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Poll: Should HN display comment scores?
611 points by pg on May 29, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 280 comments
It's now been long enough since I hid comment scores that we know what the site will be like without them. Do you prefer the site now or the way it used to be?

I hid comment scores after tptacek suggested it as a way to reduce arguments. There was a nasty kind of argument that used to happen, where people would literally try to score points off one another, and users voting on the thread became like a mob egging on two people fighting. I prefer HN without comment scores, because those fights really disturbed me, and they've practically gone away since I hid comment scores.

I realize there is another side to the story, though. Lots of people have complained that without comment scores it's harder to pick out the good comments. Some say that's better, because now you have to judge a comment for itself. On the other hand, with sufficient discipline one could presumably judge a comment for itself despite seeing the score.

Last time I tried asking this question, the voting was roughly even. I'm curious if there has been any drift toward a consensus.

I liked it better when comment scores were displayed.
2743 points
I prefer the way the site is now, with comment scores hidden.
1715 points

This wasn't my idea (someone else had posted it), but I think it would be nice to see the usernames fade from grey to green as the comment score increases (maybe capping at 10 or 15). That way, one can quickly scan and see the best comments, but there isn't such a direct relationship as a numerical score. For example, the username could go through these steps:

  . . .
That way one can even faster pick out things that people have generally agreed is of good value, but it isn't immediately obvious what the exact score is - there's a fuzzyness to it - and there's also a cap on the displayed score (in that you can't get more green than 00FF00 and starting at 004400 would cap it at 12).

It fits my use cases which are skimming for good comments and figuring out if something I don't know much about has value (for example, if someone says, "they should have done it this way. . .", it can act as a barometer of the suggestion's value). It also seems like it would be easy enough to implement.

I'm not going to vote on the poll because I've actually found that the level of discussion has felt better without the votes shown. I enjoy the site more for the reason you've cited. Not to psycho-analyze too much, but the lack of vote scores removes the pressure to have the best comment or a better score than someone that has a different perspective. Even if two people are being totally respectful to start with, it can become psychologically difficult when the other person is getting more votes. One might try to make it a debate (that they're trying to win against the other person) more than a discussion (in which two parties are trying to figure out the truth together).

However, the site has become a bit less utilitarian and it sometimes does take me longer to weed through the information in the thread. Maybe varying the color of the usernames based on the comment score (and capping at 12) would add some limitations and fuzzyness to it that would meld the two. Capping at 12 would mean that both parties arguing might get the same public presentation of 00FF00 and that might quell the need for parties to prove that they're the winner of the argument by popular vote. Likewise, humans don't perceive colors exactly and that might add another layer that would diminish people comparing themselves so much and trying to score points. I guess I think it would be interesting to see if this would be a nice balance.

Example: A person posts that they think VPSs are better for hosting than renting a physical box and they talk about their reasoning (machine images that you can bring up more boxes of, launching new instances within minutes, whatnot) and it's a good comment. Someone replies espousing the virtues of physical hardware (a tad more speed, not sharing IO, whatnot). Now it becomes a bit of a competition between the two ideas (and the two posters). They were both good, valuable comments about different approaches. There is no right answer and there might not even be a better answer. The community knows this and both have comment scores above 12, but each person feels pressure to "win". With the green usernames, they're both at 00FF00 and have no idea if the community has given the other person more votes. There's no need to score points off each other or need to defend one's ego. You know you've made a valuable contribution and the other person has also, but for all you know they've gotten a good fewer votes than you. It still allows everyone reading the two comments to know that they're both generally good advice. So, there isn't a fight and an on-looker can see that both comments should be read and headed.

A variant of this is to publicly display the logarithm of the score rounded up to an integer, maybe even as a number of stars. If the base-3 logarithm was used, the displayed scores would be:

    -infinity to 0:    bad comment, should be dimmed
    2-3:               ★
    4-9:               ★★
    9-27:              ★★★
    27-81:             ★★★★
    81-243:            ★★★★★
etc. Though I think scores should be computed in a more sophisticated way than they are currently.

There's a lot of good thinking here, but all of these suggestions share the same failing as integer scores: They still don't preclude bandwagoning. A polarizing and emotional rant with a five-star/bright-green/100%-bar rating is barely less susceptible to mob voting than a polarizing and emotional rant with 55 points.

That said, I don't think hiding scores is the only solution to this problem. I'd like to suggest an escape valve of sorts: If we accept that, from time to time, a bandwagon-bait comment will inevitably get voted up, we can consider a mechanism to deflate it. There is a simple way, to designate moderators who can demote these comments; then there is a more interesting way:

I hypothesize that there is an observable pattern to the votes over time of bait comments. It would be very interesting to see a comparison of highly-rated comments through a histogram: Is there a particular curve that insightful comments follow? Do bait comments have a signature spike at their tipping point? Can these be modeled in a straightforward way? The system could then be set up to slow, halt, or even reverse upvoting when a comment fits the model.

Is mob voting an observed problem with the old way? I seem to recall PG mentioning[1] that overall top comment scores are now /higher/ than before, suggesting that upvoters didn't mob in the old system, but based their votes on the perceived value of the comment vs its current score. Thus, instead of the prevalence of vote mobbing, a more important question is: Do you think a score should be based on a ternary choice between {good comment, indifferent, bad comment} summed over a large (sometimes not-so-large) group of votes, or based on the average of the community's perception of the comment's value on a sliding scale?


I think it would be a good idea to display the scores after you vote. That way you would know that you are upvoting a comment for it's merits, and it's not a case of mob mentality.

I think that would be more polarizing rather than less: You would have an incentive to vote one way or the other, even when you feel the comment deserves neither.

We could add a "+0" vote in addition of +1 and -1 votes to solve this problem.

A neutral vote ("I don't want to vote") should definitely be present, since many users don't have the ability to downvote (e.g. myself).

SHOUTING is a good way to get karma under the new system. It's rare for people to downvote, so comments that scream LOOK AT ME will get lots of upvotes.

Just as long as you don't overdo it, or say anything too controversial.

> A polarizing and emotional rant with a five-star/bright-green/100%-bar rating is barely less susceptible to mob voting than a polarizing and emotional rant with 55 points.

IIRC, the comments I made that got the highest scores were accidental emotional rants that, more than embody some clever original insight, were in agreement with a large number of people. Usually the well reasoned ones get around 5. To get above that, I'd really have to play for the crowd, something I am not inclined to do. I value this place.

Then maybe a comment should get a single star if it gets a moderate share (5%) of the total points, or at least 5 pts, whichever is higher. Zero starts would be the default.

If we're using stars, why not base stars on comment percentile? Every night at midnight, take all the comment scores for the last week, and determine the 90th, 70th, 50th, and 30th percentiles. So every comment in the top 10% gets 5 stars, every comment in the top 30% but not in the top 10% has 4 stars, etc.

Also, I think we should switch it up so that comments are dimmed at more like -1 or -2. Otherwise, if the first vote is a downvote, people might overlook an otherwise decent (or controversial) comment.

> Also, I think we should switch it up so that comments are dimmed at more like -1 or -2. Otherwise, if the first vote is a downvote, people might overlook an otherwise decent (or controversial) comment.

This is needed. I'm constantly upvoting valid, neutral things even if I don't really have an opinion on them simply because their first vote was down, likely by a disgruntled parent post.

>likely by a disgruntled parent post.

You've never been able to downvote replies to your own comments.

Oh wow 3 years and I've never noticed. Haha tells you've I've never tried to then. ;)

Unless they have a friend or a second account who can do it for them ;)

The karma threshold for downvoting comments is 500, iirc. That would make socking a fairly laborious prospect. As for meatpuppetry, if you're going to go through that much trouble just to downvote someone, then I'd suggest you have deeper issues.

I'm often drawn to greyed things, as they're different...not sure how prevalent that reaction is, but its at least a counterweight to overlook.

Comment's should only reflect the current thread (well, everything underneath a news story). Not all stories receive the same traffic. A quality comment in one story might receive far less votes than a less quality comment in another story that is far more popular.

However, that is merely the method, and the idea of identifying quality stories is still sound.

I use something much like this on my forum and it seems to work well.

People only need a general idea of the score for it to be informative of value.

Of all the suggestions I've read, I think I like this one the most. But I think it is barely missing what the main problem is. Here is my twist on your idea, please tell me what you think.

Why do we want comment scores?

Because we want to be able to pick out quality comments quicker.

What is broken with comment scores?

They have created a motivation for people to try and game the comment scores. A simple way to do this is by writing polarizing comments, or kicking up an emotional debate. This hurts the comment system.

So what is the root problem? Why do people want to game the comment scores?

The reason people want to game the comment scores is because the comment scores are tied to their identity. If you can find a way to tie comment scores to the comments, and disconnect them from the user's identity, there should no longer be a motivation for people to game the comment scores.

So how can we do this? Here are a couple of my ideas.

1) Kill the current karma system and replace it with some new system. Why? Since karma is tied to comment scores, people don't just get the instant gratification of seeing their comment get voted up. They get to keep those points as long as they have the account. When you log in you see your karma score right next to your name, just begging you to try and raise it.


2) After 10 upvotes (or some other chosen value) start fading the username from grey to green, and immediately replace that user's name on the entire page with a randomly chosen tag. It could be Alpha, or Liono, or characters from the 30Rock, doesn't matter. As long as it isn't directly tied to that user's identity anymore. If you replace the user's name with the same randomly chosen tag, then readers will still be able to see that that person's comments come from the same person, they just won't know who it is.

All I know for sure is that if comment scores come back they can't be tied directly to the user's identity.

I don't want to remove peoples' names from their comments. Regardless of the number of points, I will likely trust a comment from somebody like grelis.

I do like the idea of dumping any visual notification of karma. The system could keep track for whatever things it needs to (minimum karma to vote, flag, etc), but there is really no reason for the community to know what that karma is.

That's an interesting point; essentially the problem is comment scores tie to people's ego. If we can split comment scores from the ego, the issues with comments would be resolved.

There are plenty of examples of sites that don't have a karma system, and they have plenty of inflammatory, insulting and personal comments.

IMO Removing karma won't improve the quality of the conversation.

Equally, anonymous, or pseudo-anonymous, comments give the commenter more freedom to make unhelpful comments.

Comments are tied to the identity, which goes at least some of the way towards them being self-moderated.

Another idea would be to switch from the positive incentives of karma, to a harsher negative incentive system. So if your karma is good, it is always 0. If you make bad comments and get down voted, it begins to go negative. You can reach zero again by making better comments later, but you can't stock pile points. Zero is as high as you can go.

I still think the perceived reward of having high ranking comments has to be removed somehow.

What do you think bruce?

I like this a lot.

Karma should be displayed to the logged in user in a vague fashion: "Karma: good." The numeric score can be maintained on the server, but never displayed to the user. Downvotes and other abilities would simply show up one day when you've passed a certain threshold, but the user should have no idea how far along they are, as we're trying to dissuade the people that want those sorts of powers (and would abuse them) from getting them. Meanwhile, negative karma could start rate-limiting you past a certain point, such as only allowing 3 posts/day.

I'm still of the belief that the only way to ensure high quality discussion is to discourage commenting for it's own sake. Everybody does not need to contribute to every article, and having a numeric karma score only legitimizes posting for its own sake.

To reiterate my support for a previous point: the only way to fix the karma system is to kill the ego's involvement in it.

I suspect any system can be gamed for some reason or other. Equally, I suspect that making ever more complicated systems, to handle ever fewer edge cases, results in the system being less useful, not more.

Simple systems, like the current karma system, can certainly be gamed, but with each iteration general value is lost. Displaying comment scores (which I prefer) can be abused. So that's gone, and a data point with it.

Keep them, don't keep them, I don't think I'll lose much sleep either way. But as a general rule, removing data or functionality from the many, to try and prevent the excesses of the few always invokes the ire of unit ended consequences. It's almost never an improvement.

I like the idea of not tying the karma score to the user, but that does help identify good users from bad. Maybe cap the karma the user can get from a single comment to something low - say 3, but let the comment itself show the real number of votes.

Besides the net score, I would like to see some indication of the gross number of votes to see which comments were controversial. A comment with 1 upvote is a lot different than a comment with 101 upvotes and 100 downvotes. The score could even be used instead of the net score, ie, just tell tell the readers, these are comments that got a reaction from other readers.

I was reading your comment and thinking about what it would like in practice, when it occurred to me that the gray -> green system is functionally identical to a horizontal bar graph that goes from 0 to 100%. You could even make the percentage visible, if you wanted to make it explicitly obvious that the purpose of the commenting system is to create comments that score a minimum number of karma.

Would that actually be better? Heck if I know. It'd certainly make grinding to 600 karma, so you can downvote people you disagree with, harder.[1]

1: Just kidding! Also, vi is better than emacs, and freebsd is quantifiably superior to linux.

> "Not to psycho-analyze too much, but the lack of vote scores removes the pressure to have the best comment or a better score than someone that has a different perspective."

This. ^ As someone pretty new to the HN community, I really feel like the idea in the above comment would make it easier to contribute my ideas and thoughts to a discussion.

Making it easier to spot popular comments -- without showing comment scores -- would be helpful. But instead of drawing attention to the HN username, why not emphasize the comment itself, with a change of font weight and/or color? So just as downvoted comments now fade to gray, maybe the most highly rated ones should somehow stand out.

While I'm not generally in favor of color coding (I'm colorblind) I have to agree with this variant. It gives the benefit of being able to see highly valued comments for the quick skimmer, while still avoiding or at least blunting the hypersensitivity to comment scores that encourages the worst behavior.

I like this, but with one exception: Change the background color towards white instead of the username towards green.

Adding more contrast with the background helps pick out the good/important comments, when skimming, and is consistent with the semantics of text color fading. Although it would be even more consistent if the text color transitioned to something, I think it would look worse.

An additional option would be to adjust text color by downvotes and background by upvotes - this would also highlight controversial posts, which may or may not be desirable.

While I like the idea of visually being able to filter comments. I'd like to say that my eyes cannot tolerate HN's default colour scheme (and most other websites). Which means I use my own style sheet. So I don't even see dimmed down voted comments - I didn't even know that happened until now. While I could customise my own stylesheet - it would get tedious making changes for individual sites.

The point I'm trying to make, is that a score is more useful to someone using a plain text browser than a class attribute. Though there is nothing to stop you doing both.

That way, one can quickly scan and see the best comments

This is exactly the wrong thinking and is why comments should be hidden. If that's what you do, you won't necessarily find the best comments, just the upvoted ones.

Here's a proposal: You can see the scores, but then you aren't allowed to vote in the thread. Maybe it can be implemented as you can see scores if you are not logged in. Then bandwagoning would have to be a deliberate act.

I'd really like to know the number of upvotes this suggestion received!

I like the idea, but how would you scale it with more users (and therefore more votes) on the site?

This was a reply I wrote to tptacek (first quoted part his) -

> 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.

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.


It'd be interesting to see voting by people who are regular/frequent commentors vs. mostly lurkers, if there was a way to segment it out somehow. I bet the response rates are different between the two groups.

I'm basically a lurker (I'm guessing I've probably been around for about two years although I've only had an account for about a year). I frequent Hacker News because it's a good technology news filter that keeps me informed of the latest trends without having to sift through link bait blog posts in Google Reader. For me, the enjoyment of lurking has definitely declined with scores being hidden because it's difficult to quickly find valuable comments. I voted for "I liked it better when comment scores were displayed."

I'd agree that comment wars have declined which probably makes it a much more enjoyable experience for frequent commenters. Having comment scores shown seems to encourage lurking and quick consumption while hidden scores seems to encourage thoughtful comments but it makes lurking difficult. I'm guessing the goals of the site are focused more towards commenters/community than it is towards lurkers.

I'm basically a lurker as well (< a dozen comments in 3 years probably), but despite the increased difficulty in identifying the best contributions to a discussion, I still overall feel I and the site both are better off without the comment scores visible. The quality of discussion has improved so drastically that I'm ok with the fact that it's harder for me to visually dissect the wheat from the chaff.

The site was better with scores 2 years ago than it is now, but given the options at present, I'd stick with pg's decision.

As a starting point, I think there is not much downside in showing full integer comment scores for comments over n (n=2?) days old.

In addition, I think there are a variety of ways of improving the "ease of consumption" (ie scanning for good comments) without re-introducing the gaming-type issues with integer comment scores. For example:

1. Use a log(karma) function or some other simple obfuscation method 2. Highlight/mark comments by a small number of point thresholds or quantiles 3. Highlight/mark only the top x% of comments on a thread

I do think there is value in seeing some signals of comment quality, but I don't think these need to be particularly granular at all (even just one or two "good comment tiers" could be sufficient).

> But it makes the site much nicer to participate in ... snip ...

To play the devil here...

Basically, you need the site to provide you with restraints to overcome your self control problems?

> First, I don't feel the need to reply to mean, nasty, or incorrect replies to me unless I have something to add.

You never did before. In fact, you shouldn't have. You upvote comments that add to the discussion, and down vote comments that do not add any value.

> 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"

It's always been that way. Or at least, that's how I always approached it. That you weren't doing that before was your problem.

> I find myself voting up thoughtful stuff I disagree with more often now, and voting less frequently overall.

I find myself voting less frequent as well. Mostly because it serves not real purpose now. Whereas before, I could upvote quality comments, now the only person who sees quality comments is that person.

The arguments I see for hiding of the points seem to revolve around solving personal issues people have. Your comment succinctly displays that.

Now, let me just say that I don't care whether points are shown or not. That, I believe, is the wrong argument. Rather, comments should be highlighted based on their value relative to other comments under the same post. This means specific points aren't revealed. Highly valued comments are highlighted. People browsing for information get a better understanding of what is valuable and what isn't.

Otherwise, what's the value in having a points system? By not using it to display valued comments, it makes having points pointless (honestly, no pun intended).

Edit: I want to be clear, I'm being fairly straightforward above. I'm not intending to attack you. If I was too succinct and it came off too harsh, please forgive me. Your comment was a good one, and I don't want you offended by what I wrote. =)

Basically, you need the site to provide you with restraints to overcome your self control problems?

Yes, as do you, me, and everyone else. Although It's not so much a self control problem as it is that we're all susceptible to the same biases.

Yes. The point I was trying to get across. =) However, that begs the question then: why bother with display points at all? If they serve no purpose externally, then they don't need to be shown.

> Basically, you need the site to provide you with restraints to overcome your self control problems?

Hah! Fair question, but I don't think that's it.

Here's an actual example - I wrote a detailed comment about the evolution of a certain field and then I linked to resources for people who want to learn more.

This guy who is a bit of a knucklehead replies, "This is wrong, you shouldn't get your info from Wikipedia" - actually, he was mistaken and I knew what I was talking about. But if his (incorrect on both counts) comment was voted higher than mine, it would make sense to reply to it to clarify.

Another example is when someone mis-summarizes something to put words in your mouth. If it gets voted up by chance a little, it's a self perpetuating thing where it looks accurate. If there's no points, everyone has to evaluate it critically and then, that's fine.

Like you say right here, points sort of signal quality. There's an implication that if one comment is at +5 and there's a reply at +15 saying "You're mistaken", then the +15 comment is correct. If someone is being a jerk and incorrect, it's a lot easier to ignore them when they don't have a seemingly-legitimate blessing.

> The arguments I see for hiding of the points seem to revolve around solving personal issues people have. ... I want to be clear, I'm being fairly straightforward above. I'm not intending to attack you. If I was too succinct and it came off too harsh, please forgive me. Your comment was a good one, and I don't want you offended by what I wrote. =)

No offense, absolutely a valid and good comment. Anyways, I see what you're getting at, but I don't think it's a personal self control thing so much as -

1. People respond to incentives and signals.

2. An incorrect comment that's highly voted up puts out the signal that its correct and authoritative.

3. If someone replies to you and says "you're wrong and an idiot" and there's an external signal that they're correct, there's a very natural incentive to reply to that.

4. Whereas if people are forced to use critical thinking and evaluate comments on their own merits, the external signal is removed, and a lot of the incentive to reply (clearing up that you're not, in fact, wrong and an idiot as apparently signaled by this highly-voted comment) is no longer there.

I guess you could spin that as being about personal things, but I don't think that's it - a lot of veteran commentors who are seemingly very self-controlled people (tptacek, patio11, etc) have responded along similar lines. When someone says something nasty and incorrect about you and there's a public signal that it's correct, there's a very natural incentive to reply which is largely removed by this change.

I don't think it's just about personal things. As someone else replied, points affect all our judgements. However, overall, I found that for the most part, the points were fairly accurate. Good comments got a good number of points. The problems people point to seem to be the exceptions, rather than the rule.

My issue is that if you aren't using the points as any indicator of quality, then you've effective made the points useless. Why display them at all? They serve no purpose.

The problem with this debate, and this pole, is the black and white nature of it. Either you display points, or you don't.

Rather, I'd like to see a solution that balances the two. Don't display points, but use points under a single topic to figure out the worth of a comment.

> If there's no points, everyone has to evaluate it critically and then, that's fine.

That seems to be something a lot of "no-pointers" are pushing. Unfortunately, they fail to recognize a few things here.

1. People could do that before.

2. People are just as like to vote based on preconceived notions.

3. People who aren't experts in the field have little information other than what's presented to go on. Just because someone makes a seemingly good argument doesn't mean they are right.

> If someone is being a jerk and incorrect, it's a lot easier to ignore them when they don't have a seemingly-legitimate blessing.

4. All comments are given an equal stage. Even comments that are wrong. (Voting down shouldn't be for disagreements. Rather, for comments that don't bring value). Basically, it levels the playing field for a debate between evolutionists and creationists. It makes them seem as if equals.

5. We still dim negative comments. Any argument for not displaying points needs to account for the dimming of negatively voted comments. As someone who has been negatively voted into dimness, only to be subsequently upvoted, negative votes being singled out doesn't help matters.

People need to split the points and highlights discussion. Don't display points. However, use them to highlight comments in a threat. Base the comment value on the threads point distribution, not on a grand distribution. Basically, a high quality comment in a low traffic thread will have a different points value from that of a high quality comment in a high traffic thread.

> voting has become less about promoting an argument or viewpoint and more about saying "thanks for this" or "less of this, please"

The problem with not displaying comment scores (or other approximate indicators) is that I have no way to know how my "this is good" or "less of this" votes will interact with other votes. In particular, there are times when I see a comment that I think deserves to be at 1 but not 0, and without scores, I don't know whether my downvote will take it too low.

Perhaps some modifications to /bestcomments would ameliorate the need for visible comment scores as a consumption guide. A tiny star or somesuch that linked to the /bestcomments page would seem to fit natural use pretty well.

I have a theory that showing comment scores benefits each individual member, especially lurkers (myself included); on the contrary, hiding them will be good for the HN community in the long run, however, each of us will have to sacrifice a bit more of our time.

Here is what I observed during the past two months:

1. I have been more and more inclined to participate conversations, without fearing being outgunned by those celebrities. In old days, almost every thread touched by one of top members quickly becomes a one-man show, other comments (may be more insightful) got somewhat ignored. The consequence is that a lot of us just don't bother to write a word. Now, they are still there, but the herding effect has been much less since, so their advantages are not as obvious as before. The game is more fair. For example, I saw one thread today patio11 was using his BCC as an example, a guy was asking what BCC was. I don't think this will happen in old days if the guy saw patio11's comment had say 300ish upvotes.

2. Those celebrities are not as thoughtful and knowledgeable as what I used to think. I have nothing against them. They gained their fame because they are experts in certain areas and they gave insightful comments there. However, the issue is that they may not be experts in other areas. Without the scores being shown, comments are evaluated in a more fair way, based on its intrinsic value rather than who their owners are. I saw a lot of comments that have spelling error here and there, may not be worded properly, but are really insightful. I appreciate those comments and gladly upvote them. I doubt I would have patience to read them if scores were being shown, more likely, I gloss over them and just skip them because of those minor issues.

In summary, showing scores brings short-term gains to the members, discourages participation and encourages lurking. HN will become cliques around a few key members.

I completely agree about the one-man-show thing. I'd like the feature that disables karma accumulation for my comments. They don't mean anything; there are people that RSS my comments, and I am basically scoring on name recognition.

I'm a convert. I last voted to display scores, but now I think hiding them is best.

The reason is because HN was (is) becoming more affected by the same cycle we've seen play out where content from a small set of users which reflect core site values makes the site good, but this draws more attention and users until content quality begins to suffer; quality posters leave, and find some new site which starts the cycle again.

I think leaving off the comment scores is the only way to check that unwanted behavior. We have to deal with the inconvenience of not relying on scores to skim comments, but I think that can actually be a good thing; I think that's just HN at a new (more sustainable) maturity.

I'll just point out that making this - or any other measure - into a vote, runs into the same problem that IMO is at the core of the overall "decline of HN" problem. Democratic decisions will tend to be compromised by the diluted community. In other words, I think it would be better if you either do what you think is best, or poll a group of users that you are familiar with and respect highly.

I didn't say I'd do whatever got the most votes.

Could hide the point totals on polls too, and just rank the choices by vote.

I'm curious; will you be looking at comment scores of comments in this thread to help make the decision? There have been a few times when I've been viewing comments in a thread and thought "I wish I was the admin of Hacker News so I could see how these comments are being scored."

And you waited a significant chunk of time before asking the question, despite numerous threads attempting to address it sooner.

To clarify, I was attempting to describe my impression -- through this example -- that pg won't simply "follow the masses", if he disagrees with them or decides he wants a different result. I did not mean my comment as "why didn't you address this sooner?".

Social influences kill the wisdom of the crowd:


>or poll a group of users that you are familiar with and respect highly

I'd be interested in seeing the results of a poll with just the top 100 users* participating.


This has been debated in so many threads. I want to sum up the arguments for comment scores (as see them) and maybe someone else could sum up the arguments against them.

1. comment scores let you quickly scan to see the most interesting comments

2. comment scores provide an additional layer of information ("what did the community think about this?")

3. comment scores make it easier to assess comment quality in threaded discussions (the most popular top level comments will move to the top of the page, but little information is provided about the quality of replies)

As a hacker I'm generally on the side of getting as much information as I can, as fast as I can get it. I'd love to bring back the comment scores and think of other ways to address the problem of nasty arguments.

> "what did the community think about this?"

I like when sites treat this as a fuzzy metric, such as on Newgrounds.

"This comment is helpful."

"This comment is not helpful."

"A consensus can't be reached about this comment."

I totally agree with this. If you read through comments generally distrusting the community (as I do) then pretty much all specific information is useless. A gist is all you need, anything else is needlessly complicated.

Those are all valid points, but the thing that's always bothered me about Hacker News is the cult-like feel that comments exude. I would suggest that by hiding the scores, the website disguises the level of futility of voting against this collective mindset, and thereby encourages diversity of opinions.

How about switching comment scores on after a certain amount of time? I've found myself especially wanting them when looking through older threads.

+1. This would return searchyc.com to its former usefulness (with the same old caveat that comment scores may not be a good proxy measure for comment quality).

I like comment scores not being displayed, but agree that it would be nice to see them a couple days after it was submitted. I can't think of any reason why this would cause any issues since new comments on 2 day old articles is rare.

Interesting idea. But I don't think many people look at old threads.

I do. I bookmark interesting threads to look at again in a month time or so, when all comment dust has settled, and I have a better perspective.

I noticed that downvote buttons disappear after a while (24 hours after posting is my non-scientific impression), but upvote buttons never do; If e.g. 95% of the votes happen within 48 hours of posting, it might make sense to drop the upvote buttons as well at that point, and display the points -- if you believe they are useful.

Personally, I'm happy with the comments just sorted by points and don't care for the actual number -- although, while you're at it, I would be happy if there was a controversy indicator of some sort -- when I read threads, I'm often interested in the consensus and the controversial. I can find the consensus in the first few posts; I can't tell where the controversy is.

I second the idea of a controversy indicator - it's a significant piece of information that gets lost whenever the bandwagon jumps on, even with scores displayed.

I mostly see this in the form of low quality or offensive comments that get lots of up-votes from people who agree with the poster's opinion - usually if a good comment gets down-voted because the majority disagrees, someone says "why the down-votes? its' a legitimate point", and it gets boosted back to positive.

I do. I follow HN using a RSS feed ( http://feeds.feedburner.com/newsyc100 , from http://talkfast.org/2010/07/23/a-cure-for-hacker-news-overlo... ), and I often read a submission and its comments a few days after the discussion has died down* .

Seeing comment scores is useful, because it lets me easily see the "best" comments. I don't see the problem with showing comment scores once the discussion has died down.

It's also useful to be able to see comment scores when browsing old threads, looking for specific information (using searchyc, bookmarked threads...).

*: of course, this approach is good for simple HN "consumption", but participating is harder, since few people reads the comment I make on week-old threads...

Seeing comment scores is useful, because it lets me easily see the "best" comments.

This is actually why I think comment scores should remain off indefinitely. People (including myself) have become too reliant on scoring as a measurement for the merit of comments. That may have worked when the site first started and had a small close-knit group of users. However, any site which experiences growth as HN has will inevitably become diluted for both quality of comments, and scoring, I believe. Yet, people will not adjust for that as they continue using scoring to inform them what is "best".

Intuitively, you could delay comments for just a day or two and get 80% of the benefit we get now. Stupid threads are sprints, not marathons.

I don't know, this worries me. I think a reason discussion quality has improved is the only comments posted now are from those who really want to add to the discussion. Knowing people might later credit you with your score gets dangerously close to the original problem of people intentionally scoring points off one another.

I think that whether you decide to show the comment scores immediately or not, you should should show them after some delay.

Judging from the replies to your comment, pg, at least some people read old threads. I know I do. I find helpful advice and information from them all the time. I think that people reading these threads should be able to get the benefit of seeing the scores.

The arguments against showing comment scores are almost exclusively about the thread quality. If the scores aren't shown until it's too late to comment, there isn't going to be any noticeable impact.

If I haven't overlooked anything significant here, you wouldn't be hurting any aspect of the site, but you'd be helping some people get more out of it.

I look at old threads fairly often, and people who search on certain keywords on Google or Bing are sure to do so.

I tend to read threads several days after they are posted, mostly because I can scan all the comments at once. I think having the votes would help me scan much more efficiently. Identifying infrequent posters might also be helpful since they often post new/different information that may not be highly-ranked.

I wish they were a bit easier to unearth (I lost some saved threads, a while back).

I think they would, could... ok, might have more value, if there was some way to get them more easily in front of the right eyeballs at the right time. How many "seeking advice..." threads appear that remind us old timers of one or several prior discussions that would still be highly relevant.

If we have the time and inclination, we google or otherwise search up a link or three. When someone else does so, I know that I for one am inclined to follow those links.

I have almost 3000 subscribers to Hacker Newsletter that would argue with that. :)

Do you include the comments when you publish?

I really enjoy looking at old threads. I don't always spend a great deal of time on HN 'in the moment', but I like to do searches for old threads when I come across a topic (from anywhere) I find interesting. I want to see what the HN discourse was like on the subject.

Having the comment scores show up after some fixed amount of time (1 month?), would add a little to that experience.

Dont know about others, but I do and I learn a lot from them. One more reason why I absolutely loved the duplicate story detection script.

Far and away, most of my pageviews are on recent threads. However, the oldest threads are the ones that give me the most value: if I happen upon an old thread, it's because it contains advice on a topic that I searched.

In other words, when I use HN on a daily basis for the community, I'm browsing the latest articles in high-volume fashion. When I use it as a technical resource, I'm probably only hitting a few old articles. But pageview-for-pageview, the old articles that pop up when I'm doing a search offer me much more value than the ones I browse daily.

While you must certainly be right re: the degree to which traffic goes to old vs new articles, I think you might be underestimating the value of old HN threads. The traffic going to old articles probably has different purpose and those pageviews are probably not isomorphic to typical pageviews coming from the front page.

Why guess? Aren't there server logs?

Concur. What if this time threshold was the same as when down-voting comments is disabled. What is that? A week? Two?

It's only a day. We'd probably want to hide for a few days, as it's pretty common for a thread to keep going for more than 24 hours.

I'm pleasantly surprised to learn it's so short. I think a week is still a decent amount of time to hide scores.

I liked it better when comment scores were displayed and it is better, now, when comment scores are not displayed.

It alternatively fed and chastised my ego with scores visible. It was marvelous showing who was right and who wrong on teh Interwebs...

But without that, the only thing that sustains me here is saying what actually think. I'm "starved", yet I'm better for it.

I personally care most about comment scores for preserving the ability to use SearchYC on a keyword of interest and find good advice. This doesn't work if they're off.

Showing comment scores after down votes have turned off would allow this I think. Seems like a good compromise.

Show comments after 1 month?

Showing comments after 2 days should be enough.

Perhaps just give them an API where they can get the scores?

It's not clear to me that "number of upvotes minus number of downvotes" is a meaningful measure of anything, whether its displayed or not. An upvote from a high-quality user should count for more than one from a low-quality user.

If you consider the graph of comments and users, where each vote is an edge from a user to a comment, and there is an edge from each comment to whoever wrote it, I bet there would be interesting information to be found in the eigenvectors.

PageRank for karma, interesting idea.

Put it to a vote and a group of nerds is always going to vote for more bells, whistles, and knobs. All I can say is, the site is more pleasant to interact with without the scores.

This is going to get lost in the noise and will probably be a bit off-topic, but I've been enjoying HN as of late. I'm not sure what changes have been going on behind the scenes (I hope it's not placebo) but the overall site (comments + submissions) have seemed better in the past few weeks. I'd like to think the lack of comment scores is part of this. Thanks Paul for trying to keep the site well-tended.

Here are some of the reasons why I voted to display comment scores

1. HN is a great community and imo members should be treated as responsible adults.

Comments that are "(a) mean and/or (b) dumb" are a problem. However, I think that the people who make these comments are going to make the comments regardless of whether comment scores are visible or not. After the visibility-change, I didn't see any positive change in comment quality (but I've wondered if comment quantity has increased)

Obviously, this is a subjective assessment. For everyone who believes as I do, I suspect that many others believe that they have seen a qualitative improvement in comments.

Regardless, I think that it will be great for HN to self-police itself as a community of responsible adults (and responsible teens) instead of assuming that HN is an immature community that needs to be protected from looking at comment scores. ---

2. Hiding comment scores skews the scores. Some people have said that they don't upvote comments because they don't know what the comment's score is.

OTH some populist comments (or comments from popular members) are going to get insanely high scores because upvoters don't realize that the banal comment's score is already much higher than what it should have been. ---

3. Visible comment scores are a simple and great indicator of what HN feels about the comment. imo this is a very useful indicator for everyone on HN.

If not comment scores, what about a tiered color grading system so people can see what the community thinks. If it was blunt enough, it might dull point-jousts.

For example, perhaps red = highly voted (based on averages), orange = moderately high, yellow = just a bit higher than average. Without an actual "score" perhaps the point-jousting would be reduced. If the jousts continue, you could reduce the resolution in the color grading system, so the incremental incentive for arguing is reduced.

The most important type of info that is lost in the current implementation, is that, as an observer, you can't currently be trained in what the culture of the site is by observation. Because of this, I think the current setting will cause the culture to eventually dilute entirely as it is no longer heritable. Posting comment like "Thanks" or "very interesting!" which, while polite, waste everyone's time is the type of cultural affectation I mean. It is no longer obvious to newbies that this is discouraged--and when newbies are the majority, it won't be discouraged.

The non-voting view comment scores option is very interesting though...

Why is it not simply an option for users? Perhaps only an option for logged in users, but an option nonetheless, would balance both worlds.

For the 'point players egging each other on', that's only going to work when you know that everyone else is seeing the scores too, and it won't be apparent.

came to post exactly this, have it off by default and users can turn it on. That way most people won't have it on so the fights don't occur, but it's still there as a convenience.

I'm a mostly-lurker. I only comment when I something to say that surpasses my fairly high threshold of "worth spending other peoples' time on".

On this issue, I'll break my pattern and post my half-formed thoughts, because to me HN was much more valuable with scores shown. The two main reasons:

1. Being able to skim just the top few comments allows me to read the threads, even on posts I'm not initially that interested in. Without the scores, I have to make an immediate judgement of whether I want to wade through hundreds of comments to find the diamonds in the rough. I feel like I'm now limiting myself on HN to only those issues I already know about.

2. I'd like to think that people might occasionally notice the more informative of my comments, infrequent though they may be. Without scores, my ideas may be drowned out by the quantity of other posts, which discourages me from commenting.

I understand the need to avoid comment wars, though the fact they're happening at all is rather disappointing. (Is the HN community really that petty that out-scoring those you're talking with is felt necessary, and rewarded? I'd like to think not!)

But let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater: Leave some way to separate the wheat from the chaff. I don't really care whether it's low-precision indicators, or clamped scores, or a setting to filter the highest comments, just so long as there's something.

For threads created in less than 24 hours, why not only display comment scores for comments with over X points? Solves the issue of bickering back and forth but also lets comments which have significant votes get easily scanned.

On threads older than 24 hours there is no reason to hide, so just always display comments if older than 24hrs.

Just a thought, seems like it might work.

I'm not in favour of bringing back comment scores -- the quality of discussions was definitely declining when scores were removed, and bringing them back isn't going to change that original problem.

If we need more changes, let's try something new.

For example, would encouraging people to vote more often help the situation?

If it's determined that it would, I have a couple of suggestions. First, make it less of a hassle to vote from my iPhone. The buttons are nearly impossible to hit without zooming all the way in, and I often press the wrong one (with no way to undo it). Second, provide an alternative way to downvote. I tend not to downvote something unless it's downright terrible, because I don't want to bury comments that I simply disagree with. If there were a "bury" button for comments that I consider to be spam, offensive, or completely unfactual, I would use the regular downvote button more often for things that I simply disagree with.

Hiding scores to reduce arguments seems like a very crude and inelegant way of solving the problem. You solve one problem but effectively render the scoring system useless in the process.

Surely there is a better way of solving this particular problem, though I'll be the first to admit that I can't think of anything clever.

From what I gather, scores are still used to order comments.

yes they are, but that doesn't mean that you as a user can extract any meaningful information from them. Where comments show up on a page is a function of time, scores and average karma per post of the poster. The main trunk of a debate will be somewhat navigable by this metric, but the subthreads won't.

I did a back of the envelope calculation here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2569997 that shows that there is no way to assess the scores of around 50% of the comments.

Yeah, but judging comments based on the order is almost impossible with the type of threading the comments have now. The top rated comments are also often not at the top due to the algorithm often favoring new comments.

How about showing the comment scores after 24 hours?

I personally like the not having the comment scores while the discussion is active. I do think it makes thinks feel more intimate, and you can not just scan the comments and move on.

However, I really miss the ability to save articles and see which comments where the most valuable at a glance. It would also make sites like "searchyc.com" a valuable resource for comments once again.

For better or worse, comment scores are useful for reading. I know how to ignore flamewars: I look for indentation and skip it. My virgin eyes somehow are not offended.

So I'm much less likely to read threads now unless I'm really interested. I guess that has made me less involved.

Spot on. Hiding comments fixed a problem that never really affected me.

No longer being able to assess a large page of comments without reading them all means I rarely read comments anymore beyond the first one or two top-level comments and their immediate children. I just don't have the time.

It might be more workable if you could collapse threads, Reddit style. Often so much of the discussion is in children of the top comment, you can't determine which part to read.

For normal discussion, I think we're better off without visible scores. But there have been threads where two people go back and forth with two completely-opposite views about something that's not definitely Right or Wrong--and that I'm not very knowledgeable about. I found myself missing visible scores in that case, since I wanted to know what the HN consensus on the matter was.

So I guess you can put me down in the category of "Don't show numbers, but do discretize the points and show colors/symbols/something based on that." One thing I'd especially like is a designation for replies that outscore their parents.

It's true that there are often such debates, but in many cases the person who is right is the one with fewer points.

Curious...polls still show point totals for each answer. It seems that any reason for hiding points before voting on a comment would also be valid for hiding points before voting on a poll.

So if you decide to keep comment scores hidden, I suggest also hiding poll answer scores until the reader's vote has been cast.

Perhaps a more reasonable middle ground can be found: only show the scores after a person votes, a la Slashdot's "you can't comment and moderate in the same story/thread". You avoid groupthink and pissing contests, but you allow someone to see the community response by contributing to the community first.

It would be interesting see some stats on this vote. For example, are HNers with high karma more likely to vote for hidden scores? Are newer HNers more likely to vote for displayed scores? How about lurkers vs. frequent posters? Frequent submitters vs. non-submitters?

I'm guessing the poll is anonymous, though...

Personally I think a hybrid tier system is the best, simplest compromise.

1. Comments with 1 point stay as they are. 2. Comments with 2-9 points are marked as moderately popular. 3. Comments with 10+ points that are marked as very popular. 4. Comments with <1 points are treated the same as they are now.

Comment score tiers could be color coded or use any other marker to identify their popularity range. Hopefully this would keep things fuzzy enough that people don't fight over points while still making it easy enough to scan comments quickly.

I think a lack of displayed comment score reduces 'group vote' mentality, and makes the decision to upvote less social and more individual.

But it's a "news" site. I want to pay more attention to what the group finds important.

"I prefer HN without comment scores, because those fights really disturbed me, and they've practically gone away since I hid comment scores."

I understand the feeling, but ... look away. :)

The more comments per post, the more valuable comment scores are to me, not to judge the worth of comments, but to help me decide whether to skip long sub-threads or read them. If I see a number of comments have high scores I'll slow down and read a few more posts in the sub-thread. High comment scores tell me that there's high interest in the sub-thread.

It felt weird at first but I'm pretty much indifferent now.

Yeah, when it first happen things were much harder to read. It feels like now I've gotten to the point where it's not as big a deal to not have them. Still they do bring a lot of utility so I'm fairly undecided.

I feel less inclined to move a post in its current direction (up or down) with the scores hidden.

That's not necessarily a bad thing though - each time you do vote it's an independent decision you've made.

Exactly. As a corollary, I've noticed (non-scientific, anecdotal observation) that my average karma per post is slightly down since scores were removed. I like the current system more, though.

I don't pay attention to average karma as it really depends on the type of comments and the popularity of the threads they are in - but my feeling is that high-voted comments I've had since the change have had more upvotes than they would have before, because people are unable to look at them and think "Upvote worthy, but not more than the level it's at now".

I'm on the fence about it.

I liked being able to see the view scores when comments that were considered insightful or extra-correct about a technical practice were upvoted highly. I also think that there is a self-reinforcing aspect to high scores, though. Sometimes I downvote comments which I thought were 'overrated' (hearkening back to Slashdot!), which isn't an issue now.

I think there's less voting overall going on now. I cast fewer, myself.

I can't decide which way I prefer, but regardless I like that this site continues to evolve.

I'd like to see something like scores return, simply because I find them a useful tool when reading; whether as an exact number or some kind of rough scale, it helps to know the difference between "meh" comments and exceptional comments, not just the sign of the score. Personally, I'd like to see some information about the distribution as well; a score of 3 could mean +3-0 or +10-7, but the latter indicates controversy while the former indicates "meh, not bad but nothing special" (or alternatively, "meh, not many people around at this hour" :) ).

See http://times.usefulinc.com/2007/03/06-sparklines for an interesting example of distinctions between numerically identical scores; in particular, see the "Middle ranking" section.

For one example of a non-numeric approach, what if comments had two horizontal bars next to them, one with about a pixel per upvote and another with about a pixel per downvote? You could easily draw useful conclusions both from the absolute lengths of the bars and their relative proportions. Consider the following, shrunk to fit within the height of one line of text:


I'd prefer it if 'voting' went away entirely. I think you should be able to flag a comment as being hateful or abusive but that's it. The point of this site should be to read interesting articles, not focusing on the interaction of its commenting users.

In fact, i'd like it if you stopped displaying usernames too. Perhaps then people would actually consider all the comments instead of taking what one user says as gospel.

Perhaps we should eliminate the concept of 'author' entirely.

Actually.... I think that would solve most of the problems here. Remove score count and author name from a comment and all you have are two factors people consider: what got voted up to the top, and how many sub-comments are there on the parent comment. People will still vote up based on those two things (and how the comment looks/sounds) but that'll happen regardless.

Anonymous posting never goes well. See the comments on any story in the SF Chronicle for a myriad of examples.

I haven't read the Chronicle online but I imagine there isn't the same readership here. We can still flag or downvote based on abuse as long as everyone has to log into an account to comment. Thus you can ban accounts quickly, and the registration system can help identify duplicate or re-created accounts.

Did you post this poll Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend on purpose?

Edit: I posted my thoughts on the comments/no comments debate here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2568995

Basically, it doesn't matter.

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.

I'm not sure: While the points did ease scanning for "high value" comments (particularly as participation and the volume of comments has increased), the site feels more "peaceful" without them. Perhaps I even notice a bit more, without point scores to narrow my attention.

OT: I've continued to wonder whether eliminating karma credit for story postings would be a benefit. On the one hand, contributors of interesting topics should be valued. On the other, the "core" of HN has always valued information more than karma. And without a "karma carrot" for stories, perhaps the repeats and marginal/off-topic posts (many of latter nonetheless more recently managing to garner 3 or 5 votes) would decline. I don't care about the 3 or 5 points; I care about wading past the entries. Or finding comments divided between several postings/threads.

But I'd hate to suggest removing a significant aspect of the site's performance, if I'm misreading motivations or missing a significant secondary effect.

This is a "but at what cost" situation. While it did get rid of most of the worst stuff, sometimes the delicious cookie of a +1 was motivation to put more effort into a quality comment.

sometimes the delicious cookie of a +1 was motivation to put more effort into a quality comment

As far as I know, all users can still see their own individual karma per comment on comments that they themselves post (even for newly created accounts, I'm pretty sure), so everyone who makes an effort to post a good comment gets a delicious cookie now.

But no one else knows about my cookie. :(

On a more serious note, pg might be misattributing the removal of scores for the improvements. HN is full of smart people who were already talking about community quality before the scores vanished.

I would like to see a second experiment where scores return, and someone makes a thread every month or so asking us to talk about the direction HN is headed in. Formal introspection could have the same effect without losing visible scores.

You can still see your own scores.

Hi, Paul, I see this poll is "official," because you are the participant asking the question. I don't think I ever saw the particular threads you noticed that prompted your thread-opening post with the title "Ask HN: How to stave off decline of HN?"


in which you said 55 days ago, "The problem has several components: comments that are (a) mean and/or (b) dumb that (c) get massively upvoted." I have never known exactly what the problem was previously. I suppose few people read this site exhaustively now that the message volume is so high.

Since you announced you would experiment with changes in the site,


I haven't noticed any inconvenience from comments not having visible scores. I have noticed several threads with much discussion of that meta-issue. And I think you have answered your own question here about the issue of site quality when you say, "I prefer HN without comment scores, because those fights really disturbed me, and they've practically gone away since I hid comment scores." I too like the new way of doing things. Some discussions that I participate in seem to have been better than they would have been three months ago.

But in one thread complaining about lack of visible comment karma scores that was fizzling out as these suggestions were made, several users wondered if a user who had accrued enough karma to upvote, downvote, and flag might be allowed to optionally view comment scores while giving up voting power. That's an intriguing idea. To some participants here, finding the comments with highest point values for skimming threads is perhaps more valued to them than voting. I have thought about that issue for a while. It seems to me that there are several possible responses to the suggestion that voting power be separated from visibility of comment karma scores. Perhaps the learned readers here can suggest other possible responses. In any event, I think it is your call to decide what to do.

If HN offered participants a choice of either voting (without comment karma scores visible) or seeing comment karma scores without having voting power, would that be a good idea? Possible responses include:

1) Yes, then some readers can skim threads for information, while others vote on comments, and everyone is happy.

2) Yes, because readers can skim threads for information, even if that inconveniences voters.

3) No, because comment karma scores are misleading as a guide to what to read. (See the post from just before when the experiment began


in which some kinds of high-karma, low-value comments were identified.)

4) No, because everyone should be able to vote, and everyone should have a clue about which comments have a high score (through colors or fonts or approximate scores).

5) No, because the interface should be like it was last month, when everyone could see comment karma scores and could vote based on personal karma.

6) No, because HN users will use sockpuppets to get around any such distinction between viewing karma and voting.

Personally, I haven't committed myself to any one position on this issue, or indeed even committed to whether this is a fitting way to look at how to improve the site. I appreciate you asking for user response, and I wish you all the best in setting site defaults that build a civil, thoughtful informative community on HN that helps innovation flourish.

Buried is in this longish comment is a particular suggestion I really like:

You can only vote while you you can't see scores. If you toggle "show scores" you lose your ability to vote in that thread forever.

This eliminates the snowball issue, while letting those who want to quickly skim have a good way to do so.

People will then just use their main account to post and vote while using a shell account to view scores.

Also someone will probably end up writing a browser extension to show the comment scores automatically on every single thread using information from another account.

You're right that it can't be strictly enforced, but I think the added inconvenience would be enough to subtly change the behavior of the majority group. Most people won't bother to create multiple accounts or install a browser extension.

In a similar fashion, nothing prevents someone from writing a browser extension to add comment scores back today, e.g. http://hnpoints.com/ ; The scores aren't official, but they serve the same purpose. Most people aren't going to install a browser extension. Of course, some will. But most people will just use the site as-is, out of convenience.

If there's a consistent pairing of views between two accounts, this could be flagged as suspicious. If the person isn't proxying one of the accounts' access, all the more so. Of course, more overhead.

Or new accounts could be disabled from viewing scores, much like new accounts are disabled from downvoting. The only benefit a person would obtain with this would be to see a score with a main account and upvote it with a throwaway, where upvotes aren't really what we are trying to prevent. That would take down the overhead of trying to pair two random accounts together solely by comparing behavior and IP addresses.

My personal opinion is to let it run it's course. RiderOfGiraffes at the beginning of this whole dilemma posted single page mirrors of the frontpage of HN taken once a month (or week) for the past few years. Looking through that, specifically the comments, the only difference I saw was that the commenters were much more buddy buddy and on a first name basis. Unless PG wants to redo the entire site and use some sort of invitation system much like a private BitTorrent tracker uses, I highly doubt a public community site would ever "avoid the Eternal September". Open registration means anyone can come in and be themselves. This will always change the community. Moderation can only go so far. If further action is desired, further action must be done.

That seems like an awful lot of bother. Me? I'll be off making something...

> "The problem has several components: comments that are (a) mean and/or (b) dumb that (c) get massively upvoted."

How about this as a counter mechanism. If a benevolent dictator admin decides that a comment is mean or dumb, they can mark it as a troll trap. Its votes go down to a maximum of 1, voting it up above 1 now harms the voter's karma and doesn't increase its vote tally. People who habitually upvote mean, dumb stuff will soon lose the right to vote at all.

Seems complicated, just add meta-moderation.

How's it complicated? Meta moderation is much harder.

It would be a boolean flag in the comment that turns it into a trap. The operation of the trap is: set points = min(points, 1) and then if someone clicks upvote when points == 1, then rather than set points = 2, instead set karma=karma-100. Simple.

If so, combine it with either a short take-back period for votes or separation between the up and down arrows. Using a laptop, I've occasionally accidentally upvoted when I intended to downvote, and I understand that it is much more common to make such mistakes when using a touch-based interface.

I've never understood why HN doesn't let you take back a moderation, not even in the way Google mail does (with an undo link popping up for a few seconds at the top of the screen).

I didn't mean the code would be complicated, but the additional mental load of all users evaluating every comment for it's trappiness (USERS * COMMENTS * SPLIT_SECOND).

If someone's being a jerk why not just use the current moderation/ban system that's in place? And if it's a specific idiotic/malicious set of characters that keeps popping up, just add a censor for it.

Pretty much all other moderation needs could be solved with slashcode-style meta-moderation.

If you're the sort of person who naturally doesn't care to upvote stuff that the admins think ought to be booby-trapped, then you won't be stung. Versus, if you're a jerk who likes dumb comments, you'll be stung often enough to feel inhibition and a need to contemplate a comment's jerkiness and dumbness before hitting the up arrow. This additional mental load is quite deliberate.

Is meta-moderation useful when you can vote on as many comments as you'd like? It works on Slashdot because you can only moderate a handful of comments per day/week, but if you can moderate an infinite number of comments, you can create downvote-sink comments on an alternate account (or just make sure you downvote every actual troll), so that the majority (or a large minority) of your moderations pass meta-moderation.

tokenadult: You description of "vote xor see scores" reminds me of Slashdot, although there it is "moderate (i.e. vote, but with scoring caps) xor comment".

What would you suggest, if anything, about being able to comment when you can see the scores? Would there be a risk of votes turning into additional comments, perhaps with deleterious affects similar to those of "voting based on visible scores"?

If I had unlimited time, I would be happy to evaluate every HN comment on its own merits independent of any social proof. Not having unlimited time, I need heuristics.

Nasty argumentative comments should always be voted down, right or wrong. That people gained karma from them is a failure of the community, not the HN UI.

How about two options:

- Agree/Disagree buttons/links

- High/Low quality buttons/links

This way it is easier to separate if you upvote because you agree or because you think it is a high-quality contribution (even if you maybe disagree). Karma (if kept) should probably just be based on quality score, not on agree/disagree ?

In addition, showing a score in percent/color relative to the other scores in the same discussion ?

Edit: You should probably also separate between "article/submission" karma and comment karma, as some submissions of old articles get lots of karma, while the relative karma of quality comments often are much lower ?

Yes, it is very important that quality articles are suggested, but this is much easier than contributing quality comments (which is time-consuming, especially for non-native english speakers)

I've thought about this too. However, I have a feeling that most people will consider comments that they agree with to be of "high quality" and vice versa. We will basically get two scores that are almost identical.

I'd love to see comment scores for the first 3 levels of comments.

Arguments typically go on for 5,6,7+ levels, and nobody really enjoys reading those. If that's the behavior that we're trying to modify, why not eliminate scores for those types of comment trees. Or, better yet, how about fading the color of the text as the depth of a comment thread increases? I find deep comment threads are rarely interesting or insightful.

The reason that I miss scores, is because I often skim large stretches of comments, and only read the ones that are above a certain threshold.

Alternately, how about adding a bit of JavaScript that allows comment folding, and letting users define their own score threshold for having comments start collapsed.

Please consider displaying both upvotes and downvotes separately. There's a huge difference between a `3 karma' comment with +62/-60, and a `3 karma' comment with +2/-0.

The first one is interesting, but raises serious opposition; the second one is probably uninteresting.

here are my unqualified 2 cents: have you considered showing a user's average karma next to the comment, instead of the comment points? alternatively, what if you hide the points, but let the user see them on demand (hover, show button, etc)?

i think both of those could help solve the commenting-for-points issue, while still helping users determine which comments are of higher quality.

Average karma is a very poor metric, and I found that my usage of HN changed drastically when pg started showing it more prominently. One optimizes for average karma by not commenting on stories that are older or less popular, as those are likely to produce a 1 or 2 rating due to lack of eyeballs. However such comments are often interesting and useful contributions, and it hurts HN to discourage them.

A possible solution is to scale by the number of people who look at the comment, although this might be difficult to do well. You could probably get better results by estimating a regression containing the following variables: age of post, score of post, number of comments, average score of comments in the thread, and the depth of the tree in which the comment was posted to get a good determination of how many points an average comment in that situation would get.

It is not only shown more prominently, it is listed as a factor considered when evaluating applications. So if evne if you don't care, PG apparently does. I started to.

I followed a multi-prong strategy and increased my karma from ~2 / post to ~4 / post over the course of about 4 months.

Things I (mostly) stopped doing:

(1) Carrying on personal conversations or debates about a specific topic. (2) Commenting on controversial topics, esp. with an opinion that might not be in the mainstream of HN readers (3) Commenting on things more than an hour or two old (4) Commenting on items that already have a lot of comments and points where I expect that my comments will not get noticed.

I also find it sad that I have to consider such a thing...

...but it works.

I also find it sad that I have to consider such a thing

You don't. I don't care about average comment scores, just whether I recognize a username for consistently saying intelligent things.

It is fascinating and somewhat shocking to me that in the large applicant pool that you would be able to recognize a substantial number of applicants on the basis of their HN handles.

Does this really happen? My gut tells me in a pool of 400 or so applicants you might recognize about 40 handles, with a recollection of comment quality in about half of those. Which is to say, comment quality has bearing in about 5% of applicants and virtually always positively.

comment quality has bearing in about 5% of applicants and virtually always positively

That's roughly correct, yes.

You're assuming that all/most users are trying to achieve maximal average karma, even at the cost of getting to comment on what they feel like voting on.

This seems like a rather poor assumption to me. For instance, am I mindful of not having an avg. karma that makes me look like a twit? Sure. But do I let that keep me from posting comments that I wish to post, just because I fear they will get low ratings? No, I know that things will tend to work out overall, because from what I've observed, if you make an honest effort to not be a total idiot on here, you will end up with a decent rating.

I trust the userbase, basically. It saddens me that so many users here, apparently including some of the site's creators and authority figures, seem to lack such faith to an extent that makes them want to hide features of the site from the userbase, even though a strong majority of the userbase says they want to see those features, in poll after poll, without exception.

I understand that the users are not always right, and that one can often achieve better results from ignoring the userbase. I just don't think this is one of those times.

You trust an unknown number of users of unknown quality that could decrease or increase by an unknown amount of unknown users of unknown quality at any time.

I preferred it when comment scores were diplayed.

While I can only comment (obviously) on the effect that the change has had on my own comment scores, it seems to me that it's changed the scoring for the worse. Nowadays it seems that my highest-rated comments seem to wind up being pithy one-liners (I try to resist writing 'em, but sometimes they just come out) rather than the more informative sorts of comments.

I think not having the comment scores there changes the way people vote. If you see a comment that provokes a positive emotional reaction you're more likely to say "heh, upvote" if you don't know its existing score than if you see it has already been adequately rewarded.

I'll say again what I've been saying: the current way of using points make them matter in all ways except for the one that matters to the community: as some level of indication of quality. Generally, comments with a high number of points in relation to the thread it's involved with are generally well regarded and considered to add value. Exceptions exist, but they only confirm the rule.

By using points to highlight quality comments, you'd solve numerous problems. You already use this method to hide comments. I don't see any reason not to do this for comments that are regarded more highly.

I'm having a difficult time voting on this one. In general, I like it better, but there are a few specific cases I've seen where seeing points would have been very valuable, IMO.

I like the idea of removing any visible signs of total karma. If nobody knows how much karma anybody else has (including oneself!), there is no value in trying to game that number.

At that point, trying to make a name for yourself, like tptacek, grelis, or pg have done, is a result of people knowing who you are and the thoughts you've posted before instead of some silly, altogether meaningless number next to your login.

If voting abuse was a problem, how about implementing a Heisenberg's Voting Principle... for any given submission you can either click a link to see the votes OR participate in voting, but not both.

That is slashdot.org.

You're thinking of being able to comment or vote, but not both. That's not what I'm suggesting.

I switched my preferences back again. It's nice that the fights have stopped, but fights or no fights, I haven't been reading comments over the last month because it's too hard to filter without scores.

I'm curious about the relationship to score and down-voting. He's a hypothesis: with actual scores shown, down-voting was less severe.

From my observations, this community tends to not like jokes, even if they are slightly clever. For new users, a getting solid -5 on a first comment is a pretty solid discouragement. In particular, I'm wondering if there was previously a community consensus that -1 or -2 was enough of a signal?

I think if you're going to signal anything, perhaps it's who new/infrequent posters are?

I think if you're going to signal anything, perhaps it's who new/infrequent posters are?

When the experiment of not showing comment karma scores started, another experiment started of showing the usernames of new users (I'm not completely sure how "new" is defined algorithmically for this purpose) with a style indication that in my browser shows up as green text.



to see how that styling appears in your browser settings.

"There was a nasty kind of argument that used to happen, where people would literally try to score points off one another, and users voting on the thread became like a mob egging on two people fighting."

This problem arises from two features: comment scores and arbitrarily deeply nested threads. Considering how valuable comment scores are, it seems worth trying to remove the other feature instead. (Perhaps by preventing replies until after a delay, which increases with the depth of the thread.)

What is mixpanel telling you? I'd think you could make this call from your engagement metrics.

Engagement isn't the test. What I care about is the quality of the discussion.

By that metric, I think the choice is pretty clear. The quality of the discussion has gone up since the scores haven't been displayed. In an ideal world we could all be adults, and there would not be people trying to score points through fights (I would make semantic case for "arguments" being good, "fights" being bad), but that has not been the case as the community has gotten larger and larger.

While you are telling that, I also get the impression after thought that yes, less aggressive or provocative comments have happened since the points are not displayed anymore. It's just a totally subjective impression, of course.

Maybe one solution to the problem of comment wars would be to regularly display comment scores but every so often turn them off for a bit of time (a week or a month) to remind the community of the goals of the site. My guess is that if users are reminded every so often to keep things civil by removing the socres; it would probably go a long way in maintaining the community without losing the benefits that seeing the scores provides.

Maybe we could concentrate less on picking out useful comments by themselves, but instead try to pick out useful conversations instead. So, for example, high-voting activity on one thread could move it up to the top of the comments page. This wouldn't necessarily mean that a comment with the highest score is automatically at the top, and would encourage discussions rather than trying to score points. Just a thought.

I wonder how this poll looks weighted with by the voter's karma (even logarithmically).

Not sure how reception to this idea will be, but with the whole "where people would literally try to score points off one another" thing you could just revoke someone's ability to see points if they're obviously/blatantly doing this. This doesn't solve all the problems obviously, but at least you're not taking the points away from the people that actually do find them useful. Some shouldn't spoil it for everyone!

Without the comment scores, the voting is essentially worthless. It's just a cacophony of opinions I haven't got the time to sift through myself.

There's nothing better than reading a controversial article linked from HN, then going to the comments and reading the top voted comments that debunk it. I can never be sure where those comments are now that the votes are gone.

Bring them back.

I think the poll should frame the questions slightly differently:

a) When I see that someone has written a stupid comment, I enjoy writing a scathing retor that is likely to be upvoted by the mob.

b) When I see that someone has written a stupid comment, I occasionally choose to write a polite response, and sometimes I ignore it but hope that someone else will write a polite response.


over the years we all discussed a lot of times about the flaws we find using this kind of naive evaluation system. Now to get rid of some of the problems we obv. try to optimise the flawed model or the methods we apply to it. But didn't we learn here on HN that if your model is flawed in a way you can't accept, you should find another model?

Just an idea: Maybe a recommendation system would perform better then a voting system. Because we want to sort our posts and comments according to relevance to the reader. And of course there are articles, which are better then others in an object, global fashion. But most of the time 2 articles or comments of the same comment can have quite a big difference in relevance to 2 different people.

That is just my simple, unvalidated idea. It maybe totally wrong. I just use it as an argument to the idea that we should not discuss about things like "show comments yes/no" but "how do we better show a reader the stuff that is relevant to him?"

It's a bit of a quirky conundrum. If you retain the scores, you encourage the nerd's competitive nature; the desire to 1-up another in conversation, to be the most right with passionate detail. Strangely, this type of nerd tends to get it right. If your game is to be better at knowing then you'd be sure you always had the most logical, concise rebuttal or point of view that you can possibly have. You can take just about any sport and find an analogy to pair well here.

It's my guess that the nerds who prefer the scores hidden aren't as competitive as the others, in which case, see the scores as a distraction of truth rather than an indicator of it.

Personally, I think the scores are a distraction, but I can't overlook that they do seem to encourage (in a backwards way, it seems) a much more pointed and refined point of view.

Personally, I get a lot of value from knowing the comment scores. Mostly as a first-pass filter for finding the gems in the discussion. I also really like them to help find the gems in a user's comment stream.

The value I get more than offsets any of the negative points mentioned elsewhere in this conversation (or the many others we've had since you started this experiment)

Please let me view comment scores. Make it a profile option or something.


This comment will likely be unread since the poll has already fallen off the front page. But I care enough about the issue to write it up anyway.

Why did you post your poll over the holiday long weekend? I took my family on a road trip beach vacation (almost entirely offline) so I missed the chance to participate when the conversation was fresh and active :(

>Lots of people have complained that without comment scores it's harder to pick out the good comments. Some say that's better, because now you have to judge a comment for itself.

I say it's worse, because now I have to judge a comment for itself.

On subjects I don't know, this is of course difficult.

Indeed. What is the point in having comment scores if I can't see 'em?

If I'm looking at a thread on a subject I don't know much about, and I read the top comment, how do I know whether this comment has been approved by hundreds of users (and thus is probably correct) or whether it was just submitted a few minutes ago and the algorithm has stuck it at the top? (I guess I can look at the "submitted at" and guess, but still...)

This could just be a user option. Turn the scores off by default but allow people to turn them on if they want. You could then easily query how many people had them turned-on and it might give further data points to later query with regards to how it impacts the site.

I don't know what it is about HN but for me this is now my "go-to" news site about computing. It used to be Slashdot, then Digg, then Reddit but now I find myself refreshing the HN an embarassingly frequent amount of times.

The thing that I'm quite honestly shocked at is the lack of trolling of flamewars on here. That is a huge turnoff for these types of websites for me. For example I used to love Fark until the comments went from funny to constant flamewars.

So based on that I don't think comment scores will make much of a difference for me. It's the kind of people this site draws and the comments they make. I will say that if showing comments tends to encourage flamewars by all means do not bring it back!

Same for me. Years ago Slashdot and then the programming subreddit and now Hacker News.

The reddit voting system is pretty sophisticated with different ranking options for comments (hot, top, best, controversial, new, old). So why am I here? The reddit submissions and comments are sometimes extra one-sided and sensational worded to get more upvotes. I guess this is the bane of popularity.

Since I'm new here, I'd like to ask a question that's been bothering me for some time: Do we upvote comments we agree with, or comments we think are worth reading? In my case, those aren't always the same, so I'd like to know how you guys handle it. Thx.

up-voting a comment means more people are likely to read that one owe to its position on the page and other reasons.

So I guess, an important to read, worth an up-vote even if one does not agree with. This is my way of voting anyway.

# of upvotes is just a proxy for what people really are looking for. Sometimes I just want to sort by Usefulness, Funniness, Truthiness, Creativeness. Those are the qualities I'm looking for in comments.

Not sure if that has been suggested before, but how about showing the comment score only after the user has voted? This keeps most of the benefits of no-score mode (less voting because of bandwagon-y stuff), while making it easier to see which comments are good. Basically, you have to make up your own mind first, but then you can see what the general consensus is.

(And yes I realize it wouldn't be hard at all to make a mashup that just straight up shows the comment scores, but I doubt most people would feel the need to use that).

To the extent that improving the quality of comments is the purpose of having comment scores, the current system performs pretty well since the scores of one's own comments are always visible.

There are already so many comments on this post that I hope this won't get lost in noise nor add to the noise. I did a quick search through the page and I don't think this idea has been addressed... apologies if it has.

I like not having having the score displayed, but I also like the option of seeing the score. My suggestion would be to keep scores off the main page but perhaps add an option to "click and see the score".

Not sure what the perfect solution would be, but to sum it up: scores should be accessible, but with traction.

While I like being able to pick out things quickly, I find that displaying comment scores tends to encourage a herd mentality. It's subjective, but ever since the comment scores have been disabled it seems like there are a lot more diverse viewpoints being expressed.

Also I might just be weird in this regard, but I find being "scored" on the things you say to be sort of creepy. I like feedback, and that's difficult to convey well on the internet, but turning ideas into popularity contests seems perverse to me.

Can't we come up with a way to highlight "good" comments? Some indicator that shows that a comment (possibly nested, which is where sorting fails) has X% of the total votes?

I'd like to be able to sort comments by Newest on a post. If I go through 30-40 comments at first, and then later come back to see another 10 new ones on that particular post, it's hard to remember which are the new ones and which aren't, and it just makes me go through all of them again.

I'm not really sure what "Comments" menu serves, because I see it's all the new comments from all posts mixed together. That doesn't make much sense to me. I want to see the new ones on each post.

I think it would be good to keep hiding comment scores for new topics and then after a few hours show them...

I like sometimes revisiting old topics and in those cases, having the comment scores helps a lot for skimming and finding information. On the other hand, I agree with you that hiding them stops some arguments and makes for a better discussion.

So, why not have the best of both world by only showing the scores once the topic is a bit older and the discussion has tapered off?

Here are a couple of suggestions:

1. Use labels to indicate score comments. Rather than using precise numbers, labels like (low, medium, high). That way we can still see which are the interesting comments, but not see the exact score (so people stop nitpicking on 1-2 random points).

2. Remove the name of the person who posted the comment. Keeping it completely anonymous might help your mob egging concern. Also, that way the comment gets more attention than the person who made it.

Why not introduce more types of labelling of comments? up/down doesn't often give me enough of a spectrum, and usually there's not enough time to write something substantive in a reply. I may just be repeating someone else's comment (do I 'upvote' that one instead)?

Being able to tag/label a comments as well as vote - with the size/scope/quality of people here - would create a much richer opportunity to be able to sift/sort/filter the comments as desired.

Showing scores made reading through comments feel more like a game, which was interesting but tended to take my attention away from the context of the original link. I was also less interested in interacting, largely because the context was deemphasized and it seemed too easy to devolve into a mentality of competing for upvotes.

That said, I do like the idea of using something like color coding (on username?) to highlight the top few comments.

Instead of just scores, I'd like to see both how many upvotes and how many downvotes a comment has got. I second the suggestion to colorize the most upvoted or controversial comments.

However I think the issue with simple scores is that they cram together agreeability and usefulness of a comment, which should be kept separate. That way, users which just agree with an opinion would be able not to influence the usefulness score of a comment.

Hi. I'd like to make a suggestion. May be you should try to enable scores for top level comment in the thread and disable them for other comments inside the thread. This would:

1. Highlight what you call 'good' comments.

2. Prevent fighting in threads for better scores.

3. Force commenters only to write replies in their replies and write a separate comment if they have more to say on the topic.

4. Finally, threads with highly scored top comment are probably 'better' in the same sense.

Why not make it a user setting, defaulting to off?

I like the idea that someone posted a while back: have a link to display scores. Once you do though, you can't upvote or downvote.

As Edward Tufte would probably put it, I feel some fidelity to the comments has been lost without the scores. The score for me added a 'feel of the community' for each of the comments left and that only mattered IFF the comment actually was worth reading.

As to the disturbing situation you mention I'd look to finding a way to make such behavior more shameful.

AskMetafilter solves this problem by asking all users to pay $5 to make an account to vote or post. This low, easy bar is still high enough to dramatically reduce low-quality comments and questions.

But I wonder if the argumentative and negative postings on this site are coming from relative beginners on the site, or people who are more established?

Arguments are possible with precise comments scores; why not display a range instead... or a percentile (calculated for each page and not the whole of HN of course)?

There could be any number of percentiles but the fewer the better: what we want to know is where the high scores are.

So maybe just signaling the top ten comments on each page would be enough...

I am preferring it with the comment scores hidden. I am more likely to judge based on content than if i see the scores.

Why can't I use my karma points to buy 'sneak peaks' of comment scores?

Maybe 5 points to display comment scores for a particular story?

It's a social problem, not a technical one, so it needs a social solution. (That probably means assertive moderation, thread killing and user-banning.)

I don't see how you can align the game mechanics of a scoring system with the kind of tone and content HN's looking for. We're geeks, we'll work out how to game it.

As a sort of middle-ground, does it make sense to give users the choice of showing comment scores?

You would be correct in arguing that it does not resolve the sort of argument as describe in the second paragraph.

However, with regards to your third paragraph, in this situation each person can decide whether or not to see the scores

Instead of the score I would prefer to see a rating. When a score passes a certain threshold, it gets a star. The low effort way to implement this would be to replace the digits with an 'X'. That way, people could see the relative merit of the comment without quibbling over numbers.

Perhaps don't show them when a story is moving up, but perhaps start to show them as a story descends/moves off the main page.

I personally haven't had any problem finding quality comments on the site. What is has made me do is be more selective about what topics I bother to read the comments in.

Why not give people the option to display comments, with the default hidden, and then redo this poll?

Perhaps not showing you your own comment scores would help. Only logged in people could see scores, and you don't see your own. Sure you could sign in as another account, but if you are willing to do that, then there's not much we can do from stopping you being a troll.

A thought: Make comment scores the square root or log or whatever of the total number of upvotes. For good measure, cap it at +10 or some such.

That might not remove all competitiveness, but it might reduce the effect of the vote-up-everything-popular-guy-says crowd.

To prevent mob egging, a Stack Overflow approach might be helpful: make voting down to cost karma.

Unfortunately this works better on Stack Overflow as upvotes give you either 5 (on submissions) or 10 (on comments) karma while voting down only costs you 1 karma.

if visual scores create problems, why not just obscure them, and use an algorithm to find a better relative popularity between the comments; and show a simple 3 level scale (spam/normal/popular).

If you still need more depth, add a fourth level to the scale.

I think improvement in civility that no-comments brought is a local maximum. I hope so anyway.

It's worth a try to experiment with other options. Like charging karma for commenting.

And maybe try these as A/B tests. Half the topics run with old rules, half with new ones.

Would it not be possible to have comment points in the page, but not visible, and then have them shown as a personal setting (or maybe only with the help of an extension / greasemonkey script)?

This way only people who really want them would have them.

How about displaying comment scores only to users with a certain karma threshold and/or have been with HN a certain number of days or weeks?

Presumably the folks engaging in nasty arguments are relatively new folks who haven't added much value to HN?

I think it's better without showing scores. But I'd scores to be visible after the threads have been retired - after we can no longer comment. It makes sense to me for comment scores to be a part of the archive for a thread.

I've noticed an increase in posts reiterating each other: it seems that the wrong kind of post is being used as a substitute good for the wrong kind of upvote. For that reason I would like to see voting made public again.

I know it's democratic and all, but I'm not sure a simple poll is likely to produce the best result. What if you asked whether people would like inline images, emoticons and HTML messages, and 80% said yes?

pg said earlier he wouldn't necessarily follow the results of the poll. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2595783

I support keeping the scores hidden, but using the scores to hide inappropriate, or spammy comments.

Of course, what seem to be missing is a way to highlight comments that have been consistently voted up within the thread.

Don't forget the days and times you ask. This is a holiday weekend and while I may be lurking here over the weekend to vote for comment scores staying hidden you won't see the rest of the work visitors.

I don't know everything about everything.

I rely on the community to give insight on those other things.

Scoring helps me do that.

Without it I cannot tell if a comment is rated highly, or merely appears that way.

Scoring adds a ton of value to the comments.

The more popular comments are on top already. Comments that people do not like are lighter in color. That seems to resolve the popularity issue, since right away the popular comments are on top.

I made an acount just to vote on this. The arguing you referred to is exactly the reason why i prefer hn to reddit. I would hate to see rhe same insular 'hivemind' effect here.

A very simple change would be to only display comment scores once you have voted on a comment yourself. I'd hope this would encourage more voting and dissuade group-think.

I find comment scores instantly bias you towards or against a post due to crowd mentality. It happens on reddit even worse, so I'm not sure they're such a great idea.

How about just timing out threads, making them immutable after a predefined time limit? Once immutable display the final scores.

Though I realise this won't help in the here and now.

pg: Have you analyzed voting patters before and after the change? I would love to see a histogram of number of votes over percentage of comments in the two periods.

I said I liked it as it is now, but I would actually prefer a hybrid: Show the score but only -4 - +4. That is, make positive counts behave how negative used to.

Kind of related, is it possible to restore the "by <username>" in the comment header? It made searching for comments by specific users much easier.

After you made the change to the site, have you seen any changes in voting patterns and point distribution? It would be interesting to see that kind of data.

Reading through the comments, many people here claim "Without the scores, I can't tell whether the comments are worth reading". People, you are aware, I hope, that the comments are sorted by points in the display? The highest rated comment is shown first. And scores below 1 fade to gray (I think -3 is still readable without copy & paste, and -4 is the last displayed).

Could someone explain how the specific number (rather than just sort order) actually influences their reading of discussions? I'm trying, and failing, to see how that would actually be useful. Honest question here.

This isn't quite the case. There is also a time component, so that new comments have a chance to be seen. So something at the top might be very highly rated, or just the latest addition.

Absolute numbers are most useful in the case of lone responses, but have utility any time there aren't a lot of comparison points. They also separate out the time issue.

These polls aren't very scientific (much like comment scores) but at least we'll be able to gauge the opinion of the Saturday night HN crowd.

Can this just be an option in our personal settings so that everyone can either have the scores shown or not based on their preference?

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