1. Your moderators are simply unable (or unwilling) to distinguish "sockpuppets" from a legitimate community of developers (that is the node.js community). Yes, when we post something to HN we send out the link via Twitter and IM to colleagues in the node.js community who may potentially upvote it. This is natural "word of mouth". We have never used bots, or any kind of malicious automation to ensure posts reach the front-page.
2. There is no transparency for bans, nor is the ban every communicated to the owner of the HN account. If you think an account is unfairly trying to manipulate the voting system; you have to contact them. Anything less is blatantly ambiguous and unacceptable.
3. Given the silent nature of bans on HN, we have no choice but to move onto a new HN account and continue to submit legitimate posts using legitimate word of mouth dissemination. Perhaps you view this as "sockpuppets," but what other choice do we have?
4. In the particular case of Nodejitsu, this behavior is even more unacceptable. We are a platform-as-a-service where any user can create a publicly available application on a subdomain of nodejitsu.com. How can you ban the entire *.nodejitsu.com domain when we are not responsible for malicious actions (real or perceived) taken by a given user? This is not an admission that any such behavior has taken place; I'm sure that your claim is addressed in -.
In the copyright world, site owners are protected by malicious actions of users through DMCA safe-harbor. In such senarios, the owner of the site will be contacted and the malicious behavior (real or perceived) can be addressed and/or removed. By silently banning posts and not communicating with members of the HN community about what you perceive as malicious behavior you are doing yourself a serious detriment. This has (and continues to) raise questions about the legitimacy of the content on HN as just a shill for YCombinator.
If you'd like to speak with me personally you can email email@example.com
Founder and CEO
You seem to be having difficulty with the concept that what you know not to be sockpuppetry would, to the part-time admins of this site, seem like sockpuppetry.
HN makes banning mistakes with some regularity. Get over it or go somewhere else. It's ungracious to spit venom ("unacceptable", "blatantly ambiguous and unacceptable", "HN as just a shill for YCombinator") at the site admins, all of whom have better things to do than resolve individual disputes like this.
I'm as cynical as anyone about YC, 'pg, and the valley culture, but I can see when someone's doing me a favor. Like, every f'ing day for one thousand four hundred fifty two days. I too would run a site like HN differently, but that is irrelevant, because I didn't build a site like HN and so my opinion doesn't matter.
We don't ban sites lightly. We only do it when people make repeated, deliberate efforts to bypass lighter weight protections. Human mods can't watch every upvote 24x7, so if a site seems really determined to hack their way onto the frontpage, the only thing we can do is ban the domain.
I'm happy to unban nodejitsu.com if you promise to stop trying to game HN. In your case I recommend the following standard for what counts as gaming HN: if you're not sure, don't.
There is an unofficial "Upvote YC company articles" rule among YC founders. So, that's why YC company news tends to dominate HN. And, why so many amazing non-YC companies tend to not get profiled here.
It creates a echo chamber, which I think is detrimental to the entire startup ecosystem. It also gives an incorrect assumption to a segment of geeks that YC companies dominate startup the startup scene in Silicon Valley. In reality, YC companies are a very small percentage of the $20B of Venture Capital that is invested in Silicon Valley every year.
HN has in fact been less and less focused on YC cos as time has passed. The initial core of users were YC founders, and anything to do with YC was interesting to them. But over time that group has been diluted by large numbers of new arrivals. A lot of people now think of "Y Combinator" as a news site rather than an investment firm, which was certainly not the case a few years ago.
I'm suggesting that it's common for 500+ YC founders who are and have been active HN members, to quickly upvote articles about other YC companies.
I'm suggesting that this is a cultural artifact of what's happening on HN, not an algorithmic one.
And, I'm suggesting that this cultural artifact changes the content on HN to be quite focused on YC companies. It's natural. It's reasonable. And, certainly beneficial to the investment aspect of YC. You run a media site about startups, and you invest in lots of startups. Those startups naturally want their investor to do well, and their brand to succeed.
I'm not accusing you of malice. What I'm saying, is that I think that this cultural artifact benefits YC and it's startups to the detriment of the startup community at large.
I'd be surprised if I wasn't one of these alleged puppets. Of course I'm more likely to vote up something that someone mentions to me in IM, because I have to see it before clicking the button.
I can see how this looks like sock puppets. You've got a few dozen users that always upvote the same articles from a few dozen other users, and are much less likely to upvote other articles. I'm not sure the best way to know that we're all humans. If there were fewer people using/excited about/writing about ruby on rails, then the behavior would appear very similar, I suspect.
The term "gaming" is really vague. It's not at all clear how "this is something interesting that I'd like to share and discuss" is much different from "this is something that I'd like to get people to look at." It seems to me like the ultimate purpose of a site like this is to be gamed in a particular way by a particular population.
Just would be interesting to be more transparent.
Here is what iamelgringo said
"Problem is, Paul. that YC companies do this exact same behavior on a regular basis. I've gotten emails from founders to ask for word of mouth upvotes on specific blog posts, etc.."
iamelgringo is just one of thousands of people who receives requests to upvote HN posts. I have received several requests myself (from people who are YC founders as well as people who aren't YC founders).
I'd be happy to forward some of those (mass-email blasts) emails to you, if you think that YC founders and other HN members don't game HN the same way that the nodejitsu guys tried to do)
* Can you enumerate what you claim we did?
* Can you provide log files illustrating your arguments?
If the answer to either of the above is "no", then please keep your false claims to yourself. I'm happy to view this as water under the bridge, but I will not allow lies about my company, Nodejitsu, to circulate: we did not (and would never) use any kind of malicious, automated, or anti-competitive tactics to falsely generate upvotes for anything on *.nodejitsu.com
Again, if you'd like to speak with me personally I am available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Apparently this is Marak Squires using multiple accounts (barracks and changelog) in the same comment thread. I learned about this when the guys who run the changelog wrote to me to complain about it.
Posting from a different account and up voting from multiple accounts are two completely different issues. We have never used fake accounts to artificially upvote anything. Period. Nothing provided suggests otherwise. On the subject of data, if the above is an attempt to justify the original decision it is insufficient.
* How were you able to infer that both accounts were in-fact represented by a single individual?
* When one considers it objectively, two accounts with the same IP Address posting comments to HN on the same thread from different accounts is not necessarily malicious. It simply could be two different computers on the same home or work network. Point in fact, Marak and I were roommates during the early days of Nodejitsu. How would you be able to infer the difference?
Full logs of all relevant messages / comments with dates and IP Addresses included are really the only thing that will be satisfactory, feel free to email me: email@example.com.
I still do not see a pattern of malicious behavior or any malicious behavior at all. As I mentioned before, I am very happy to make this water under the bridge, but please stop making false claims in public without providing more than conjecture.
I was able to infer the two accounts were the same person because, as I said, the changelog guys emailed me and told me so. I notice you don't deny it, which seems both revealing and revealingly disingenuous.
(Incidentally, if anyone is reading this far, this sort of thing is why it sucks to run a forum.)
Of course not. My wife and I both post to HN, and nobody has ever criticized us for it.
It helps that we give full disclosure. If we're both involved in the same thread, whoever came in second will usually say "so there's no confusion, I'm married to [the other of us]".
That seems to be one factor some of your colleagues are missing.
> "It is simply posting from a different account."
The HN community has no problem with those who post from separate accounts for "personal" and "professional" stuff. Anonymous threads asking for legal, moral, or health advice are commonplace. Using your personal account to comment on political stories and your business account to comment on code stories is cool.
But it definitely bothers me when someone uses multiple accounts in the same discussion. pg suggests this is a pattern, not a one-time occurrence. Whether or not it's intended to be malicious or manipulative, posting to the same thread from multiple accounts definitely comes off that way. Similarly, using multiple accounts to circumvent bans so you can give your posts publicity appears sketchy.
Maybe pg, the moderators, or the algorithm made mistakes. There are better ways to respond than making multiple accounts, and there are better ways to "make this water under the bridge" than the path you've chosen in this thread.
It does suck more to be hit with a false positive since you might not notice it right away. But I think overall the system is good. It speaks to my inner passive aggressive. :-)
We were wrong. It didn't really block much spam; from the very beginning, spammers had "quality control" bots checking delivery rates of their spam, and they'd adapt to new algorithms within hours, demonstrating just how well they could monitor their black hole rate.
Early this decade, the technology to do efficient blocking "at the edge" was finally implemented, and boom - no more lost mail.
Silent bans are really just a way to exert power. They achieve nothing.
Frequently over half the submissions are dead spam, presumably killed by the policy in question. I rarely see false positives. While the quality of the remainder isn't always great, it's a lot better than it would be if there were no controls in place.
ps. Flag some spam while you're there :)
But perhaps such measures are needed to defend against the non-bot trolls and other belligerent individuals, and only implemented after numerous attempts at corrective feedback have failed.
That's not how it works. You say something that offends some random moderator, and he/she can trivially silent-ban you. No comment under your comment saying you will be banned etc.
If entire communities are allowed to flock to Hacker News to upvote the latest post about their pet platform, the site will become nothing more than a cheap marketing tool.
So, PSA: Please don't strip-mine this community's goodwill for your own or your company's benefit.
As to your 2.: You're entirely correct.
Because there's been none of that happening for the past year...
HN is now the tech news site for insiders. It's not some obscure backwater.
1) Whether astroturfing does happen has no bearing on whether it should happen,
2) Examples of people astroturfing are an argument for having the rule, not an argument against it.
Charlie the above scenario should have triggered alarm bells. I always thought of HN as both an experiment for Arc & free publicity for YC. What's the controversy?
I completely disagree that it's unacceptable. I prefer it that way. It makes it harder to game the system, and I think that keeps the quality here better. The current system is biased towards the community as a whole. You want it biased towards the organizations that benefit from visibility. I don't see any reason to swap those biases.
Personally, I find it marginally acceptable to tweet a HN submission instead of the blog post itself. Tweeting the HN submission is an implicit "Hey guys, please vote this up for us!" to everyone who follows you.