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Withdrawing from Hacker News (solipsys.co.uk)
123 points by RiderOfGiraffes on Apr 3, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 103 comments

I will be probably downvoted for saying this (as I see other people who tried to convey a similar message on this thread were), but I think that posts like these are of little interest to many of us. I don't mean to offend anyone, especially not RiderOfGiraffes who I greatly admire, but I think it's worth pointing out what other HN users have been trying to say.

Posts like these are bad for HN for a few reasons:

  - they appear often and usually repeat the same message
  - they support the minority of elitists who already dominate HN
  - their content is only news-worthy to users who've been on HN
    for a while and not the new ones 
Basically, any content that is submitted to HN and refers to a user or a user's experience of HN is simply a popularity contest. Whether it becomes popular on HN depends on the popularity of the user. The active and prominent users then feel the need to upvote and comment as they can relate to the poster. However, any budding new user that is trying to 'break in' to the community is confronted with what appears to be a form of exclusivity.

What results is a thread in which the OP, upvoters, and commenters that are supporting news that only apply to them.

HN shouldn't have threads like these - threads should apply to as many people as they can. I'm not saying that life has to be fair, but I think the end of these posts would help make HN feel like a more inclusive place.

The alternative is to have high profile members like nickb disappearing and then to have 10 threads (or even more, instead of just one) that wonder whatever happened to 'x'.

Also, after contributing 100's of hours (or even 1000's...) I think a goodbye note is good form rather than bad form, these threads apply to all the friends and contacts that someone has made through HN and in the case of RiderOfGiraffes my guess would be that would be a very large number of people indeed.

I agree with your general sentiment, but if patio11 or tptacek were to slink off like a thief in the night then they'd be overwhelmed with email from concerned people.

Also, when I was growing up I was taught to say hello on entering a venue and goodbye on leaving, maybe that's old fashioned but it's perfectly ok with me.

As for the criticism, check the last couple of entries in this thread and say he doesn't have a point.

Anyway, since I'm not here, I'll leave it at that ;)

You make a good point that it benefits a lot of people to know where the high profile members went, but maybe there's a better way to do it.

If there is some unique perspective on HN that can apply to everybody then, sure, go ahead and post it to HN as a blog post. However, any generic I'm-leaving-HN messages could maybe go into a category of "Leaving HN: ..." posts (instead of a link). These could still hit the front page, but there would be a clear distinction between this community news and other news.

Maybe a 'farewell' note in the profile? Or a way to modify your profile that puts a '(gone)' marker behind your name in old threads?

Grellas started this (and he's back), I thought it was pretty classy and considerate of him, which is why I did it myself.

Anyway, your comment seems to have incited a large number of people to flag the post so it's no longer on the homepage. It's a pity that a long contributor of HN would get sent off like that while 'TopGear responding to Tesla' has been on the homepage for many hours now.

The majority of other posts doing so were downvoted not for their message but due to the fact they were expressing it in the form of a personal attack against the OP.

The value posts like this provide to the community is to allow us to have a period of introspection, evaluating where we were as a community and how we've changed, and if that change has been for the better or for the worse.

I agree that if they occur frequently without adding new information into the discussion they have less value, but I don't feel we've got to that point. If people don't step up and make posts like this then we're run the very real risk of not noticing a deterioration in our community until it becomes too late to fix that problem.

A high-quality HN is to the benefit of all HN users, not just those most active in the community.

I understand why they were downvoted, but people responded to their message and my comment has a similar message. It looked as if people would be reluctant to consider to my arguments, but I'm pleasantly surprised that they did.

This just goes to show the value of putting in time and quality into a comment (unlike the ones at the bottom of this main thread).

When our community loses a person like RiderOfGirraffes, we should take notice.

I 100% agree. I think threads announcing you are leaving something are bad form.

years later, some internet sociologist will come out with a study saying that every community of size>N will have "I'm leaving" drama posts like this.

It's called experience: before you discovered HN, you knew less. HN lifted you to a certain level. But now that you have reached that level, you are no longer impressed, you feel like it's all repetitions.

Be assured that there are hundreds of people who were like you two years ago, who are discovering HN today, and are benefiting immensely.

What HN can't provide you is a community that will grow more and more specialized as yourself grows.

It's funny because in my latest startup (http://letslunch.com), we have a very strong notion of reputation, so we match entrepreneurs with increasingly experienced entrepreneurs, as your reputation rises. I believe it works for in-person interaction, but I doubt it can be built for an online forum.

I was going to say something very similar. I've been irritated by repetitive content / themes, but a lot of that is simply because I've read it many times before - it's not necessarily a sign that the community is getting stale, it just means I've been reading it way too much.

Interesting point about the community growing more specialized - I thought that HN losing its focus on startups (circa the Startup News -> Hacker News rename) was overall a negative thing, since that's what attracted me in the first place, but in retrospect it's probably not. I think I would've got bored much faster reading effectively the same posts about startups over and over again. The wider scope has probably helped to keep the site fresh for me, at the cost of somewhat lower signal/noise.

I totally agree with this, but it's kindof sad to see people just give up on this community.

I've seen some things tried in the past (like hiding karma in comment threads), and I think it would be great if we could try a few more things in the future.

I'd love to see HN try making users "earn" karma. You "spend" your karma when you upvote or downvote somebody. Upvotes cost one point, downvotes cost two. This is good because it incentivizes people not to downvote people (it's "expensive"), and also prevents brand new users who don't yet understand the conventions from downvoting things just because they disagree with them.

I think that one of the big problems lately has been comments being inappropriately downvoted. I asked a question a couple of days ago about how google justifies things like google charts (which I use heavily), and was downvoted to -4 for it. 3 years ago (when I joined) this wouldn't have been the case.

Meanwhile I'm starting reddit-style to see joke threads pop up in the comments.

I really think that a lot of this is new users, and I really think that slashdot's style of earning the right to moderate is a solid concept. We should try it.

Along the same lines, I think that part of the problem is that there's inflation in upvotes because people have an unlimited supply.

I don't upvote that often. When I do, I really mean it because the content is that good.

I'm sure that there are others who have a much lower bar for submitting an upvote. After all, an upvote costs nothing.

Why shouldn't upvotes from people who are active but upvote rarely count more than those who upvote a lot? How about some of the outstanding long time users with tons of karma: why don't their upvotes count for much more than a newbie upvoting a linkbait article or a reddit-style joke thread?

All upvotes are not equal.

I think this is one of the underlying problems with many social moderation systems, HN included.

Your idea of having upvotes cost karma is an example of one of the possible solutions that economics has devised for us.

"I think that part of the problem is that there's inflation in upvotes because people have an unlimited supply."

It's not obvious to me that this is true. Here is a counterexample:

In the extreme case, if the user base consisted of a set of 'wise old users' who only up voted the 'good' content and a set of 'mindless new users' who literally up voted every post, then the votes from the latter group just add to the baseline vote count without having any power at changing the orderings of submissions. In this situation the submission ranking is determined solely by the 'wise old users' even if they are greatly outnumbered.


The problem you describe is that the new people are interested in different things to the old and can use their number advantage to push things in that direction.

It seems to me that there are a few possible solutions.

1. a) Restrict the topics of discussion on the website by restricting the people who can add to the conversation. Eg, disallowing new accounts to be created or starting a new website and only selectively inviting people.

1. b) Restricting the topics of discussion on the website by empowering a certain subgroup of people who share a particular interest. This could be done by moderators deleting submissions or via your suggestion of having 'super votes'.

2. a) Allow free submission of topics but provide manual mechanisms for organising the information better so people can choose the subset that they are interested in. Eg, the subreddit approach or having comments marked as insightful/funny/etc.

2. b) Allow free submission of topics but provide personalised rankings tailored to each user. Eg, user rlpb tends to like posts which RiderOfGiraffes likes and also posts which include the word "thinking" so give those a bonus in the rlpb ranking.

In my opinion the ideal solution is 2.b. I dislike the 'elitist' philosophy of 1.a and b, they seem unworkable as long term solutions and pragmatically if I can find the information useful to me on pages 1 and 2 I don't care if pages 3-100 are junk.

Option 2.a seems to work ok on Reddit. However, it does rely on people playing by the rules and probably also a willingness to subdivide subdivisions quite liberally.

I'm sure there are problems with 2.b as well: people need to be actively providing information about their interests to get the classification benefit, and the computational load is likely higher.

tldr: The premise of any vote based ranking site is that there is one set of universally accepted 'good content.' The success of this mechanism depends crucially on the homogeneity of the population it is applied to. If this assumption is broken it can be re-established by exiling part of the population or segregating the population into more homogeneous subgroups (explicitly or invisibly.)

I think downvoting isn't as easy as you think for a newbie. I only see a downvote button occasionally, and have to go into a individual comment link to flag it, and I have been here for a fair amount of time.

There is a karma threshold you have to be above in order to downvote. AFAIK, it's a fixed number. One suggestion I have seen (and made) is to make the threshold a function of the total karma on HN, effectively making it harder to downvote and effectively punishing non-participation in discussion by the removal of downvoting rights.

Interesting that after commenting my down vote arrows reappeared...

The downvote karma threshold is 500, and it looks like you just passed it (perhaps for a second time?).

Newbies can't downvote. There's a karma hurdle to clear before you can downvote, over 200 - I've heard it scales so only the top n users can do so.

I got the ability recently at 500.

I have 420 karma, and I don't have the option to downvote, and I've been on HN for a while.

I looked this up recently, and it looks like it was bumped from 200 to 500 in the last year or so.

I should've written "somewhere over 200," just speaking from my experience.

I think there should be a different system, where Karma is "invested" in the posts you make, and you lose maybe 5 Kara when you post but if 6 people upvote it, you will gain that one Karma and the user would choose how much Karma to invest, and the more Karma invested the higher it appears on the page. There would need to be a slightly higher starting Karma though, but it would be interesting to see how and if it works out.

I think the best solution would be to make HN invite-only.

If it had been invite only I would never have been able to join HN or make the contributions that I have (minor though they may be). I just don't run in the same circles and don't have some other web presence (a blog for example) that might serve as credentials. Invite-only would put a real hard-limit on growth.

Is growth the key problem or is it something slightly different?

I'm afraid that making HN invite-only would just create a more insular community, prone to inside jokes, self-referential memes, and an "us vs. them" mentality.

What about invite only with periods in which the site was opened to new members?

> As the site has become popular so the population of exceptional individuals has become diluted.

As someone who has made the journey from slashdot to reddit to hacker news starting from 90s, I have strong believe that right now, somewhere, a new community site for programmers is rising. I only need to find it.

Whatever new thing pops up, it needs to be severely moderated and it needs to charge for membership. Those things will maintain the quality. HN used to downvote comments that were fark/reddit like clever but mostly meaningless comments to oblivion. Just the other day I saw an entire pun thread on HN. The political posts also have been pretty terrible and utterly, circle-jerk style, one-sided.

I've heard it's Quora.

Personally, I've been trying to focus more on coding than on reading about coding. After 5 years bouncing between different programming sites, I think I've learned most of what can be learned in 15-minute blogpost soundbites. The really interesting stuff requires that I buckle down for an afternoon with a textbook or editor window.

I get the same feeling as you. I only recently discovered HN and at first I was put off by the large amount of noise. After sticking with it for a while, I now get a better feeling for what's worth reading and what doesn't deserve a second glance. Like you say though, I'm sure somewhere, well guarded from the unwashed masses, there's an utopian community of smart people having smart conversation, much like how RoG describes the early HN to have been.

Check out Forrst. It might be what you are looking for. http://forrst.com/

Wrong type of community for me personally. It's mostly designers and not enough interesting stuff from an engineering perspective. One too many HTML5 CSS3 show off links. I'm more interested in systems programming topics.

I would say Forrst tends to be tilted towards web development but of the 30 most recent code snippet posts only two were design related.

I applied, out of curiosity, but I have to say I'm a bit apprehensive about an invite-only community. The insistence on having a Gravatar almost feels cultish.

Forrst is does not require a Gravatar and how does the use of Gravatar in an way resemble a cult?

Invite-only, and one must fill out an application? I'd pass, based on that alone. Under such circumstances, I would have never been able to enjoy HN, for example.

If there is a strong desire for an "exclusive" community, how about requiring people to pay to use it?

Growing communities is incredibly difficult and Forrst choose to do so through invites and an application process.

Charging to get access to a community is not really a viable option until you have the community built to charge access to.

I'm also a Reddit refugee, which has been taken over by troll, derp, meme, and pun.

I've seen this so many times before, though. It's one of the basic rules of the internet; every community will converge to 4chan. Hell, even 4chan couldn't get rid of their 'cancer'.

I would like to see a HN-style board which does not have a public client, but rather only a public protocol specification. Only people who can actually implement the protocol would be allowed to join. The only thing I haven't figured out yet is how to stop people from publishing open source clients - I'm thinking angry nerd death squads.

> The only thing I haven't figured out yet is how to stop people from publishing open source clients

Forget about that - someone will create a web interface for the protocol and you're back to square one.

The more a community grows, the more susceptible it is to PR attacks to manipulate its content. With just 100 fake ids, any attacker can bring to the front page any news they want, even astroturfing becomes easy, downvote everything you don't like and upvote your agenda.

ie. one thing is to call Ubuntu's latest release a disaster, another one to call it just different from previous releases or just point out the differences and let every reader decide.

Linkbaiting should be banned, sensationalism should be banned, highly biased news should be banned, hype should be banned.

Once groupon (just to name one of many) appeared more than ten times a day in the front page, now their PR machine has slowed down to a halt. Yes, they pay PR agencies to launch torpedoes at every news outlet, we all know that. But without proper monitoring it can become tiresome to the reader.

Moderation is key, news should be moderated according to every forum's interest, in our case tech news and entrepreneurship.

I hope someday PG understands that to avoid the fate of slashdot, digg, TC, etc he must enforce stricter rules for quality content, even if he has to pay a couple of editors to maintain the front page and the comments clean. And no, HN is not untouchable, it may fade into oblivion too.

Unless he is in bed with some PR agencies (like TC) in that case, everything I said is moot.

Moderation to represent the interests of the users is moderation done by the users. If you and everyone upvote appropriate content (including on the new page) it will eventually reflect what people find interesting. It is about the users do, not just about what PG does. HN has always been about finding the right mechanisms so that the right balance in content is reached. What has changed is the number and the kind of people on the site, it has changed what type of submission is upvoted, it has also made the number of submissions increase, making it more difficult for the interesting ones to come through.

Does HN have an independent revenue model? Is there enough revenue to support hiring editors here? Arn'te we all just free riding on PG's beneficence?

RiderOfGiraffes was certainly one of the top contributors to the site - and I'll miss him and his brilliant submissions.

Duplicate content simply comes with the territory of socially powered sites. If I look at the top 10 stories right now, I feel like it perfectly encapsulates Hackers: http://cl.ly/5iFy

This reminds me of a software project I made ages ago, and one of our initial goals was "seeing duplicate content on the web is lame, and we can solve that" what we realised after a number of months of building a reasonably elaborate Google Reader API powered service, was that the solution for users is to simply ensure there is other content to look at, case in point: having 50 or so stories on each Hacker News page. Since then, I have tried very hard to never over think why someone would use a service.

My only worry with Hacker News is how much people jump on bandwagons such as the Color funding debate, and I just found myself shaking my head at peoples snide comments over peoples creations and accomplishments. On the flip side, every time I check Hacker News I am blown away by the community, such as this thread: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2400184

If anyone wants to follow my writings I intend to post them here:


There's nothing there yet, and I won't be posting every day.

Wow, I've got to say I'm a bit shocked.

Thanks for all you've done around here, not the least your role as a kind of "institutional memory" when it comes to dupes and previous discussions.

Best of luck to you further.

Please consider providing a rss or atom feed.

Completely experimental - I'm trying to do this "by hand" as a learning experience. I'd be interested if you would tell me if this works:

* http://www.solipsys.co.uk/rss.xml


Yes it works for me: I could click it in firefox and subscribe in Google Reader as usual.

You could put the following in the head of your page:

    <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Colin's Blog" href="rss.xml">
That enables an orange RSS button in some browsers (not Firefox 4, but still creates a feeds listing in the page info).

Edit: clicking on it in chrome gives an unformated mess. You can provide some formatting by adding a css file. As an example, I made this: http://www.inf.ed.ac.uk/teaching/courses/it/news.xml more-or-less by hand, and it links to a css file.

Colin, is the problem more a decrease in the quality of the stories on the frontpage, or a decrease in the quality of the comment threads?

I started to try to work that out, and after a while found myself unable to care. In the end, that was what made the decision for me to stop interacting with the site so much. The following are observations from my personal point of view, obviously, and it's worth keeping in mind that I'm not necessarily your target demographic anyway.

I've tried not to let this turn into a rant. I may not have succeeded ...


The front page does feel a little worse, but there's still stuff that does belong there. There's still a lot that's good, and perhaps my perception that it's worse is simply because I've grown. I talked with Ward Cunningham once about this - any good community helps you to grow, but after a time you outgrow it. Perhaps they should be like a book - you read them, and then after that you dip into them for a bit, then less often, and eventually you don't pick them up again.

So maybe the front page isn't that much different. Later this week I'll try to get the time to compare some of my snapshots from two years ago. If I have thoughts, where do you want me to send/put them?

But the comments, they definitely feel worse. There are still brilliant and insightful comments, and there are many, many good and valuable comments. But there are also many valueless comments that nevertheless get upvotes, and there's definitely a more snarky feel. I've felt myself being dragged into that at times and had to pull myself back. That didn't used to happen.

I also hang about on the "New" page because I think the longer-standing members should do that, and I'm really, really tired of the apparently endless repeat submissions of the same stories, endless re-submission of older (although admittedly valuable) items, and the rise in content-free gossip. But if the experienced members don't read it, how will "the right items" get upvoted, and inappropriate items get flagged?

You can't do much about how people vote, but people seem to be upvoting things that they find amusing or entertaining, and confusing that with "gratifies intellectual curiosity." People down-vote things they don't agree with, even when they are genuinely valuable.

Er ...

That's it. I hope that helps.

I'm definitely concerned about this problem. Comment threads have gotten meaner and stupider. And as you say, what makes it worse is that the mean and/or stupid comments often get massively upvoted.

Do you have any suggestions for things that might fix the problem? I have all kinds of ideas I'm half considering, but I'm curious to hear what you think. We're on mostly uncharted territory here.

Maybe I'll ask HN generally...

As with all these things, I think the problem is complex, and has many intertwingled aspects and factors. I have many thoughts on what the problems are, but fewer on how to fix them. In part, I don't understand the mentality, so find it hard to understand why things are thus. I observe, however, that what you need to do is to find a way to "incentivize" the behavior you want.

Upvoting a comment that's mean-spirited, unhelpful, or otherwise of negative value should carry a visible cost. But who makes that decision? You can't rely on the community to do so, because that puts you in the same position. Perhaps you need 10% of your community to be "trusted elders," and they have the right to declare comments to be of negative value. Then any upvotes such a comment accrued, count as negative karma for the upvoter. There might be other, simpler and more visible ways to achieve the same net result.

I know good hackers are interested in many things besides hacking, but "intellectual curiosity" is being interpreted very broadly. Any definition will lead to people playing the lawyer game on the words, so that's a hard one to try to narrow down.

Perhaps bands of karma, expressed as a percentage of the population (or something) could be used to grant and deny more access to features. Making someone's position is the ranking visible will help that be more transparent. The idea would be that higher ranks get to decide if the decisions by lower ranks are right or wrong, and hence those of lower rank can advance if they behave in a manner you choose to reward.

Or something.

These are quick "toss in the air and see what happens" ideas. They won't work, but perhaps suitably clever people on HN can find mutations of them that will. A few ideas were being tossed around here:


... although that was more specifically to try to solve the "submission race" problem that jacquesm had identified. But some of those ideas, mated with some of the above, might produce more fit children.

This: "Perhaps you need 10% of your community to be "trusted elders," and they have the right to declare comments to be of negative value," might be true, but I'm not sure it scales. I don't know if I would count as "trusted elder," but I'm very sparing with my downvotes and reserve them for the stupid, mean, and wildly off-topic comments (which are often "meta" threads about whether a topic belongs, etc.).

"Perhaps bands of karma, expressed as a percentage of the population (or something) could be used to grant and deny more access to features. Making someone's position is the ranking visible will help that be more transparent."

I think any attempt to automate this will be susceptible to gaming, groupthink, and so forth, and it makes karma too much like a game.

That's why I said these are "toss in the air and see what happens" ideas. They aren't expected to work, and finding fault with them is no real challenge.

Mutating them into something that does work is more important, interesting and useful. There's more discussion here:



Apologies for interjecting. I would like to make it mandatory to comment when down-voting. In addition, if that comment is down-voted, then the original down-vote is restored.

So, rather than trying to weed out poor up-votes, leave it to the community to manage the down-voting. Thus, a quality counter argument will be safe from down-voting and, hopefully, out-vote the poor quality post.

But if there's one thing I've learned from a lifetime in tech, it's that attempts at adjusting behaviour by indirect means always leads to unexpected behaviour.

Is it possible that one problem is that the downvote is not 'granular' enough? Downvoting a comment could signify that the voter thinks one or more of the following

a) It's a stupid comment b) It's a mean comment c) It's a troll d) I disagree with it (despite user education, it seems that people downvote for this reason all the time) e) I dislike the commenter (ad hominem)

Perhaps explicit options to flag a comment as a) stupid, b) mean or c) a troll would give you enough data to help solve the comment quality issue.

I also hang about on the "New" page because I think the longer-standing members should do that, and I'm really, really tired of the apparently endless repeat submissions of the same stories

I submitted something new and (IMO) significant. It was my "10,000 Point De-lurk" and another slice of life post about my new life as an entrepreneur:


Just slid right off the front page, though I thought I had some insightful things to say. I emailed a bunch of my friends, but only one came to upvote me, and I think you need about 4 upvotes to hover your new post on the front page long enough to get some significant attention.

It does seem like fatigue is setting in for some of the leaders. I think that's normal. When you give so much energy and time to something you expect the same in return. You expect that people are going to care as much as you and you become disappointed when they don't.

So change your expectations. When I joined over 2 years ago I remember contributing every feasible moment. It was exhausting and I remember feeling so demoralized from the downvoting or from the fact I didn't receive as many upvotes as I thought I should from what I thought was an insightful comment.

Finally I decided that for me HN was best used as passively as possible. I read HN often but I try to only contribute when a topic is in my domain. That solves the confidence problem and the burnout problem. I dont foresee myself leaving anytime soon. I havent noticed degrading quality in articles submitted or comments like others have. Maybe it's because I don't watch the site as closely, but for me the site still works as intended.

You will be missed. You were an integral part of my hn experience and I will miss your ability to supply relevant links and commentary to the topic being discussed.

I'm new here (this is my first comment by the way, so hello everybody), but I'm sorry to see a long-time contributor go.

The fact that I'm new doesn't mean I don't see that the signal-to-noise ratio is not really good. I came across some very good and inspirational articles, but also a lot of things that in no way have something to do with the reason people follow HN.

And I share z92's belief in a cool community we have yet to discover.

On the other hand, this is probably the fate of every community: it's great while few people are a part of it, but its quality degrades rapidly when it gains serious traction.

Best of luck, even though we don't know each other.

Take good care Colin, enjoy your longer days and please stay in touch.

Thanks for your tireless efforts at making HN a better place, they'll be sorely missed.

Where else would one find a juggling, programming mathematician :)

Sorry to see you go. I'll miss your valuable insights, tireless cross referencing work and your occasional maths tutoring threads.

Is this the evaporative cooling effect[1] in action?

[1] - http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1777665

Yep, and RiderOfGiraffes is not the first to go :(

After nickb, mattmaroon, jacquesm, and many other "greats" that you'll find in the searchyc.com logs left, I always questioned why I stick around here anymore. Certainly not to see junk linkbait posted all the time.

Realistically unless you have someone who is willing to spend 1,000+ hours per year making qualitative judgments about the quality of every active contributor, and who is then willing to go around being kind of an asshole, the community is eventually going to fall apart. And right now that's not going to happen, because there's no profit motive.

You could do something where you collect everyone's email address, and then give anyone willing to spend the time to be HN's curator the ability to send out 3 emails a year to the entire list that they could sell advertising against and promote their own projects. But short of that, I don't see anyone stepping up to put in the time and emotional labor required. The only other solution is to implement a paywall, but I don't see that happening any time soon.

Yeah, a one-time paywall is what has kept Metafilter and Something Awful going strong. Don't think pg et al. will ever pull that though.

I think you may have mis-assessed "no profit motive"

HN support YCombinator in several ways. In particular consider how much less visibility YC would have without HN.

YC has been very clear that they evalute HN contributions of new applicants.

I am not being critical of YC or HN, I just wanted to point out that YC is run as a money making venture and HN is managed to support it.

"HN support Y Combinator in several ways."

The maintenance that HN receives is proportional to its value to YC. This is a problem, because as the userbase increases, the maintenance required and the marginal value created scale at different rates. It's not a show stopper by any means, but eventually there may have to be some sort of realignment.

One of the things that a post like this offers is closure. People are notified that "Elvis has left the building" and something has changed. I've had a couple of cases where I made it clear I planned to leave an online community and the listowner and others begged me to stay/come back. In both cases, I was ultimately thrown off. I now think that if it's no longer a good personal fit for a major contributor, it's a mistake to try to keep them. If the community values what they contributed, this might be an opportunity to consider what the remaining members wish to do to create something of value which can draw the interest of high quality members. But begging someone to stay who is no longer satisfied is coming from a position of "you have something of value to give us but we don't really have much of value to give you". It's not a healthy, sustainable thing.

Of course, the door is always open. It's not like ROG or Jacqesm or whomever else has left was thrown off. But it's probably not a good idea to make too big of a deal out of it should they choose to post again/occasionally.

Peace and good luck in your life's journey, wherever it may take you.

It just crossed my head. What if we use a flag count (times a comment or submission was flagged and flagging was agreed on by a moderator) to "counter vote". If someone who get flagged often upvotes something, that upvote acts as a flag and could, maybe, be turned into a downvote...

I'll edit it and make it clearer in the next hour, but I wanted to leave it here while I have lunch (and think over it) so others can demolish (it's always nice to be corrected by people smarter than me) my idea.

Does this mean we don't get to see results of your proposed saved stories experiment?

Anyway you're one of the names that have stuck out in my time here so far. Maybe the site will change for the better then you can come back.

No, it doesn't mean that. If anything comes of any of the experiments it will be posted to my blog or web site, and I'll probably tweet it as well. If people read those and think they're relevant, they'll get posted here.

Certainly anyone who helps will get personal replies.

So are you looking for people to send in their 4 pages of saved stories, or are you not ready yet?

Not ready yet - I will return to that thread and contact anyone with contact details in their profile. At least one of them will probably post for me.


PS: Also attempting to set up an RSS feed on my "blog".

First jacquesm leaves, now RiderOfGiraffes... that's a loss of two very active contributors in a relatively short period. Hopefully none of the other great contributors to HN have any similar thoughts about leaving. Anyway, I think that we may soon have to see some new names on HN that can provide such good articles and thoughtful comments.

RiderOfGiraffes: I feel the same dilution since joining over three years ago, especially lately.

Thanks for posting, as a newer HN user (8 months), i now have a deeper respect for the system and will try harder to keep quality here and only submit quality content.

generally, i follow HN on twitter, that provides me a nice flow of the good stuff. and i always know i can go comment and participate when something strikes me.

Thank you for sharing so much interesting stuff. It has come to the point where, if I see your name next to a submission I think to myself "oh , here's a good one".

I wish you all the best.

Maybe what the startup community needs is a closed forum, something like Forrst where you need an invite, and if you violate the community rules both you and your inviter gets punished.

There are advantages in having an open community in that it encourages people thinking about startup and not well connected to the community to get involved, but I'm starting to think the benefits of a closed community may outweigh the disadvantages.

I guess quite a solution to the submissions quality problem would be allowing down-voting of submissions at some karma level cap.

This way, a group of users with best karma would be allowed to just stop crappy submissions. Otherwise, they have to be here all the time to promote non-crappy submissions only to not let them sink in a flood of crappy ones, which is dumb.

I haven't been a part of the community for very long but have come across a number of threads that had your cross-postings or insight on the subject at hand. I enjoyed seeing your contributions and am sad to see you go. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on your blog.

(Also: loved your username)

Yeah, the username is not for without reason either: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2161692

This pain point has been addressed before. One proposed solution is given here:

Implementation pends user excitement and suggestion for how to start-up.

I was afraid of something like this when I saw you reply to something I asked with the phrase "if I'm still here."

Please don't vanish completely.

It's Ok to walk away.

as we say in poker (when someone's giving up the game), "see you next week"


RiderofGiraffes has been an awesome, insightful contributor here for years. I've learned a ton from his comments, and he's always been helpful and cool to anyone who asks his perspective on something.

Everyone in the community should really think twice before upvoting snarky crap like this. ROG has made three years of awesome contributions here, whereas this is krambs's fourth comment and he's contributed nothing to the community.

Yeah, we don't want too much meta and we wouldn't want to see tons of these announcements, but when a longtime contributor explains why they're leaving, what they're interested in, and how to get in touch with them - that's cool and snarky sarcastic jerkiness in response is not. Everyone think twice before you upvote mean-spirited comments, please.

ROG - godspeed and much prosperity. Drop a line if I can ever lend a hand with anything.

I agree. As sad as it is to see ROG go, I find it even sadder that so many people upvoted krambs' comment. It's not about the point he tried to make -- not everyone has been on HN long enough to recognize some of the key contributors -- but the way he tried to make it.

Maybe. Probably. But after being here for 2 1/2 years, and getting in the top 20 on the leader board, and having replied to so many people, I thought it courteous to let them know.

As the FAQ says, this is a common noob delusion. But I'm not a noob either, and I've noticed reddit-ification too--mainly in the comments. Pun/joke threads at the top, rather than insightful comments, snark, etc. Looking at the articles submitted, (with the exception of the cartoon "the end of evolution") the articles still look solid to me. The comments have always been the best part of HN though.

If the acculturated core of users are overwhelmed by an influx that is larger in number than the core, it seems to me that is when a culture shift happens. I think the first thing many noobs (myself included at one time) think when they see HN is "oh, reddit for tech stuff and startups!" so I think that is where the revolution is taking us.

This was an exceedingly gracious and thoughtful post. Thank you, Colin (and please do make that "occasional contribution" from time to time - it will always be appreciated).

Lurk more.

This is not reddit

To be fair, I'm an HN user who has been here 594 days and have never heard of you, and am sort of confused why largely anonymous users of a site like HN feel the need to post their own dramatic farewell posts. If you aren't feeling appreciated or something lately call up a real-life friend.

If you aren't feeling appreciated or something lately call up a real-life friend.

That's exactly the kind of snide comment that's making HN a less pleasant place and pushing good contributors away.

Sorry you interpreted it that way but it was legitimate advice. Real life relationships trump pseudo anonymous internet relationships.

Perhaps this might help stir your understanding of who the major contributors to HN, as decided by its membership, are:


I'm a little bit surprised you've never heard of ROG, he has been an active contributor to HN both with articles and with comments. Anyway, take a look at the leader board, he's there. Number 13. http://news.ycombinator.com/leaders

i've never heard of him either, and i've been around long enough to not know, or care how long i've been around on nyc.

i personally find this sort of "farewell" ludicrously over-dramatic. to be sure, if i ever leave, i'll just leave, secure in the knowledge that nobody really gives a wit.

I think the main point of the blog post was not a self-centered I'm leaving but a commentary on the state of the community and quality of HN.

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