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Ask HN: What online communities offer a high level of discussion?
66 points by yaseer 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 68 comments
One of the things I enjoy most about Hacker News, is the level of discussion.

I would define ‘level’ in this case to mean:

1) Generally, discussions are analytical, emphasising reasoning and evidence

2) Submissions and discussions deal with topics that are intellectually stimulating

3) Many commenters show a high level of expertise around a topic - these comments often float to the top

4) For the most part, people are civil. Those who are uncivil are usually downvoted

Admittedly, this is much easier to foster with a community discussing technology, science and math (with a sprinkling of news/current affairs)

I often use HN as my ‘filter’ to decide what is interesting, and to observe and engage in discussions that offer multiple perspectives on a topic. It’s a much better filter than a social media news feed.

I’d like to find other intellectually stimulating communities - perhaps with a broader range of topics under discussion than the technology/science bent of HN, but having a similar ‘level’ of discussion.

Honestly, almost any hobby with depth has one, but I know of no good generalist sites.

Here is a good example;

Bobtheoilguy - Forum dedicated to automotive lubricants. Some very in depth analysis and company insiders on occasion. Many users regularly send in oil for testing and post results. Great for info on the changing formulations of oil standards, and common additive packages. Very useful for me, owning old and new cars and bikes.

I know of no good generalist sites

Agree with this, unfortunately

http://reddit.com/r/askhistorians is a favourite of mine!

When I first found this thread it spurred me to create a Reddit account to try and aggregate subreddits like it and only see those. Sadly I found this is the only subreddit with a) low volatility, high-quality content, b) not infested by memes, and c) decent volume of high quality content.

I subscribed to a bunch of other more domain specific subreddits, but as far as I can tell /r/askhistorians is an anomaly. Which, of course, manages to keep me coming back to Reddit, whose culture I hate.

Askscience isn't that bad, either!

A few days ago I saw a link to https://stackexchange.com/ on the HN frontpage. Didn't know this site before (although it in fact seems to be the parent of stackoverflow or at least somehow related) but it looked as if it might fit your description.

Stackexchange (including stackoverflow) have the highest quality discussions I've found anywhere. (Try physics, for example!) This is in part maintained by the high quality of their community platform. I just wish all news + commentary had to run through such a system. If I were a Benevolent Dictator, they'd control the Media.

I'd be wary about recommending Reddit communities in any form given how utterly compromised the site is in terms of corporate and political interests groups + financing.

I was looking through /r/all yesterday, it's impressive how partisan it has become.

In my view the single biggest job in Silicon Valley that nobody is taking seriously is the role of moderation. It's nearly impossible to do properly and yet there doesn't appear to be another choice.

It is very easy to do easily if you let go of a common assumption: that moderators are unbiased neutral entities that have to respect free speech.

Free speech is a legal principle that allows communitieS of various opinions to appear, gather, discuss.

When one wants to create a community, one needs to have stronger standards than that as some subjects will tend to focus the attention on them.

We had an interesting experiment during a political shitstorm on /r/france (during the "Dieudonné affair" if you are interested): one month without political subjects. Heavy, exaggerated, broad, moderation line. Heh, it was a huge success! People who wanted to talk politics went to another sub (/r/francelibre or /r/politique) and the rest of the sub talked about lighter subjects. And enjoyed it.

But also, on the technical side, as someone who was active on Slashdot, I find reddit's system primitive and much easier to game. I am surprised that in a decade no better system has emerged.

Something that would use different weights for different people votes depending on your preferences. I would like setting to say "I want to see what people I find funny comment on that" next to "I want to see what people I disagree with, minus those I tagged troll, say about this".

Absolutely agree. I used to like to check /r/all for a more rounded view -- but I don't get that anymore. And apparently they're planning to move toward more location-specific view -- which will only make the problem worse.

It's not an easy problem to solve, I guess. I think Google is trying to make some inroads with Google News? But even then once you start personalizing the content, you're only going to see sources you like.

I'm not sure how that's a problem. Presumably I like the sources I deem to be of a certain quality. I don't want to see the stuff I don't like because it's probably not at the standard of quality I expect.

The reason nobody's solved the "moderation" problem is because it's the wrong abstraction or the wrong problem to solve. The problem to solve is how to make filtering and discovery better.

I thought the location specific part was about the default subs and /r/popular? /r/all stays as it is.

Maybe a Babel Fish, only for politics instead of language.

The question might be: do we really want to understand each other? Or straight to fisticuffs?

I don't regard myself as especially enlightened, I think that's another kind of trap, I think most of us just zone in and out of consciousness and 90% of this belongs to the lizard brain.

I suspect most moderators conflate centrism with non-bias or neutrality - but the real reason why the job is so difficult is precisely because sometimes the extremists are correct. Simply reining in the excesses of the left and right isn't enough.

I've said before: if a delay of several seconds was inserted into submissions to politically sensitive topics, that would help reduce # of death threats, name calling.

If it's any consolation the Internet has proven people have big mouths and fundamentally just can not be bothered to obtain genuine pitchforks.

I think you've hit the nail on the head here.

As any online community expands, moderating and guaranteeing quality become extremely hard problems.

It can't be truly automated, so the valley isn't interested.

That being said, r/programming seems to be pretty good, though there is a lot of overlap between it and HN. I find there can be some special comments posted there which rival some of those found on HN. Nothing beats the occasional legendary gems here, but for some variation, it's pretty good.

Could you elaborate in an objective manner for someone who doesn't follow the twists and turns of Reddit?

Contrary to what some folks are saying here, I am having a surprisingly positive experience on Reddit. My initial experience was negative. I left for three or four years and went back a few months ago.

So, I think, to some extent you need to find subreddits that interest you and figure out how to effectively interact with them. Reddit is really a conglomeration of subforums, each owned and run by different people. It isn't the monolith some people paint it as. If you try to interact with like it is a monolith, that probably won't work well.

You can also brew your own on Reddit. If you want high level discussion on certain topics and can't find it, you can create your own subreddit as you see fit. Unlike starting a separate forum, the fact that it is on Reddit will allow you to attract some traffic organically. There are already members there who can post, comment and vote.

Metafilter.com is a hidden internet gem.

If you don't mind toxic misandry* and classism, among other things.

If you are comfortably well off and agree that hetero men are all inherently rapey bastards who should feel guilty for existing, hey, go for it.

* http://micheleincalifornia.blogspot.com/2014/11/having-sad.h...

If you're so anti-Mefi, why do you continue to take advantage of the site's resources, including posting questions to AskMe? Why not just disable your account?

anon354987 10 minutes ago [-]

If you're so anti-Mefi, why do you continue to take advantage of the site's resources, including posting questions to AskMe? Why not just disable your account?

Funny how mefites who want to attack me some more never want to do it in their own name. Whether harrassing me on my blogs or here, it is always anonymous.

I rarely post anything there anymore. I did post something yesterday. I am kind of regretting it.

I dislike letting assholes win by default. I like to imagine that taking the high road will work. I am also medically handicapped, so sometimes I just do stupid things because I am feverish or whatever.

But, I participate less and less. My profile there bears that out.

This is the correct answer.

+100 for Metafilter

For personal finance and investing, the Bogleheads forum (https://www.bogleheads.org) ticks all the boxes. It definitely has many helpful, knowledgeable participants. Since it's a traditional forum, they maintain civility through moderation, but it isn't needed often.

Related, Fatwallet Finance also has a pretty decent discussion that spans churning rewards, real estate, and general investment discussion.


/r/changemyview is well moderated and has interesting topics from time to time

changemyview is an interesting experiment but I don't find the format lends itself to a completely impartial approach to the subjects discussed. In particular:

* It is one poster listening to and responding to many people challenging her. That creates an inherent imbalance to the conversation.

* Since the beliefs of one person are the meta subject matter, that person alone (not other posters) is implicitly pressured to change their view to seem rational and open minded. Everyone else does not have the same pressure.

* To that end, I haven't seen a CMV awarded in the reverse direction.

* The up voted subjects are subject to the general biases of Reddit.

/r/neutralpolitics might be of interest too.

Thanks, I had a feeling some sub-reddits would be a good source. The breadth of the spectrum in sub-reddit discussion quality is quite impressive.

I still find interesting discussions in https://slashdot.org/

Man, haven't been on /. for a long long time. Thanks for reminding me to go log back in again.

-Member of the five digit UID club

This may not be exactly what you are looking for, but one thing that increased my enjoyment of reddit and twitter was making heavy use of lists and multireddits and unsubscribing from things I didn't want to see without looking for.

For example, I was subbed to a half-dozen Diablo related subreddits that were more popular than some of the smaller subreddits I was interested in. This meant that my homepage was cluttered with posts from those subreddits. Therefore, I made a Diablo multireddit and ubsubbed from the Diablo related subreddits making my homeoage a bit cleaner and it has the added benefit of concentrating the Diablo information when I am looking for it.

I also do this in an inverse manner. For example, I'm still subscribed to the team subreddits of sports teams I follow, but since they tend to be small, I have them lumped into a "My Teams" multireddit where I can easily check what is going on for the half-dozen teams I really care about.

The use of multireddits has greatly improved my reddit experience.

I can recommend Slate Star Codex [1]. There is no voting system, but the level of discussion is above 99% of what you find on the Internet, plus the commenters come from a very wide range of the political spectrum.

Discussions are mostly about the articles that Scott Alexander posts, but there are open threads twice a week (just click on "OPEN THREAD" in the top menu bar to go to the most recent one).

[1] slatestarcodex.com

The subreddit is good too. Some people feel it's a bit too right leaning. I tend to agree. But it's nice to not have the other side shouted down at every chance in at least one forum I actually care to visit. The moderators don't always get it right, but I really do get the impression they care about discussion quality.

There's a weak post at the top, I'd start with a few of the 'Top Posts': https://slatestarcodex.com/about/

Thanks, the content seems interesting (although the layout of the site I find a tad confusing).

Depending on your interests any decent hobby/professional forum should have a high level of discussion similar to how HN is mostly oriented towards tech. Do you have non-tech interests and if so, what are they?

Several sports, philosophy and literature.

The general trend from responses is that there are many specialist communities that foster decent discussion. However, 'generalist' forums of a high quality are hard to find.

Generally speaking, I have yet to find a solid sports forum. The best I have found so far is /r/AFL. Occasionally, team subreddits are okay, but they can range from dead to meme-tastic.

The best solution I have found for sports is twitter. I found other (reasonable) fans and can interact with and follow whomever I choose. The downside to twitter is it takes time to figure out who to follow. Also, the more people you follow, the more noise that creeps in. This is why I make heavy use of muting by keyword. It is my feed. I don't have to listen to you talk about things I am not interested in.

Motley Fool (http://boards.fool.com/) used to have fairly intelligent forums. I haven't really hung out there since the Dot Com days; just checked and there are some interesting postings.

I fear that the big socials like FB have crowded out the traditional forums. People just don't have the time for all of this, so they default to the low hanging fruit.

There are a few interesting suggestions in this HN topic; will check them out as time allows.

Specific somethingawful forums are still pretty good surprisingly

I also frequent:


It's a forum mostly about Harry Browne's Permanent Portfolio concept, but there is also good discourse on current events in the "Other Discussions" forum.

Well curated twitter (believe it or not). I follow Bitcoin experts on twitter and find it intellectually stimulating.

Nothing more obnoxious than threaded Tweets.

Twitter definitely has always had the quality, lurking beneath. Personally, I just find it mentally exhausting ignoring and filtering out all the low-value content and noise on most social platforms.

Mind to share the list?

just follow whalepanda

If you like video games, https://reddit.com/r/truegaming is a good one.

From the sidebar description: /r/truegaming is a subreddit dedicated to meaningful, insightful, and high-quality discussion on all topics gaming.

For digital security stuff I like


Kialo looks really interesting.


I'm glad they're pursuing this. I wish more startups would tackle the problem.

I'm looking for high-quality message boards on libertarianism and political science in general. I know some in my mother tongue (french) but haven't had much luck on the english-speaking web.

https://www.jqbx.fm if you want to talk & learn about music.

Other civil/intellectual communities I've found interesting or useful include:




It seems easier to find good narrowly defined communities than ones with broad reach. This is probably because of politics - it acts as a synaptic damper no matter how high your IQ is.

The slatestarcodex.com community might be interesting for you.

I got this one:


I feel like most of 4chan's special interest boards are good if you can sift through them. I wouldn't say it's in-depth all the time but if you lurk enough and come across a good thread it can actually be pretty informative. Even asking questions in a thread is relatively guaranteed to get a response, albeit may not be the response you want, but they're generally helpful if you're on topic.

Also, lainchan.org is pretty top tier if you want a more tech oriented chan.


Haha sorry just kidding, I'll leave.

I have one site that checks all these boxes and I love it.

And I'd never post the link to a HN thread. A good culture and community is a fragile thing.

thanks for your worthwhile contribution to this thread!

I knew it would be unpopular. But communities aren't like cool articles. You cannot just share them with anyone without affecting their quality and nature. There's a reason that fraternities and such work on an invitation-only system.

It's easy to see why you wouldn't post the link to it. It's hard to see why you would post a comment on it regardless.

Maybe I could have said it less bluntly, but I replied because I favor honest discussion over silence. If I'm going to not do someone a favor, I think it's better to say why than to ghost them.

We'll remember this when the robots come for you.

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