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Hacker News's Undocumented Features and Behaviors (github.com/minimaxir)
803 points by minimaxir on Feb 22, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 391 comments

More and more websites are getting rid of user comments on their websites. Just in the last couple of months the National Review and The Atlantic have got rid of comments.

In simple terms they couldn't keep up with comment moderation and were not able or willing to invest in enough moderators.

So I have to give credit to HN to having one of the most civil comment sections on the internet. What I like about HN is that the comments VERY RARELY descend into the inevitable political sniping that seems to happen almost everywhere else on the internet, even when discussing controversial topics like Trump, and even the percentage of snarky and dismissive comments is kept pretty low.

So, keep it up, dang and sctb!

The amount of civility on HN is almost unbelievable. The behavior of the users is one of the HN's biggest strengths.

I wonder if the idea that you may be interviewing or be interviewed by any of the people you are conversing with means that one “behaves” better?

I am convinced that the combination of voting up good comments with strict, clear and fair moderation is an important reason. Add to this that reputation among peers may matter to people and maybe that is the formula.

I'm not so sure about the interviewing part. First, I am one of the few who does not use a pseudonym on this site, most do.

I have also seen people say some pretty absurd things using public Facebook comments that have their real name and details attached to them, I don't think people are considering that they may be making some career limiting moves when they get mad in comment sections. I also think that tech people have a lot more job options and freedom of movement between companies than other careers.

Sites like reddit that gather karma also create a "reputation" scenario for users, yet it still contains trolls, so I don't think it's that either, but it may be a contributing factor. That combined with the broken windows theory and the very specific target audience may be what make the comments mostly civil but certainly not immune to parody.

I find that I see the civility on here and it makes me want to behave similarly.

I once said something slightly political and my comment was downvoted into oblivion.

So that helps.

I'm fairly contrarian and don't shy from political and economic commentary. Responses vary, though I'd argue it's generally net positive.

Not getting too heavily invested in any one comment helps, as does addressing any responses strongest rather than weakest points.

I'll call out (and occaisionally report) comments thaat eem unjustly downvoted. Sometimes (frequently) the mods agree, occasionally they don't.

There are also numerous shadowbanned accounts. It is possible to vouch their positive contribuions.

HN isn't perfect, but it's better than a tremendous amount of the Web, for discussion.

My political comments are some of my most popular ones I've made. I think it's more about saying something that's actually constructive or different. I think also the fact that hackernews is not ideologically segmented has to do with it, too. We're here for programming and decent, thought-provoking reading, not having people tell us we're right. You can get away with being political if you're genuinely trying to contribute to the conversation.

> actually constructive or different. > not ideologically segmented

i dont think that's really the case. HN is full of middle/upper middle class programmers who works in well-developed countries. This is definitely a segment on the political spectrum. This is why you don't see many trump voters here, or bigots or the very conservative. Anyone who attempts to bring discourse with such an undertone will get downvoted.

I'd say HN has more groupthink than the people here would care to admit.

> HN is full of middle/upper middle class programmers who works in well-developed countries. This is definitely a segment on the political spectrum.

No, it's not. While class and profession have some loose correlation to ideology, the class/profession combination you describe includes people from all over the political spectrum, including all of the ones you say are excluded from HN for this reason (whuch, contrary to your description, seem to be well represented; well, not overt bigots but HN moderation is aimed pretty directly against that, and perhaps merely Trump apologists, who may or may not be Trump voters.)

Sounds like an empirical question to me. I'd ante a moderate sum though that @chil's assessment is closer to the truth in terms of homogeneity of political leanings on HN and, if you could somehow measure it, that there is "...more groupthink than the people here would care to admit" on HN.

I don't think career correlates quite so closely to the liberal-conservative spectrum as you may think. Yes, there are a lot of liberals, but I get the impression that libertarians are over-represented as well. And there may not be as few Trump voters as you think ;)

Well it seems you and I have had different experiences.

I’ve whitnessed threads where users were basically going “no politics pls.”

Maybe the threads that I end up clicking on attract certain kinds and the threads that you’re on attract other kinds.

I say fairly political things all the time -- roughly 10% of my comments, I think -- and they generally stay positive.

Politics and economics and ethics are inextricably intertwined with technology these days, so it's usually on topic to comment about the political aspects of a situation.

I didn't know you could downvote on here. I only see up arrows.

Once you attain 501 karma, you're allowed to downvote.

As others have noted, by way of very active and generally nuanced moderation.

I've discussed this before in a direct comparison to a "kinder, nicer" site which proved to be neither.

Moderation and site dynamics are curiously subtle.


I think there are a few factors:

(1) The culture started by Paul Graham, back when he used to write lots of essays, emphasized a certain "hyperrationality" and attracted a lot of super-logical people in the beginning.

(2) Heavy moderation to keep things from deteriorating and discourage overly polemical debates.

The bottom line is that people quickly get an idea of what is tolerated and what is not tolerated so they work to stay in line which doesn't seem to happen as much on other websites.

You could say the same about Japan, and to a certain extent China.

The mods here do an exceptional job, but it was also like that before there were active moderators (though it was a much smaller site). I think it's largely the culture here that keeps it civil - commenters that aren't civil get trained to do better by swiftly being sent to the bottom of the comments in an unreadable shade of gray.

There were active moderators from day 1. The set was mostly {pg}, but few people have any idea how active he was.

Oh, I didn't realize he spent much time moderating. I figured most of his time on HN was spent on improving the systems like voting ring detection.

General interest news cannot do commentary. People literally believe that they are fighting some sort of war with people over political nonsense.

I saw a piece yesterday that claimed that a woman was flagged for suspicious activity on Twitter because 98% of the 5,000 accounts she followed were Russian troll-bots. The lady spent hours arguing with these bots.

Apparently this is a big part of Twitter's bot problem — actual humans, that don't really get Twitter, acting bot-like unknowingly.

Twitter's bot problem is largely imaginary. If actual humans are acting "bot like", given the fact that nobody has made a bot that passes the Turing test so far, perhaps that means these accounts and tweets are actually human and being mis-classified for political reasons.

It's all about clear standards and strong moderation. I visit another forum that has a great community. No karma, no voting, just those two things. I've also run a large community in the past that I believe was successful for those reasons.

The moderation is strong but not heavy-handed. The clear standards allow commenters to understand why they get downvoted or flagged which is nice. I have seen nitpicky over-active moderators on a different forum site effectively wipe out community engagement over the course of a year and it wasn't fun.

In general, downvotes are fair but sometimes, unfortunately, it gets misused to express disagreement of opinion which isn't the purpose on HN.

If I was allowed to make one change on HN it would be that a downvote had to be accompanied by a comment as to why the downvote happens.

I'd probably just abolish downvoting entirely: rely entirely on upvoting. There's already a bias towards upvoting in the system due to the min cap but not the max cap.

You make it sound like voting-as-disagreement is rare but in my experience it's by far the most common way downvotes are used. I have showdead switched on and I keep toying with the idea of finding an extension to un-grey comments, because over and over I find comments in grey that are well written, erudite and merely express an opinion that goes against the current startup-culture HN zeitgeist. They aren't actually bad comments though.

So why not just let good comments rise to the top.

The user style I've made for HN reduces the level of greying out considerably - dead comments are only 50% black instead of 14% black for instance.


If you had a user style extension you could just change the five styles used to grey out down-voted and dead comments.

Perhaps you are right. I have experienced downvotes primarily in semi politicized discussions like automation, economics blockchain, diversity discussions. Most technical posts seems fairly balanced.

Perhaps yeah abolish downvote and only have flag for admins and people with high karma is a good idea.

That seems like a decent idea but a bit tedious for the voter. I also like the Stack Overflow model where each downvote costs 1 of your own karma points.

CBC in Canada made commentors use their real name and disabled comment sections on particular stories that would normally incite a lot of uncivil behaviour.

I'm not sure if things got better as I left and never looked back.

Add The Economist to that list of publications getting rid of comments.

They seem to have disappeared from the site in the last two weeks.

Yeah, IMDB was my top 10 site for 10+ years back in the days of the boards and i had 2-3 visits since the removal. The fun part is that i had 0 posts and used it only to find recomendations / plot explanations. It's beyond me how you can remove the killer feature...

We lost so much behind the scenes history/trivia with the removal of IMDB comments. Some frequent users migrated their comments to www.themoviedb.org but it's nowhere near the amount of what was there from what I can tell. Top movie listed has 1 post, Shawshank Redemption has 11.

I lost so many comments on IMDB.

I haven't even bothered to visit since they removed the forums.

I understand why they did it, the racism and trolling was ridiculous there, but there were some good comments, especially on the forums for the less popular movies.

The beauty of karma, and community moderation.

To counter your argument: take a look at reddit.

Community moderation has also the risk of creating an echo chamber.

I wonder if a big part of the difference is that HN has only one stream of postings. If there were a HN-politics, HN-tech, etc. each may end up as an echo chamber like reddit.

I participate on HN but only lurk on reddit due to so many upvoted garbage-comments on the latter. I don't much care if reddit posts/comments in futurology are always "woo! yay technology! future!!" and everyone in babyelephantgifs is just celebrating baby elephants all the time, with no dissent.

I do care about endlessly repeated/upvoted noise in comments. Puns instead of topically relevant comments, political sniping completely unrelated to the story, catchphrases from the poster's favorite movies/TV series/games, and basically everything from reddit site:knowyourmeme.com. Yes, I know, smaller subs and content that never makes it to the front page don't suffer in the same way. I do enjoy reading the rust, programming, and AskHistorians subreddits.

Select parts of Reddit are fine. The frontpage is a shitshow. I avoid it. But some of the quiet out of the way subforums contain a lot of good stuff.

HN is an echo chamber too. It's no different than reddit. Just much smaller.

My experience is that you can speak about nearly everything here if you keep it civil, relevant, and substantial. Being nice and polite helps as well. There are exceptions of which I sadly have made my share of experiences (and my own mistakes!), but I still consider HN to be a remarkable place.

I wonder to what extent you've tried arguing positions that are unpopular with the San Francisco set.

Yes, HN has good comments on average. But my experience of moderation has been that it often seems wildly random and can be very politically biased. There was a story some time ago about the Guardian and when I first looked at the comments section, it was full of comments describing disappointment or mocking what sort of paper the Guardian had become. A few hours later it was a morass of greyed out, flagged and dead comments ... apparently some voters can't take criticism of that paper no matter how civil. One of my own comments on that thread got downvoted to the min and it consisted only of links to stories the Guardian had actually published, so was pure fact!

Perhaps it got a bit better lately, it's hard to tell, but HN's community is not a representative slice of opinion around the world and it's kept that way deliberately. This is especially true of anything that crosses into criticism of modern identity politics or feminism, even if the contents of the comment criticise ideas and not people.

Indeed doing a Damore on HN is a fast way to get lots of min voted or dead comments and a ticking off from the moderators for "engaging in ideological battle", although of course people posting the opposing ideas are never "engaging in ideological battle". The politeness, civility or level of research involved has no impact on this: it's purely about position.

although of course people posting the opposing ideas are never "engaging in ideological battle"

To me this bias is quite evident, although the mods certainly don't see it that way.

E.g. I once tried to submit a story from Breitbart. It had to do with soon-to-be-laid-off US workers being replaced by H-1B. But of course the hate here for Breitbart is strong, so my non-political story couldn't even be submitted. Breitbart is shadow-banned in its entirety. Submissions don't appear in "new" except to the submitter (and maybe if showdead is on?).

Fine and good. Their web site, their rules. But at the same time, the mods were cool with allowing submissions linking to rt.com. The hate for conservatives / right-wing is so strong here that mods were more accepting of stories coming from Putin's government-funded international propaganda network.

I haven't seen any submissions from RT lately, so I think it has now also become shadow banned. C'est la vie.

It can be on certain subjects, but I would argue it is reasonably open to discussions as long as one argues well and civilly.

the signal to noise ratio on HN is a hell of a lot better than Reddit.

Wow, so this comment just got me more karma than any other comment I've ever made in almost 7 years on HN!

I honestly didn't think anyone would read it, the article was already several hours old when I wrote it.

It's obviously not because it's a brilliant comment, probably a combination of timing and of saying something that "struck a nerve" with enough people.

> In simple terms they couldn't keep up with comment moderation and were not able or willing to invest in enough moderators.

Has nothing to do with that. It's because their comment section gets no activity to merit investment. Instead they are investing in "managing" social media via twitter, facebook, reddit, etc.

> So I have to give credit to HN to having one of the most civil comment sections on the internet.

It also has the worst and most biased comment section. It's why traffic is down and hardly anyone uses HN.

> So, keep it up, dang and sctb!

Only on "hacker" news would someone support censorship.

The spirit of hacker news died years ago.

I find it bizarre to see people equating forum moderation with some sort of freedom-bashing censorship. Does no one remember Usenet? Active moderation is essential for discussion forums, even if only to clean out spam and trolling.

There's just too many people on the internet, and only so many are housebroken.

A few more of interest:

• You cannot downvote a comment after 24 hours have passed. (There is no time limit for upvotes.)

• You cannot downvote comments which are direct replies to your own. (There is no restriction to downvote further descendants.)

• You cannot unvote/undown a comment after (I think) one hour has passed.

• You cannot reply to a reply to one of your comments for a certain number of minutes, which increases based on some relation with nesting depth. However, the reply link appears sooner on the permalink of such comments than it does from the story page.

• You cannot edit a comment after (I think) one hour has passed.

You cannot downvote a comment after 24 hours have passed.

This is a nice feature. One reason I stopped using certain subreddits was that people would look up your comment history and downvote all your comments that weren't archived. I think those downvotes would eventually disappear, but it annoyed me enough that I stopped reading the subreddits where it happened.

Then people on HN are just being lazy, by not writing software to auto-downvote all future comments by people they dislike.

Abusive voting can lead to revocation of your voting privileges. So perhaps people are just not wanting to screw themselves over.

nice idea for a saas.

AFAIK, HN has no OAuth2 or similar, so a SAAS would not work for this task; the users would have to host such software themselves on someplace that they trust with their HN password.

I can tell you are a very creative, intelligent, and resourceful person and am confident you have better uses for your time :)

If you tell me your password and I downvote everyone you hate, why is that less of a service than it would be if, instead of telling me your password, you gave me a special password with fewer permissions?

The first service comes at the cost of losing one's entire account. The second one does not. Therefore the second one is far more valuable.

On reddit you can not downvote comments from the user page. The downvote button is there but it doesn't do anything. People who know this can get around it possibly, but it's stopped a lot of that.

Eh, it's all fake internet points anyway. I occasionally get hit by an angry downvoter, but as long as your normal content is quality their effect is a drop in the bucket.

So many people don't understand this.

It's not like accumulating 10,000 karma will get someone a free cup of coffee at Starbucks.

I don't deliberately troll to try to get downvotes, but I also don't fall to pieces when I do pick up a few.

I would actually take the opposite side of this, I think saying "karma is just fake internet points" is missing something important. Karma is a rough metric for social approval, and social approval is one of the most important things for people.

Now, karma isn't actually that great of a measure of social approval (you're unlikely to encounter your downvoters in real life; it's easy to get karma by making short uncontroversial comments; etc.), but it still means something, and it makes perfect sense to me that people would care about how much karma they have.

I would discourage using karma as any measure of worth for the reasons you described. If a user has lots of negative karma that might be something else, but a large positive karma may mean nothing more than the person has been active on the site for a long time and tends to post a lot and doesn't troll frequently.

It doesn't mean they're super smart or some incredible subject matter expert or anything like that. They just have a lot of time to post and aren't a complete shithead.

In fact site operators should put extra scrutiny towards accounts that accumulate karma too quickly. That could be a sign of bot activity or "account optimization" firms making a mockery of your reputation system.

Whenever I feel sad about downvotes I remind myself that no-one will lie on their deathbed wishing they'd scored more points in the internet popularity contest.

> You cannot downvote comments which are direct replies to your own

Update: my apologies, seems that I'm wrong. The quoted statement is correct. I'm sure I saw a downvote arrow there once, though (but that was in 2017, haha)

Old comment: Maybe I'm mistaken, but I think one can - they just need to click "N minutes ago" permalink to see the down arrow. Maybe it doesn't affect the score or just cosmetic, but IIRC it's recorded and persists. Unless this was changed recently - can't check (but I swear I saw it there!)

Feel free to test it with this comment. I haven’t seen a case where I personally can. Can you downvote it?

Oops, seems that it's gone now. I only see an upvote arrow.

Looks like it works for others. Successful test!

Doesn't seem to work for any of the replies to my above comment.

(There is no time limit for upvotes.)

I don't believe this is still true. I think it was at one time.

They do still appear on your personal upvoted comments list, which I appreciate.

I've also noticed that certain network issues can cause comment voting to silently not be registered, unless you happen to reload the page and notice your upvotes are gone.

I use a browser extension to highlight voted posts. I often find this useful when revisiting threads on my desktop after voting for comments on mobile.

>You cannot reply to a reply to one of your comments for a certain number of minutes, which increases based on some relation with nesting depth.

Is this the 'you're posting too fast, please slow down' message?

That one shows for a number of conditions, including if they have limited your account to X comments pr Y hours...

No; in the case of replying to a reply, you simply are not shown the reply link.

There is a limit of how old a comment is that will accept an upvote. If you do, it will tell you that you can mark it as a favorite instead.

We changed that because users complained. The comment DoreenMichele linked to explains.

I would love to see something like this:

  (Steve Jobs Died) (14 articles, newest on 11th of fyftember)
Articles on the same event within short timespan would be compressed into a single line you can expand by clicking.

One implementation could be some kind of special purpose tagging functionality, similar to flagging, but with a keyword argument. Maybe the tag should even have a limited lifespan - until you can no longer assign it. Submissions under the same tag would be compressed into an expandable list, similar to threaded comments. Please make the chat flood stop!

This doesn't directly solve your problem, but if you click through to the comments section of an article and click the "web" link (between "past" and "favorite"), it'll search Google with the text of the post submission.

So if you're looking for multiple viewpoints, this is a ~frictionless way to start reading multiple perspectives.

My problem - hinted by the term "chat flood" - is that some of the events don't interest me at all. I want to hide redundant submissions!

It's times like those when I'm reminded how US-centric HN is. I understand Steve Jobs is an American hero, but many people outside US only want to know that he died.

Some major security vulnerabilities fall into this category too. Usually some people with deeper understanding need to take care of it and push the changes upstream. I only need to know to watch out for X or Y hardware or service Z.

"Vote on net neutrality" type political submissions - you need to be an US citizen to vote.

The mods normally merge in comments from duplicates if the duplicates pick up a substantial amount of comments and the context is similar enough.

If they're true duplicates offering no new perspective, I guess. But if the articles each show the event from a different perspective, they don't technically fall under the HN "dupe" rule. But it is still a boring subject to some HN readers, and it can fill most of the HN front page.

Auto-merging duplicates on the frontpage and only showing the latest comment from a thread on the comments page might go a long way towards soaking up the effect of high-traffic events. Also possibly increasing the size of the front page from 30 to some amount proportional to posting traffic.

> There is no upper limit on the score of a comment, but the minimum score is -4 points.

According to the The Unofficial Hacker News FAQ [1] this is only partly correct, but I don‘t feel like testing it.


> I’m at -4 for a comment and still my karma is dropping, how come?

> HN is ‘subtle’ in that not everything always is what it seems. Votes are not always counted and those votes that are counted are not always displayed. So even though your vote count for that comment shows as -4, in actual fact it may be much lower. Take your lumps, analyze why you got those downvotes and if you feel they were justified then try to do better in the future. A side effect of the votes still being counted past -4 seems to be that people tend to delete their comments with a much higher frequency than in the past to cap the damage to their karma.


Counting system sounds like Reddit voting system where 1 upvote != 1 vote

I can confirm that the minimum display score is -4 points regardless of the amount of karma lost on a comment.

I think what your parent is getting at is that you'll lose at most 4 karma regardless of how many downvotes a comment may eventually accumulate. At least in my experience I haven't seen my karma fall more than 4 points due to a single comment, as far as I can remember. Have you a different experience?

Yes, of course. Downvotes are not shown (past the 5th), but karma losses are. Just as described in my parent comment:

>> I’m at -4 for a comment and still my karma is dropping, how come?

No, it doesn't do that. I think it did at one point, when we were experimenting, but it hasn't since at least March 2015.

Wow. How recently? IIRC, that faq (though helpful) is out of date in sections. I assumed that that was one of them.

Not all that recently, but I see no reason to assume the behavior has changed.

And you're probably as willing as I to test its current status :). Cheers for clarifying this for me.

A nitpick about notation:

For me, "Shadowbanning" or "hellbanning" means that the post of the user/site are [dead] but the systems lies to the user and to nim/her show the post as alive. And the only way to notice is to logout or get another computer and check the post from there.

Killing the post form an user or site automatically, and showing to the user that the posts are [dead] is not shadowbanning. I call it "autokilling" but I'm not sure that it is he official name.

Almost all the recent case/discussions of similar cases were simply autokilling. In the initial times of HN it was more common to have hellbanned users, but it's very rare now. Moreover, I remember a comment of dang where he said that they were considering to remove all the hellbanning and only use autokilling. I'm not sure if they finally made that change.

> Moreover, I remember a comment of dang where he said that they were considering to remove all the hellbanning and only use autokilling. I'm not sure if they finally made that change.

Nope, that change has not been made. I'm hellbanned.

Not really. Hell banning is a silent action. You don't tell the user they were banned.

You got several warnings, and then you were told you were banned.



EDIT: just for clarity: I'm not a mod.

@Kenji : You have a sibling comment that now is [dead]. Do you see it marked as [dead] or it looks to you like a normal comment? How do you know that you are banned?

[EDIT: Someone vouched your comment, so I see it now as a normal comment. I was going to vouch it after the experiment :( .]

Just to be 100% sure that we are using the same definitions: Can you post a screenshot in imgur of your sibling comment, so we can see how it looks to you?

For comparison: I see https://imgur.com/a/1Z3dF

PS: Please don't downvote the GP comment, so we can have a nice conversation. Try to keep it black, or at least dark grey.

I'm too lazy to make a picture, but I see them solid black like a normal comment, there are no markings like [dead] or anything. Even for that sibling comment. For me it all looks normal except that my comments are always at the bottom.

I didn't mean to complain. I respect and accept your decision to ban me. There are large parts of this community that truly aren't for me. I just wanted to say it to educate the people that the shadowban mechanics are still active, with myself as the example.

It might be "no more shadowbans" rather than "revert all shadow bans".

From what I understand, the ban _mechanism_ is still a shadowban in that you can still post and other users can vouch your comments, but the mods will tell you when they've banned you which goes against the original purpose of shadowbanning (banning people without them catching on).

Right, if an account has any substantial history, we tell them we're banning them, usually after multiple warnings. There are some exceptions, like new accounts that are related to past spam or troll activity, or accounts that have been used only to break the site guidelines or post obvious fluff.



> Both are very responsive when contacted at hn@ycombinator.com

True in my experience when I asked for my comment to be deleted.

> Complaining about being downvoted is discouraged and usually results in even more downvotes.

It works sometimes however. My comment [1] was controversial and was moving up and down between negative and +4 votes for the first two hours of its life. After I made the edit complaining about the downvotes, it started rising rapidly and is now resting at +22.

> Hacker News encourages a single discussion on a given story. All others are marked as a [dupe] and will be killed without the ability to vouch.

An addendum is that from my experience, it is unclear which story the mods will consider the dupe, sometimes the earlier posted story will be called the dupe.

> Relatedly, moderators can also invite users via email to resubmit a post which didn't get much traction.

This happened to my "All the goodness gone from tea (1688)" [2] submission. I am amazed that a moderator read a submission that was only +2 in its original form and also had difficult ergonomics because it was on google books.

> One popular "trick" for obfuscating voting manipulation ... This trick doesn't actually work.

So, undetectable vote manipulation hasn't been detected and there fore doesn't exist? I have trouble believing this. This seems more like a call to not even try claiming that it won't work, because it just might work. I wish some charitable soul with gray morals would step up with their story of voter manipulation that wasn't detected. Tooling could be developed to curb its use by other individuals. They can do this privately to the mods.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15994458

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15324547

> It works sometimes however. My comment [1] was controversial and was moving up and down between negative and +4 votes for the first two hours of its life. After I made the edit complaining about the downvotes, it started rising rapidly and is now resting at +22.

Downvotes are also disabled after a period of time. A comment can only go up or maintain its rank once that has happened. This is evident when reading older threads.

That probably doesn’t account for all of the upvotes in your example, of course.

> So, undetectable vote manipulation hasn't been detected and there fore doesn't exist?

I think rather the point was that this particular way of manipulation is detectable and is being detected. That of course doesn't preclude other ways of manipulation which are not.

> It works sometimes however.

Tone counts for everything when complaining about downvotes. Asking politely where you think you went wrong often does work. If it's hostile like "wake up sheeple", you're digging your hole deeper.

Indeed. Asking politely for what went wrong or for counter arguments usually helps. But it does not always.

Two points I got downvoted for without much substantial dicussion was when I said that security through obscurity does work (to some degree) and that tinkering with crypto is okay for everybody, and with certain preparation, can even be used in production in some cases. I stand by these points and are open to debate, but for the big majority I just get silently downvoted or arrogantly spoken to as if I didn't knew what I'm talking about.

I think this is a pity because tinkering with stuff is an essential part of being a hacker.

My favorite little-known HN feature (not even mentioned on this link!) is the noprocrast mode. You can set in your profile to be locked out of HN for a set amount of time, after another set amount of time on HN. Prevents procrastination :)

noprocrast is in the FAQ, which is why I didn't add it.

Maybe you should add "There's an FAQ" as an often-unrecognized feature.

It's linked in the intro paragraph.

Oh wow, that's a good one! My favorite is being able to change the nav color (`topcolor`). I changed it to the purple brand color from our startup [1].

[1]: https://canny.io

I can imagine that being used as a security feature for UIs, against phishing attacks: now that you are registered and logged in, choose one of these colours/pictures for this certain, easily visible area of your dashboard. If the use saw a different colour, would know that's phishing.

Also, IDK if this is mentioned anywhere, but HN comments have a maximum character limit. Once I made a veeery long comment [1], had to split them up in three pieces (which when I downloaded them using the API, take up 7.5kb, 6.5kb and 5.9kb respectively. I guess 7.5kb is a good approximation, but I did not try to make an accurate measurement.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15373653 This was about the decline of schools in my country, so I guess I'm going to be excused for this much of logorrhea :)

Wow that is long

:D I can talk about this topic for days, only stopping to hydrate and eating every twelve hours. It's my pet peeve.

"after users reach 500 Karma, they gain the ability to downvote another comment"

Ahh that's why I don't see a downvote button :) - I thought it was a feature reserved to super privileged users

But not it made me wonder, how a positive enforcing behavior is only allowing down vote until you reach a threshold. It makes you engage and understand the community better before making your judgment.

It is also a way to manipulate HN to allow those with similar views to prosper and reinforce those same ideas. Those who don't agree have less power...

Yes, preservation of the “house style” is an explicit goal of HN’s design and moderation. Preventing newcomers from “democratically” hijacking the forum and turning it into something else is something it’s explicitly built to thwart.

It's not hard to get to 500 thru purely technical commentary.

If you're here for politicizing or snide remarks, then yes I hope it's hard to to get to 500.

I find that true technical commentary is often less appreciated than superficial technical statements.

Using only myself as an example:

* I write a comment about databases and data science that comprises hard-won insights borne out of years of experience and mistakes -> {0, 1, 2} upvotes.

* I write a throwaway comment about IBM PC-DOS -> many more upvotes (>10).

I'm not complaining. I think HN merely conforms to the broader pattern of the world.

It does have one downside: very often, soundbite comments that are naive or wrong get upvoted a lot. [0]

[0] http://danluu.com/hn-comments/

Anecdotally I find the largest factors affecting number of upvotes are time of day and how recently the thread has been on the front page.

Comments higher up on the page also get more upvotes. Not everyone reads all of the comments and you get this effect.

dat true!

I don't find it easy personally, my most upvoted comment has 14 points, most are under 4 points.

But then, I don't comment often and I don't care about being able to downvote, so I think I'll survive.

It takes a while in the beginning, then you learn what works and what doesn't, which thankfully aligns fairly well with the community values as I see them. Here's a distillation of how I see them:

* Comment when you have something to contribute. The contribution can be small, even just adding your own experience. A "me too" comment will likely get downvoted. A "Me too. I often experience/feel this when..." will likely be left neutral or upvoted, depending on topic and content.

* Assume the other party in a discussion or argument is acting in good faith. Try to look for alternate interpretations for offensive or upsetting comments, and ask, if at all ambiguous. Even if it's clear the opinion is at odds with your own, don't condemn someone outright, ask why (and try to do so in a way that doesn't sound like you're setting them up).

* Tangents are okay. Responding to a particular comment but addressing the conversation is okay. Try to make it obvious when you are not addressing the person you replied to specifically. Context matters, especially for those that see the reply, and it's easy for them to assume it's supposed to be meant as a rebuttal to them when they've been seeing lots of rebuttals.

Sure, but most of the time I don't feel like I have things relevant to add to the discussion, I'm more of the lurker type.

I just wanted to point out that in my case, getting points was not that easy. But I actually don't care about it, so everything is fine for me. :)

I believe the top comment in an high voted thread can get 100+ points but winning the thread is extremely difficult. In almost 6y I only was able to make it 3 or 4 times. The quality is really high and it's amazing how there is always somebody in a better position to comment it.

Comments are worth a point, so as long as you're not posting comments that are regularly downvoted, just participating will get you there.

No, the default point doesn't count towards your karma.

It's still true that just participating will get you there. I'm pretty sure my median comment has 2 points.

Aaaaaaaand now this comment is my most upvoted comment. Obviously.

...or by submitting some awesome content once in a while.

For all the complaints about the hivemind, I see a broader range of opinions here than anywhere else. Perhaps the reason for complaints is that the visibly broad range of opinions creates an expectation that any reasonable opinion will be tolerated, when in fact some reasonable opinions will be suppressed by the community. In such a generally open context, this suppression seems particularly unjust.

In general true, but there are a certain few “lightning rod” topics for which there is only a limited set of HNCorrect opinions. No matter how well written/sourced/argued your comment is, if it goes against the group belief it will be buried. I just avoid these topics altogether now—it’s not worth the time spent writing.

On the other hand, in general I don’t care about the occasional wave of downvotes. They’re fake internet points—-no reason to tie your HN karma to any measure of self worth. Literally anything can and will get down-votes here. Hell, just yesterday I wrote a long-ish story about some ethical issues I encountered as an engineer. No arguments or judgment passing or controversial stands—just a “here’s a little snippet of my career” and it got a couple downvotes. No need to sweat them. The advice to not complain in-thread about downvotes and not attack/question your downvoters is good advice. It’s pointless because everything, including uncontroversial comments, high quality comments, correct, incorrect—-they all get a few downs.

> In general true, but there are a certain few “lightning rod” topics for which there is only a limited set of HNCorrect opinions. No matter how well written/sourced/argued your comment is, if it goes against the group belief it will be buried. I just avoid these topics altogether now—it’s not worth the time spent writing.

Sound advice. It's easy to collect some downvotes by posting about anything people feel passionate about -- there's always going to be somebody who downvotes out of dislike for your opinion. Also, I believe criticizing certain national governments attracts an outsized share of downvotes / flags.

That or any google proguct. They seem to have the forum locked down tight. Look at the posts that rise after a while in any AMP, Gmail, or Talk thread. Its a clear shift when workers come online. I often wonder how many people are employed to influence and steer technical discussion on sites like this.

Certain topics are predictsbly for/against on HN. Nuclear power is one such topic where for example arguments against Thorium reactors gets HN voters up in arms and prompt downvotes.

> No matter how well written/sourced/argued your comment is, if it goes against the group belief it will be buried.

These exist, but I'm not sure it's as cut and dry as that. Sometimes arguments you've seen, or made yourself, that were open ended and/or asking for discussion get downvoted, but sometimes it's just a week later and they don't. I think a lot of it has to do with the context people see it in, their own state of mind, and whether someone happened to take up reasoned discussion on the topic before downvotes started accumulating.

Put another way, I think there's a lot of people that see someone looking to talk about a topic and immediately assume they are looking for an opening to express their outside views rather than explore the topic (which is not fair to assume, IMO). Seeing people discuss that topic rationally stalls or negates that knee-jerk reaction.

In other words, it's a crap shoot (but there are strategies for broaching these subjects that work better than others).

Sure, it does act as a stabilizer, but IMO it affects discussion style much more than opinions expressed. Which is, to me, is a good thing.

Rudeness and pointless ramblings get downvoted quickly, which is likely a model learned quickly by newcomers. Arguing an unpopular view is unlikely to get beaten hard -- I do not recall ever getting more than -3 or so on a comment (but maybe I am just a conformist).

That argument seems wrong to me; the subset of the community with karma > 500 is as fractious and divided as the community as a whole.

it's interesting to note that that's exactly the kind of position you might have if your opinions are just not that great.

the whole system is rigged and it's just not appreciating your awesomeness. maybe you're seeing a pattern that's not there? might it be your opinions that are flawed? or maybe your communication skills or style are left wanting? i don't know but those things are certainly possibilities too.

you didn't actually make an argument about what you think the "similar views" are, how the mechanism works, who's involved, or anything worthy of consideration and discussion.

might that be representative of the problem right there?

It's called groupthink. And I've heard many people outside the SV scene complain precisely about SV groupthink issues.

They can be good ideas, bad ideas, horrendous ideas... Regardless, if SV thinks its good, then it passes muster here.

I've said quite a few things that have either scored low or negative, even if they sane and cogent and direct. They just challenge the precepts that are held holy in the 'Valley.

The HN community is overwhelmingly not in SV. Less than 10% by many measures.

Do you folks have any anonymized demographics data? I’d love to see it over time in particular, since I’m guessing early on it was much more SV. When I travel and am in a vastly different time zone (like say to Europe or Asia), I notice the active participants on HN are fairly different. Is 10% by viewership, accounts, activity, all of the above?

I was just looking at this. 5% of "users" (it depends how you define a user who isn't logged in) last month were in SV. A third were in the US, a third in Europe, 8% in Canada/Australia/NZ, 6% in India, 3% in China.

That is the distribution of everyone who hit the site last month at all, regardless of how much they used it. If we weight the numbers by the number of days they used HN, then US has 44%, Europe 33%, Can/Aus/NZ 8%, India 3%, China 2%. And Silicon Valley is 8%. That's surprisingly low, given how many people assume that HN == SV.

That's way more Europe MAU percentage than I was expecting. Thanks, and good to know!

> I've said quite a few things that have either scored low or negative, even if they sane and cogent and direct

You may not be the most unbiased judge of that.

In my opinion, it creates an echo chamber where in order to be a "full member" of the community you have to already espouse views the community supports. It is a big reason why I don't participate much.

I certainly think it's possible to clear 500 karma by playing to the echo chamber, but I don't remember having had much difficulty doing getting 500 and most of my comments have either been technical or about niche policy-ish stuff like urban planning or energy. I think my personal views on particularly echo-chamber-y things are probably at least somewhat different from any normative HN values that may exist, and that hasn't really been a barrier.

(That said, I almost never downvote.)

I espouse a lot of views that the community does not support. I am also the first woman to make the leaderboard (under a different handle -- my retired handle has 25k karma).

I don't think it works exactly the way you think it does.

How do you know you were the first woman to do so? This is a psuedo anonymous internet forum where people aren't required to state their gender or even their real names.


I will add that being the first woman on the leaderboard is not essential to the point that you can get a lot of karma and not be part of the echo chamber. But inevitably that is the detail that gets focused on, as if proving that I am not the first woman (or questioning my assertion, because no proof to the contrary has ever been offered when I get asked this) somehow invalidates my actual point.

My other handle has 25k karma. This one has over 3k. I don't in any way whatsoever participate in an echo chamber.

> I will add that being the first woman on the leaderboard is not essential to the point that you can get a lot of karma and not be part of the echo chamber. But inevitably that is the detail that gets focused on,

If it's not essential, and you don't want people to focus on it, why did you bring it up? It was the only interesting part of your comment (to me). I don't really care if HN is an echo chamber or not.

> as if proving that I am not the first woman (or questioning my assertion, because no proof to the contrary has ever been offered when I get asked this) somehow invalidates my actual point.

I actually dont care if you were or were not the first woman or if it was someone else, I was just curious about how you knew on an anonymous forum. But go ahead, be mad about it.

Your blog post is interesting, so thanks for linking that.

Why do you think "views the community supports" is the only thing that people upvote? I upvote entire threads where people are disagreeing because the whole conversation has value. I also upvote comments that add something new to the conversation. I think you have a naïve sense of participation.

You don't have to join the hive mind to get to 500 karma. People around here are pretty free with the upvotes.

If you want a community that is hard to get started in look at StackExchange. You can't even comment until you've gotten quite a few points.

I reached that threshold mostly via submissions, I don't comment that much (but also downvote very rarely). Surely, also submissions may add to the echo chamber, especially if they hit a nerve.

One reason for me to stay here is the diversity (and civility) of the comments, I don't think it's too bad. Another favourite read of mine is Arstechnica, but the comments there don't reach the quality of the comments on HN, imho.

What do you think is being echo-chambered?

I don't participate much because unlike, say, reddit, HN seems much more focused on delivering people to other destinations. That might just be my perception, but I think reddit has much more sophisticated community features, where as comments have always felt like an add-on for HN

That's so different from my experience. I often read the comments on HN before the linked article. I generally find reddit comments, even in subs dedicated to topics I care about, to be garbage. In contrast, I learn a lot from reading HN's comments.

Then again, if you feel that you need to be able to downvote people in order to "participate", maybe it's good that you don't have a downvote button yet ;-)

I've been slowly creeping towards downvoting for the better part of 2 years as I comment very infrequently. I imagine it'll be anticlimactic once I get there, but it's relatively exciting to be so close—it's the last frontier of Hacker News-ing.

After that there's the "leaders" list. The treadmill never ends :)


We'll probably get rid of that list or at least change it to show different kinds of leaders. I've been saying that for years, but like an alligator, we lunge eventually.

It took me almost eight years

Both of you can have an upvote!

It seemed to take forever, and I was counting the numbers when I was at like 490, but now the downvote buttons are there, I find it's very rare that I get a chance to wield them in anger.

I always thought the little [-] button downvoted!

HA! That made me think of what might be an interesting feature on a forum, if the parent gets downvoted, all the children do as well. Might prevent feeding trolls or expanding off-topic conversations.

Would also punish users for posting rebuttals to controversial or factually incorrect posts. I feel like that's a net negative.

That's sort of what happens on reddit.

Often I feel it's not worth replying to obviously wrong stuff because it'll just get downvoted so low that nobody's likely to see my eloquent and carefully-worded rebuttal anyway.

Perhaps an additional feature to explicitly mark your post as "rebuttal"? Then only the non-rebuttals would inherit the downvote?

And why would users not simply mark all of their posts as rebuttals? There'd be no downside.

Because rebutting something that was subsequently upvoted would incur a downvote!

This is a great resources, but i'm forced to laugh at this bit:

> However, as of recently, the line between technology and politics has become extremely blurred.

> as of recently

We really, really need to require CS majors to take ethics classes. Everything you do as an engineer has an impact on the world around you. Everything. This is actually really good, because most of us are good people! But you can only escape "politics" by escaping people and you simply will never do that.

Right on both counts, that it can't be separated and that it isn't recent. The OP needs to amend "The Guidelines state that political discussion is off-topic". The actual guidelines say most and probably, precisely to indicate not all.

Political articles that are on topic are those that contain material of intellectual interest, aren't just garden-variety politics or ideology, and contain substantive new information. Those are comparatively rare, but better able to support substantive discussion. Sometimes they get more upvotes than flags, or we may turn off the flags. There are plenty of examples of this—so many that we hear the complaint "HN has been taken over by politics" at least as often as its inverse.


I think the greatest possible contribution to all of science that hacker news (the piece of software + the community) could provide would be to extend its general self-reinforcing conversational tone to include issues of conscience and the ethical, moral, and political implications of the subjects discussed here. We simply can't treat the two groups as separate.

That sounds great, but isn't doable. It only seems doable, because of the dynamic described here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16438476. What would actually happen is that it would make the community nastier and dumber until it died. Whom the gods would destroy, &c.

The fundamental tradeoff: the better HN gets, the more people want to use it for things that worsen it. This puts a cap on how good HN can ever get. All we can do is find ways to wriggle out of that tradeoff here and there.

Well that's depressing XD

Missing from that list is everyone's favourite feature:

  Using code blocks as block quotes so as to make them almost unreadable on mobile. Especially when the post is already indented a few levels.

    Using code blocks as block c
What's wrong with that?

The default styling results in it having too narrow a view so it requires a lot of side scrolling on mobile devices. It gets really annoying for block quoted text past 80-90 characters.

I'm on android Firefox at the moment and I can confirm that it becomes problematic after about thirty characters. That's what I meant by my previous post.

Unofficial HN community guide: Short comments meant to be viewed as sarcasm end up being interpreted incorrectly often when used in a serious forum. A short clarifying rider sentence explaining your real opinion often helps. That may ruin the joke, but if your comment was just to make a joke, it probably wasn't strong enough reason to comment anyway (for additional info on jokes, see the section entitled How to make a joke and not get downvoted).

Addendum: Poe's law is alive and well.

(The above is of course my take, and other people will follow their own best practices)

Sarcasm marks (e.g. "/s") are another option, although I was able to get it without the annotation.

Not to mention that, on some mobile browsers, it doesn't scroll at all - it drops all the content after the place where it should reflow.

Yup, mine cuts off hard, with no scroll option.

Of course, I am the typical HN'er who runs with JS disabled. So perhaps that is a factor.

Guess that was a joke.

The funny thing about this, is that on portrait on my phone even this deliberately shortened version is cut off.

I was hoping to find all the unlisted URLs some of which I can never remember, like /leaders etc.

Interesting nonetheless.

There does seem to be some attempts to game HN lately that I don't remember in the past - like a recent tendency of some new accounts to ask dozens upon dozens of questions. I can only assume there's some karma gaming behind that.

> I was hoping to find all the unlisted URLs some of which I can never remember, like /leaders etc.


Interestingly enough this doesn't include Hacker News Classic, one of my favourite frontends: https://news.ycombinator.com/classic

I don't understand the difference between this and the regular front page. I can see it has different content, but why? Does it use a larger time factor? It seems like everything there is older, but maybe that's just because it calculates less frequently?

From what I can remember, it uses an older ranking system which is less correlated with upvotes/popularity.

It uses the same ranking system, but only counts votes from very early users. To me the interesting thing is how little it differs from the regular front page, although I think the explanation is disappointingly boring: the main predictor of upvotes—for all users, early or not—is already being on the front page.

It sounds like you guys basically left it in as a cross-check to make sure the community isn't deviating too far from the original premise. Very cool.

Thanks for the explanation!

Thanks! That's one I hadn't encountered! :)

Question on “hidden” features: Sometimes sub-level comments (not even particularly deep) don’t have a ‘reply’ button - is this turned off for particularly controversial (in voting) comments?

> Hacker News encourages a single discussion on a given story. All others are marked as a [dupe] and will be killed[...]

The addition to this is that after a while this isn’t enforced - which is why you’ll see the same articles coming up reasonably regularly.

I've noticed the missing reply button; my impression is that it won't appear right away after a post is submitted, which is probably intended to reduce flamewars.

It's still possible to reply directly, but you have to click the permalink above the specific comment (the one with the time in it - "X minutes ago") before the reply button/box are visible.

Not sure if this fits with the purpose of your page, but there are "easter eggs", like in the "Ask HN: What has HN given you?" thread( which is an awesome read https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16409768 )

I noticed a MailGun cofounder mentioning the "HN Cofounder wanted spreadsheet" at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Sygd1fhGYRS-ZvRP0IVV... which is how he ended up involved with MailGun


this probablly isn't suitable for this page. I've started a page to track these things for myself at https://github.com/keithn/HackerNewsCommunity/

If anyone has any other gems that are worth tracking I'd love to know about them.

sorry if I'm being ignorant but how is that an easter egg?

It's not in the sense it's not built into HNs website, but it's an easter egg of the community in that you wouldn't know about it and nothing really documents things like this specifically related to the HN community.

It's like your page you are making, it's another easter egg of the community. Just disappears from view except for those who track it.

I've noticed when using a VPN, my posts would be shown in my own account but not anyone else's. Thought this was a strange behavior.

Wasn't certain whether this is a consistency issue or whether posting through a VPN isn't possible.

Anyone know why? May be good to add it to the document.

Probably multiple accounts, and/or rate limits, coming from a single IP which is likely on a VPN.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html (Last item)

HN has shadow-banning based on an unknown set of criteria.

Could be a popular VPN. For example my VPN is very popular so I would be shocked if others weren't using it, and it must look like all users are coming from the same place.

To be clear, are you saying if you're on VPN you're shadow-banned, effectively, but the same account works fine when not on VPN?

I seem to recall 'dang mentioning this can happen, and that they can whitelist accounts. If you see it happening to yourself, you can contact them and they'll look into it.

It's also a good idea to review the guidelines every once in a while:


Something I noticed this week for the first time is the date on profiles changed from x days ago to the specific date a user's account was created. It's also now a link to the frontpage on that day.

We just did that. It seems like a neat way to tell people about https://news.ycombinator.com/front, plus it's amusing to look at how HN was on someone's 'birthday'.

We also made older timestamps say "May 4, 2009" instead of "3124 days ago".

Hadn't noticed the link aspect of the date. Cute touch! If I read into that more like a horoscope, I think it's suggesting I need brain training.

I do miss the x days ago, cracking the 3k club was nice.

I'm not entirely sure about that change either.

One thing I think it should have mentioned is that although comment scores are not shown to anyone but the user, it is easy enough to infer them, at least approximately. Obviously, negative scores are shown by desaturation. And positive scores are shown by sort order.

I hate the desaturation, I should add a user.css entry for it or something. Effectively silencing non-mainstream views seems so contrary to hacker culture to me.

Contrarian views aren't usually down voted here, low quality posts are. Troll posts that may have some semblance of an actual point should be rephrased to actually be part of a discussion.

I disagree - the are at least 2 top level comments on this story now that are greyed out. I consider them to be well-made, definitely not flames or spam, clearly written but contrary to the apparent majority view.

Even uncontroversial statements of fact get down-voted.

Take this:

>"Also, I don't think vouching for [dead] comments actually does anything beyond warm fuzzies." //

assuming the commenter didn't lie then it is a fact, they started their thought. Now the down-voters may know vouching revives comments, but that's no reason to downvote, that's reason to respond with a source.

Even if they are mistaken, it's harsh to downvote a view that can't be easily corrected because of hidden information.


Yea, I just finished a comment about this very topic before I read yours. People here will downvote anything. There’s a big voting audience, and chances are there will be at least some people who disagree with you on any topic. Best to just roll with it.

This isn't true on any political topic. I've seen people who are far better authors than myself have posts downvoted to dead because they disagreed with the prevailing opinion in a thread.

Don't new comments get momentarily bumped to the top before dropping, before they get any votes?

They do. I also have the impression that the number of childs influences sort order.

> positive scores are shown by sort order

I don't believe it is quite so simple. Remark ordering also appears to incorporate

* freshness (new remarks get a moment at the top)

* reputation (remarks from high-karma accounts linger higher, longer)

and I may possibly have also observed:

* a penalty box: hidden downweighting, or reduction in effective karma, imposed by moderators upon troublesome users that weren't egregious enough to ban/shadowban.

That's all correct except "remarks from high-karma accounts linger higher, longer". Account karma doesn't affect ranking.

It's scary to think I've been here long enough to know things others don't.. Or maybe "those that would know won't tell." Either way: https://news.ycombinator.com/leaders

All the above are accessible from the "Lists" link at the bottom of most pages.

I'd like to see the second chance pool made public, if only as another entry under /lists.

That's already there, it's the new pages beyond the first one.

One question that's not answered: what do green usernames represent? Would honestly love to know!

As far as I know, new users are green for a certain time period.

edit: under 2 weeks old

I thought earning enough karma would adjust the color to default, I guesd I am wrong.

I honestly always assumed these are verified celebrities with a million karma.

New account

I always thought they are original poster.

That's red, I think.

If you mean orange:

> Additionally, founders of YC companies see each other's usernames show up in orange, which--although not an explicit benefit--does allow fellow YC founders to immediately identify one another in discussions.

Submitters' names aren't highlighted in any way.

Thought I was going crazy for a bit, but submitters names do show up in red for me. Possibly an extra feature of the Hacker News Enhancement Suite :). TIL.

Good catch. Added.

I didn't realize you could see all topbar colors that have been set on the site. Would be a really interesting way to implement message passing.

@minimaxir for your list: - Not possible to downvote some posters, as the authors have extreme karma (e.g. >10,000, though I don't know the exact number), even if you have >>500 karma.

It is notable that HN does not support blocking particular users, or indeed annotating that you like them. Though plenty of fans will upvote well known authors, it is not possible for you to keep a list of people who you think have written well in the past. I'd love it if I could, e.g., mark favourite author names in green.

HN is also notable from my perspective for having some people with good technical sense and clear writing, but very extreme views on other matters, to the extent that they would be pariahs in RL situations.

I've wanted a feature to "follow" certain users as well. Presumably it could be built as a separate app or into a browser extension.

How does one contribute to the code running HN? I read the site almost exclusively on my tablet, and I would love a "open links in new window" settings option and would be quite happy to help write the code to make it happen.

This shouldn't be the default ever. I the user, have the control of I want a new window/tab or use the current one. Sites opening links in new windows/tabs try tomorrow me on their site, for their reasons, not mine. When building a web application: Make sure to not play with links in a way that Ctrl+click, context menu or, on mobile, long touch don't work, but allow me to open new tabs, and keep the state if I go away and then use the back button to come back. Even for non-powerusers this is a good habit. Non-powerusers are often surprised bu new windows popping up.

Never said it should be the default, just an option (like it is in Reddit). Also, one would hope even the below average HN reader wouldn't be surprised by a new window.

Not sure what tablet/browser you're using, but several have extensions to create a whitelist of sites to always open links in new tabs. I haven't tried this one in particular, but Chrome has an "Open in new tab" extension where the description actually says "Useful for websites such as hackernews where you would ideally like to open links in new tab."

>How does one contribute to the code running HN?

One doesn't. Unfortunately.

>I read the site almost exclusively on my tablet, and I would love a "open links in new window" settings option and would be quite happy to help write the code to make it happen.

Do what everyone else does and make it a plugin or userscript.

The code isn't generally open to outside contributions, but you can email your suggestions to Dan and Scott at hn@ycombinator.com.

I have a couple suggestions too.

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