I've often thought that it'd be awesome if HN had ads like this, and all the money was donated to the EFF or something. No one would mind and it would give them a huge new source of funding.
If you have ever looked at an application for YC, it requires every member of the applying team to have a membership here and asks for your HN handles. If any team members do not have handles, they are required to get one in order to complete the application as that cannot be left blank. If you were an active member here for any time prior to submitting your application, your remarks here are, in some sense, part of the application. Participating here is an opportunity to showcase your skills, knowledge and general intelligence and also prove whether or not you pass the YC "don't be an asshole" rule of thumb.
That, no doubt, does quite a lot to help keep the place relatively polite and respectful since, for some people here, being an asshole can cost them a shot at potentially millions of dollars (assuming they get in and their startup is successful). Getting back at some jerk, carrying a grudge, etc just isn't worth so much if in the back of your mind you realize it could close doors to your big break. Even if you do not wish to apply to YC, enough members here are successful, influential business people that, for most members, it just does not make sense to run around pissing people off and burning bridges for shits and giggles.
HN is a pool of knowledge ranging from true-to-life successes to know-it-alls who just hang around and keep re-quoting philosophies which they never really live out.
Emphasizing on 'HN is a pool': the place is a firehose of information that drowns most minds. This like-minded community, new or old members, in turn affects each other to become passionate. That's the thing, passionate about what? How do they start spending this passion? How do they go about in creating a cable company?
There must be a way to organize this pool of thoughts and posts into digestible streams of water in which, I believe, some people or corporations would actually pay to drink from.
* "Similar" is in quotes because I believe the life blood of HN is that it serves Y-Combinator's business goals and is not merely a forum. I think that is why no one can seem to replicate it or seriously "compete" with it.
I've come to the conclusion that the best way to understand how to behave on HN is to treat HN as a place of business.
My first thought was viewing it basically like I am the customer of a place of business, and I realized that doesn't fit with what I think you mean. I wonder if that is where some people have trouble -- feeling like "hn member = hn customer" and then what follows is "the customer is always right" and seeing this like a personal playground, like a restaurant they visit or a movie theater they bought tickets to (which would fit with the demands for features, etc). So perhaps "a place where I do business" is a phrasing that more clearly conveys the attitude I think you mean. And I really like that.
Thank you for sharing that thought.
Or be mean?
Or bait arguments?
The YC partners use HN as a business tool. Founders and investors do as well. When a person shows HN their side project, it's not always just for fun.
I think treating HN like a workplace is the best way to understand the cultural expectations. HN is about helping people be productive (but not of course exclusively).
Rather something analogous to an ideal workplace in a slightly Platonic sense. Thus, treating others decently carries more weight because it facilitates their productivity.
Incidentally, Reddit isn't as profitable as you might imagine, given its immense traffic and highly specific demographics.
I am also sure it brings pleasure to its creator - which is not to be undervalued.