Has anybody noticed the drastic decline in quality of links and comments in the last month or so? I think one of the problems is that, without comment scores, new users don't have feedback from the community on how they're supposed to act. There's no way for them to learn the culture.
So it's September, but with no way to tell the new students to mind their manners.
People can see their own comment scores.
HN is still in decline, but I don't think it's worse than when it had public scores.
Meanwhile, not having up-to-the-minute scores makes the site more pleasant to participate in; one isn't prodded to make statements in reaction to ludicrous (and likely ephemeral) voting swings.
Here is my alternate theory:
It isn't obvious that 'the decline' is really anything other than selective memory. The good posts are memorable because they are good. The crappy posts are uninteresting and forgotten.
So if you look at HN and you see a bunch of stuff that you are not interested in on any given day, you compare it to the good stuff (that you actually remember), and you say 'what is all of this crap.'
This is exacerbated in older users, as they have seen more really great posts that they can compare everyday crap to.
It is like comparing a single random day of your life to the combined highlights of the last 4 years of your life. With that comparison and no perspective about what you are actually comparing. (So its kind of like being in a committed relationship).
So I can't honestly say that I have hard evidence of a decline in HN.
There are a few things that annoy me about internet discussions in general, on sites like this, which I would like to eliminate. These are on the level of pet peeves, however.
I'll give a few:
1.) Rapid back and forth of 1 liners and memes.
2.) I spend 1/2 hour or so composing and editing a rather in-depth post, and no one sees it.
This happens either because that thread has been pushed off of the front page, or the thread is already filled with comments which are only a couple lines, and while they may be reasonable and appropriately toned, seem to me to be a superficial analysis...
3.) Multiple articles on the same topic, all making it to the front page, even they don't really add anything to each other. It would be cool to merge articles/threads on the same topic.
4.) Blog links that do nothing but redirect to another blog or article. i.e. "x y has posted on y z; here's a link"...
5.) edit: Here's another: Karma is directly proportional to how early you post in the thread (by virtue of time being linear and people only visiting a thread a certain number of times).
There are more, but I can't think of them at the moment.
Though not perfect, an incomplete solution to the timing issue you mentioned is already in place. A new comment can show up at the top for a while, but the karma and age of the account may be weighting factors to prevent trolls from getting the top spot. The position of the comment degrades over time, and of course, how fast it degrades depends on points it receives. This doesn't work perfectly, but it's better than nothing.
I feel the same. The change makes the site a bit harder to consume - particularly, skimming-quickly-for-a-couple-good-points is harder.
But it makes the site much nicer to participate in. First, I don't feel the need to reply to mean, nasty, or incorrect replies to me unless I have something to add. Second - and I think this is really nice - voting has become less about promoting an argument or viewpoint and more about saying "thanks for this" or "less of this, please" - I find myself voting up thoughtful stuff I disagree with more often now, and voting less frequently overall.
Personally, I'd say the site is harder to consume efficiently now, but more pleasant to interact with.
If you think about it, "harder to consume quickly," as annoying as it is, is exactly what was needed to fix "the decline of HN." It helps filter out the linkporn because the people who participate are the ones who stay to enjoy the whole experience.
I'm finally finding more links on the front page that lead to lengthy articles I actually want to bookmark on instapaper and read later.
I have to disagree. I used the comment scores exactly for this, to "consume quickly". Well, yes, there's only so much time I can spend on HN and being able to figure out which posts seem to be highly valued was helpful.
Most of the time I would read the discussion of the article before the article itself. Sometimes from the discusson I could see that the article would not interest me. Sometimes the discussion was so thorough that there would be no need to read the article at all.
Now I generally read the top comment and decide on that. It's good, because it saves even more time. It's bad, because I'm most likely missing on a lot of content.
Maybe eventually I'll get to the point when I open HN once in a few days for a few minutes and close again. That will save time, but a lot of interesting content will be missed.
I can speculate, but I might be wrong. Maybe you mean something like 'liberally littering articles with links' or even 'linking to one's own blog, even when the link is irrelevant'?
Also, a lot of people on Reddit blatantly talk about their intent to farm more karma with their posts.
Not that I have anything against reddit - I do frequent the site - but when I come to HN, the type of content I'm looking for is quite different than when I go to reddit.
New users wouldn't have this feedback. They might think they're making good contributions at +2-3.
People talk about "group think", but when you've got an intelligent group (like HN), a bit of group think can be a good thing.
* A comment made by someone with name recognition whose comments are read in RSS by 20 people.
* A comment on a political thread that states a clear polarizing opinion for people to glom onto.
* A mystical winged unicorn "good comment".
* A mediocre comment on a buzzy thread ("TechCrunch Says Apple App Store Approval Process Makes iOS Better Than Android!").
My best comments on the site are not, as a rule, my top-scored comments.
Meanwhile, public scores clearly do create problems: they promote groupthink, they prod reactionary voting or, worse, reactionary commenting, and they act as nerd pheromones driving tangential discussions to the tops of threads.
The harm of public scores outweighs the good, in my opinion. Reasonable people can disagree about that point. But I'm not sure they can disagree that there's nothing bad about public scores (which is not an argument you made).
My best comments usually get about 5 points. That's because the best things that I write are usually on very specific topics that I know a lot about. However, the way that breaks down is that there's a tiny number of people who also know enough about those things to know if I'm just talking out of my ass or actually saying something useful. And even if they could tell, there's often not enough backstory for someone who doesn't at least have a passing interest in those areas to make sense of them.
On the other hand, my 50+ point comments tend to be some combination of well-timed, snarky and generic. Basically, they're the sort of thing that HN wants to discourage. As such I'm generally a fan of the scores being hidden.
One of my highest-rated comments (inexplicable; I'm embarrassed by it):
Meanwhile, here's a comment I actually had to do research to write. Skim it and take a guess how its karma relates to the previous comment:
Hint book: ZBER GUNA RVTUG GVZRF YRFF XNEZN.
Among my first comments to HN was a single word: "Yes."
It has 34 points.
Albeit witty and appropriate in context, I think we can agree it's highly overrated. Meanwhile some of my much longer (and I think better) posts sit with only 1 point.
If you manage to comment relatively early on an article that winds up being popular, your comment is much more likely to itself be upvoted (or downvoted) a lot.
The later you comment, and the less popular the articles you comment on, the less chance your comment will be voted on at all.
I've often commented on articles which were "old" (by HN time) and on articles which I personally found interesting but which which hadn't received many upvotes, and those comments were very rarely up or downvoted (probably because most people never even saw them).
Comment placement is another important factor. "Top-level" comments (ie. comments without any parent comments) are more likely to be voted on than comments buried deep within a thread. Though replies to high rated top-level comments are often more likely to get voted on than top-level comments which appear later on an article with a lot of discussion going on.
Most of the comments where I feel like I said something insightful or genuinely useful end up with a score of 5 or 6. The others are higher or lower (depending on timing.) I don't have any 50+ comments though, I haven't posted much and I try to avoid making the kind of low-signal comment that I expect would get that kind of result.
But that can be a false signal. It's quite possible to have eloquent writers make total crap written in an authoritative style sound believable enough to have 5 people nod and upvote. Having no scores forces people to do their own research and form their own conclusion about trustworthiness, which is more work, but better.
Why anyone wants to hide useful information is beyond me.
This isn't a joke, nobody recognizes my name, it's just a comment that I did a bit of research on before posting.
I'm sure there are plenty more like this. Of course some comments get upvoted "incorrectly" (A comment on made about "Winklevoss" being a verb got a lot of points).
How does hiding the points negate this? In my opinion, it does the opposite. If you can see scores, you can decide that a comment is "high enough" and ignore it.
Disagree. Intelligence doesn't undermine groupthink; in fact, the veneer of intelligence seems to make people more prone to groupthink because they'll say, "hey, this group is pretty smart, so they must be right!" Critical thinking is what is necessary, and I don't see enough of that on HN. Also, comment scores are not always indicative of quality, they're indicative of how many people agree. Don't conflate the two.
If you want an echo chamber, go to Reddit.
I want to go on record as strongly agreeing with this.
Hadn't thought of this. Really good point. How do I know what's a 'good' score if I only have myself to judge against?
That said, I agree some more context would be useful. Maybe the balance could be adjusted by including some more information. A page could include some overall statistics, for example the top and average score for the page, and/or maybe other useful info that is not hidden but complicated to access, like the top and average karma, etc.
You can see your own score, so I'm not sure why you think that's true?
It does mean that hivemind voting is negated, but I've not really seen that as a problem on HN. Some analysis of voting patterns etc before and after the change would be great to see from PG.
Granted I have no facts to back this claim up - but I have seen it happen again and again - just the way certain popular blogs always reach #1 regardless of their content.
Well, I would only want "good" comments to have some colour too. Say, those with score over 20 or some other arbitrary number should have a different colour. Maybe even more than one gradation - change of colour at score of 20, another at 50, maybe one more at 100. That would make me a relatively happy user.
Bring comment scores back, HN is getting even worse than before (which is really saying something) without them.
I just counted how many replies there are to each comment on this page and this is the result:
21 replies: 1 thread (main thread)
13 replies: 1 thread
6 replies: 1 thread
5 replies: 1 thread
3 replies: 1 thread
2 replies: 8 threads
1 reply: 39 threads
That means the 39 comments that are the only comment in a thread I have no idea whether they're good or bad, save my own judgement. The threads that have 2 replies don't fare much better: Since there's weighting towards users with high average karma, time decay, etc. it's hard if not impossible for me to infer whether these comments are good or bad according to the community.
In other words, in this thread there are 55 comments where I have no idea what the community thinks, and since they're all children to other comments they might show up anywhere in the thread. I have no way of parsing these comments without reading the whole thread through, including all the fluff.
The comments that are replies to comments with 3 or more replies count to 48. This means that in this thread more than half of the comments might as well have been without votes. It makes no difference - you can't see the vote, the comments doesn't rise to the top since there isn't anywhere to rise to, and it might appear anywhere on the page.
This begs the question: If you can't see the votes and can't parse out the interesting information inferred by these why have voting at all? I'm encouraged to read through the whole thing. Voting is then just a token gesture with no real effect. And then you're back to newsgroups...
The alleged weighting of comments within a thread is a complete failure because of that exact reason. I actually get a headhache from the frustration of knowing that weighting is done so I have to take into account the size of the thread to decide if something deserves my special attention. What a pain.
By that I mean that I think the standard deviation in scores has gotten much higher, and the top few posts end up with higher scores than they used to.. for better or worse. I've had comments that were useful but far from brilliant end up with 40+ points, and I think the biggest reason is momentum. I think being able to see the scores was probably giving people an opportunity to say "10 points, yep.. that's a 10 point comment" and leave it alone.
So.. if that's true (and it'd be great to see numbers to back up or refute it).. then I'm not sure if it's better or worse.. but I'd tend to think it's not a great thing, since it makes it more likely that early useful comments are voted better than later brilliant ones.
At any rate. That's my take on a flaw that I haven't heard anyone else mention.
-4,-3,-2,-1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5+, 10+
I don't really bother to vote that much anymore; I realized that I had previously only upvoted good comments that had low scores.
Edit: Hmm, that gives me an idea. Perhaps give new users a few "sample comments" of what's good, and a few of which are bad. IE: "This comment by grellas comes from an informed background, and is free of snark despite contesting some of the claims in the article. Goofus sees the same article, and decides he can make a good pun on the title, and throws in an insult to the author based on something he sort of remembers hearing about a while ago. Be a grellas, not a goofus!" Well, perhaps less hokey, but you get the idea.
One of us is misremembering the old HN. I remember joke/one-liner comments were a real rarity on HN. I might be wrong though.
me too, I'm about the same age-user as you.
I'd be interested to know if the votes per pageview have plummeted since the removal of comment numbers.
I think the way the system is, now, isn't ideal but it is decent. It eliminates the temptation of a lot of people to post with the intention of getting lots of points so everyone sees how awesome they or their comment are, but still provides the input on those comments for the individual to see. So it helps shape your quality, without making the "ranking" a public competition.
As for curating the live contents of an actual discussion . . . I don't think exact point numbers is necessary for that. If I only want to read the best top half of the comments in a discussion, I don't need to know that a set of comments got 12, 32, 48, and 119 points. I just need them to be displayed in such a way that I can discern the top-most content. Physically weight the comments (in color, boldness, placement, or other possible options) so that the top 20% of comments appear in one way, the next 40% appear another, and the bottom 20-40% appear in yet another way. Easy to visually discern and pick through, but the top comments are then tied to the top comments in relation to that exact discussion and not a hardset number of "anything over 50 points is really great - period". (For all I know, this may be how HN does it - I tend to read most comments already, so I'm not sure).
Or more likely, the culture just changed. That happens sometimes, and when it does, there's no going back.
HN has become much more adversarial in recent months, and it has nothing to do with whether or not we see a number attached to the comment. You don't need that number to know whether the person who wrote the comment is someone that you probably wouldn't want to hang out with in real life.
My guess is that we're just all strangers now, and that it is human nature to implicitly treat strangers differently than we do friends. What's amazing (to me anyway) is that this change has affected even users whose names I recognize going back years. People whom I used to have a lot of respect for. It's not just the new users.
You either like debating strangers or you don't, and the people who relish these kinds of debates will pursue them even in the absence of a scorekeeper.
With too much gamification, everything becomes a game. Writing a comment should be about sharing experience or insight, not making a move to try to score points.
Taking away only other people's points isn't really solving the problem.
With the old system, I often found myself motivated to post b/c I saw that a snarky comment had gotten a lot of points and wanted to one-up it. It was an ugly, ugly emotion and thankfully PG has eradicated it from HN.
Not as long as total karma scores remain visible to the world.
It's a question of size. With ten people in a room, it's likely that none of 'em is a complete doofus. But with a thousand people in the room you've got a bunch of doofuses. And hugh3's Fifth Rule Of The Internet is that doofuses will inevitably dominate conversations. They do this in two ways:
1. When a perfectly sensible article is submitted, some doofus will make a completely unreasonable comment about it. Three or four sensible people will carefully piece together responses detailing why the doofus is wrong, each of which sets off its own thread, and pretty soon the single dumb comment made by the one doofus is starting to dominate.
2. Other doofuses have agendas. They're not here to find out interesting stuff about all fields, they have one particular hobby horse that they really want to push. And that hobby horse is generally stupid, but if you've got a few people really into it then. (I'm not gonna name any names, but there are certain things which do show up on HN awfully often...)
Anyway, you can't force doofuses not to be doofuses. And you can't make doofuses go away. And you can't make the doofuses lose interest in the only outlet they have for their doofus ideas. So aside from starting a new site and hoping you'll get a few years before the doofuses take over, what can you do?
Here's a heretical idea: you're only allowed a fixed number of posts per day, and you have to increase that limit by being a member of the site for a period of time, and be in good standing. It isn't a great idea, but I think we need to strike down the Web 2.0 notion that everyone should be allowed to talk at the same time. pg's realized (thankfully) that 'heavy-handed' moderation is necessary - no community can ever police itself, it will always degrade into memes and groupthink.
As it stands, I'm hoping that Bitcoin is just one of those waves like Erlang was.
I downloaded and installed this.