Would you brother mind sharing what kind of tasks he would like to script? I am a big fan of Python and it is always interesting to see how people use it in various industries.
Usually the tools that are built for very large construction companies use fairly open file formats, like xml, or CSV files. Instead of having to double enter the data, he'd like to be able to enter in the information once, then have it propagate to the other system. This would free up about 5 hours a week for him on his current project that is expected to take about 3 years. So the total time saved would be about 750 hours, minus the time it took him to program the system.
That would be the most complex case. Others include needing to rename hundreds of thousands of site photos, or to include in an email only photos that matched a certain pattern (for example: duff-site_2011-09-14_4201.jpg would match a pattern looking for all the photos on the duff site taken in September but only between floors 40 and 45).
Other programs he would like would be to import into their in house tracking system any invoices his subtrades email him, again, matching a certain pattern (dig-con_final-invoice_duff-site_req-345.pdf).
Does anyone know what db engine serves as backend for HN?
Are there any design choices you would particularly attribute the success to?
Let a comment stand for its merit. I honestly wish they'd take names off the comments too. I feel like there are way too many recognizeable handles around here, which can have a similar effect of self-fulfilling prophecy. Case in point: has PG ever been downvoted? Ever?
I agree with the halo effect. On the other hand knowing that you are building a brand in your handle gives motivation to put in more effort. Not everyone thinks like Job's father ("you will know that the other side wasn't painted" (or whatever that quote was))
I thought an interesting idea would be to run a test of the top karma-ers and have them post replies w/o their actual handle and then compare the karma rating they get.
There are of course a few problems with this.
If the comment is of high quality the fact that it's associated with a brand new handle might paradoxically get it higher votes. "Hmm this new guy knows his stuff.."
Add: The other issue is that there may be a little cousing of Hawthorne effect on the part of the commenter. Trying even harder to prove a point that it isn't their handle.
Sometimes the top comment is from someone where you recognize the handle. And the comment is good. But it doesn't seem that good. Same many times PG says anything. He gives brief answers and the way they rank sometimes it's like SCOTUS is talking to someone low on the food chain in the legal profession. (Same with what Fred Wilson says on his blog btw.)
I don't typically upvote anything PG does. To me it's like tipping the owner! And it's not like he needs the karma score. Off the top I don't ever remember seeing a PG comment that is not near the top of the thread or subthread. (I would love if PG were to do the anonymous handle idea and then publish the results.)
I downvoted a recent comment by pg that for quite a while was (and STILL is) the top comment in its thread
but that pg later acknowledged didn't have a sufficient factual basis.
Conspiracy theories are very enticing to the human mind, so they often get too many upvotes here on HN. Although I did downvote pg's first comment in the thread mentioned here, I was outnumbered by many more people who upvoted it, mistakenly.
Doing so gets people to read both. Besides in the absence of the original comment (incorrect as it may be), the followups lose context.
Reserve down votes for opinions that do not deserve a reply. Such as pure trolling.
I have seen familiar (absolutely not famous) handles from IRC on HN on two occasions. Made me happy. I can't turn this into a more rational point, though.
In a perfect world I would research each comment, do basic background checkes against stated facts, think through the implications of the comment, etc. and then form an unbiased opinion. I would do this with every comment thread. After I had done this I would be uniquely qualified to form an opinion on every comment, and I would be wise because I'd read and understood all the comments. I'd also have spent most of my day doing so.
The reason comment scores, and usernames as a proxy for scores, are interesting is that it's a good way of cutting through the noise. Most people just don't have the time to read through all comments on a thread and form an opinion on each one seperately.
That's what I'm really missing about the points - I don't care how many points a certain poster or a certain comment has, but I do care greatly to have an indicator of quality so that I can skim through a thread and pick out the best comments. Particularly on long comment threads where I don't know much about the subject, or on busy days.
The reason comment scores are bad is that it leads to leads to anchoring. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchoring This is probably why dumb and/or mean comments get upvoted (as discussed in tokenadults top comment).
This seems like a benefit to me. If I'm skimming through a comments page on a topic I'm not fully familiar with, seeing an opinion I would otherwise disagree with voted up should make me update; it's evidence against my current opinion.
[The problem might lie in the implementation for this solution. You probably don't want to store the 'done voting on this story' information in cookies, since that's tied to a single device and vulnerable to user manipulation. This means that you need to maintain a list of stories for which each user is done voting in your database, and then check against that list on each page load. This adds a significant amount of server resource usage, as well as maintenance and performance tuning work for what amounts to an unnecessary feature. Showing scores for a comment after voting on it should be easy to implement, but then you'd be encouraging people to vote just so they can see a score, possibly even up-voting everything on the page. My guess is we're stuck with the status quo for the foreseeable future.]
My only beef is that this also naturally floats poor replies to great comments. It would be nice to have a good heuristic to know when to read the replies and when to move on to the next thread. I think one does exist: expandos. Give us the ability to expand and compact threads, and then automatically compact any old replies that haven't received a reasonable number of upvotes. I use the extension from hckrnews.com to give me expandos, but intelligent compaction would be so much sweeter.
The only solution I can think of are collapsable threads, similar to reddit.
It turned out that because of the threaded comment system you get very little information about which comments have many votes and which don't. In the sample I checked it was impossible to get any idea of how popular a comment was around 50% of the time (this comment for instance, which is currently the only child to your comment could hav 0 upvotes or it could have 100. There's no way to know)
The numbers themselves don't (and shouldn't) matter - only the rank.
I have used two strategies to go back to comments I have liked to read (whether or not I happened to upvote them when I read them). I either
a) use my brower's bookmarking capability to bookmark the exact link to the comment
b) I copy the exact link of the comment into a text file that I save for building FAQs.
I also make extensive use of HN Search and site-restricted Google search to find old comments on recurring topics here that are worth looking up again. Sometimes I find new good comments that way that I didn't see back when they were fresh. I try in general to upvote a lot, so the "saved stories" on my user profile here on HN includes hundreds upon hundreds of threads, way too many to be practical for going back to particular good comments.
I wouldn't like this to be generally visible though. As others have said, it creates a halo effect and discourages diversity of opinions.
Basically: Upvote != Save for Later
Yes, an equivalent for comments of "saved" would be useful.
With regards to skimming, I think that comment folding is a useful feature with few drawbacks.
If you are only skimming a few comments, you are not reading most. But if the comments are not being read, how can they be scored properly? The extent to which points allow reduced/selective reading is the extent to which the accuracy of that selection is itself reduced.
The problem isn't being motivated by ego, it's being motivated by ego before you've proven to others that you can handle the responsibility. :)
I completely disagree. The crowd is not always right in upvoting, as PG pointed out in his statement of the problem (dumb or useless comments getting massively upvoted).
Relying on comment votes as a heuristic for rapidly scanning and deciding what to read is a good idea. Read for yourself and decide, and if you lack the knowledge to decide then bookmark it for later research if it's important, or move on to something else if not.
"Probably the most important thing I've learned about dilution is that it's measured more in behavior than users. It's bad behavior you want to keep out more than bad people. User behavior turns out to be surprisingly malleable. If people are expected to behave well, they tend to; and vice versa.
"Though of course forbidding bad behavior does tend to keep away bad people, because they feel uncomfortably constrained in a place where they have to behave well. But this way of keeping them out is gentler and probably also more effective than overt barriers."
Trying to set barriers to bad user behavior has been an ongoing problem.
In March 2011, pg wrote that Hacker News was still having user behavior problems, under the title "Ask HN: How to stave off decline of HN?"
He wrote, "The problem has several components: comments that are (a) mean and/or (b) dumb that (c) get massively upvoted."
So the founder of Hacker News thought then that there was a comment voting problem: (a) mean comments were getting too many upvotes, and (b) dumb comments were getting too many upvotes, and (c) too many of the comments that got the most upvotes were either mean or dumb or both. Let's stop and think about what that means. That means that, according to pg posting as of last year, two more years after the article submitted here, comment karma scores were often NOT reliable signals of good comments, comments worth finding rapidly when skimming a thread. So pg changed the Hacker News software a few days later so that comment karma scores were hidden from Hacker News readers (they are STILL visible to each person who makes a comment, on his or her own comments). You can check the scores of each of your own comments. We can all READ comments to see which comments are the good comments. (Better comments also tend in general to thread to the top of discussions, with some other rules also influencing that evaluation as "better.")
Checking the results of the software change involves empirical investigation. How do the highest-voted comments visible in the bestcomments list
look to all of you recently? Are there fewer mean comments than two years ago? Are there fewer dumb comments than two years ago? Are the comments that are "massively upvoted" since the experiment began mostly comments that are reasonably kind and well-informed, helpful comments on the whole? In most of the treads you visit, do helpful, thoughtful comments seem to rise to a position of prominence, while mean or dumb comments gray out?
In my observation, after 1345 days here, and rather active participation on Hacker News, the comments have improved both in the threads I post in and in the threads I only lurk in. Occasional checks of the best comments page STILL reveal a lot of high-ranked comments that consist of one-liner jokes or whining about something, so the signal provided by upvotes still isn't perfect, but looking at the average comment karma score of some users I've been following for years suggests that comment karma is better allocated now than it was two years ago, which as I said is also my impression when I look at particular threads under submitted stories. There may be some more changes yet to make, but Hacker News has scaled up some more and still managed to emphasize quality of comments, which is not an easy thing to do.
I see no good reason to incentivize intelligent thoughtful conversation, no one actually does it for karma. I do realize there is a bit of a feedback system in place (upvotes tell you you're doing the right thing, downvotes suggest you should change your tack). So perhaps you can still see the overall direction of your comment (like the current gray for downvotes).
Obviously voting should still stick around so people can bump the best comments to the top of a thread, but any sort of visible scoring system on comments seems more likely to work against it's own intent than for it.
Likewise, upvotes indicate that I have captured a portion of my audience's attention. Often this is because of some minor insight or extension of the conversation, though certainly on occasion I have been rewarded for snark.
In general, gamification is a viable system for influencing user behavior, and if only submissions were rewarded with karma, a great deal of undesirable behavior would be encouraged. The current system helps new HN'ers learn the ropes.
Unfortunately, sometimes people sabotage that effort by upvoting said dumb/mean comments. I'd like to see a disincentive applied to those upvotes somehow. Like, perhaps, if a comment is flagged to death, deleted by a moderator, or results in a hellbanning, everyone who upvoted it should get a karma ding and a "please don't upvote mean or dumb comments like [quote of comment]" message.
I see no good reason to incentivize intelligent thoughtful
conversation, no one actually does it for karma.
Also, I just noticed the flag option for the first time. Thanks for pointing that out.
However, I have noticed lately that the highest ranked comments are almost always those which vehemently disagree with the author of the original post. I seem to see fewer comments that begin with "The author makes some great points, but he may not have considered..." or "This was a great project, the author should consider expanding it by trying..." More often, I see comments that are cynical and dismissive of the author's points. While a healthy dose of cynicism is necessary, and I love hearing both sides of the story, some of these comments definitely lean a little closer to the "mean" side of the spectrum.
I suspect that this is a subtle side-effect of not being able to see vote counts, that somehow results in fewer votes being cast by those with neutral or positive opinions, but I'm not quite sure why.
So this is really a UI lesson in how if you are designing things you need to get the end user experience on your design. That link is probably missed by many people. Assuming it's something that PG wants people to see, it does need to be more easy to find. I'm sure many users have run into the same issue.
This is close to the equivalent of using "fine print" to try to slip something by someone (not saying that is what is going on here). But it's the same concept. You can make something easy to find or hard-er to find.
From the lists that appear on the bottom of most HN pages
to the link
PG finishes with an honest open question, is Hackernews genuinely contributing to productivity or is it a giant timesink for 99% of it's members.
I'm inclined to agree with the latter.
And I suppose it's time to fess up ;) I had another account that got hellbanned recently. Because the comment guidelines were what I felt a bit ambiguous, and because I had seen other comments that I thought seemed reflective in nature that had been downvoted (perhaps because they expressed a view that is contrary to what most on the site hold?), I wanted to experiment with comments to see what the clear lines were. I found out very quickly :P
My conclusion is that developing a moderation system that rewards people who agree with your world view tends to be self-selecting towards that world view. Down voting or banning anyone who disagrees with you rapidly develops group think, regardless of how 'intelligent' that particular world view is. I assume that any criticism of HN or the moderation system also merits a ban, so I expect this post will not be visible for very long.
Maybe you were just being banned for expressing stupid reasoning, to the point where it's probably not just a slip of the brain but something fundamentally wrong with your capability to reason. Take this analogy: "Water is an atomic bomb. It's an indisputable fact, water is used in atomic bombs". See?
Also, it's 'fluoride', not 'flouride'.
Water is not used in atomic bombs either. Hydrogen is used in thermonuclear weapons. The term 'atomic bomb' most commonly refers to fission weapons whereas thermonuclear is the term used for fusion weapons.
I looked for somewhere to ask for clarification on how or why, but there is nowhere to do so. The whole thing happens in secret, with no explanation and no recourse, which is about as antithetical to open and transparent discourse as is possible.
The intent, I believe, is for every person to develop a 'silent policeman' that asks them before every post 'Is this controversial? Is this an unpopular position on this forum? Does this position agree with the position of the owners/moderators of this forum.' In other words, the intent is discourage dissent from the predominant world view.
Well, that's how I see it. When this account gets banned, this comment will disappear as if it never existed, into the 'memory hole', and no one will ever know that someone disagrees. How that encourages rational debate is beyond my comprehension, perhaps I'm just not smart enough to be here.
At any rate, those who find it comforting that 'big brother' is keeping the comments safe for them will stay around, and those with dissenting views will be banned to oblivion and eventually leave, making the community a small selection of people who both agree with the philosophy, and find it uncomfortable to deal with views that challenge their philosophy.
This is very similar to what happened in Academia in the past 30 years, and succeeded in pushing out all of the interesting, eccentric and creative people, leaving only those who knew the party line, and moderated their speech accordingly. I think this is not healthy for creativity, but then, that's just my opinion, and obviously the forum owner/moderators disagree.
And that's a fine and noble pursuit, however, the market place is not delicate academic utopia, and so one has to wonder how these very bright, but often impractical people, whose genius has been nurtured, pampered and flattered are going to deal with the realities of the market place and the end consumers of their 'product'.
Enter the Y-combinator business model, where for a mere 51% of your company, the harsh realities of business will be taken care of by our team of take-no-prisoners business warriors, leaving you, delicate genius, to be nurtured and cultivated to your fullest potential.
And again, I have no problem with that, I just have a problem with undemocratic secret societies that wield power from the shadows. They are prone to corruption and calcification.
From what I see, it could be that the general nature of the comment is tangential to the tack that the general nature of all of the other comments took, that the user is new, and/or that the "games = crack = bad" phrase is atypical of sentence construction on this site.
The downvote system is automatic ? I thought user could downvote each other threads
I'm still asking for clarification on why games are compared to crack. I'm a gamedesigner you see, and i went a little bit crossed-eyed on this sentence.
Edit : i don't see my comment grayed.
I'm sure you'll come to the right conclusions.
Edit : Besides, i don't really like wow :)