edit: Apparently, the site was launched by Joshua Stein (after getting hellbanned from HN), not Yehuda Katz. https://jcs.org/notaweblog/2012/06/13/hellbanned_from_hacker...
Update: The site is also open source: https://github.com/jcs/lobsters
Last shameless update: Would love an invite. Email in my profile.
Haven't seen much discussion about this HN flaw. Interesting...
[Edit: fixed ambiguous antecedent]
You don't think it true that HN has significant financial incentive to censor or promote the links of YC companies?
or you think there has been a lot of discussion about the HN conflict-of-interest? (perhaps I don't read regularly enough.)
I suppose you could mean both.
There are four main camps here at HN:
- "Software Entrepreneurs", building Big Important Startups or quaint little "lifestyle businesses" that let them drive their cute little "italian supercars" around their quaint little midwestern town.
- "Computer Programmers", talking about languages, deployment strategies, open source stuff and how to configure their dotfiles to automatically convert tabs to spaces.
- "Tech Gossip Afficianodos", excited about what Techcrunch has to say about who got funded, and taking sides in fights between giant corporations.
- And the guy who just wants to point out that pirating movies off the internet is technically just "copyright infringement" and therefore not bad at all (and really HBO's fault anyway.)
These guys grabbed just their team, and now they're free to talk shop without any of the myriad distractions they'd get trying to do it here.
It's a little selfish to note that I actually see this as a good thing for a slightly different reason: If Camp 2 leaves, that's more HackerNews for those of us in Camp 1, which is the reason I'm here. We'll still have to flag stuff from the other two distracting groups, but it just might make this place a little nicer as well. Everybody wins.
I just want 2 moderation buttons : "insighful" (make this contribution more visible) and "relevant to my interests" (make the things this user tags as insightful or relevant more visible to me. May include a partial transitivity of the "relevant to my interests" operator)
Does such a system exist? Is it flawed.
I could imagine an opt-out system, like "funding stories don't interest me at all", but then, Facebook's IPO would fall into that category and I followed it with interest.
To your second point it is merely a matter or design choice. Does "funding stories as a whole" trump your more specific interest of Facebook IPO or does your specific interest in Facebook's IPO trump your desire to opt out of the funding stories as a whole.
The problem I see is making such a system intuitive to your user base and clear. It seems the more complex the system is the more complex the user preferences become.
- Silicon valley gossip scenesters
- The "I read an Ayn Rand novel, would you like me to turn this into a debate about why Government Is Always Bad and Tax is Theft?" crowd
- The "I know what would improve my productivity! spending all morning reading mediocre blog posts about productivity!" crowd
- The business self-help book reading group.
Each to their own I guess :)
Take a quick spin through the articles on the Lobster homepage. Lots of (presumably) good articles there, but not one that I'd consider clicking on because it doesn't interest me in the slightest (even though I make my living programming computers).
That sort of article tends to occupy about a third of the homepage here at any given time, likely pushing things that might actually help me build a software business out of the way. If they were gone, it'd make my life a little easier. That's all.
I definitely like computer programmers. I've spent the last 20 years working with them (and being one) every day. I'm just not all that interested anymore in hearing about how they configure their text editors. Or rather, I'd prefer they discussed that elsewhere. This site we're discussing seems like a great place for that.
Actually, thinking it through a bit more, I don't think that's my actual reason. It occurs to me that most of the "programming" talk that goes on here is actually quite good.
The thing is, there's a certain type of rank & file developer, who we're all familiar with, that is just plain no fun to be around. He's the super negative guy with a few "social issues" who's always complaining about how much things suck (and how stupid everybody is for not just doing X, which is obvious).
You can see that guy near the bottom of most threads here these days, with his snarky one line comment. Every once in a while he'll have the top comment on a thread or get in a loud fight with somebody. I wouldn't be surprised if he's the guy who really likes all those terrible distracting articles from camps 3 & 4. He's probably having a great time. But he's making the place worse. Making his behavior seem less unacceptable by virtue of it being visible as an example.
My hope was that he'd leave with the rest of the programmers, but I bet you're right that he would be the one guy who'd get left behind. So you'd still get the snarky negativity piled onto every launch announcement, but we'd lose a bunch of smart people.
So yeah, scratch that part. You're right.
I honestly believe that at least a few of these users are secretly employed by the companies that they promote and defend daily. I don't know if they're paid to post here or that they're simply blind loyalists. Either way, they deserve to be plonked.
Below are two examples (posted by a prolific user) of the type of messages I would like to see less of, which could be filtered by a kill file feature:
"HN is going to hell because its overrun with people who practice an ideology of socialism -- pro-google because its "Free" and anti-Apple because they actually innovate and have the audacity to charge for their products."
"Apple has done far more to make the world a better place than any corporation I've ever heard of. Far more than any government in history ever has. Far more than any charity every has or ever could."
EDIT - also found https://lobste.rs/s/bkeYe9/about_lobsters which explains some features
I told him this when I came across that blog post a while ago, but he seems to prefer his more colorful version of the story.
Hellbanning should be reserved for users you want to prevent from noticing that they’re banned, so they won’t create a new account. That would be users who you think hold no hope of salvation, not those who you are just giving a warning to.
Even better in this particular case would be yet another type of ban that informs the user “you have been temporarily suspended from posting; check your email for the reason”. That would let the user know that the ban is temporary so they don’t get upset that they were apparently permanently banned for one mistake.
When this happens I end up shooting you a personal email, to which you have replied, dismissively, only once. Either you are reading my emails or there is some kind of expiry on the bans, because I find I am usually unbanned within a few days to a week.
Oh, and there is nothing malicious happening on my LAN that warrants this kind of banning. I'm a casual HN reader/poster.
Lack of transparency is a pretty big deal on this forum, and once you've crossed Paul -- without knowing how -- it's scorched earth on any account you make. That's why Josh developed Lobsters, and why I'm user #2, and why I'm glad to see it's gaining traction as a community.
This site is more threatening to opinion and discourse than any on the public Internet, and that isn't hyperbole. The irony is that this is a hacker community, and most hackers would be appalled at slamming the door and creating a curated garden of ideas. I've posted as jsprink_banned and jsprinkles on the topic, if you're interested; won't spam this thread with it.
I'm leaning toward disagreement.
Sometimes it is difficult to pickup on sarcasm in the written word. This post is not being sarcastic. Neither was my one above.
I commend the effort, so far the content looks like it is a clone of hn pretty much, I recognized many of the titles, but I think it's great you've created your own version.
One of the dirty secrets of hackernews is that you can be hellbanned at any moment without rhyme or reason, and you'll likely never know why. I assume it serves some purpose OTHER than driving away helpful contributors, but I'm not sure what that might be.
No, I'm not suggesting a plot, but there's no natural law that says tech news sites must have a hairtrigger hellban (nor, as far as I'm aware, does any other site have anything remotely like HN's policy). Concious or not, it's a policy that HN has adopted, and it's a terrible policy.
"Not for exclusivity, but rather, invitations will be used as a spam-control mechanism. New users must be invited by a current member and invitations will be unlimited (unless scaling problems temporarily prevent new accounts). If spammers are invited to the site and banned, the user that invited them may also be banned, going up the chain of invitations as needed."
Seems basically sane, though I imagine the site would be pretty cliquish at first. You do have a pretty strong disincentive for inviting people you don't know.
Any member want to break up the cliquishness by inviting me? If you trust metrics, my high average karma means I'm probably less of a risk. Probably.
If anything all this means is that you conform to the culture of HN, precisely what (it would seem) Lobsters is trying to break from.
(Edit: I don't mean to imply that hype-generation was the real reason to make it invite-only. I'm sure that the stated reasons are the real ones. The interest generated by exclusivity is just a nice byproduct.)
carlos.fenollosa at gmail
After hearing the JCS story and remembering my own experience of PG manipulating headlines + killing my own frontpage submission, I'm all for this.
I'm also tried of the YC job listings from companies that launched 4yrs ago flooding the homepage.
(Good luck to lobste.rs, but I'll probably be staying right here on hn.)
I've been a contributor on HN for around 5 years and over the period of time I've seen a constant decline in the quality of comments, community support (read some of the 'Show HN' posts) and to an extent even the quality of the stories submitted.
A new improved hacker/startup community can be a serious contender for replacing HN (in its current state), just like Reddit is/was to Digg and others.
I understand that in a competitive, fast paced and big money industry there will be massive egos, but I could sure do without some of the jerks
Not meant to single you out - just my opinion on the overall sentiment on HN these days.
Edit: I think it's funny that the title of this post was changed to lobsters from its original title.
As it is, because of how I was treat by them, I have an extreme aversion to this website. I don't see it as competition for HN, I was merely curious about the community there and it's comparison to the one here.
I guess I got my answer...
So the end result is either it's full of really friendly, intelligent, hand picked people, or it becomes a clique full of friends who are less than intelligent.
There has always been value in collecting very different people with similar goals in one place. Greater diversity of perspective, backgrounds and points of view. I'm always a little sad to see a group of people split over a minor dispute or philosophical difference. It's taking what could be a great combined effort and diluting it.
Long ago, circa the year 2000, I was a member of the very first niche social network, makeoutclub.com (MOC), a site originally about indie rock music. One day, a group of members got tired of gibby's (the owner) benign dictatorship and mutinied. The group started lipstickandcigarettes.com (L&C), which is now a parked domain. At the time, L&C targeted the same demographic, but was very restrictive on which hipsters could join and had a more savvy GUI than MOC. It had great early success in attracting members interested in indie rock from MOC. Eventually, though, the proprietors of L&C lost interest and let the community there dissolve in order to pursue other interests (there were rumors of drug addiction at the time, IIRC). MOC, on the other hand, is still going strong and presumably making money for gibby.
I suppose the moral to my story is this: unless your social network fiefdom actively feeds your pocketbook (as MOC does for gibby and HN does for pg), expect to lose interest in maintaining it once the novelty of protest has worn off.
- no comment collapsing, long comment threads will become a problem just like they are here which ends up sucking, I'd love to see something like reddit's threading / collapsing and I'd really love to a see a whole other forum-ish way to browse stories as well so discussion is even more emphasized
- no registration sucks, there are easier ways to identify spammers such as their obvious affiliation with particular website(s), auto-submission honey pots, even a manual glance at submission and other stats can be pretty revealing
The biggest concern though is the site's own affiliations ... digg needed their widget everywhere which ensured the quality was locked into a downward spiral. HN gives TC traffic in exchange for publicity, and of course all the preferential treatment and posts by YC startups is less interesting now that their batches are so large. What happens when it's time for lobste.rs to pay for itself?
I really do think it's time to replace HN though, it's mainstream and it's targeted by rubbish publications and it's full of users who are here to exploit it or to be exploited by rubbish sites who manipulate them with stunning precision.
I'd love an invite if someone's giving them out.
So basically there are three things that are flat-out wrong with this headline.
More than giving why you're downvoting, I wish HN didn't ban/banish-to-purgatory people for low karma, but for upheld flagged posts. Someone can be horribly wrong, often, and still learn, and become worthwhile to the group. At least in theory.
That said, the problem with downvotes with reasons is that it now feels much more harsh. I'm downvoting something that is clearly an insulting comment that should not have been made on the site, and yet I'm wondering "do I really want to use the term 'troll'? that seems harsh".
So if you want an invitation, you should see if you know anyone on that lists.
[edit: "If spammers are invited to the site and banned, the user that invited them may also be banned, going up the chain of invitations as needed." If your parent gets banned, do all children get banned?]
According to https://lobste.rs/s/bkeYe9/about_lobsters, the only reason Lobsters is invite-only is to prevent spammers from signing up. So if you want to check that I’m not a spammer, just glance at my past comments (http://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=roryokane) and submissions (http://news.ycombinator.com/submitted?id=roryokane).
If you still want another reason to send me an invite, I support the idea of an improved Hacker News – pg seems to barely care about improving HN. I might contribute to the Lobsters code at https://github.com/jcs/lobsters.
I don't know the reasoning of Paul Graham hell-banning people on this site for merely questioning the way it's moderated or for whatever reason, but the lack of transparency on HN is a big issue that needs to be fixed.
As much as I love HN, I think it's time for a change and whether it be Lobsters or another site, I am really hoping a successor breaks the ranks and perhaps PG and the moderator team will then make an effort to fix this place.
- invite only to prevent spam and increase accountability
- tags are ideal for the problem where not everyone cares about everything - getting to be a major gripe you see a lot ("oh my god, do we have to have another discussion about X")
- HN needs significantly better transparency in bans, title rewrites, etc. I don't believe that PG has an agenda or needs to protect YC companies, but the issue comes up so much that it needs to be addressed
- reasons for downvotes are genius
- private messages are worthwhile IMO
- the domain indicator is actually useful (sick of seeing co.uk or github.com instead of myblog.github.com)
Other things HN needs:
- to work: the fact that "more" barely works is astonishing
- an API for all the apps that want to provide a better or different experience
- comment collapsing - an essential feature for actually reading past the first comment thread
- a meta site where we can actually discuss this stuff without violating guidelines (meta.stackoverflow.com is one of the most innovative and important community tools ever, IMO)
I've heard "there are no technical solutions to social problems" as reasons not to do a lot of these, but the same argument could apply to the downvote. HN needs to innovate to keep its community, and I hope it does.
Usenet had immense value in well defined subgroups prior to the Eternal September (and for some time after, regardless of what people may say). IRC ha(s|d) similar values, and remains a force within niche communities on the tech side. Slashdot was an early mover in the moderated community space which had to arise from the newfound populist web.
I still think /.'s comment moderation was superior to the HN system (pre and post-visible comment scores), but the firehose was too late and too poorly implemented to solve editorial issues.
In the middle of this, Kuro5hin rose and fell, metafilter grabbed some component of the serious moderated discussion which it still retains. Fark came and went. Boingboing, SA, b3ta. All significant for a time but not names on people's lips today.
HN cannibalised a significant portion of /., but failed to convert the greybeards - the discussion here is noticeably different because of it (and lacking the perspective sometimes).
Digg suffered greatly from demagogues (as does HN to an extent), descended too rapidly into linkbait and celebpop trash, and fell to Reddit. The redesign was just the nail in the coffin of an already dead community.
Reddit became a very granular experience from its initial tech focus, with a current frontpage of dubious intellectual interest, but their popularity speaks wonders for the ad-hoc community created by diverse interest groups with a common central park. They struggle with discovery for new members, and an apparently descending base age group.
Communities come and go. Small herds migrate towards the latest point of interest and some stick. Groupthink is a large driver of community malaise, certainly within the tech discussion arena. Individuals dominate submissions and discussions and evolve to minor demagogue status. Some communities evolve to tackle a smaller arena than just the general topical discussion field, but topicality remains critical.
Quora has tackled 'big answers'. StackOverflow 'correct answers'. These are some minor elements of the value of the larger communities, much in the same way that Hipmunk, AirBnb etc have abstracted value away from Craigslist. Hyperlocal is the next big thing with FrontPorchForum and NextDoor tacking non-technical local discussion.
I still view the approaches to these problems as relatively unsolved and ripe for disruption, in particular the algorithms related to subject and comment popularity, user 'karma' (for better or worse), and approachable comment threading when a userbase grows beyond the 'scan a single page' scale. I'm not convinced that a one-size-fits-all approach will ever work, but even within niche tribes there remains a problem with staying 'current' while avoiding alienating the 1-2% who drive much of the discussion.
I fully expect a new dominant discussion forum to arise in the tech scene in the next couple of years, but Lobsters seems to be a kneejerk reimplementation of HN that even if it claws some traction would have to evolve rapidly to solve problems rather than dangling the 2013 model of a 2012 carrot.
I agree with this, but this is also why I have now come to seriously question why anyone would be interested in investing in any community-based site. Let's not mistake that for social networks (which in of themselves have their own potential issues). But regarding community-based sites, I can't ever see any as having long-term value, not after all the carcasses I see lying in decay on the web. :(
I used to roam some groups until about 2003, but most of them are pretty much abandoned now, and I haven't been able to find the same level of discussion on the Internet
It would be sad to see HN die, but if you don't water your plants...
Also a distinctive header in a different color.
Remove bold from links in front page and
Please, please no. Its fine the way it is.
In practice it worked very well. The overwhelming majority of blended threads were from new users who were still getting a hang of the quality standards for posting in the forum.
This isn't linked anywhere obvious on the site itself.
The name has to be in Lobster (http://www.google.com/webfonts/specimen/Lobster). This is not an optional thing. Come on.
Try logging out of HN, and see if the long pauses go away for you.
There's no list of moderators anywhere is there? I could tick off the ones I haven't annoyed.
Also, Macro: The step beyond slowbanning is hellbanning, where nobody can see your comments except you, and users with "show dead" on. You've been hellbanned for over a year. As to why...maybe some mod thought your first comment was a bit content free. Maybe they were just having a bad day. I'd recommend getting a new account.
Spammers, I can understand....but users you disagree with.
Somewhat off putting, elitist first impression.
The most any normal user can say for certain about jcs getting
hellbanned is, he did something annoying enough that someone did
something about it!!! --Unfortunately, if you believed the previous
sentence, you are mistaken.
The reality is, a lot of stuff on HN is automated. If you do bad stuff,
bad things happen to you (your account) automatically. For example, if
you get into a flame war and pass the "posting too fast" threshold,
you could get warnings initially, and if you still don't stop, you could
hellban yourself. In other words, you simply never know if a human being
with moderator privileges did something, or if you did it to yourself.
Also, you don't know if it's permanent or temporary.
The most I can say with real certainty is, pg is smart enough to design
a system which merely gives users enough rope to hang themselves. I
would do the same, and if you've studied the problem in depth, you would
too. Eliminating human moderation through computerized automation is the
only sane way to design a discussion forum.
Now if you were a long time, active contributor like jcs, and you
ensnared yourself in the sites protective automation, and you thought
someone was doing it to you, then ya, you might be miffed. You would
probably react harshly, and by doing so, make matters even worse for
yourself and give yourself even more "reason" to be upset.
Have you ever watched someone get absolutely livid at a chat bot?
It's hilarious. It may be a wee bit sadistic to let them keep trading
increasingly heated insults with a machine, but it's still fun to watch.
At the end, they might learn a valuable lesson.
With pg, there's one thing I've come to rely on; he means well. There is
no requirement to agree with him on everything, but if over many years
you've watched him carefully, studied the things he's said and done, or
better, interacted with him, then you can be reasonably certain that he
If you know anything at all about Y-Combinator, then you already know
that Paul has far more important things to do than mess around with HN.
If you don't know the history of HN, you're at a disadvantage; it was
started as a for-fun side project to test out the ARC programming
language, and HN was originally called "Startup News" for a very good
reason -- to attract people with an interest in startups. The name was
eventually changed to "Hacker News" due to the retrospectively obvious
oversight; a lot of the best coders haven't really thought about doing a
startup, and the people interested in startups are often already doing
one. Broadening the scope of appeal with the name change makes sense.
If you haven't read everything Paul has written, then you don't about
the massive amount of time and effort he's put into thinking about the
interactions between people on (open) forums, and how to encourage
beneficial exchanges between (potentially conflicting) people. HN is
now, and always has been, an ongoing experiment to improve the ratio of
beneficial exchanges in discussions, as well as reduce human moderation
overhead. It's fun watching it evolve.
And lastly no, of the small bits of HN secret sauce I've discovered over
the years, I absolutely refuse to give you the details. If the details
were public, then some people would use them to game the system.
If another party is purposefully keeping information from me, I'm not going to feel bad for making guesses as to what's up and sharing those guesses.
That said, I don't think "open moderation" is necessarily a good thing. I like the experiment that HN is doing of secret moderation. While I like talking about how communities regulate themselves, "open moderation" usually leads to huge amounts of drama and navel-gazing. It remains to be seen if the benefits of secrecy outweigh the drawbacks.
EXAMPLE: This very post was actually submitted with the title
Yehuda Katz launches HN competitor - Lobsters
but then some mod just changed it to 'lobsters' which means absolutely nothing. How is that an improvement?
EDIT: Please invite me to Lobsters!
Sure, the edit could have been both more correct and more informative,
but most people have better things than endlessly (re)correct trivial
and inconsequential stuff like titles that might matter for only a
handful of hours.
My question for you is, "When you're on your death bed with fleeting
time left in your life, will you consider the time you spent
on this issue of title editing to be well spent or wasted?
If I don't reply, at least you'll know why.
* put a link to it at the top of HN
* expect something different to HN?
I promise to behave!
- Joshua Stein developed Lobsters by himself. Yahuda Katz was, to my knowledge, uninvolved.
- The site is invite only because, and I'm speaking for Josh here and mostly guessing (he'd be a better person to ask), it's still trying to identify itself. Communities are grown organically and I gather Josh is letting Lobsters grow slowly, intentionally. I don't think he has "launched" it, per se.
- I emailed Josh to support him when he was hellbanned (as my HN story parallels his), and a couple months after that exchange he invited me to the site. I don't participate much at all -- heads down on a product -- but I think it has potential.
- I have 5:1 odds the headline will not be fixed, even though there are three factual errors in that tiny bit of text (Katz, HN Competitor, Launched).