterday I pointed out why each one of them had politics or political implications built-in. That was considered vandalism, which should tell you what you need to know to diagnose HN's "politics" problem.
The attitude that bringing up these consequences and implications is somehow unrelated or off-topic is not a problem of HN commenters being "shrill" or "nasty", it's a problem of the unspoken and unquestioned set of values experiences and ways of looking at the world that are baked into not just the majority of HN's users but also the people who run it. And I've tried my damnedest to explain this to people, but they either don't listen or don't get it.
"Detox" delenda est.
I've been on the site for a long time, and there are things i love about HN, and many many things that i strongly dislike.
Blind-spots for politics (either with a capital P or lowercase p) is at the top of the list of things i think are fatally flawed with this community.
Especially since this community started as both software AND entrepreneurship, i find it unreasonable and untenable to claim that politics are dissociable from the topics discussed on this site (it is, at the very least, undeniably capitalist).
If you are building organizations, you cannot be agnostic about politics. Your organization will have politics, and you as a leader must define what values your organization has and how they are to be implemented. [for brevity, i will skip over the discussion of the value of diversity in organizations here]
And at this point if you think that i'm shifting or moving the goalposts away from software, i'm happy to bring it back. Especially in a space where you care about your users, and their user experience, you must meet them in their contexts and consider their needs. Those are also not devoid of politics, and there are even business decisions on which user bases to serve and why, many of which should not be devoid of policy and politics.
For example: https://www.propublica.org/article/facebook-lets-advertisers...
Lastly, perhaps we'll retreat to "well threads about explicitly political topics devolve into shit shows", and i'd even probably agree with you, but the question is... so what? Just agreeing not to discuss these topics, some of which directly pertain to the development and productization of software just means that the mistakes that software orgs make won't be called out in HN. No one will learn from them here, and that seems like a big problem, especially for a community which folks come to in order to learn how to build software and organizations.
Agreeing not to discuss politics is not a solution to the problem being described. I'm not entirely clear what the correct solution is, but this is definitely not it.
Further: I don't believe that technology is dissociable from politics either. But I don't have to believe that to think that the political discussions we have on HN are unhealthy and unproductive.
'ubernostrum took issue with my comparison of technology and woodworking, because, I suppose, woodworkers aren't upending the housing market and converting tens of thousands of W2 employees into 1099s. That's fair. But none of us think that means that r/golang or r/haskell should host discussions about Facebook's fakenews problem --- so it's clearly not the case that talking about technology obligates us to host all possible political discussions.
Ultimately my problem with politics on HN is that the discussions are vapid. The best recent example was the Google research project on quantifying and manipulating bias built into machine learning algorithms, which immediately attracted a flock of trolls hijacking the thread with claims that the mere concept of bias was "PC".
I'm fine with political discussions so long as they aren't allowed to be a device with which any troll can shut down any conversation on HN.
Correct, and with no intention of banning all politics outside of that short artificial period. I wish I'd read this a few days ago, because it's a great way of putting it.
> I'm fine with political discussions so long as they aren't allowed to be a device with which any troll can shut down any conversation on HN.
We'll find other ways to get there.
(Checks wallet for official Thiel Fellow badge. Whew! Still there!)
Disregard my previous comment!
Nowhere in my post did I infer this things of you, but rather suggest that I disagree strongly with your perspective on this sites culture.
Seeing as you just got done bemoaning knee jerk commentary, it is however darkly comical to see you immediately respond with such a transparent misrepresentation of the point.
Planks and eyes, and all that.
It's mostly a moot point, though, because for most users there's bound to be at least one story that is (a) clearly on-topic and (b) clearly not apolitical.