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It's pretty grim. I think that's one of the reasons I write fewer essays now.

After I wrote this one, I had to go back and armor it by pre-empting anything I could imagine anyone willfully misunderstanding to use as a weapon in comment threads. The whole of footnote 1 is such armor for example. I essentially anticipated all the "No, what I said was" type comments I'd have had to make on HN and just included them in the essay.

It's a uniquely bad combination to both write essays and run a forum. It's like having comments enabled on your blog whether you want them or not.




Well, I still enjoy your essays. Let this comment be the generic encouragement of those who aren't trying to pointless dispute and who are usually silent.

At least some of the people who are questioning you are probably doing so out of intellectual curiosity, rather than animosity. You probably know that intellectually, but for many people—including me—it's sometimes hard to remember that in the heat of the reading moment.


I hope this buried comment isn't overlooked, but let me caution the reader that intellectual curiosity is often interpreted as animosity. It took me many years to realize that my constant barrage of questions on, well, anything was offputing to a significant fraction of people I interacted with. Perhaps this is obvious to many of you, but it was not to me.


Having people pick over every detail of what I write is something I like about HN -- it forces me to think more carefully about what I'm saying, and on a few occasions (tptacek, I'm looking at you) has even prompted me to go back and write further blog posts about specific points.

Of course, my blog posts don't get nearly as much attention as your essays, and I don't have the problem of having people try to draw attention to themselves in the hopes of being remembered when applications are considered for the next YC round.


I can't tell here if you're just off-hand mentioning something you like about HN, or if you're also suggesting that it's something other people should like too.

Your posts are more technical in nature, and can benefit from debate. Other people might write things that are more personal, or opinion, or thinking-aloud, and while a little bit of good-natured feedback from trusted people might be appreciated, lots of nitpicking and debate and very public arguing is not.


I can't tell here if you're just off-hand mentioning something you like about HN, or if you're also suggesting that it's something other people should like too.

The point I was trying to make was that I would be disappointed if what pg clearly saw as a problem was "fixed", because for me it's a feature.


For you it is, for others it is not. You would be disappointed, others would be contented.

(I'm not picking on you btw, I have a tremendous amount of respect for you. But I don't think your desire for debate on what you write is suitable justification for other people putting up with the same, especially when it's discouraging them from writing.)


I claim no privileged position for my preferences. I was just stating what they were. :-)


You should have preempted this thread with more armor.


> I had to go back and armor it by pre-empting anything I could imagine anyone willfully misunderstanding to use as a weapon in comment threads

This is perhaps the worst thing about discourse on the internet. If you and I were having a conversation in room, you'd never pretend to not understand me to rip into me (maybe to understand my point better.) But on the internet, so many people are just trying to score points that it's nearly impossible to have a conversation.


PG, thanks for writing the essays. They're definitely thought-provoking and a lot of people appreciate them. Keep writing. :)


Two thoughts.

1, that's terrible. So many benefit from the ability to read (and interact with) your opinions. It's so much more valuable than a random once-off Reddit AMA. It's a shame the value is reduced through the actions of a few.

2, this community attracts young smart people, exactly those who might want to match wits with you. Some of it is valuable, some is just annoying. I'm reminded of the niceness value in discussion; if everyone was nice about it, maybe you wouldn't feel as apprehensive or besieged and we could still have a good debate to extract the maximum benefit.

In the end, I hope you find some way to care less about the opinions, because what you do and write about are so valuable. In the spirit of "If you aren't writing enough wrong stuff, maybe you're being too cautious."


After I wrote this one, I had to go back and armor it by pre-empting anything I could imagine anyone willfully misunderstanding to use as a weapon in comment threads. The whole of footnote 1 is such armor for example.

You don't give your detractors enough credit. Many of these misunderstandings are not willful, and actively seeking to avoid them is almost always good practice on your part. (In my opinion.) For the record, I found footnote 1 illuminating.

I'm sure that the intense scrutiny you get would annoy any writer. But I think it genuinely makes your essays stronger, too, and I hope you don't hate it too much.


When I saw this comment (before reading the essay) I was ready to decry this armoring. But now, having read the essay, I think it's a good thing. This essay flows nicely and is clear. Footnote 1 is a good clarification, especially if someone hadn't read your other essays.

I think at least half of the misunderstandings that arise in HN comment threads are honest misunderstandings.


That seems a reasonable estimate, but it means up to half are dishonest misunderstandings, which is quite a lot if you think about it.




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