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The TSA stories are certainly fluff in the sense of being easy to upvote, even if the underlying principles are important. Ironically, so are posts saying that one is tired of TSA stories.

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.




> the underlying principles are important.

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.

* TSA

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.


Just curious: Was this submission penalized, too? I noticed it dropped on the front page from #1 to about #25 almost instantly at around 1:50 EST.


Yes; posts complaining about excessive posts about topic x are effectively posts about topic x, in their effect on the content of the site.


Wow, just curious about the implementation. Do you use some sort of heuristics in determining political posts or excessively complaining posts?


The main one is number of flags. When anything gets over a certain number of flags, it shows up on a list that admins see. They decide either to kill it, mark it as political or whatever, or do nothing.


I'd imagine the heuristics mechanism was biologically evolved ... ;)


However, you also have to take into account that Matt didn't quit just based on the quality of the articles posted, but also the decreasing quality of discussion.

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.


I've often thought about that, actually. I think I proposed the idea once in a comment thread. But most users seemed to be against it.


I'm going to take a possibly contrarian view, Paul. Personally, I don't trust many other news sources. HN is one that I do. I find immense value in what people here contribute and comment. The TSA stories in particular, while numerous, have been needed.

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?


Why would you trust HN more than any other news source?


Been on HN for 3 years. I personally have met many people that are part of the community. I have met pg a couple of times. I have had personal experience in different communities where members generate news. I have found for the last 3 years that HN'ers who submit stories and comment on them offer sometimes radically different opinions about something, but almost always present interesting and reasoned arguments supporting their positions. There are few trolls here, and they are beaten mercilessly when the emerge. I frequently hop around to "mainstream" news sites (msnbc, cnn, fox, etc) to see if there is anything being reported that I haven't seen on HN or elsewhere. 98.6% of the time whatever is reported on those sites is crap or bullshit, to use the Anathem/Mathic expressions of those terms.

I trust the people of HN, based on all of the previously mentioned reasons.


I've a similar story. Started using Hacker News for finding stories to read about 3 years ago (tho without getting a login), using it alongside Reddit, etc. But eventually I noticed anything worth reading was virtually always on HN, so began visiting other sites less and less frequently. (Got a login a year ago went I first saw a thread I couldnt resist commenting on.)

So just for the links alone, HN is a good visit!


> Ironically, so are posts saying that one is tired of TSA stories.

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.


The site you're looking for is Metafilter, where the poster is expected to curate additional links into the post where necessary, and duplicate posts on the topic are deleted. You link to newly published/discovered content by commenting on the existing recent post, and this works out because the comments are unthreaded and in chronological order.


Paul, I'm thinking about your comment in "What we look for" about how YC founders enjoy breaking rules, just not the ones that matter.

In your view, is the "no politics" rule here one that matters?


Yes. Hacker News is a place that exists because "honor amongst thieves" (or, in this case, "honor amongst hackers") is strongly enforced. Simply stated, every HN guidelines actually matters.


I think the road from hacking to politics is any exercise of power using the intrinsic mechanisms of a system. So "voting machines", for example, might be a more hackerly means of connecting hacking with politics, than "civil liberties."




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