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No they don't. The software doesn't distinguish between posts about YC companies and other posts. The algorithm for which votes to count, the threshold for a voting ring, and the penalty applied if one is detected, is the same for every post on HN.

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 wasn't suggesting that the HN software creates an "upvote YC company" rule.

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.

It seems like the software isn't very good at determining the difference between a "voting ring", and a small-ish subcommunity that's interested in a specific technology niche.

For myself, as a node developer, articles about rails, python, erlang, and iOS apps aren't so interesting. I don't upvote them. Articles about node, politics, system programming, http, and JavaScript are interesting, so I do. As it turns out, a bunch of my friends are the people who write node-related articles, and often post them on Hacker News, and then tell me about it.

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.

Great point. It'd be interesting to be transparent about rings of people who frequently upvote on the same post. I'm sure they have that info. It might actually be interesting and open up some level of transparency -- whether among the YC companies (and the ability of their job posts to somehow make it to the top) or among other subsets of the coding community like node.js I have nothing against YC companies; I'm friends with lots. I have nothing against promoting a link you post on HN.

Just would be interesting to be more transparent.

Sorry pg, I didn't downvote you, but you're wrong (or you didn't read the comment you were replying to)

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)

What the Nodejitsu guys did was more extreme than just asking a few friends to upvote your stuff. The software catches and ignores most of that automatically.

I thought we were past this kind of slander.

* 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 charlie@nodejitsu.com.

Here's one of many:


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.

How is this more extreme than asking friends to upvote stories? It is simply posting from a different account. I have 15 email accounts for various projects and companies; does that mean I'm a spammer?

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: charlie@nodejitsu.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 used this example because I think in most people's opinion using sockpuppet accounts in a comment thread is even worse than using them to upvote stories. It's not uncommon for people to try creating sockpuppet accounts to upvote their posts, but rare for people to resort to this.

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.)

> "two accounts with the same IP Address posting comments to HN on the same thread from different accounts is not necessarily malicious"

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.

Does that constitute an army of sockpuppets? I would disagree. I have two gmail accounts. One is personal, one is professional. Also, our posts we're censored long before hook.io got its second wind. Perhaps we should chalk this up to a misunderstanding and move forward.

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