That's pretty pathetic if true. If you're going to ban someone, just man up and ban them. Passive-aggressive methods like that feel like they're straight out of a playground. Although I guess some of silicon valley acts like a playground, so that makes sense.
I could prove it to you, I still should have the credentials for 5+ hellbanned accounts. I will admit I tended to be flamey at times, so I'm not saying it was entirely unfair; but it also made me feel like one-upping HN at times. I think a message along the lines of "your account has been suspended for a week, stop being a dick" would have worked much better than being punished in such a low way, without even knowing for what exactly. But I stuck around and realized there's plenty of great posters here, and looking how long an account lasts before stepping over some invisible line or other has become kind of a game for me. I got used to it ^^ The way I see it, if what you say doesn't make a person with power/privileges feel sore every now and then you're too tame :)
The point of hell-banning would be to make the user leave the community without him noticing that he was banned, because if he does notice, all he has to do would be to create a new account. This works by not showing his comments to others, which in return means that the user will not get any conversations going or any upvotes and pretty soon he'll start thinking that the others are ignoring him completely, which is in general a good incentive for someone to leave a community.
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.
The only difference between a troll and someone who is misinformed or sloppy is intention; a troll is dense/wrong/mean on purpose, and not because they're actually ignorant or annoyed. It's an action a person can engage in; it's not really a type of person. But these days, "troll" often enough seems to just mean "too stupid to reason with", or is even just a cop out to not reason at all.. it's quite the convenient catch-all label that way.
"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!"
trolls (in particular) can only be stopped if they are genuinely ignored.
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.
> 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.
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.