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Ask HN: Alternative HN-Like Communities?
175 points by pmohun 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 75 comments
I've bounced around my fair share of online forums since ~2006.

Inevitably, a shift in culture/moderation/interests with cause me to seek out new communities. HN has been fairly consistent in it's discussion since I've joined, and I'd like to find some similar sites.

I've been enjoying the Alpha of https://Tildes.net

It's like Reddit for thoughtful content, no fluff.

And so far it's full of hackers and people who think like hackers.

Email the founder for an invite code. He's friendly and engaged.

Can you please invite us? The registration is asking for a mandatory invite code.

From https://docs.tildes.net/contact

To request an invite to the Tildes alpha, email invites@tildes.net. Do not email any other addresses to ask for an invite.

You can make a comment on this thread and they'll PM you one.


anybody know of communities that dont excessively moderate or censor?

tildes looks interesting but the founder says, "it will also never be described as anything like "an absolute free speech site".

i would love to find a community that moderates harrassment, actual hate speech, and threats, but nothing else. for example ive seen comments deleted here on hn related to drug culture, presumably because a drug is illegal in the usa.

in other words, a community interested in truth, no matter how messy it is.

You realize a lot of people consider moderating harassment, hate speech and threats to simply be a pretext for excessive moderation though, right?

Almost every thread about $site's moderation policy devolves into arguments about whether "actual hate speech" even exists (there are people who consider what other people consider hate speech to be "messy truth" after all), or whether any form of moderation can exist on a site that claims to support free speech.

The standard you're setting isn't an unrealized ideal - it's how many online communities already work, and those communities are still rejected because the boundaries they set are inevitably boundaries others consider intolerable.

There are few, if any, sites on the open web which allow "absolute free speech" because that, by definition, would allow hate speech, threats, open discussion of pedophilia and and other illegal activity. And honestly, almost no one wants that except the assholes, pedos and criminals. Even setting the bar to "anything, so long as it isn't illegal" is tricky, because legality varies from place to place, and the site owner is bound to follow the laws of wherever the server is (AFAIK.)

> example ive seen comments deleted here on hn related to drug culture, presumably because a drug is illegal in the usa

I've seen plenty of pro-drug content here, and people discussing their use openly. I doubt there is widespread censorship on that basis, more likely someone was being uncivil. Although arguably requiring civility is, itself, a kind of censorship.

Also, threads here are never actually deleted, just marked as dead. You can still see them with showdead turned on.

i could just as easily say, "almost no one wants a hacker discussion forum". "hackers" are a small subset of society.

it's fine for hn to exist and cater to this group, right? yet here, humor, satire, and a variety of "OK" things to discuss and share are considered off-topic and not permitted.

just like when hn started and people thought it would just turn into reddit, i do think its possible for a forum where free speech is celebrated to not turn into a nazi club.

i'm glad we have law abiding individuals in society. but make no mistake, laws and morals are not equal, and indeed if we cannot have a space to discuss things that are illegal but possibly moral, we're talking dystopia

>if we cannot have a space to discuss things that are illegal but possibly moral, we're talking dystopia

There are plenty of spaces to discuss such things, but not every space is obliged to play by those rules. And if you can't find one, nothing is stopping you from making one.

At the end of the day, every site is a petty dictatorship. That's true for HN, Reddit, Voat, 4chan, 8chan, the deep web, the dark web, wherever - whomever owns the site makes the rules and has arbitrary control over the content (unless the law says otherwise, or regardless of the law in some cases.) But not even the big social media silos control the entire thing. Google might derank my site, but they can't take it off the web (assuming they don't host it, somehow.) My hosting provider might take my site off the web, but I can find another.

I don't think we're anywhere near dystopia yet.

of course sites have their own policies. not sure i agree that "there are plenty of spaces to discuss such things". don't see many examples in this thread; only "gab" is mentioned as being tolerant of controversial/illegal subjects, and man, is it getting blasted for it. wikipedia describes it as a "haven for neo-nazis". yikes!

isn't there room for something simpler?

for example here on HN, was a discussion about staying motivated to work on challenging stuff. a comment about cocaine was deleted. well, the truth is, plenty of lawyers straight-up depend on that stuff, the way programmers depend on JAVA. why is this comment deleted? because it's bad? illegal? might tempt some kids to try it and ruin their life? whatever the reason for the censorship, the truth is being hidden aka “showdead".

so there are a couple of inter-related things going on here that i'd love to see addressed by a community, if not this community:

1. transparency. lobsters does this well. if there is going to be moderation and censorship, be transparent about it, and about why its happening. every change a mod makes on lobsters includes a "commit message" explaining the action. conversely users on hn get banned and may not even know..

2. free speech is about more than providing a space for neo-nazis and trolls and otherwise people who belong in jail or segregated from society. i think the analog is the academic vs the corporate world. we have scientists using up public money to think about stuff that may never have any actual value to society. but we enshrine their ability to do that work because its necessary in order to make discoveries. similarly, actual thought, genuine knowledge, which should be the end-goal of any discussion that is not merely rhetoric, ought to be concerned with arriving at some kind of truth or truthful conclusion. we can't do that if we are too broad with our censorship, as evidenced with the cocaine comment. pretending cocaine doesn't exist doesn't make you right when everything you've read says that tea is the most powerful stimulant.

3. to krapps point about petty dictators -- yes, indeed, and that's important so that communities can have identities and topics and focus and not just decay into noise. but it seems that providers -- you mention google, hosting companies, ISPs, etc -- all play it safe, and are absolutely not interested in participating in the free speech debate at all. thus they are very much gatekeepers. no, you cannot get popular online while being blacklisted on google, or kicked around from one host to another (at least it must be an order of magnitude more difficult, esp for niche communities). even self-hosting is not really a viable option. academic institutions are an option here, but i do worry about it changing in the future.

it's fine for hn to exist and cater to this group, right? yet here, humor, satire, and a variety of "OK" things to discuss and share are considered off-topic and not permitted

I think it depends a lot on how you discuss things.

agreed; i think its also probably exacerbated in certain cases due to the small (single?) qty of moderators on hn (ie strong potential bias); similar issues happen on wikipedia, where subject matter experts occassionally butt heads with editors

Humor is also not forbidden here. It's just hard to pull off, but I've had the occasional humorous remark upvoted by a good bit. (I've also gotten plenty of humorous remarks downvoted. It's hard to play to this crowd in that way.)

I'm a demographic outlier. I often stick out like a sore thumb. I've had to work at figuring HN out. It didn't come naturally.

I try to not take things too personally and to remember it's a forum with a whole lot of traffic, so you are occasionally going to get downvotes or not great replies just due to "laws of large numbers" kind of thing.

On a related note, i find most of the humor that does not get down voted really funny. I enjoy that. But I also u joy that every child comment is not trying to be a joke like on reddit.

Humor is tough partly because it's a tough crowd, I guess, and partly because there aren't as many native English speakers as there are on, say, Reddit.

An awful lot of humor is either really ugly stuff or vacuous. Either of those violates the guidelines here. Trying to be funny without being either ugly or vacuous sets the bar pretty high on what you can successfully joke about.

thank you for the showdead tip


The founder was kicked out of YC.

I've never actually read it, since its insistence on "absolute free speech" just causes it to be overrun by the worst users that no other service wants.

I think this is a good description of why an absolute free speech site will never flourish: https://youtu.be/r3snVCRo_bI

what you describe is basically just Reddit, but with the people nobody wants to talk to on Reddit ... so mostly just the people you don't want to talk to on Reddit talking to each other,which has no mass appeal

There was a time when Usenet has fluorished. History repeats itself, so never say never.

lots of things exist without mass appeal: hn, brussel sprouts, speedos, etc.

the real reason free speech forums don't exist isn't because "nobody" would use it. i suspect its merely the safest thing to do legally. nobody wants to get sued for some controversial content. simple as that.

"Nobody" except all the people who do.

I personally seek the most undesirable opinions in the depths of the worst comment sections - because there's knowledge about the world to be gleaned from all of that that I'll use as a competitive advantage against someone who couldn't be bothered to read something "icky" for a few seconds.

>because there's knowledge about the world to be gleaned from all of that that I'll use as a competitive advantage against someone who couldn't be bothered to read something "icky" for a few seconds.

Competitive advantage?

What secret wisdom, exactly, do you think the racists, pedos and trolls of the web possess and casually discuss that would give you anything of the sort?

People already know what such groups believe and how little value they add to society. They're not the fucking Illuminati, and you're not breaking new ground by seeking them out.

That's the thing though. The comments at the bottom aren't only racists pedos and trolls, there are also valid opinions that the hive mind has rejected.

There's no hivemind. Calling an opposing view part of a hivemind implies that people who disagree with you are either following a script or are incapable of agency, self-awareness or independent thought, when they simply hold opinions and values different from your own.

I use HN with showdead on by default, and I sometimes post a userscript for people to uncensor comments and I've complained about the greying out of downvoted comments often ... I understand wanting to read everything and make your own decisions about what's worth reading rather than have others make them for you. However, most of what winds up flagged deserves to be.

Look at the flagged comment at the bottom of this thread, for example. It's just a rant against the "global socialist LEFT." There's nothing there that no one has read before. Even if you agree with the "validity" of the opinion, it's just stereotypical anti-leftist edgelord nonsense.

And now and then, albeit rarely, perfectly legitimate and inoffensive comments do get flagged. I try to vouch them when I can. But even then, I have yet to see anything I'd consider a true jewel in the rough.

There seems to be a trend among people to consider content that goes against the establishment to be inherently more valuable than that which goes with it, as if offensiveness maps to truth. Seek the bottom of the barrel out if you want, but I think it's a mistake to expect enlightenment from it.

On sites like Reddit and HN, hiveminds absolutely occur from the voting algorithm. Content that caters to the lowest common denominator of the site or subreddit is what ends up at the top, and people with differing views stop expressing their views due to social pressure. Plus the owners of all social media sites have a financial incentive to influence the trends of the site and its users.

I'm not saying alternative viewpoints and free speech sites are all sugar and flowers, because they often are filled with deplorable content. I do feel, however, that they serve a purpose in providing alternatives to the corporate.

Normally I would agree with you, but websites that describe themselves as “absolute free speech” usually attract assholes.

It sounds like tilde here is just being honest. They likely do minimal moderation.

i think that's usually "good moderation is expensive, and we can't afford it"

I co-run a discourse community that basically operates on these rules. Absolutely nobody has been banned and weve had many...odd people come by at one point or another. Id rather not name it but I think the kind of thing youre describing is less rare than you think. It just relies on your existing userbase having thick skin and the willingness to self-moderate and come up with creative solutions for problematic users.

Would you happen to have any advice on cultivating such a community?

Similar subject areas to HN:


Only posts removed are spam and felonies.


Russian hacker community; this year they started an English version of the website (announcement: https://habr.com/en/company/tm/blog/435764/).

Obviously Reddit, particularly r/programming

Slashdot.org is still around

Metafilter.org is still going




I would advise against sorting by new on /r/programming. It's constantly bombarded with low quality content and people spamming low-quality tutorials and homework problems/solutions. /r/programming has something of an identity crisis.

The page announcing Tildes looks really promising. Any idea how large the user base is, so far?

There are about 8500 users registered in total. Activity fluctuates a bit, but lately it's pretty normal to have about 30 new topics posted every day, and a few hundred comments between them.

Lobsters is a really good site. The invite setup they have has been keeping the quality good, but they need a better way to get them out. I've been a lurker for a while now since they don't have a queue type system.

is there a way to display Slashdot just with headlines or with some simple introduction without full stories on mobile? it takes tons of scrolling to check what's interesting


since nobody helped, it's the closest you get, surprisingly there are much less wrappers for Slashdot than HN

Any way to get invites? :)

The idea is to have a vetted word of mouth so the legitimate way is to personally know someone who has been invited there.

Same :)

These are much smaller communities but not a lot of discussion in them.

https://www.echojs.com - HN for Javascript http://www.datatau.com - HN for data science.

I'm not kidding. I just came here from writing, elsewhere, about this very topic and mentioned that I thought HN has drifted--liberal, left leaning--over the years but not as bad as most and doesn't seem to have as many posts by kid pretenders.

Agree, there's clearly more left-leaning stuff on here than other positions.

Just few weeks ago I started a Slack workspace mvphacks.slack.com for all developers working on their MVPs, or developers who want to join with other developers to build their ideas together.

The aim is to allow developers to create their own channel for the project they are working on. The developers can then post about their project or idea under the "general" channel to invite others to their channel for participating in their project or idea.

Here is the invite: https://tinyurl.com/ybongxl2 in case you want to join.

Does StackExchange count?

It's been constant quality since it's existence

Stack exchange is awful. The moderators power has gone to their heads.

Why do you say this?

The most interesting questions (which made StackOverflow awesome in the past would be swiftly closed today because they are not specific enough or are highly opinionated. They are free to do so, of course, but it's a bit sad.

It's absolutely amazing for reading and learning. But if you have a question - then it has to have an objective answer.

Prismo (https://prismo.news/) will soon be opened to the public as far as I know. Code is on gitlab: https://gitlab.com/mbajur/prismo/

It is a project I've been following and seems pretty interesting. A federated reddit alternative, part of the fediverse.

I'm working on developing a new community (currently in stealth mode) associated with a well-known publication. Please let me know what you would like in a community forum (Discourse based). We're #deplatforming and want to make a place where great discussions happen.

The discourse community is in desperate need of more plugin development I think. Maybe your forum can foster some discussion on plugins or some in a subcategory or something. Alternatively, it could be a subcategory to specifically discuss discourse, as I feel like there could probably be more places to do that. I just think discussion on discourse is probably shut down a little quickly on the actual forum and that organic discussion from HN-type posters might lead to something that could benefit discourse admins who are interested in more, I guess you could say creative? uses for discourse. Theres just a big hole where bots and category customization and feature toggling could be, and I feel like Im probably not the only discourse admin who thinks that.

Curious about this - could you give some detail about what would be useful? Not a huge discourse user myself... (I can be reached at mk@{my-hn-username}.com


It's a fledgling community for social entrepreneurs. (full disclosure: I started the site).

It has yet to gain traction, but HN is what prompted me start this in the social impact space.

I meant to ask this myself. Maybe I'm just scared hn will go away one day and I won't have somewhere else to go

I found mewe has a couple of good groups. They're a bit small, but some really smart, nice people in them

For me, the best discussions lately have always happened in mailing lists, where there are no points system and patrons ignore useless threads.

On Reddit, the /devops sub is pretty good. Very low fluff, no link spamming. Very different from the overrun /webdev or /programming.

100k subscribers seems to be the point, more or less, where the community aspects of a subreddit starts to go downhill. If you can avoid/unsubscribe those, it can be a decent place.

Also, tacking /comments on to your subreddit url will show the most recent comments. This is pretty handy for finding the conversations in otherwise slow subreddits.

Time to build one

Is there anything for startups?

The community at indiehackers.com is quite helpful.

For Nomads and Travelling: https://nomadlist.com/forum/ For Low Level Geeks: https://lobste.rs/


reddit (some), lobste.rs, voat, freepo.st

voat is a dumpster fire full of nothing but racists, conspiracy nutjobs, and people with less than desirable views


"laarc is a tech mashup of Hacker News and Reddit by two long time fans of both forums.

The initial impetus behind the site is a desire to try to recapture the early spirit of Hacker News. HN currently has about 5 million visitors a month. It's different than it was back in the day when it was a much smaller group of people.

We're aiming for a cross between Pinboard and HN: a central place for all your bookmarks, with the ability to make private submissions. (pg mentioned that he used HN for all of YC's internal software in the early days; it's handy to have a place to keep all of your notes!)"

so what differentiates it from hn? it looks much like a clone to me

It's going to fundamentally be a different group of people and that will make it different.

Some technical differences:

It uses tags to try to categorize stuff somewhat. Unlike on HN, your threads page also has links to your posts, a feature I requested probably at a point where it was basically me and the guy coding it up kicking around ideas for a forum.

It's grown substantially in a short period of time, but it's still very new and if you want to shape a forum into a place with the kinds of discussion that interests you, it's an opportunity to do that.

>It's going to fundamentally be a different group of people and that will make it different.

Isn't it literally just HN users who know about it from here and the Arc forum?

I think you are right. Still for me, tagging is a killer feature. I am here only for /l/startups

Howdy! I run the site.

We see ourselves as complimentary to HN. HN is a wonderful community and I've made some dear friends for life here.

That said, some diffs:

1. The codebase is MIT licensed (per pg) and freely available: https://bit.ly/2E318hq

2. Submissions go straight to the front page. This won't last, but everyone has shown restraint and good taste so far. If something catches your interest and teaches us about the world, it's probably a good fit for the site; go ahead and submit it.

3. You can tag stories as whatever you want. Some of my favorites are:

essays|classics: https://bit.ly/2BrIoqo

!dev&!programming&!news: https://bit.ly/2GgGw7O

videos: https://bit.ly/2UPPagM

4. We have an active feature requests thread, and it's not uncommon for features to be implemented within a few hours after being requested: https://bit.ly/2THTgrb

5. Easter eggs!

- We just launched /l/place, a clone of reddit's old r/place. It's written in Arc: https://bit.ly/2UNwwpP

(Every pixel is a form with a submit button. Arc is awesome.)

- Chess easter egg: https://bit.ly/2thqlPc

- HTTP status code 418: I'm a teapot https://bit.ly/2GjRYQ2

- Terry Davis used to post to HN with "God says... {a bunch of random words}." One of his last comments revealed the script he used to generate those: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15609972

  #This prints random words from the Linux dictionary.

  echo "$(shuf -n 32 /usr/share/dict/words --random-source=/dev/urandom | tr '\n' ' ')"
So I set it up at the bottom of /l/templeos: https://bit.ly/2TCDP3z

I listen to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oY33uoBSw3w a lot. I wish I'd started the site sooner, so that Terry would've had a place to chat with people. Even youtube nuked his account.

6. We're developing an iOS app that you can pre-alpha test: https://bit.ly/2tev6cf

Some WIP screenshots: https://bit.ly/2SMFpmt

The app is pretty great for reading HN as well, so we're hoping to maybe offer both a site reader and an HN reader.

We have an Android plan too.

7. Much of the community hangs out in our Discord server: https://bit.ly/2URZcOx (There are some top-shelf programming memes in the #silliness channel. Feel free to append to it.)

8. Private submissions. If you submit to /l/private, no one can see the submission except you. I've been using the site as a personal bookmarking service, and I find myself using it more often than Pinboard nowadays. https://bit.ly/2WURqW0

(There's still the question of how to import 4,000 bookmarks from pinboard. not sure yet. https://bit.ly/2BulZsu)


Some similarities:

1. You can search comments and stories: https://bit.ly/2GypaCN

2. The community's growth curve aims to match HN's early growth curve. The tail is about equal now:


(pg on twitter: "The graph is the right shape".)

3. A vibrant community with quality conversation. You might like burntsushi's comment about his two-way string matching studies: https://bit.ly/2TE6VPT

4. You can show your projects and ask the community whatever you want. (The only threshold for a Show submission is that you have to have put significant work into whatever you're showing. That said, you don't need to have something for people to play with. It can be an idea you've been working on, an unfinished side project, or a full product launch.)



thanks for the detailed comparison (and laughs in #sillyness)! like it so far :)

Quora, at least better than Stackexchange.

Quora is pretty terrible. Loaded or stupid questions answered by some pretentious book seller.

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