Make of that what you will.
Just gathered some stats from my browser by loading the link we are on: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4973322
921ms (onload: 949ms, DOMContentLoaded: 927ms
1.29s (onload: 1.30s, DOMContentLoaded: 1.12s)
Most weird. I think it might be a problem getting the CSS, but I simply cant see why.
Should add, I have not been notified in any way that this has or might have happened. I know of know reason why it should, I have always tried to respect this community. If it has happened behind my back, then I would be quite appalled. At the very, very least, I would expect to be told. And yes, I use a proper email account. Besides, I emailed the site and got no reply.
The problem with hell-banning is that for users that post a lot of comments, they'll soon realize that they are hell-banned and trolls (in particular) can only be stopped if they are genuinely ignored.
For this reason, if you want to stop trolls, slow-banning could be a good alternative by making usage of the site unpleasant. This way they can still interact with others, but it will be painful for them to do so.
I agree that these methods are passive-aggressive and shouldn't be used on non-trolls, even if such people do not comply with the community's guidelines. The problem with this site is that user accounts do not have emails attached ... as a much more effective method for making most users behave according to guidelines would be to send them a warning.
"why did that user get banned?"
"they were a troll"
"ah, okay. that's fine then, seeing how I am not banned this must be totally legit. damn trolls!"
What if users had a killfile for their account? Seems more meritocratic than hellbanning at least, if I can just choose who I want to ignore or not, and if you can tolerate someone, then they're alive for you.
Most sites have a capability where they can flash a message to a user the next time they log in. Such a message could link to the flagged comment in question and point out what was wrong about the comment.
But really, HN is not a democracy, or transparent, or really anything other than pg's playground. So it's up to him, and clearly he's chosen to put avoiding confrontation first.