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Ask HN: Community software for Overcoming Bias?
38 points by Eliezer on Nov 17, 2008 | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments
The two main posters on the blog Overcoming Bias (which has appeared on HN many times) plan to cut back on posts in the near future.

One possibility under discussion is to split off/convert to a more community-oriented site - one that e.g. would let anyone submit their own articles or stories; the readers would vote up or vote down; and good posts would get promoted by editors to a front page. E.g. Scoop has been suggested to us.

Dear Hacker News - over the last years, billions of dollars in venture capital have been spent on Web 2.0. A rationalist community is surely a good cause. What has that money built that can help us?

We're even willing to spend money - not enough money to develop code from scratch, but we aren't restricted to free products.

We don't want to throw sheep at each other. We do want to have sensible discussions (which requires some kind of community policing such as downvoting).

We don't want people with lots of time to waste, to waste that time at our site. We do want busy people to be able to check in, quickly see the newest comments, and check out again.

(Hacker News does great on e.g. downvoting trolls, making them nicely invisible, but still letting me drag-select to see the text. But HN doesn't do so well on e.g. letting me see the latest comments on posts I've previously upvoted.)

We occasionally have meetups. It'd be nice to know who else, or at least how many other rationalists, are within 10 miles of my zip code - that sort of thing.

But mostly I'll throw the question open - what has all that venture capital, and all the efforts of so many of you, built that will help us?

Please go ahead and say "obvious" things if no one else has said it yet, i.e., "You should have a Facebook group (and use it for X, Y, and Z)". Think of it as if you were creating a standard reference list for new communities. I don't know where to start, myself; and I'm sure this won't be the last time the question comes up.




Very sad news that two OB contributors are stepping away.

I find that the reason why Overcoming Bias is a great source of articles for me is that the articles there are without exception written by extremely sharp, clearly brilliant people with both an excellent brain and a top notch writing ability. The topics aren't what brings me there, it's the quality.

I don't think I'd bother reading a community powered Overcoming Bias... maybe I'm wrong, maybe I will read it, but it doesn't sound appealing at all.

Perhaps it's better to just reduce the posting frequency but keep the quality... as it is OB is too frequent for me to read everything, since each post requires careful thought and concentration to get the many points made within.


I think part of the problem you're perceiving is that the examples that come to mind for"web community"--reddit, digg, slashdot, something awful, kuro5hin, sensibleerection, .+chan, etc.--carry inherent bias and groupthink: in learning to overcome bias, they best serve as sources of what to avoid.

This site does, perhaps, better than any other non-dictatorial group at keeping discussion rational: even groups of open-source developers working toward a common goal often devolve into chaos if there's not a single, strong personality in charge.

I'm not sure what the optimal solutions are, but if the hypothesized OB community doesn't reach at least the very high bar set here, I wouldn't have much interest.


Drupal is the powerhouse when it comes to these sort of sites, but it's not for the faint of heart. It's got the flexibility to build whatever you want but it doesn't have to be a deep indepth site or the endless links of a link aggregator. It can provide the social base for those of your members who do want forums or to organize meetups.


Check out slinkset.com -- it's a pretty good roll-your-own-reddit. If you talk to the guys they might help you customize it.


Besides slinkset, if you have the time and need the control, why not hack at HN [1] or reddit [2]?

Honestly, the best discussions online are still on mailing lists. I need more time to think about why that is, and how we can designed that into the newer stuff. But I can't get into that now.

[1] http://arclanguage.org/install (Hacker News engine included)

[2] http://code.reddit.com/


One day we suddenly had a Slinkset site that was fully decked out in the TicketStumbler layout. They have magical gnomes working there, or something. And it's currently one of our top 3 traffic drivers!

<3 Brett & John and fully recommend Slinkset. If Dan successfully set it up, anybody can ;)


Slinkset is awesome if you're looking for a social news site, but I get the feeling that's not what he's talking about. He's speaking less of links and more of a place for the community to post original material. Unless I'm inerpreting wrong, in which case yeah, go with Slinkset.


Slinkset is a fantastic option. Brett and John have built really the dead simple easiest way to create amazing online communities just like Hacker News. It's a perfect fit.


Thanks for the pointer, but as Matt Maroon says, we're looking for something where people can post original content.


We've seen it used w/ success for original content. e.g. http://justhackit.slinkset.com/


You can have people posting original content on e.g. their blogs, and linking to it on your site with slinkset... or is that not a viable option?


And feel free to email brett at slinkset if you need help.


Check out bleacherreport.com. It's a lot like what I think you're describing, but for sports. People write original articles, other people can edit them, and everyone can vote. Writers who have gotten big on there have gotten contracts.

I'd love something like that for rationalism, and would write for it a bit. I'd even invest a small amount if you need. In fact, I'd be surprised if you wouldn't get into YC with that idea :)


I am using Plone for a similar sort of venture. Same idea as Drupal, a bit of overhead to get ramped up, but once you figure out how to get things done it's a very cool, useful, well built tool.

Plus it's python based instead of PHP, which I prefer.


Drupal, Plone, Joomla, Slinkset. And as previously referred, Scoop.

Thanks all!


One system that appears to meet your needs is Joomla Community Builder with the Simple Machines Forum plugin.

This gives you a fully configurable forum including multiple ways of configuring Karma/Reputation, etc. It also gives you the community features that would potentially facilitate the rationalist meetups that you mention.




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