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.
They're still benefiting from their "underdog" status, that won't last
can lurk on old.reddit.com just fine
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/
This has helped Tiktok spread and grow very quickly. Hell the very link on this post is from Twitter and has almost 100k retweets...
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.
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.
Yeah, teddit.net does seem to be pretty light on mobile gas.
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).
On Twitter/TikTok I can watch any link without having to login. Twitter even allows anonymous search.
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.
It’s a pretty common pattern these days; you can also see IG progressively locking down web features tighter and tighter for example.
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.)
The whole vibe is so wholesome that it's truly the first social network that feels social in a wide sense.
Youtube was like that before ads and monetization were introduced.
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 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.
Some random examples that I really enjoy that I've stumbled over to thanks to the algorithm:
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.
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 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.
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!
Using youtube-dl you can get the videos without ads.
A sibling comment has recommended a browser addon to skip them (thanks for crowdsourcing), but it has issues, too.
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 :(
I know it won't last, but I am enjoying it while it lasts.
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.
Gotta hand it to the algorithm, it is always funny to me.
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.
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.
But maybe tiktok is better in this regard, heard much praise about their algorithm.
"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.
Only reason I remember is because I thought that was a pretty transparent attempt at the type of audience they were aiming to attract.
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...)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Are you arguing that tik tok is not full of girls in little clothing? Your argument is easily defeated.
"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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Remember that the platforms we complain about also started off totally fine, but eventually greed caught up with all of them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Feed the algorithm. Like/comment/follow content you like and it shows you a lot of good stuff. It really works.
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.
If the positive comments are made in good faith, I see no reason to downvote/flag them.
Though TikTok is kind enough to run their international version on AWS.
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...
The average follower count for even just a regular user who has maybe 1-2 good videos can be in the low thousands.
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.
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.
Then, if it passes a metric, it graduates to a bigger pool of people.
And then one more level.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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).
How do they entice users to click on these videos hundreds of times?
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.
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.
So its like a millennial TV? :)
When the tools have become simple enough that second graders can play with nuclear bombs we are all fucked.
Their moderation was effective at growing the platform, but pretty horrific in its own right.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Reminds me to give it another shot right now
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...)
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.
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".
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.
TikTok is very good at giving you the content you're interested in, if you take a small amount of time to train it.
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 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.
But maybe you're right - I'd claim it's just unlikely
I don't have any strong hatred of TikTok myself but usually HN are a privacy concerned skeptical bunch and this is very weird.
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.
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.
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!!
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).
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.
Living Morganism (@ok_girlfriend) Tweeted:
the trolls of tiktok are on another level
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
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)
There's a subtle aesthetic in this one of joining in but not trying too hard and that really makes it accessible.
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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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...
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?
> 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
> 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.
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 —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 . 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 . 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.
 I don't actually know a thing about bosons
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".
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.
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.
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!
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.