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You know how you have that hacker meetup, or small conference that starts off as all meaty tech topics? How great that feels to be able to learn/teach/demonstrate advanced topics knowing that everyone is on the same page. Then gradually money/business interests get involved to the point that the fundamental flavor of the group changes, and the first ones to leave are the most interesting. Five years later it's just a bunch of business/sales guys in suits giving power point presentations to each other. Of course no one would say that money, or business interests aren't important, but something has been lost here that is difficult to rebuild.

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.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=512145




After the Second World War, the part of the city the Technical University of Berlin was in came under British administration.

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.


But I doubt they mixed politics lectures into the physics course.

Of course politics is important. Doesn't mean Hacker News is the best place for a high quality discussion of politics.


HN is emphatically NOT a physics course imho. It's a social space, not a forum for content from authority.

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...


> 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.


That's strange because that's not how British universities work at all. Our education system from age approximately 14 onwards is concentrated on specialisation.


In the US, going for a baccalaureate usually requires "core classes" of math, sciences, arts, and politics. You're saying this is not the case in the UK?


Going for a baccalaureate in the UK you pick a subject and that's it really. The concept of majoring/minoring isn't common (possibly doesn't exist). You pick a course (e.g. CS, Law etc.) and that course will have a curriculum you follow. There may be times (usually in the latter part of the degree) where you can pick modules from various options but that generally involves even deeper specialisation (e.g. Law > Human Rights Law, CS > Machine Learning).


Specialization actually starts by the equivalent of the 12th and 13th grades of high school, fwiw.


Yes, because the British, so versed in politics, language and philosophy never created concentration camps, starved hundreds of thousands of innocents, carried out chemical warfare, did summary executions, ... /s

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_war_crimes [1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/worst-atrocit...


You know, I think you could actually swap out "tech" with "political", in your first sentence, and make everything you said equally true about politics. Because most of what actually happens in politics, starts with passionate talented people, who are creating brilliant new ways to do things better.

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.


> 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 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.


You'd really enjoy the Chaos Communications Congress. It's something like 20 years old I believe, it's among the best in its niche of security/hacking/thats-great-but-why??-projects, and you won't find a suit there.

It is, however, extremely political, with a strong anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalistic message.


>> You can help the spike subside by making HN look extra boring. For the next couple days it would be better to have posts about the innards of Erlang

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...


Yeah, that's the point. People like you would stay, people who want cheap news discussions would leave.


Besides some minor experiences start-up world is the third worldwide phenomenon that I participated in while it grew. It was really exciting, a lot of fun, a lot of stories to tell, a lot of experiences made. But there is no reason to be sad about that it's over. It will happen again. Another topic, but it will happen, and it will be just as good and for the same reasons.

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.


There was a nice long essay that looked at that same phenomenon from the context of underground music that gradually shifts in tone as it gets more popular, until the particular genre now names simply a kind of pop music that isn't really what it started off as. Sadly, I can't find a link to it, so I'll be grateful if anyone can provide one.

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.


> opening the floodgates on politics will have the cost of reducing the utility of HN

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.


I think that it's more about politics and investors/advertisers not really clicking. The rest I just don't see, we already opened the flood gates to stuff like discussing "another trivial update of this piece of software a bunch of us use". Most of the comments aren't technical, and it's not like anyone ever got downvoted for telling an anecdote about their child or their parents, and "X is awesome" is exactly as valuable as "X is shit". Yet one is allowed, the other isn't.

> 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.


The HN that had Erlang day was a lot less moderated, and people posted about politics at will. The new, heavily moderated HN is the one filled with the same bland reposts of today's stories from top 10 news sites that are on every other aggregator.




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