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Look at http://gamedev.net - they've grown their community from a few active users to more than a hundred thousand and the quality only increased. They had to go through a period of significantly decreased quality as the community grew, and faced all the same problems as HN. I believe a combination of the following changes would fix things: (from most to least important):

- Upvotes need to be weighed by karma, and karma of exemplary members of the community needs to be seeded by you (and other exemplary members). This way cliques of mean/non-insightful users can upvote each other to their heart's content without making any appreciable difference in their karma value.

- The above would fix the quality of articles on the front page, not just the quality of comments. Our most successful blog post to date was "will the real programmers please stand up" (http://www.rethinkdb.com/blog/2010/06/will-the-real-programm...) which is at best a provocative rant. The actual technically insightful content isn't nearly as successful. TechCrunch mastered the art of linkbait headlines. Weighed upvotes will solve this problem.

- Anonymity breeds animosity. If I don't know someone it's much easier for me to say mean, dumb things (see: YouTube). The solution is somewhat controversial, but I strongly believe the downsides of threaded discussions strongly outweigh the upsides (ability to carry on multiple discussions at a time). Removing the ability to have threads will force people to pay attention to who they're talking to and have a coherent discussions instead of snarky oneliners.

- Moderators need to be able to lock down threads that are getting out of control.

- When the article is off the front page, the discussion quickly dies off with it. There needs to be a "hot discussions" tab that allows people to continue the conversations. This encourages people to get to know each other and participate in a coherent discussion that spans beyond 24 hours.




> When the article is off the front page, the discussion quickly dies off with it. There needs to be a "hot discussions" tab that allows people to continue the conversations. This encourages people to get to know each other and participate in a coherent discussion that spans beyond 24 hours.

The decay constant should also be decreased, so that interesting submissions stay longer on the homepage. I usually don't comment on old submissions, because it feels like no one reads or votes on them.

I am willing to sacrifice the number of good articles on the homepage each day for the quality of comments on each article.

(edit: added last paragraph)


This seems like it could help. I tend to read a submission, and maybe a few of the early comments, and then it just stews in my brain for a bit. Maybe an hour or two later I will suddenly have a fully formed idea to share, but by then the story has already left the front page, so I just don't bother commenting. It's not that I only want to comment if I think I am going to get points, but I only want to comment if I think someone is going to read it. I don't really see a point in just shouting out into the void.

Also, having the stories leave the front page so quickly encourages people who are just interested in getting points to throw out whatever garbage they can in hopes of grabbing a few upvotes by being one of only a few comments on a given submission.


"There needs to be a "hot discussions" tab that allows people to continue the conversations."

http://news.ycombinator.com/active


That's cool, but nearly invisible (I certainly didn't know about it) - if you write to be read, active isn't going to help much.


I haven't been to GameDev.net in a while, but I certainly remember some fantastic, stimulating discussion in the game design forum. The fact that there were teenagers making threads about how to create an MMO didn't really detract from that.

I really agree with your last two points. I don't think there are any examples of a large community effectively self-moderating; you need someone willing to ruthlessly delete the crap.

I'm thinking about it, and I can't really see any advantage of the Reddit-style format over a traditional forum if you're trying to build a thoughtful community. In online terms, there's only been one non-forum where I've really felt part of the community, and that's a slow-moving blog with a smallish group of great regulars.


You could even have everyone's HN be seeded by his own upvotes/downvotes. Everyone would then get their own HN with stuff they like on top and stuff they don't like on the bottom. A tagging system would also help a lot. People who are interested in politics get politics, people who are interested in science get science. I'm not sure if these are good ideas however, because you might get multiple ghettos (and it would be hard to implement).


If I don't know someone it's much easier for me to say mean, dumb things

Sooo, use facebook for auth? :)

I think HN is an ideal place for personally identifiable comments, we're all professionals here right?




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