There is a strong commitment by the community to prevent the site becoming like digg, reddit, or slashdot. Losing focus on the topics that brought us here in the first place (technology, startup culture, and programming) is the first step on that path in my opinion.
All I can ask is please, try not to submit/vote up stories which are not particularly related to tech. It's not what I'm interested in discussing in this particular venue.
Or maybe I'm just in the minority. I guess time will tell.
P.S. Just because you put the word "Hacker" in your article/title, doesn't mean it belongs here.
Politics is involved with _everything_ the world has to offer; and more specifically, politics is fundamentally bound to technology.
The fact that people like making 'cool stuff', will always have a flip-side. We need to be able to talk about the way that technology is utilised and that (necessarily) involves political discussion.
Without this kind of discussion, people involved in the tech industry are destined to become unthinking drones .. consideration of ethics and politics is essential if technology stands any chance of making the world a better place.
I completely agree, but it is considered impolite on HN to call attention to the fact. Just as it is considered impolite to call too much attention to politics in many parts of real life.
And it is true, of course, that the impossibility of discussing certain issues on HN means that HN is a very poor substitute for the rest of your life. But that's true of any group. You need other communities, other activities, other obsessions than just one.
Well, I suppose that's one explanation for why so many people in society could be described as apathetic lame ducks :)
Perhaps a lot of people would like to question what goes on in the world, but don't wish to offend.
[..] and more specifically, politics is fundamentally bound to technology.
The fact is, technology is closely linked to politics. If you want to convince me that political discussion is out, I think I'd need more than guidelines re. etiquette to stop me ;)
There's a difference between something that happens to be politics and touches very directly on subjects germane to this site, and inviting in politics articles of every shape and form.
> Without this kind of discussion, people involved in the tech industry are destined to become unthinking drones
Uh, no we aren't. Our lives do not revolve around this site and many of us manage to think about politics, economics, history, bicycle racing, and many other fascinating topics without discussing them here.
Your point of view completely baffles me.
"Why shouldn't we be willing to debate and explore a subject in depth?"
Good question! I would be happy to debate and explore political ideas in depth. (That's why I hang around some politically- and economically-focused blogs, and I chat about politics with my friends, and I read the writing of experts.)
But how on earth can you call Hacker News posts about politics "debating" or "exploring a subject in depth?" They are the absolute opposite of depth! Pseudonymous, evanescent discussions, where you stick around for a few hours and a few comments at most; you have no commitment to defend your words or argue sincerely, and half of the commenters don't know what the other half said last week on the same topic. Could you possibly think of a worse format for "debating?"
At the very best I have ever seen, Hacker News debates are someone who sounds smart stating a reasonable-sounding position, and then someone else who sounds smart suggesting that there might be reasonable-sounding problems with the reasonable-sounding position. Then after a dozen posts about the position it's off the front page and forgotten. That is the nature of this medium. Usually, everyone just lines up behind their premeditated arguments and fires upvotes and downvotes at each other until they see another interesting post.
Places that are reasonable for debating and exploring a subject in depth: A small, focused community that's willing to build on their prior discussions over the course of months or years. Talking with friends with whom you have a shared, growing, and conscious context in common. Books, essays, and other long-form prose where you can present your whole position at once. NOT here. At least I've never seen it happen, and I don't see how it could.
So if someone wrote an essay about net-neutrality (which is almost entirely a political issue), that shouldn't be posted or discussed here?
That may have been true for the first TSA post about backscatter scanners and pat-downs, for example. But it wasn't true for most of the next hundred.
Or at least .. little to do with banning political discussion.
I fully agree that a subject can only really be discussed a few times before it's boring - and only a few more after that before it becomes downright annoying - but I think this is a separate issue.
I'm sure it's possible to dig up more examples.
It just goes around and around and around. Please leave us our wonderful site for tech and startups and take the politics elsewhere.
In the 2+ years I've been coming to hacker news I don't really feel the subjects have changed, there has always been broader political, economics, education topics on top of tech and startups.
I don't think it's a fair comparison.
Politics can directly relate to tech and startups.
But clearly, you disagree with me.
I think I understand what you're saying, but I don't think that's reason to _not_ try to have decent discussions about politics when it relates to technology.
HN already has systems in place which make people pause before replying consecutively, which goes a long way to discouraging flame wars.
In any case, politics doesn't need to be about enforcing a point of view - it's about exploring options.
Net neutrality is almost completely political - should discussion about this be killed?
Copyright legislation is almost completely political - should this be killed too??
Limiting discussion to things which feel 'safe' isn't constructive imo.
Just because something is worth discussing doesn't mean it's appropriate here: I get my politics news from newspapers and my tech news from HN, and I like it that way.
Whether you like it or not, technology doesn't happen in a vacuum. Technology relates to people and society in a big way.
When usage of a device (like the millimetre wave scanner) is misguided and unappreciated by a large number of people, why on earth _shouldn't_ it be discussed on a tech forum?
It's not enough to take the view that 'I just make the stuff .. other people can choose whether it's a good idea'.
We all have a responsibility to consider whether what we create is going to result in anything 'good' and what 'good' actually means.
.. or are you claiming you only express facts ;)
Which itself is a problem because the threshold is so low.
By even the most conservative estimates there are thousands of people visiting the site every day yet it only takes a handful or so to get an item to the front page.
So even if 99.5% of the people here make a "strong commitment" as you put it the front page will still be flooded with all those TSA stories
As you say, currently there's no way to say "there's nothing interesting on the front page" even if a majority think that.
In any case, here is the official NH policy:
"What to Submit
On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity."
It may well be true that the threshold for stories appearing on the front page needs to be revised, but if you only ever read the front page then you are also doing nothing to select stories of quality and relevance to appear there. Perhaps you should personally be doing more to raise the quality of the front page in whatever direction you feel appropriate.
And yes, I am a newcomer.
I believe the most appropriate of responses here is, no, not necessarily.
In the end, communities defined and redefine themselves, and they do so constantly. One way to keep the level and content of discussions in acceptable territory is to restate, emphasize or otherwise promote the original purpose of the community. Discussions such as this help, if each party isn't entirely focused on mindlessly arguing with other and actually try to understand where their fellow HN-er is coming from, I suppose.
Keep in mind that the sentiment, as you put it, of the grandparent does not necessarily imply the elitism you so readily cauterize. Like it or not, communities have a narrow focus, at least narrow in the sense that contradicts a sentence like "Politics are ubiquitous!". Insight and enlightenment in this particular area of focus usually has a prerequisite the deep and fundamental familiarity with said subject.
Your point about the front page I liked alot. I noticed I only view the front page, deliberate as that may be. I wonder what gems I might be missing..
Or are people perhaps bemoaning the current state of HN just like so many old folks complaining that everything is going downhill and "it's not as good as it was in my day?"
I've answered your questions; have you read my post? Some people (eg. OP) merely point out the community is deviating from its focus. This is not necessarily a good or bad thing and it's not complaining rather than introspection of the community. Some people don't like the end result and leave, others stay behind to "evolve" the community.
I don't understand why you're (and others, admittedly) being so fast to condemn the "old folk". Even if you don't agree with their style of writing or their attitude, they have experience (inside the community, of course) you don't and know its issues quite well.
As a community, is that true, or is it "submit/vote up stories which are not particularly related to technology, startup culture, and programming?" That's my preference, but I also came in a few generations after HN started.
The standards for what's germane to Hacker News have gotten looser. TSA is only the most recent example. What's especially toxic about this fact is that you don't notice it until it gets really bad. That's because most of these stories have nerd-structured narratives, involving tradeoffs and logic and subtext and affordances for contrarianism, which bait commenters. Having participated in a TSA discussion (for instance), you become socially committed to the idea that they're relevant to Hacker News.
Hacker News has become much more self-referential. All due respect to 'lionhearted and 'DanielBMarkham and 'jacquesm, but there have been many stories voted to the top of the site on content that wouldn't stand had they been written by an "outsider". There's a clear name-recognition bias. That's not the author's fault (it's their blog, they should write what they want), but it does make the site feel insular.
I'll go out on a limb though and assert that insularity is something 'pg cultivates. My most recent cue on that was his encouraging response to "Offer HN".
Like it did for Matt, Hacker News has killed any desire I have to write standalone content. I haven't blogged in over a year. A book idea I was tossing around has been dead for longer. Hacker News fills the same psychological place for me that Usenet did in the 1990s, when I also didn't write a lot of standalone content. Now, for me, this is actually a good thing; I dove into HN while fleeing the "blogosphere". But I can see it being a problem for someone else.
Having said all that: I get tremendous value out of HN. I've met tons of people running startups, I've done business with some of them, I get to carry on long-running conversations with people like Patrick McKenzie and Colin Percival, I've hired several awesome people off the site, and I'm still impressed by the newcomers (for instance, go read 'carbocation's backlog of comments on biology and medicine).
Perhaps I'd like to see people a little quicker with the "flag" button; perhaps I'd like to see the site tuned so that flaggers can more easily win the race against thoughtless up-voters. And it might be nice if we could take a break from blog posts by long-time contributors; maybe we can switch to a "best-of" 'lionhearted mentality, instead of a "today's" 'lionhearted mentality.
But, while it sucks to lose Matt (he seemed like one of the more no-bullshit members of the site), I'm not as alarmed as he seems to be about the decline of HN.
What happens when the 'thoughtless upvoters' find the flag button as well though? I don't think flagging posts is the solution to this problem.
People are never going to see eye to eye about what content belongs on the site and what content doesn't. There's no amount of convincing or flagging you can do to change this.
This is a tech-centric community, there's enough talent here to come up with a good tech-centric solution to the problem.
Something as simple as being able to apply a subtractive filter to the main page could go a long way. I.E. '-TSA -scanner' or something along those lines.
Off-Topic: Most stories about politics, or crime, or sports, unless they're evidence of some interesting new phenomenon. Videos of pratfalls or disasters, or cute animal pictures. If they'd cover it on TV news, it's probably off-topic.
The first TSA post was (marginally) germane. The TSA is now on the front page of CNN. Unfortunately, HN "blessed" the topic by spinning off gigantic discussion threads on early TSA stories. So, even though this is a current events topic currently being covered on network TV news, it still finds a place here.
I bring this up not to further the argument about the TSA on Hacker News, but rather to demonstrate a pathology that occurs when we accept borderline stories that end up breeding months-long narratives in dribs-and-drabs. I also say this as someone who has written many hundreds of words here in comments on TSA stories.
As for filtering the front page: you might as well suggest "sub-HN's", like Reddit. Part of the point of the site is that it focuses a lot of interesting brains on a single spool of stories and discussions.
PS: For what it's worth, this is actually not a tech-centric community full of tech-centric ideas for community building problems. HN is a deliberately simple site curated by a single guy who started it as a demo for his programming language and liked where it went. Very few of the technical ideas anyone has proposed for this site have been tried, much less adopted; that's just not how HN works. This is a community governed by norms more than by code.
I'm not taking sides here, and throwing the rulebook at me isn't helping to solve the problem.
The filtering suggestions was the first example technological approach to solving the problem that popped into my head. I agree that there's a danger of fragmenting the community with that sort of change, but filtering out '-TSA' is hardly the equivalent of having a 'TSA sub-HN'.
Regardless of whether the filtering idea is good or not, I'd like to see more suggestions on how to fix the problem.
If we're going to "- TSA" filter the site, I'd be happy if 'pg just fired up a REPL and did that to news.arc.
The guidelines leave an opening for politics and even religion, so long as you're contributing something genuinely new, which has been true of a few of the TSA stories.
The rest need to be flagged aggressively.
and they cover Twitter, Google, Facebook, etc. on TV news. they all seem to be popular on HN
That there is someone here that can write engagingly about the dosimetry of backscatter machines proves my point. Yes, there are TSA discussions that have value to HN. That's the mouse hole the swarm of TSA stories crept in through. This is the pathology I'm talking about.
"Anything that good hackers would find interesting" is a norm that is being abused.
If PG doesn't want to do that due to performance issues, maybe one of the useful Chrome/Firefox plugins out there could add that at the browser level. I'll try to build this one of these weekends; will post it if it works well.
Basically it would allow each person to filter out stories based on keywords (perhaps "TSA", "iPad", or whatever their pet peeve is), by URL (to get rid of blogs they don't want to see), or by user (in the case of personal feuds).
In the end I started working on another startup before I got into this idea, but someone else might enjoy working on it.
Since I am the only person on HN who does this (my meme has not taken root), I'm not going to take your concern about my idiosyncrasies contributing to the insularity of HN too seriously.
This isn't clear from your comment, but: you do understand that I said Twitter users' use of @user is annoying and offputting to outsiders, not an example to follow?
That said, this isn't a big issue for me; feel free to ignore this comment!
I do believe the TSA stories represent a danger. If there's a road from hacking to politics, it's probably civil liberties. So already for the past week TSA stories have had an automatic penalty applied. Or more precisly, they've been autotagged as being political, which entails a penalty.
There are no TSA stories on the frontpage at this moment. In fact, the frontpage is a pretty normal HN frontpage now.
I have a suspicion that the more the underlying principles are important, the more things tend to decay into discussions that aren't particularly useful. Offhand, I can think of numerous issues that are far more important to the world than pretty much anything on the front page:
* Ireland and the Euro.
* Will Berlusconi finally be turfed out of office? Will it be for good?
* Health care in the US and the broader debate of taxes and the deficit.
* The upcoming vote for independence in South Sudan.
* Korea and Iran's nuclear capabilities.
And so on and so forth. Indeed, we could entirely crowd out "hacker news" topics with those that, I think are objectively more important in that they impact more people more deeply than Ruby on Rails ever will. I would be very disappointed to see this happen.
This comment thread is a perfect example of fanboy pile-on voting against a well-reasoned but unpopular point of view : http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1888239.
Don't you think turning off HN (literally) for a few hours every now and then will help? Sure, it won't be convenient and some people will complain but it's still worth a shot. It will at least improve the world's productivity by a few % points. The next Google might be born.
We cannot live in a complete vacuum, as many of us that center ourselves around technology do. For some background, I used to be extremely politically active when I lived in South Florida. I ran the Miami Indymedia branch for several years. I got my ass thrown in jail for being on a sidewalk at an FTAA protest and videoing it. I got burned out.
When I moved to SF in 2007, I was disillusioned with politics. I discovered that going to rallies accomplishes little. In a very relevant way, the protest community in Miami was very similar to HN. We only talked to each other and got our information from other Indymedia sites where similarly minded people around the world posted similar thoughts. That's why I got burned out.
So while you are well intentioned in penalizing TSA stories, does it stop there? When the US government makes another serious affront to human dignity next year, is HN going to filter that as well? It's ok for us to post Ask HN type questions all the time, or to post about new weekend projects that mashup Google Maps, checkins, and chickens, but it's not ok to post about serious items of public interest that affect HN-members, their friends, and their families?
I trust the people of HN, based on all of the previously mentioned reasons.
So just for the links alone, HN is a good visit!
What if we could "fold" multiple stories into a single discussion? That would probably help with topic floods by collapsing a given popular topic and help discussion by concentrating it.
In your view, is the "no politics" rule here one that matters?
HN has become more and more general news and less technical or startup related over the past couple of years, but the last few months have been especially bad.
It's got significantly less value for me today than it has previously... it just sucks that it's still the only game in town. Now it feels like there's a cult of personality here; that vapid, content-free submissions gather a surprisingly large number of votes. Comments have mostly stayed good, but the reddit lulziness is starting to creep in there as well.
I do think that pg has done an excellent job in making adjustments to the site as it has grown; the rating mechanism on the front page seems especially well tuned, and trolls get [dead]ed very quickly. I think this might just be a symptom of community growth & dilution.
I remember when I made "Diary of a Failed Startup" public. It shot to the top of HN, and the top comment was tptackek's "More posts like this, plz." But that one link was a year of accumulated startup lessons learned, experiences, and emotional reactions to things along my startup journey. And it fell off the HN front page in a day and a half. Just by the numbers, posts like that can only make a small portion of total links submitted.
The same thing when I submitted "Write yourself a Scheme in 48 hours". Shot to the top of Reddit and HN, stayed there for maybe a day. Took 3 months to write. Compare that with the volume of material that can be produced by a blogger who spends a couple hours on each post.
When a new social news site becomes popular, people immediately start submitting all the favorite links they remember from years past. But that's selecting the cream of the crop from the last 15 years of posts. Once the community reaches a steady-state, all of those posts have already been read before, and it takes a long time to produce new ones. Instead of becoming a selection of the best articles published over the last 15 years, it becomes a selection of the best articles published in the last day. The latter will naturally have far less quality than the former.
My personal solution has been to care less about consuming content and more about producing it as I've gotten older. This sorta sucks. Producing interesting content is a long, hard slog where you investigate lots of ideas that nobody wants to hear about before finding one that people do. Consuming it gives you the immediate satisfaction of thinking "Hey, I'm smarter than I was fifteen minutes ago." But ultimately, I'd rather be part of the solution than part of the problem.
(And the irony isn't lost among me that this comment is probably part of the problem, being dashed off in ten minutes or so.)
I'm reminded of some of the recent articles about how the corporate environment needs to adapt to millenials so they can profit from their amazing technology skills of the new generation. It's great that the kids know how to use Twitter and Facebook, and yes there are some nice marketing opportunities there, but let's not kid ourselves: most people are not changing the world with their mobile phones, they're distracting themselves and killing their productivity. In Silicon Valley there is this social pressure to stay on top of technology fads so as not to appear clueless, but a hermit who holes himself up in a cave for a year to work on an invention is much more likely to do something truly interesting than people who are so concerned with staying up to the minute that they're all rehashing the same ideas in rapid cycles with no downtime.
It can be a thankless task at times, given that the longer a piece is the smaller a section of the audience that reads through it is. Those people will get far more value though.
A little while back one of the guys from the YC startup adioso was talking to me about their new version. Someone from techcrunch did a quick 15 minute interview and pushed out a shortish post complete with concept misunderstandings. Another site (which I forget now and can't find) did a real in depth interview and a multiple page write up but probably only grabbed a small fraction of the attention the short error filled techcrunch post would have had.
Many social sites start with a small community of thoughtful, intelligent people because they were created by those people. Certainly this is how reddit started, and HackerNews after it. Then as the site becomes more popular, the masses (and particularly the immature masses) join up. As the masses join up they start outnumbering the founders, and the center of gravity of the site moves towards the lowest common denominator. This makes the site even more interesting to the masses, who join in greater numbers, and so on.
Current sites are on different positions on this timeline right now. At the far end is HackerNews. Reddit is more devolved -- because it's older and because of the digg debacle. Then probably comes digg. At the far end of the sewer of the masses is 4chan. But make no mistake: all these sites are gravitating towards 4chan-ness. It is unavoidable. Our only hope is that as sites slip towards oblivion, new ones take their place at the top of the hierarchy.
I suspect the #1 reason why these sites devolve is because their handles are anonymous. This gives you leave to be a jackass where you'd never do that in reality.
I have decided to test this. On reddit or digg or whatnot I have my own name as a handle for official announcements, and of course I have various anonymous accounts, including novelty accounts. I'm sure that's the case for everyone here. But on HN I solely post under my own name, and have no anonymous accounts at all. Numerous times I'd write some snarky thing on HN only to delete it at the last minute as I realized that this was going out under my real name. As a result I think my comment quality has been radically better and more thoughtful than it has been on, say, reddit.
I still think the flow is unavoidable. But I wonder if HN could at least slow the inevitable flow towards oblivion by requiring real names.
I would definitely support a requirement that real names be used. That said, I don't think that real names will "stem the flow toward oblivion." Having to provide your real name might stop someone from posting porn (as on 4chan, Reddit, etc.) but when it comes to quality of posts as we demand on HN there is nothing immoral or particularly embarrassing about submitting an article on the TSA. Non-anonymity only stops people if what they are doing will embarrass them or get them in trouble.
HN mostly ignored it, and Reddit users were rather hostile to the idea.
You can read the details at - http://e1ven.com/2010/09/15/lonava-com-retrospective/
In large part, I'm sure, I marketed it badly. But I'm also fairly confident that Real Names is one of those features that people wish "everyone else" would use, but aren't thrilled about using themselves.
Membership is by invite only. Whenever someone gets banned (for any reason), the person who invited them gets banned (recursively).
If I understand your "(recursively)" part correctly, this could make for a really interesting mass-shedding of users the first time anyone was banned. Like watching Filezilla delete a directory structure ...
I'm not certain how to deal with the problem of initial members / founders. Surely the founder would not set up the system so they would be banned the first time someone was banned. It seems there would need to be a set of unbannables, including the founder.
I suppose you would need to handle the detached leaves of the tree too. This brings the unbannables back into play. So if A was an unbannable and had invited B, B had invited C1 and C2 and C3, C1 had invited D and D got banned, C1 and B would also be banned, and C2 and C3 would be considered invited by A.
I think this is getting far too complicated to be practical.
But honestly, that leads to very complicated systems, lots of angry banned people, … anonymity, in moderation, is good.
I'm wondering if it's possible to get this sort of results with a non-technical site, though.
More users need to be given the right to flag articles. It's risky, and there has to be some learning on the part of HN. The sooner the better, or it will become harder to determine who should best have those rights.
Would be nice to be able to fork HN, like git, with parameters of the forkers choosing. Kind of a deme model, where you could possibly merge your fork back into HN if it had enough meta-karma.
An example of a simple fork, would be to limit posting to once per user per thread. This might concentrate the contribution of certain overactive users? Would be good to be able to run the experiment, in a fork, and abandon if it was not fruitful.
Another fork might be a PG-free zone, deus abscondicus... this might prevent the suppression of dissent? Because users would not use votes to magnetically align with the Founder.
Almost everything in life can adopt 'story' as a metaphor.
(What I'm trying to say, is that HN won't be good forever, and it won't be around for ever either... it's a fact of life.)
I suspect this is endemic to many (most?) community sites, especially as they grow. HN is no exception.
> 5. It’s a time suck. That one’s self-explanatory to anyone who has used the site.
So does the rest of the Internet.
> 6. It removes comments from where they should be, on the destination site.
Many sites linked to from Hacker News, like Daring Fireball, do not support commenting. Others require user registration. Either way, I read the HN comments on an article first, every time, and I use that discussion to help me evaluate if I even want to read the source article.
> 7. It reduces blogging time.
Probably the worst part is the time-sink and the predictable nature of the comments. Most of the time I can tell from the title what all the comments are going to be like. Anybody that tries to swim against the stream, if only a little bit, can be mercilessly punished. In fact, it's somewhat of a game to see how even-handed I can make a thread -- human hacking. Which makes it even more of a time sink.
HN has changed for me from being a site where I can hang out with fellow hackers to being a site where people I like hang out and spend too much of their time. I'm trying very hard not to make the same mistake. Hopefully I won't be joining Matt. (Lunch is over. Back to work)
The time sink factor is also obvious. However, I tend to swing back and forth between very productive and not very productive. When I am in a coding mood I rarely browse HN or comment and instead I hack like crazy for hours every day. When I am burned out or feeling like I need a break from chasing some bug I'll stop by here and read.
So the time sink aspect is doable for me at least. No one can work constantly, without any breaks, and maintain their sanity.
I disagree with HNers(mostly because I offered radical opinions) all the time. Sometime I get downvoted, sometime I got lot of points. There will alway be assholes who downvote people for simply disagreeing but they're outweighed by people who vote me up for adding to the conversation.
That's too bad, because you can.
Stop worrying about your karma.
Naturally the reverse is also true and you can't help but not want either number to fall. In my case at least these feelings are involuntary, despite the fact that I know these are pretty much worthless numbers. (Except for the fact that karma average does effect the weight of your votes.)
That Matt's blog post made the front page is a case in point.
I don't know. Do you monitor the 'new' page at all? The SNR there is certainly worse, but I do come across submissions I enjoy far more than practically anything on the front page these days. I realise that submission quality is subjective; I guess the community's average opinion on this has diverged far enough from mine that the front page isn't doing it for me anymore. Due to the low SNR (and rate of change) on the 'new' page, consuming HN via it is even more time consuming than normal.
I do catch myself idly looking through front page discussions and even commenting, but there is zero intellectual value in it most of the time. At least I don't upvote the stories.
/classic is slightly better on the surface. (currently 6 upvoted stories by me vs 3 on the frontpage) Unfortunately, submissions seem to hang around there for longer than on the frontpage, so it's like a distilled version of the front page's top 60 into 30, not a truly different set.
I have noticed this and unfortunately have to agree with this observation. I wonder what principle (teaching) lets hackernews people behave like that.
Perhaps I'm just sensitive because I grew up poor, and perhaps they're not because they never, ever had to. But, it seems that they haven't even traveled outside their comfort zones to at least take a peek at the "other half". Because of that, most of them have "common sense" solutions that are about as "let them eat cake" as can be without actually coming out and saying that (such as "just go out and get a job! I have one, and I'm fine!").
Unfortunately, that won't change here. Entrepreneurs, by our very nature, need to be cool to these sorts of fundamental problems (unless that's our problem space); we simply need to hunker down, eyes on our work, and barrel forth.
I think this is the reason Hacker News exists. The comment threads on destination sites are scattered across the Internet and do not bring any one community together. They are also often filled with some of the least desirable commentary possible. Read any of the comments on a Washington Post article, say, for an example of the rubbish that is exceeded only by Youtube commentary.
As for the "downvotes to show disagreement" problem, it's no where near as bad here as it is every single other place I've seen with downvotes. I do see one sided upvoting fairly frequently, but it usually is because the downvoted side is not arguing their position well, not because of their position. I'd say that the reverse is more of a problem, actually (poorly worded arguments that most HNers agree with being upvoted). Overall though, most downvotes I've seen have been due to poorly thought out or worded comments and comments that don't add value rather than disagreements. If you're downvoted here, you should generally put some thought into why. Every single time I've been downvoted, I've learned something from it.
I'd be in favor of reversing what can be down-voted: allow submissions to be downvoted, but only allow comments to be upvoted. Then the comment 'vote' more easily becomes "is this good?" (or at least removes the "is this something you disagree with?") and we can maintain a 'flag' on comments for the trolls/spam.
> It removes comments from where they should be, on the destination site.
Each place-of-commenting is its own community. You comment on HN because you want to talk to other HN folk. Generally, each community online has a particular focus. On HN you get a startups-and-tech focus, which is very different from what you get on reddit, or the Guardian, or NYT, etc.
Finally, the quality of each community is different. Contrast HN to reddit to reddit-when-it-started to techcrunch. Part of that quality comes from the software, some from the community, part from the moderatorship.
A blog is it's own community. HN is it's own community. There should be comments on both.
I respect trying to get more time out of your day (RescueTime helps). But it seems here Matt has found an issue (TSA backlash) that is helping him go cold turkey. Since it is public resignation, it may help him regain some of his productive time.
If noone knows you quit, you can come back on Monday with no consequence.
Open source is open source. It is not gun rights/free speech/right to privacy/any number of other things that are important, but are not open source.
Also, "myopic" presumes that I am not interested in politics. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, I dearly wish to keep it out of this site.
I'm not complaining --- this is probably a fine policy. But it does complicate how one reads Matt's post. I think that HN actually does a lot behind the scenes to promote a better community, which is what keeps it as good as it is.
EDIT: pg's comment at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1934367 describes the reason why -- they're being autotagged as "political" and a penalty applies
Startups can be very hacker-oriented, however forming a startup to sell out to a large corp. in the end is very anti-hacker in my opinion. But you don't see people complaining about every startup article on the site. The reality seems to be that the site attracts a cross section of visitors.
Resisting unjust searches and ridiculous security theatre procedures is hacking. The fact that it is also political is irrelevant. I have a hard time understanding a mentality where these issues are not considered interesting or important as they affect our most basic rights. Is your startup or your tech really worth anything without freedom?
If you feel a need to discuss it, perhaps that would be a more appropriate forum?
Not to mention featuring on sites like cnn.com. It's a pretty big issue that is certainly not "startups" or "tech". Yeah, there's tech involved, but the issue is how does society believe it should be used: politics.
Who here actually looks down on truck drivers or plumbers? It's a disingenuous way of framing the issue.
Upvotes move posts up. Flags move posts down, and if you get a ton of them, it even makes the post disappear. That's all there is to it! What does it matter whether it's called a flag or a downvote?
As Matt himself says, it is a nuance that is lost on most.
I also draw no distinction between "spam" and "a link to someone's blog about how they were patted down at the airport." I would just as soon read about free Viagra and watches.
When you find something negative about what you're doing, or it simply disappoints you, or whatever else it might be, you end up projecting those feelings onto yourself. When the activity or community begins to frustrate you, you can either be frustrated with yourself or realize that you've grown beyond it.
Like Matt, I spent some time making a living at poker, and like Matt I have been a Hacker News member for over 3-1/2 years (I just realized that there is only one day separating our join dates). I feel like I have a pretty good idea where he is coming from. When you find that the quality of your life is being diminished by something you're doing, and you have the power to remove yourself from that activity, then it is time to do just that. I commend him for having the courage to do that.
I know people will complain about him leaving loudly. Personally, I have also tried to quit poker and Hacker News, and in times when I have a lack of direction, I find myself wandering back into old habits. Quitting loudly is a small measure to take to give people the chance to help you stick to your decision, to hold you accountable.
Good luck, Matt.
The new page is sorted by time, which was fine when there were a hundred posts a day, but now during busy periods a new link is only on the new page for maybe 30 minutes.
Most of the votes a link on the new page gets seem to occur when the link is one of the top 5-10 links. So in practice a link has ten minutes to get votes or it dies. So it comes down to the handful of people who read the new page in those ten minutes (I posted a link the other day, it had ten click throughs while it was on the new page and 3 upvotes; 1 more upvote would have pushed it to the front page).
I think HN needs to switch the new page to a "rising new" page (like Reddit uses), where links that have upvotes get to stick around longer on the new page than links without upvotes.
I honestly can't think of a post from mattmaroon.com linked from hacker news that's ever taught me anything or made me think. I learned quite a lot reading the TSA articles and I've been thinking about them and the enforcement of the policies they describe.
Internet people tend to be somewhat libertarian in my experience. Not left leaning or right leaning, just protective of their liberties. This unconstitutional violation of American's civil rights fits nicely into those views. So people like it.
If you really want to see a community on it's last legs take a look at digg. It's become a cesspool of political insanity combined with NSFW top ten lists.
A TSA worker, to them, is not some guy without a college degree who is feeding his family, he’s an amoral pawn of an evil bureaucracy that exists solely to ensure that peaceful Americans have to get their junk touched by the back of someone’s hand before boarding a plane.
I got eviscerated for suggesting an alternative to berating the front-line TSA workers. To repeat, they are working hard, in a shitty job, to feed their families. They are following the rule they're given, and have no input to the process. Treating them like shit isn't the answer.
The ideology is often anti-corporate to the point of naiveté, and that’s nothing compared to how anti-government it is.
This seems to be a problem in any tech community. Maybe the larger percentage of Asperger-like folks?
Looks like you got eviscerated for bragging about not reading the article and calling the author a 'douche.' Also, you didn't suggest an alternative to berating TSA workers, you suggested that such alternatives existed, and only in an edit to the original post.
I disagree with Matt about TSOs, but I think that's probably survivable. What might be less survivable is the fact that a group of people who are overwhelmingly privileged young male knowledge workers are spending time talking about politics at all. This is a crappy place to talk about politics. Discussions seem to invariably devolve to Rand-ian libertarian software developer vs. WTO protester software developers.
there certainly are a lot of privileged male knowledge workers here. that doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad place to talk about politics, though. it depends a lot on your goals.
No wonder there are so many TSA stories on the front page.
Where's a better place? I watch CSpan on occassion, and the Hill is a much worse place. Political discussions tend to devolve, but so do discussions about Microsoft, Google, Apple, RoR, Python, typing, editors, IDEs, paradigms, SLC, etc...
With that said, everyone has to decide where to spend their time. And everyone has a preference as to what kind of discussions they prefer to have. I hope Matt finds a great community whereever he ends up going.
I don't think you'd keep someone with Matt Maroon's portfolio of complaints just by eliminating politics; after all, people do also write pointless comments about Apple. But that doesn't mean the politics stories aren't a correctible deficiency in the site.
To be clear, I was simply responding to something you said. You gave the impression that it was the quality of political discussion, not simply that it was against the rules.
A simple way to avoid problems would be to require all submissions to have code in the body of the text. The broad notion of "hacker" is too broad to be useful, IMO.
Are they going to actively participate in throwing their fellow citizens under the bus? Can you respect that?
Do you respect thieves, debt collectors (not the "call you on the phone" kind), domain squatters, or crack dealers? (Yes I did lump domain squatters in there. As a group, they are scum.) They are all just doing what they can to make ends meet. It doesn't mean one can't expect them to have some perspective on the morality of such methods of survival.
Every single citizen is responsible for the safeguarding of our collective rights and freedoms. There are no excuses.
Nonetheless, I find it incredibly helpful to take a critical look at the communities I am a part of and the thinking that pervades them.
2) Yes, but those appear to be the actual semantics of uv/dv buttons, not the intended meaning. It's sad but true. This has it's own impact, people tend to talk about the things that people will agree with in order to get upvotes.
3) Yes a million times. The actual Apple/Google/Microsoft discussions here are a very tiny signal in a fantastic epic pile of ideological noise. These are companies we can learn a lot from by looking at their successes and mistakes, but it's virtually impossible because people have invested far too much time making their purchase of products these companies make part of their personal identities.
4) Meh, maybe. That's just the way a community like this might skew.
5) Yeah well. But I find I'm fantastically up-to-date on the technology and business concepts for this area.
6) I actually find the comments on HN and interesting meta-discussion to most everything that shows up. I typically don't care to talk with the author of something. Most of the time, the link target isn't a blog with a comments section anyways.
7) Oh well. I'm not sure blogging is that great a benefit to humanity anyways.
I'm surprised it's not over the mysterious rules that PG tweaks constantly on the site, or the slow degradation along the HN->reddit->digg->4chan path.
And common, no alternate site that he's going to?!
1) It's OK for different users to see different views of the site. Reddit moved to predefined subcommunities, but this could also be done dynamically. A single 'top page' won't cut it unless users have the ability to block and filter.
2) It's OK to partition the site. While one wants consistency, it's OK to pretend that some posts were never made. You can't have things disappearing from the middle of reply-chains, but there's really no difference between a post that's never made and a post that's not shown to everyone.
3) Not everything functions best as a one-person one-vote democracy. I'm all for the benevolent dictatorship PG and those whom he delegates his power to. While transparency is often preferable, sites like this tend to fail due to lack of use of power rather than from unchecked use.
Commenting on the blog is close to worthless, for several reasons.
1. Most blogging software has atrocious handling of comments. Even such a basic feature as threading within the comment stream is often missing.
2. There often is not any kind of way to vote on comments so as to make it easy for people to find the good comments.
3. Bloggers are often one-hit wonders. They write one good blog post that makes it to sites like HN and Reddit, and then fade back into their normal obscurity. This makes it much less likely for a community of regular commentators to form around any particular blog. On sites like HN, one starts to recognize the frequent commentators, and see what they think on a variety of different comments.
There are often times where the comments here or on Reddit are sufficiently informative that I don't even get around to clicking through to the original article.
Are they removed entirely, or the threshold is increased to beyond what I have now got (462 karma, at 3.5 average)
(Plug for Hacker News DC meetup group: http://www.meetup.com/JoinHNDC)
In an ideal community people would up-vote arguments for adding
value to the conversation and down-vote only for detracting.
The obvious (although maybe not best) solution would be to add another axis for comment voting that doesn't affect post ranking (or, at least, affects it much less than the current one) that tracks agreement/disagreement. I can see a couple of downsides to this, the biggest of which is that it adds a large new element to a very simple commenting system.
Matt points out that HN and other voting related sites have flaws. Frankly, thats my assumption when I use any tool, or for that matter interact with any group of people through any medium. I'm a little surprised that the author is just now reaching his threshold for the flaws in the system - he points out no new problems.
The important question is not, "what's wrong", as much as "what's better?". This post would have been much more valuable as a discussion of feasible, implementable alternatives to the observed problems rather than a post about the author's choice on how to spend his own time.
How did those sites work out where news are just filtered by your friends, rather than everybody?
PG's recent inclusion of "average karma" seems to me a shot over the bow pushing us to recognize the importance of thinking before we speak.
It is shocking to me to see a leader board populated with low karma averages - only 1/3 of the "top" 100 members by total Kamra average over 5 (including Matt).
If there's one piece that we desperately need it's the ability to downvote, tied into average karma which is how I've measured and meter my contribution (and others) to the community.
This is very good in my opinion because it gives us more freedom, because the post's author can't discriminate against possible negative comments. In other words: this is neutral ground.
> someone who can’t tell the difference between being a freedom fighter and being a douche to a guy who makes $12 an hour trying to stop planes from getting blown up.
I don't think the TSA's moves are as effective as they are annoying.
> 2. Votes on comments are used to express agreement or disagreement rather than value
I don't think there is an easy solution for this one anywhere else.
"The term “evil” (the silliest and most counterproductive word to enter tech discussions ever) is thrown about haphazardly."
Interesting observation. Haven't seen it here before. Was there some talk about this on HN?
I have spent a lot of time in the last few weeks reading the site, but I don't regret it at all -- it's been informative and inspiring.
Looking forward to seeing you back soon under a new account name, Matt.
This article belongs in a tweet: "I'm fed up with Hacker News and ergo, I'm leaving it!". That's the only thing that the author really said, but really, does it even matter?
1) I was going to post the same comment. I'll just upvote him instead.
2) I had never thought of that. It makes sense and I agree. I'll upvote him.
Both cases are "I agree". But for 1) If I was going to post the same comment, then I clearly see it as something relevant to say in the discussion. Therefore his post is relevant and should be upvoted. 2) is also a case of something being relevant.
Should I also be spending my time finding things I disagree with but find insightful and upvoting them? Insightful generally falls under category 2.
Basically, agreement and value go hand in hand, and as long as you aren't treating comments like a poll, most if not all of your upvotes should be the result of you agreeing with the comment.
Who cares if it's true, is it useful? Is it a useful trait for HN to have, and is it a useful complaint for you (him) to raise?
Nail on the head.
Going to do the same thing. See ya, HN.
It's clear he supports the TSA to "stop planes from getting blown up." Since the majority of HN doesn't agree with that sentiment (at least that's how he paints it), he's sort of being a baby about it and quitting because he can't handle disagreement. He masks this fact very thinly in a what is definitely a stereotypical flameout post.
Communities disagree, and they're not all perfect. Nothing new there. If there was no disagreement on HN, it'd be boring.
At the moment, nine people have voted up a comment on Matt's story that asserts that Matt's real issue is that he supports the TSA. I think that supports his point somewhat.
This is an absolutely ridiculous, trollish statement. It bears no obvious relationship to the blog post linked. Do you actually believe this? If so, why?
I'm sure that if you try hard enough, you can read hidden, shameful motives into everything people write, but it's damn rude to use that as an excuse for ignoring what they actually wrote.
Guardians are also inclined to respect authority, which may also be part of his aversion to anti-TSA stories.
Tools like Myers-Briggs are great for looking at yourself, understanding your strengths and weaknesses and learning to be a better person. However, when you start using them as weapons, the focus becomes other people's problems. I guess the benefit is you don't have to worry about self-improvement anymore when a personality typing system makes it so convenient to place the blame somewhere else.
I must admit that I do judge people harshly for several Guardian characteristics, but I realize that those characteristics are also (in many cases) strengths.
The TSA articles are annoying noise that undermine HN. Unless it's discussing the technology of the devices or heuristics of algorithms used to analyze it, it's pop political garbage that belongs on Reddit.
Though I'll disagree with him on one thing: HN should be more elitist, not less. HN's distinction was once that it really was where the smart technology people were. Of course once it gets that rep the hanger ons follow, and soon they're the ones stamping their feet and yapping about the TSA or even North and South Korea -- those are nice, calming, accessible topics, and it's how every community driven site, without oversight, eventually drifts to the mean.
I'm one of those new guys around here (to be honest I really don't know how I find out about Hacker News, maybe twitter) and maybe one of those assholes who are killing this community (if it is even possible) with it's valuable content. I just read in this blog post what I'm doing wrong here and how I'm helping those contents which don't belong at Hacker News come to the front page BUT I never knew and never wanted to do that.
I love this community and I have to say it really opened my mind about functional programming, startups, making decisions, learning from lessons and so on.
But in fact there was no-one who told me what this is all about, what news belong at Hacker News, how to comment and react right, that I should up-vote content which are valuable and not which are cool and exactly what I think about it.
In a place where are no rules people will act like there are no rules. And by rules I don't mean restrictions I mean telling people what is Hacker News and what is it about: startups, hackers, fancy geeky things, sharing thoughts ect.
By not telling this to the newer AND older (who maybe forget about it) you are supporting that Hacker News becoming more and more invaluable.
You are also supporting it if you are just opting out of this community. Come on, is it this everything you can do? To just leave and not help Hacker News become better (again)?
It's not my style and hopefully it will never become my style.
If you want to give the Hacker News community something back maybe it would be a article about Hacker News and what it is and what it is for.
I really don't understand why people are complaining about a lack of a feature when they could write it on their own. We are all hackers and pretty good ones. So grab for example GreaseMonkey and write a freakin' down-vote button own your own. When you are finish submit it to Hacker News and I bet my balls it will become a top topic for several days and everyone will use it.
There you have it: the way a real hacker would go, right? Just do it. (No I'm not working for Nike)
Hacker News is time consuming. Yeah thats exactly what it is BUT while it is time consuming it has a pretty good value cause you read about what people did wrong and who you can do it better on the next time and which services can turn to bad even if it was in theory really excellent.
Before I knew Hacker News I hang out on StackOverflow, some Blogs about Gadgets and so on.
Now I'm just hanging out on Hacker News and reading all those valuable content (I try to focus on the ones which are interesting and not about TSA and other US-political stuff ect).
I learned so much about programming, software architectures, startups and wrong technology decisions that I'm glad I 'wasted' my time here and not on Facebook, Gizmodo, DaringFireball, you name it.
Everyone has to do what they love and what they feel to do. If it is hacking and to exchange your experience: you are welcome.
If Hacker News is turning to a waste of time for you? Drop it.
Last but not least
I hope I could write something which is valuable for all of you.
Note: Sorry for my bad english. I'm from Germany and so my english is sadly not my primary language. Feel free to correct me.
Let me know when the community is full of libertarian nutcases, rather than ideologue hating HNers.