The OP sounds like he should find some other support group, this is a community of smart people that will quite happily - and quite rightly - rip any pointless idea apart.
If you're going to editorialize and discount any comments/votes you consider not aligned with boosting anyone's self esteem, or what you consider negative you will create an artificial community - one that is the website equivalent of the old boys network, where the old timers consider themselves superior to the newcomers. Negative comments can be as useful as all the back patting attaboys.
If you really want to do this, the simplest solution is one I am sure you're aware of. Pick a few dozen people you 'like' (their voting habits) to train a Bayesian classifier, then you can weight those those that don't fall in-line with the way you'd like to see you community behave.
Can't we all just act like adults and learn to deal with the negative comments - possibly even learn from the? Do we really need to protected from snarky comments?
This reminds me of a comment thread I saw earlier about people getting bent out of shape by cell phone usage in restaurants! I find lots of things are annoying, loud trucks/buses, cyclists that ignore road signs, rude people etc etc, but I am not going to complain and try to stop buses or give discounts to people who drive to discourage cycling. People need to start learning to cope with the real world and not expecting 'the system' to protect us from ourselves. It's embarrassing to be part of a community that needs voting bias that only encourages positive comments.
Actually I find that harsh comments are more common among children and noobs than adults and experts. A random fan watching a football game in a bar is far more likely to use harsh language about a player who misses a pass than another professional football player would.
What's happened here is itself evidence of this trend. The comments haven't gotten more negative because we were all a bunch of fools initially, and now the real experts have arrived; rather the opposite.
Half of the benefit would be from filtering out people who aren't really invested in the community. The other half would be from making people think about the magnitude of their own contributions before they criticize someone elses.
I know how much I've learned and how grateful I am for having the chance to learn from this community, I'm sure there are many others as well that feel the same.
So to the community as a whole thank you for the chance to learn until I've mustered up the courage to take the plunge.
While we can probably mostly agree that sniping (especially personal attacks) are rotten, I suspect useful insights, that are critical in nature, often get thrown in with the dirty laundry, and labelled as "negative". "Awesome site dude!! SO happy for you :) :)" and a whole bunch of potentially fake, shiny superlatives can also become a turnoff.
Quite likely this is a minority viewpoint.
I still come here for the articles and I occasionally read the comments but I don't participate much. I feel the same way as the original poster. I see someone post something genuine and then I see someone else rip it apart in a condescending way.
I used to come to HN and on the other side of the usernames, I pictured the leaders in our field, the pioneers of the next steps of our information age, and people who I wanted to emulate.
It's not this way for me any more.
A particular example of a recent top-voted comment comes to mind (I'm not going to identify it because my purpose is not to name and shame), which was full of perfectly legitimate and constructive criticisms, but the tone of the comment was, well, mocking.
And what's the point of that? Making legitimate criticisms and dressing them in derisive language is a great way to raise an army of contempt against someone, but why?
If you want the target of your criticism to take the criticism into account, you need to express it civilly. You don't need to find positive things to say, or even claim that you think there's a kernel of good idea to be found (although genuine compliments are great too, of course). All you have to do is be polite and respectful. Imagine that the creator of what you're criticizing has just shown it to you excitedly. Read your comment, and decide if what you're writing is something that an acceptable member of society would say to that person face to face. Not the content, but the actual words.
And if you don't want the target of the criticism to listen to you? Then maybe you should just keep your thoughts to yourself.
I can't remove the comment now, but I can consider making my criticism more constructive and positive. With the email, my concerns were legitimate, but I could have just expressed what those concerns were, not satirized the original email.
There's no denying that writing a smackdown is fun. We just have to remember that it's not harmless fun.
Today, Groupon stock is worthless, and the company is doomed. Should the people in that thread be penalized for being right, but mean?
Vision is not "how is this guaranteed to fail?" but how could it possibly succeed despite the odds?
Which voice do you want to bring to this community?
However, around the time of it's IPO it was receiving so much undeserved hype that in comparison to THOSE lofty goals it appears to have failed. HN readers at the time were pointing out the hype, and I think that is a GOOD thing.
Nevertheless, I agree that the tone of the community could be better and I will strive to adjust my own comments to reflect that.
I can see they are skeptical, but I would hardly describe them as "mean".
Now, if that were a 'Show HN' post I could see where people may want the comments to offer constructive feedback, but that thread seems like a matter-of-fact discussion of the business model of the business.
The problem that HN faces is that because of the voting system those drive-by valueless negative comments are getting amplified all out of scale relative to their value.
Imagine being in a restaurant. It's not so bad if there is someone in the far corner having an argument that you can just barely overhear or something a few tables over having a cell phone conversation. However, if the volume of those conversations were amplified such that you could barely continue conversing with the person across the table from you then it starts to become a very serious issue, and if that became the norm at that restaurant you'd probably stop going there as often.
Some comments are on-topic and are helpful, some are on-topic and humorous. Some are off-topic and also helpful, some are off-topic and worthless. As so on, and so on.
With only one direction we can "push" a comment (and only one direction with which we can view comments, up & down), there is not all that much filtering that can go on.
Sometimes I enjoy reading the "funny" responses. What if this was a separate comment axis that I could view? Others may not be interested in such a thing, and could ignore it.
In any case, the format of HN doesn't lend itself well when people from all over the world bring their own views into a single topic. I don't know if a good way of solving it easily other than being ruthless about removing content that doesn't belong.
If YC News doesn't encourage budding entrepreneurs to throw themselves at long-shots, and into the VC startup culture, then it doesn't serve pg's interests.
Being able to function in the face of people making negative comments about you on the Internet is one of the basic survival skills of the 21st century.
> People need to start learning to cope with the real world and not expecting 'the system' to protect us from ourselves.
This perspective directly contradicts many HN'ers political leanings.
While this is true, it does not justify overly negative comments. I'm reminded of hecklers who yell at stand-up comedians that they should be able to deal with heckling if they're on stage; they might be correct, but they're still being a jackass.