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Tell HN: You guys scared edw519 off Hacker News
120 points by Xcelerate on Feb 21, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 50 comments
Which is a pity, because he had some really good comments. Here's his comments:


His last post was 37 days ago. Years of high quality posts, one "debatable" comment, a great deal of criticism, then he's gone.

So... Basically, we have a group of people that is really pissed off at someone who made an insensitive comment to a person who ended up killing themselves.

This same group of people then responds by making an entire series of angry comments towards the same person. A person that is probably pretty fucked up right now by the fact that someone he was recently unkind to ended up committing suicide for a reason that's at most, marginally related to his dickish comment. Congratulations, now you are all edw519.

How many of us have made a comment to someone, whether on the Internet, or in person, that we later regretted? How many of us have entered a conversation with the assumption that we knew the whole story, when in fact we were misinformed? How many of us have ever made fun of anyone, ever? I don't have any extensive data to back me up, but I suspect the number is pretty fucking close to 100 percent for each person on all three counts.

Didn't like edw519's comment about not being willing to comment so soon? Me neither, but I understand that when I seriously fuck something up, it might take me a little while to collect my thoughts.

If you haven't had moments when you thought "Never again" about HN, then you haven't been here long enough. If you haven't taken any extended breaks (weeks/months) from interacting on HN or even visiting HN, then you haven't been here long enough.

Maybe edw519 is taking a well deserved break? Then again, maybe he has left for good? Of course, maybe he got tired of the endless argument that is the current state of HN? But also, there may be some other reason?

HN has changed. In fact, HN has been constantly changing since its inception as "Startup News" six years ago. You might consider the changes to be "good," or you might consider the changes to be "bad," but either way, the rate change is fairly consistent.

pg (and RTM, and TLB, and JL, and ...) has found technical countermeasures for many of the common ailments of discussion systems. Sadly, a lot of the advancements are not public, but if you pay attention and have a lot of free time to invest in studying, you might see some of them at work here on HN. The trouble is, no matter how bright these people are, they can't mitigate all of worst parts of human nature, and particularly, they haven't managed to compensate for the human propensity to disagree [1].

Though it sure seems as if most of the newer HN members haven't read Paul's "disagree" essay (linked below), Paul was still prescient enough to realize HN could (d)evolve into an "argument site," rather than a "contribution site," and the result of the rise as an argument based site would be driving away the contributors.

Whether we've quietly lost another great contributor with edw519 is yet to be seen, but if he is gone, he'll be missed by me and most likely many others.

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html

It's entirely possible that he was silentbanned and has been trying to post the entire time but HN is silently rejecting his posts. This happened to my primary account at around the same time edw519 stopped posting. I took a similar position about the Scwhartz situation in my comments on that account. I can log in with that account, but attempting to post comments will either mysteriously time out or no comments will be posted (even with showdead) after a minute or two of pageloading. (This is not a connection issue; posting from this account never has such lag.)

If he was silentbanned, he'll be able to post again the next time management lifts the silentbans.

No, because anyone with showdead turned on would see that.

I believe there is another step beneath hellbanning where it doesn't show up at all.

No, there isn't. Nor for that matter is edw519 banned in any way.

Double secret probation, just admit it.

Feature request: below a certain threshold, recolor each letter of comment in alternating circus colors.

Easy enough to do yourself -- just write a userscript to look for

  <font color=#e6e6e6>
in the case of the parent comment, and then do some simple monkeying with the inner HTML (the comment).

If this is really the case, perhaps he does not wish to return to a site that silentbanned him for having a dissenting opinion.

It isn't silentbanned but slowbanned, hacker news gets very very slow and almost impossible to use unless you wait the very long times to post your dead comment.

Is it HN who scared edw519 off or was it TechCrunch?


That TechCrunch article makes no sense. They accuse edw519 of doing a "complete 180 degree turn" because he first said said Aaron Swartz "should take responsibility for his actions," and later said he was stunned and heartbroken by his death.

Unless you interpret "take responsibility for his actions" as a samurai would, there's no inconsistency here.

Hmm... Could someone explain the HN rating system to me? It's weird, because my post was at #4, then it jumped down to #17, moved up to #15 and then jumped back to #17. Is there some sort of non-deterministic attribute used when sorting posts, to prevent bots/etc. from posting? Or maybe I'm just misunderstanding how this works. I've also noticed that "text-posts" seem to be ranked less than "submission" posts. Does this actually happen or am I just imagining things?

People have flagged your post. It probably will be thrown out of front page soon!

Oh gee! That's not good. I wasn't aware of any rule I violated... what is the reason for the flagging?

I have a feeling I'll regret this, but I flagged your post because:

1. In general, meta discussion like this does not improve HN, but is a distraction from useful content and discussion.

2. It's none of your business how edw519 chooses to spend his time.

If you want to start some kind of crusade, either to bring edw519 back or prevent HNers from "scaring people off" in the future, I think you're fighting a losing battle. If you valued his contribution so much, why not follow his example and contribute positively instead?

Flagging isn't a "this person broke the rules" thing so much as a "this post is inappropriate or harmful to the site" thing.

"Meta" discussion tends to get flagged heavily, because a lot of people feel like, "I'm here for interesting discussion about hacking and entrepreneurship, not to watch Hacker News stare at its own navel." It's basically off-topic.

Posts about individual HN posters also seem to get a lot of flags, as many people find it kind of creepy and/or invasive.

The unwritten rule of not forcing painful introspection onto people.

Hey, Ed, whatever's going on, I've appreciated encountering your insightful commentary here, over the years.

For those asking who Ed is, the OP link (albeit unlinkified) to Ed's comment threads (and so, to his profile) is a good place to start.

Ed's average comment score, per his HN profile (so, across his most recent X comments, with outlier(s) discarded), is circa 25.

People take 30+ day breaks from HN all the time.

The 'edw519 bashing thread was extremely stupid and aggressively rude, but nobody who's been on HN as long as he has can really be unprepared for atavistic shitshows.

Just going to hijack your comment to let folk know that I've been in touch with Ed today and he's doing perfectly fine, just exceptionally busy lately.

Well, sorry then, this is extremely stupid and aggressively rude of you. edw519 said something outrageous. "we are the family", ya right...

You should have stopped with your first line instead of bashing the others.

These tweets he made last month seem somewhat relevant:




I tweeted this thread to him, but he hasn't been on Twitter in nearly a week so I doubt he'll reply anytime soon.

> The past 24 hours confirms Hacker News is both a kind caring supportive community and a bunch of people who talk when they should listen.

Personally, it wasn't his comments to Aaron that bothered me so much as ones similar to this tweet. I think the fellow has no humility.

Let's see. Extra-length comments that always say all the right things, something to nod along appreciatively, just what the public ordered. A metric ton of life experience, filled with an insight to the brim and a story to tell for every situation.

Sorry, but this sort of comments don't feel genuine. Like something that was written with one goal in mind - to be upvoted.

So "scared off HN"? Right, right, but no. I think it's far more complicated than that.

.01% of 150,000 users is 150 idiots. Size brings them out, the bigger the soapbox the more vicious they become. If you want to get depressed read some of the dead ones, very very sad.

Anonymity has made us all very relentless commentators. Perhaps if we were to speak as if everybody were in the room with us we would own our opinions and form conversations to the likes of round-table discussions, rather than ganging up on a person with a different view.

Not everybody has to agree, it is not productive to try and change others' beliefs in a hateful manner. The Internet is written in permanent marker, it's just going to add to the hate out there already, clogging up our mind tubes.

What a shame, for humanity and technological advancement. Aaron would have advocated for his right to post, even if he believed differently. So glad this made the front page.

I occasionally say controversial things. And get into heated discussions. Here and elsewhere; I recently had a bit of a bunfight with a very good friend on Facebook, of all the stupid places to be stupidly stupid in public.

Usually the best part of such occasions is when I walk away and forget about it. I did that with Swartz's suicide. After the first discussion I just didn't click through to other discussions.

Often, when I take a break from a site, what is meant to be a short holiday turns into a few months. Or a permanent thing.

If a website makes you unhappy, why waste your time and stamina there?

If Aaron hadn't of killed himself then this issue wouldnt have come up. People felt bad because the whole community seems to have felt the same way at that time with the knowledge they had.

Unfortunately in such a big community you get a lot of people that need a scapegoat that they can blame and in this case Edw519 was one of them.

I dont blame him for leaving the community to be honest. It's not what it once was and may be not worth his time and energy if he feels he's not getting much back.

So, honest question, who is this for? You? Him? Everyone?

"You scared him away." Okay, why did we scare him away? Why does it matter?

As a reader, I'm left wondering who this person is and why I should feel bad about this. I don't mean they weren't a valuable contributor or whatever, I just mean, why am I being asked to feel guilty/outraged over this?

If you don't like reading his comments, obviously it doesn't matter to you. To people who liked reading his comments enough to recognize him (I have no clue who he is), it obviously does matter.

Xcelerate felt as if he was a valued member that would be missed, he made it clear in the OP. If you don't care about him and didn't chase him away, there's no need to feel guilty or stick around in this thread.

EDIT: Sounded kinda dickish myself at first so I edited before I saw your reply. My bad.

I didn't dislike his comments! If anything I probably enjoyed them, from what I remember. It's just this whole post reeks of "YOU BULLIES GOT WHAT WAS COMING TO YOU", which makes me wonder, who were the bullies? And how did they get what was coming to them? I don't mean that as snark, I mean that as an honest question. What's the lesson we're supposed to learn from this, if any?

> "What's the lesson we're supposed to learn from this, if any?"

1 - Put down the pitchforks.

2 - Be good to one another.

I'm very much sounding like a broken record these days, but even predating aaronsw's suicide, the Tesla-NYT debacle, and recent newsworthy events, HN's crowd has been quickly descending into Reddit/4chan level of hysteria. Every news item has been spun to its most sensational extent (and then some), and the membership take turns shaking pitchforks and burning effigies of whatever simplistic villain we've decided was worthy of our collective rage today.

It could be Ortiz, or Aaron, or Broder, or Musk. This community has become less empathetic over time, more verbally violent, less rational, more prone to sweeping judgment, and much more absolutist. I am not enjoying this shift in attitudes at all.

I think the take away should be that if anyone missed him, they should try to reach out to him and see if he's willing/planning on coming back.

All of us have been bullies at different times in our lives, even if it was just for a moment. No one's perfect, and what happened to edw519 could have happened to anyone. The mob mentality some people adopt in these situations just proves it.

Can somebody please give me some background to this? Who is edw519?

He's the 4th most upvoted HN user:


(pg is the first, but is not listed there :)


"The past 24 hours confirms Hacker News is both a kind caring supportive community and a bunch of people who talk when they should listen."

Hits the nail right on the head. (Exhibit A right here.)

We all make comments (whether it be online or in person) that are somewhat knee-jerk and perhaps true representations of what we're really thinking.

Some people do that more than others and some people don't care about the context in which those comments are made.

We also make judgements that can change every second of the day.

I think both edw519 and HN as a community put their thoughts down in line with what I mentioned above and done so in light of a very sensitive matter.

I have no doubt edw519 will be back, perhaps under a pseudonym. At least I hope.

Hahaha. Everyone is afraid to leave a comment here.

Hammm if everyone is afraid to leave a comment because they can be banned , then something is wrong here. (although i am not sure what this topic is all about and who is edw519)

Behind an 'internet persona' there is a real person with feelings. Did edw519 remember that? For once, no. Does the community remember that? Never.

The lack of humanity and cynism in the whole edw519 bashing process showed that many HN users lack manners and suffer from EQ deficit.

Instead of protecting a person from public bashing from a very low standart publication, we jumped in the bashing wagon.

Who is edw519?

A long-time, generally well-regarded, contributor to HN. His account is almost as old as the site itself, and if retaining the culture of HN (as found during its early years) is of value, it's likely that keeping him around is also of value.


And... yep, it looks like this submission is getting heavily flagged.

Can someone please provide a background ? who is edw519?

He made some insensitive comments about/to Aaron Swartz before Swartz committed suicide, and some sympathetic (and not representative of his comments prior to the suicide) comments afterward. Those comments probably had little to do with Swartz' death and changing one's mind about something probably shouldn't be a crime, but the Internet is reactionary, and pitch forks were brandished.

He may also simply be on vacation from HN. I sometimes go a month or two between posting. But, then, I've never been as active here as Ed.

When you tell a guy in distress to "man up" (an opinion that was obviously upvoted by many in HN) and the guy ends up committing suicide, then, fair or not, you gotta take a hike. Or else someone will start a shitstorm in your direction (in this case it was Arrington/TC) and enough people will support that shitstorm just like enough people supported his dick-ish comments. It doesn't really matter if they all start eventually sounding like the guy they are directing their anger towards. Ed should have simply stayed quiet on Aaron-related threads instead of offering condolences - it was bound to tick off many.

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