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Shout out to dang! You're doing a great job! Thank you!

Strict moderation is the reason HN is the only reasonable discussion forum remaining on the internet. I wish good moderation was a skill that more people learned - would you ever be interested in writing a guide or teaching a class on moderation?




This. I've been put in the corner by dang more than once, and I like to think that it made me a more considerate commenter-on-the-internet. Maybe even a more considerate person. Thanks!

Also, I think that it's pretty special that the vast majority of the comments on this article is people disagreeing about what HN's prevalent opinion is. It's easy to have all kinds of opinions when you don't moderate (eg 8chan), but it's hard to moderate a forum and at the same time not let it become a monoculture.

I've seen comments claiming that HN is a neoliberal / libertarian cesspool, and I've seen comments claiming that anything mildly non-PC gets downvoted into oblivion. If both the far left and the far right feel like HN represents the "other side's" opinion, then maybe there's a pretty decent middle ground being struck.


> I've been put in the corner by dang

Same. Thanks, dang. I deeply appreciate your work here.


I wouldn’t call it strict at all. He’s actually way more liberal about stuff than most over-bearing Reddit mods who think it’s their job to be editors of their own private newspaper rather than helping only when there’s no other option.

This is why dang is so good at what he does as it draws a difficult balance.


I know it's anecdotal and people live their own experience, but in my own experience dang is the only moderator I can recall having a conversation with where it WAS a conversation and not some authoritarian declaration. He even seems to go out of his way in comments to explain his thoughts and I have seen him change his mind and admit things as well. I wasn't aware he was Canadian but it funnily feeds the positive stereotype of politeness in our northern neighbors. Most people in positions of power online seem to be little Joffrey types with take it or leave it attitudes regardless of how you speak to them.

Also add me to the people who didn't know it was "Dan G" for the longest time and loved "dang" as a name.


I'm of the opinion that it is best to err on the side of strictness. Once you make a reasonable exception, you open a precedent, and some people are very good at digging up and pointing out precedent.


There should be some fuzziness about decisions otherwise you encourage gaming to see what can just get past censors. It sounds unreasonable but it works well in practice.


> and some people are very good at digging up and pointing out precedent.

As one of the people who loves being that guy in another community: They're not only very good at digging up and pointing out precedents, they likely have systematic archives of everything that remotely relates to the decisions they wish to see made.


The guidelines of the site I think are the ultimate precedent. If Dang dont get ya the rest of the community likely will. HN is somewhat self-moderating after all. I have seen users point out to abuses of the community guidelines.

I feel like sometimes users with negative Karma like crazy become even more obvious to mods. Sidenote: I still yearn to see what HN looks like to mods and what not. Not to cheat the system but to understand the system more (I love knowing these sorts of hidden details).


Out of curiosity, what brings you to be 'that guy' in the other community?


The mods should keep an archive of decisions that go the other way. This would keep a balance.


To do that, the mods need to keep an archive of all decisions, because the bias they'll be accused of is unknown until the accusation is posted. That archive probably looks something like https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20please&sort=byDate&t...


I don't think you realize what you're advocating for. There's protection from the hate that lives on the internet, and then there's grooming a narrative. What you're asking for is the latter, not the former.


no, you just don't fall into the cracks that dang dislikes. I've seen him go after people who aren't causing problems because he doesn't like what they're saying. I've seen it multiple times actually.

His go to is to call it conspiracy regardless of what's actually being said.


Where did I do this?

When I get something wrong, I'm happy to admit it and correct it. At the same time, people make all sorts of claims about horrid things we supposedly did, and most of those leave out important information.

Either way, if you're going to make claims like this, you should supply links so readers can make up their own minds.


In the other thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19984428

you state that asking for sources is, and I quote: "a rather unsubstantive contribution".

You are now telling me I should be citing a source.

If I were being snarky I would ask if you would mind raising your signal/noise ratio as you did with the other poster.

I mean, which is it? Is asking to source the claim unsubstantive or not? Is it only unsubstantive if there's a claim against you personally?

As for allowing others to make up their mind, that would be what the poster in the other thread was presumably trying to do, and you shut him down. And that's really the point.


A comment consisting of nothing but "got any sources for that?" is certainly "rather unsubstantive". But that is not why I replied to it. Had that been the only thing wrong with the comment, I wouldn't have. It was the following:

> Edit: lol, downvotes for asking for sources? "Hacker" "news" is just full of gems!

... that caused me to reply as a moderator, because that breaks more than one of the site guidelines, as well as being lame. This is routine moderation.

Both the original commenter and now you have given a distorted version of what happened there, as anyone who looks at the original thread can easily see. If that's what you have to resort to in order to come up with examples of moderator abuse on HN, we must be doing pretty well. Better than I'd have expected, in fact, given that we've posted 38,000 of these and no one bats a hundred.


also, since I forgot to address it in my other response.

asking for sources is not unsubstantive, not in the least. It's one of the most substantive things you can do, both as someone providing information, and as someone trying to evaluate the information being provided.

The fact that you've come to feel that asking for sources is less important than not making others feel uncomfortable goes a long way towards why I don't view HN as a place for decent discourse.


I didn't say any of those things. I'm afraid we're going in circles now.


That doesn't pass the reasonable person test.


and now you've chosen to be unfair. I don't have access to the original comment, something you know, yet you accuse me of distorting facts. You've also lumped me in with the other poster as if we're the same person or the same group.

The only thing we have in common is not really liking your work as a moderator, and the way it's stifled discourse on HN. You have to go to other places for that, I mostly use HN as a news source.


By original comment I mean https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19984428, the one you linked to upthread. I just clicked on it like everyone else.


A comment like "got any sources for that?" without adding additional context is low effort and inching towards trolling. Another difference is while the parent post of that person's comment it would be nice to include sources, it is about a general topic people can attempt to look for public sources themselves. Your comment you are accusing a forum user (dang) of something and there is no reasonable way to look for sources backing up your opinion/claim.


no, asking for sources is legitimate, it's a crazy world you live in where being asked to give a source for information is low value and/or low effort.


> Strict moderation is the reason HN is the only reasonable discussion forum remaining on the internet

Not at all. It's rather the community that makes it a reasonable discussion space. Most people here understand that this is not Reddit and that proper answers are needed when you interact with other members. Of course moderation is useful and necessary in certain cases, but it's certainly far from being the key factor here.


When I first started commenting, I remember being shocked (and annoyed) at how downvoted I got for making the kind of reply-snark that gets tolerated (if not upvoted) on Reddit – and that tone-setting is certainly a function of the community.

But that was almost a decade ago. The mindset of the tech community has gotten far more political (not a bad thing, but a natural consequence of "software eating the world"), and it's really hard to imagine that HN would have turned out like it is today through self-policing alone.

Even if we assume HN were to collectively agree on taking a hard stance against anything political in nature (which still seems to be the case sometimes, given that the mods have to occasionally step in and manually de-flag and protect threads), that would've likely turned off a number of current HN users who see HN as a great place to discuss tech's greater implications and role in society.


I agree and want to put /. as an example. In the 2000's I used to visit /. as much as I visit hn now. At that time there were plenty of great comments and sometimes even people like John Carmack posted there. Sure there was GNAA spam and similar, but the mod system took care of that.

Nowadays the mod system remains but the community has moved on and although the stories are good, there is no intellectual discussion.

A similar thing happened to OSNews. Another news aggregator I used to visit a lot.


what's happening here is reddit-style comments have been slowly but steadily creeping in. I dont blame the mods directly, but indirectly they should have just capped membership once the tone lost its tech edge and comments began to drift to "me too!/relevant username/orange man bad/etc" about 30-40% (by my estimation) of HN comments are what reddit comments were a few years ago. The only way to fix that is to throttle membership.


Why do opinions like yours always seem to come from accounts less than a year old?

Unless you're presenting yourself and your own comment history as an example of the problem... in which case, the opportunity is always there to try a bit harder.


Absolutey irrelevant to my point. Why do so many of your comments in your post history denigrate women and minorities?


If you continue to break the site guidelines, we're going to have to ban you again. Could you please not do that? Using HN as intended is not hard if you want to.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


>Absolutey irrelevant to my point.

It isn't, because unless you've been lurking for years or have an alt account, you're just being an elitist poser. People have been complaining about HN "turning into Reddit" for so long that it used to be listed in the guidelines as a common, semi-noob delusion.

>Why do so many of your comments in your post history denigrate women and minorities?

Point them out to me, please. I'm usually defending women and minorities here, and often getting downvoted for the effort.


The moderators help determine the community. Insufficient moderation changes the community: the most obnoxious voices drive away reasonable ones. New users who prefer that mode of discourse stay; users who want "reasonable discussion" are discouraged and go elsewhere.

It's easy when a community is small. The more prominent the community gets, the more it tempts people who enjoy stirring things up.

In the end I'm not sure if any moderation scheme can prevent that, to be honest. There will always be people who consider it a challenge to see what they can get away with, either by trying to stay just under the moderators' radar or by returning every time they're banned. Provocation makes people defensive, and then their own replies turn harsh, contributing to a negative perception of the community.

I do hope that this community avoids it as long as possible. I've discovered it only recently and am enjoying it. But past experience suggests that it, too, will one day degrade.


HN has been around a looooong time now. Sure, some people will pine for the good old days, but as far as I'm concerned, HN is fairly stable.


No, it really does make a difference. I've got a close friend who's been involved in many discussion forums, both as user and mod. His experience is mods are the critical link that prevent the community from descending to ugly chaos.

The community helps... but someone needs to be doing some policing to limit the effect of the bad actors or the community starts to get pissed off/wander off/degrade into pettiness.


> who's been involved in many discussion forums,

in many discussion forums... that are not HN. There is only one HN, so you can't make comparison with other communities out there.


all mods believe they're the critical link. That conceit is why the mods on reddit started making subreddits private for a day in protest.


Without the moderation the trolls take over, and then it doesn't matter what most people here understand.


I highly doubt "2 moderators" would be able to do anything if half of the community was composed of trolls. The fact that trolls are very few in the first place, and not welcome by other members who flag them and downvote them to hell, make it possible for it to work even with a low level of moderation.


1 moderator is infinitely better than 0.

I run a group of 20,000+ people, and if I didn't set the tone on what the group is about, regularly, the value of it would drop to nothing.

I love my community. But I absolutely recognize the role I play in keeping it a nice place to visit.


Making trolling less visible / viable practice is the work of moderators.

Enough HN members are happy to feed the trolls (even if unwittingly) and encourage more without removing them.


> Making trolling less visible / viable practice is the work of moderators.

Downvoting, flagging works even when the mods are not around. I am pretty sure that a comment flagged too many times is greyed out and almost invisible (and that happens without mods).

Again, if we are to believe there are only 2 full time moderators on HN for the amount of comments going every single minute, it's virtually impossible to rely on mods alone for proper discussions: simple maths.


I've been waiting for an excuse to compliment the mods here, without it being off-topic. They do a great job! Of course, it also helps that the community here is more reasonable than most.


I don't see the moderation here as particularly strict nor as the original source of all the goodness.

I think having the right set of rules for the site's discussion (maintaining of which is a moderator job) and having a generally "good" population as an initial condition were the keys to setting the mods up for success. The mods' job then becomes to maintain the community's high level of discourse.

I see a lot of comments which violate the site guidelines in a fairly minor way. To me, strict moderation would involve curtailing those (to the site's detriment in general, a la Reddit, Wikipedia, or stackoverflow). Instead, I think we have strict guidelines and fairly tolerant moderation thereof. (I also find it interesting and telling that I felt normal to say "we have" in the previous sentence, rather than "news.yc has".)

PS: This is not meant to take anything away from what the mods do. It's critically important and they do a good job from my viewpoint. I think I got my hand slapped once in a decade (and I don't even now recall what it was, but I do recall that I agreed that I deserved it and it was handled reasonably).


I've been here since 2013 and I noticed a massive improvement in the submitted articles and comments once dang became a moderator. Thank you dang and sctb.


I strongly agree. Although, to quibble, I think calling it strict moderation is selling it short. In addition to having coherent standards, dang is thoughtful, fair, and tolerant. I say this having been on the wrong end of quite a few warnings. If this forum is ruled with an iron fist, it sure has a thick layer of velvet around it. All moderation is subjective, but dang does a great job of staying intellectually honest and true to the site's mission. I very much get the old school hacker vibe.

Thanks dang for doing a great job.


Is it just Strict moderation or Members with a common goal of making this place a good / fair place?


From the article, quoting @dang:

What does seem to work better is personal interaction, over and over and over again, with individual users. That, case by case by case, seems to move the needle. But it’s very slow.”

I think the guidelines are a great way of encouraging us all to be more thoughtful to others comments, and have noticed a difference in the way I might comment HN.

Often I kill my comment before I actually click "Reply", especially if I know my comment will be too divisive, or if it doesn't add to the quality of previous comments.

Sometimes I upvote a comment because it helped me question/ change a personal dogmatic view.


> I think the guidelines are a great way of encouraging us all to be more thoughtful to others comments, and have noticed a difference in the way I might comment HN.

The guidelines are somewhat of a joke, and are only followed (even by mods) when it is convenient to do so.

For example, I've been repremanded in the past by our supreme leader dang for posting comments like "do you have a source for that?", because he assumed it was too hostile while he completely ignored his own 'hacker' 'news' guideline of 'assume good faith' (I was literally asking someone to source the information/argument they posted here.. but hey good job on completely derailing that discussion dang!)


Where did I do that?


Ironically, the source of said admonishment wasn't forthcoming, by GP...

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19984428

> Ok, but "got any sources for that?" is a rather unsubstantive contribution, and then going on tilt about getting downvoted breaks the site guidelines outright. Would you mind raising the signal/noise ratio of what you post here?

It seems the attempt to correct a low "signal / noise ratio", in this instance, seems to be back firing.


I'm not sure what you mean, the link you posted showed itself to be 100% accurate with the claim.


The claim is lopsided. @dang implies how the original comment wasn't all that great... but wasn't a real problem, & it wasn't until the comment was edited to include the downvotes that @dang intervened. That the commenter re-raised the issue again here as the reason for @dang intervening in the first place seems to be incorrect, as I read it.


The issue in that case was more the added bit about downvotes, which broke the site guidelines.


The claim of the other poster was accurate. The question of whether you were being fair or not doesn't change that.


It wasn't accurate. They mentioned the lesser part of why I moderated the comment and omitted the greater part, which is what most people do when telling a story about how we suppressed them unfairly. That's presumably why such stories never come with links, which would allow readers to decide for themselves what happened.


> That's presumably why such stories never come with links

No, I didn't include a link because I was posting from my phone, and "hacker" "news" doesn't include a sane way to search through thread history for specific comments. I'm glad someone else went through the trouble.

But hey, you're free to continue to not assume good faith, right?


I said most people and presumably as a way of not jumping to that conclusion about you. The pattern in general is very consistent. But I can see how it would be annoying to read that, if your preference really was to provide a link.


"do you have a source for that?", especially when phrased that way, is a statement made in bad faith, because it indicates that you believe that there's a chance the statement is unsourced (as opposed to "can you please cite this?").


I find it very difficult to believe that is a direct quotation from dang. Not only that, your parent called dang "supreme leader" (i.e. dictator, guilty of atrocities). This is clearly absurd and hyperbolic verbiage. Extremely "colorful" language is modern rhetoric of the worst kind.


I think both combine to form a culture.

(In your HN settings, you'll see there's the ability to see deleted posts and shadowbanned users, and if you turn that on you'll see that most posts have a load a crazy people and trolls posting on them that the mods have cleaned up.)


Definitely the members IMO; a moderator can snipe out the occasional troll, but if all members are being pricks there's nothing that can be done about that. What you need is to maintain an atmosphere, a culture, etc. You need the community to call one another out and keep one another accountable. And you need to nip any broken windows in the bud - Reddit's comment threads often spiral out of control and into a spammy mess of memes and references for example, simply because that's part of their culture. It's harmless enough on Reddit, but if that happened on HN the comments section would diminish greatly in value.


Not the members.

One of the other forums I frequent would be chock full of pricks by HN standards. They are known for being jerks on other forums that cover the same interest. It's still a very good community as long as you don't take everything personally.


Bit of both. The moderation is necessary for keeping the community whole when we get influxes of trolls or redditors.


> Strict moderation is the reason HN is the only reasonable discussion forum remaining on the internet.

Don't you find it a bit suspicious that the forum you happen to like is "the only reasonable discussion forum remaining on the internet"?


I don't know what you mean by "suspicious." I'm part of a ton of other forums and communities, and over time almost all of them have devolved into complete and utter dogshit, just an endless stream of memes and screenshots of Twitter posts. The communities that remain successful either have total strict moderation or a "shitposts" section where all of the garbage ends up, but even then the quarantine zone ends up sucking up a lot of the forum energy. I think it's best to just not have it at all.


> I don't know what you mean by "suspicious."

I mean that, maybe you should distrust your own judgement that "HN is the only reasonable discussion forum remaining on the internet". Perhaps other places have environments that you don't like but other people feel that they are "the only reasonable discussion forum remaining on the internet".

> I'm part of a ton of other forums and communities, and over time almost all of them have devolved into complete and utter dogshit, just an endless stream of memes and screenshots of Twitter posts.

In my experience this has a lot more to do with algorithmic instead of chronological ordering. Facebook for example, where a lot of communities have gone to die, is a context-destroying engine. Only memes and shitposts can survive. What is the point of writing something thoughtful if you don't know if anyone will even see it?

Otherwise, online communities have a lifetime. Before HN there was Slashdot and Kuro5hin. They were nice at some point, then devolved into shit. Same thing will happen to HN and everything else, of course.

> The communities that remain successful either have total strict moderation or a "shitposts" section where all of the garbage ends up, but even then the quarantine zone ends up sucking up a lot of the forum energy. I think it's best to just not have it at all.

My favorite community uses a completely different strategy: there are no moderators but it is relatively obscure. Shit posters come and go, nobody reacts, all is fine. It has been going on for more than two decades. I will not disclose it because I do not want to ruin it, but I bet lots of things like this exist. They don't make money nor are they advertising arms of money-making operations, so nobody really cares. No newspaper will ever write an editorial about them -- this is why they are so great!


I'm sure there are plenty of reasonable discussion forums, mailing lists, etc. And the more gated and the more obscure they are, the more reasonable (and insular) they are.


> I will not disclose it because I do not want to ruin it

I'm glad your favorite community has sustained itself for 20 years, but with this statement you remove it so far from the category HN belongs to that it's incommensurable.

It's great that there's room for lots of different internet communities to thrive with different strategies. I've always felt there's room for many more—there are lots of opportunities for communities to start with different initial conditions and grow into qualitatively different things. I wish people would start them. But let's not pretend that they all have the same problems. HN's category is that of the large, public, anonymous internet forum, and all its hard problems stem from that category.


Reddit is actually pretty great. It's easy enough to evade the more-less-desireable parts of it. I can assure you some of the best textually-based content the last X years have happened there.


I agree. Unfortunately, I have the impression it is already going in the downwards trajectory. The new redesign contains all the red flags. When "old.reddit.com" stops working, I suspect it's over for me.


What you're saying is 100% true. I personally dislike HN moderation because it stifles discussion in a big way.

A perfect example is the other poster who basically got called to task by dang for asking for sources to a claim. Dang characterized it as "unsubstantive" and lowering the signal to noise ratio.

For myself, a reasonable discussion is one which it's expected to be asked to cite sources. A community in which not doing so gets you called out.

Discourse on HN is too touchy feely, people are generally afraid to challenge others in a straightforward manner, so they end up using a lot of words to do so. It's like being in that meeting where the manager is using flowery language to extol the virtues of the company, when in reality everyone is there for reasons that don't involve the company itself.

I just kind of tolerate it, but in no way, shape, or form, do I view the discourse on HN as generally being honest or useful.


That's not a perfect example or even an example at all. The comment explicitly broke the site guidelines, as I explained here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20648370.


You might like Tildes. Here's their blog and docs which describe what Tildes is about.

https://blog.tildes.net/

https://docs.tildes.net/

You may also like Lobste.rs https://lobste.rs/


Tildes is a bit ironic.

Overall it is a lot better. The topics, timeline, moderation, structure and even comments. And a think some people might enjoy that.

But it also sort of highlights the greater problem which is that most people who frequent these forums these days just aren't that interesting, or interested. Or it is at least hard for those who are to show that and get something out of it.


Plenty of folks consider HN to have devolved into complete and utter dogshit; there aren’t many memes but there is a pretty heavy whiff of the Californian ideology, and given the choice I’ll usually take the memes.


Who likes a forum they find unreasonable? That's hardly "suspicious", it's a statement about taste.




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