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I'm sympathetic to your point, but I fear that the worst offenders are among those least likely even to read the guidelines, much less adhere to them.

Unfortunately I agree, it is no big secret that tech as a segment has a fairly sizable portion of it's population with smartest guy in the room syndrome. The problem with smartest guy in the room syndrome is they already know the answer. Therefore they are not information seekers and they disregard anything that is objective to their world view. It is what killed Slashdot and sadly it is becoming unbearable here. Self policing does not help with this personality type, because they have no vested interest in anything other than everyone seeing them as the smartest guy in the room. Their concern about the community only extends to their recognition. It is a self centered world view and therefore I don't think that self enforced measures will work on this personality type. I almost think a third measure is needed, like a flag as abusive. Knowing that they can be flagged as abusive (even if the system dumps the flag and does not use it in any calculations). Will cause them to reflect on the policy, as it directly threatens their ability to use HN as a platform for self glorification.

HN does have up votes, down votes, and a third flag option.

You have to view an individual comment to get the flag option. I'm not sure what the down votes are for. "This comment does not belong on HN", maybe.

I have no idea what the flag is for. "This content is so bad it needs to be removed, not just hidden", perhaps.

I agree with your post though! I'd be wary about having too many options for marking posts.

Currently downvotes are simply "I disagree" (causing plenty of good comments to pile at the bottom, side-by-side with spam/hate/douchebaggery).

"Currently downvotes are simply "I disagree" "

My observation is that downvotes also signify comments that have one of more errors of fact. Of course "fact" is also open to interpretation and not absolute.

You could say "you can only be President for two terms of 4 years each" but someone could dispute that because Roosevelt was President for longer or because in their country that is not the case. Etc.

A downvote because of inaccuracy without a comment isn't very helpful of course.

Originally a downvote meant that the comment was impolite, stupid humor, or way off topic. If it was incorrect or you disagreed, you were expected to say why. I personally dont like driveby downvotes.

I like this post a lot. It perfectly sums up why I quit reading Slashdot. There was a time when reading Slashdot posts could expose you to new ideas, real world examples of technical solutions, and other people trying to learn more. Now it's mostly pedantic sniping, and lame cliched jokes from socially frustrated wankers.

I do most of my reading on Reddit (front page reddits are just cotton candy, but there are good ones to be found). I only started reading HackerNews about a year ago, and mostly just for the articles from lesser known blogs that don't get posted on Reddit. Being something of a HackerNews newbie I haven't been around long enough to notice a change, but I hope it doesn't go the way of Slashdot.

It's good that you bring that point up. I disagree with you, and if I could be so bold, I'll paraphrase tptacek's post above: communities are built on principles that goad people to excellence, not forbid them from mediocrity. Communities are built by principles, not by laws. I firmly believe this, and it's why I agree that more good will come on HN from stating what people OUGHT to do instead of listing the kinds of behaviours they oughtn't engage in.

True, but wouldn't it better rally the rest of the community to keep those offenders in line? If their harmful comments don't get upvotes, they lose their audience.

Yes, that's true. However, giving proper guidelines can help in a lot of cases. When a person uses a site for the first time, he'd search at least somewhat for some basic guidelines. After that, he'd be tied to the same routine, and might not easily change with the changing guidelines.

I know that the worst offenders won't read the guidelines, but a little faith in the rest of them would go a long way improving the quality of content on this site.


There is not going to be a "one-size-fits-all" solution to this problem. A multi-faceted solution including both technical and non-technical elements would likely work best.

The easiest part of the solution to implement would of course be the text in the vicinity of the comment box. This text would establish certain core tenets that we can all vote on with Paul.

The technical aspect of the solution could monitor how often certain users are being down voted. The down-vote history of an account could then be used to "weigh it down" somewhat, so that it takes more up-votes in the future to bring their comment to a higher position on the page.

That is okay, they don't have to do that.

So long as it is a group norm to do adhere to the guidelines those who don't will be downvoted and their conduct will have little influence on the community.

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