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My Public Apology
151 points by tdavis on Nov 21, 2008 | hide | past | favorite | 108 comments
I would like to take a moment to publicly apologize for what I said in the Justin.tv thread. If you've decided to hate me forever, haven't read it, or simply aren't of the opinion that it's a big deal you may stop reading now.

Upon returning home, I read a message from Dan (my co-founder) stating that, in hindsight, he felt it was a bad thing to say and, quote, "I feel sick to my stomach." I knew then that no matter how serious I felt the infraction was, I had try my damnedest to clear it up.

First off, I'd like to state that I take full responsibility for what I wrote. Even if it's a single person, I do not want anyone to think negatively of Dan, TS, YC, or anyone else they may feel was tangentially involved.

I realize that I essentially made two mistakes here,

1. Instead of expressing my view of the article in question properly, I instead made an inappropriate joke.

2. I did this without considering how someone's views of me could affect their views of those connected to me.

To those of you who were offended, I am sorry. I have a history of complaining about poor comments/submissions to HN and I have since made one that I should be complaining about. Not only did it contribute no meaningful dialogue to the discussion, it was not in the spirit of this community. I consider HN one of the last bastions of social news discussion and it was quite wrong of me to tarnish that.

In a frail attempt to justify my initial comment, I posted a follow-up. A couple of members got the point I should have made in the first place, but at that point I still considered myself in the right and I once again made a horrendous ass of myself. I should have realized by that point that I was obviously not in the right and an apology was in order. I wish I could apologize for my bullheaded nature, too, but I don't think I'll be fixing that anytime soon.

I hope that you do not feel negatively about our company; one that I work on each day because I want to make it better for our users. And, if nothing else, please do not think poorly of Dan, YC, or anyone else. If you want to hate someone, please simply let it be me; I'm much better adjusted to it. Seriously. If you want me to never contribute here again just say the word, if that will be sufficient for you to absolve everyone else.

P.S. I post this as a submission because it's slightly less likely to be destroyed instantly.

Reference: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=371255

(1) Your comment was callous, yes.

(2) Your comment also had a grain of media meta-criticism truth. Falling asleep to die is about the least webcam-friendly method of suicide imaginable. This poor guy is sure to be outdone by a more telegenic webcam suicide, sooner or later. Such is the often-grim nature of 'progress'.

(3) Your comment also had a grain of humor. Choosing to die in front of a camera is inherently melodramatic, while falling asleep to die is inherently anticlimactic. There's an ironic contrast. But as a dying man once noted, "dying is easy, comedy is hard". And comedy about dying may be hardest of all.

(4) People do make callous jokes about death, among friends. They do this especially about strangers and public figures. That's the honest truth. Death is scary; jokes can help people cope.

(5) Other people observe -- and try to enforce in others -- a somber attitude. Death is scary; a sense of solidarity in sympathy can help people cope.

So, is News.YC a gathering of friends, where we speak frankly even if it may offend? Or a PR event for promoting our projects, where due sensitivity to all potential listeners must be observed? I suppose it's somewhere in between.

I downvote one-liner grunts of agreement or disapproval as adding nothing to the conversation. I downvote cheap formulaic jokes. I downvote insults, ad hominem arguments, and snark directed at either News.YC participants or public figures.

But your original comment was none of these things. It made light of a tragedy, yes, but it was not content-free or gratuitously nasty. It would not normally merit an upvote from me, but seeing the mob piling-on of downvotes, I gave it an upvote. Honesty is far more valuable than sentimentality, especially socially-enforced sentimentality.

Some of the critical responses to your comment were truly despicable: name-calling and threats to boycott your business. That sort of browbeating -- directed against a living, present person -- is a greater threat to civil discourse than insensitivity in the face of tragedy. Those disrespectful comments, many still highly rated, deserve downvotes.

I think that the low bandwidth of Internet communication may also be partly to blame here. I make inappropriate comments of this ilk all the time when I'm around friends, in person, but then I can follow up with a smile, a pause, and a half-wink to let the people I'm with know that I'm not really being serious. (And if they've known me for a while, they'd know I wasn't being serious anyway.) Even a winky face doesn't really convey the same amount of information. ;-)

I did downvote the comment in question; actually, I think I was only the 2nd person to do so, as it was at 0 points when I read it. I found it callous and inappropriate. But then, I think I misinterpreted it. Which is easy to do, if you don't personally know the person who made it and don't know what spirit it's intended in.

I didn't downvote, but I didn't upvote either, for the simple fact that it wasn't funny. To paraphrase the pythons, humor is not the automatic gainsaying of the common sentiment.

I didn't downvote, I didn't upvote, I didn't vote sideways, and I didn't vote for the down-up-vote, etc. because I just don't care. You're thinking: what a jerk! Well, I care as much about this poor soul as I do about any of the other thousands of people who died today. I am a compassionate person, but I have some gripes, so please hear me out.

I live in the UK, and for the past several weeks we've had to suffer the media being obsessed with itself over [this](http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7741322.stm) and [this](http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7740926.stm). They've each consumed 4 or 5 days of consecutive news headlines at the top of the bill. Politicians even get themselves involved - no doubt to disassociate themselves from having to answer real questions about their calamatous mistakes! It's a real circus, with destructive consequences, and this too is a circus, albeit a smaller one.

Yesterday I clicked on a link regarding this whole saga; it was worded with (fake) outrage over the Justin.tv CEO's notable lack of compassion from the press release. Personally I always find that press releases are great vehicles to show compassion! Anyway, right there in the middle of the screen was a very prominent screencaptured image of that boy's dead corpse. Uh, yeah, thanks for that er suicide porn. Very appropriate. Very well considered decision.

There is apparently good reason why established media don't go in to the details and gratuitous imagery of suicide that it reports - studies show that it can inspire further tragedies to take place, perhaps by indulging the fantasies of those among us who may be contemplating taking our own lives. With journalism, professional or amateur, online or offline, comes a great responsibility granted to it by a free society that shouldn't be taken lightly.

I fail to understand why tdavis felt the need to post a "public apology" over this. I can just imagine him standing in front of a press pack, his humiliated wife by his side, trying to worm his way out of some scandal to salvage a career. It never seems credible to me when people retract something they've said - why didn't you just say that you acknowledge that you have a dark and twisted sense of humour and that you won't apologise for it?

I thought HN was supposed to be a community of tech oriented entrepeneurs collecting relevent content, but judging by the cumulative editorial process that I've witnessed lately it seems to be descending into becoming nothing more than just another category of foxnews.com.

Now, you can release the hounds and I'll just stand here.

why didn't you just say that you acknowledge that you have a dark and twisted sense of humour and that you won't apologise for it?

I never apologized for my personality; to do so would have been disingenuous. As some have noted, I never said my opinion on the matter had changed. It just so happens that numerous other people have put that opinion far more eloquently throughout this thread. For that I am thankful.

Excellent comment - I share pretty much the same thoughts :D you put it so much mor eloquently than I could manage!

> So, is News.YC a gathering of friends, where we speak frankly even if it may offend? Or a PR event for promoting our projects, where due sensitivity to all potential listeners must be observed? I suppose it's somewhere in between.

Excellent appraisal ^^

I'd like to think more of the former. If I asked for criticism of a project here I'd hope for (and expect) frank assessment.

Someone's brand of humour might not appeal to everyone here: but at least try ot respect it!

In situations like these, people often run to the "humor helps people cope with death" excuse. Except in these situations, nobody involved is actually doing any coping, because they never had a relationship with the deceased, not even of the Princess Di sort where the relationship is one-way. Nor is the turn to humor nearly this quick among those who are genuinely coping.

Instead, these situations are almost always instances of the peanut gallery instinct run amok. We've come to naturally jeer a lot of the things we see on television (which is why MST3K was a success), and it doesn't take much to go from jeering a bad TV show to jeering the content of the news. Hence, we get the Darwin Awards, which nobody in their right mind could mistake as a coping measure. Instead, it's the death of real people used for our entertainment.

I strongly recommend reading Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business to get a handle on how warped our sense of reality has become in the age of television.

I'm not about to persecute tdavis for his original comment, but I also think a lot of the counter-reaction here oversteps the mark. If one is going to react to events like these at all, so soon after the event itself, they should do so with a measure of respect. Tragic events like death are considered tragic for a reason, and any attempt to sidestep that fact makes us a little less human. We've seen what happened to Rome, after all.

The apology was appropriate, and that's about all that needs to be said.

I think that it also exposes some of the crazy group think going on here, so maybe it wasn't all bad.

I mean, You're an idiot isn't supposed to be a +5 comment on this site.

And reasoned discourse like It doesn't really matter what the Justin.tv CEO said. He pasted some boiler plate because there's nothing more to be said; the deed had been done. What do you want? An apology for not finding the video? For not policing the Internet? Prosecution of anybody "egging him on?" Come on.

Someone broadcast their suicide. That fact doesn't make it any more tragic than any other suicide. It also doesn't mean anybody more than usual was responsible. There's really no story here which is why I chose to make a comment that didn't acknowledge there was. shouldn't be -12. At least not in my mind.

Not to mention all the equally pithy and/or distasteful rejoinders that were upvoted.

The rabid responses to Tom's post both shocked and surprised me as well. They just seemed a little bit more spirited than I would expect. It was a little schadenfreude-infused, to say the least.

I wasn't shocked at all. My favorite thing about HN is the community and the discussion that goes on here. I don't have comments on my blog for a reason, and it is precisely so that I don't have to deal with anonymous trolls that don't think before they comment. To me, Tom's comment was highly reminiscent of why I can't stand Reddit or Digg or YouTube comments. I expect more from HN discussions. This community has built something special. I enjoy discussing my own blog posts here specifically because trollish comments are punished.

I think the reason that the downmodding was so agressive on this specific comment was that people wanted to express that actions have consequences. You post a thoughtless, off-color comment that does not legitimately address the topic at hand, and you will pay dearly for it.

That being said, I applaud Tom's apology. He made a mistake in making the comment and several of the followups. We are all stupid sometimes, and it takes balls to fess up to that fact. So I forgive his remark and hope that we've all learned something from this.

Let's keep HN a place where real discussions about hacking and startups can take place. Think before you comment. Is your comment contributing to the discussion, or would it be better placed on Reddit?

Perhaps I should have been more clear: The downvoting of the joke was expected.

The massive upvoting of the snarky "oh, snap" comments that followed, is what was surprising.

You are supposed to upvote intelligent discourse, and downvote the cruft; ie. encourage the "community and the discussion that goes on here", and discourage the "anonymous trolls that don't think before they comment". Or at least that's how I learned it.

The reverse seems to have happened.

See: "indeed" +12

"memo to self: stop using ticketstumbler.com" +34

"Such a shame, but I won't be using it either." +9

"TicketStumbler founders - Get a life." +4

"You think the people on here are dumb enough to believe that what you posted was an "experiment"? You're an asshole." +21

"Just apologize for the comment, man. You're not going to change anyone's mind with a childish rant like this." +20

"Posting comments irrelevant to your initial insensitivity will not help save face, especially when you throw in an attack towards the entire crowd." +18

or the especially ironic "I actually had to scroll up to the banner to make sure I was still on Hacker News and not reddit." +12

As far as I can tell, those are on the same plane as the original comment.

It was the upvoting of these (and similar) inane, and snarky one-liners that I was surprised at, not the downvoting of the comment that set it all off. Although the upvoting of the "golly gee-whiz, that's awful bad, hyuk" type comments, and the intertia of the downvoting of the subsequent comments were also surprising.

It appears as if the score of some of the other comments, ie. "You're an idiot" seem to be stabilizing over time. It's no longer +5, at least.

"Just apologize for the comment, man. You're not going to change anyone's mind with a childish rant like this." +20

This turned out to be very insightful.

Prophetic != insightful.

"Just ignore them... all this sanctimonious self-righteousness will blow away with the wind if you ignore it." would have been insightful.

I just realized, it could be really interesting to have access to the history of karma over time for stories and comments, and perhaps accounts.

So wait, we're shocked and horrified at downvoting, but suicide, hey happens all the time. Do the upvotes in this thread represent anti-group think group think?

We can do something about downvoting.

Being gratuitously shocked and horrified at some more-or-less random kid's suicide is just obnoxious.

FWIW, tdavis, I wasn't offended by your comment, except to the extent that it makes HN more reddit-like. But in that respect it was no worse than most of the comments in that thread.

I mean, You're an idiot isn't supposed to be a +5 comment on this site. Shoot. I tried to downvote it only to find that I can only UPvote. Maybe that's also the problem for others.

Once your karma passes a certain threshold, you will gain the ability to downvote comments.

Also, it seems you can't downvote replies to your own posts, or downvote anything older than a day or so.

That, I imagine is to prevent revenge down-voting. It seems like a good idea to me.

Yep. It also occasionally locks out posts by a user in the same thread as the one in which they reply to you. Same anti-revenge idea, as far as I can see.

I voted up your original comment. I thought it was smart and witty.

I think people who voted you down probably regularly vote up witty remarks about the Bush administration or the war in Iraq, and are guilty of extreme hypocrisy.

Human beings make fun of everything, including death, pets being run over, wars of occupation, rape, incest, ignorance, stupidy, disease, racism, the holocaust... Perhaps the same crowd would have voted down Benigni's "Life is Beautiful" because of the jokes about an event in which 6 million jews were murdered.

Some jokes are less appropriate than others, but no subject is off limits. To censor your ability to jest about something is to censor your ability to think about it. I truly loathe people who impose their sensitivities on others as censorship. Fuck them.

Stand up for your comment. Even in a minority of one, the truth is still the truth. You're not alone in having the freedom of thought to find a humorous angle in unlikely places. We're with you.

PS: For reference, my comment on that justin.tv thread was equally caustic:

"Idiots: also available on justin.tv."

I guess I would agree with you that no subject is off limits, and I can obviously only speak for myself, but there is a reason that I have a knee-jerk negative and perhaps overly zealous reaction to suicide jokes that I don't have to those about most other tragedies. Most people who end up committing suicide talk about it before they do it and they often aren't taken seriously. Because of this, I take a dim view of anything that makes light of suicide.

Wars are awful, but I doubt that many of them could have been prevented by taking the people proposing them more seriously, and the same goes for most other things.

As I said, it's entirely possible I take this view too far, but I figured I'd explain my reason, since it doesn't seem like anyone else has brought up that particular point.

If you've ever wondered why every society has so many carefully delineated, formal rituals surrounding death -- the sending of flowers, the publishing of obits, the ritualized expressions of sorrow, the formal funerals -- now you know.

If you've ever wondered why, after every major tragedy that affects a public gathering like a school, the local news reports that teams of grief counselors are being dispatched to the scene -- well, now you know. Grief counselors are trained to listen to people who are in shock. People in shock say strange things. Half of them are oversensitive, the other half tries to whistle past the graveyard, and if you put both halves in the same room and ask them to counsel each other the results can be really ugly, as we appear to have discovered. (I didn't read the original thread myself, though. I see enough pain in the course of life.)

All threads need moderators, but sometimes real life also needs moderators, and that's what grief counselors are for.

I recently had a friend-of-friends die suddenly in an accident. The range of responses was interesting. Some of his friends dissolved into tears. Some took pains to offer expressions of forgiveness and acceptance. Some raged against the cause of the accident. Some raged against the deceased. Some switched from one approach to another on a sentence by sentence basis.

Shock. That's how it works.

Someone with a large amount of intestinal fortitude and an even larger amount of malpractice insurance should start up an online grief counseling service.

My only problem with your initial comment is that it does not add much to the discussion; but neither do the comments that merely express sympathy. The story itself is only of interest because any startup may have to deal with similar situations, and hysterical public attention in general.

The real issue is how your unpopular comment immediately reflected back on your business. There are several calls to boycott ticketstumbler for your expressing an unpopular opinion - from a community that is supposed to be full of smart, rational people. How could the mass media ever have a chance at putting stories in perspective when even HN fosters such a witch hunt?

I find it interesting that a couple of people expressing distaste for tdavis' statements and expressing the thought that they personally would not spend money on ticketstumbler because of his demonstrated lack of judgment gets turned into a witch hunt and call for boycott.

As a side note, I have to wonder about companies that I've only ever heard of through reading HN. It makes me think that the founders are spending too much time in their comfort zone telling their buddies how great they are. In order to become truly great you have to go out into the wider world where people will make snap judgments about you and your company based on what you do and say.

Fair enough, but we've been launched less than 4 months.

Ticketnews, Boston Herald, ReadWriteWeb, BoyGeniusReport, Techcrunch and MassHighTech have all written about us.

Hacker News isn't exactly our target audience, but they/you are our friends & peers.

There are an incredible number of sites. Chances are, there are enormous ones you've never heard of because they deal with things you're not interested in. I've never heard Justin.tv mentioned anywhere beyond here and Reddit (I don't read tech blogs, as a disclaimer): until a month ago, I thought that Justin.tv was still just the one guy.

HN is great because it has such a concentration of people who know what they're talking about. It means that you can advertise just here, and rely on word-of-mouth to spread the biggest ideas.

I was wondering abt the same on how his comment(thought inappropriate) should spur a whole lot of hate on product he builds. I would really down vote the person who first said "Note to self, stop using ticketstumbler". Seems more like an animated irrational crowd. Hard to believe on HN.

Yeah. One of those was me. Sorry about that. Suicide has touched me a little more deeply than most and I'm sorry to say that I shot first and thought later.

:) happens. I am sure everyone on HN appreciate Tom's move to apologize and your gesture too.

Coward. Your next submission should have been Maddox's "How to kill yourself like a man."


Something tells me that might have exacerbated the issue ;)

Haha, awesome. I hope you're not downmodded into oblivion for this, because that's hilarious.

Thanks for this. That's the funniest site I've seen in a while.

It seems like this public apology will actually do you more harm than good. The best strategy is probably to say nothing (i.e. delete this) and wait for it to blow over. In a week, nobody will care.

The problem is that apologizing like this will draw more attention to the initial act. People are more likely to think "man, that really was horrible" than "well, that was horrible, but he apologized, so it's okay". Basically, the less exposure, the better.

Also, don't worry about it. I've found that when I (frequently) mess up, it's optimal to make a mental note of what I did wrong, adjust, and then not think about it again. It would be a bad use of time to worry about every little mistake.

Personally, I understood where you were coming from by making that joke. I don't care about political correctness. If I kill myself, I really hope that people joke and laugh about it. Being "all serious" about situations like that is what makes people cry for reform, legal action, etc, and behavior like that is almost always detrimental.

But most people's beliefs are aligned with the social norms (by definition), so it will tarnish your reputation to publicly say alarming things. So again, in this instance, it's probably best to not draw attention to it. (For evidence of this, check out unalone's comment in this thread -- he hadn't seen your initial comment until you posted this.)

That reasoning is true until it isn't. If you sweep things under the rug, the public eye generally moves on to the next thing quickly, and nobody cares or realizes it happened a week later. If you apologize prematurely, then you draw attention to it, and people remember. But if you don't apologize, and it actually is a big deal, then people do remember and you look like a horrible person.

It's the same debate that centers around when you should write a blog post about downtime. After 10 minutes? Probably not because you've draw attention to the downtime, that wasn't really that severe. 1 hour? Maybe not, people will probably forget about it, and the Internet will have no record that it ever happened. But never post about downtime and users feel ignored, and people get really, really mad at you...

I agree to an extent. The problem is that it's not possible to determine whether the "correct" course of action is to publicly apologize or to downplay the initial act. But to make that decision, we can look at how each strategy has worked out for other companies. Remember that hosting company that had major downtime, then made a followup blog post that made jokes ("whoops! we have butterfinters!") etc? The internet came down pretty hard on them. On the flipside, we have Apple, who almost never makes public statements like that, and it works out for them because it allows them to avoid the backlash from a mistake, and it buys them time to objectively decide what to do about it.

i think you have to play it by ear. you certainly don't want to over-apologize or under-apologize. that hosting company apologized with the wrong apology. a good, sincere apology explaining what happened and why it's not going to happen again can go a long, long way to gaining devoted customers.

somewhere in marketing 101 we read this study that showed that customers of a company that makes a mistake and handles it well are actually more loyal than customers of a company that doesn't make any mistakes.

if that hosting company had made no apologies at all and ended up with a techcrunch article about their downtime, with "no comments" from the company, you bet they would be worse off than had they posted a quick status update and then made a sincere apology with extended analysis after a certain threshold had been met (say, 2 hours of downtime).

look at amazon and ec2 for an example of why silence isn't always the best option.

Yeah, that's valid. It seems like we're talking about two different issues though. And you're completely right about having to play it by ear. This situation is unique because Davis is a founder of a company and his comment could possibly impact that company. It's not a case where the company has made a mistake in its service. In other words, if someone decides to not use Ticketstumbler over this, it's because they hated his comment, not because Ticketstumbler failed them. So in this scenario, there's no reason to draw attention to the initial act with a public apology because it's not likely to happen again. Whereas if Amazon EC2 went down, that would (by definition) have an impact on customers, and it might happen again in the future. So in that case, it would be valuable to reassure the customers that it won't happen again, to provide reasons why it won't, and to communicate the measures being taken to prevent downtime in the future. So the situations seem similar, but they're actually very different.

What are you talking about. Apple has had all this time with MobileMe and had to make a few statements and even give a few free months.

In fact, a lot of people already don't care. I disapprove of this front page submission more than the original comment that was tucked away at the bottom of a comments page.

If there's anything I hate more than petty semi-scandalous incidents on the internets it's the meta discussions about such incidents...

And the comments commenting on the meta discussions on the petty semi-scandalous incidents on the internets.

And the comments commenting on the comments regarding the meta discussions on the petty semi-scandalous incidents on the internets.

Humor is often a healthy (if misunderstood) response to something bad happening.

While I'm not defending the remark at all, there's always going to be a crowd that reacts to any joke made in such a context with an automatic irrational "You think $unfortunate_incident is FUNNY!?!"

Is irrational actually the word you're looking for?

I suppose it's irrational because it's so easy to misinterpret, and because it's not always necessary. It's overused in a lot of ways.

I didn't see your comment until you posted this up. I agree: it was pretty immature and uncalled for.

Since I've been part of Hacker News, though, you've almost always been smart, courteous, and you almost always add to the conversation rather than detract from it. And it's easy to go wrong and say something stupid, and at least you're owning up to it.

I hope people don't hold a grudge against what you said, and I'm glad that you apologized for it - even if it wasn't excusable.

The reactions are typical US behavior. People will rate you because of the one thing you did wrong and not even take into account the years before, where you did a perfect job. (Think about President Clinton and the Lewinski affaire...).

There's always a temptation to say something stupid. And online, when there's really no social barrier that immediately stops you when you've said something you shouldn't, it's incredibly easy to get carried away.

I saw somebody on the other thread saying they were shocked, that it sounded like Reddit rather than Hacker News. And I thought: why wouldn't it sound like Reddit? The same users are crossing over. This is just the next stop for a lot of people. HN has no special checks encouraging better posting; it's up to the users. And a lot of users don't really care about this ideal of Hacker News as enlightened and thoughtful. They just see it as another place to post whatever comes to mind and to find good news stories.

If Hacker News is going to stay high-quality, then it requires every single user's being dedicated to its staying that way. That's not an easy task, especially not when a lot of users are joining right now, as HN is visibly declined. (Not much, but it's certainly not as good now as it was three months ago.) It means somehow convincing every user that this is not only worthwhile but necessary.

That's not likely: it's far too easy to slip up. I'm hoping, and I think Hacker News is a good place to make a stand - it's done incredibly well for the last two years - but I don't have any illusions about what the odds are of it staying like this.

You bake one cake, and nobody calls you a baker.

You mix one drink, and nobody calls you a bartender.

But you fuck one sheep....

...and people think you're from New Zealand. ;-)

(Apologies to any Kiwi friends out there...I loved the semester I spent in your country. And no, I didn't see any sheepfuckers. Lots of sheep, though.)

Give me a break...an apology is wholly unnecessary. What you said may have been "inappropriate," but it was dark humor. Of course people would be offended.

What you said may have been "inappropriate," but it was dark humor. Of course people would be offended.

I wholly agree. All it does is breed political correctness where there was none.

I think it's useful. It gave us a forum to discuss how Hacker News acts in regards to things like that, and that's a very important discussion to have.

If your dark humor doesn't offend people, you're doing it wrong. But you're right, this may show that HN overreacts.

Overreacts, yes. The outrage I saw was way over the line.

Yeah, really. It was a real bandwagon of righteous indignation.

Some might criticize you for not apologizing immediately; I for one think that a longer apology which shows reflection is far more valuable than a quick one.

I've got a lot of empathy for you, Tom. We all say dumb stuff, and the web makes it very easy to screw up without thinking through. Kudos to you for the apology and the transparency. First time I'm checking out Ticketstumbler, BTW - looks interesting.

Now I'm intrigued whether you'll regain the 83 karma points you lost in that thread with this post ;-) I think you might!

That aside, the egregious downvoting of your comments in that post showed a real lack of HN voting standards (that is, not going crazily low unless the comment is spam or totally irrelevant) by many users, no matter how misguided your comments.

As it stands right now, he seems to have recovered all that and much more, between the apology article, his voted-up comments on it, and people gradually undoing the massive downmods on the original comments. The apology has been modded higher than the original article.

From a strictly theoretic standpoint, it seems the karma system rewards drama... and it also rewards posting controversial statements as separate articles rather than as comments, because articles can't get downmodded.

As interesting as the whole incident has been, I'm hoping we don't see many similar ones, since I don't think it really added much to the quality of discussion.

this is a community of smart people, not computers. what this incident did was demonstrate certain tendencies in our nature as humans--that is, the collective is still susceptible to certain modes of groupthink and, as rational and logical as we are/intend to be, we are still emotional beings. what i take away from this incident is nothing negative about tdavis--as swombat pointed out (and demonstrated), there were other comments that just as easily could have become the focus of HN's ire. instead, i see this is a reminder that no community is immune to the problems inherent in growth and longevity. so, let's recognize that fact, and simply double-check our motives before posting. i think it's necessary to take a step back in this case, as opposed to moving in closer for a better look.

Obviously the root subject matter is very serious.

Neverless sadly there are many deaths and suicides in the world. So...

Please let us not turn this place into something like a reality TV series where the participants become more important than the content.

I read his suicide note and it was pretty clear it was either suicide or an unhappy life on xanax, followed by death by way of cancer/stroke/heart disease.


There's always a period after death where people stop being shocked/sad and start telling jokes. This thread is evidence of that. Oh well.


When I read the article I had the same thought. Of course, I didn't actually say it, but I think that people were a little over-sensitive about this. You shouldn't have to apologize.

Sometimes it really becomes difficult to see what the full repercussions of what we say can be. What might seem to be an interesting comment to make may not seem as intelligent just afterwards. I bet anyone who has ever tried to to dilute seriousness of an issue with humor has one incident to quote where their effort had an opposite effect.

So although I cannot speak of everyone else, as for me if it is 'forgiveness' you want, I forgive you.

Edit: After reading the comments, I realize this whole thing was a mock... and as some people have already observed, an apology is totally unnecessary. As for your friends, I am sure hardly anyone will have the time to look up and make any mental notes about what to do if he meets them. As for your business, if this episode has done anything, it would only popularize it. Why, if I lived in US I'd probably start using the service you provide if I weren't using it already :)

And on serious note, committing suicide on screen is a very stupid idea, and over that if it is done by sleeping in front of the camera it does become a little boring as well. I am not sure why you got down voted for pointing that out, as your comment was definitely not more disappointing to me than the actual news.

There are things in life that matter more than others.

Startups, money, reputation; all that shit is worthless once you need to deal with the pain of someone dying.

Someone taking their own life is one of those things that should cause you to stop and think of his family, friends and wonder what pushed him to this.

I dunno man, maybe you haven't experienced it, but once you do (and everyone does), I hope you forgive yourself for the stupid shit you said today.

What exactly do you want from him? The mentality "there are some words that should never be forgiven" is just as useless as "we shouldn't take the Lord's name in vain". Relax.

Not what I said.

All I said was, if you've never had someone close to you end their life or die suddenly, then you don't get what pain you cause by flippant remarks like he made.

So fuck him for feeling bad, cause he should. And you relax dude.

"Not what I said."

"... I hope you forgive yourself for the stupid shit you said today."

He's asking for your forgiveness, and based on what you're saying, it sounds like you won't forgive him, and you feel that he shouldn't forgive himself. I'm saying, that's a bad mindset to have. That same kind of hatred has spawned many wars, for example.

I understand you're emotional about this, and I'm sorry for whatever losses you've experienced. But try to restrain yourself, act rationally, and communicate clearly.

Oh, I don't know. I obviously think it was a bit crass, but it probably seemed like a reasonable enough thing to say. Just didn't go over well.

But at the same time, I look back on some of the stupid things I've said and done, and it bothers me again and again. I'll be working on something completely non-related, and some scene of my stupidity pops into my head, and I feel embarrassed all over again. It's not particularly useful, and I would just as soon forget it altogether.

That's how I took the comment about forgiving himself later: he may come to regret making a callous remark, and have a hard time understanding that it was a simple off-the-cuff remark.

Either way, it's not such a big deal. He apologized, took responsibility, and will probably attempt to post with a bit more foresight in the near future.

Well, having experienced plenty of recent death in close family / friends. I found it quite an insight and got what he meant...

All of the vitriolic outcry against something that was insightful but misguided (and badly worded) is just a little staggering to be frank.

I assure you I have seen much suffering and death in my life.

Did they use pills, or were theirs "more interesting than watching paint dry"? Oh, zing!

Hehe, sorry. I think it would be beneficial if we all loosened up a little. Personally, if I was going to do the suicide dance, I'd try to find the most creative way to go. Like the one where you put on a noose made out of thin (but sturdy) wire, attach the other end to a bridge, glue your hands to your face, then jump off the bridge. You'll end up holding your own head, which would really confuse whoever found you. I'd also make the ":P" face before jumping so that it looked like I was blowing a raspberry.

The question is. Do I upvote that and look like a dick for apparently celebrating this fact. Or downvote it, look good, but add to the negative karma!

Abstain :(

Well, the thing is, no one knows what way you voted, so you could have your cake and eat it too.

rumbled! :)

Fuck your downvotes.

Sweet, I can now say I've been told "fuck you[r downvotes]" by a professor from Cornell.

"visiting assistant professor"... isn't that like a glorified TA?

Sort of.

Hahahaha, I like the profile update.

Thanks man, it's more accurate I feel. :-)


Oh yeah? well...

Morra di!

Du vil ikke være så vænnlig å hente tellfart og sykle vannrætt inn i hælvette?

He he heee..

I think the reaction to this issue is a bit beyond reasonable. People shouldn't be so quick to get offended. I'm rather participate in a community where the members don't care about shit that doesn't matter. So please don't get in arguments about how offended you are about another comment.

Say interesting and insightful things, upmod others that do, and downmod others that don't.

For what it's worth, after my brother killed himself (not on webcam, thankfully) it was humour that got me through.

I found your comment funny.


the world at large will find fault with ANYTHING ANYBODY says...

if you felt that way... so b it...

every person on the planet has a few rough edges...

(i'm still in awe of your intellect, and i've worked most of my life around geniuses)...

my vote is to accept rough edges for truth in facts, and forgive side effects...

:-) :-) :-)

Hacker news for the most part is a great community but some people I have seen follow the mentality of those chatters.

Why ...continue to be mean-spirited towards someone else work you don't like, when its unprovoked? If we wish to hold ourselves to a higher standard - a civil community, don't continue your vinegar beyond Ask HN for feedback post. It was not asked for beyond initial post!

Well done. It takes a lot of guts to do something like this.

meh. You had time to think about your op and already made a reply basically repeating the original sentiment. You clearly don't feel any differently about the op, and maybe that's not such a bad thing.

But this just reeks of Jimmy Swaggart or Michael Richards. (On the bright side, you've successfully pushed the hivemind to the opposing view, although I don't think that was your goal)

We are human and we make mistakes. Just don't get too self-absorbed and move on...you've got important work to do.

Well done, the 100+ upvotes you've got on this post have totally counteracted the negative votes you got on the other post, and you end the day with a net profit. Goes to show.. when it comes to social networking, any publicity is good publicity!

I think there's more to his apology than that.

Well sure, but it's mathematically amusing that an apology gets more social credit than lost through the faux pas causing that apology, no?

See, this is why I post pseudonymously.

-75 comment votes; +125 article points - you are a genius. As to your company, I'd never even heard of it before. There is no such thing as bad publicity.

This is not the type of publicity we want. This will be the first and last time it's caused by something completely in our control.

You are doing this because you don't want it to impact your business.

Shame on you!!

I for one don't think that a self serving apology is in line with his posting history.

A unsubstantiated comment, on the other hand, is in line with yours.

thats harsh

It was not meant to be harsh, simply a statement of fact. I certainly don't share the "Life is [harsh]. Adapt." mentality. I do believe in judging opinions based on how well they are substantiated. If you post an argument that is backed up by some sort of reasoning or proof, I'll be upvoting you whether I agree with you or not :-).

Life is. Adapt.

But it isn't. It's worse than that: it's fair. People judge you based on how they perceive you, and that's an open standard, and it's completely fair.

That makes it harder, because it's harder to admit that's how it works when things are down for you.

He has every right to be concerned about his business. It's success impacts not only him, but any co-founders, investors, customers, and family he may have. It's clear from the nature of his apology that what he repents of, is not so much the point he was attempting to make, but the callousness of how he made it and how that overshadowed even what good he had hoped to achieve. This was a mistake, and he has every right to be concerned how this impacts his business and reputation.

One could also say that his original comment didn't properly reflect him or his business, so he's just trying to set the record straight.

There's nothing wrong with that.

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