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Hi Steve,

I don't know if you are going to read this, but I'm going to write it for the rest of the audience too.

I think the trend of dismissing critics and commenting along the lines of "sour grapes" or "haters" very disturbing. Yes I go against your commentary. The great thing about internet and communities based on pseudonyms is that you get the first reaction that people have. Very few will take a few minutes to give their opinion, weight the different possibilities etc... It's brutal, it's direct. If you have run a service online you certainly know that you receive very angry/ threatening emails from people that use your services and are displeased. If it disturbs you it means that you are not ready for having a personal project on display, it's as simple as that. People in life and particularly on the internet are very angry and you have disturbed individuals. Opening a service with your name and your address is becoming some kind of "celebrity", people will HATE you for no good reason.

To come back to what I think is bad/annoying on Hacker News is of a different nature and I'll list a few:

* Well thought comments are often ignored and not read ( not up/downvoted, just ignored )

* Stardom: No matter what they post some ""famous"" people around here get their post on the front page. By courtesy I won't list who they are but everybody can spot it pretty easily. I'm very disappointed by this attitude personally, and it doesn't speak highly of a place that is supposed to be almost a pure meritocracy.

* Fads/ Jealousy: A lot of people here want to be rich and famous thus it creates tension. It allows me to come back to your point: these people are likely going to dismiss your ideas based on jealousy.

* Over-repetition of some stories ad nauseum: dumb benchmarks to see the number of req/s, analysis App.net, Education sucks...

All that being said it remains an interesting community but with some drawbacks. I guess nothing can have it all.




With all due respect, I think you missed the point of this post. The OP is not dismissing critics with claims of "sour grapes" and "hating". He is saying that the community is no longer a "safe place" where he feels OK to share work in its early stages.

In other words, he was not saying that negative criticism should be dismissed. He was saying that there is too much negativity for him to find the site enjoyable and that he thinks the change in attitude is for the worse.

That said, I also think that you're off the mark when you say the OP is not ready for having a personal project on display. The premise of OP's note is that he considered HN to be a more positive, supportive community than the larger Internet. There is nothing wrong with wanting to associate yourself with people who will build you up rather than tear you down. If Steve's been using HN for five years, he's probably well aware of how vicious people can be on the Internet. It sounds like he's sad that HN isn't a haven from this viciousness like it once was. And just because he's sad that this one community has deteriorated, that doesn't mean he's not capable of handling the slings and arrows of the wider Internet population.


Maybe we need a new headline. Instead of "Show HN" it's "Get Constructive Criticism from HN," and it's intended for products in the early stage.


that would be awesome. maybe a hotornot for hackernews


Well said, there's nothing more I come to HN for than a positive, supportive community, even where something is wrong and needs to be improved.

I have noticed in the last year on here it's become a lot more like other sites with more general hacker interested threads and (maybe I'm wrong) less and less startup relevant stuff. I know HN is for both, but I personally come here for startup signal.


> Education sucks...

This is my main gripe with HN right now -- the anti-intellectualism of the community. I recall an article submitted where the author claimed "Academic papers are shitloads of crap. Want to read something? Read some beautiful source code instead."

Nearly all breakthroughs in computing sprung up from an academic context; why would you be so cavalier in dismissing it? You might actually find out what a Y Combinator is!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed-point_combinator#Y_combin...


Hacker News is far from anti-intellectual; the opinion of a single author does not constitute a community trend.


I would guess that anyone who describes academic papers as not being full of "crap" or who describes source code as "beautiful" has read neither.

To learn something, I read books, like textbooks. But maybe that's just me.


Textbooks are a great source for what little knowledge has been digested well enough and is popular enough to warrant a textbook. If your interests are a little more technical, you often don't have a choice but to read academic papers. On a very rough scale: to learn something you might learn at a university as an undergraduate, read a textbook, but to learn something usually only PhDs know, you need to read papers.

It's true that many papers are badly written, but (1) to emphasize: sometimes there is no other source for something, and (2) most books are pretty awful, too, you have to be selective with anything.


There's also the possibility that they simply don't subscribe to the sort of attitude that makes sweeping generalizations about topics with vast depth and breadth.


Point by point:

Well thought comments are often ignored and not read ( not up/downvoted, just ignored )

You cannot tell if they were read or not. Exhorting users to use their 'mod points' is a challenge (yes its a slashdot reference). The community is larger and only the opinionated seem to vote.

Stardom: No matter what they post some ""famous"" people around here get their post on the front page. By courtesy I won't list who they are but everybody can spot it pretty easily. I'm very disappointed by this attitude personally, and it doesn't speak highly of a place that is supposed to be almost a pure meritocracy.

Except it isn't a meritocracy is it. Its a place for Y-combinator folks to share links they are interested in. Both current and past members of YC have a few more options than available than folks who just happened by here. One of those is that YC launches always make the front page.

Fads/ Jealousy: A lot of people here want to be rich and famous thus it creates tension. It allows me to come back to your point: these people are likely going to dismiss your ideas based on jealousy.

I've heard this a number of times but I'm not sure I buy it. Some people are angry at themselves because they haven't launched and they lash out at those who have in attempt to position their own failure better. Constructive criticism takes time, a jab takes only a few seconds. So you're looking also at a time penalty.

Over-repetition of some stories ad nauseum: dumb benchmarks to see the number of req/s, analysis App.net, Education sucks...

Well given the way the karma system works this would seem to be a reflection of what is important to the community at large vs perhaps some individuals. There are a couple of great add-ons that knock out stories about things you don't care about (I believe Bitcoin was the motivation but could easily be wrong about that).


You hit the nail on the head about what bothers me about HN, after 4 years of using it: "Its a place for Y-combinator folks to share links they are interested in."

news.YC is biased and will always be biased towards YC-oriented stories, which means it will never be as good as it could be. The status quo doesn't mean that news.YC isn't any good - it's just suspect and you have to filter everything through that lens - the story rankings, comments, and job posts are not ordered by merit, there is a sub-filter in place.

I hope there is eventually a start-up news site that isn't architected and gardened to benefit a small group above all else.

Disclaimer: I was a YC reject, and you can chalk it all up as sour grapes if you like.


News will always be biased, my friend. For as long as it is human generated.


If the people submitting links have different biases, then the overall news site might not have any particular bias overall, even if individual stories do.


hmmm, has anybody studied reading patterns of people when reading from a screen? It may be possible to fairly accurately estimate the probability of a section of text being read.

For example if there are 6 comments on display at anyone time and they are on display (without scrolling away) for 2 minutes, one might arrive at a probability of how much of that page was read, and how much time was equally spent on previous/subsequent parts of the page.

Especially when factors like, people tend to scroll text to be at the top of the screen to read it, or like me, highlight text I am currently reading with the mouse. Using these factors, we might be able to know what is/isn't read...

before improving something, try to measure it first!


Is there an easy way to capture scroll activity on a mac app? I'd love to analyze a data dump of scroll activity and active window.


Fads/ Jealousy: A lot of people here want to be rich and famous thus it creates tension. It allows me to come back to your point: these people are likely going to dismiss your ideas based on jealousy

Maybe I've just missed it, but I haven't seen a lot of responses here that seem to be obviously motivated by jealousy. I get the feeling that, despite how many of us there are, most of us are working on different things. I mean, there are so many ideas, and potential ideas, I don't feel like I've seen a lot of overlap.

And when I have seen it, I feel like a lot of the comments have been of the "Hey, this is similar to what we're doing, shoot me a message offline and let's talk" variety.


> Maybe I've just missed it, but I haven't seen a lot of responses here that seem to be obviously motivated by jealousy.

Those are never obvious. Jealousy, unless in a romantic personal context, is never displayed directly. It is hidden behind multiple layers of rationalizations or a barrage of negative comments (jab at small detail, over emphasis of small mistakes for ex.: "Oh you just worked 5 months on this website, well it sucks because you use the wrong serif font").


>The great thing about internet and communities based on pseudonyms is that you get the first reaction that people have. Very few will take a few minutes to give their opinion, weight the different possibilities etc... It's brutal, it's direct. If you have run a service online you certainly know that you receive very angry/ threatening emails from people that use your services and are displeased. If it disturbs you it means that you are not ready for having a personal project on display, it's as simple as that.

Well that's all available on the internet at large. You don't need any kind of catered community to have that experience. What he's bemoaning is the loss of the intermediate, the more thoughtful and useful type of honesty.


It also seems to me people's online opinions will tend to extremes. If there is an average reaction, either like or dislike, that might not cross the "click the reply button and write a comment" threshold. So there could be quite a bit of positive reaction, some moderate opinion, but people just won't feel the need to comment on it. So due to this bias one would expect to see more sharply negative or strongly positive responses.

Also I guess HN was mostly about the startup ecosphere, and now that goal shifted. Now it is about technology, programming, social issues _and_ startups.

Announcing a new startup might get a positive reaction from people interested in startup but will get no or negative reaction from those not interested in startups.

I'll raise my hand and admit that I am not interested in startups at all at the moment. I try not to comment negatively or positively on them I just skip those topics.

Should I feel guilty for not being interested, and are characters like me perceived as destroying the HN culture?


>> * Well thought comments are often ignored and not read ( not up/downvoted, just ignored )

I would say this is the biggest issue for me - I am just not into that habit.

I would suggest putting a header into the orabe bar:

"Please generously upvote if you think something is intelligent, well written or inciteful or otherwise postiviely contributes to the conversation"

That said, here is a +1


Could this be a side effect of comment scores not being displayed publicly any longer?


The trend was already well established by the time you got here. If you go back three years, you do see a different site that is far more accepting and far less technical. Early in the HN world, when I read an article, my first thought wasn't "let's see how HN have dismantled this".

For many things (especially raw information), I appreciate that cynicism. For launches and discussions around early products, it annoys me to no end. I think it really shows the character of a person who, when somebody puts themself out there, their first reaction is to tear them down.

Alas, there is probably nothing that can be done. It is the tragedy of the commons, where goodwill is the resource being depleted.


The Internet is not a hugbox. People launching products and companies need criticism more than anything else, because if they get it now, they can fix the problem before a customer or a funding source spots it.


The Internet is not a hugbox.

HN is not "the internet". I don't think HN should strive to be as terrible as most of the internet can be. If I want "the Internet" I can go to /r/all. That is a much better snapshot of what "the Internet" actually is. I don't see why it's a bad thing to want HN to be better than most parts of the Internet.

I also think your type of attitude really brings communities down. People who treat others with disrespect and insults like to defend their actions as "This is the internet. Deal with it." I've never thought it to be a particular worthwhile argument.


The Internet is not a hugbox

Surely there's a some balance point between "hugbox" and "hatefest". Also, we're not talking about the Internet, but a small self-selected community of humans that happens to connect via the internet.


You said a lot of what I just posted except shorter and better. One thing I missed that you got and that's worth expanding on is stardom. The stardom breeds a lot of the groupthink and hive mind around here I think.

I agree that there's a problem with fads and jealousy but I disagree with what that problem is. I think the jealousy comes from us nobody's and not the stars. It's the proletariat, so to speak, that are jealous of not just the stars but anyone who has the guts to put something cool they made in front of HN.

Fads again are just what promotes groupthink. Why does everyone on HN love Ruby but most people outside HN don't have any strong feelings for or against it? Because it's trendy. I work at a company in Chicago where we run our sites and apps on either Java, PHP, or Ruby. No one in the company ever looks down their nose at anyone else not using the language their primarily working with because that shit doesn't matter. The fads on HN aren't real. They're specific to HN and possibly Silicon Valley but people talk about it here as if it mattered somehow.

Overall though, you nailed it. And your very last line definitely holds true.




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