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Safari extension to hide Bitcoin stories on HN (github.com/aaronbrethorst)
184 points by aaronbrethorst on June 2, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 98 comments

Are people really that sensitive to it?

I mean bitcoin stories are not like constantly seeing the latest bimbo in the regular news right?

Personally I upvote (some) bitcoin stories because I think it's something new and innovative and shows hackers being creative in engineering their own world.

Then again, adding tags to HN would be a wonderful way to allow everyone to personalize their filtering if desired and an easy way to search too. For those that do not want tags at all, a simple checkbox in profile could hide all tag interfaces, or just use a CSS class that is easily hidden.

> Personally I upvote (some) bitcoin stories because I think it's something new and innovative and shows hackers being creative in engineering their own world.

Personally I think one should only upvote for the content of the link, not for raping the front page because one think some topic is more interesting than others.

I love bitcoin stories. I've learned a lot about economics, crypto, and social interactions through the stories. No, I'm not being sarcastic, I'm sincere. One of the most useful things about which HN has alerted me.

Keep them coming. I would rather read that than that Pandora/Groupon filed for an IPO, the latest marketing driven from Joel/Atwood/37 Signals, or Techcrunch's reblogging of WSJ/AP/Reuters.

Anything but not personal opinions from Techcrunch, please

At this point, I'd rather read about paris hilton than bit coin. Because at least those articles are pretty to look at.

Trust me you won't want to miss the bitcoin stories when the Treasury agents start kicking in doors.

Yeah, whatever. Now go seek some worthy non-bitcoin stories to upvote. Frontpage or http://news.ycombinator.com/newest

I come to HN for hacker news (at least, as I understand the term). I wish I could hide all of the stories about startups, for example, but instead I just ignore them. People can do the same when it comes to bitcoin articles. Also, these articles shouldn't remain on the front page if people don't upvote them, right? There may be demand on such articles.

I wish I could hide all of the stories about startups, for example, but instead I just ignore them. People can do the same when it comes to bitcoin articles.

Using an extension to hide the stories is ignoring them. It's just automated and highly efficient.

One problem with putting blinders on yourself is that you lose touch with the zeitgeist of a site like this. Also, is it worth creating and installing browser extensions for flurries of stories that usually peter out after a week or so? Obviously some people think so and that's fine, but I think it's silly.

If only the bitcoin stories had petered out after a week or two.

How is that a problem? Some folks may not want to be in touch with the zeitgeist.

That is why you read news and engage in discussion here?

You think it's silly that people read what interests them and ignore things that doesn't? Isn't that kind of a big deal to the point of cognizant thought?

Please don't put words in my mouth, that is not what I said. I think it's silly that people want to hide the stories instead of just not reading them.

I understand that they have no interest in them, however I don't think it's such a burden to just skip over stories you don't want to read.

That's their prerogative.

Fair enough, and if that's what people want to do, then by all means do so.

I wish I could hide all of the stories about startups

Well, when you consider that Hacker News was called Startup News when I first became aware of it,


I think that misses out on a lot of the history that made this site what it is today.

I'm aware of that history, and personally am here despite rather than because of it. I don't really have much interest in startups, but afaik there isn't currently another good general-purpose tech-discussion site. Slashdot isn't quite what it used to be, kuro5hin is now a dive bar, reddit.com/r/programming is overall worse than HN, and other forums I know about are good but only in relatively small niches (e.g. Lambda the Ultimate for academic-slanted PLs).

It is hard to deny the connections between Y Combinator/PG and the startup scene. I guess we all have our reasons for coming here.

Regarding the old name of the site, you did spur me to look up the dates involved (definitely before I got here, which was maybe a few years ago):

"The site was created by Paul Graham in February 2007. Initially it was called Startup News or occasionally News.YC. On August 14, 2007 it became known by its current name."

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker_News

Curious, but I don't understand your logic. How is the fact that this site was called Startup News 4 years ago relevant to the site today?

Is there any way to hide people who complain about stories getting upvoted?

The difference is that people who complain about these upvotes don't have a vested selfish financial interest and aren't marketing anything to us. Unlike the Bitcoin pump-and-dumpers, they are exercising judgment rather than trying to manipulate others.

Are you saying that everyone who upvotes Bitcoin stories is also long Bitcoin? I haven't recently been told that I don't exist.

The statistics here seem more important than the individual cases. Not everyone who talks up penny stocks is long them either, but most of the people sending spam promoting various penny-stock pump-and-dump schemes have a selfish financial angle in doing so.

I'm not saying there's no reason to be interested in Bitcoin other than personal financial motives. The technology is legitimately interesting, but not nearly enough to have gotten the marketing push that it's gotten, particularly here. Only one thing explains that: the selfish incentives that the current implementation of Bitcoin provides. (Well, or extremist ideology.)

Can you make a version to remove stories related to Jason Calacanis as well? I would pay for that. You could run a bayesian classification algorithm, and verify false positives/negatives by doing some backup work on Mechanical Turk. "Is this story related to Jason Calacanis? Y/N"

I've heard this sentiment before from other places -- what's the objection to him? I'm honestly asking.

Well, one reason is the spam he sends anyone who is a member of the Hacker News group on Facebook. Thankfully I have a filter for that too....

For me personally (sharing the sentiment), it's the fact that I'd never before heard of the guy, yet used to (it's gotten a lot better) see HN get bombarded with stories that mention his name in the title (much more often than any other name).

Normally, I'd think that he personally had all those stories posted for vanity, but most of them were not exactly flattering. My next best explanation is that it was intended to build brand recognition for his name. Well, it worked: I recognized the name when I recently saw him on in TV playing Poker...

The problem is perceived as bitcoin stories crowding out other ones. Hiding the bitcoin stories (or ignoring them) does nothing to solve this. If the front page full of bitcoin stories (think Erlang day) users of this extension would find the page empty besides the Next link.

Agreed. If it's getting excessive to the point of astro-turfing or making the front page less diverse then we should just start flagging them.

And it's not getting excessive. I just clicked through 20 pages of stories, and there is less than 1 bitcoin story per page on average. Only 2 pages have 2 bitcoin stories, and none have 3 or more.

Going back pages does not give you an accurate representation of the daily front page. Also, when I go a few pages back there is suddenly a huge swathe of non-URL posts for seemingly no reason.

I lifted a dataset[1] from http://hackerslide.com which has hourly archived front pages. With that and some dumb regular expressions[2] I categorized stories and how much time that story stayed on the front page. That is, two bitcoin posts on four different front-pages in a day would be 8 'story-hours'.


I'm sure this way of measuring has problems such as different times having different amount of activity on HN.

To me it seems like there are constantly 1+ bitcoin posts on the front-page everyday. Most of the time the posts are about some trivial event (bitcoin hits 8.5 on mtgox, EFF starts accepting bitcoins, EFF stops accepting bitcoins) or a blog post that discusses bitcoin. In all of these circumstances the discussion seems to follow the same trends and go over the same ground. If there is ever a truly novel insight it would be hard to find in the mess.

[1] https://dl.dropbox.com/s/182rbsb8kb83y4w/hn-frontpages.7z?dl...

[2] https://www.dropbox.com/s/d6ivp8lrj8esflr/count.py

I'd say one bitcoin article per page is excessive. Bitcoin is hardly 1/30th of the interesting hacker news out there.

I would flag them if I could - I seem to have lost that privilege. Not entirely sure why, though I suspect that the system decided I was overusing it.

I completely fail to understand the antipathy towards bitcoin.

As far as the technology goes, it has some interesting aspects--sufficient to justify a couple stories. Economically, there's enough in it to justify another story or two.

The rest seems to be driven by speculators, and possibly borders on something like a pump and dump scheme to drive the price up so the speculators can make more money, at the expense of the later participants who fall for the hype.

Three reasons, for me:

First is (subjective) oversaturation. It's like the days when there's some announcement or scandal involving Apple, and you know that for the next little while this is all you're going to see. After a while it's just "oh, another Bitcoin story?"

Second is that it seems to turn off the rational-thinking centers of many brains. You end up with lots and lots of threads full of people who either A) once read a Neal Stephenson novel and now are convinced this is the Crypt (it's not) and the Black Chamber dudes are coming any minute (they aren't) or B) are being hit hard by the Dunning-Kruger effect and think they know more about economics or world politics than they actually do.

Third is that, well, it's pretty boring. OK, you made an alternative currency. This is not new. The specific selection of buzzwords around this alternate currency is new, but that in itself isn't really something that gets me excited, and in fact I think that's more of a turnoff, if only because my experience has been that the more buzzwords you pile on (decentralized peer-to-peer non-fiat non-inflationary alternative currency with hard crypto anonymization!), the less likely you are to actually have an interesting product.

(and fourth is that sooner or later somebody's probably going to blow it wide open, security-wise, but that's neither here nor there)

Bitcoin = (Ron Paul + Peak Oil) * Sarah Palin ^ Glenn Beck

Really how do you come to that conclusion?

Bitcoin seems like a legitimate attempt to move currency into the future absent of any one entity controlling it.

Edit: I'm not being snarky, I haven't followed this that closely and wondered if there was/is a political component to Bitcoin that connects those dots.

From my perspective, the issues around why Bitcoin is made of fail have been done to death here, including in several stories specifically about that.

I love how every topic, no matter how initially obscure, is eventually boiled down to boring old (american politics) partisan flames.

It's more a reference to the unstoppable memes on Digg and Reddit that become all-consuming obsessions for a small part of the public and irritants to everyone else. That these hobby horses happen to involve American politics is really just a coincidence.

Well for the love of sanity, don't bring it here.

Too late. We have met the fanboys, and they are ours.

That's even better than my previous favorite, from "Unmaintainable Code: Naming" (http://mindprod.com/jgloss/unmainnaming.html):

    marypoppins = ( superman + starship ) / god;

+1, best post this week ;)

Shallow thinking.

We reside in a world controlled by a collection of political forces. Money is the primary lever by which pressure is exerted in order to execute political policy.

I am not an enormous Ayn Rand fan, however there were a few parts of Atlas Shrugged I really did find very eye opening. The effete playboy of the series had a good one that I'll briefly include here to outline the importance of the core issue as it relates to the subtle strings of force in our political existence;

"So you think that money is the root of all evil?" said Francisco d'Aconia. "Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

I still find the use of terms like moochers and looters loaded, but the core point is extremely potent. Money is the primary friendly lever in modern society, it is the primary incentive for production. For this reason alone, the ways in which bitcoin can upset the apple cart should be thoroughly considered and not simply discarded offhand.

People objecting to bitcoin are making a cursory glance at it and it hits one of their suspicion triggers and they instantly discard it; Enriches early adopters? Aha, must be a ponzi scheme, no need to dig deeper here.

There are far more interesting objections that are actually bounded in the fabric of what is real rather than a cursory glance and misunderstanding of what is seen. What about an execution of the age old idea of assassination politics with bitcoin as the medium of exchange? If you really want to fearmonger, think hard about what might actually happen when the primary lever of society is completely immune to government. This is both frightening in some ways and exhilerating in others.

How about superfluid buying and selling agencies run by speculators that contract to traders exchanging local fiat currencies for bitcoins on the wire and instantly back to local fiat for the receiver at the end, reducing exposure for the merchant and buyer and abstraction from the messy cryptographic details of the implementation and enabling the speculators, as well as providing hefty profits for the administrators of such agents, in turn incentivising an enormous bazaar of such agents to exist in a huge snowball effect that makes regulation even more of a distant, ridiculous idea.

Think about it, really, really hard. This has already changed the world, the only question now is how will the chips fall. It is exactly appropriate that it should get a lot of attention here.

You're the first person I've seen who has mentioned assassination politics (which is one of the big reasons why states are likely to resist Bitcoin). It's impressive the degree to which so many don't get the radical potential of the world's first viable anonymous decentralized currency.

To tell you the truth I was a little apprehensive of actually writing that. Standard disclaimer applies and whatnot. And by standard disclaimer I mean I gave it as an example of something to actually be afraid of, not something that I find exhilerating.

For sure (especially considering what happened to Jim Bell for writing about the idea).

[Related: @lulzsec just soliciated BTC donations to fund further Sony hacks.]

gulp Here's hoping my disclaimer and my nomadic lifestyle are enough to insulate me from that.

Think you are overlooking the role of bankers here. Once upon a time the primary role of banks was to facilitate commerce in numerous ways, but now it appears that rather than support trade, finance is all too often a means to maximize returns to bankers regardless of the wider impact on depositors, clients and the economy.

I'm curious how you think I'm overlooking that? I agree completely, that's part of why I think that an idea like this is so disruptive. Because it's ground floor disruptive to one of the most inefficient and high return industries in the world; finance.

I like the gusto, but maybe I'm dense, or shallow or whatever, but is BTC not also a fiat currency? I realize there's a limited amount, but its value is completely speculative, and it's not backed by hard assets. It's not even backed by a government, which makes it less like a fiat note and more like something I printed on my inkjet when I was twelve. The BIG "if" is whether it gains critical mass and is accepted as a note of value. If or when it does, we'll all saunter over and trade in our euros or yen or dollars for some, I assume. But before it's traded on forex it's gonna be a tough sell for average folk, which means it's not tempered or tested by real markets; just hopeful folks who aren't huge Ayn Rand fans, but have quick recall of pertinent passages in Atlas "just in case".

All currency values ever are completely speculative, the value of a currency is a shared mass consensual hallucination, this even applies to gold. There is no innate reason that it should ever have been considered as a form of money except by the consent of those that offered and accepted it as such. Bitcoin is no exception to this, but that is largely irrelevant with regards to the realities on the ground of how people are currently trading with btc rather than trading in btc.

Those trading with btc just want a fast digital medium of exchange, they have taken to pricing their goods and services in a local fiat currency with more stability than btc (which is pretty much anything with the extreme market swings in btc right now) and a proviso that the conversion will be done at the time of the transaction. So, effectively they are simply treating BTC like cash. Due to the superfluidity of the exchange itself they can afford to ignore the actual exchange rate.

Those trading in btc are hoarding it with the expectation that the price will rise as scarcity increases due to other people speculating in it as well as the network hash rate of the mining effort spiralling upward.

These two points taken together was the core of my hypothetical idea about buying / selling agents that are effectively exchanges coupled with merchant service providers. It reflects the reality on the ground and plays well with both sectors of the market.

Just to answer the obvious points also, something you can print on your inkjet when you're twelve is also printable by any other inkjet holder. The BTC in your account are unique and the total supply of BTC is expanded by a well understood mathematical process at a predictable rate and distribution, not fiat declaration of a central bank. This is what is meant by bitcoin is not a fiat currency.

I also have enlightening perspective changing quotations from jesuits saved up just in case, and I am a militant atheist.

I guess I'm just weird like that. :)


> People that don't have the money to buy bitcoins and see them appreciate are jealous of the ones that do. They hide their insufficiency and jealousy by calling it a ponzi scheme or scam, so they can simultaneously feel superior to the bitcoiners whilst tricking themselves into thinking they wouldn't buy them anyway even if they had the money.

What a goofy, insecure reaction.

> It is as revolutionary to money (the concept, perhaps not the implementation as yet) as mp3 was to music, or blogs to writers.

The difference between concept and implementation is also the difference between fantasy and reality.

adrianwaj deleted his insane comment, which was this:

"People that don't have the money to buy bitcoins and see them appreciate are jealous of the ones that do. They hide their insufficiency and jealousy by calling it a ponzi scheme or scam, so they can simultaneously feel superior to the bitcoiners whilst tricking themselves into thinking they wouldn't buy them anyway even if they had the money.

It'd also be a fear that one day they'd have to work on a bitcoin project, which would be rubbing salt in the wounds.

Fact is, there are tons of hackers that could contribute a lot to the bitcoin ecosystem, but they take the negative route instead: they don't want to give anyone a free ride (or they like their rut.)

I could go on, but there are some anti-Israel type tones in the anti-bitcoin brigade, that's my feeling when I write anything positive about bitcoin: I may as well write something positive about Israel.

For many, bitcoin.org is the startup, and buying the currency is the investment. People would upvote any story about their startup, and they'd upvote anything about bitcoin. It's a fair thing to do.

Bitcoin is an extremely hacker-ish thing. It is a hack on the money supply. It is as revolutionary to money (the concept, perhaps not the implementation as yet) as mp3 was to music, or blogs to writers. It has hugely positive implications, so people that hate it, will Really hate it."

What bitcoin address do we send tips to?

The extension hides this story too!

Once you have the extension this story is of no more value.

I'm deleting my fork, here's the patch for posterity:

    @@ -6,7 +6,7 @@ for(var index = 0; index < tds.length; index++)
         td.getAttribute('class').indexOf('title') != -1 && 
         td.firstChild && 
         td.firstChild.tagName == 'A' &&
    -    td.firstChild.text.match(/bit\s*coin/i))
    +    td.firstChild.text.match(/(hide|block|ban).*(story|stories|article|submission|comment)/i))
         var tr1 = td.parentNode;
         var tr2 = tr1.nextSibling;

What about the band that broke the bitcoin story!?

Patience. We're probably just past the peak of the hype cycle. The BitCoin bubble probably has about three weeks of life left in it.

Do I have your permission to include this quote (along with todays date) in my HN profile?


To be honest, I'm not really guaranteeing the date. Calling bubble dates is virtually impossible by their very nature. But that we're in one, yes I would be willing to stand by that. I actually hope something like BitCoin succeeds at some point, but I don't see it being BitCoin.

Sweet. Thanks for having the balls to respond :)

You can also block the tag 'bitcoin' (http://archfinch.com/tag/bitcoin) and follow 'hn' (http://archfinch.com/tag/hn) on http://archfinch.com/ and subscribe to your personal RSS.

As someone not at all familiar with writing Safari extensions, this (https://github.com/aaronbrethorst/NoBitcoin/blob/master/NoBi...) looks really really overcomplicated for something that seems like it would only take a few lines of JS to do in a bookmarklet or Greasemonkey script (assuming it's literally just hiding any story that has "bitcoin" in the title - this might be a bad assumption as I can't try it out myself).

Are all Safari extensions this complex?

I wanted CSS selector support, and so I just copied and pasted in Zepto with some minor hacks to prevent conflicts with pg's $ function. I'm sure there are easier ways to do this, but I've never written one before, either, and wanted to spend as little time as possible writing it.

It seems like a remarkably bad idea to modify the prototypes of the built-in classes inside a Safari Extension. It's bad enough to do that in a library, but at least the web page is making a deliberate choice to use that library. When you put it in an extension, you've now modified the prototypes of the built-in classes in a way that affects the page, but without the page ever being aware of this. What happens if your function is named the same as one the page tried to define, but behaves differently?

For the record, document.querySelectorAll() is built-in and can do selector matching, and the only other thing you use Zepto for (adding classes) is trivially done manually.

Thanks for the tip. As I'm sure you could tell from the code, this was the result of about 15 minutes of work this morning (from generating the CSR to get my certificate to tossing it onto GitHub). If I ever go back and touch this repo again, I'll use querySelectAll().

Pretty soon we're going to need an extension to hide all the IPO stories ;)

Hmmm... An HN proxy that allows you to kill stories, threads and comments according to your taste... Sounds like an interesting project.

You choose to participate in a specific community and its collective approval or disapproval of news items, or you don't. That's how it works. Is this such a big deal? I think I wasted about... five or six seconds... ignoring bitcoin stories on my own. A fair trade-off, as far as I'm concerned, for having other submissions upvoted without me doing anything.

There seem to be a lot of people who have objections to how other people choose to consume their daily news...

Great. Can it be adapted to hide any stories from TechCrunch instead?

Someone could just write a configurable extension to allow to hide whatever the user wants.

But I still find it silly.. Just don't click on stories that don't interest you. heh

Guess this calls for tags more than anything. I want to exclude: startups, windows 8 (wtf - why nobody complains about this?), capitalist pigs.

Try this:

Follow HN (http://archfinch.com/tag/hn), block startups, (http://archfinch.com/tag/startups), windows8 (http://archfinch.com/tag/windows8), then subscribe to your personal RSS feed.

Perhaps I could make it into an extension.

Installed. Bonus points if someone makes it automatically flag any bitcoin-related story, since they won't be visible for me to flag anymore.

Does the extension hide this story?

Do you think the author knows they made it to the front page?

The +150 bump to my karma would've been a pretty good giveaway on it's own. The three friends and coworkers who mentioned it to me since I couldn't see it confirmed it.

also, i've periodically been popping in to read the comments in Chrome or on iHackerNews.com

Those who agree with the post, should see this:


Can we have a Chrome version, pretty please?

I will add "with sugar on top" in lieu of my upvote being displayed and indicating to anyone in the mood to write such an extension that there are others who'd like it.

Swatting a fly with a bulldozer, hehe.

Awesome idea. Now make a chrome one!

Are we serious? Besides this being a really specific solution to a more general problem, there aren't that many Bitcoin stories on HN.

Why not make a general purpose filter?

lol. Bitcoin is a nice idea I guess, but no one who actually accepts online payments takes it seriously because the <i>only way you can buy and sell the junk is to go through the shadiest brokers on earth.</i> These guys do a total turnover of about USD$1k a day. And the whole thing frankly resembles a ponzi scheme or a late-night infomercial. They talk geek and it's interesting to watch people fall in love with their concept and their API, but when it comes to managing money, geeks are obviously not as smart as MBAs who wouldn't touch this thing with a ten foot pole in 2008, and still won't. It's funny that this hype, which is basically financial services spam, is making the front page of HN on a regular basis; it suggests something is wrong here (possibly it's too easy to sign up for second and third accounts).

> These guys do a total turnover of about USD$1k a day.

Woah, wait, what? Even if everything else you said is right (and if nothing else, these guys are shady), Mtgox has done a volume of 38825BTC in the last 24 hours -- that's a volume of $411541 today. (At the current rate, which means it's probably more like $380k, but whatever)

hm. Haven't looked at mt gox for awhile, (what is a gox, is it a mountain?)...their site seems rather crashy at the moment, but last month it looked to me like they were turning over a volume of around $1k per day. And who knows if anyone actually got paid out of that. It's one thing to solve anonymous payments between peers online...totally another to find a way to translate that into spendable cash, and that's actually the real, serious problem that any online payment solution seeking anonymity has to face. So they solved, in a sense, the easy part.

People pull money out constantly -- I know many people who have. Whether that'll keep going, who knows, but at the moment there's nothing scammy going on.

6% of people in the world are using Safari, I'm estimating 0.001% of them read HN AND are bothered by the frequency of Bitcoin stories. Some things don't need to go on github.

Well, that's one solution to the problem. Nice work!

(I don't use Safari myself, but...)

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