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With a big site like HN I don't know how you can control it. However, in a more focused site, the answer would be hands-on involvement. It doesn't take that much involvement, just a little.

The thing about systems is that we tend to think of them as if people are not a part of them. But people are a part of them.

One thought I would suggest is that it might be worth giving people with very high karma (maybe high enough that only a few people have this) an ability to post highlighted reprimands, and an automatic banning of a user if he or she gets more than, say, 5 of these in a month. These could then be reviewed of necessary.

One thing I would think about is that rather than having a system where computers try to control people, have a system which empowers the community leaders to set standards of interaction.

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