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.