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Sometimes saying an idea is pointless is positive feedback, there are a lot of people here that 'launch a startup' which basically means some half-assed website that does something utterly pointless and then expect the community to be like some kind of benevolent uncle and pat them on the back and say what an awesome idea and execution. Many many ideas really are pointless and negative criticism is very much a part of being an adult. This isn't grade school where it's all about self esteem boosting.

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.

Can't we all just act like adults and learn to deal with the negative 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.

Maybe you could attack this directly. Put a field the profile form for "something I've made." Don't allow anyone without an entry there to vote.

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.

Trust me, there are a lot of creative trolls.

I usually just watch and read the articles but I've been wanting to get more involved for a while. I know I have a future doing the kinds of things you guys have done, and someday very soon I hope that I will. By keeping people like me who haven't yet accomplished anything out, you would be denying a real chance at digital mentorship.

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.

You would still be able to comment and submit. Your voice would still be there. This would just test the hypothesis that people who have put themselves out there are more sympathetic to other people who have put themselves out there.

I think it's also important to distinguish "negative" from "critical thinking".

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 joined Hacker News 1,570 days ago (~4 years). I launched my first two ventures here. One of them, Feedback Army, was concieved and built entirely from my interaction in this community. Three years ago, the feel of this community was very much one of support and maybe, a little self esteem boosting. It certainly worked for me and I was very grateful to this community for what it contributed to helping shape me as an entrepreneur.

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.

I don't think the problem is so much negativity as it is tone. I think HN is still a very civil place (relative to many other communities), but anyone can see that hostile jabs are gradually getting more popular, and hostile jabs are, for whatever reason, an infectious meme and when you are seeing a lot of them, it takes a lot of restraint to keep from tossing them in yourself.

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 have a sneaking suspicion it was my comment. If it wasn't, then you've made me think very hard about what I wrote (it was a mock email). It was pretty harsh, and now I think of it the tone was unwarranted. I thought it was amusing at the time and held truth to power, but now I think it was a dick move.

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.

That wasn't the comment that I had in mind, but I'm glad my comment made you think about it. I'm certainly not going to claim immunity to this effect myself. I'm sure if I went through my comment history, I'd find some harsh comments of my own. I do make a conscious effort to notice it before I submit, but it's easy to slip up.

There's no denying that writing a smackdown is fun. We just have to remember that it's not harmless fun.

Here's a thread from 847 days ago full of people being mean and negative about Groupon: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1288116

Today, Groupon stock is worthless, and the company is doomed. Should the people in that thread be penalized for being right, but mean?

Most companies fail. It's a safe bet to predict failure. It's pretty lame to celebrate that failure from the sidelines.

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?

Groupon didn't "fail", instead it has been astonishingly successful.

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.

Thank you for the correction. My intent was not to speak to the state of Groupon. Groupon has had far more success and impact than anything I have created to date. I felt it best to not argue with the parent and focus on the attitude behind the comment and not an assessment of Groupon.

There's a way to be negative (right or wrong) without being mean. I think that's the heart of the problem here.

a la pg's "I worry, though, that..."

Those comments are mean?

I can see they are skeptical, but I would hardly describe them as "mean".

I agree with you. Maybe I'm part of the problem, but I actually see nothing wrong with those comments.

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.

If Groupon is a failure, I'd like to have several of those...

There's a difference between merely hostile, negative commentary and constructive, well-founded criticism.

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.

Part of the problem with HN (and reddit) is that the format is still linear. A comment system results in multi-dimensional conversations both in subject and in tone.

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.

I did always like Slashdot's commenting system for precisely these reasons. It seems like their meta-mod system worked pretty well too to ensure that people's votes were actually meaningful. Oh, and the limit on the number of votes you could give really made it feel like your vote mattered and you couldn't waste it.

It's not a matter of handling negative comments or constructive criticism as an adult. That's been here for at least as long as I have been here (5+ years). It's a matter of those comments being derisive, abrasive potshots (oftimes at the person rather than product) providing no value. Assholeism for it's own sake, the net effect of which is to lower the level of discourse here a la the broken window theory.

YC relies on a constant flow of grist for the VC mill.

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.

> 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?

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.

> 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.

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.

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