I think the quality of stories on HN is pretty good. What I'd much prefer to see any amount of attention given to is things like:
1) Let me take back a vote. Particularly on mobile, I misclick those tiny arrows a lot.
2) Let me comment inline. Having other comments, besides the parent around for examination while commenting would probably help overall comment quality.
4) Support someone making an app, or commission one. As far as I can tell, the current HN apps are all kind of buggy and have little updating. There are lots of young neophytes who'd love to work on this, particularly if sanctioned, and a funded effort would lead to a better product.
These basic UI improvements don't even seem to be on the radar. Also, I'll add, the story-killing on this site is pretty heavy-handed, yet capricious. Same with the title-editing. What constitutes a "hacker-centric" story changes with the mood of the moderators, and the tendency to just change each title to the original headline is misguided. I also think that the special privileges given to YC companies corrupts the whole system.
If there were any other community like this, people would be driven away by the neglected UI and the Star Chamber that governs the content. But there isn't, so there's no pressure to do anything but midnight HN science experiments. I should just pray for some competition I guess...
Because when I spend time on HN my top priority is features that will make the content better. I believe that matches the priorities of the users-- that users would rather use a site with good stories and comments and a primitive UI than one with a slick UI and worse stories and comments. And time is a zero-sum game. Spending more time on UI = spending less on quality.
The focus on content quality above all is the reason you find yourself saying later "If there were any other community like this..."
You're simply wrong about the moderation. Nearly every story that gets killed is either autokilled, or a dup, or flagged to death by users. I would guess moderators manually kill less than 10 non-dup stories a day. You're also wrong that YC cos get special privileges.
2) I'm positive YC companies get at least one special privilege - the ability to post jobs.
3) I've been told YC accounts are excluded from anti-spam measures, but I can't prove it.
EDIT: Also, regarding the zero-sum-game argument. All of us developers know we have limited time to spend on things. But a HUGE change to a non-priority that takes almost no time (for example improving the CSS on mobile) should be squeezed in between these experiments that may or may not make the content better, and take hours.
If HN has a problem with titles, it's with not enough stores having their titles rewritten to the article original.
People keep saying this, but it would severely limit the utility of the site. When I chance upon a post with more than ~50 comments, I only want to read the 6-7 or so that the community has agreed are best. I perceive a positive correlation between comment scores and quality. That is, the odds that a post with 50 points contains good content do empirically seem to be higher than for posts with 2 points.
In short: I need a comment filter that is more strict than than simply "appears on Hacker News". I don't want to read every single one.
Similarly, if there's a bunch of responses with a score of 1 with replies forking off all over the place, having a visible score lets you catch that at-a-glance and avoid bothering with a conversation that is clearly digressing.
That was in the REPL for a while and I thought it was just annoying and confusing.
I don't know what title you used when submitting it, but the current title wasn't written by a moderator. It's the original article title.
It's true that YC founders' accounts have a field set saying so, but the only code that looks at this field is the code for posting jobs. None of the anti-abuse code does. And the jobs page has been around for years.
I had changed it because I knew nobody cares about the Library of Congress, and no one knows what Portolan means. I read the story, determined a meaningful title, and the moderator decided that was no good. Since I have edited many, many newspapers, and written countless headlines, I felt particularly annoyed.
We need moderators aggressively retitling articles submitted with stupid or biased titles. (Not only because that fixes those titles, but also because it reduces the incentive for submitters to submit with bad titles.) And if we have that, then inevitably there will be occasional misjudged retitlings. The question is whether the benefit outweighs the cost, and in my mind there's very little doubt that it does.
For what its worth, whatever was wrong with the original title I feel like yours was pretty misleading after going and reading the article (great article by the way, thanks for sharing it). The article was very explicitly about the library congress meeting to talk about the origins of the map, rather than a general piece about the map. If thats all you found interesting, perhaps you should have linked to a wikipedia page or a more general article.
Time spent arguing helps define which should get the free-time, though. Otherwise, ultimately, it would be "best" if every developer ignored every bit of feedback their applications caused, because their time is best spent making changes, not debating over what to change.
Furthermore, from a selfish point of view, I like better when PG works on HN concept as he indirectly work on Arc.
The inability to reverse incorrect votes reduces the quality of the site by assigning incorrect scores to comments. In fact, many comments are apologies for accidental down-votes.
Also, not being able to comment inline means thread context is lost when comments are being composed. It is very likely this results in lower quality comments, which reduces the quality of the site.
A good UI can and does lead to a higher quality sites. Keep things as simple as possible, but not so simple that quality suffers.
Just my opinion.
It's not clear which direction you would want those metrics to move to improve quality, but it at least seems like UI vs quality is not a zero-sum tradeoff.
There is a submission bookmarklet. There's a link to it at the bottom of the page.
For what it's worth, I think the Google way to solve this would be to figure out which metrics you can associate with quality and A/B test the impact of the UI changes. Setting up an A/B framework might be more work than you want to put in. But there might be a UI that encourages higher quality that you could discover empirically.
If you're going to use tables for layout, use them consistently all the way down — don't just decide to party like it's 1994 and throw in some line breaks. Clean up the padding to rationalize the hit targets (could even use characters like ∆ and ∇ to make them non-square).
It's the easiest solution because pg can't be bothered messing about with "proper" layouts and I can understand why.
That said, I wish there were 2 enhancements —  a search bar|function that would list matches in date order and  a little markup to make mobile/tablet viewing easier on the eyes — a chore that could be as simple as adding a meta viewport line in the HTML (would accommodate iOS devices).
Trolls need an audience to survive. Does HN superficially look like a popular website? No. It lives on a subdomain and the official way to get here is by clicking a tiny footer link on YC's website. And let's face it, the design is pretty ugly too by many standards.
To realize there's a vibrant community here, you have to get passed those "deterrents". This selects for individuals who are truly concerned about great content and intelligent discussion rather than great design or sensationalism which leaves the trolls at the door.
I actually find it quite the opposite. I've downloaded multiple Android apps that try to improve the HN reading interface, and I still find myself using browser instead. The closest thing that I would describe as being "bad" on my phone is that the arrows are small enough that I sometimes misvote on comments. Otherwise, I think it works really well:
* Each comment is the width of the screen, so there's not much vertical scrolling needed
* Comments are still well-indented so that I can easily follow a thread by scrolling right or left.
* I greatly enjoy being able to long-press comment links from the main page to open them in a new window, and then long-press the OP link to open that in a second window, and be able to use the back button to return to comments when I'm done reading, or even switch back and forth like I can in Chrome at home.
I separated the voting arrows and reply button, which helps with accidental taps. Here's a comments page: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/4595/hn-vote.png
There's also a few nice features, like an in-app browser with Readability and send to Instapaper/Twitter/etc. You can see a demo of the app here: http://michaelgrinich.com/hackernews/
The app doesn't sell enough to be a full-time project, so I push updates when I have time. Currently I'm working on an update with full iPad support.
(All of this works via HTML scraping since there's no API.)
That's funny; the default HN interface is very much like the mobile interface of other sites, i.e. everything extraneous has been removed.
Otherwise, +1 for the ability to change a vote. I can't for the life of me understand the reasoning behind the current setup.
js transform of html source: http://pastebin.com/9069JULs
Most of the improvements could be made by a seperate mobile stylesheet if more classNames were added to the generated html.
The winner gets, umm, well, instant recognition as the 'best designer of the wolf pack', or BDWP in short.
I'm with you, I hate the drama posts. I have a kind of half-arsed theory that what I dislike in the evolution of social sites is the inherent community building. I think it tends to get too self-referential.
I'm seeing 380 points, 11 days old is ahead of 205 points and 4 days old.
pg, I'm sure you considered this problem; could you talk a bit about your thinking behind this filter?
"A lot of people have asked for it. It would be easy to write. Let's try it and see what happens."
I suppose there are some out there that would like to know an individual user's karma as a quick indicator of worthiness for X. Aside from this I'd be thrilled to see the number games and measuring sticks go away.
Although this would be bad for the community (people need to see the low-point articles for them to get voted on), you could have a page that sorts all stories by number of points, and allows you to remove them either by clicking on them, or marking them as uninteresting. It would solve the 'problem' of missing articles when I'm away at least.
I guess you could have some kind of mix of new and highly voted articles, which could be interesting?
The whole thing is just an experiment.
More and more we're suggesting that people look at the "newest" page instead of just the "news" page to try to make sure that good submissions get their chance, and bad submissions get flagged, and yet here's another facility to take people away from the "newest" page.
Don't get me wrong, I think this is a great facility, and I'm pretty sure I'll be using it on occasion, but I'll also hang out on the "newest" page, because that's where the genuinely interesting stuff appears, often getting no upvotes, because it was never seen.
http://news.ycombinator.com/over?points=489 (489) doesn't see a thread with 490 points, but http://news.ycombinator.com/over?points=484 (484) does. Caching? Rounding? Thread in question: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1990498
Still, awesome, many thanks! Especially because it drags up a bunch of good-but-older entries that I may have missed.
For your view only, it hides the karma in the top right, and hides the number of points next to each article and comment.
I, personally, find karma to be a distraction...I'm not afraid to admit that I subconsciously check my karma score every time I log in, and very occasionally catch myself "karma whoring"...that is, writing comments or submitting articles in a way that will improve my karma, instead of concentrating on writing something intelligent (yes, they should be the same, but they're not).
Only thing there is the Heroku acquisition
When I first saw your post ( http://jeffmiller.github.com/2010/07/23/a-cure-for-hacker-ne... ), I missed the RSS feed links, and started looking for ways to convert a twitter feed to an RSS feed (I use Google Reader)... But then I saw the light :)
By the way, thanks a lot for making this, Jeff. I've been using your feeds almost daily since August. I used to spend a lot of time scanning the /best page for unread articles. No more!
pg — care to share any traffic data?
Of course, adding another nav element gets tricky. How many nav links do you need before you start culling or redesigning? FWIW, it seems that grouping nav into 2 sections might be useful. One section would be focused on sorting the stream (top, new, popular). The other section would be focused on filtering the stream (threads, comments, ask, jobs). "Submit" is more of an action than a filter or sort, and might be better positioned as a control outside of the nav.
EDIT: Why the downvotes?
Maybe the top menu should be Hacker News new 100+ searchterm best active bestcomments etc.
The last 4 entries are duplicated.
On the 100 points version I see:
27. The only script in your head (headjs.com) 248 points by timf 12 days ago | comments
28. The only script in your head (headjs.com) 247 points by timf 12 days ago | comments
Seems like more bandwidth than it's worth. This is (obviously) a better solution though.
The very highly upvoted articles seem more likely to be trendy and/or sensational.