HN has been running a no-politics-for-a-week 'experiment' . Although it hasn't been a week, I think we've learned as much from it as we're going to, so it can be over now.
Among what we learned is that it's impossible to define 'politics' with any consensus because that question is itself highly political, and that HN is at its best when it can meander through all the (intellectually) interesting things, some of which inevitably have political dimensions. The current story is a good example: it's not apolitical, but it isn't purely political either, and it's clearly on topic for HN.
In other words, the existing guidelines have it about right (https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html), so carry on as normal.
1. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13108404. I say 'experiment' because people understand that word differently. We mean 'trying something for a little while, just to see what will happen'.
One of Adam Smith's shortest sentences in Wealth of Nations is "Wealth, as Mr Hobbes says, is power." It's all about power and its distribution.
“The worst illiterate is the political illiterate, he doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events. He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies.”
It is deeply disturbing that 100M+ Americans didn't vote in the most recent election. I bet a lot of those were people who, as Brecht points out, are proud of the fact that they hate politics and don't care about it. They always spout ignorant bullshit like "both parties are the same anyway" and they say that with a smug, holier-than-thou attitude, as if they've discovered some hidden insight. It really rustles my jimmies.
I can respect someone I personally dislike. I can also respect someone who disagrees with me. I can even respect someone who makes my life harder, though I might dislike them for it.
But I lose respect for a person for many other things.
Once you tally up all of the factors, I do have trouble respecting most of the Trump voters I've personally encountered so far (not many) because I sensed too much intellectual laziness or cognitive dissonance.
Once you tally up all of the factors, I'm not sure that Trump voters come out ahead of non-voters in aggregate.
Politics is etymologically related to policy. Which is a set of norms over a group. I.e. all policy is group policy.
The role of the governmemt to set and enforce those policies. Governance
is generally preferable to anarchy because governance allows us to reap economies of scale. Which is invaluable in a universe of scarce resources. But due to conflicts of interest, optimal policy is often disagreed upon. Therefore, it is common that policy is forced upon one or more parties which believe the policy suboptimal, in the name of compromise.
I personally dislike when someone forces something upon me. Likewise, I dislike when I must force something upon someone else. As a result, negotiation of policy can feel frustrating and exhausting. This sentiment is where I suspect the desire for "politics-free spaces" originates from.
Regarding Dang's flag experiment. I cautiously propose the rule that: any article whose thesis asserts "a normative statement which may affect an unwilling party" is worthy of a flag. E.g. while most think of the Supreme Court as an inherently political entity, and while litigation involves an unwilling party (whoever loses), the above article's thesis is informative rather than persuasive. Therefore, I would not flag the above article. This flag policy would aim to target the inciteful, rather than the insightful.
Politics is etymologically related to "polis", which is the greek word for "city".
The greek (and the later adaptation in latin) gave "politic" to designate 'the affairs of the city', and 'polites' for 'citizen'.
To put that simply, "politic" is supposed to be the management of a city.
* "public policy" = "políticas públicas"
* "company policy" = "política da companhia"
* "political campaign" = "campanha política"
* "gender politics" = "políticas de gênero"
More importantly, is it unproductive? I.e. would my threshing-method fail to reliably discriminate? I honestly believe my criterion is practical. Otherwise, I would not have made the suggestion. I challenge someone to find a case where the predicate returns a controvertible result.
Sorry, I have no problem with it, but stopping on day 2 for this kind of story seems to be a little soon. How about clarification?
E.g. the many shades of SEO in an attention economy, or downvoting for quality vs disagreement. Once a mechanism exists, it acquires multiple identities through use.
Also, when you say the guidelines have it about right, there's a lot of evidence that the current implementation favors people who want to bury stories that relate to politics (or other hot-button topics like diversity). Are there plans to look at this?
We're definitely going to consider tweaks to the guidelines, but substantive stories on e.g. diversity are already not off topic. Some do get flagged, but we've often turned off the flags or reduced them (which is standard practice on HN for a whole range of stories) and many have appeared on the front page.
Same way you build a reputation for anything.
PS: How do you feel about adding a "rationale" text box to the flagging process + some eventual feedback on whether moderation agrees with the flag/rationale? I basically never flag comments because I'm not sure I'm the same page with y'all.
Add a date and time, down to the second. The more exact the end time the more people will believe it really is temporary.
That way if people want to do politics, fine, but if we restrict it to a specific day or days so those of us that are sick of politics can just focus on getting things done. And then post about what we did on the day after.
Maybe politics day on, no politics day off in a series.
Edit: I'm afraid that sounded dismissive—sorry! I was writing in haste and genuinely appreciate your suggestion.
Perhaps the lesson is simply: don't experiment with community standards.
It might be useful to tie changes in community standards to something concrete and trackable. Taking the detox week as an example, there would be a way to flag something and specify "detox week" as a reason.
That being said, can you give an example of changes in community standards on this site which effects cannot be tracked in software?
EDIT: Clarified scope of "changes in community standards" to this site.
Story quality, thread quality, community satisfaction...
The 'Net needs more models tested, but also far more nuance than most sites seem to show.
In terms of hot-button-topic stories getting buried, it's not just flagging - the flame war detection logic also plays a role. On diversity stories, for example, once they reach the front page we often see a large number of strongly worded (but clearly legitimate) anti-diversity posts. When people reply, heavy discussion ensues; and in any case, there's often a lot of piling on in agreement. Pretty soon the post is back to page 3 or 4. Of course there's the option of not replying, but leaving the anti-diversity viewpoint unchallenged strongly reinforces the stereotype of HN as a place that's hostile to diversity. So right now there isn't any good answer.
Of course that leaves the harder problem that some of those threads are flamewars rather than civil conversations, as the guidelines call for. But fortunately that's not always true.
Thanks again for sharing your learnings. Unsurprisingly I have some thoughts of my own, but first I'm curious about what others have learned ...
But why do you think it's uncharitable? People who say they "prefer meritocracy" are in fact taking an anti-diversity position. Maybe they don't understand it's anti-diversity, in which case pointing it out may encourage them to think more about it and understand why. Or maybe they don't care, in which case they certainly wouldn't take it as a moral judgement.
I don't think it's uncharitable for people whose explicit, self-proclaimed position is that diversity makes things worse than homogeneity.
I'll be the first to admit that I can be a little snarky at times, particularly about things I'm passionate about, but I think most people could say that about themselves.
Out of curiosity, how did you all reach this conclusion?
What might have made this experiment more sustainable would have been to scope it to "No partisan politics". Some topics, such as education reform are very political but have no strong consensus in either party. For others, such as IP laws, both major parties come down on one side and many techies on the other. Those topics were common on HN for years before the political discussions here really got nasty.
It's the wedge issues (whatever they may be in a given cycle) and culture wars where the site has really gotten acrimonious. If people are talking about an issue, it's fine. When they're fighting with their allies against the "other tribe" it's not.
Oh yes, but what wasn't possible to foresee was the community reaction, and whether a functioning consensus would develop in practice. It did not.
I don't think moderators have quite the power you describe. We can take that approach, but only if the community supports it overall. That proved not to be the case here in two or three important ways, and we're fine with that.
> I hope for more experiments in the future
I'm glad we're not the only ones who feel that way!
> Going to ever try the 'pending comments' experiment again?
"Pending comments" morphed into what we called "modnesty" for a while and is now known as vouching, and has been probably our biggest single success in terms of introducing new mechanisms.
I think user 'opsiprogram' describes it well here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13111900. It's unlikely that the outcome will be ideal, but like this experiment I think there might be useful lessons that can be learned in a short time.
(Note that I completely accept dang's decision at the time)
If it were simply a matter of being told, I could have just told myself, since I've made that argument myself on HN for years. But the point was to try the idea for a little while and see what happened. Now we have actual experience to point to.
HN is large enough that if the outcome had been wildly different, other users would be thinking that had been obvious all along, and telling us so.
Keep in mind that the important question was how the community would react, and complex social systems aren't straightforwardly predictable. I've been working with HN for years now, and a participant for years before that, and much of it remains counterintuitive to me.
There's still the "should I really stick this knife in that electrical socket?" evaluation that should take place with weird/crazy ideas, though.
This experiment was like asking people to flag "news", and getting surprised that people were flagging tech news, when they really wanted to avoid crime news.
You made an unpopular choice, and then backed out of it before you even had time to see how it played out.
Ironically, your political detox week just showed you politicking in the worst senses of the word.
Ed: You're welcome to downvote, but I would appreciate comments outlining how my post was inappropriate rather than merely unpopular opinion.
I think that many readers are simply being uncharitable in interpretation because they don't like the message.
That aside, Ill omit such language in the future (though Ill leave it here for posterity sake).
My decision was to try out an idea briefly and learn from it. We achieved that, and what we learned stabilized quickly, so the value of continuing was small. Meanwhile the cost of continuing was nonzero, and possibly high. It turns out that when you tell people you're going to try an idea out briefly just to see what happens, many hear "this is a permanent change". That was not intended, and I didn't want to do damage by allowing that misconception to linger for another several days.
I was going to link to the famous Keynes line about "when the facts change, I change my mind; what do you do?", but it turns out Keynes didn't say it: http://blogs.wsj.com/marketbeat/2011/02/11/keynes-he-didnt-s....
> Ill omit such language in the future
I appreciate the time you've taken to engage with me and explain your thinking (though I disagree with your choices still).
I hope you'll make a post explicitly about the experiment, so we can talk more fully (and civily!) about why I disagree with you.
Have a good day!
That's probably the inappropriate part. In fact, your comment would have probably been better off without the entire first sentence. I don't believe the point you're trying to express is reinforced by your introductory sentence at all.
I agree the comment would've been better without the use of the word coward, because it's obviously a charged term and a distraction here.
(See sibling reply if you care about why I chose to use it.)
The overall tone of your post could be read (by some) as insulting in a sense. I wouldn't call them cowards for backing out before a week. It seems more a matter of didn't-have-a-choice. The community ran away with it. So they aren't perfectly honest, so some people would rather be the captain who goes down with his ship, but sometimes it's better to face the inevitable and try to make the best of it.
In short, I can see why your post was downvoted, but I wouldn't downvote it myself. You stated your mind. Just that even geek culture is sensitive it seems (or at least it is here).