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TikTok Remix Culture (twitter.com/iameaschris)
327 points by demail 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 247 comments

I think part of TikTok's success is the fact that they have a public/guest browser platform[0] that doesn't restrict you from seeing content without an account. It means people who wouldn't usually have the mobile app can still be a part of the action, and that may eventually drive them to sign up.

It's actually almost unbelievable that you can browse endlessly and never once be prompted to sign up unless you try to engage in some way. Instagram, Reddit, Twitter etc all bother you from the very second you load the page with modals and banners bullying you into signing up or getting their mobile app, if they let you see anything at all.

[0] https://www.tiktok.com/foryou

Oh it will happen once organic growth slows down and the various teams have KPIs and OKRs to follow. Every company bgoes through these phases.

They're still benefiting from their "underdog" status, that won't last

That’s the problem with something people build a community around being controlled by a company. That’s why open standards are better than a company. Also small things are often better than big. For example there are some great forums running in PHPBB or similar and lovingly maintained by owners. No bullshit like you get on modern apps making it hard to do what you want because like you say KPIs etc lead to dark patterns.

Yep, reddit used to allow lurking too.

why the past tense?

can lurk on old.reddit.com just fine

I should have added "by default", but you're right there is a work around. Eventually old.reddit.com will get in the way of a major infrastructure update and they'll kill it off. It will make a lot of people mad, but it will be such a small percentage of users that they will do it anyway.

For now...

The difference seems to be if your company is in growth mode vs squeeze mode. Not to say that you're doing poorly if you're squeezing, you're just trying to extract every ounce of value from users regardless of the long term effects.

Growth mode vs. death mode?

It’s great to occasionally see success stories from companies that break the mold and can be used as examples a-la-Craigslist. Without them we’re forever stuck with “I know that a signup lightbox on first visit is ugly, but it converts!”

Though, sadly, things like Facebook Marketplace are eating nice sites like craigslist: https://dealerpromoterpro.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Sim...

I don't know if I'd call craigslist a nice site. I know it checks all the boxes that HN loves but when I'm trying to buy something simple from the site, I'd rather not have to give the seller my email and/or phone number. Last I checked, there was no way to message on the website itself.

In my experience craigslist has always used a dummy email address between you and the seller. Neither person would see the real email address of the other. Of course, I'd eventually hand over my phone number to make communication easier.

No, give them what's statistically your real name and a full profile with many of your personal connections detailed on it.


Call me crazy but I trust a website that has to operate under rules and regulations (albeit pretty lax rules) more than a random stranger I don't know on the Internet.

Facebook Marketplace doesn't have a UI that came out of the 90s. No wonder.

Also isn't restricted to cities, plays nicely in smaller towns.

In the UK we also have Gumtree, which is like Craiglist but with a nicer UI - https://www.gumtree.com/

I prefer 90s UIs

That definitely plays a role, but I think the much bigger factor is how it lets anyone download & share the video file (at least by default, which most don't change). These days, half of reddit, twitter and discord is just filled with TikTok videos. Even Reels and Shorts are full of TikTok videos, you can tell by the watermark. So much so that Reels had to forcefully derank videos with the TikTok watermark on them.

This has helped Tiktok spread and grow very quickly. Hell the very link on this post is from Twitter and has almost 100k retweets...

I “used” Twitter for several years without an account; it’s actually not all that pushy about it. Old Reddit isn’t either, although new Reddit will make you hate it with a passion.

Reddit used to be like that. Tiktok is young, it can change.

Very likely after a certain market share.

I highly recommend using FOSS frontends [1] to access these Instagram/Reddit/Twitter/etc, it's a far better experience being able to browse without all these annoyances.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27167924

I clicked and immediately got a modal saying that TikTok is better in the app and I had to click X to go to the page.

The point is that you could click the X and still get the page. Others don't let you do that anymore.

>>It means people who wouldn't usually have the mobile app can still be a part of the action, and that may eventually drive them to sign up.

It's actually almost unbelievable that you can browse endlessly and never once be prompted to sign up unless you try to engage in some way.

This is the typical freemium cost structure amped up because endless video streams for the free (anonymous) tier resulting in higher peak-load operating costs (bandwidth & compute). In exchange, TikTok enjoys higher virality which they hope will translate into higher aggregate (but lower relative percentage) sign-up conversion rates.

Interesting, I recently downloaded the android app to see if there was anything interesting for me, but there they wouldn't let you past without signing up

That's not true. I use the app without an account.

Huh? When I open it it asks me to sign up or sign in and I didn't see a skip option, am I just blind?

It must be a really recent change in that case. For me the prompt to sign-up only comes up when I click on follow, a live stream or when trying to post a comment.

It depends on your region's privacy and compliance regulations

You probably can identify someone without an account these days. So for some applications you really only need one of you want to post and even then I bet you can get away without one.

Instagram in particular seems to have gotten much more aggressive in not letting you view anything without an account.

For whatever reason though businesses like restaurants and bars will often nominally "have" a wide range of social media accounts, Instagram is often the only one with actual content. I used to be able to reasonably use these but I now seem to get a wall requiring login immediately.

It's possibly/probably worse because I'm often doing this in incognito mode, which tends to make everything more aggressively naggy. Twitter seems to be fairly random as to when they'll let you, say, view replies or media or something without requiring login, while Reddit is basically fine on desktop (even better in the "old" mode) and a dystopian nightmare on mobile.

Pretty much everything "big" is much much worse on the mobile web, I guess because they figure they stand a pretty good shot at getting you to get The App instead. It sucks.

Mobile is especially bad lately since Firefox Mobile has gone walled-garden and you can no longer install a user agent switcher to get a true desktop page. The fact the "view desktop version" option on mobile browsers still tells the server you're on a mobile device is utterly perverse.

I've been using teddit.net because reddit on mobile gas become unusable. Someone here pointed me to it.

> Lightweight (teddit frontpage: ~30 HTTP requests with ~270 KB of data downloaded vs. Reddit frontpage: ~190 requests with ~24 MB)

Yeah, teddit.net does seem to be pretty light on mobile gas.

There are a couple of nag banners but reddit.com/.compact still functions as long as you don't want to open hosted multimedia.

On mobile I still use i.reddit.com

old.reddit.com is still there.

> Instagram in particular seems to have gotten much more aggressive in not letting you view anything without an account. <…> Pretty much everything "big" is much much worse on the mobile web, I guess because they figure they stand a pretty good shot at getting you to get The App instead. It sucks.

Those are two separate issues. Almost all features of Instagram, except for interactive widgets in stories, are available from the web (doesn’t matter mobile or desktop). Like with Facebook, I chose to not install the actual app on my new phone, but I do fire up their web versions sometimes. Considering the extent of functionality, Instagram actually works really smoothly, and I hear the same about FB’s non-basic web version. Though yes, they do require an account.

Speaking of Twitter, it also works well from the web (albeit with no support for their equivalent of stories), but curiously they block VPNs (or perhaps just EC2 IP ranges) in a way that completely breaks some of the site (such as user profiles).

Having to have an account is the problem. When someone sends me an Instagram link I used to be able to just watch the video and browse the profile. A bit later profile access was blocked. And now I can only watch a video once before it blocks for login. Only a matter of time before the window is completely closed.

On Twitter/TikTok I can watch any link without having to login. Twitter even allows anonymous search.

The post I’m replying to made two separate problems out of 1) Instagram requiring to log in, and 2) “everything big” being poorly usable on the Web. I’m not arguing with the silly login requirement (considering Instagram supports private profiles for people who don’t want to share), but providing a counterpoint to the (2).

> Almost all features of Instagram, except for interactive widgets in stories, are available from the web (doesn’t matter mobile or desktop).

Not exactly. When viewed in desktop browser, photo upload is not avaiable and you need to use developer tools to simulate mobile web browser view which is a workaround. Also, even in mobile web, you cannot upload more than one photo, even though this functionality exists in the app. These are very fundamental features of instagram, I think these are not so complex to implement in web versions.

I stand corrected. I forgot I don’t upload anything there lately and am just using it to catch up with people.

This is why I use bibliogram mirrors to view Instagram posts.

I disagree, it’s fairly restrictive outside of showing you one video if you’re in the browser. You can see the video you were linked to but not comments, other videos that use the same sound, other videos by the same creator etc.

It’s a pretty common pattern these days; you can also see IG progressively locking down web features tighter and tighter for example.

Are we even talking about the same site? I opened tiktok.com in a private browser window and was greeted by an infinite scrolling list of videos. I scrolled past maybe a hundred and was never prompted to sign up. Clicking on a creator's name takes me to their profile with all their videos. Clicking on the music link immediately above each video takes me to a www.tiktok.com/music/<name-of-the-song> page with tons of videos using the same music. Only comments are behind a login wall.

These might change in the future, but your claims just aren't true at the moment. I'm not sure if there are regional variations. (douyin.com certainly behaves differently, but that's an entirely different product.)

You're on iOS, right?

Due to EU terreg this will change most likely. Platforms that manually vet users may be exempt from having to have censor office in the EU and 1hr SLA to delete content.

I have never seen so many to say "average" people on tiktok like on any other social platform, in a sense that I can relate to those people and don't feel like a celebrity is trying to feed me some content down my throat. There's so much of normalization of everything that I'm blown away by how normal Tiktok is, you can see teenagers struggling in a school, you can see people hating their 9-5 jobs, you can see crafts and arts, you can see people with disabilities living life at its fullest, cooking videos, etc.

The whole vibe is so wholesome that it's truly the first social network that feels social in a wide sense.

> I have never seen so many to say "average" people on tiktok like on any other social platform, in a sense that I can relate to those people and don't feel like a celebrity is trying to feed me some content down my throat.

Youtube was like that before ads and monetization were introduced.

For me, youtube is better now than at any other time I've used it. My feed is almost entirely very well made talks, and lessons, and tutorials. That they have a 2-3 minute "this video brought to you by ABC" doesn't bother me at all as the content is amazing. Anything I want to know there are 25+ plus different people willing to explain it to me.

I also really like today's YouTube and I even pay for it. For me the trick is that I now use it almost exclusively to watch original content made for YouTube. And there's a ton of that stuff, from DIY garage geekouts to language instruction to cooking shows. And eating shows! One of the biggest YouTubers I follow basically just goes around eating stuff.[0]

I think YouTube is slowly becoming a major platform for original content, which of course was the original promise before it rose to fame as a copyright violator's safe haven. I love seeing people like Mark Rober[1] combine great ideas with a sense of fun and decent production quality to make this new and insanely democratic form of TV. It's also fascinating to see the production quality increase as people go from hobbyist to professional.

Of the five streaming services I pay for, YouTube feels like the best deal. And I could also just not pay for it, and deal with ads.

Oh yeah and I really like TikTok too but I only watch it about once a week because time sink.

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/user/migrationology

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/user/onemeeeliondollars

How do you find this stuff? YouTube is so full of absolute garbage that's it's a struggle to find something worth watching. I watch painting videos on YouTube but spend way too much time digging.

The algorithm mostly suggests stuff I enjoy watching. I suspect the key is to avoid like the plague to click on anything that's clearly "engagement bait", and to subscribe to stuff I enjoy.

Some random examples that I really enjoy that I've stumbled over to thanks to the algorithm:










The suggestions I get look good too but I'm rarely just looking for anything interesting to watch, I want to watch something specific.

Some things I find by searching for very specific things, like say YouTubers in Thailand or (lately) modular synthesis which led me to Andrew Huang[0]. Other stuff I get pointed to by friends, eg Mark Rober for his anti theft videos which are hilarious. And some things are YouTube suggestions, the algorithm seems pretty conservative but it has turned up a few good things.

There is great stuff out there, I find the amount of garbage I actually see and have to skip over is pretty small these days.

[0]: https://youtube.com/c/andrewhuang

Cooperate with the suggestions tools.

I searched for lawn care videos 2 years ago and still get suggestions in my feed. The videos might be great, but it's not a subject I want to watch. This is pretty common from what I see.

I curate? my feed? If it suggests something I detest I mark as "not interested".

If I'm confident the channel a video comes from is likely to have nothing I'm interested in I pick "never recommend anything from this channel" or whatever the option is.

If it's a video of something like say "washing machine repair" which I know won't need recommendations of later then I right click and "open in incognito window"

If after watching a video I don't think it will generate good recommendations I remove it from my history.

Recommendations are not perfect. 3 things that would help that I wish they'd do

1) let me choose to have music separate from none music. 20%+ of my recommendations being for music is a complete waste. I'd much rather to go some special site (music.youtube.com) or (youtube.com/music) then have them mixed in with video.

2) when I pick "not interested" -> "why" -> "already watched this video" then show it as watched (put the red line under it) just like "mark as read" in email

3) don't recommend videos I already watched (this goes along with both 1 and 2. I almost never rewatch videos unless they are music videos and I don't want music mixed in with videos so the fact the 10-15% of the recommendations are for videos I already watched is a complete waste of space and time

2b) fix the UX related to not-interested. A better UX would be letting just clicking the "..." and picking "already watched" instead of the 3 step process it is now. An even better UX would be a small icon

I think it comes down to viewing habits. If you like to browse and watch anything interesting then recommendations are probably good enough and you'll like YouTube. But if you're looking for something specific (which I tend to do) then recommendations don't help. As great as a video might be, that's not the subject I want to watch right now.

Reminds me of two things. Searched for pressure cookers. For the next two years got ads for full figured bras everywhere. Made the mistake of looking for synthetic sapphires. Got ads directed at young engaged women for a year.

I've started to get annoyed by the ads for Raid Shadow Legends and Squarespace, and the product placement is getting nuts.

I had someone the other day say they didn't think the tool was "sponsored" because the company lent it to them to try, in order to see if they'd use it enough to justify keeping it. Uh, yeah, that's totally sponsored, even if it's only lent.

Some of my usual Youtube channels now have 1 or 2 big stop-the-show ads that are unrelated to their content, and then multiple product placement moments that are incredibly obvious.

It's really taking away from the content of the shows.

I know they have to eat, and producing a lot of content is expensive, but I already pay for YouTube Premium to get rid of ads. And now the ads are infesting the shows anyhow.

Edit: I also support my favorite content producers on Patreon as well.

Sucks that you cannot do away with ads even on premium. Might want to check if this sponsored-ads skip tool this can be of help in your circumstance https://github.com/ajayyy/SponsorBlock

Ooh, very interesting.

Unfortunately, I think my channels are one step ahead... They usually mix in interesting video in the background while they give their advertisement verbally. So I often can't really skip them without also skipping actual content.

But thanks for that!

"Some of my usual Youtube channels now have 1 or 2 big stop-the-show ads that are unrelated to their content"

Using youtube-dl you can get the videos without ads.

I already pay for Youtube Premium, so the ads inserted by Youtube are already gone. These are ads that the content creator themselves are putting in the video.

A sibling comment has recommended a browser addon to skip them (thanks for crowdsourcing), but it has issues, too.

Thanks, though!

The ads/monetization threshold isn't the major difference, but the remembrance of YouTube in the pre-celbrity/late night era is completely astute.

We're in a Golden Age of Tik Tok, and it won't last. We get to enjoy the chaos and caucophony of lots of people getting 15 mins of fame.

It's not gonna last :(

Maybe then it'll be Vine 2's turn.

Absolutely, I keep saying this, but TikTok reminds me of early Youtube, pre-monetization. The random homemade videos going viral, people not trying too hard, or trying to hyperoptimize every second of the video.

I know it won't last, but I am enjoying it while it lasts.

TikTok already does have ads/monetization.

Tiktok is full of girls dancing with very little or very tight clothes on for likes and attention. It's really seedy. There's subreddits dedicated to posting about these accounts.

On top of that it is designed to be addicting for the sake of addiction. It doesnt matter what the video is about once it will keep the user on the app. The algorithm will work out the perfect way for each person to be sucked in. We all know that these addicting videos won't be educational or even worthwhile. This type of stuff trends towards really useless content.

Of all the social media out there I would not let my kids use tiktok.

TikTok is very good at recommending new content based on what you engage with (watch, like, comment, etc), if your feed is full of girls dancing, it's because you spend time actually watching it instead of just moving to the next video. My feed is full of people (for some reason mostly eastern european or from central asia) working at their construction jobs.

My Tiktok has a lot of videos of people complaining about exactly this and being responded to by pointing out they are telling on themselves in a hilarious way.

Gotta hand it to the algorithm, it is always funny to me.

> they are telling on themselves in a hilarious way.

It's no secret how the algorithm tailors itself to what you watch. The hilarious thing is people thinking they're getting a 'win' when someone complains about any content. The app presents things to you and tries to grab your interest in any way. A lot of teenagers will, naturally, linger on that content for longer and then it becomes a cycle. That doesn't mean that is what they are aiming to get out of the app.

This isn't teenagers, it's adult men. It is situations where if they showed full understanding and said "I don't want it to show scantily clad teenagers to me as I have a lot of loud opinions about sex and sin but I can't stop looking at them so it keeps sending them" it would be just as funny.

It's not the complaint, it's the moralizing combined with the complaint about self selected content.

If they weren't moralizing then yeah, that's just a report of a bad experience with the algorithm. Those don't go viral.

It doesn't necessarily mean it's directly based on one's own engagement. I don't use tiktok, but on Instagram i mostly follow sports stuff related to what I enjoy (skiing, cycling, running). What content will instagram show me? The most viral content in those categories. What's the most viral content in those categories? A girl skiing in her bikini, a female cyclist with unzipped top, a runner in mini shorts stretching.

But maybe tiktok is better in this regard, heard much praise about their algorithm.

I don't think this invalidates GP's point. Sure, if you don't want the seedy content, you won't see it, but it's still there and that's still a large part of how they make money.

If a site has user contributed content there will usually be the "seedy" content. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit...if it gets big enough, a certain segment will monetize it. Usually as an advertising vehicle for their more overt content on adult sites. It's actually an interesting complaint because TikTok takes a lot of heat for taking down a lot of benign content.

"that's still a large part of how they make money"

You base this claim upon what? Gut feeling?

The viral videos that everyone knows from TikTok contain approximately zero instances of "seedy" content. They are people doing everyday things. AFV style funny videos. Some guy drinking cranberry juice and riding a skateboard. Etc.

I don’t have TikTok, but when I am sent a link to it, and watch the linked video in Safari with Wipr content blocker, after the linked video is finished, it immediately auto plays a video of a very young blonde girl/woman who claims she recently found pictures of her pre breast reduction pre meeting her husband and is going to show them to her husband or something. This happens after any linked video I am sent, all non sexual.

Only reason I remember is because I thought that was a pretty transparent attempt at the type of audience they were aiming to attract.

TikTok doesn't autoplay anything -- it repeats the video you watched. Do you mean you scrolled down?

Further, obviously the seed video that you used is going to have an enormous influence on subsequent videos (as presumably would the sender -- shared links can contain details about the sender, and if they had a logical algorithm that can play a part as well). And of course surely we all know that sites don't just track by being logged in. Even if you clear all cookies.

I just opened the TikTok homepage through a proxy in a clean instance of Firefox. First video was a woman who paints patterns on her face. Second was someone show a technique to clean stainless steel sinks. Third was a guy in Turkey showing his rugs. Then a dog bringing a leash back to its owner, someone using one of those pop-it distraction things, a guy with his cat in a box in front of a roller coaster video pretending the cat is on the roller coaster.

Eh. I don't see how your anecdote is such strong evidence of the "type of audience they were aiming to attract" (especially when the site seems to overwhelmingly cater to adult women...)

>TikTok doesn't autoplay anything -- it repeats the video you watched. Do you mean you scrolled down?

I click a link in WhatsApp, it opens up Safari in iOS on my phone, it plays the video, then at the end it starts playing another video.

I'm using a content blocker, so I presume TikTok does not know anything about my personal characteristics, so I assumed the videos that autoplay are the ones they autoplay by default.

PS I will forever harbor resentment to people around the world for putting up with video players that lack the ability to skip around the video or even see the length of the video.

Just tried that specific scenario and after the video it showed (silently and muted, in a 1/4 size window) a preview of the "next" video. Unlike imgur, or YouTube, or many other services it doesn't just silently continue. It never goes further.

If someone sent you a link, it will include an identifier of the sender. It usually will say at the top of the screen "[Sender account] is using TikTok! Join now". Logically this informs the suggestions of the app.

The lack of scrubbing is annoying (although apparently the Android version recently added the ability). The app is also inconsistent in that sometimes it shows a progress indicator at the bottom, sometimes it doesn't.

I have the opposite impression. I only like niche content about tools and life hacks, but every time seedy content is pushed back into my feed.

It has gotten worse in the past year.

I am actually surprised people see positives about Tik Tok. IMO it has a much worse societal impact than competition.

It will always happen because as the old saying goes: "sex sells". For some reason, there is a large population on HN that will argue against the fact that tik tok has this content.

> everyone knows

That everyone using tik tok knows. That doesn't invalidate any of the criticism. It just tells you like the content that appeals to everybody.

I _knew_ this would be the reply. For your info, I don't have a TikTok account so try another argument.

So exactly how do you know what TikTok is full of, then?

I have had multiple accounts. I have researched how others use the platform. I have observed the content migrating from one platform to another.

Are you arguing that tik tok is not full of girls in little clothing? Your argument is easily defeated.

Why does this bother you so much.

TikTok will still learn your preferences and adjust what content it shows you even if you don't register.

That is not relevant. I am not complaining about content shown to me personally.

To the "girls dancing" claim, I get approximately zero dancing girl videos. If you demonstrated to the app that such is the content you want, that's what you'll get. I get tonnes of birds, comedy, pets, weird animals, etc.

"On top of that it is designed to be addicting for the sake of addiction."

TikTok doesn't create content. People do. It happens to have content creation tools [the real genius of TikTok that many overlook] that allow a lot of funny, creative people to generate content that they previously couldn't.

Is that "designed to be addictive"? I guess, in the meaningless "it's designed to offer a rewarding experience" way.

EDIT: Some of the complaints in this discussion remind me of this classic Onion story - https://bit.ly/2Qm2w87

> To the "girls dancing" claim, I get approximately zero dancing girl videos. If you demonstrated to the app that such is the content you want, that's what you'll get. I get tonnes of birds, comedy, pets, weird animals, etc.

I am not complaining that I get the wrong recommendations. In fact, I don't have the app. My point is the app is full is seedy content.

It's literally designed to be addictive. If you don't understand that this conversation is over.

You don't use it, yet you are also an authority on what it is "full of". So much so that you're an observer of subreddits dedicated to lascivious TikTok content.

I use Reddit and am blissfully unaware of such subs.

As to "designed to be addictive", you are literally using that as a lazy, pejorative surrogate for "designed to be rewarding/enjoyable".

Understand that almost every part of your life is "designed to be addictive" by that sloppy trope. HN is "designed to be addictive" by putting the most interesting stories on the front page. Netflix, Facebook, Starbucks, McDonalds, Movie Theaters, Parks, Conservation Areas -- Designed to Be Addictive. It is meaningless prattle, though it's usually leveraged to dismiss things Other People enjoy.

I have researched it thoroughly and understand how it works. That goes for other major sites too including facebook, instagram, whatsapp, reddit.

I don't care that you use reddit and are unaware of what content is on it. I could not care less.

The tik tok algorithm is designed to be addictive. It sounds like you agree but are trying to obscure that fact by throwing examples of other popular products.


TikTok pings you every few hours of swiping with a video that tells you to put the phone down and get some fresh air. It's the only social media app I've ever used that does that.

I'm a cynic. I don't rack that up to TikTok's wonderful benevolence, but rather that their revenue curve is optimized for a particular usage pattern.

Instagram does this too fwiw

> Tiktok is full of girls dancing with very little or very tight clothes on for likes and attention.

I started using TikTok recently specifically to improve my smartphone camera technique. I just swiped the dancing girl videos away and now it has stopped showing them to me.

I was impressed by the competence of many of the smartphone photography instructional tutorials. Getting points across in 15 seconds demonstrates how 'flabby' many YouTube tutorials are.

> Tiktok is full of girls dancing with very little or very tight clothes on for likes and attention.

Even if that was true, so what? While the venue changes, that’s what bitter elders always complain about about youth culture, to the point where it being a recognized cliche is ancient.

> On top of that it is designed to be addicting for the sake of addiction.

All of social media (and most of the web, and much offline entertainment) is optimized around engagement, to the same extent. There’s nothing special about TikTok here.

So your argument is that is no worse than other bad things? I won;t even respond to your first question. We're too far apart to make a worthwhile conversation.

> Tiktok is full of girls dancing with very little or very tight clothes on for likes and attention

Said every single person who has never tried TikTok and forms their entire opinion based on things they read on online and a few subreddits dedicated to posting very specific kind of content.

Nope I have researched tik tok thoroughly

It’s definitely a pro-social, social platform. It shows that you don’t have to rely on polarizing or adversarial content to drive engagement (_ cough, like Facebook & Twitter cough)


Remember that the platforms we complain about also started off totally fine, but eventually greed caught up with all of them.

Eh, it still exists. I have gotten in a few cohorts that were quite toxic, especially near the election. There's still quite a lot of vaccine/mask vs anti-vaccine/mask content, and you general political crap. It's easy to get off of those, the dislike button is definitely your friend, but if you don't have the willpower and self-control I do think you can fall into the same rabbit holes as Youtube or any other platform.

TikTok reminds me of mid-2000s Internet vibes. But also, that could be because the algorithm is really good at showing me what I want... and I don't even have an account.

I don't use TikTok myself but I guess you see what you want to see. Kinda hard to make general statements about content on a platform that is built around curating to individual tastes. I would be surprised if people more interested in celebrities and rich people would not be able to get an endless stream of "professional influencer" content on TikTok as well.

This is true for every platform. I always find it strange when people complain their Twitter feed is toxic, when they have quite a lot of control over who's on there or not. Admittedly I use Tweetdeck which is less algorithmic, but still. I think even default twitter lets you block retweets from certain people you follow?

i like this too and think it has a lot to do with how the app is based on the for you page more than followers. when you don’t need followers for people to see your content it really opens up the playing field to different types of content

Basically every comment here says positive things about tiktok. Is this a bot invasion on HN or is it really that good?

The few times I tried it it gave me loads of crappy content. No thank you, I'm not in for another doom scrolling addiction. The world has already enough addictive dopamine-f**ing time-sucker almost contentless social medias. I don't have the energies to fight against or maniacally curate my feed for yet another one.

I'd evaluate the usefulness of a social media or any other app by looking at a couple of metrics: 1) how much time do you spend there daily? 2) after you have used it, do you feel a better/improved person? I'd be curious to see numbers for these metrics. If anybody has links to papers/surveys that study how good or bad is a certain social media, please feel free to share.

Tiktok is "addictive dopamine-f*ing time-sucker almost contentless social medias" perfected more than anything else, by a pretty good margin.

It's a good thing to avoid honestly, you miss out a few rare genuinely funny jokes and avoid the brain damage. Seems like a good trade. Wish I'd made that choice.

If you are in the business of inflicting this kind of addiction on other people then I can understand the positive attitude, Tiktok is a work of art on that front.

Some notes as what I would say is near target user who generally enjoys the time I spend on Tiktok:

1. Tiktok the company is absolute crap, mainly for censorship of content and diverse creators (they even recently they A/B tested censoring private messages between mutuals). This is absolutely tied to China, though the political CCP part is a lot of unfounded griping probably. But to be clear, Tiktok the user culture and the company are very different.

2. Tiktok has essentially become the new Tumblr. The algorithmic approach means that once you give some signals, the content specifies a lot and it can be a great experience for people interested in more niche things. The "default" Tiktok is incredibly bad, but spaces for queer creators, the neurodivergent, political discussion, and niche interests such as urban planning, book clubs, fandoms, movies, tv shows, art, and more are thriving. That's something that many don't see unless they are in those groups because of the algorithm, so no "cursory" look at Tiktok will find that.

3. To answer your questions, I have had my doom scroll days but generally I keep to an hour or so now and generally feel pretty good after using it. Again it depends on what "side" of Tiktok you are on, but it avoids a lot of pitfalls. I haven't seen studies, but here's one data point for you. I'm 25 for reference on age.

If you don't feel the need or desire, you don't need to be on it. But I really think the best way to conceptualize it is a visual Tumblr with an automatic algorithm approach rather than a focus on manual curation.

Can't imagine having political discussions in 15 second increments. Twitter is bad enough already.

You can have up to 60 seconds and just upload multiple parts. Sure, this isn't the most nuanced approach but it kind of works.

Can you? I haven't used the site in quite a while, have they changed things?

The even started to roll-out 3 minutes TikToks to some creators. But the fact that you can't go seek into the video make them quite annoying to watch. (Or when you accidentally scroll up and need to re-watch the whole thing..)

I don’t know. I’ve been hearing from people who actually use the app that it is really good, and the video editor is amazing.

I disregarded the platform at first because the content it surfaced didn’t appeal to me, but I can see how with good algorithms it can become a real platform for the future.

> Is this a bot invasion on HN or is it really that good?

Probably neither, but please don't break the site guidelines like you did there.

"Please don't post insinuations about astroturfing, shilling, brigading, foreign agents and the like. It degrades discussion and is usually mistaken. If you're worried about abuse, email hn@ycombinator.com and we'll look at the data."

In a case like this thread it's pretty trivial to answer the question yourself, actually, by looking at the posting histories of the commenters.



> The few times I tried it it gave me loads of crappy content

Feed the algorithm. Like/comment/follow content you like and it shows you a lot of good stuff. It really works.

Even more so than like, your best tool is long press > not interested. Use that indiscriminately for a bit and you'll be in a much better place.

Yes, it's rough at first, but it's pretty amazing how it works after some time. I get really niche content like VSCode tips, Math proofs, tips on the later games I'm playing or even Hamilton+programming jokes.

HN is a place that now hates cryptocurrency and loves tiktok.. very curious!

I bet most of us doesn't use tiktok, therefore we are unlikely to write any comment to talk about it.

If the positive comments are made in good faith, I see no reason to downvote/flag them.

I agree, I am not downvoting or flagging any comments unless they are clearly spam.

At least tiktok is real

There sure has been a change in attitude towards tiktok here on hn. Just go back a year or so when Trump tried to ban it (or force a cheap sale to oracle) and tiktok was accused of being an extension of ccp - read the comments from back then.

Facebook, google etc are also an extension of American 3 letter agencies, so I get why people don't really care. Almost better to ship my data to ccp that cannot really use it for anything, than give big US even more on me.

Yeah. That should be the issue.

Though TikTok is kind enough to run their international version on AWS.

Ps: it is really that good - imho next generation social media.

I doubt there's been a change in attitude, just different threads attracting a different mixture of interests. The only user I could identify who participated in both kinds of threads doesn't appear to have changed their mind.

TikTok really is incredible. I don't do much in the way of social media, but it's better than any other big app I've ever used.

The other really cool use I've seen of this style of stitching is emergent songs. Here's an example: https://www.tiktok.com/@patwhoisnice/video/69158104300531089...

Also, it's the first social platform I've seen that has solved the new user growth problem - every user's first few videos are guaranteed hundreds of views no matter what. So good content naturally rises without having to be spammy/promote itself. Compare that to something like Twitch where growing a stream to even getting 30 regular viewers can take years of grinding and a ton of hustle.

The average follower count for even just a regular user who has maybe 1-2 good videos can be in the low thousands.

TikTok and twitch are not same content-wise. It's to feed your content to people if it's just a few seconds. The platform depends on feeding a huge number of very fast changing content to the viewers. That makes it also very simple to analyze the reception of your content.

That's something impossible on a slow paced medium like live-streaming. But the other side us that it's very hard to make real money with TikTok, because all the juicy sellouts that work on long videos and live-streaming, don't transist very well to short clips and a platform with low attention.

Because of that follower-count on tiktok has not the same worth as on other platforms. 1000 Tiktok-follower is like 1 twitch or youtube-follower. People are just getting elluded by the high numbers.

Chinese livestreaming platforms have an addiction to inflating numbers, so I'm not sure if those are all real, or just growth hacking and user retention tricks.

Since it's just senconds long and users will switch if they don't like the first few seconds, the sunk cost is relatively low.

I heard their algorithm is quantized — first your video is “piloted” with a small set of people that are guaranteed to see it.

Then, if it passes a metric, it graduates to a bigger pool of people.

And then one more level.

There are plenty of experiments on this, testers opened new accounts and almost immediately they had hundreds of viewers, but when asked to repond in exchange for cash, no one did.

I mean, what's stopping them from doing this, everyone seems to be happy about it.

Initially they called these numbers "viewer count", but apparently it got too embarrassing even for themselves, one streamer reached 5.9 billion. Then they call it "popularity index" since everybody knew it's fake.

> when asked to repond in exchange for cash, no one did

Sounds like scam, honestly. How do you get that cash to me? Cause I just don't feel like giving my account number to someone on tiktok.

Like join WeChat fan groups? It's called private traffic, taking back control of your fame, and better milk your fans.

One big selling point of these predominantly female streamers is the previledge to add their personal WeChat, what for? Well, it's all about money and exchange.

The red-packet/micro-transaction thing is pretty big in China.

This offer was made to random users. Not to performers that live from it, whether porn work or not.

> I've seen that has solved the new user growth problem

There's always a cost, established celebs have trouble keeping up their fame. There's always some big players quit Douyin (Chinese version of Tiktok) after burn out. No one rules Tiktok forever (which is a good thing for consumers)

That’s not a cost for Tiktok though, rather the opposite. They just need content to keep going, they don’t need to make individual creators rich necessarily. From their perspective the more control they have over who is popular, the better.

It could become a problem for them if another app offered creators a better deal, but such an app still has network effects to contend with (you can offer creators a better deal but if the viewers don’t follow them it won’t work).

As someone who doesn't use Tiktok, how can Tiktok guarantee at least hundreds of views for all videos on their platform?

How do they entice users to click on these videos hundreds of times?

You don't click. When you open the app, the first thing you see is a "random" video (selected by their creepily good algorithm). Watched it or don't like it? Swipe through and the next video instantly starts. The app is good at figuring out which videos get engaged with and promotes these.

Though there is the functionality to go to user profiles and click videos, like on Instagram and such, it's not the main functionality of the app.

The other thing TikTok does well is that it removes choice. On YouTube you look at a dozen videos and think "Do I want to watch any of these, or look at another dozen recommendations?" It's kind of similar to picking something on Netflix. With TikTok you can just mindlessly "Next, next, next".

I am not one to get hooked on social media, but I found myself wasting time so easily on TikTok I had to delete it from my phone.

> The other thing TikTok does well is that it removes choice.

So its like a millennial TV? :)

You know, that's not too different from how HN works.

You don't click on videos. The main screen of TikTok is an algorithmic feed that shows you one fullscreen video, you can choose to watch it or scroll to the next video. Thus, they can derive all sorts of useful info from every interaction on every video and feed it back into the algo

You don't pick videos to play (unless you're in their search interface or browsing a user's profile), you just swipe for the next video. It's an infinitely scrolling list.

It is so "incredible" its on the front page of every newspaper in the world today, for how quickly it can spread the "Kill the Jew" meme.

When the tools have become simple enough that second graders can play with nuclear bombs we are all fucked.

I’m pretty blown away by how ... vibrant TikTok is. There’s so many interesting niches. Photography, film making, philosophy, humor. I love seeing random accounts with 300 likes and then they’re million-plus a few weeks later. Like the guy who asks people with fancy cars what they do for a living.

It’s definitely a fount of creativity! Maybe it’s all the Gen Zers but it’s also the least toxic social network around. There’s so much joyful content there.

It is probably the most heavily moderated social network. It is I think also something that must have been created by someone not from the US. Americans belief in free speech also means you get a lot of bad with the good. TikTok surgically removes the bad.

The moderation is a definite net positive. Though those with political viewpoints opposite a given user and anti-vaxxers have abused the stringent moderation to wantonly get videos taken down or users’ live stream disabled. Growing pains.

> The moderation is a definite net positive.

Their moderation was effective at growing the platform, but pretty horrific in its own right.


You definitely have your own definition of horrific.

It's crazy how he (Daniel Mac) has gotten all these connections with rich people just by asking some questions for a tiktok

The car guy (Daniel Mac) is awesome but the answers make me feel like I don't understand how money works.

So many people doing things I would not have thought pay as well as software work, and they're all driving McLarens with doors that open like this!


Every niche except moderate or conservative politics. They are incredibly aggressive with censorship, along the same lines (progressive views) as the other platforms, but with even less transparency. It’s hard for me to feel comfortable with their success in garnering massive network effects when they suppress some ideologies and are okay with others.

I know a significant number of progressive users that frequently get their videos taken down or have some videos "shadowbanned" where the engagement metrics are dramatically different than even their non-popular videos.

One basic complaint I have about TikTok is their lack of transparency with bans. TikTok recently banned Amala Ekpunobi (https://thefederalist.com/2021/04/26/tiktok-blacklists-gen-z...) and no reason was given. The same thing happened to PragerU’s account not long ago. I know PragerU has a bad reputation and is hated by the political left, but the majority of their videos are reasonable and fully sourced - I just don’t think they deserve that kind of ban.

Ultimately I don’t like massive tech platforms controlling what information can and can’t reach the rest of society. At their scale, they have the power to propagandize by suppressing and amplifying select information, and they can’t be trusted with it.

no offense but have you considered the simpler explanation, that conservative politics on a platform of short-form video for 20-30 year olds isn't going to be very popular

i was in the first cohort of FB users in 2004. i remember myspace, friendster, digg, etc. i still use reddit and have fb and ig accounts but i haven't posted on either in over a decade. TikTok is the first truly enjoyable social media app I've experienced. yes it's terribly addictive (hours scrolling sometimes) but it's actually social (as on display here) and therefore successfully connects people. it's probably gonna go to shit soon (lately i see a ton of derivative or spammy content) but at least it reaffirmed (like back in the day when i watched everything on ebaums) that the internet can be delightfully fun.

What’s really interesting about TikTok is that they’ve seem to have successfully taken making a fool of yourself on the internet (and out in public if you dance outside) mainstream. I have no idea what compels otherwise everyday people to post embarrassing and sometimes way too personal videos for potentially millions of people to laugh at but they do it.

Of course, there are a lot of issues with the app itself, but it’s nice to see the world be a little less serious sometimes.

Maybe I share to gain a sense of belonging? And/Or out of a sense that by sharing personal details I might help someone? That sounds and feels like self-importance. I took a multi-year break from contributing online, and HN is a venture back into it, in part thanks to the moderation here and the emphasis on curiosity, which is at odds with my impulse to chime in with my lived experience and perspective-thus-far. What are some other reasons people share so publicly?

I think they make the community more welcoming with heavy moderation that removes downer videos. Something an american run social network would never do.

I noticed that as well, people are just not afraid of posting embarrassing content that you actually relate to. It's awesome to see just normal people doing normal stuff and millions of people cheering and commenting in an encouraging way.

> making a fool of yourself on the internet

That's exactly what early Youtube was. Remember Charlie bit my finger, David after Dentist? This kind of light hearted home videos, it used to be filled with that content, but now it's basically completely gone. TikTok is basically Youtube pre-monetization. Probably won't last but enjoying it while it lasts.

A fantastic essay by Eugene Wei on how TikTok’s tool set makes this possible: https://www.eugenewei.com/blog/2021/2/15/american-idle

I was surprised to learn that this is all done in-app: https://twitter.com/TaylorLorenz/status/1372719985496182786

That TikTok algorithm is something else. I thought classmates were exaggerating about how much it sucked them in until I checked my Screen Time after a week of using the app.

I feel weird because I tried to like TikTok but I ended up hating it with a passion. No matter how many times I skipped/disliked a given video type, they still kept showing up. TikTok is clearly not targeted to me because just writing about my experience here is once again upsetting me.

I had the opposite experience. Within an hour of using the app it had already profiled that I'm interested in woodworking, military, comedy, and anything with a solid story. I very rarely dislike a video unless I don't want to see that specific creator anymore. It profiles me based on likes (not something I do a lot), subscribes (once a creator has shown up 2-3 times with solid content I usually subscribe), and view duration. I am very quick to swipe to the next video if it's some dancing or other thing I'm not interested in.

Reels on the other hand, all it shows me is twerking and people getting hurt. Complete turn off compared to how well TikTok tuned in to my preferences.

I would recommend doing the opposite: interact more with the things you do like. “Like” generously, watch videos all the way through a few times, hit share, comment etc. I think those are the biggest signals that inform the algorithm.

I also have trouble getting a non-cringy feed

Reminds me to give it another shot right now

For the videos you really don't like you can indicate you dislike the category


If you don't like what you see on TikTok, you need to press your screen a couple of seconds, then select "I'm not interested". It takes a couple of hours before the algorithm filters all the content you dislike.

And when you see a lot of similar vidéos (a "trend"), use the "hide the videos with this song". Most of the time, all the videos from a trend use the same music.

(I only have videos of dogs and DIY...)

My feed is programming jokes, math/science videos, Hamilton, lots of cats and sometimes very strange combinations of the above.

One impressive moment was, around when the new Animal Crossing came out, I immediately started getting a ton of AC content, almost half of my feed, and when I stopped playing, less than a week later I was basically not getting any at all.

Been doing this in addition to blocking any users sharing cable news clips. Really enjoying my silly feed.

in the vision group at ByteDance (TikTok)... and these kinds of mashups even blow me away. It's amazing to see what flexible tools, tight feedback loops, and global scale produce. reminds me of middle school where we would work together on stick fights in pivot animator, but so much more elaborate

I gotta say, to all the people complaining about TikTok being nothing but underaged girls twerking to hiphop music: if that's all you're seeing, it's cuz you went looking for it. My TikTok stream is pretty much nothing but D&D, blacksmithing (that's a new one, not really sure where that came from, but I like it) and some ginger in a bulldozer in Massachussets yelling at his phone.

I keep skipping and rejecting male model videos and I keep seeing them. Are you saying TikTok is reading my mind deeper than I can access it?

Agreed, mine is all electric guitar and music production stuff

Any time I have tried to watch videos on it I feel like I am getting a headache and having a few IQ points shaved off.

Mostly it makes me sympathize with people back in the day when cocaine was consider a tonic and medicine.

"This stuff is so entertaining and I can't believe I just want more and more. You just have to try this cocaine stuff, you will love it".

Agreed, this thread looks astroturfed. I can't believe the readers of usual HN articles would be so all over Tiktok.

All I see on Tiktok is brain damage. Pretty people doing "slipping in banana peels" level humor, weird childish stuff like how to use scissors, "mindblow" recipes that make no sense. Various junk "lifehacks" etc. Its all garbage after scrolling for like 30 minutes.

But I'm also not the target demographic, as a programmer in my 30s with still a bit of attention span left. I really don't envy the kids who grow up with this garbage.

You can control your tiktok feed. If you make no attempt to control it you get an eclectic mix. If you use the tools that tiktok gives you you'll end up with a curated feed.

TikTok is very good at giving you the content you're interested in, if you take a small amount of time to train it.

How much time does it need? How do I even tell the algorithm what to show if nothing comes up that I'd want? All I see is lame pranks, ass, tits, dancing with nipples showing through the clothes, a banana being sucked into a vacuum cleaner, fishing with weird bait, a guy jumping on the conveyor belt to do push-ups at the supermarket checkout, it's all lowest common denominator garbage.

Maybe I could train it better though, because I realize YouTube is also cancer in incognito mode. But honestly I can't imagine 5-10 second snippet videos being worth watching however "good" they may be.

(I don't think you should be downvoted for expressing a reasonable opinion).

I think it suffers from the same thing a lot of social media suffers from: if you know who to follow your experience is a lot better. But discovering who to follow is difficult.

I watch someone on YouTube who does a few cooking videos. And she uses TikTok for the very short recipes, or variations on recipes she's already done.

I think tiktok sucks and all, but the users talking about how great it is are not a bunch of green name nobody's - it's established users. I doubt that they were all made using fake comments just for this moment for tiktok to AstroTurf.

But maybe you're right - I'd claim it's just unlikely

The endless praise for TikTok here is very confusing. I don't think it's in bad faith the account age of the commenters all seem normal and the like.

I don't have any strong hatred of TikTok myself but usually HN are a privacy concerned skeptical bunch and this is very weird.

It's Vine 2.0 with great content creation tools and a surprisingly advanced set of filters. What's there to hate?

There is another comment somewhere down that claims that any positive opinion is "paid or smoking crack" and that is too common when people feel threatened by something.

Many of the things we do in life are simply a Waste Of Time (if we discount being entertained as a worthwhile pursuit). Commenting on HN is a waste of time. Reddit, Facebook, Chess, Gaming, Crosswords, Reading -- total waste of time. It's a bit strange when something comes along that people choose to entertain themselves with occasionally and invariably the "iT's AdDiCtInG!" arguments appear. Bizarre.

What's there to hate? The company behind it, said company's past conduct, and the links it's got to CCP.

Thank you new account praising TikTok and saying HN is a waste of time and proving my point.

I didn't ask "what's there to hate" but rather almost NO posts on HN get critical praise for an invasive social media app.


Please don't take HN threads further into flamewar. We're trying for the opposite here.


What are the privacy concerns exactly? It’s a firehose of video that shoves content down my gullet.

What is there to spy on — which videos I like or watch again? Doesn’t seem like particularly secretive data. Plus, who am I?

Besides which, something can be a good experience or nice to use even if it has other concerns. That does happen.

Nobody who is posting things like this is coming out and saying what they believe the actual problem to be. It’s all innuendo and implications, shady intimations about bots and privacy. Feel free to spit out what the actual problem is, guys!!

I don't have an account with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. I dislike lots of social media. Here's what I like about TikTok:

1) Quality content

2) Excellent content curation (better than YouTube recommended videos)

3) Not needing to have an account makes me happy

4) I can watch tiktoks shared with me from others without an account and without even visiting the site (videos can be downloaded or ripped using CLI programs).

yea bytedance has seen slowdown in user growth so they're growth hacking by targeting potential users on... hn.

how about it's a fun app and there are so many shitty apps that that makes it remarkable (worthy of remark)? i know that's why i posted what i posted.

Tiktok is a better version of Twitter. Much more high bandwith of information with, sound, video, and text. And much higher interaction data to optimize feed.

Here’s an amazing TikTok duet chain that went viral last fall:

Living Morganism (@ok_girlfriend) Tweeted: « the trolls of tiktok are on another level » https://twitter.com/ok_girlfriend/status/1329850124936286213 1:12 PM · Nov 20, 2020

More info about the chain:

Spectacular "Can We Stop Dueting Videos" TikTok Chain Brings Out The Best Of Dueting | Know Your Meme https://knowyourmeme.com/editorials/collections/spectacular-...

I thought tictok was very unsafe to use. Is that narrative old news and just fear mongering now?

They can't really gather that much data other than what you're interested in. It pretty much just stores data on what videos you watched and comments etc.

imo it doesn't really matter if you use american companies stuff who have to give your data to various three letter agencies or some chinese app that will give it to the chinese government (which can't really do anything with it anyways)

OT but why is there a comment at the top here with a direct link to the video that I can't reply to? I wanted to reply that you should check the thread and not just that video since there are many different videos in it.

HN bug? The only comments I've seen without a reply button have been freshly posted (seconds/minutes), but this one is hours old and has no reply button.

Exactly. I've seen it on comments just posted but never like this. Would love to hear an explanation from @dang.

My favourite tiktok remix culture thing is the Candy Shop/Broom sequence from a few years ago


There's a subtle aesthetic in this one of joining in but not trying too hard and that really makes it accessible.

I must say that I dislike TikTok with passion - but this one was actually very creative and funny.

Is TikTok just for funniness, or does it have content that conveys information?

The thing is ... nobody knows, since what every user sees is a somewhat random and unique collection of videos.

My profile is like 50% silly/funny/hot-takes, 30% related to ethnicity-tok for my ethnicity and 20% niche stuff like a Texas Beekeeper who likes to remove bees safely, a pool cleaner who shows videos of his "worst jobs" etc.

I'm seeing about everything. From barely naked girls, to a golf course ball pickup employee, to handymen, to excavator operators, to 2nd hand fashion stuff, disabnled people talking about their diseases, and then just jokes.

It does have content with actual information, it's just difficult to cram it into the format. First the limit was 6 seconds, then upped to 15, and I believe the current limit is a minute.

So when it does contain some information, people usually talk far too quickly. Like you're scrolling through fun shit that doesn't require you to think at all and then you're suddenly looking at an equivalent of a YouTube video at 2x the speed.

Really reminds me of this great TED talk from Lawrence Lessig. I bet he’d be happy to see this!


That was pretty interesting. Combine that with the neural rendering that was posted earlier for GTA-V and you could actually create high quality new novel content from remixes.

Now only if tiktok would stop treating me like a bot and allow me to follow accounts on a new account I created recently

Perhaps our reality is just the product of this process generated by hyperintelligent beings.

Should I give the backdoor to Xi? Is it really that great?

Tiktok has replaced tv for me. I can watch some fun content for 20 minutes before bed and go back to my life. No more 45 minute commitments to watch a series.

I hate that. I noticed I developed this pattern over years of consuming short content online. Why start a big task (or even watch a movie) when there’s this 5 minute video (repeated over 20 videos). TikTok takes this to the extreme with 5-second videos that keep your mind busy without ever having to make a choice. This is addiction and I had to delete TikTok like I deleted YouTube and Facebook. Now Instagram got reels too and I’m stuck in it.

Yeah, why read books when you can read online articles? Why even read longreads when you can read summaries? Why read a summary when there's a Tweet thread? Why read when you can listen to the audio of a YouTube video you're not even looking at? And so on and on and on. There's an insidiousness to online media that seems even worse than how TV used to be. At least TV, radio, and print were all clearly separate mediums. Now it's all hypertext, equally evanescent.

I love Tiktok but I do also enjoy watching well produced long form TV.

I've noticed that having a diversity in my information diet is somewhat nice. Lots of [podcasts, twitter], less of [TikTok, news] and more rarely (unfortunately) books.

meme went wrong and escalated quickly sums up TikTok

That's not what this is

TikTok is the greatest creativity tools I've seen in years and I am fascinated how people are trying to downplay or outright dismiss it because of their nationalistic or political feelings.

It's like watching fundamentalist trying to preserve their purity when their kosher brands are racing to imitate the features of the forbidden brand.

Hearing the "underage girls dancing and lip syncing, no thanks" line repeated fills me with a similar rage that I get when I hear some racist stereotype.

Please don't take HN threads into flamewar—nationalistic, political, religious, or otherwise (you hit all three here). If you want to say what you think is great about TikTok or creative things people are doing, that's wonderful; please don't pack it with flamebait. That only makes things worse.


> I got my HN account locked when I was begging people to

I don't know what "locked" means but that is not at all an accurate description of how HN accounts get moderated.

It was rate limited as I was trying to explain why I thought that it was wrong to blok websites and apps.

Okay, I am removing the part about the recent political events. I think it is important and relevant but I get that it is off limits so I won't talk about it.

It's not so much "off limits", it's about comment quality. Low-information, high-indignation comments are not what we want here.

As topics become more divisive, comments trend sharply in that direction, so it's important to be mindful of what sort of thread your comment is likely to lead to.

That's why we have this guideline: "Comments should get more thoughtful and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive." (https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html)

See also https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&sor...

Thank you for the follow up. I am not trying to push it but I'm failing to understand how I can express my opinions and experience about governments blocking apps and websites. What would make a comment describing what happened in Turkey and asking people to reconsider their support for app and website blocking in the name of claimed greater good a high quality comment?

This is my second time I fail at this. If this is not banned speech or undesired opinion, do you have any tips to improve my comment quality on the issue?

Ok, I hear you and believe that you're asking in good faith. Let's break it down:

> TikTok is the greatest creativity tools I've seen in years and I am fascinated

Good, interesting, curious. A great start!

> how people are trying to downplay or outright dismiss it

Veers from curious to indignant. This is the point where things start to go wrong.

> because of their nationalistic or political feelings


> It's like watching fundamentalist trying to preserve their purity

Flamebait escalation

> when their kosher brands are racing to imitate

Double flamebait escalation

> Hearing the "underage girls dancing and lip syncing, no thanks" line

Yet more flamebait

> fills me with a similar rage

Indignation and flamebait

> that I get when I hear some racist stereotype

Flamebait. By the time we reach the end of a comment like this, anyone who was flammable is on fire.

I was thinking about this this evening, and thought of another way to explain the "expected value of a thread" concept (https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&sor...), which is really the prime directive of HN discussion.

The thing to understand is that HN threads are supposed to be conversations. A conversation isn't a one-way message like, say, a billboard or a PA announcement. It's a two-way or multi-way co-creation. In a community like HN, it's a multi-way co-creation with a very large fanout.

In conversation, to make high-quality comments you have to take other people into account. If you treat your comment only as a vehicle for your own opinions and feelings—if you leave out the relational dimension—then you're not in conversation. (I don't mean you personally, of course; I mean all of us.)

Conversation means being conscious, while speaking or writing, of whom you're talking to and how what you're saying may affect them. In a forum like HN it means being conscious of the range of people you may be affecting. In conversation, your utterances are not your disconnected private domain for you to optimize as you see fit. You're responsible for the effects you have on the conversation.

I know that some people will read this and think: you're censoring me! you're telling me I can't say what I think or feel! you just don't like my opinions! No no no—that's not it at all. In conversation, you do say what you think and feel, modulated by the relational sense. That is, you're guided not only by what you think and feel but also by the effect you are having, or are likely to have, on others. The goal is to have the best conversation we can have. If we get that right as a community, there's room for what everyone thinks and feels.

Look at it this way. When you're in a relationship with someone, do you bluntly blast them with whatever you're thinking and feeling on any sensitive topic between you? Of course you don't—not if you don't want to stay up all night fighting. What do you do instead? You find a way to say what you think and feel while taking into account what they think and feel. You do it genuinely, not faking it, and you find a way to show that you're doing it.

A lot of HN commenters are going to say: "don't tell me I'm in any fucking relationship with these assholes". Actually you are—that's exactly what you are, whether you want to be or not. You showed up at the same time they did. It may be a weakly cohesive relationship—not like protons and neutrons, more like bosons [1]—but relational dynamics still apply.

If that's too strong a metaphor, try this one: conversation is a dance. When you're dancing with someone, do you only take into account how you want to move and where you want to go? Of course not; that would end the dance. And you certainly don't move in a way that is likely to rub them the wrong way—why would you? It wouldn't serve your purpose, which is to have the best dance.

Other commenters will object: how am I supposed to know in advance how my comment is going to land with others? That's impossible! Well, you can't know exactly, and you don't have to. All you have to do is take it into account. If you take that into account and get it wrong, you'll naturally adapt.

There's one other layer to this. We have to take into account not just the others who are present and how our comments may land with them, but also the medium that we're all using. On HN, the medium is the large, public, optionally anonymous internet forum, and this comes with strengths and weaknesses that shape conversation. In communication, what gets communicated is not the original message you think you're sending, but rather the information that actually gets received by other people, and this has less to do with content than we think it does. It has just as much to do with the medium. Don't underestimate this! McLuhan got it right [2]. Internet forum comments are a mile wide, in the sense that you can say whatever you want, no matter how intense or outrageous—and an inch deep, in the sense that they come with almost no context or background that would help others understand where you're coming from.

We don't seem to have figured much out yet about how this medium works or how best to use it, but I think one thing is clear: because internet comments are so low-bandwidth and so stateless, each comment needs to include some signal that communicates its intent. There are plenty of ways to do this—simply choosing one word instead of another may suffice—but the burden is on the commenter to disambiguate [3]. Otherwise, given the lack of context and large fanout that define this medium, if a message can be misunderstood, it will be—and that's a recipe for bad conversation, which is in none of our interests.

Can we really develop this capacity collectively? Hard to say, but I don't think millions of people have to get it. We just need a large enough subset to deeply take this in—enough to affect the culture. Then the culture will replicate.

[1] I don't actually know a thing about bosons

[2] https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...

[3] https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=false&so...

I'm very appreciative for the elaborative answer. The lack of it on some platforms that rely on AI or scripted moderation a bit too much is one of my grievances, so a human who reads reasons and provides answers is nothing short of admirable. Thank you so much for the human touch and care in moderation.

I think I get your point but my writing style often includes some degree of provocation to elevate feelings for more lively and less stylised conversation. When I write a statement, I don't mean it as a way to promote an agenda but a way to initialise a debate, I would even write things that I don't believe but are conversation starters.

It's hard to disagree that flamewars are toxic but I also believe that we should not abstain from conversation on topics with direct impact, no matter how divisive they are.

IMHO what makes the conversation low quality are the personal attacks, not general statements describing observation of a behaviour in a community. These statements are actually good starting points to tear down the status quo. They are flimsy in substance as a whole(which is the reason they are not personally offensive) but have great depth when disassembled.

For example "people are trying to downplay or outright dismiss it because of their nationalistic or political feelings" is a device to provoke re-evaluation on what happened recently. There's no reason any individual to be offended and forces the answers to be about the reasons beyond the nationalism and politics because I define these as a bad thing in the statement. It is supposed to bring up the non nationalist, non political reasons for the events by making people cautious of using nationalistic and political arguments. If the non-political and non-nationalistic reasons lack the depth it can change the minds of people who previously did not consider that shallowness.

It's like saying "tell me the reasons you bought a house that are beyond the financial ones". This is more interesting when phrased as "People these days only care about the financial gains when doing a property purchase".

I feel like I understand your answer from within, because it's similar to how I looked at commenting in years past. I've written about that before: https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que... (the earliest of those posts was one month after I became public as HN mod).

The problem is that you're only referring to what's going on inside yourself—that is, your ideas about debate, provocation, liveliness, and so on. If you want to be a valuable contributor instead of damaging the container, you need also to take into account what's going on in others—not just one or two others but many, in the case of a large forum like HN. More than that, you need to take into account the medium: what a large, weakly cohesive internet forum is capable of and what it is not. If you don't do that, you'll end up hurting the commons—which is fragile—even while being sure of the rightness and interestingness of your own intentions.

Imagine someone who's into boxing showing up at a dance, say, or a concert or a lecture—who, while milling around talking, is in the habit of punching other people now and then. Nothing serious; just a light jab to the torso or the side of head every once in a while. When asked not to do that, imagine that they reply: "Actually, I disagree with your approach. I think sparring is very valuable for developing alertness and reflexes. It focuses the mind and is a good starting point for interacting directly and truthfully. The fault lies with your rules, which care only about politeness and propriety and assume that people are soft and can't take a punch. These aren't even real punches, just taps, and they are a good device for getting people to reveal what they are really like behind their facade. I believe that we should not abstain from getting to know others as they really are, and that is why my interacting style includes some degree of pugilism, to elevate feelings for more lively and less stylised interaction."

The thing is, they're not wrong. That is, nothing they've said there is wrong—but it is wrong for this context, and that is enough to be disastrously wrong, not only for them and the people they're provoking but for the whole community. In a context with a different implicit contract—like a sparring ring, or a group of roughhousing friends—it would work fine.

When we ask people not to post flamebait a.k.a. provoke others on HN, we're not necessarily telling them that what they said was wrong, or what they did was wrong. We're just saying it's wrong here. That's why I say "here" so much in moderation comments (https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que..., https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=false&qu...).

That word here macroexpands in two dimensions. Along one axis it means: "given the nature of a large, anonymous internet forum"—i.e. the medium we're all communicating through. Along a second axis it means: "given the specific type of site we're trying to have". We're trying to optimize this place for one thing, namely curiosity (https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&sor...). The HN guidelines are a distillation of what we've learned about how we can all perform this optimization together. Since it's in all our interests to have a site that gratifies curiosity, it's in all our interests to follow them. You don't have to follow them for ethical reasons or intellectual reasons; raw self-interest is fine, if that's what gets you there.

The problem with provocation and flamebait is easy to derive from first principles: you can't provoke or flame others into curiosity. All you will achieve is to agitate them, and then they will defend themselves in a hostile and predictable way. That is the opposite of curiosity, which is an open and relaxed state. It is how we get flamewars, and (again) the problem with those is not that they are intrinsically wrong somehow, it's that they are not interesting, and thus are wrong here, given how we're trying to optimize HN.

Some of you will say "But wait! I can be provoked into curiosity. As a matter of fact, I like it when people do that. I don't take it personally, and it makes me think. Actually, that's just the sort of conversation I think we should have on HN." Yes, some people, by virtue of being neuroatypical or having done a lot of self-work or who knows why, sometimes respond to provocation and flamebait by getting more curious. But you know what? It doesn't matter, because statistically the overwhelming majority of participants on a large, open internet forum are not functioning that way—not at all—and it is their responses which determine the threads.

In other words, it's the medium again. You need to understand the medium in order to know what sort of messages to send. If your messages are firebombs, you are going to set this place on fire, even if one or two people do happen to understand the game you're playing and are up for playing it too—just as when you throw punches at a party you're going to start a brawl, even if one or two people enjoy the sparring and respond playfully.

In other words, the argument "that's the sort of conversation I think we should have on HN" is wrong, not because you're wrong to think that or because such conversation is wrong in itself, but because it can't work here and there soon won't be any HN left if people do it (https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=false&qu...).

Instead, you should follow the site guidelines and play the game they describe (even if you'd rather be playing, say, rugby: https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...), because it is the only game we can play here—note that word "here"—given the medium and mandate of the site. Switching to some other game you like better isn't an alternative; the alternative is the destruction of the community (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10411333), which isn't in any of our interests.

There are other places to play more rough-and-tumble games. You'd need a smaller, more cohesive forum (https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...). Rugby teams who beat each other up on the pitch and then go out drinking together can do that because they have a shared identity and pre-existing relationships. Random groups can't do that, and large random groups absolutely can't.

Quite a few HN users, including some of the most prominent ones (and some of the best writers too), started off with a pugnacious commenting style and learned over the years to modulate that in the interest of curiosity, both in themselves and others. That's the learning curve we all have to go through here, and are still going through.

Dang, I just wanted to say how much I appreciate the work you do here.

I've seen you engage with posters in this way so many times (though this reply is particularly loquacious!).

I'm always struck by how unusual that level of effort is. A typical moderator would probably just hit the 'ban' button and move on.

I do agree that mrtksn seems well-intentioned here, but even in cases where good faith seems unlikely, I've seen you take the time to explain the rules kindly and substantively.

At first glance, trying to educate bad faith posters might seem like an example of PG's "do things that don't scale" maxim. But surprisingly, I think your approach scales pretty well. You may not always succeed in changing the behavior of the poster you're replying to, but your replies have a positive and scalable impact on this community because they role model good behavior to the thousands of other people reading. And that's leadership.

Thanks again.

What would we do without you dang? I love that you do your best to guide HN into civil, substantive discussions.

The quality of the comments section here is what keeps me coming back. Without guidance, any site that allows comments becomes lower quality the larger it grows. My theory as to why has a few factors, but one of them has to do with a sense of community. The more people feel they are in a community, the more likely they are to make good faith interpretations of others comments and the more likely they are to consider the effect of what they're saying on others.

Thank you for doing your best to ensure that this feels as much like a community as possible!

Damn Dang, you seriously went all out to explain, even after all those years.

Hats off


A year ago you people we're *screaming* that this app is nothing more then the cold red hand of the Chinese Communist Party, a mole designed to steal information of innocent american children and leak it to the dirty chinese bastards so they can rule the world (in some unspecified way).

What changed? Trump left so the insanity of your country is magically exorcised? Is the New Cold war over, done while I was looking at vaccination news? Did Hong Kong became free? Or do you not care about that anymore? No more walkouts for Hong Kong?

I really don't understand this world at all.

All pr for the communist info sucker? Or real users here to praise but not one bad word? Wonder.

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