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Ask HN: Please stop "This."
102 points by juiceandjuice on Nov 16, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 71 comments
Can we discuss "This."?

Maybe it's a very silly thing to be bothered by, but I can't be the only one agitated when I read a response to anything that begins simply with "This."

It's my personal feeling is that "This." is a sign of the decline of intelligent discourse on HN. I feel like "This." is usually karma fishing, and that their comment more than likely adds nothing to the discourse, and is often a predictor of immaturity.

I'd like to know what everyone else thinks.

I like to upvote things that I think add value to HackerNews. However, since upvotes are no longer displayed, it's impossible for my agreement or endorsement to have any visible manifestation unless I add a comment. I'd be tempted to use this emerging new idiom, except I think it looks and sounds stupid.

However, pretty much all dialectic and idiomatic shifts look stupid to those entrenched in the existing "standards" and not part of the current "in-crowd." Language changes, and as it does so it leaves behind the previous generation. Perhaps this will flourish briefly and then die out. Perhaps it will return every 10 years or so, possibly even become mundane rather than regarded by some as "cool" and others as, well, juvenile.

Personally, I think that saying "This" looks stupid, but it succinctly expresses the sentiment of the one who writes it. I certainly think it's less stupid than saying "I could care less" when one means that one doesn't care at all. Even saying "meh" would be more acceptable than that illogical expletive.

But in the end this is unhelpful. The language used here will reflect the norms of the population. You can try a King Canute and stand against the tide, but you can't win.

Have you ever considered the possibility that your or any other person's agreement with a given comment simply isn't valuable information?

I think it is. It tells us what HN readers agree with.

I don't know if "this" usage has spread to the general population as a whole but it seems like it at least started with sites frequented by programmers / hackers and I don't think its hard to see why something like "this" would become commonly used among this population as people who write code have a tendency toward trying to express things concisely when possible

This. A thousand times this.

Bring back some form of positive vote indicators.

They don't need to be exact, they just need to properly indicate that "this" post is being recognized without us having to post a "this" post.

I think it was popularised on vBulletin/phpBB style forums where people quote another post (using BBCode) and add nothing but "This." below, as if to say "This is what I'd have said if I got here first".

    | xXMasterChiefXx              |
    |                              |
    |   +----------------------+   |
    |   | ShadowKiller2K said: |   |
    |   |----------------------|   |
    |   |                      |   |
    |   | Xbawks > PS3         |   |
    |   |                      |   |
    |   +----------------------+   |
    |                              |
    |   This.                      |
    |                              |
(I'm amused that these made-up usernames have tons of results in Google!)

I remember a specific user on a forum I used to participate in that did the quote+this thing constantly, as if they were trying to build up a reputation of being a sage individual without having to do a lick of original thinking.

Are there actually a significant number of posts which consist of just a single "This"? Or are you making a statement against the use of that as an opening line before someone adds their two cents.

If the former I might suggest it has something to with the fact that commenting is the only visible form of 'voting' on HN now that comment scores are hidden.

If the latter, I am completely ambivalent. Its a popular turn of phrase it successfully and succinctly communicates agreement and endorsement of the parent comment. At the same time I wouldn't mind terribly if it fell into disuse.

I had to read a couple comments in this thread before I even understood what "this" was/is. I think I would have recognized what the "this" phenomenon was if I had come across it in a number of hn posts.

I can not recall ever seeing it in a thread and I read hn somewhat frequently. The only thing I can think of is that there is a certain subculture that uses "this" and that I do not read the stories that this subculture is interested in. Does anyone have any examples?

I saw a 'this' yesterday on HN (can't recall what it was about, unfortunately) and it had me totally puzzled. I had no idea what it was there for.

I may be curmudgeonly and dumb, but I can't see where 'This' has any real advantage over 'I agree'. So 'I agree' with the OP.

Most of the time, neither "this" nor "I agree" are of value on HN. If you have something unique to add to the conversation, say it, but don't waste space letting us know that you agree. As philwelch said elsewhere, your agreement isn't valuable information.

There are only a couple of exceptions I can think of:

- if someone says something about your business, personal life, or recognized area of expertise, your confirmation is of value. In that case, "I agree" is a perfectly fine standalone response.

- if you're responding in disagreement to one part of a post, it can be helpful to mention that you agree with other parts, in order to stop responses like "you ignored the rest of what I said". Clarifying the scope of your response can help keep discussion focused, and is therefore of value.

Are you bothered if someone starts a post with "I completely agree with you."?

If so, I think that's strange. Why would that bother you? They're giving you an idea of what their comment will be like up front to help you understand it more easily.

If not, they why does it bother you when they say essentially the same thing with four fewer words?

It's totally fine to be annoyed by a comment that doesn't add anything or is immature, but that's what you should be annoyed by, not the fact that they happened to use a particular phrase that concisely states a summary of their opinion.

"Whatever the cause, stupid comments tend to be short." - pg [1]

I feel like, whatever the cause, comments that tend to start with "This." tend to be follow this pattern as well. It's not always the case, which is why I'd urge people to not use "This." when starting a sentence. I also feel like "This." hangs there to evoke a vote of karma, irrespective of comment content much more than "I completely agree with you" would, especially with people who frequent reddit.

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/hackernews.html

"Whatever the cause, stupid comments tend to be short." does not imply "Short comments are stupid".

Incidentally, "stupid comments tend to be short" is a short comment.

> Are you bothered if someone starts a post with "I completely agree with you."?

If it clarifies that they aren't arguing with the parent post, it's valuable, but even then you could say, "To expand on your point about..." or something similar. Otherwise, there's no way that someone else's agreement with a comment provides any useful information to me.

I don't mind it ... and I do think its a very silly thing to be bothered by.

The entirety of your content matters here, so a singular "This" will get downvoted very quickly. But if you say "This" and follow it up with something thoughtful, then what exactly is the problem?

The colloquialisms that we'll use over the course of our time on (especially on the internet) will change frequently, new ones will pop up that require some getting used to, but that's just it ... just buckle up and adjust to it.

How people choose to communicate should be up to them, not some arbitrary lingo police.

I consider it significantly less pernicious than "fanboy" and all its bastardizations and misspellings. I always feel a little warm and fuzzy inside when someone starts a reply to one of my comments with "This.".

I think its use indicates someone who maybe spends more time arguing on the internet than writing code or starting businesses or whatever other incredibly-value-generating things the Platonic Form of Hacker spends his or her time doing. At steady state, most of the content in any online community is going to come from that sort of person. Not much use pretending that ain't what's starting to happen now.

Do we really need to waste our time discussing "This."? That's what down-voting is for.

Ok, my $0.02 - Agreeing with someone isn't contributing to the conversation and if you can't take the time to think of something original to say, don't say it (or face the down-vote). It would be nice to have this added to the "comments" section of the Guidelines.

It's better to use grammatically correct and conventionally accepted statements.

Beginning a response with "I agree" or "Good point" reads pleasantly, without the nails-on-chalkboard effect of the internet-nerd-herd-mind irritating-and-head-scratching-to-regular-people nerd-convention of "This".

Stupid nerds. They seem to like to demonstrate how "non-conforming" they are, but reading sites like this, or worse, reddit, shows how readily they imitate one big nerd group.

And the user "mindcrime", commenting elsewhere in this thread, is a fine specimen for my above points:

  ... I'm the kind of person who likes doing things 
  differently, just to irk people like you. I don't see
  much value in blind adherence to tradition for
  tradition's sake. I like killing sacred cows, stirring
  the pot...

  ... I'm a radically individualistic anarcho-capitalist /
  libertarian / atheist type, so I'm just a touch outside 
  of what you might call mainstream...
Oh yes, so "radically individualistic." More like his internet-Dawkins atheism is keeping him in a perpetual mental state of rebellion, so that he feels the need to "kill sacred cows" towards people he doesn't even know, by "stirring the pot." The attitude and nerd-rebellion with grammar is comical.

I think this points to why I dislike "this": it doesn't flow in a normal conversation. Imagine talking to someone in person and responding to a point by stating "this." You use "this" to show people something they hadn't noticed before, not something they just said.

Well put. (See? Another variation that doesn't make you sound like a boring idiot.)

The internet wasn't so meme-infested ten years ago (except for silly videos), even five years ago. I really think Reddit is to blame.

Can we also stop "fail" as a one-word sentence? I'd appreciate it.

I've stopped participating in any site where the usage of internet memes is anything above negligible. Reading that crap actually makes me feel stupider.

That's a shame.

I hate it when people say "and what not". Oh, and "cool beans" makes me cringe.

I'm just saying, this is something that really shouldn't be bothering you. It's a convention of online conversation. It means that someone thinks you've hit the nail on the head with your point.


This. And now I'm going to say why I think your idea is cool beans and what not.

The problems are that upvotes are invisible and anonymous. The website has no built-in mechanism to tell other people that they should pay attention to a given post.

...which is a great, underrated model that I'm glad HN follows.

IIRC the individual posts are sorted by votes so upvoting should be sufficient

They're sorted by a weird combo of recentness, upvotes, and lack of downvotes.

There's no way to tell if a 1-hour-old comment has more upvotes than a 30-second-old comment positioned above it on the page.

There's no way to tell if a single comment in a subthread has 0 upvotes or 100. This is the biggest problem, IMHO. Factual statements have no visible score for correctness.

There's no way to tell if a comment was upvoted for being interesting, or factually correct.

There's no way to tell if the person who upvoted your comment is the same person you replied to.

Why are you relying on a bunch of random people from the internet to vet factual accuracy? I'm cool with them finding me interesting things, but that's about all I'd trust them for.

For example: I use yelp to see when stores are open/closed and if a coffee shop has wifi. I could care less about the reviews, unless one of them happens to position a specific deal I'd be interested in.

Others' opinions are a litmus test that saves me a lot of time in the long run. I simply don't have the bandwidth to go deep on everything that hits my radar.

Which is why an 'ambiguous' vote is a good system. It provides you just the right amount of information: "a lot of people think this is worth your time to investigate." Nothing more, nothing less.

This is only true if 'ambiguous' is synonymous with 'exactly matching my own criteria'. Usually, it isn't.

And if I could see that vote, that would mean something. But votes are invisible here.

How do you vet factual accuracy?

Investigating original sources when I can.

HN has an unusually high density of original sources.

I think they're actually sorted by a function of both votes and time--newer posts are ranked above older posts.

Usually someone choosing to say "This." over upvoting has more to add, thus he writes a comment.

I've seen dead comments show up only 1/3 of the way down the list, so there's definitely something else at play.

It's a very silly thing to be bothered by. It's just that once you noticed it, you saw it everywhere, even though it wasn't happening any more or less than before. And now that you've posted this, it will bother you even more when you see it, because "they ignored my post dammmit."

In my experience, when I start getting annoyed by anonymous users on web sites, that's more a reflection on my current state than anything else.

I agree, it is extremely irritating. Generally it's the last resort of someone unable to explain a coherent statement of agreement.

Agreed but I think your whole post is a karma fishing redditesque 'Does anyone else' self-post.

I wonder if this is a generational divide, I assume that it's something that gets under my skin because I'm an old guy (35! Gasp!) and I frown on people using my language in a way that diverges from how I've always used it.

It feels like a sort of Internet-speak affectation (something I know a thing or two about) that wouldn't show up in spoken language or other forms of written language. I can see how that would bug people.

I wonder if this is a generational divide, I assume that it's something that gets under my skin because I'm an old guy (35! Gasp!)

I doubt age has anything to do with it. I'm 38, but I don't dislike the "this" thing much at all. In fact, I do it myself sometimes.

and I frown on people using my language in a way that diverges from how I've always used it.

See, I'm the kind of person who likes doing things differently, just to irk people like you. I don't see much value in blind adherence to tradition for tradition's sake. I like killing sacred cows, stirring the pot, ruffling feathers, and reminding people that "We've always done it this way" is not a valid justification (in and of itself) for doing things a certain way.

Then again, I'm a radically individualistic anarcho-capitalist / libertarian / atheist type, so I'm just a touch outside of what you might call mainstream...

"We've always done it this way" is a terrible justification for the status quo. Absolutely.

To me, it's more like "if you use words in a way that diverges from what people can reasonably expect, nobody can understand what the fuck you're saying"

In my opinion it's just a commonly used term in which I subconsciously process as something else. Whenever I read a reply that begins with "This." I instead hear "I couldn't agree with you more." Typically, the comment doesn't stop there and the author would elaborate as to why he or she agrees.

Do you just stop reading the comment at the point of "This."? Oftentimes, the reason justifies use of the word.

What exactly does "This." signify? In terms of magnitude, is it similar to "I agree" or to "I strongly agree" or to "I vehemently agree"?

I usually interpret it as "I couldn't agree more."

Right, you only use it when the person has completely captured your ideas or feelings on the subject, and you have nothing left to add.

Then add nothing. Your agreement isn't valuable information.

That's the OP's point, yes, but parent comment asked for a definition.

Also "I was going to say this... but this guy beat me to it."

"The post is word-for-for the one that I opened this page in order to post".


Thank you for bringing this up! Like you, I vehemently recoil when I spot a "This." in the wild.

To me, "This." == "I am incapable of formulating my own thoughts and therefore choose to fully agree with whatever that guy above me just said."

I don't like it but am more accepting of it when it is followed by a paragraph or so of useful content that the parent post did not include (for example, another argument supporting the same conclusion).

It's a shorter way to write "I completely agree with you, and I want people to know it, but I have nothing left to add". Language and expression changes, especially in the world of Twitter and social media. People want to be part of a group and express agreement. It's nothing more than a nod, expressed verbally. I'm not annoyed by people who nod in agreement.

Mixed feelings when it is the precursor to a cogent, interesting comment. Agree completely to stopping it when it forms the entire content of a comment.

Not displaying points was a careful, considered decision. Live with it.

As an aside, if pg decides he doesn't like comments that consist of (or begin with) "This.", they would be pretty easy to penalize. ;-)

How often do you see posts of just "This." that aren't downvoted to gray?

Provided that it is used as a preamble to signify agreement, and that then this agreement is expanded upon by the author, I do not see any problem with it.

It's kind of like explicitly using the "this->" or "this." formation in C++ or Java or what have you: sure, it may seem needlessly verbose, but it usually doesn't present a major issue when parsing code and can often help make sure you are in the right area when thinking about things.

"This." is useful, provided that it isn't all that's said.

Nobody should be replying to a thread simply to say they agree/disagree with it without adding to the discussion - that's what the upvote/downvote buttons are for. Perhaps a community rule should be added and mods can enforce it.

This? Again? What happened to the last thread?

This was already mentioned a couple of weeks ago: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3153377


"This." is so last-decade. Now we use CoffeeScript:




The other thing.

What's the point of "This."?

Maybe it's shorthand for "{this()}" ?

Sorry couldn't resist.

I'm not really bothered by it in the comments, I guess it's kind of a substitue for "agreed" or "totally".

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