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on Apr 2, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite
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There's an ebb and flow to these things on Hacker News. I'd suggest sampling at a lower rate to determine the flavor of Hacker News. Right now there are a few polls, in a couple of days there are likely to be none.

In general, I've noticed that there are many circumstances where lowering your sampling rate leads to greater happiness and more interesting surprises (for example, frequency of news reading, email checking, "everything OK honey?" questioning, ...).

Yeah, it wouldn't be surprising if this kicks off a wave of meta-discussions culminating with a poll asking if HN is too meta.

It's like complaining about down-votes; it's unfortunate that a quality comment is down-voted but it usually corrects itself with a little time.

I don't have a problem with polls, per se, but the ones coming up lately seem totally pointless. "What kind of OS do you use" is most often the opener for the Eternal Argument. Plus we're talking about a fraction of a fraction of an already small community, self-selected so those who want to assert that their OS (or whatever) is The Best are much more likely to comment. It might be better phrased "what OS are HN users most passionate about?"

Anyway no one's putting a gun to my head and making me read it, so carry on. :)

"What kind of OS do you use" is most often the opener for the Eternal Argument. [...] It might be better phrased "what OS are HN users most passionate about?"

Actually, I think this poll gave a much more balanced view of OS distribution on HN than the comments I read here all the day. It takes much more passion to write a comment "I am using $OS because..." than to vote for one's OS in such a poll. For example, I was a little bit surprised about how many HN users actually use Windows as their primary OS, given that Windows tips and tools rarely show up on the frontpage.

So, in my opinion, polls are useful in getting a more objective view of HN interests than one can get from submissions and comments.

Interesting that the OP of this poll wrote this at the top of his last poll post:

"(Please be sure to also vote this poll up as well as vote for a choice; voting for a choice doesn't up vote the poll!)"

I don't care about the karma from polls per se. I mean it's nice, but I've been an HN user for a while now (580 days) and haven't felt the need to seek it out.

I feel the choice of OS is an interesting question these days. The OS climate has changed significantly over the last few years.

Asking the question has also spawned quite a bit of discussion (currently 310 comments) with relatively little flaming going on, so that demonstrates another interesting property of HN readers: that we're capable of having non-childish discussions about things.

For me, as a long time linux user, the question seems relevant as well. I've seen quite a few posts in recent weeks declaring that linux is dead on the desktop. And yet, so far in my poll, it beat out windows and is not that far behind OSX among HN readers, who we'll assume are synonymous with "technical users". With the number of votes that's been collected, I think we can call it a decent sample. The results are definitely not what I would have expected.

I think the abundance of polls underlines a general appreciation of the HN crowd.

I think most of us would agree that the quality of participants (and their participations) here on HN is a refreshing change from the rest of online communities (Ya, I know, it was better before, quality degrading, yada yada yada, how original).

The point is, we generally like the people here and we want to know more, profile more (doesn't it fit with the mindset of the community?). This is why we care about favorite languages, primary OS, (expect a favorite browser poll soon) and the sort.

In a way, every poll results from people wanting to know, what tools do all theses cool people use/prefer/promote ...

> Is it just me or is it a cheap way to flood the front page for a bit of karma?

It's just you. As soon as somebody determines why HN karma is worth a damn, then it's a problem.

People care about their HN karma - I don't know if it's 1% of people or 99% of people (maybe a poll is needed for that) - but certainly some people do.

And because of that, "cheap ways to get a bit of karma" matter, because by their definition they are acts of people who are valuing karmic return over quality of submission, resulting in low-quality discussions that appeal to our lowest common denominators, not to our curiosity.


To take the discussion further... First, I wouldn't neccesarily say that polls are a cheap way to get karma. Is karma meant to be a reward for effort, or for value? Sure, a poll might get more points per minute it took to create than a great blog post or Show HN post, but it doesn't neccesarily mean it was less useful to have on HN. And in comments we don't discriminate, I've seen plenty of extremely-short comments get high upvote numbers.

And finally... while some people may be motivated more by karma than anything else, is this automatically a bad thing? Arguably if a poll (or anything else) gains the user karma, it is (in theory) a sign that what they submitted was good content, and therefore better that somebody submit it to get karma than for nobody to bother at all.

100% of active participants care about not getting negative karma on comments.

This is good actually, because rude or completely pointless comments are severely downvoted, this being the punishment instrument that the community has for people that break the guidelines.

> 100% of active participants care about not getting negative karma on comments.

Add me to the list of people that really don't give a damn.

It would be interesting to see a list of the 10 most-downvoted comments. (I might have multiple entries.) Some things just need saying: People who will say them and endure such ignominious downvotes might well have a bit more experience than the avg user here. They say them to plant seeds in less-experienced folks, knowing that it may well take years to germinate.

>Add me to the list of people that really don't give a damn.

And me.

There is a lot of value in expressing opinions which go against the grain, even if they are not easily accepted. It's only through honest debate that the truth can be found.

While HN's voting system is superior to that of other social news sites, I still think that the down arrow should have a "report" link instead to make people think twice about down-voting someone's opinion, assuming that the opinion is honest. Upvotes are harmless, assuming that spam is taken care of, and I see no problem with that aspect of the behaviour of such a system.

I semi-agree with you... but only semi.

Personally I would generally care about being downvoted because generally I don't comment anything that I would expect to be downvoted, and therefore if it does it annoys me to know that either I was wrong in my judgement of what I said, or that the downvoter was wrong in how they read it (or that the downvoter is just an asshole - the ultimate conclusion I always come to when wondering why somebody downvoted me!)

But I'd never care about it as more of a signal of how a comment was received... if I felt there was a valid reason for me to reply with a one-word comment to somebody simply saying "Cunt." then knowing that I would be downvoted wouldn't come into it.

So far I don't think I've ever written that comment on HN, but I have written a few that I expected to get quite a few downvotes for - often accurate expectations, occasionally completely wrong. And as long as I know that they're downvoting for the reasons I expected, not that I've said something I wish I hadn't, I'm fine with that.

You should edit this again to not include two versions of the same paragraph.

ooops, thanks! HN timed out when I was making my edit so I ctrl+A copied and clearly left it all in when pasting into a new edit box..

edit: How ironic that in this discussion you got downvoted for a useful comment.

This is what I was thinking, and since this guy said it, I gave him an upvote. Now I'm not sure if I'm making a mockery of the system or falling for it...

> or falling for it

:) That certainly wasn't my intent. The usefulness of upvotes is that the most useful information goes to the most readable place. (Usefulness being defined by the number of upvotes!)

Having a history of providing useful information might be good for somebody's personal ego, to which I say: Get a life. But does anyone here bother to look at somebody's karma count and say, "Now THAT person needs listening to!"

I think most people probably don't care so much about karma, since it doesn't really mean an awful lot.

However, getting negative karma hurts, for some reason. Often if I'm down voted, I assume I've done something wrong and either try to fix my comment or remove it altogether.

I hope no one down votes this comment down just to see if I remove it. :)

To be honest if the majority of users didn't like the polls they'd never make it to the front page... So I don't really see a problem with them.

That's not honesty. Fact is, a tiny click-happy minority can put anything on the front page, and the majority cannot down vote it.

I've never heard of many people just randomly upvoting everything... I've seen more downvote happy people than upvote happy people.

Personally, I find them & their discussions quite interesting usually, and if gathering karma is for some reason important to the submitters, well more power to them.

I think that what we need is a way to get to polls easily, and page for them to be archived on. That way new people can easily go down them ticking their response and seeing what kind of dog co-founders are most fond of without a new poll being necessary every six months because people have forgotten the old one.

One fear I have is that HN is going to turn into reddit or digg. I have always come here for no-nonense hacker news with a strong emphasis on startups and technology for startups. I hope that we can avoid posting too many memes, joke replies, talks of karma, and "what's your favorite flavor of os/language".

I think this one just tipped the balance. Otherwise it was fine :)

definitively, people have noticed that this is the fast lane to high karma. I don't see any value in them especially if they ask general questions like what OS do you use to name a recent one. These polls belong on shallow tech sites not on HN (imho).

I think this is a community that likes to see things in a variety of data formats. Having a poll now and again isn't so bad.

Is the number of polls getting out of hand? Yes and no. I think there was a flood of them in the past 48-72 hours but that should die as the most common questions get answered. From my standpoint its an easy way to gain statistics on HN users, however it may also be the way to quick karma as you mention. I created a CS degree poll in the last 24 hours not for karma whoring but because I'm questioning my own education and lack of theoretical foundation, finding out whether that attributed to success or negatively impacted members here is helping me on the road forward.

If anything, I think it just highlights the need to separate submission and comment karma or do away with submission karma entirely. (Good) comments add to the conversation. Submitting is just pasting a link.

It's come up on HN before that popular blogs have bots running against them that post new articles to HN as soon as they appear on the RSS feed. I don't really care about the karma side of this but it encourages behaviour in some that just adds noise to HN (IMHO).

As for the polls, there have been a lot these last few days. Not excessively so but we might want to lay off for a few days. Some of the comments have been interesting. The results of the polls themselves are completely meaningless.

EDIT: to clarify, voluntary polls are meaningless. Properly conducted polls with random sampling are of course an effective tool. Of course, none of the HN polls fall into this category (hence "meaningless" in terms of results).

I was pretty surprised to learn that the HN crowd prefer OS X, but yes internet polls (and really, all polls) can't be taken seriously. There has been a small influx lately.

I'm surprised that you were surprised. Around me, there has been a huge and obvious increase over the last few years in OSX market share among startup-profile developers.

If you go to any tech event in the Bay Area (at least) and people have their computers with them, often > 95% of people have Macs.

This poll seems to indicate that it's an even split between OS X and Linux:


I think getting rid of submission karma is a great idea.

I tend to agree. A lucky throwaway account can end up with hundreds of karma points just for getting there 'first' on an item, or being the one that got upvoted enough to be noticed.

As with all submissions, they get to the front page because people voted them there. Do I agree with every article on the front page? No. Same goes for the polls. Either way, they provide something of interest to enough of a group of people that it made it to the front page, and to me that is all that matters - this site continues to provide interesting insight in to technology, start ups and the world that's been built up around it, so I won't complain about the occasional article or poll that I have absolutely no interest in.

What gets me.. is that i did this poll and it just dropped! http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3781723

How meta? A poll to ask about the number of polls.

One good thing about polls is they do bring a good discussion and a nice demographic insight, when they are not overused.

disclaimer: I have an ongoing one (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3788303)

I find both the polls, their results (even considering HN is a very biased sample) and, most of all, the discussions they generate very interesting. When the kind of smart people who comes here debate, I always end up enlightened.

There are two different questions being asked here.

Is the number of polls getting out of hand? ... to me that's a no, they give a glimpse of the HN community which I find interesting

Are the polls a cheap way to get some karma? ... to me this is "quite possible" and I often wonder if the poll would be created in the first place if there was no promise of karma gain

People may be creating polls for karma, but I don't know what the use of that would be. A certain karma threshold is needed for downvoting, and (I think, since I've never tried it) posting polls to begin with. So there may be some initial incentive to game the system, in order to get karma, but after that, why bother?

I've not really noticed many on the front page up until the last week. Temporary boom, it'll go back down soon enough.

Once we can have polls inside of comments inside of polls, then things will be out of hand.

Otherwise, it's just people trying to take a temperature. It doesn't bother me, as the polls I notice are typically in some way relevant to the community at large.

Not if someone is doing something productive with the data. Otherwise, yes, probably.

The rudimentary nature of poll system on this site cheapens the experience somewhat. I love the community here, but this site is fairly archaic in construction.

Looks like you've got some easy karma, I guess

I would like to see a graphical chart where I could follow the votings over time. That would be interesting.

I think the quality of the current crop of polls is a greater concern than the quantity.

What's true of Adam Smith's Free Hand within marketplaces is also true of trends within HN.

I think that people are just creating polls to increase their karma

Feature request: a reverse showdead for polls.

i like them. it would be nice if we could see past polls for referencing or comparing.

In fact I don't like your poll. As you ask a "leading" question, rather than an "open" question.

For example, had you asked the question, as "Do people mind the surveys on HN?", I suspect, you may have got a different response.

Particularly, I liked both the polls today, as I was curious to know about how long people had been programming for and the default OS, which BTW was not a surprise.

there should be a tab at the top: polls

I like the polls. The thing is you don't get karma/points when someone votes. Someone has to upvote it to have it stay on the front page. If you don't like the poll or polls in general then you shouldn't up vote them.

Irony. I get it.

Shark jumped.

Such an Irony.

i like checking me against


Thanks, I had the same idea!

I'd like to complain about people who hold things up by complaining about people that complain. It's about time something was done about it.

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