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?