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Ask PG: Any chance of an update on "What I've learned from Hacker News"? (paulgraham.com)
229 points by tablatom on July 24, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 98 comments



It's remarkably close to what I'd write today. The biggest difference now is the numbers. Now on a typical weekday we get about 150k unique IPs and 1.5m pageviews.


Anecdote: My brother is a construction engineer with Ellis Don and he goes to HN even though he has no interest in startups because he likes the "quality of thought and discourse for current events" and is working his way through learning python the hard way in order to script some of his more mundane tasks.


Excellent story! Discussion on HN is indeed second to none.

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.


He doesn't have an HN account, but I've answered the question here:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4287400


Can you/he give examples for task he can automate with a program?


Sure. Since Ellis Don is a huge company they often end up doing join partnerships with other huge companies because large projects often need companies with multiple deep fields of expertise. This results in needing to use both companies systems to track things like concrete truck tickets, personnel on site, meeting minutes, etc.

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).


How has the scaling effort gone? In the first post you mentioned that you were just rewriting code to remove bottlenecks. Have you had to make any more exotic and interesting changes to the code base since then to support the growth?


Robert has made a bunch of tweaks that improved performance. To be honest I don't remember what they were. We're still running on one core.


Point of comparison, as of March 2011 Stack Overflow, which got about 2x the traffic for page hits/month, used 12 cores for the web tier and 12-24 cores for their SQL Server 2008 database(s?). Source - http://highscalability.com/blog/2011/3/3/stack-overflow-arch...

Does anyone know what db engine serves as backend for HN?


A Stack Overflow page I'd imagine would be so much more complex than a Hacker News page to render. Would likely require lots of complex queries for everything going on around the primary question and answer mechanism. By contrast Hacker News seems fairly simple.


The file system.


These are the results of different constraints. SO wants a slick, interactive interface with a lot of access to long-tail content. HN wants inexpensive and easy-to-maintain that still allows discussion of active topics that fade from view fairly quickly.


This is great to hear. Growth without a corresponding decline in quality. I must admit, when I read the original article, I was a little skeptical it would work out well.

Are there any design choices you would particularly attribute the success to?


on a somewhat related note; any chance of getting points on comments back? My personal opinion is that it degrades the site tremendously not to be able to skim through a thread and see which comments others have deemed interesting/noteworthy/insightful by upvoting them.


I don't think this is a good idea. I think that when someone sees a comment that would otherwise not be agreeable on a personal level, when it has votes from many other members, it has a tendency to sway your personal convictions a bit, just enough to make you second guess your own opinions.

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 honestly wish they'd take names off the comments too."

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.)


Case in point: has PG ever been downvoted? Ever?

I downvoted a recent comment by pg that for quite a while was (and STILL is) the top comment in its thread

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4253156

but that pg later acknowledged didn't have a sufficient factual basis.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4254592

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.


It is perhaps more useful when a mistake is corrected with a reply/comment, than with a down-vote.

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.


Top comments in a thread frame discussion - if the top comment in a thread is a conspiracy theory, then it's likely that the entire discussion will be derailed. For that reason, I think it's valid to downvote such comments, to prevent them from derailing the discussion.


> I honestly wish they'd take names off the comments too

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.


Names are helpful iff high-karma users help reinforce pg's goals for the site. In my experience that is the case, and the site provides a higher-than-average quality of discussion.


It's a signal to noise problem.

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.


or.... you could just read the comment and form an opinion based on the content.

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).


You are an optimist. In a perfect world it would take you 100++ hours to read and research all HN comments per day.


That is why in a "perfect world" thought experiment, resources are not finite.


I think that when someone sees a comment that would otherwise not be agreeable on a personal level, when it has votes from many other members, it has a tendency to sway your personal convictions a bit, just enough to make you second guess your own opinions.

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.


He was definitely downvoted during the AirBnB hysteria last summer.


I've seen a rather light gray pg comment -- not too long ago. Although I don't remember the context, and I don't know whether it stayed that way.


The only way I see to satisfy both sides of this argument is to hide the scores until you're done voting on comments for that page. Maybe an "I'm done voting" button at the top and bottom of the page, which removes all voting arrows and replaces them with scores. The score for a comment could also be displayed after you've voted on it.

[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.]


Users would vote on comments randomly just to see their score...


I like seeing comment points but I'm not sure that it's a good thing to display them. Threads are already sorted by comment score so that the best comments are close to the top - I'm not sure what additional benefit comes from seeing the actual snapshot numbers aside from sheer curiosity.


Threads are sorted by comment score and by age, with newer threads floating to the top. I think this is a great heuristic.

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.


Just as bad as uplifting poor replies to great comments, it pushes down great replies to poor comments. I've seen some threads were the most informative and insightful comment was halfway down the page because it was a reply correcting misconceptions.

The only solution I can think of are collapsable threads, similar to reddit.


+/- expansion/contraction seems like a good idea to me too. It would be a good way for me to hide the occasional off topic argument between a couple of individuals and to find the grand.. parent of a comment.


I agree. Also it creates a halo effect. And creates more incentive to click either up or down depending on how you view the number relative to your own opinion. Not having a count gives new comments a chance (since you don't automatically look at the "minutes ago" part). So a new comment can be not at the bottom giving it a chance to gain more exposure even though it has no points.


I also agree. From what I've seen on StackOverflow, having visible points encourages posting to gain points rather than to enrich the discussion.


We had this discussion back when the points were being hidden, and I went through a few posts with many comments to see whether it would be possible to find the good comments based on where they were in the thread.

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 solution, I think, is some sort of "unthreaded" view (with link to the contextual "threaded" view). Because, even if you do see the score, it is unlikely anyone will notice a +1000 answer to a -2 top level post when there are 20 of the latter.

The numbers themselves don't (and shouldn't) matter - only the rank.


I would really like to see comments I have upvoted... There are bunch of wise comments somewhere, that I have read, upvoted, and forgot.


I would really like to see comments I have upvoted

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

or

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.


It would be useful to be able to 'star' or 'favourite' a comment or submission, to have them accessible in a private list, and to see how many people had done this to your own comments/submissions.

I wouldn't like this to be generally visible though. As others have said, it creates a halo effect and discourages diversity of opinions.


I see no reason to use additional mechanism. Why not use upvote? I'm upvoting stories so I could see them later (as ColinWright noted), why not create a page I could see comments I liked?


Separation of concerns. You might want to be able to tag a post or comment as noteworthy but not want to upvote it. For example, to remind you to come back to it and add a comment explaining why its wrong or that you disagree with it.

Basically: Upvote != Save for Later


Isn't that what bookmarks are for? Why do we need HN to recreate basic browser functionality?


Perhaps to address a limitation in browsers wherein it is not currently possible to scope bookmarks to a given site during a search for said bookmarks?


That's what folders are for. And in any case, if you bookmark the comments page, you can then search by the hn domain, at least on Firefox.



Comments, not stories...


Ah - noted - apologies. I personally keep a separate note of comments of interest, and I was a little quick to respond.

Yes, an equivalent for comments of "saved" would be useful.


In my experience with reddit, displaying the score of a comment leads to bandwagon voting, which adds easily avoided noise to the sorting process. It also leads to a certain amount of karma fetishization, which results in easy jokes and fluff.

With regards to skimming, I think that comment folding is a useful feature with few drawbacks.


It would be nice to have some indication. When reading down the page it would be nice to know what the interesting comments that happen to be on low-rated threads are.


There is a dilemma there.

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.


IPhone app I use to read HN has been busted and not showing usernames on comments for over a year now. It's annoying at often tell when some of the more active HN users comment because because their voices come through so strongly. A Patio11 comment (uber-detailed) is immediately recognizable. So is a Tptacek comment (aggressively but gracefully contrarian) or a PG comment (short declarative sentences followed by many many many responses).


Compromise: how about showing points on comments but only after you yourself have accumulated a significant number of points?


Up-voted with a challenge: of what value is seeing comment points except stroking your own ego when your or your friends or people-you-always-agree-with comments' are voted up?


Of none whatsoever; but ego can be a great motivator.

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. :)


>My personal opinion is that it degrades the site tremendously not to be able to skim through a thread and see which comments others have deemed interesting/noteworthy/insightful by upvoting them.

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.


comments are still displayed based on their score: if a comment is at the top and ~1 hour old you can assume it's well rated.


this only works for the main trunk though. Lot of insightful comments are hidden way down as a child of a comment that doesn't have a lot of upvotes.


Maybe seeing comment scores could be a reward for 10,000 karma points.


In the submitted article from February 2009, Paul Graham wrote,

"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?"

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2403696

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

http://news.ycombinator.com/bestcomments

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.


Perhaps subjectively this change did improve the comment quality a bit, I still see plenty of ongoing examples of the problem though. What I'd like to see is the actual removal of karma (at least comment karma) from the user profiles as well.

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.


Comment karma can provide constructive feedback to the comment's author. Often, but not always, a downvoted comment indicates that my point was not made clearly or that there were gratuitous remarks within the comment whose removal would improve the tone of the comment overall. Of course, sometimes comments are just downvoted because someone disagrees or because I intentionally was snarky.

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.


I think that it isn't about incentivizing intelligent thoughtful conversation but rather disincentivizing the dumb or mean comments. People dislike losing karma a lot more than they like to gain karma. What pg observes in his article on Trolls[1], written a year before this one, is that controversial ideas which are modded down tend to be stubbornly left up while the wisecracks which are modded down tend to be deleted because there is less invested in them.

[1]http://paulgraham.com/trolls.html


I try to make it a point to downvote any dumb/mean comments I see, even if I completely agree with the sentiment. If it's particularly mean or inflammatory, I'll also flag it.

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.


(commenting from my high-karma account, to avoid the green-user stigma)

  I see no good reason to incentivize intelligent thoughtful 
  conversation, no one actually does it for karma.
I comment to grind karma points. There's a fairly linear relationship between comment length and score, my best comments (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3705599 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3218642) are essentially small blog posts, requiring research, links, several drafts and extensive revision. If it wasn't for karma, I wouldn't go to the effort.


So what do you fell that karma "earns you" that makes it worth the effort? Is it something intrinsic to karma, or something about what you think karma says about you to others? If the latter, then do you think karma is the best way to deliver that value?


Brand new accounts can't flag posts (~200 karma) or downvote comments. (~2000 karma) Once I hit those thresholds, the urge to grind goes away.


I still have the urge to grind karma, though I've passed the limit for downvoting. The reason is that I remember when the downvote karma threshold was raised from 250 to 500 karma, a year or two ago. I'm worried that in a year or three, PG will raise the limit again, and I'll be unable to downvote again. So karma remains an effective motivator - though I kind of resent that I don't know whether my further karma generation will ever pay off. I would feel better if PG had an official formula or schedule for the inflation of downvote thresholds, or if he said that the threshold will stay the same for the foreseeable future.


Downvoting seems to be enabled around the 500 mark. At least for me.

Also, I just noticed the flag option for the first time. Thanks for pointing that out.


Yes, downvoting was enabled for me, too, after I passed 500 karma points (reached 501 points) on 2012-06-09, a month and a half ago.


I'll share my own subjective observation - I feel that the overall "quality" of comments has remained high, at least in terms of writing quality and persuading arguments. That is to say, I don't often see many "dumb" comments ranked highly.

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.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but your previous karma and/or average counts more nowadays e.g. a comment on the bestcomment list might not be the top comment on the story page.


May I ask too to modify the bestcomments page? It should weight less on upvotes and more on time, currently I check everyday and it doesn't change that much.


Hey there, really dumb question = me, but where would i find the best comments page?


While it would be easy to pass off your lack of knowledge on that link as a "newbie" or "lack of effort" the truth is that link (as was just pointed out) is buried at the bottom under the link labeled "lists". It's not on the top bar (where there is room).

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.


where would i find the best comments page?

From the lists that appear on the bottom of most HN pages

http://news.ycombinator.com/lists

to the link

http://news.ycombinator.com/bestcomments


Is there an additional gate for down-voting comments? On the bestcomments page, certain comments are downvote-able while others are not. Specifically, from my account your comments cannot be downvoted. Is this intended behavior or a bug?


The gate is on the time of the comment's posting. Comments of more than a certain age cannot be downvoted. The age boundary is somewhere within "12 hours" to "1 day", given what I see on the bestcomments page right now.



Skimming the discussion, I'm intrigued to see that no one has tackled the elephant in the room.

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.


I must say, I enjoyed reading this. It seems I have noticed a lot of changes in the last few weeks.

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


Your comment was bad and you should feel bad! :P


I have had 3 accounts hell banned. Each time was slightly mysterious to me, but let me relate the context and maybe someone can enlighten me. - The first ban was after I posted a comment that suggested that some venture capitalists that fund start ups may be exploiting young naive technologists. My guess was that saying anything bad about VCs or the startup culture merits a ban. - The second ban was after a post where I said that Flouride is rat poison. I understand this is controversial, but it is also an indisputable fact. Flouride is used in rat poison. I assumed that mentioning any inconvenient/controversial fact merits a ban. - The third ban was after I disagreed with someone on how the brain learns. There was nothing particularly controversial about it at all. I assumed that I had angered someone with moderation powers and was rewarded with a ban.

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.


"The second ban was after a post where I said that Flouride is rat poison. I understand this is controversial, but it is also an indisputable fact. Flouride is used in rat poison."

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'.


I didn't express that reasoning in the original post, but thank you for clarifying that inferred stupid reasoning and spelling errors are sufficient to have your account banned.

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.


Hum, i'd like to know more about all these bans. Is the ban system automatic ? Or did someone (admin/moderator) actually banned you on purpose ?


I honestly don't know. The first ban, my comments disappeared, but another person was kind enough to let me know it had happened. I could still see my comments, but nobody else could. The person who let me know was in the middle of a thread/conversation with me, had very high karma, took a look at my account and couldn't find any reason for the ban.

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.


This hole thing is kind of frightening. I'm not sure i like the philosophy here.


I think a lot of people find it comforting. Internet forums admittedly attract bullies in the form of trolls, astroturfers and people who are just plain mean. I agree in principle with a moderation system, but to have a secret moderation system, with no transparency and no recourse is susceptible to corruption and abuse, like any secret system is.

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.


You could think it might be different in a community promoting startups and out of the box thinking ...


I don't think the HN community ever intended to promote out-of-the-box thinking. When I read Paul Graham's essays (and I've read most of them), I get the sense that HN is an attempt to create a community of 'bright lights' i.e. smart people, and provide a supportive environment of other 'smart people' without all the dog-eat-dog, macho,take-no-prisoners, slash and burn nonsense that makes up a good deal of human behavior.

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.


Great article, but i don't really understand the last paragraph about games and social media, and the correlation between usefulness and self-fulfillment. Especially the part where games = crack = bad.


This person's username is green, their comment is graying, and they are the only green name on the thread. RageKit has simply asked a question asking for clarification. Given this post is already a meta discussion, what factors influenced the downvote?

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.


I've used this sentence construction because english isn't my first language and it was the easiest/fastest way to say what i wanted to say.

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.


World of Warcraft is widely considered to be a highly refined Skinner box. If you're unfamiliar with the experiment, I strongly recommend that you look it up on Wikipedia and then google "wow detox". Also, you may want to research Asian governments' restrictions on XP/hour.

I'm sure you'll come to the right conclusions.


Yes, i'm aware of all this, but internet can also be considered like that, and also, many entertainment. And wow is just a game among many, i don't quite agree with this generalization. You can't judge a medium for what is done with it, but for what you CAN do with it.

Edit : Besides, i don't really like wow :)


Your comment is no longer grayed because others have upvoted it, likely because politician's comment pointed out that the downvotes were not deserved.




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