In my experience, just talking against the hivemind here seems to be enough. Especially if you walk on pg's toes, except your account to be of reduced value in the close future.
I've had my account slowbanned and hellbanned. For what? For arguing against people here on HN who insist that Apple is the only company in the entire world who actually innovates and that everyone else is copying Apple in everything they do. Because seemingly only inside the walls of one very special corperation in the USA can innovation happen.
So I got slowbanned for arguing against that super-rational point of view. Nice.
When I told some people how utterly pathetic they sounded when they claimed here (prior to his death) that "Steve Jobs had touched their lives in a deep and personal way", for buying Apple products, I got hellbanned. With pg himself sending me an email saying how that was not cool.
If I didn't know better, I would think the owner of this site has 99% of his pension invested in Apple shares and cannot afford anyone ruining the image of the shiny Apple-corporation.
Implying that anyone is better, original or first: Start gradual slow-ban, until they wont bother coming back ruining the nice cozy Apple-cuddle we have here.
I think your comment is spot on. HN represents a very marginal part of the world, and there are clear limits to what you are allowed to do within those margins. Deviate too much and you are not welcome.
I am unwilling to speculate or suggest that Paul and the unknown moderators act on content or people in the name of financial benefit or positive press for the benefit of the Y Combinator portfolio, because what I do think Paul acts on is his idea of what an ideal Internet community looks like. Paul has definitely been around the block and knows the Internet is chock full of stupid people. Seriously, it is absolutely mind-boggling how the Internet can be so overwhelmingly populated with outright stupidity. (He just shares that opinion with far more elegance than I do.)
Based on many of his actions and comments I have observed that Paul has a very particular idea of what shapes a "good comment", and wandering outside that grassy knoll can open you up to his action. I think jsprinkles was a little too aggressive and that might have caught his eye, but that's a complete guess, as only Paul knows what makes a comment good aside from generalities like "teaching something" and "being civil". Is hellbanning jsprinkles a little overzealous? That isn't for me to say, frankly, and Paul is certainly entitled to run his community the way that he likes. He doesn't owe me anything. Over a year ago, Paul theorized in a discussion with me (under my real name, when I was much younger and much more arrogant) that Hacker News is just reverting to the mean for Internet forums, and based upon knowing HN then and now, he's only been proven correct.
There's always the possibility that jsprinkles tripped something automated, and I never populated an e-mail address so I wouldn't know.
Hence why I qualified that statement with "if I didn't know better". :)
I guess the cult of Apple is just particularly strong here. Arguing against current Apple cult is sort of like arguing for Microsoft in Linux IRC-channels back in the days. You just cannot expect fair treatment of your opinions.
Having run several communities myself, I offer the counterpoint:
People arguing against the crowd, even when the crowd is wrong, usually manifests itself as what appears to moderators to be trolling. When action is taken it is far less often about whether or not the content is accurate and far more often (i.e. nearly always) about whether removing one poster will end the disturbance - even when that poster may be factually correct.
When one poster often finds themself arguing against the crowd, again regardless of whether or not they are right, that poster is nearly always going to appear identical to a garden variety troll. So they are usually going to end up banned.
There is really no other way you can do it, at least that I've found, if you value keeping things civil.
I'm not saying your counterpoint is wrong. I'm saying I want it to be wrong. Because if you're right, even LessWrong and RationalWiki are hopeless.
However, even if a forum devoid of groupthink is unavoidable, I think an open forum is possible, though difficult. The key lesson which needs to be understood is that you are whole. In other words, most communication is about relaying some sort of point, transmitting some sort of information, making some sort of argument. But points don't matter -- you and I talking is what matters: true and authentic conversation. If people feel whole, then they can stop trying to show how awesome they are to others, and then we can keep a forum open to people who wildly disagree with us. I don't have to prove anything to anyone, thus I am free to respect others as human beings.
As you probably have guessed, this begins to overlap strongly with the aforementioned religious issues and I don't want to be preachy, so I will leave it at that rather than adding more exposition.
Religion: does it have any basis in reality? That's a real question, as I know of a religion that does: copyism¹. Also Note that LessWrong did come up with a winter solstice ritual.
Post modernism: as far as I know, this is just confusion. Even if it's all in our heads, well, that's how the world works. Anyway, it empirically seems that magical thinking doesn't work, so… there is a world out there, and it seems to be ruled by relatively simple rules. It may be not so, but my estimate is so low that investigating that isn't worth my time. Now if I get the chance to probe a postmodernist's brain…
Eugenics: slow, unreliable in the short term, and have incredibly dangerous political implications. Probably not worth investigating much further. Now, if you go beyond mere selective breeding, and start to directly (and precisely) manipulate our genome, we may go somewhere. But at that point, uploading (if it can work) could be a better option.
Your second paragraph sounds correct. Now how do we make people feel whole?
If I knew a way to help people feel whole which was not religious, I would pursue that instead. The world does not need a new religion; it needs more authentic interaction, more Real People if you like. But questions of meaning and completeness and fulfilment seem to be deeply religious, which is why I sit down every night to meditate and/or write for an hour.
> Religions are about authentic living, meaningfulness, mindfulness, and reminding yourself with ritual of that which is most important.
Sounds both compatible with a correct vision of the world, and a worthy goal. So far, I'm not scared away. I will be if you suddenly require me to believe things that I deem too improbable, though (canonical example: a supernatural God).
My point is, I do not reject the idea of a true religion. It may be dangerous, but it may be worthwhile. It just have to acknowledge powerful truth-seeking processes, like Science, and update accordingly. I do think however that mos current religions are hopelessly false.
What I'm saying is that wandering into a bar frequented by Dodger fans decked out in Giants gear and getting into a heated debate with the entire bar about which team has the best pitching staff, is not going to end well for you. Even though in this instance, you'd clearly be right (Giants staff > Dodgers staff).
The same applies to the internet.
Anyone who sets the sheeple a-bleating is labeled a "troll."