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A List of Hacker News's Undocumented Features and Behaviors (github.com)
437 points by adanhawth 59 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 183 comments

I don't believe this is an actual feature, but I've noticed a trend that I've been calling "twos", where, at any given moment, a particular subject (present as a word or phrase in the article's title) will show up twice on the front page.

Funnily enough, currently the "twos" subject is "Hacker News", with this article and "What I've Learned from Hacker News" both being present in the front page at the same time.

I call birthday paradox: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_problem

Number of all possible topics is N, number of news on FP is 30. For example if N is 365, you would expect 70% chance that two separate items on FP mention the same topic.

Although, HN recurrence probably a bigger contributor. When a person gets reminded of some previous highly upvoted link and re-submits it. The highly upvoted link gets upvoted again and now you have two items on FP with similar keywords.

This only works if your sample space is small, whereas I'd argue the range of topics that can show up on Hacker News is nothing but ;)

I agree, but the range of topics which may be popular at any given time is narrower and two stories about a single topic are likely to trend at similar times shrinking the sample space somewhat.

We call those copycat posts and mostly downweight them, on the grounds that predictability makes HN less interesting.

If it's just the same theme, and not just another page on the same thing, why not encourage it instead?

Example: reddit.com/r/redditDayOf

Because front page space is the scarcest resource on HN, and there's more information in 30 distinct stories.

The natural place for follow-up links is, of course, the original thread.

Very often this is readers following some link, seeing other links from that page and submitting them.

That's how I interpret it as well. I also think interesting articles on a topic jog people's memory and cause them to re-submit interesting articles from the past on that topic.

Also often links that get mentioned in the comments of the original one.

Just one comment about vouch, which seems to have have changed behaviour fairly recently.

Used to be that if a shadowbanned user posted a clearly substantive comment a vouch would always (nearly always?) restore it. Now it never does - I guess vouch is now just a vote that needs x votes.

Suspect that's going to unintentionally have even more people talking to themselves, because they've not yet noticed the shadowban.

It is possible to lose vouching privileges if the mods feel the comments you're vouching for are uncivil or do more harm than good.

That's also possible. Don't think I have vouched for something that shouldn't, but I would say that, wouldn't I? :)

So have others noticed a change, or did I accidentally flag my own account somehow?

>or did I accidentally flag my own account somehow?

If you did, the mods won't necessarily tell you, you'll just have to email them and find out.

they notify you when you get banned. i’m currently one of them. I didn’t notice for a few days though because the site doesn’t have an obvious way of notifying you when you get a reply.

I've found https://www.hnreplies.com to be pretty useful.

One feature I’d like to see is the split between upvotes and downvotes on a comment. It’s a measure of controversiality which I would find more interesting than the net score.

Yes. I’d much rather read comments with a high number of votes and net zero score than the two other extremes.

Well you don't get to see other people's comment scores anyway. What I meant is for your own comments, seeing a score of +1 doesn't carry the same information than +15/-14.

Yep, I know. I was just riffing on your idea; I think the ranking algorithm should be tweaked a bit. Popularity contests don't lend to great debate or conversation. They tend to shut down one side at the expense of the other.

StackOverflow does this well. They allow you to click the sum total of votes to see the breakdown of upvotes versus downvotes.

There's a potential downside; some commentators may attenuate a strongly held opinion if they discover it is more polarising than they believed. Watering down debate isn't (usually) healthy.

(Rationally speaking, none of us will lie on our deathbeds wishing we'd collected more points in the internet popularity contest, but it's only human to change behaviour in response to external measures)

While we are on the subject of downvotes, I'd love to have it require a comment (reason) to downvote. Not knowing why something gets downvoted is super frustrating. The comment doesn't have to be visible in the default listing; it perhaps can be a side option/listing or pop-up.

It's not going to happen; it's part of the ethos of the site to downvote in lieu of writing insubstantial criticisms, a policy Paul Graham actually wrote out once long ago.

It's the right policy, I think. The last thing we need are dozens more one-line "why this sucks" comments on each thread.

Re: The last thing we need are dozens more one-line "why this sucks" comments on each thread.

The reasons can be semi-hidden. They don't have be part of the default visible thread. A small hyperlink or icon could be clicked on to view them. One doesn't see them unless they want to.

Some posts clearly deserve downvoting, for example trolling or spamming. I have however either made some controversial or unintentionally ignorant comments that have been downvoted. In those cases it would’ve been helpful to know why people thought an opinion or fact was wrong.

People naturally chime in with "here's why you might wanna rethink that" comments all the time. I think the system works without mandating negativity even though I share your frustration sometimes.

That happens anyways. When people have things to say on HN, they tend to say them. It's not an either/or thing.

Not often enough, in my opinion and observation.

lobste.rs does this pretty well, they require you to select one of the provided reasons for downvoting a comment. It gives direct feedback to the commenter as to why their comment was downvoted. The HN and reddit policy is, intentionally or not, "downvote if you disagree." Without any direct feedback mechanism, it will stay that way.

On HN, it's intentional. That is in fact the policy. It didn't just happen; it was a decision.

still a simple checkbox with a few well chosen reasons would be valuable. At the very least it would make you actually think of why you choose to downvote that specific comment. There are many nuances of disagreement, some deserving a downvote some not.

It's not going to be valuable. Would a simple checkbox with a few well-chosen reasons be valuable for upvotes? The difference isn't nuance or opportunity for self-improvement, it's just that getting downvoted feels bad and getting upvoted doesn't.

Whether it's "logical" in a universal sense is debatable, but removing a common known frustration of users is usually a good thing regardless. If purple walls anger your customers, then repaint them rather than argue that purple is logically better.

I didn't say it was 'logical' nor did I say dealing reducing user frustration is bad. Trying to address user frustration in this specific way is ill-considered and bad.

Direct feedback on HN is to leave a reply. When there's a lot of poison floating around a discussion, it doesn't work, but in many pleasant HN discussions it seems to work OK.

Tangentially, joining lobste.rs is a pain. I once hung around on chat asking for an invite and then gave up. HN on the other hand makes signing up just a matter of seconds, and also has a better breadth of content (because it doesn't make one jump through hoops to sign up). Given this context, the choice between a site where downvoting with a reason is available and a site where downvoting doesn't provide anything more is quite clear at least to me.

HN also uses a more interesting language (Arc) [lobste.rs uses Ruby, I think]. Though lobste.rs has a different feel, because it's not as big.

> I'd love to have it require a comment (reason) to downvote

This has been something I’ve wanted to see in Reddit for a while now. I just recently learned that lobste.rs has this feature, and some other interesting stuff like a public mod-log.


I’d like to add a disclaimer that there may be very good reasons not to do this on Reddit or HN, of which I am not aware.

Personally I've long wished we would just get rid of any type of approval signalling behavior for comments (across the web too, not just HN or reddit). Probably (almost certainly likely) in the minority on that one, though.

It allows more substantive and interesting comments to wander upwards and be more easily accessible/visible. I feel it works fine on HN, not sure why you'd want to remove that feature. Not all comments are equal and we shouldn't have to treat them that way.

It allows more substantive and interesting comments to wander upwards and be more easily accessible/visible.

I used to believe that, honestly, really did. Not anymore, not after watching how many communities actually behave themselves with vote mechanisms. One of those moments where something "looks good on paper" but not as much when the rubber meets the road, I'm finding a very real personal dislike with approval signaling/seeking features in online discussion groups.

"Not all comments are equal"

I don't believe that either. Maybe it's just a matter of my perspectives changing after the last 17 years on the internet, which is fine. Everyone has a different experience with it.

This same fatigue with "approval signaling" on online commentary extends all the way to Facebook and Twitter, which one of the many reasons I'm no longer on either platform. Reddit is probably the next go go, for all sorts of reasons, if I were to list them, "approval signaling" will most undoubtedly be on the list, but probably further down comparatively.

But I should also clarify, I didn't mean to directly advocate a full out feature request and say "get rid of up and downvotes" right here and now on HN, I was kind of thinking through my keyboard there, I full well realize that feature very likely isn't going anywhere here.

But I think that would lead to people preferring vote manipulation. If I agree with a title but I see it close to 50% upvotes/downvoted, I’m more prone to upvote it. Whereas I’m reality I might not upvote it anyways.

Not submissions which you can't downvote anyway. I meant comments, for which you can only see the score of your own anyway.

Unfortunately the site still has no way of doing bullet lists. If you try this is the result:

- One - Two - Three - Four

You can do this but it isn't clear that it is even a bulleted list (particularly with real content):

- One

- Two

- Three

- Four

It does support code blocks but that has strange boxing behavior making them hard to read even for actual code. For example:

      - Super long line that will box strangely for some reason... ! Long Line Long Line.    
      - One   
      - Two    
      - Three    
      - Four
As you move further down a reply thread the box around code blocks shrinks and scrolling increases. If you access the comments with increased font size, a mobile device, or a smaller browser window it also gets worse/happens sooner.

There's also now anti-hammering protection on the site (posting/replying/voting too fast) but it is far too easy to trigger. Just voting for a comment and hitting reply to that same comment can easily trigger it.

I think this should work

• one

• two

• three

• four

Lots of people posting random feature requests in here, but is HN even developed any more? The last significant changes I remember were two and a half years ago (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12073675) and I think even those were the first ones in a long time.

It's interesting to see that question show up, because we work so hard on the code. It makes sense that you'd ask it, though, because most of the changes are either not directly observable (like anti-spam or anti-voting-ring features), or are subtle. For example, you may have noticed more capitalized titles on the front page in the last couple days—but this is an experiment we're going to roll back.

One reason we don't do a lot of visible changes is that HN's minimalism is one of its biggest assets. Another is that users don't like things to change, and the internal pressures that cause companies to do arbitrary redesigns are thankfully not in play here.

Would it be possible to add a public changelog?

I wasn't trying to diminish the work being done, but I couldn't find a more recent official update announcement than the one I linked from 2016.

Public changelogs can create their own form of community feedback pressure which easily stretches the sustainability of development resources. Not that I would complain about it if it existed, but I can see how it would be counterproductive when the development goal as expressed seems to prioritize stabilization.

>Public changelogs can create their own form of community feedback pressure which easily stretches the sustainability of development resources

They can, but don't have to. There's no business need being served here like there would be with a startup getting feedback from customers, and HN isn't open sourced, so there's no direct way to do pull requests or report issues.

They could literally just publish changes and ignore people's opinions on the matter, that would be perfectly valid given their small staff and available commitment.

Also, if they wanted to keep feature requests and complaints off of HN proper, having a changelog or request thread might be an effective way to quarantine that content.

What kind of changes to the internals do you all do? And would you do a post on the architecture?

I assume there's been lots of work to make the site more efficient/reduce cost. "No [few] internal pressures" sounds like a great recipe for an interesting design.

We've done a lot of work on Arc implementations in the last couple years, but the biggest work still hasn't rolled out yet. If it succeeds, it will buy us a lot more performance. But again, visible features wouldn't change, except that hopefully we'll be able to stop paginating large threads.

Great. Looking forward to it. Would love a write up if possible.

What would make the most sense is to open-source it all. The trouble is that that takes a non-trivial amount of time.

A well designed official API would go a long way toward letting a thousand flowers bloom. I know there's web and mobile apps already out there, but IMO the average quality is not great. Which is not surprising, given the awkwardness of the existing firebase API, which probably keeps many developers away and eats too much of the efforts of those devs that do try their hand.

IMO, the higher barrier to entry is a benefit to this site. Features that would lower friction increase content dilution. From what I understand, this site is not trying to become Reddit.

There is no high barrier to entry here. You literally just have to fill out an HTML form, which everyone knows how to do. It's easier to join HN than it is many other sites, which at least include a second auth factor through email to verify an account. Some sites now require a social media account or validation of a real identity. Lobste.rs won't even talk to you unless someone vouches for you, and they read your existing posts on HN and elsewhere, and decide you're worth letting in. Even 4chan has more friction than HN.

And an API, practically by definition, is not a benefit to membership or a draw for whatever HN considers a typical user, much less the sort of "normie" non-technical user HN wants to keep away. The quality of comments is not maintained to a high standard by the API being more difficult to query than it could be, nor would it be diluted by the API being easier to use.

And as far as Reddit goes, a lot of content gets posted here from Reddit, and a lot of the userbase here are also Reddit users, making the cultural contempt HN has for Reddit more than a bit hypocritical.

A lot of people here, pg included, seem to assume that the "low tech" nature of the featureset here is keeping some flood of unwanted users away but I submit that the title of the site being "Hacker News", it being on a subdomain and the lack of evangelism on mainstream social media do a far better job of gatekeeping than purposely adding "friction" to frustrate people.

We are certainly not trying to keep non-technical users away. Where did you get that idea?

HN is for the intellectually curious. Many of the posts here are technical but there have always been plenty of non-technical discussions as well.

I was more referring to the community than the staff or its policies.

A lot of people here seem to believe the site is supposed to be for technical users and technical content onlym even though that never was the case. The negative impressions people seem to have about "turning into Reddit" or non-technical content diminishing the sites' quality feed into that stereotype, as does the belief that adding "features that reduce friction" would somehow dilute content.

But... the guidelines do use the qualifier "anything that good hackers would find interesting" for determining what's on topic, which does lead people to fill in the blanks for what a "good hacker" should find interesting.

Fair enough, though for what it's worth, I'm not interested in making an HN app that would make it super-smooth, pretty, and compulsively browseable, but rather a couple of power tools to make it easier to participate in and track discussions, and to enable a bit of a "batched, offline" experience.

We're planning to make a new API that gives a simple JSON version of any HN URL. Would that count?

Sure, that would be great. Will there also be endpoints for voting/favoriting/commenting?

Good question. I'm not sure. Probably we'll produce a complete read API first and then consider a write one. Maybe with proper credentialing there would be some value in it, since people have written lots of scraping clients that do it anyway.

Web changed from Google to DuckDuckGo.

But which features are missing?

There's quite a bit that could be added, without even touching the site's overall mechanics at all.

The markdown support is extremely minimal and doesn't support a lot of basics like quotes (which causes many people to "quote" by using a code block, which has issues).

A basic private messaging system would be really helpful in a lot of cases. Right now people always have to post email addresses publicly.

It would be nice to have some built-in visibility into things like title changes, link changes, etc. that mods do, instead of needing them to comment manually about everything they do.

They could implement some scraping to automatically add the year to older stories, instead of users needing to flag it and get the mods to do it manually all the time.

And so on.

Some people don't want to be contacted. If they want too, they add their email in their profile.

> The markdown support is extremely minimal and doesn't support a lot of basics like quotes (which causes many people to "quote" by using a code block, which has issues).

Obvious enough.

An extra button: moderated, is with a comment.

Scraping is different for each website.

My only wish is that dupes weren't marked as dupes. It's not like you are submitting with the intention of creating a duplicate link (normally), it should just take you there instead of a [dupe] mark on your submission.

I'd like to see a "rolling thread" feature where dupe threads (and links) are automatically merged into an existing thread, with older comments and subthreads being deleted over time.

Hacker News doesn't do a good job of avoiding duplicates anyway, might as well make that a feature.

> with older comments and subthreads being deleted over time

No, don't delete comments! Hide them if you must, but I always like being able to enjoy and send people link to comments from years ago.

Agreed, even comments from 5 years ago are often just as relevant now, and are often more substantive than more recent ones in the same article (in my experience).

The software already does that when it can. The [dupe] marks are added by moderators, or in some cases by user flagging. I'm sorry if it feels like a stigma—that's not the intention!—it's rather that otherwise a lot of complaints arise about why the story is buried.

I should add a section on dupes to the list, as the policy is a bit inconsistent (for example, a post on a subject that gets a lot of upvotes but is not the original source, might have the original source submission duped to that later submission.)

I'd like it to be easier to get to the search box, so fewer people would post dupes.

Not sure if this applies but new functionality will show up in your profile if you make it far enough in the YC application process. Our team landed an interview for the S2014 batch. There is a whole part of the site that you would only see during this process. I had questions in my profile during the application process (which normally does not appear) and when we were invited to interview there was scheduling tool where you could see the open slots over the four days of interviews. In our batch, they interviewed four teams at a time in 15-minute intervals and you could pick your time in this scheduling grid.


How can we report bugs in the Hacker News site?

My particular bug/request: the story submission form will trim page title suffixes for some popular sites, but the form's "too long" JavaScript check measures the original title length, not the auto-trimmed title length. So I often submit a story and have to manually trim the title suffix that would have been trimmed anyways for a story from the same site with a shorter title.

E-mail the mods, hn@ycombinator.com

Mine would be hitting back in Firefox for Android sometimes returns to a stale front page (when returning to the front page of HN).

>If a user has 251 Karma, they can set the color of the top bar in their profile settings

Why on earth is there a karma requirement for this, let alone such a high one?

I have exactly 251 karma, this is so exciting

user: mereel

created: July 21, 2017

karma: 250

You guys don't have to be mean…

Hahaha now I'm at 271

Nice! Consider this your rare opportunity to talk about your karma without repercussion. Don't make it a habit, though; I'm sure you have better things to talk about anyways ;)

Think of it like a video game, which often gives people surprises by unlocking the hidden feature based on unclear conditions. I was really impressed was I discovered it for the first time. This feature is more of a Easter egg than a practical option.

If you really NEED to change the color, you can simply load a custom CSS in your web browser.

Maybe we should add another. Any ideas?

It would be awesome to be able to see the up and down vote counts on comments. If you think showing that might adversely affect HN, you could make that super exclusive, like requiring over 10k in karma ;)

Enhance/increase the font size, the size of the voting buttons, the gap between the voting buttons, and the size of the collapse buttons for users who have more than 50 karma (they must have perseverance and patience to stick around, so why not reward them)? I really find the usability of these very difficult and hit the wrong one many a times. Simplicity is nice, but going through HN comments and acting on them is painful, more so on touchscreen devices.

Maybe top 5 users (by karma count) get to change their username color? Would be another meaningless change on theme.

I think those of us in top 5 auto-stigmatize about that fact enough without needing an explicit caste system, which are _impossible to make meaningless_.

Please no.

Didn't pg try something like this once?

I vaguely remember that, and that it lasted extremely briefly.

We really should have more Easter eggs.

I was disappointed that nothing unusual happened to my "past-life account" with 1000+ karma.

If you hit the threshold, enabling the flag for you, then you are downvoted below the threshold, do you lose access to the feature as well?

I was kind of disappointed when I found out about this because I had already written a Userscript to do it for me

Why do you have to collect coins just to change Mario's shirt?

It's not meant to be taken seriously.

But this is Hacker News, we have to take everything seriously.

I was hoping to learn about why sometimes comments can't be replied to, especially if they're deep in a thread. Can somebody fill me in?

Some kind of anti-flamewar feature. if there are multiple responses added in a very short time HN will temporarily hide "Reply" link.

Try clicking the time stamp link of the comment, you should be able to reply from there.

I don’t know if there’s a limit to thread depth?

One issue I've noticed which I'm surprised still exists is, on really large threads with 1000+ comments, collapsing threads becomes noticeably slow (multiple seconds long).

I was looking at the source code, and it seemed like collapsing recursively collapses all comments below it too?

Here's some features I wish we had:

- Overhauled voting system. Comment votes are effectively "like/dislike" buttons, and some people use them to help promote/discourage comments central to the discussion. If you get downvoted or upvoted you do not know why, and that helps no one. Slashdot implemented a useful feature for this over 20 years ago.

- Tags on submissions, which would enable very simple filtering by topics.

- New hidden sections to let us dig into dead or controversial stories (maybe /dead and /deadnew?). If you watch /newest, you'll sometimes notice information that is interesting or meaningful, but it's auto-killed. There's no way to only show dead info except to page back through /newest. It would also be neat if we could actually vote on these, even if they remain dead. I don't even need comments to work on them, I'd just like to occasionally look at content that either a bot or overzealous human deems 'inappropriate'.

On the last one, here's an example: I just found this dead article in /newest (https://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Renewable-Energy/The...) talking about the world's largest battery being built in Texas. It was submitted by protomyth, number 55 on the HN leaderboard. Of their past 30 submissions, 5 are dead, 1 has >100 votes, and 1 has >200 votes.

You can't easily find articles like this, because you have to keep paging back and paging back to find 30 or more dead articles. And you can't see the highest voted dead articles, so ones that might be interesting but were killed for some reason are also hard to find.

Small correction: the “web” link under a story now takes you to DuckDuckGo instead of Google.

Wait, what? When did this change?

Added it to the doc!

Very recently. Not a great change in my opinion. The google search always had the article in position one. The ddg so far has failed me every time. :(

I've had the same experience, unfortunately, so I think we're going to change it back.

> If the comment desaturation makes Hacker News difficult to read, you can click on the comment's timestamp to go to its page where the comment will no longer be faded, or you can install the CSS extension discussed here.

Or, you can select its text to see it in (typically) black on blue.

This doesn't work for me in Safari on a Mac. The text remains gray and is still quite hard to read against the blue background.

HN should update its color scheme. I use a quality IPS monitor with color calibration, and those comments are still hard to read.

I get white on blue, but yeah, I also do this and it's very readable.

Pretty cool report. Personally all I want is to be able to change my username, even if it means emailing and waiting a few days.

We do that! Email hn@ycombinator.com and ask.

Agreed, this would be nice to add. However, it would have been easier if everyone's primary identifier was a number, and a name was just an associated field. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that it was set up this way. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Anybody known if emailing the mods will let this happen?

Maybe add a displayname "on top" that gets displayed in discussions, while still showing the username in the profile so people don't impersonate each other, add a button to "flag displayname" on the profile so that can be reset if abused or even the privilege to set it revoked -- done?

Emailing the mods seems like a great way to know the answer to your question :)

It's interesting that you need at least 501 karma to be able to downvote comments and posts, but only 31 to flag submissions. Kind of surprising considering that they say a flag is essentially a "super" downvote.

Out of curiosity, how do comments get flagged?

You click the timestamp of the comment, which takes you to a page with more menu options. One of those is [flag]. I don't know how many flags it takes to convert a comment from normal to [flagged], or to dead.

Users with enough karma (I think it's 30?) flag them. You need to click on the actual link to the comment, which is where you can flag (or vouch!) for comments that you think break the guidelines (or were wrongly flagged).

This is a great list. It took me years to learn most of this stuff and I still learned a few things.

I always thought newbie names were red. Color deficiency sucks.

I think I was one of the first to join HN when I was only a teenager. I think 18. I miss the simple days! Went by so fast.

Interesting... this post caused me to finally look up what "delay" in the user settings does. As you might assume, it delays visibility of your comment for that number of minutes. I wrote this 2 minutes ago, see you in the future!

The ranking algorithm also isn't some simple votes/time metric. The flame war detector for posts is an example that is mentioned, but there are also some undocumented complexities on the comment side too.

An obvious one is brand new comments get a huge boost in the rankings compared to older comments. It is pretty common to see a few minute old comment at the top of a lot of comment threads. It also seems user reputation is a factor in this. A user with a good average karma score (a metric that used to be displayed publicly but is now hidden) seems to have their comments stay near the top longer than other users.

Re. comments lingering high based on account karma, I've suggested the same but dang says not. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16441687

Perhaps such remarks are retaining position by their own merit. An experienced or high quality commentator may simply produce remarks that are better received.

I don't know what to say other than there is something going on behinds the scenes that can be seen in play in this thread. My comment is 1 minute newer than another comment in this thread. My comment currently hasn't been upvoted yet is several spots higher in the thread. I tried upvoting the other comment and mine was still higher. My account has almost twice the karma and is older than the author of the other comment. It might not be 100% or even 1% karma related, but there seems to be some sort of user reputation effect.

I upvoted your remark and it immediately dropped down the page. Evidently I am typhoid mary for unfavourable comment ranking...

Joking aside, dang specifically denies there is a comment ranking adjustment due to account karma, but not other factors (such as account age, an unseen reputation field, your IP address/choice of web browser/#{1/user.name.size}).

We are the blind to Hacker News's elephant in this.

Haha, you are right. I think there is clear proof that it is more complicated than a simple ranking involving points and time. Anything beyond that is mere speculation without clarification from the mods.

Experienced or high quality commentators are significantly more likely to create comments that other Hacker News users are willing to upvote–I'm not sure that this translates to higher quality material, though.

Yes I chose my words carefully. Notwithstanding which, this forum does enjoy a higher SNR than many others and the crowdsourced quality measure certainly plays a part.

That's pretty well done and thorough. The wayback feature was one I hadn't noticed before, and it caused me to look at the account creation date - 12 years and 1 day ago! Wow...

Interesting post, I didn't know about some things like "/noobstories" or the karma needed for downvoting.

One feature I've been wanting lately is the ability to see only new comments since my last visit to the thread. I've thought about writing some sort of reader application for this or perhaps a browser plugin.

Even nicer would be something that takes into account comments I've actually read by using what my viewport has had open, but that may be less useful.

The inability to see new comments since your last visit is a feature. :-)

I just turned 24, I’ve been a software developer since I was 18-19,and it’s so interesting to go back in time and see what was going on in the HN universe on specific days in the past, way before I even got interested in tech (I was in 6th or 7th grade when HN started). I really wish I would’ve discovered my passion for tech earlier.

> but the minimum score is -4 points.

Is that true? I may misremember, but I thought I had comments in the minus a dozen or so.

Remark ordering also appears to incorporate freshness (new remarks get a moment at/near the top), and I may possibly have also observed a penalty box: hidden downweighting, or reduction in effective comment score, imposed by moderators upon troublesome users that weren't egregious enough to ban/shadowban.

This isn't the best place to do feature requests and I also strongly believe the more features HN gets the worserer it will become. But. anyway, my current top fave is this:

implement some kind of keystroke scheme to to basic page steerage in emacs/vi mode respecting ways, and ? to show what the keystrokes are

That may actually happen someday, because I wrote an HN client to help with moderation and it has all kinds of keyboard shortcuts for navigation. It's on my list to publish the navigation parts.

This would make me very happy.

You'd be welcome to bug us about it periodically at hn@ycombinator.com. The reason it's not done yet is that we have limited resources for working on software and there are always much higher-priority things to get done. But I really would like to get it out someday. Also, it's written in Arc using an Arc-to-JS implementation, which is fun.

I think I last bugged you about it, 2ish years ago. So, I'm happy you've got it on the backlog.

I think using front languages which "compile" to JS is a fine foonly thing to do. ghc-js and elm come to mind.

I really like cVim[0] for this. Think there's a couple of extensions for Firefox that accomplish the same thing.

[0] https://github.com/1995eaton/chromium-vim

Thank you. TIL. Given about 5-10 web pages I badly miss the google default steerage choices for gmail/photos &c, this may well fill a hole in my life.

So .. thank you kind HN reader.

I'm as surprised to see this posted by a green username as I am glad to know what a green username means after having read your submission.

Looks like /topcolors is getting hugged to death

You left out orange usernames

Flame-war detector remind me of the following short story by Scott Alexander


go into your profile and mark the ability to see [dead] comments. a lot of them are useful.

How do I turn off echo chamber mode where well-written posts that go against the mob thinking turn grey?

Got any examples for well-written grey posts? Most downvoted posts are not that amazing.

I have almost a conditioned reflex for upvoting grey posts at this point. The people who downvote are a weird crew that don't seem to judge by Reddit's "contributes to the discussion" standard.

HN doesn't have that standard. Not being Reddit doesn't make you weird.


Reddit's standard seems to contribute more directly to quality discussion than the haphazard result of pg's opinion, authoritative though it may be.

When voting is applied with no real guidelines or standards, it ceases to be an effective filter for anything but the immediate emotional zeitgeist, and this goes against HN's stated purpose of bias towards quality.

Pretty much all of HN is the "haphazard result of pg's opinion", no? That is an interesting way to describe creating something. I see no reason to mess with how HN has always worked, at least not where there's no obvious problem.

I know people have strong feelings about downvotes, but those feelings are rooted in something other than discussion quality. Everything I think I know about how to keep HN from deteriorating too badly tells me that the downvotes here serve a critical purpose—even though they're a crude weapon with a lot of downside.

>I know people have strong feelings about downvoting, but those feelings are rooted in something other than discussion quality.

How do you know? People have different opinions about what constitutes and contributes to quality. From what I've seen, a lot of people assume Reddit's standard should apply here, and they seem surprised to learn that it doesn't. Those people do seem to be concerned about discussion quality.

>Everything I think I know about how to keep HN from deteriorating too badly tells me that the downvotes here serve a critical purpose—even though they're a crude and imprecise weapon, with a lot of downside.

Fine... but why is it wrong to have a standard for downvotes?

The argument being made here is that arbitrary and excessive downvotes are a symptom of deterioration.

I appreciate your passion on topics HN-related!

Taking the last point first: HN downvotes aren't arbitrary and excessive. In most cases, not 99% but maybe 90 and certainly 80, it's easy to see why a comment has been downvoted—except when you agree with it on a topic that pushes your buttons, in which case you will always think the downvote was unfair, but then your opinion can't be trusted. (That applies to all us; we just have different buttons and agree with different things.)

That does leave a margin where the statistical vote cloud converges on a negative score unfairly. But how often does that really happen—maybe 10%? Once you account for the many factors of randomness, e.g. in who happens to see a comment, there's not much room left to make outcomes more precise. Certainly a feeble "rule change" wouldn't do it; if you think it would, try running an internet forum and telling users how to behave. You will quickly know how King Canute must have felt. We'd be better off hiring someone fair-minded to go through all the comments, find those 10%, and upvote them. But what a fate to subject a human being to.

> a symptom of deterioration

HN downvote behavior has been stable for a long time, so whatever's going on, I don't think it's deterioration. But if it is, then I go with what Voltaire said about coffee being a slow poison: it must be very slow.

> a lot of people assume Reddit's standard should apply here,

People assume Reddit's standards apply on HN because Reddit is 100x as big as HN, and therefore much better known even among HN users. This is a simple consequence of size. It has nothing to do with what Reddit's standards specifically are or how high its quality is. I respect Reddit—Reddit is an amazing achievement—but it is not where HN should be taking lessons in discussion quality.

> How do you know? People have different opinions about what constitutes and contributes to quality.

I don't know, but I'll tell you why I say it. The emotional dynamic in downvoting is very strong. It stings to get downvoted—it feels like you've been downvoted. It sucks for me as much as anyone. From observing this reaction in myself, and how people's statements about downvotes are connected to their feelings in thousands of cases, I believe that this emotional dynamic accounts for most of what people say on the topic. That's not a criticism; it's just how we are. But given that, it's easy to see how the common belief about downvotes arises: it's not that there was anything bad about my comment (impossible!)—it must rather be that some schmuck disagreed. Therefore, to make the world a better place, people shouldn't be allowed to downvote for disagreement. This is wishful thinking.

I can tell you for sure that, whatever beliefs we have about it, people overwhelmingly downvote based on how they feel about a comment, probably in the first 5 seconds. They're not following any "guidelines". Most don't even know what the guidelines are. It's just lizard-brain like/dislike. Suppose we changed the rules to ask users only to downvote under more refined conditions. Whose behavior would that modify? Not most people's—only that of the very most conscientious users. But those are precisely the users whose instincts should be trusted in the first place.

That is why I don't think we should set up such a rule: first, it's wishful thinking; second, no clear upside. And third, HN's origins are in a kind of counterintuitive minimalism that I think is worth something, and that it takes a certain stubbornness to preserve. Everyone disagrees with the specific acts of stubborn preservation, but somehow people end up liking, or like/hating, the sum it all adds up to.

The emotional dynamic in downvoting is very strong.c

Have you lot thought much about ways of reducing that, without changing the effect votes have on ordering? I subscribe to the 'emotional dynamic' theory of this and it seems like it's empirically testable without fiddling with the way the site much.

How would you reduce it?

You've already done some things to reduce it; for instance, by not greying out your own comments when you've been downvoted. Since comment scores have lots of jitter, you could also smooth out the displayed score, or delay updates. There's almost no time-value to comment scores, but I'd bet most of the pain in a downvote is confined to ~15 minutes from the posting of the comment.

Just the obvious stuff - you've already done things like that for upvotes. If we stipulate that having a grey, minus-y comment is some heavy public shaming shit to lay on users, it seems reasonable to try to apply it more judiciously. Are there really five distinct levels comment badness, each with a specific level of illegibility that the poster, let alone everyone else needs to know about? Is a +0-2=-2 comment, or a +20-22=-2 comment really terrible enough for sitewide opprobrium? What would happen if comments just sat at 1 until they hit -4 or below? Or if, for the purposes of display, everyone started with an invisible bonus of N? Theese and similar seem simple (like all work to be done by others) to try without as much as telling anyone.

you don't think think there could possibly be downsides from promoting only one set of viewpoints? That seems naive to say the least.

That doesn't follow.

Weird is better than Reddit, which tends to downvote for political and groupthink reasons, but it's still weird. I usually can't tell why the downvoters are downvoting. Their downvoting doesn't match the comments, so I just see them as weird and apart from the general users.

Funny. I wrote a userscript solely to upvote greyed-out comments, half in jest and half in honest frustration with this.

I'd link to it, but won't out of respect for dang. Look for it on my GitHub.


One of the best ways to get downvoted is to predict in advance why you'll be downvoted! In this case you appear to be setting up a narrative to claim downvoters are evidence of a particular ideological point, when instead they might be downvoting you because you're being a jerk.

You seem to have misread his comment. He predicted downvotes on the original submission, not his own comment.

He was wrong, but only because you have to click the link and read the full list to see the excerpt he quoted, when most people only read titles and comments.

This really does bug me. The whole "if-you-downvote-me-you're-a-jerk" sorta makes me want to, even if the comment itself has some kind of decent reasoning. With that said, i can also be frustrating when people downvote to invisibility things that are not wrong but with which they disagree.

I meant the overall post/link (where I quoted from), not my own comment.

Oops, you missed out the best bit from your quote: "(Unfortunately)" ;) - I was going to post a comment about how precious this is, but looks like you got here first on this subject, so I'm going to add a reply instead.

The fact that people here will generally flag this shit to death is good. This is a sign of maturity. The community has realised that discussions here on these topics are reliably unproductive, and will therefore kill them on sight.

"But what if this means killing the productive discussions here on this topic?" - well, it's a calculated risk...

It's less about privilege being challenged, more about "inclusion" being used to justify just about anything and often going too far.

Here's a comment in an official nodejs repository that got edited by a contributor to correct a pronoun on somebody else's post: https://github.com/nodejs/package-maintenance/issues/77#issu... (click the "edited" dropdown)

That you yourself come right out the gate guns blazing about "privilege" shows exactly why people prefer to just not have the discussion at all anymore on this forum. It seems more like flamebait and it never ends well.

This reminds me of the whole "master/slave" nonsense. Past HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17954823

I feel like you picked a bad example; I imagine it sucks to be referred to as "he" when you're not a "he".

> I imagine it sucks to be referred to as "he" when you're not a "he".

It does. But I wouldn't go and change someone else's speech to say something other than what they said, rather than just telling them politely, because it also sucks to have one's words twisted. In fact, to have it twisted while attached to your name (which is what happened here) is worse than being referred to by someone, in their words, in the wrong gender.


I think this has less to do with respect and more to do with detracting from the original discussion e.g. source code integrity having nothing to do with human genitalia.

Gender is also not about genitalia, fwiw.

I see that the author of the edited comment got defensive about it and went on an irrelevant rant about singular they. Wish people like that would grow up a bit.

Eh, having others edit comments attributed to us is weird, regardless of the context, I can see why people would get defensive. At least SO shows the editing user pretty clearly, on Github it's almost invisible.

Nah. I think it's just aversion to culture war. I know I get more than enough of my fill on Twitter.

A new account posting a very old and famous post... almost looks like karma farming...

I've never seen it before, and I've been reading HN for years. A new user might naturally be interested in undocumented features and stumble upon.

I can't help but notice that it's still missing `noprocrast` and related settings.

I maintain a list of resources here https://github.com/keithn/HackerNewsCommunity I'd actually added this list a year ago, but forgot about it, then just added it again, and had to remove it again as I realized it was dupe :)

noprocrast is documented in the FAQ: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html

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