But when they get it wrong, boy, do they ever get it wrong. For instance, Paul Graham personally hellbanned Maciej Ceglowski for calling Sebastian Marshall a "prolix douchebag". Maciej's comment was not a high point of Hacker News decorum and in that instance probably degraded the site slightly, but no reasonable person could have looked at 'idlewords comment record and not come to the conclusion that Maciej is someone we want on the site. Sometimes, you take the bad with the good.
There have also been times where it's apparent that there is, if not "automatic", than at least "mechanical" banning for reasons other than nasty comments. I don't know or care what the abuse mechanisms being tripped are --- I buy into the idea that in this case, obscurity is making some baseline level of security cost-effective for Graham and his team. But it's important to know that whatever mechanical process is banning people for abuse, it's imperfect.
Ultimately, I think Graham is in a bind here. A more typical forum site would enlist more community support to help police the site. Graham can't do that, because HN also runs important parts of YC's (very sensitive) applications and communications process.† I have a hard time holding this against him. Managing a sprawling forum site is a hard problem. Doing that while having the site do double-duty as the front-end for your startup seed fund system must be a nightmare.
So I'd generally say: assume good faith; don't make a production of the mistakes; but, know that the mistakes do happen, are pretty annoying, and are worth at least remarking about.
† (It's worth knowing that YC members also have some silent perks on HN, beyond the job ads).
No I didn't. If I had, his comments after that would be dead.
Edit: tptacek points out that he was briefly banned, though not long enough to cause any of his comments to be killed.
Mistakes happen. I'm just pointing this out as evidence that this particular form of site policing is error prone.
I'm definitely not inclined to rant about the unfairness of it all, because I do not believe I could do a better job running a site like this.
This is kind of odd. Paul Graham straight-up lying
about how he hellbanned me on his site:
http://bit.ly/L6uABO Oh the nerd drama!
I personally remember seeing a few that were dead after the "prolix douchebag" one when I was looking into it. (I am known in my friend circle to maintain a database of users that are hell-banned; so, when Maciej, a long-friend-of-a-close-friend, seemed to be hit, I was notified almost immediately.)
I also remember those comments mysteriously being un-killed when his account became un-banned. (So, if you are using the current status, that isn't accurate anymore; or, if you are relying on us to not have seen the temporary status, we did.)
Incidentally, this post and its predecessors illustrate perfectly why the site guidelines ask users to contact us about problems with moderation rather than posting on the site about them. Though nearly empty of content, they get upvoted faster than anything else.
The whole scenario is fairly minor, but it seems to raise at least a small concern among what I would guess is a respectable portion of the userbase.
Since then none of the stories I post under this handle ever see the light of day. They cannot be voted up and they just face a slow death. I stopped spending any time posting on other threads since then because I cannot see the value in contributing to stories if my stories are not allowed to play fairly.
After a curt and unpleasant email exchange, I was back on my feet. Pretty stupid that I had to bother PG at all, and even stupider that my one interaction with him was so needlessly distasteful.
I think it's massively disrespectful to users to hellban and delete from view strongly upvoted posts, or to silently mass-downvote them. Pg and mods, respect your users' opinions a bit more than that, please...
Edit: http://www.reddit.com/r/NewsForHackers/comments/v0f8u/overmo... is this worth discussing outside?
If you see a flamebait post, you delete it.
But if you see a question about where the original post go, and you delete it: then you just started a toxic flame war with your own hands.
And "guidelines" never help. When people are outraged they would not observe same rules they supported a day before. Sorry, not going to happen, so don't blame flame war on public.
Power just amplifies people's egos, personal insecurities, and prejudices. We can't deal with it.
Though the most successful founders are usually good people, they tend to have a piratical gleam in their eye. They're not Goody Two-Shoes type good. Morally, they care about getting the big questions right, but not about observing proprieties.
If neglecting to observe proprieties is a characteristic of the most successful founders, surely we can shrug off a minor violation of the site's rules that led to what many thought was an interesting discussion.
I will still post it at some point, but seriously I mentioned that yesterday http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4102431
edit: (since I cannot add new comment): also, you cannot upvote this post since its dead (I just learnt that and decided to share)
edit: as of 4:35 est, article is not dead anymore. 5 min ago it still was dead...
edit: 4:43 dead again.
edit: now its back from dead again. but you can't upvote it (arrow dissapears, score remains the same).
Some of my comments were surely flamebait but so am I; at least they were honest. But I still do not know the exact reason, obviously.
Update: Yup, had the dead one in another tab still and now it's back. For now...
Update 2: It's now dead again. It looks like it only came back for about five minutes.
Update 3: And it's back again. Really wish I had put times on my updates now. Oh well. I wonder how long it will take until it gets pulled yet again.
Ok, and now it's dead again. Looks like it only came back for a few minutes and in those few minutes PG posted...
Is this some kind of weird flood control or a opaque and stupid moderation policy I am not aware of? I am not the kind of person to call people names, and I have often received the supposed bans after I have written some of my most popular posts or threads.
Can you imagine how snarky this place would be without it? I don't think (reddit * intellectuals * anonymous) would sustain for very long.