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
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.
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 ;)
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
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'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.
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.
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.)
Is growth the key problem or is it something slightly different?
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.
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.
If there is a strong desire for an "exclusive" community, how about requiring people to pay to use it?
Charging to get access to a community is not really a viable option until you have the community built to charge access to.
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.
Forget about that - someone will create a web interface for the protocol and you're back to square one.
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.
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
There's nothing there yet, and I won't be posting every day.
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.
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">
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:
more-or-less by hand, and it links to a css file.
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.
That's it. I hope that helps.
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...
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.
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.
"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.
Mutating them into something that does work is more important, interesting and useful. There's more discussion here:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 :)
 - http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1777665
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Certainly anyone who helps will get personal replies.
PS: Also attempting to set up an RSS feed on my "blog".
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.
I wish you all the best.
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.
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.
(Also: loved your username)
Please don't vanish completely.
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.
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.
That's exactly the kind of snide comment that's making HN a less pleasant place and pushing good contributors away.
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.