Presumably, you have read through the comments of the referenced thread. If so, your essay omits a perspective about politics dicussion that many HN participants have. I'll attempt to summarize that position:
1) Yes, politics is extremely important.
2) Yes, politics touches every subject.
3) Yes, HN readers perform technical work in programming and hardware that affects politics, and vice versa.
4) All that said, the politics discussion on HN and similar sites is low quality, bad signal-to-noise ratio, full of emotional comments instead of insightful ones.
5) The overall net effect of political discussion on HN is negative and we'd rather not have 1 of the valuable 30 slots of the front page taken up by a political story (e.g. "Trump denies climate change.")
To reiterate the points above, it does not mean "climate change" is unimportant or that HN posters are "burying their head in the sand". That's a 1-dimensional caricature of the people who'd rather get their diet of political discourse from somewhere else besides HN.
Therefore, it's possible to simultaneously hold the view that politics is super important and they don't want it on HN. Your essay doesn't address this perspective.
A lot of the best posts on HN are narrowly specialized, so that apart from maybe asking questions, most HN commenters can't contribute much (but benefit from reading!).
But political arguments are available to every member of the site, no matter how specialized the story might be.
So we get situations like Amazon announcing Route 53, and the thread being hijacked with comments about how Amazon handled Wikileaks, or a new paper on measuring and mitigating statistical bias in machine learning algorithms hijacked with comments about political correctness.
Politics often literally prevents us from discussing technical stories, by forcing us to wade through banal political detritus to get to the comments that have anything to do with the technical issues.
My experience is that one has to express their emotional relationship to problems and be aware of it before they can actually insightfully engage with problems; if people don't, they just introduce their emotional biases into their problem solving and pretend they're not.
It's too complex of a topic and too emotional to be discussed in a large group setting.
There's a reason a one-on-one discussion is much likelier to at least be resolved in amicable disagreement and a greater understanding of perspectives, versus online "discussion" is often about vast hordes of people participating in one single "conversation" one comment at a time, while also trying to get upvotes.
I think it's quite possible to alleviate this, but requires getting over the simplistic per-comment upvote/everyone can comment on every thread model.
This isn't true for every issue. Some things are relatively simple, like gay marriage for example. But the more obvious issues tend to get settled eventually, even if takes a few decades or centuries :)
It amazes me that I rarely see this discussed. Of course, I also fall in this bucket.
Disagree. Because what about that phrase from extreme programming / devops: Bring the pain forward.
Maybe if there hadn't been censure, we'd be inclined to work here on better ways to have controversial, emotional conversations. See: pol.is https://blog.pol.is/pol-is-in-taiwan-da7570d372b5
I was personally really disappointed in premise of the detox -- though perhaps more retrospectively as time wore on and I saw this place neutered. I now go elsewhere for my fix of political ideation and creativity.
"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."
More at https://medium.com/a-change-is-coming/learning-from-hacker-n...
The other thing to understand is that this has always been the policy. It hasn't changed, other than the few times we've run explicitly temporary experiments, like the no-politics one or Erlang day as described elsewhere in this thread.
The results are not relevant to my criticism of JM's specific essay:
He's misrepresenting the people who don't want politics discussion as "ostriches". The extra nuance he ignores is that many HN'rs acknowledge the pervasiveness of politics. Many also desire political discussion -- but not on HN.
He equates "avoidance of politics" == "politics not important fingers stuck in ears"
His essay does not address the issue of "avoidance of politics" == "avoidance low-quality emotional posts".
By omitting the full nuance of the opposing position, he's distorting the argument in his favor.
It's not "incoherent" at all and by using that label, you're falling into the same trap as JM using the label "ostrich mentality".
Imagine a political science professor that lived and breathed "politics" all the time such that he teaches classrooms, writes books, and sits on panels debating various policies with others. Now, imagine a friend's mother invites him to Thanksgiving dinner. It is suggested that politics not be discussed. Yes, the professor could be impossibly obstinate about it and say, "that's delusional -- there are politics in the production of that turkey, the food lobby, the creation of the Federal Holidays, etc. Politics is embedded in _everything_!"
However, the professor doesn't have to be that inflexible. He can avoid politics talk during that dinner and the very next day, sit on a panel with Noam Chomsky and Christopher Hitchens and debate every political hot button topic under the sun.
Turning off-and-on the political discourse switch for certain venues is not "ostrich mentality" nor "incoherent". Perhaps there's a different reason that some people don't want politics on HN: the political comments are low quality.
Likewise, the mother isn't delusional/incoherent in thinking that politics doesn't exist everywhere. She's just attempting to set the tone for a pleasant agreeable evening.
me: it's incoherent to see politics as pervasive and then try to exclude politics from discussions of technology
you: it's not incoherent to see politics as pervasive and then exclude them from a social holiday dinner where the goal is a pleasant agreeable vibe
We seem to be speaking at cross-purposes.
Anyhow, I agree with you many people on HN say they don't want political discussion on HN because they see the comments as low-quality, or breaking what they otherwise see as a pleasant and agreeable vibe. And I think I understand your perspective:
- you think the OP would be stronger if it had mentioned that
- you don't like it when people characterize your position (acknowleding the importance of politics but still not wanting to have political discussions on Hacker News) as avoidance ("ostrich mentality") or intellectually incoherent
I grudgingly fell into this category. For a long time, I was frustrated that certain technology-related political topics were being banished from HN, but watching what is happening to other online communities I must accept that this is the best practice. I used to love Slashdot, but that community has grown completely toxic, and I blame the flame-war political discussions for its decline.
I heavily follow the Science Online community on twitter because I loved the sense of wonder I got from the articles all the PhDs were sharing. Now I open twitter, get infected with their outrage, and take it out on my political-opposites on Facebook. I've had to limit my social media exposure and unfollow a lot of people in an effort to stay out of that bad mental place.
I need a place where I can forget about politics and recharge my sense of wonder. We need to keep HN a sanctuary for rationality and promoting human-improvability.
Yes, much political discourse on HN tends to be lower quality.
However, trying to establish HN as a "politics-free zone" is not only impossible but deeply problematic when so many of us work on things that are politically important. (I'm trying to avoid rehashing the whole article's argument again here.)
Getting your diet of political discourse somewhere else effectively means staying in your ideological filter bubble when you talk about politics. The political discussions here are valuable precisely because we can't do that here; HN members are self-selected by interests that cross-cut political lines.
The perspective that politics shouldn't be discussed because it is difficult is the rationalization, and the underlying motivation for some is the desire to treat tech and the work we do as apolitical, because to do otherwise would have uncomfortable consequences.
That's only the case because the guidelines and moderation practices are set up to keep political flamewars off the site. Those benefits would evaporate very quickly if HN was allowed to become a political free-for-all.
The perspective that politics shouldn't be discussed because it is difficult is the rationalization.
The difficulty of political discussion isn't the rationalisation; the rationalisation is the predictability and mundaneness, and pointless incivility; i.e., people get emotionally heated, but resolve nothing and nobody learns anything. Nobody benefits and the quality of the site only degrades.
Topics related to politics are discussed here quite successfully all the time, and when it happens it's because the topic and resulting discussion is gratifying to one's curiosity and/or evidence of some interesting new phenomenon , as per the site guidelines.
the underlying motivation for some is the desire to treat tech and the work we do as apolitical, because to do otherwise would have uncomfortable consequences.
Few people are intelligent and socially-aware enough to be a high achievers in their business or career and yet naïve enough to think that their work is apolitical. And plenty of prominent HN contributors are perfectly capable of expressing strong political positions in their tweets and blog posts but keeping them out of their comments on HN.
I agree. But it's not the political topics that are the problem, it's the incivility.
Keeping incivility out of political discussions is more difficult than keeping politics out of technical discussions.
However, there are discussions that we should be having, around professional ethics, data privacy, censorship, advertising, etc, that are inseparably both political and technical.
I do think plenty of people are high achievers as engineers but want to regard their work as apolitical.
While we should not tolerate incivility, we should also be willing to face political issues and differences with consideration and respect. If the people on HN can't do that, who can?
Those tech topics intertwined with politics wasn't what I was talking about. (That is why I used the more purely political example of "Trump denies climate change" instead of a tech story like "Facebook attacks data privacy.")
And that example is the same theme dang was explaining in a previous comment:
2016-12-06 -- "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. We're not so concerned about stories on other things that happen to have political aspects—like, say, software patents. Those stories aren't going to be evicted from HN or anything like that."
dang's examples are very different from your political topics such as "professional ethics, data privacy, censorship, advertising". You'll notice that your examples are the type of topics that virtually all of HN readers will pile on the comments in violent agreement. Those topics don't create incivility. In fact, (modulo a few contrarians) they tend to foster a lovefest instead of flamewars!
Unfortunately, dang buried the "politics" clarification deep in that thread instead of spelling it out at the very top of the detox announcement so a lot of people got confused into thinking that political topics like "data privacy" and "software patents" was being censored.
(I'm stating that in general terms because any specific example would be subjective and would tend to sidetrack the discussion.)
I'm not taking issue with the way HN is moderated. What I do want to point out is that there is a tendency in this community (and among engineers) to avoid political ramifications and pretend that technical work exists in a vacuum.
It's this problem that I believe Mr. Mattheij is also getting at, and the idea of HN as a politics-free zone is just one of many manifestations.
Jacques M did not post his article to HN though - that was someone else. He put it it on his own blog, where surely he's entitled to talk about politics if he wants to.
Furthermore, in the article there's no mention of Trump anywhere. He's taking about the intersection of politics and technology, and surely there needs to be a metaspace to talk about that somewhere, even if that space is not on HN? (For example, SO has a meta.) Otherwise, if we Hackers cede that metaspace entirely then the lawyer types who run the world from Davos will just decide for us. 
 I don't agree with everything he says, but IIRC I first read that sentiment expressed by Eben Moglen, though I don't
It's a story that takes a place of a tech politis story that could be there.
If you can and post a story called "Detailed analysis of Trump's new energy policy", that features credible facts and figures instead of opinions, simplifications and insults, it will have pretty good chances of sticking on the front page here.
the whole recent climate issue is a bunch of people not understanding the Paris accord and assuming it did so much more than it would. it was a "in name only" agreement much like other agreements created and implemented in the last decade
I'd say I benefited a lot from that discussion, as did a lot of other people. So I guess create controversy with whatever links you like, so we all can learn something.
But the main point I'd like to bring up is this: what you're saying is true about politics in general. But there are a lot of politics which are explicitly about technology and more specifically software technology. Political decisions are being made and laws are being passed that effect our industry, livelihoods, and lives and the community as a whole is infected with this head-in-sand "I'm above politics, politics isn't truly 'geeky' so I don't deal with it, I check out when people describe their emotions or lives instead of technical runtime analysis" attitude. I've observed it online in forums, in industry, in academia, it is an unfortunate facet of the cultural place the tech community inhabits.
But if all of the technical experts eschew politics then these political decisions that seriously effect our lives and our work will still be made: but without our input. By refusing to discuss and create politically active technical communities we cede all power to people who know nothing and care even less about the important technical issues of our time.
The tech community is pretty wide ranging in its political beliefs, but when we discuss the politics of technology there is general consensus on many issues among most: NN is good, banning encryption is bad, unrestricted access to the Internet is of fundamental importance and a liberating force, it would be better to have a choice of ISP, software patents are too broad, copyright/IP law is too extreme and stifles creativity, mass surveillance is troubling (whether you think it is also necessary or not).
There are a variety of extremely political issues that are fundamental to tech:
1) Should developers have a professional organization or union with e.g. ethical standards and certifications?
2) As a fundamental moral question, how do we feel about/what should we do about the millions of workers we personally displace and leave jobless through automation?
3) How, if at all, should the Internet be regulated? Is it a utility? Antitrust?
4) Immigration and outsourcing technical jobs.
5) What should happen when law enforcement demands information that is protected by encryption? Should encryption that the FBI cannot break be allowed?
6) How should copyright and IP work with respect to software, algorithms, APIs?
7) Should developers be held accountable for writing software that leaks data? Should users have fundamental rights to their own data? Privacy?
8) Regulations on IoT devices like cars
The list can go on and on and on. While I'd agree a thread on climate change might not be particularly insightful or interesting here, it is crucial the tech community discusses the issues above regularly so that when a bill is put forth, or input is elicited, there is an actual community of experts that present a (reasonably) united front, who have discussed these things amongst themselves.
If we had banned political discussion on HN and sites like it, SOPA would probably be law right now. It was stopped because the entire tech community discussed it constantly, came to an agreement that it was bad, and took extreme collective political action against it.
Your "tech politics" isn't what the detox experiment was about. Please see my other reply that repeats dang's clarification: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14476525
HN is a forum about technology and the startup world, let's keep it about that.
EDIT: Sorry if this came off as snarky, but it wasn't intended that way.
I like to think of it as being in a bar with a whole bunch of super smart, interesting people. Sometimes I've got nothing to add or I simply don't get it, but its consistently interesting, and occasionally unexpected and brilliant.
Heck, there was an article about butterflies the other day, it was pretty damn good, and something I'd never have read otherwise. For me at least that is HN - nerdy stuff with occasional flashes of brilliance.
That said, dang almost ran me out of here for daring to call out conspiracy theorists out on their BS, so perhaps things are broken by design.
Political discourse ruins online communities for people looking for technical and not political discussions. It's ruined Reddit as a technical forum; I have to filter several subreddits from r/all because I'm trying to avoid Trump news, and r/technology fought long and hard to keep political posts from dominating their subreddit, which it now does.
Basically, I want there to exist a safe space for computer engineers that I may disagree with politically to talk solely about solutions and products that solve technical problems, and not get sidetracked with whether or not I agree that Donald Trump having Patriot Act powers is terrible. I don't need yet another circlejerk in my life, I want the news.
It's true that we should all consider the ethical ramifications of what we do, but opening the floodgates on politics will have the cost of reducing the utility of HN. The most hyper specialized and interesting hackers are also the least likely to have time to waste arguing about the political battle of the day.
I miss Erlang day.
They quickly passed a decree mandating classes in philosophy, politics, languages, and other social sciences to be required for every student–engineers, physicist, chemists etc.
The idea was that never again should a generation grow up with the power of scientific knowledge but none of the tools to judge the ethics of using that power.
Meaning: there are times where enjoying purely the wonders of technology is a luxury you can't afford. For HN, it doesn't mean a need to debate the Paris accords. But this community has quite a few people sitting at the levers of power, and where technology and politics/policy intersect, it can make a meaningful difference for people to know that the group of peers whose judgement they may value would, for example, applaud them for walking off the job instead of handing over the iPhone encryption keys.
Of course politics is important. Doesn't mean Hacker News is the best place for a high quality discussion of politics.
Maybe the thing we need is a mechanism to "dose" on sharing of political thought every so often, without allowed it to overwhelm: A day of the week or a megathread, where we can then engage with our community in political convo of substance...
This is damned optimistic. It's not as though politics doesn't show up on HN, and when it does the results are usually unpleasant and uninformative. I'm not opposed to politics-on-HN because it's a formal space, I'm opposed because historically the results have been inflammatory and useless.
I suppose its possible that structured exposure would work better than 'natural' discussions arising from politics-related links, but I"d intuitively expect the opposite. "Political threads" with no clear prompt are especially easy to derail, and I'm scared that any major experiment with this would damage HN.
The more groundbreaking something new is, the more the businessmen take over. Only in politics it's the bureaucracy and career politicians rather than shareholders and MBAs (though there are more and more MBAs on the political scene as well).
I recently wrote major parts of the digitization strategy for the municipality where I work, and I participate in a lot of multi-municipality "unions" where we're working out how to digitize our future, so I may be a bit colored, but I see a lot of similarities between making politics and creating new tech.
I find the opposite to be true. The most intelligent and experienced hackers are not hyper-specialized, but have wide ranging knowledge of computing, mathematics, science, and people. They have strong, well-considered opinions on many topics, including politics.
Spending time arguing about it on Hacker News, probably not, but face-to-face with people they respect, yes.
It is, however, extremely political, with a strong anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalistic message.
Interesting concept, but, I (and I guess I am not alone on this one) would have found this particular topic extra interesting, and would have generated a few more site-interactions this way (instead of the other way around). But I can understand the gist of it...
Also, it wouldn't be as good if it would stagnate at some point. I am/was also part of communities that stagnated, some since long before I was born. It's not the same level of engagement, not the same glory, not the same amount of brave, smart people. So if HN stagnated on a smaller level it wouldn't have been as good either.
For me I really found the best approach is to take it like a surfer. There are good waves and bad waves, but each one will end. Ending wave just means it's time to get ready for the next.
Still, politics are probably important and if we could engage in politics with non-techs with amazing efficiency, we might be able to have our cake and eat it too - address the political issue in 5 minutes at the start of the conference, then get back to business.
I'm not apolitical, far from it, but that doesn't mean I want all the spaces I use to be politicized. And when HN does veer into politics, it almost always lowers the level of both insight and courtesy several notches from discussions of other topics.
I'm relieved to see politics stay tangential, because I think the alternative is not HN gaining insight on politics but losing it on everything else.
> Wal-Mart will pay employees to deliver packages on their way home
What's the hacker angle? There isn't one. It's interesting to people who care about politics and for people with dollars in their eyes. Amazon being "in the industry" is enough. How's that interesting? Maybe it's the idea that having a lot of users or commanding a lot of investments makes something intellectually interesting, a notion that is as widespread as it is mediocre.
All in all, I often feel the best analogy to some HN subcircles is the beam breakers in Stephen King's The Dark Tower. Don't think too much about it, just do what feels good, and just avoid what scares you, nevermind how that feeds into what disfigured and forced people into settling for such a life to begin with. Gotta keep those attention spans short while pretending to be deep.
For every 10 stories about people labouring under psycho bosses for years there's one of someone standing up to them the second they violated boundaries. The opposite ratio would be a start, and people who don't do that in their life I genuinely have no business and no politics to discuss with, and I don't care for their rationalizations of their weakness and accomplicehood, either. I read and comment because different people write and read here, too.
> "political battle of the day"
That doesn't require you to not think or respond deeper than that. How many "0.001 release of the day" posts trigger people into tirades about general programming principles? How much do we learn from that? There is no consistency here, either, and if you find one interesting, why don't you find the other even more interesting?
If people understand intellectual curiosity, why don't they understand the combination of intellectual curiosity, a moral grounding, and a will? Maybe because those who don't have it can't possibly accept that they are indeed the weakest link. It's like when we assume attractive people are dumb -- we wish! Sometimes they just have and are everything we do, and then some.
What I miss about mixing HN and politics, is that HN doesn't have politicians who can pop in and say 'oh hi guys I wrote this bill feel free to ask me some questions'.
(I'm not saying nobody on HN participates on politics, I remember reading an interesting post about someone who ran for governor(?), but those posts are rare).
For example, a podcast I love is Planet Money, and they take the time to interview economists on both sides, people who write some controversial bills, people who take part in lobbying, and even senators. This approach has really opened my eyes to the political process and I have heard many well formed counter arguments which made me reconsider some of my positions.
I cannot say I have ever experienced this on an online forum.
I definitely enjoy my share of the circus that is happening in that space. I watch CNN usually in evenings while having dinner as a form of "light entertainment". And in the mornings I do have my share of political news reading on my preferred sources.
But when I get to a science or technology forum, I love to see science or technology news and information. Thus when suddenly the majority of items are related to politics, it turns me off.
Planet Money is better than average on this, but is definitely in the NPR bubble from my perspective.
I think EconTalk does the best job of airing different perspectives on (at least tangentially) economics related issues. The host has his own perspective, but he's very candid that he knows he has his own cognitive biases and often invites his guests to enlighten him by challenging those biases. It's also a longer format, so there is more time to unpack issues.
...which is a really good point. I think a lot of shallow political dialogue happens because of a lack of attention and space as much as anything else. Explaining why net neutrality is a big deal in emotional terms takes some technical explanation and some narrative building, for example.
How you interpret the article isn't contrary to my interpretation. It's part of it. I'd argue that the article also wants to show that by developing technology you can't avoid being political.
PS: Political action does not have to be responsible or ethical. Political just means that it influences other people's life, doesn't have to be positive. And in that regard hackers shouldn't be more responsible but be more aware that they are already participating in politics by writing software, and don't think these are two separate worlds.
It's pretty often that stuff which is factually wrong but meets emotional needs gets upvoted without a second thought. Disagreement with the notion the world is ending or Trump is literally James Harden and is gonna start the Holocaust (a popular feeling at HN 4 months ago) gets swiftly downvoted because it doesn't meet how people feel.
Every time one of those groupthinky discussions happens it makes HN less attractive to informed discussion.
I'm sitting at -12 in a thread from yesterday in which a guy responded "No offence you don't seem to have much knowledge of post ww2 history" after he was the one who made a weird historical analogy and I more or less copypastad part of a wiki article on the issue. I don't really care about being wrong or losing Internet points, but when stuff like that happens it just convinces me that even really intelligent people would rather agree with their biases over actually debating something. No thanks. It's the kind of behavior expected on r/politics.
For the record I'm not a Trump supporter, but I can see that when it comes to politics people think emotionally and ideologically, and very few are asking themselves "have I not made any mistakes?" in the same way we do (everyone does make mistakes) when we care about being proficient.
I studied economics and had a passion for public policy and realized how corrupt that all is. There's no moral excuse for anyone to still suffer in 2017--but it persists. People are irrational, greedy, and selfish. Not all, but enough.
So not everyone here tries to silence alternate viewpoints, at least.
The parent post was at +5 and now it's in the grey. The downvoters don't bother responding, they just downvote, because differing opinions aren't welcomed.
Great tip. The solution to so many problems is to involve challenging opposing points of view.
There is a big problem with the left in America rejecting opposing points of view. "Safe space" and "shut it down" culture, etc. Mainstream media newsrooms packed with only liberal reporters, etc.
But unfortunately everyone gravitates to places of comfort around people with like-minded views, because its too difficult to constantly be questioning your beliefs or challenging someone else.
Good examples are Fox News' Hannity and Colmes and CNN's Crossfire. Both shuttered, and just ended up with replacement shows with one point of view.
I find that more and more Trump people can make the arguments of left-wing people, but the inverse is not true.
I personally helped create a government commission in Oakland, California that now decides on privacy topics that go to city council. We need more things like that.
I would absolutely love to get insight into thoughts of politicians and problems they face, but it's hard to trust anything they say on-record, simply because of media pressure.
That being said, I wouldn't be surprised if there is already a HN economical equivalent website somewhere, just its outside our tech bubble so we (I at least), have not stumbled across it.
One very small thing I'm trying to do is to speak up against unreasonable criticism when it's coming from "my side". That could be conspiracy theories (although the left is somewhat laking in those), or just the silliness of making a big deal out of some misspelled tweets by Trump.
It's much more effective, especially if people know I'm "on their side". I also hope that it could create a "culture of good faith", where politicians could be less afraid of their statements being taken out of context, or being interpreted in the worst possible way.
I have, from time to time, seen some excellent interviews with politicians actually showing that they have deep understanding far beyond the talking points. What usually works is: long (an hour or more), one-on-one, with an interviewer who is genuinely interested in the conversation, and mostly non-confrontational. There was a series of these interviews, called "Through the night with...", I believe, that had a few excellent episodes with this basic setup. "The fog of war" also comes to mind, although it's a different format.
I agree. The problem is systemic. That's the reason why e.g. I never say that some politician is stupid, and very rarely try to attribute malice.
I see how the system is broken, I just wish for some way to work around it, so that we could have a honest and factual conversation with the political sphere.
> One very small thing I'm trying to do is to speak up against unreasonable criticism when it's coming from "my side".
I try to do the same. People look at me weird sometimes, because it's not common. I've raised some eyebrows over the family table by being able to, in the scope of a single conversation, defend both atheism and religion from uncharitable attacks from the other side.
That is unprecedented, and the other part, the answers, are just an usual part of the process - "unordinary they" could use and have used all the tools society has developed since the beginning how to not answer if that suits them. That's called diplomacy.
I'm interested in making AMAs more likely to produce honest answers.
So with the AMA too, you're kind of thinking some politician would tell you things in four eyes differently than they would do in front of the millions.
That's the feature dude, not a bug!
I haven't seen one from the US, however.
Many IT guys are like this. They hope their desires are simply well known by everybody and the results ought to be handed to them. That there is a self-responsible process going on that desires not just the fulfillment of a single person's desire but group consensus is just outside their spectrum. They don't even see that it exists.
So instead of discussing about responsibility they decide to use the consesus finding methods like flagging a post to just shut down what is oncomfortable to them, no matter what the results for the group are.
I'm really confused about what could be done with these people. They have the highest amount of participation options anybody ever had on the planet. Yet they don't want to participate. They just want to get fed. And you can't just ignore them because they are so many.
- I think for many the "flag" button is in a grey area between downvote and an actual flag button. I am pretty sure many people use it as a downvote button with the original meaning of StackOverflow's downvote, so it might be partially unintentional and with no ill intention.
- HN should probably implement a downvote for stories, leaving the flag for truly abusive behaviour. Then implement their algorithm based on (Up/Downvotes radius) * (Total votes).
This would probably allow for conversations like this, polarized/controversial but still valid, to remain in HN.
With no downvote button, it's at least possible for a subcommunity to get a thread near the top for a while. Downvotes let the majority suppress these.
Btw. in fact there was a downvote for stories for some time. But leadership decided to take it out due to it being misused like flagging is misued by some now. At least by calling it "flag" for many people it's still clear that "this is content that doesn't belong on HN, like Spam, ads, sexual content etc".
It potentially supports people discussion complex "wicked" problems like those frequent in politics in a way where controversy and disagreement can lead to collaborative construction of a shared knowledge map.
There are limits discussed in the book where people in politics may not want to participate in IBIS sessions because they don't want their private agendas exposed or challenged.
Ultimately the hope in reasonably healthy organizations is to find out what feasible solutions have the greatest buy-in from the group to make a decision to move forward with them.
Of course, you can also use IBIS tools just by yourself -- but that may miss out on some of the group's collective knowledge and wisdom.
Here is an example of Dialogue Mapping by someone using IBIS to dialogue map the "Lord of the Rings":
"Dialogue Mapping The Lord Of The Rings with Paul Culmsee & Nick Martin"
i wouldn't be surprised if the same people asking HN how to get a higher salary are the ones hitting 'flag' on individual posts they don't like. you can't just push a button and get what you want in life.
What he would say today when every eagle's goal is the good cage and feeder?
Damir Avdić - God is concept
Everything worth "reading" about ex-Yu wars and world/EU politics one could find in the works of this guy, afaic the greatest artist of 21. century - the position took in 20th century by the Jew is now taken by the Muslim.
The rest is politics - in 20th society turned a deaf ear to the hint of the holocaust and artist like Dylan had well shaped our souls afterwards.
At the end of that century there was a war in the middle of Europe only few understood at that time and those few are even decimated these days.
Zaev took the cabinet yesterday and there's no link on HN about that and that's fine. Still, don't think because of that that Zaev wasn't the greatest news in European politics this year.
And about daily politics, what you guys think it would have greater impact on US economy: Paris withdrawn or Riyadh drawn?
There is a difference between sticking your head in the sand politically and having a forum where people with differing political opinions can come together and discuss ideas in other areas than politics. You can both be politically active AND participate in a forum that avoids politics. Hacker News policy and avoidance of most political issues is precisely right in this regard. I know I come here to listen to stories dealing with computer technology and expert/practitioner commentary on those stories and business people engaged in the business of technology, particularly start-ups. At those times public policy has direct bearing to these subjects, such as patent law or net neutrality, I do expect to see discussion here.
Some here have been saying this has to do with US/Paris Accords. I agree with those topics being purged from this forum. I mean, really! How many readers of Hacker News do you think are on the fence about this subject: probably not zero, but my money says pretty damn close. I would wager that most here not only have already formed opinions on the subject, but strongly held opinions on the subject. If that's the case what possible value is yet another place to shout how right you are and wrong the other guy is at the top of your lungs given the number of other venues for such virtue signaling? I doubt you move the needle in one direction or the other on such terms.
So, what can you possibly achieve by being political in all venues and discussion forums? I suppose you can further entrench the move to ideological purity in all endeavors, further degrade any ability to find common ground with people that don't otherwise agree with you, further degrade the political discourse, and achieve a flourishing sense of tribalism in a large, complex society.
Is politics important? Sure it is. But so is time and place.
Hence, I agree HN should keep limiting political discussions.
I mean, you wouldn't necessarily expect a site populated by mathematicians interested in discussing what's going on in their field to give you a good political debate. Why would you expect it on Hacker News?
2. If we are serious about improving the world, we can't ignore these significant downsides/risks in the world that occur along the political/power dimension.
3. You can do this a positive way. I like how Elon's tech has a (not so) subtle political/power dimension. For example, he does not believe that power should be concentrated in the few hand that figure out AI first, but rather diffused into the many (via OpenAI). Stallman did some impactful political hacking in the (corporate) software world via GPL.
4. I think chatting about this can be helpful if only to remind us of what some of our elders have contributed in the past. Maybe we can alter the power dimensions to hack our way into a more free, humane and well-off future.
AD 2. People here are not ignoring them. The issue is about the difference between knowing about important changes, downsides and risks, vs. discussing every trivia of political sphere. A lot of the things said out loud don't mean anything, but they still invite outrage and flamewars.
AD 3. This is my personal outlook. Technology is more powerful than politics because it can unilaterally shift the playing field. If you talk Elon Musk, skip the OpenAI. Think Tesla, and how it basically forced the hand of all the other carmakers. It fought hard to make EVs a viable product, very much against the market.
AD 4. See my comment to 2.
From a tech perspective, the dismantling of net neutrality came pretty fast after this last election. More generally, If you're gay or smoke pot, then you've felt the foot lifted off your face recently. Also, if you're in the insurance market, you have some protections (for now) against preexisting conditions. These last few aren't tech specific, but I just wanted to illustrate important change as the result of an election.
> AD 2. People here are not ignoring them.
That's good because I believe we should have some non-zero amount of political consideration/discourse. Not too much, but some.
> AD 3. This is my personal outlook. Technology is more powerful than politics...
I tend to agree. In 1. there should be a 'can' in the sentence, because politics CAN ruin your day if you don't respect it. If we took a blase approach to seatbelts, it might work out fine for a while, but that doesn't mean it's something to be done. I believe casual conversations about politics early on can prevent a shouting match later.
Tech is wonderful, but I believe we should guide it towards broadly empowering uses if we are to meet the goal of improving lives. For example, building companies like Tesla where there are few imaginable ways that the outcome could be negative.
I don't believe that it does, though — at least not consistently. The moderators will periodically squelch some particular point of view, but which they silence and which they leave along, and where, are all over the board.
This is part of the reason I've decided to read HN less (first time in over a week!): I could deal with a mostly-unfiltered feed, and I could deal with a well-curated feed, but as it is I feel that it's just not worth the bother anymore.
Yeah, this is what's important here. Hacker News doesn't need to cover politics for the same reason your average sports, celebrity gossip, fashion or gaming forum doesn't need to cover politics. Because people aren't going there for a political debate, and if the site owners and community decide they want to keep strictly to that, they're entirely fine to.
Indeed. And when sports forums (e.g. ESPN) start getting involved in politics, then invariably end up alienating half their audience. This has happened with ESPN, which has contributed to its downfall.
I don't want that to happen to HackerNews.
I come here for love of the software craft, not for subjective, divisive political stories.
I wouldn't go as far as voting for Trump, but I am one of those crazy ultra-libertarians you occasionally encounter (I support tax cuts AND free migration). There are some well-educated people, even some with PhDs, who actually _did_ vote for Trump (I know a few), and most certainly, there are many Trump supporters right here on HN. Will you be comfortable with that, enabling political discourse?
Everyone wants to change the world, but not everyone is sharing your direction of change.
Edit: I normally take the opposing side of the person that gives the argument just to explore the topic in-depth, so probably people from the left thing that I'm from the right and the reverse as well.
I've watched a lot of forums gain the axe grinders who don't debate, they fight. Over time, it's simply people yelling at straw men.
I don't come hear to get lectured, and that's what most political discussions and articles really are. I come here because of the creative techy vibe and relevance to things to which I can actually make meaningful contributions. I have a dozen other places to read impassioned rants about the issues and hot buttons of the day. I don't respect nor value those sites because they're junk food. Politics is where celebrity gossip meets sports.
I often read hacker news articles and threads from ten years ago and find value. Go find a political argument that old that isn't as quaint as the things we wrote in our high school yearbook.
Keep hacker news focused on what it does well. Don't create division.
Some people are so anti-Republican or anti-Democrat that you might as well be trying to convince a Jihadi to eat bacon or a Catholic to abort a pregnancy or a Baptist to star in gay porn -- or a Mormon to play blackjack -- or an Atheist to become a Buddhist monk. Online forums (and newspaper comment sections) have created such a political balkanization as to make participating nothing more than sadomasochistic entertainment.
I used to care about those sorts of discussions with the "other side," but I've found that the level of discourse has devolved into to some variation of "Trump wants to send people to the gas chambers and destroy the planet" or "Hillary hires hitmen and Bill took a payoff from the Russians." Or, often it's "America is horrible and should be boycotted" -- or some other hyperbolic rant based on an anecdotal news item about a brown person at an airport.
I've got no use for it. I vote, encourage my like minded friends to vote and that's about it. Occasionally, I'll get sucked into a political discussion on Hacker News, but pretty much instantly regret it. I'm ok with the "crowd" disagreeing with my politics -- but I definitely don't relish getting into intense political debates with people here that I'd probably like to call my friends in real life.
Maybe it's my age (I just turned 40,) but I feel like engaging with deep economics and political discussions with those under 25 to be bordering on pointless. There are exceptions obviously, but when a 19 year old college sophomore wants to tell me about business unit economics, tax policy or building permits -- I'm pretty closed minded simply because they're generally citing other people's ideas rather than ideas based on actual experience or original thought grounded in experience. But that's ok. Views change as we begin to see the world for what it is rather than as what we want it to be. Everyone has the right to be wrong -- even me, as rare as that is. ;)
I'll leave you with a quote that is attributed to many people but this version came from Anselme Batbie, a 19th century French politician..
Celui qui n’est pas républicain à vingt ans fait douter de la générosité de son âme; mais celui qui, après trente ans, persévère, fait douter de la rectitude de son esprit.
And my reason to talk about these topics is to learn and understand them better! Many times the other person might not have a formed opinion (so we both "learn" or at least share what we know), the person knows about the topic (I learn) or that person has a one-sided view of the topic and just wants to play politics (run!). Always with a super-skeptic point of view of course, so my learning is NOT what they are explaining/teaching but still related to it. And after talking about it we can accept we have different points of view and still being friends.
I don't feel identified in your extreme examples so I'll put one of my own. I'm a strong atheist but I'm probably quite knowledgeable about several religions after years reading. First (when I was a teenager) I was kind of what you describe, trying to find flaws and argue about it. Then I started to ask myself, "wait why so many people believe?" which also led into being interested in psychology.
Now I have a quite decent picture about Japanese and east Asian cultures and religions and Spanish and Western ones. This allows me to understand why there's basically no vegans in Asia, why they overwork so much, family and relationships, etc. In turn this allows me to have more meaningful conversations and keep broadening what I know. The opposite would be those people who go to Japan and stick their chopstick in their meat (;
The bar is much lower right now. People aren't even treating each other with due respect in a political context.
I consider it a first step to productive cultural dialog when I can come across as a decent person with reasonably derived opinions, even if they are honestly mistaken ones from many perspectives.
When we withdraw politics and other subjects from polite dialog, we are saying there is no hope for productive civil disagreement, which doesn't bode well for progress or lasting peace.
I know an atheist who became a Buddhist monk. He's still an atheist, as Buddhism doesn't require anybody to believe in God (or a god).
Usually, in times of global economic transitions such as this one, a world war happens. There are no unemployed in wartime.
UBI will require 20-30x more resources, which firmly put it in the realm of fantasies.
(I'm not saying anything about moral aspects of UBI. Just that it is impossible to actually implement, at least with modern population levels).
"Mainly taxing workers" provides the bulk of taxation revenues not because it is the easiest thing politically — it is because of where the money is. The money is in the middle class. The rich are too few, and the poor are too poor.
The problem is politics is so opinion and status-based that it crosses this magical threshold where even otherwise level-headed people just lose it. It's toxic beyond what even HN's regular moderation mechanisms can handle. The other thing is, it's easy for politics to drown all other topics - political issues speak well to our "someone is wrong on the Internet" instincts, and there's always something outrage-inducing to be posted.
While I personally don't mind an occasional political discussion (and I like when it's not political per se, but more e.g. economical or military-strategy type, in which people post many interesting facts and ways of reasoning I haven't seen before), I wouldn't like those topics to keep dominating the front page (happened a few times in the past).
I think that's the problem right there. I suspect you didn't intend it to sound that way, but that part of your statement comes across as dismissive and condescending.
I point that out only to suggest that there's no reason why people with different political views can't work together, as long as they respect each others' views and don't discuss them in a demeaning way. I don't think that necessarily means you're "putting politics aside", and in fact I think that can be harmful in some cases.
If I shared this belief, I don't think I could support democracy.
Supporting democracy means you vote to the best of your knowledge, not that you have to engage in what usually are unproductive conversations with strangers.
Yes we should if the alternative is singing "la la la can't hear you" and pretending we were all of the same opinion when in fact we aren't.
Truth is this place majority comes from a verry narrow social bracket, and thus has a very narrow mindset and as such a very small set of ideas keep resonatin
I think the rest of the world desperately needs the Hacker News viewpoint on this, in detailed, non-partisan technical manner. I believe there is some deeper, non-polarized, apolitical (think, "highest bidder") aspect to what is actually happening right now around the world.
>could US and other electoral processes (and let's just say government in general) have been directly affected by technical means
One could claim that an intrinsic variable in democracy is the "voice" of any one citizen. For lots of years that has stayed stable. If a politically minded individual wanted to affect change, they could only "shout" so loudly.
They could spend day and night lobbying, petitioning, speaking, getting elected, but all that effort is only a constant multiplier. Technology in politics, just like in other areas, can move the needle orders of magnitude more effectively. When any one person or organization can use technology to add voices (apps, hacks, robots, etc), it can exacerbate issues and cause secondary effects that weren't present when 1 person = 1 voice.
For example: When I worked in a congressional office back in 2005 we used a system called IQ to log, process, and respond to all of our mail. Emails that came in that were the same were reduced to a single message. We never saw the 4,000 individual emails, only one with a counter. The system then would parse that out and show us how many were actually in our congressional district. Often it was between 1 and 2 percent. Thus we had the option to ignore that issue because it was only 1-2% of those who "mattered".
Newer systems do this so much better, and really block out those apps and the technology. The spam filters are incredible. So now the tactic is to go hyper local, recruit local, and use a lobbyist to leverage those local numbers. "Hi I'm a lobbyist, and on behalf of 300 of your constituents and eleven companies in your district, I'm here to talk about something important...."
I think this has changed politics in fundamental ways that the public is not yet ready to understand.
Also I've noticed that even though HN tends to promote discussion pretty well on technical subjects, even here political discussions tend to devolve into flame wars.
I would love to just be able to solve Big Problems by hacking on them, but the more experience I get, the more I find that the biggest roadblocks involve changing minds, not changing code.
Idea: make more tools reducing complex problems to something tractable by small groups of people. Couple that with freedom of association and let people self-organize.
Understanding political outcomes is very different to listening to political debate/punditry/noise, and learning, for example, that certain subsidies are ending is not the same as reading political arguments on the environment, and they shouldn't be confused.
Knowing that Trump is president means one can predict certain things - the Paris accord ending - but not others, for example budgets are far less fungible than people think, and a lot of the budget of any nation is kinda locked in, so a lot of the noise on funding cuts and changes is unlikely to come to fruition. If you read a lot online/watch a lot, how do you know which of the multitude of BS will come to fruition?
I reckon if more news focussed on "this is the debate, these are the likely outcomes, these industries would be affected in these ways", then reading more would be invaluable. OTOH, Covfefe coverage? I'll Pass.
From an opposite point of view to this article, politics vary greatly around the world and I'm guessing that by politics the article mainly refers to USA politics. For instance I ignore my country's politics talk since it's too old fashion and USA politics talk since it feels quite pointless arguing/bashing for the sake of it most of the times. I do enjoy a meaningful politics discussion from time to time, normally in person and with someone I trust already.
While I do agree on the big picture--USA is one of the most influential countries, politics there affect all the world--this article seems to be setting the prerogative to get into everyday politics. I do not really care whether or not Hillary or Trump were talking about their cat on Twitter (metaphor) during the elections and for many months after it and it became quite unbearable at points TBH.
So I would say that the things we should continue doing is talking about ethics (especially when it is related with hacker ethics). My short list of rules for HN topics are (the more the better):
- It is about hackers/startup/programmers/IT/privacy/etc.
- It is interesting for a global audience.
- It is something new or happening right now.
- It is noteworthy or at least interesting/geek.
I didn't get that from the article at all, just that we should be discussing politics when it's intertwined with the technology we build and care about.
'jacquesm wrote about politics as in what politicians in the governments do. This is a particular thing, and I personally believe it's rarely useful to discuss it on HN.
How would you call this thing that is there when multiple people interact with each other?
PS: This interpretation of the word "politics" isn't mine. I try to bring you closer to what the author is talking about.
I'm more interested in the technology that will eventually render their power useless: counter economics.
For me the goal isn't to find the right people at the right time to seat the power of nation-states, but to make it impossible for them to wield any meaningful power at all.
I am deeply interested in politics, governance, and the way humans interact at scale, but that doesn't mean I'm interested in what bills get passed, who gets elected, or what Trump said in a tweet. While these small blips in history do have an impact, I think technologies such as bitcoin, uber, etc., have a much bigger impact on the world because they usurp political power.
Or we can keep doing what we can do well and has actually, fundamentally changed the world for the better and made us rich.
Although I can raise doubts whether it has made the world better, it certainly has made many people rich, at the expense of others. What you said is very political, ironically.
That being said, the Internet sure could use a proper forum for political discussions.
If dang or another moderator could weigh in; this is not how I believed flags were meant to be used. We defend free speech here unless we have a strong reason.
In particular it mostakes the reason for the detox. This was only ever about stopping tedious pathological arseholes making the same boring hyperbolic bullshit flamebait arguments that a not particulary bright 16 year old would make.
HN thinks of itself as smart but the political discussion here is normally embarrassingly weak.
> Not particularly bright 16 y/o
I found his write up of the custom Lego sorter hardware design he made to be innovative. With a treadmill and some spare parts he made a classifier and trained a neural net.
Either way; I think your comment is rude. If you don't like his piece-- which again I am not sure I agree with either; use <hide> not flag.
Some positions cannot be easily influenced with mere 'facts' because you're arguing against people's feelings and cognitive dissonance is very powerful.
Bringing politics up on Hacker News will rarely positively influence anyone's opinion but will almost always be divisive and distracting.
I think pushing "controversial" discussions to the edges of polite society has been shown to make us more culturally ignorant.
Edit: Kinda ironic that this post is now having the title [FLAGGED] and being dropped from the fp as well. Edit2: Still flagged but back up, interesting
As another example, currently HN's narrative of choice is how Uber is literally the worst thing since Hitler and you can't go a week without seeing 3 or 4 top-voted links bitching about Uber. Perhaps some people like being able to conveniently travel from point A to B without caring about what some whiny keyboard warrior hates about Uber this week.
Not playing dumb, just interested in what it personally means to someone who applies it to others as a (pejorative?) label.
I don't know what SJW accusation has to do with Uber here, nor have I observed any particular SJW inclination within the mods. There's plenty of SJW action on HN, especially in threads about diversity in IT industry - but I'm yet to see a HN mod behaving that way.
The OP posted "*he" as a "correction" for a "she" talking about Chelsea Manning, and seems to have been offended they got downvoted.
Apparently they may not be familiar with the difficulty of assigning gender. The least politically charged way to seeing this is to look at Olympic sports, and https://www.buzzfeed.com/azeenghorayshi/sex-testing-olympian... is a good overview.
I'd draw particular attention to the case of Ewa Klobukowska who was stripped of an Olympic Gold medal for "failing a chromosome test" (ie, exactly what the OP is claiming should be the arbitrator of gender).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Jos%C3%A9_Mart%C3%ADnez-... is another case.
Ewa Klobukowska later had a son, and had her medals returned.
- grouping by the way someone looks (influenced by hormones)
- grouping by reproduction capability (can or can not be pregnant)
- grouping by reproduction hardware
- grouping by which group of partners one finds sexually interesting
- grouping by various other aspects of biology (chromosomes and all)
Different areas in life really want to categorize by a different set of those aspects, and bundling it all under one word starts to become problematic. My programmer intuition tells me we need to become more explicit about which aspect we mean at any given moment.
Also there seem to be other factors which aren't understood yet:
The researchers identified a region of the hypothalamus, known as the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTc), as being responsible for sexual behaviour. This area is always larger in men than women. However, in their study of six MTF GID sufferers, a female‐sized BSTc was present in all subjects. Additionally, the size of the BSTc was not influenced by taking sex hormones in adulthood. This implies that these individuals had a powerful biological force compelling them to be female, rather than just a psychological conviction.
But.. I guess yelling "SJW" is much easier, or something.
Chromosomes are the arbitrator of sex. We know about intersex people and have known about them for some time. None of this means men can become women and women can become men
This is why I mentioned political ideologies and narratives too.
As for allowing in only what mods agree with, I haven't observed such a thing. In fact, Uber stories serve as a great example. Since the first stories many years ago to this very day, HN community remains essentially split between those who love Uber and focus on the benefits it brings vs. those who hate Uber and focus on their anti-social business practices. Nowhere I've seen mods trying to force the discussion in favour of either side.
(And Uber stories are like catnip for me, so believe me, I follow those discussions closely.)
I wouldn't want to see posts strictly about politics on the front page, but I think discussion of political topics that relate to technology and our industry is not only interesting, but necessary.
This simply isn't true.
This may or may not be true. In the meantime, computer programmers all over the world are working on computerising subjects that are traditionally used to having political power/influence involved. Pulling the humans out and replacing them with shell scripts, in this scenario, is of course a source of contention.
Fundamentally, governments and politics are broken. Computers can be used to fix them. However, this is one of the most controversial areas of computerisation and - like politics itself, along with governance - a cause of never-ending social strife.
Its almost like something, "ethical", is missing in the equation.
I agree with the first part, but personally disagree with the second part.
Yes, I find politics broken, but I have absolutely no faith in fixing it in any way. So I hack away on problems I feel like I can solve or at least improve on. This keeps me sane.
The argument for this belief is this: people keep gaming stuff. No matter how smart your system is, given enough interest someone will hire someone smarter to cheat it. Even mathematics won't save you here, because math is too narrow-scoped. For any theoretically secure system on paper you can find holes in its messy real-life implementation. See e.g. quantum entanglement used to create untappable communication channels being defeated by simply tapping at the classical endpoints.
A well known example: Target people with a particular political persuasion, make them mad or shocked with some bait headline, and get clicks. Basically the well known phenomenon of "clickbait", which is also implemented non-politically. As implemented in politics, such might reinforces "echo chambers" or epistemic closure. But they also made some people a fair bit of cash.
The same goes for what large social networks probably are already doing to keep everyone happy in a polarized environment: curate people's news feed to match their "political tribe". EG: the red feed blue feed concept reported on in the Wall Street Journal (http://graphics.wsj.com/blue-feed-red-feed/). Again, same concern: such may reinforce "echo chambers" or epistemic closure. But the alternative might be users quitting there social network = less ad dollars. So there is no incentive to promote balance.
Unfortunately, humans are very tribal creatures. To break away from this requires active resistance of what is a very human trait. I don't think hardly any human alive has done this completely.
So even in the "superpower AI god" case, probably another "tribe" would come along to make another "superpower AI god" with a completely different filter, and we'd be in the same place.
The second meaning refers to actual policies and their effect on people's quality of life. I don't think anyone would have trouble discussing that - that is, if it were somehow magically separated from the manipulation. But often its not.
If you look at the first meaning, things like "detox week" make a lot of sense - its about getting rid of the manipulation so that your brain can process information better again. "Squelching political debate" means stopping discussion that attempts to manipulate, and so on.
Since the tools used for manipulation are currently better than ever before, and we don't like manipulation, I suppose the best approach would be to work on things that expose manipulation and/or defend people from it.
edit: exercise - try to replace the word "politics" with "manipulation" in the article and re-read it. The point that we shouldn't burry our head in the sand still stands, but the reasons why that happens become much clearer.
Manipulation only enters into it when people use dishonest means to pull the surpluses over to themselves, and the burdens over to people who shouldn't carry them.
> Manipulation only enters into it when people use dishonest means to pull the surpluses over to themselves, and the burdens over to people who shouldn't carry them.
... which is pretty much the exact meaning of the term "office politics". You don't talk about "office politics" when people get rewarded appropriately for their contribution to the company. You only talk about it in the context of e.g. sucking up to managers, backstabbing cow-orkers, taking credit for something you didn't do, etc.
As for the government-type politics, "the subject of distributing the burdens and surpluses of society" is as good a definition as "the subject of distributing land and wealth of a society" is a good definition of war. It's technically true, yet totally misses the important and problematic aspects of it.
Definitions are a way to draw a broad-stroked border in thingspace, so that you know the general area in which the meaning of a word lies. Nothing more.
Have you read the famous book How To Make Friends And Influence People? I found it changed my definition of "manipulation" substantially. In a democratic society, distributing the burdens and surpluses of society is an exercise in persuading people.
I would argue that politics have infiltrated tech too much already.
Don't believe me, try being a open, vocal Trump supporter or conservative at a major tech company in Silicon valley. You will be labeled a hateful, racist (fill in your favorite derogatory term) based on your political beliefs irregardless of your actual actions both at work or even in your personal life. Most people who are conservative are afraid to talk about their political beliefs due to the very real threat of losing their job.
Look at Larry Garfield with Drupal. In the course of things stuff went as far as people in the Drupal association actively trying to ban conservatives among other things.
The ruby community is just as bad. Rails Girls, Rails Bridge and later on tech404.io banned a woman because she was conservative https://code.likeagirl.io/thoughts-from-the-editor-172e93ecc.... Then there was Opalgate where a community diversity leader tried to get a key contributor banned over his personal conservative beliefs.
At this years Lambdaconf a black, first time speaker and military veteran, who grew up dirt poor in the projects, but pulled himself up by his bootstraps was blasted by a group of people because in his personal life he believes in the red pill, specifically, in his own words seeking the truth, not being anti-woman.
As a moderate I really don't need to be concerned about someone's personal beliefs work with people or to even have a friendship with them. People are messy imperfect beings and there are many shades of grey with people and beliefs even when they hold views that I'm against. The only time that becomes an issue is if someone acts on it. IE: they steal from the company or murder someone etc. but that is not what I am talking about here. In all of the cases I mentioned here, these people did not act inappropriately in a professional setting. They didn't harass people, try to convince people about their personal beliefs, make sexist statements etc..
People who dedicate their lives to parsing out complex political/moral issues have a tough time doing it. If I go to a tech event I'm there to talk about tech not a political conference. The irony is that if people on all sides of the political issues have a place where they came come together and see someone as a human it also may be more effective than the division that the politicization of tech has been creating. Could that open us up to some bad, maybe, but politics being combined with tech are causing a lot of damage to the industry and people already. More importantly its not working.
In my country there is a political party that has been excluded from a lot of public things, other politicians telling them they are fascists, racists and just any kind of slur basically. They were even excluded from a party where Saudi Arabia was invited. Just think about that.
Now, they are the second largest party in the country and well on their way of being the largest. They had everything to gain being the underdogs and their opponents has been their best ad for gaining trust and votes.
Trump has been a brand for an upwards of 50 years.
Relevant quotes from article:
> and that hackers, more than any other profession, create the tools and the means with which vast changes in the political landscape are effected.
> The ability to influence with disproportional effect on the outcome of all kinds of political affairs compared to someone not active in IT, the ability to reach large numbers of people, the ability to pull on very long levers, far longer than you’d normally be able to achieve
> Between ‘Wikileaks’ and ‘Cambridge Analytica’ it should be more than clear by now
stop this. Go back and look over CA's marketing material. They brag about taking Ted Cruz from a field of 20+ into 3. Not exactly a winning pony. And I'm sure there were plenty of other analytic companies that would have used it to their marketing benifit if their pony got further instead. The "we predict you better than your mother with just 300 likes" is a line people already wanted to believe. Someone just made a good story for us to bite into it.
Still, I do agree "everything has a political dimension"
If actions speak louder than words, infrastructure, that which dictates which actions are possible at all, speaks much louder. Developers are building new infrastructure all the time, for every action and human need. Right now I can buy groceries online, get a remote job, and find a date on an app. That is techno-essentialism.
The future belongs to the hacker in much the same way that medieval Europe belonged to the knight and the bishop. The power of the computer is obvious to anyone that isn't living under a rock, naturally, this brings many fakers, if you focus on them it all seems like a bubble, because you are focusing on the bubble. Treat yourself better and focus on what pervades. The Times They Are A-Changin'.
I can understand bringing up politics when the topic is something like deliberately using psychological manipulation against their users. Because if you think it's morally wrong, your interests were never even slightly aligned, and the goal is to be off-putting. Hopefully in a way that puts people off of what they're building, rather than putting them off of venues where you can converse with them.
But using that case as rhetorical cover for bikeshedding a minor slight that occurred in the context of an otherwise noncontroversial piece of software? That is why people hate "politics."
(I wish I had the link to where I saw this argument presented first, but I'll guess my poorly rephrased version will have to do.)
If someone is pounding in nails with a screwdriver, I might suggest that they use a hammer instead. That doesn't mean that I think nails are beneath me.
If this is true, then "some obligations" would almost certainly include a reluctance to abuse those long levers or alienate a large swath of users. Power ought to be used responsibly.
Back to reality, though, the reason why hackers and other tech-minded folk are averse to politics is the exacy reason why they're hackers: because politics is about as far away from the hacker ethic as possible. It'd be like asking a racecar driver to take up an interest in gardening; yeah, some NASCAR drivers can probably grow one hell of a vegetable patch, but it ain't exactly something one could or should expect them to do.
Hackers would rather focus on being immune to politics. It should be no surprise, then, that they tend gravitate toward things like cryptocurrencies and other technologies resistant to governmental control (or providing a means for such resistance).
Politics is OK to get into but I skip over any comments that directly provoke flame wars. I don't flag articles but I sure did flag this. And I deleted a personal insult from that first part. What are you thinking??
Political discussions almost always become emotional, rather than intellectual, discussions. They work on the wrong part of the brain.
Virtually everyone takes absurd positions and then viciously attacks their fellow human beings who take a different absurd position.
If the left didn't excommunicate anyone they disagree with maybe there would be more a chance to have reasoned political discussions, but so far, anywhere online where there is a left-wing community, all opposing viewpoints are silenced. See Reddit, etc.
With that in mind, I don't see the point of promoting even more (it's not as if there isn't plenty of it already) political talk in HN.
Is it important to be aware of political ramifications? Maybe, and that's why I personally follow several general news publications in my RSS feeds and not only tech blogs. Is it important to discuss it? Following what I said above, not, in my opinion.
: Even among knowledgeable persons, most of the accomplishment is swaying people from one side to the other and that can be good or bad.
Technically, a kernel scheduling algorithm or packet forwarding algorithm are politics too (hence they're called "policy"). The problem is that the real world is so messy and complex and has too many variables unlike CS stuff that we can hardly reach any sensible solution in a timely way. In theory we can tackle on politics in a somewhat objective manner but it's typically waay harder than any software project.
One simple example she uses is how do you divide up birthday cake? Equal pieces? What if come people arrive late to the party after you start cutting the cake and giving out pieces? What if some people are full but others have not had dinner yet? What if some people don't like the pieces with chocolate icing?
While we can be "objective" within a set of established priorities, we can't be objective about designing a set of priorities. Albert Einstein wrote on this in "Science and Religion" about how science can tell you about what is and how it is all connected, but it can't tell you what should be.
One other point Stone she makes is that when people are on the outside of an organization they want transparency of the decision making process -- while then the same exact people move to the inside of an organization they suddenly have many reasons why they want decision should be opaque. "Yes, Minister" has a great comedy episode on that called "Open Government".
Something like "All technologists should care about politics" is so much more meaningful.
secondly and the most important is that politics posts here usually devolve into flame wars, and people don't like that.
Finally this submission has already been flagged, I notice.
1. Hackers are reluctant to acknowledge that their work has political ramifications. I believe this is true, and a problem.
2. Politics should be discussed more on HN. This is what most in the comments are disagreeing with, and I think with good reason. I like that HN avoids politics for the most part, but I'm also very glad to see someone point out that too many intelligent and technologically-inclined people insulate themselves from taking questions of values seriously.
Honestly I prefer having a nihilist point of view about politics in general, having a minimum amount of trust towards separation of power, always weighing the pro and cons, trying to guess what public opinion wants. It's much more freeing to see voters as children expecting things.
Geopolitics are much more interesting honestly.
And if the author doesn't like that, than that's just too bad for them.
You are still responsible though.
"It's not my place to decide who uses the torture devices I design. My job is only to make them as painful as possible."
Now you also have to consider your market segments. Some folks--we'll call them the Jack Bauers--need to maximize the compliance per time unit ratio. Sure, those devices are probably going to be painful. And expensive. So good profit margins there.
But also consider the compliance per energy unit ratio. Your basic oubliettes and music-blasting oubliettes fall into that category, along with emetic-laced meals and gratuitous bureaucratic nonsense runaround. That kind of customer is looking for something cheap, almost by definition. So maybe we look at that like a subscription service.
...wait. The torture device was a metaphor, wasn't it?
So let me point out the problems with your metaphor.... ~
What kind of geek doesn't at least temporarily lose sight of the big picture while obsessing over the cool and interesting details?
I completely disagree, I think most of the things that we build as developers are as innocuous as kitchen knives.
If you're building (for example) pen-testing software then I completely agree that you should be thinking about how this software might be used against others. But if you're building some software which helps run processes across multiple nodes then I don't think it's up to the developer to police how this software is used (What would they even do about it? You can't not write software like this just because it could be used for nefarious purposes.).
And I genuinely believe that 99% of us are writing software which is much more like the latter than the former.
This directly led to the 2nd World War.
Any person with a little history knowledge would be able to say that everything is correct, I stated.
But people don't know about history any more, since they think, we are so different today.
We are not -- but who does refrain to learn from history, is bound to repeat it.
Now go on down voting me, and refrain from learning! This generation just builds up the ingredients for the next downfall of humanity.
Any person with a little history knowledge would indeed be able to say that what you said is correct. Any person with a little more history knowledge will understand that the reasons for WWII were complex, and the more you try to generalize from Hitler and his circle of friends to the entire population of Germany, the less clear it makes sense.
If WWII teaches us anything, it's that everyone is vulnerable to the same forces that created the Reich. It also teaches us that the more hate and more division isn't going to help anyone. This is what I fear "builds up the ingredients for the next downfall of humanity" - more hate, more outrage, more division between people. More politics and status games.
But of course, everybody just wants to see his view of the world and nobody wants to be questioned in his style of living. Just don't think about politics and make a ton of money making the world worse, is so much easier.
Snowden took a stand. You do not.
You don't know about me and the stands I took. As for Snowden, this kind of illustrates the point. Snowden took a stand, but not a political stand. Not in the meaning of "political stories" some of us don't want to discuss on HN. Snowden leaked NSA surveillance program because he saw people actually doing something harmful to everyone else. He was dealing with cold, hard facts, not with opinions and party preferences.
You also don't know me and you are just doing some guessing game here.
Just posting good sounding shallow words, is not enough (to get high marks here, it is, but that is nothing that makes better humans, I regret to tell you)
Seriously though, please then make your opinions explicit, in the form of beliefs about the world and the merit of discussing political issues (or the merit of minding the consequences of one's creative work, as per this subthread). That'll make it easier to have a constructive conversation.
But I think that HN shall be the place where we can discuss how AI moves us from post-industrial to post-human world for example rather than particular fluctuations of the trajectory (a.k.a. realpolitik).
Maybe someone could build a forum that enforces civil discussion on political issues, either with automated or manual moderation, but Hacker News' moderation isn't nearly strict enough.
It's interesting that you think so, because this very discussion is extremely political, though perhaps meta-political.
I think Hacker News may be unique in that political discussion can take place in a technical forum.
The main barrier to thoughtful discussion may be the HN points system.
I suspect that many insightful posts are not written due to self-censorship (fear of losing points). It's completely irrational of course, the points are meaningless, but when they are lost it can cause some distress. Nobody likes to lose a game.
Hacker News does not disallow, and but for a brief experiment never has disallowed, political discussion. This non-existent ban does not, therefore, explain HN's quality.
> Off-Topic: Most stories about politics ...
and most people's willingness to support these guidelines with downvotes.
I would say I'm just busy trying to improve the world.