With all these extremely knowledgeable people from different fields, I wish I found more big picture insights in the comments here.
FWIW, my current theory is that the problem is not the comments themselves, but the upvotes. There are often moderately stupid comments far down the page in any given thread, but they're comparatively harmless, like someone walking down the street mumbling to himself. The problem is that there's a type of stupid comment that attracts upvotes from a certain type of user. If we can recognize either the comments or the upvoters, we can solve the problem. I've been collecting a corpus of them for a while; it may soon be big enough to be useful.
I think the problem you describe is in essence the need for an automatic trust inference that recognises that worthwhile participants often certify badly and knows how to "prune" the set of tolerated participants down to those whose voting activity is high quality.
Advogato hasn't really been successful overall (Steven Rainwater suspended new account creation a year ago), but there are many successes in its history (it has been run with very little intervention for over 10 years, and generally succeeded in separating spammers from free-software types for most of that period) and its experience is probably worth studying.
It requires much more forum experience to identify what kind of comment causes insipid comment threads than it does to write a good comment in the first place.
That said, you could probably just measure someone's comment quality and their vote quality independently and get a lot of the benefit, with fewer errors from rigid categorization.
I see that you deem these comments to be comparatively harmless, but nevertheless to combat this one relatively simple idea is to implement a 'Request deletion' feature, sitting alongside the 'flag' link on comment headers, that would notify the user that the comment they've made isn't very useful/substantive/thoughtful, and if they delete it (as other users have requested) they can re-earn any karma points they may have lost (as an incentive to encourage them to go on with the comment deletion).
I think something like this would be very appropriate for a lot of occasions, it's something between a 'downvote' and 'flag' in intensity -- a downvote is too soft; 'flag' is too strong. I think it would send a good hint to have one reconsider what they've said, and have a lasting effect on the kinds of comments they make down the line.
> I've been collecting a corpus of them for a while; it may soon be big enough to be useful.
If you end up doing this I hope you only take into account the first few critical upvotes that send a particular bad comment to the top of the page. Because, I think 'upvoting' is a very passive, sometimes thoughtless action to a lot of people: if a comment is at the top, they'll read it first, and if it has non-zero substance to it (i.e. it attacks the article on a minor nitpick (which is your definition of a 'stupid comment' in this context, I think)) they may very well upvote it making the cycle complete.
I know I personally have dismissed down voting several "middlebrow dismissals" in the past because they seemed like valid counter arguments whereas outright useless comments like "lol this sucks" are easy for me to clearly distinguish. Maybe the rules just need adjusting to discourage mean comments whether or not the argument is valid? Is that the core problem?
Once I've decided not to read a subthread, it's a little frustrating to try to guess where to scroll to find the next constructive comment.
If collapsing can be linked to voting or thread positioning it'd be useful. Collapsing a thread means it's not very good and thus should be further down the page.
There is an extension / addon somewhere that does thread collapsing on HN. A web search should find at least one.
 or maybe it just means that you're read it and are keeping the page tidy.
Additionally, if people mark as insightful things that are obviosly inane, that might help to hellban the voting rings, whereas hellbanning people just for agreeing with a particular kind of stupid comment might be less fair.
I've once or twice realized some longer term implication of something overnight after reading an article on HN; unfortunately, I don't remember at this point what the article was or what I realized in terms of the bigger implication. But in general, it seems like HN's structure makes it unlikely that you'll get a discussion if you comment on the article a day later. The solution may be to write a blog post and try to get it upvoted at the story level, but I'm not sure if that's the right answer to preserving the structure of which things are related to which others.
So what we're talking about would be a +1 on the "Affirming the consequent and denying the antecedent" anti-pattern, more or less?
Wikipedia has a nice list of fallacies which would make interesting tags.
One thing I know for certain is people like to imagine they personally invented their own fallacy, and get all outta whack if you identify their wisdom/insight as merely a poorly implemented manifestation of fallacy type #34 with aspects of type #11.
For example discussions of scalability always seem to devolve into steaming buckets of pragmatic fallacy and it would be interesting to filter out because its pretty tiresome. Someone who's a total noob might actually want it because a poor map is better than no map at all, or at least they can skim some definitions out of context. Or, personally I think amphiboly is hilarious and I'd filter it up by +100, although it adds absolutely nothing to a discussion other than joy in my life, however I can see how someone could get sick of it and want to filter it out if they were looking for actual knowledge rather than a rare laugh.
The further away a user is from an original deputy, the more X and Y increase before a new person is deputized.
Hopefully, this will give you a class of users who tend to vote intelligently and comment with information that adds to the converation. Votes by these users would carry more weight than the general community.
Edit: It also automates the process so you don't have to hand pick more than the original deputies.
But I think what you're essentially talking about is user reputation - the idea that the opinions of certain people weighs stronger than others. I think there's merit to that.
The upvotes of a person with a high reputation on HN would weigh more than someone else. Reputation could be determined by any number of ways (has authored comments of high value, is manually designated by HN as reputable, has been active in the last N number of days, etc).
The X in my equation accounts for that. You'd need several different deputies to upvote (endorse) a user before it'll deputize them. You couldn't deputize someone on your own.
The Y in the equation means that each deputy would have to have a history of upvoting someone more than once. So you couldn't immediately deputize someone.
There should also be a time limit. Only upvotes cast within Z hours would count in the system. Also, only 1 upvote counts within A hours. This prevents someone from going into a comment history and upvoting past comments.
Even though I think that I'm accounting for cheating, I also believe the system should be hidden from the users. This way no one knows if they've been deputized and they also don't know how to deputize someone else.
"Reputation could be determined by any number of ways (has authored comments of high value"
The trouble with a generic reputation system that values only votes is that it allows for people with any kind of comment (pedantic) to get reputation. My deputy system gives power to a few trusted users and allows that power to slowly trickle down. Hopefully, it'll sculpt the top comments and posts to what PG envisions for the site.
That said, I do think they often take away from detailed and serious discussion of the article, and there may be some problem with the way that they absorb upvotes and end up at the top of the page, but I don't see the general dynamic as particularly troublesome (unless you are trying to produce conformity in opinion among participants, the often problem of benevolent overlords who don't like to see strife amongst their minions).
It might be awkward to call someone out, but I'd love to see example(s).
My rate of upvoting things out of there that hit the front page is obscene, at least 50%. Assuming that is typical, that means very few people are monitoring that page. I personally would probably not do more of this for karma but I'd imagine many people would. And it may instantly solve the problem of hitting the frontpage being a lottery or determined by manipulation/voting rings etc.
It would help if there are official guidelines on up/down votes just as there are on submissions and comments.
I'd be curious on others' thoughts on schemes like this.
It's perhaps also worth noting that the "bogus upvote" problem is in some way related to some other social problems which we struggle with. Spam, and the wrong person using a password, both seem to me to be a reflection of social problems reflected by system design.
For spam, there's no way to ask the supposed origin mail server "is this from:, to:, message-id: combo a plausibly legit in-flight message?" Because some systems cannot handle that functionality efficiently, mail standards people have rejected it (and similar approaches, perhaps identifying a sequence of mail servers, perhaps involving multiple queries when mailing lists are involved) for the multitude of cases where it makes sense. But note that you do not need perfection here, to massively reduce spam volume. Note also that there are efficiency arguments, here, but the original protocol worked fine on machines with <64k memory and ~1MHz clocks.
Passwords and authentication protocols and buffer overflows are a more complex issue, and I'm drifting dangerously off subject already. But that's another issue, I think, where "design efficiencies" and "overly focussed thinking" sometimes bite us. (And perhaps sometimes benefit us, but how can we even measure this?)
Anyways, trying to get back on topic, personally, I have little faith in upvotes here, not even my own, so mostly I rely on friends to point out if there's anything worthwhile here, for me to read.
It's a triangle, someone clicked on it. Counters are a good first pass, for filtering bulk raw information and indicating things to focus on, but they are not the end-all and be-all for good ui design. Borrowing wholesale from stack overflow might be good, or maybe some variant would also be plausible (like, maybe: when replying, let people with parent posts weight child posts under theirs that they found helpful, giving some fraction of the total weight of upvotes in any child posts of their parent post to posts they want to highlight. This should be adjustable, in some simple way, or we live with accidents. There's also an issue when one person has multiple parents but maybe it's best to default to the top level eligible parent.)
My above parenthetical suggestion is not perfect, but it might help for distinguishing between some sincere and insincere replies. Another approach might be to give the user some "downvote" ability - abiding by the original site design, these need not be preserved for others (it's a personal decision, after all).
Ultimately, to really get this right, I would want to be able to segregate other voters into "agree" / "disagree" / "irrelevant" buckets based on a label which reflected my current point of view, and have the content displayed based on that categorization. But that's a much harder problem.
I think it's the same here. People can have opinions, but once says Microsoft is great and open source sucks or something like that, you're already past the point of no return, it's inevitable the thread or sub-thread will devolve into a flame war.
Certain threads are this way starting from the original topic. Like the threads, amidst the recent threads of falling programmer salaries (or perhaps mentions of the historically high unemployment rates) of the desire of the SV barons to raise the H1B cap. This again is guaranteed to degenerate into a flame war.
My unscientific study of HN is that someone can get a lot of karma for saying why they think Obama is good or bad or the like. A post on that guarantees a dozen upvotes. Someone making a cogent comment on how a company should limit the scope of what parts of C++ they use is not going to get as much karma.
I have been on BBSs since the 1980s. The real problem of a forum is this. It has a handful of very sharp, interesting people who like communicating with each other and who write good posts. Then you get some blabbermouths who post and post and post and fill the boards up with junk. Then the good people leave. The good people leaving is the problem.
I don't think flames are the only thing to be concerned with. Blabbermouths who have nothing to say kill boards as well. Have flamewars killed the Linux kernel mailing list? Just as long as things are kept under control. The NetBSD/OpenBSD flamewar got out of control.
Slashdot is a board that was good and had its founders leave and is all corporate and user-view baiting now. What are its topics right now? "Google's Nexus Q Successor Hits the FCC". Who cares? "John McAfee's Belize Home Burns To Ground". I can survive a few weeks without an update on McAfee. "NetBSD 6.1 Has Shipped". Something only the dwindling remainder of NetBSD fanbois care about.
Certain topics and upvoted threads, once existing, are going to turn into a flamewar no matter what. It has to be rooted out early on for anything to be effective.
(I see this as a sign that the flag link is properly used to mark dupes, spam, and inappropriate content, so there is a silver lining.)
As they say, you don't have to play the violin at all or as well as Yehudi Menuhin to be able to point out that he just missed a note. Criticism is easy, creation is hard.
I think it's important to note that comments can point out (even minor) factual inaccuracies in an article without being dismissive or insulting. I find that type of comment tremendously valuable for articles with topics outside of fields I am learned in.
Usually directly skipping half the page takes you to the actual discussion. I think it could be interesting to add a pivot that moves that comment and it's discussion to the bottom (but probably above downvoted comments) when it reaches a certain length. It could still keep it's votes and so on.
> With all these extremely knowledgeable people from different fields, I wish I found more big picture insights in the comments here.
The signal to noise ratio is still pretty good, and sometimes there are great posts.
Better flagging (and less upvoting) of the stupid politics / news dross would help.
I'm curious because a large community will probably change the behavior of all individuals, regardless of quality. One such effect is they way discussions happen. In a village, town halls can have discussions with every member. An idea is brought forth, multiple people make changes, it gets amended, reworked, changed. In short, topics have some amount of "persistence", and opinions have more dynamism.
In a city, discussions are more like a broadcast: any member might be able to speak, but they're not sparking discussion, they're broadcasting a point of view, and with so many points of view broadcast at any given moment, it's hard to have a discussion that lasts more than a few hours before the next topic of interest is brought forth. In short, topics seem to have little persistence, and opinions have far less dynamism.
It seems much more rewarding in a city to make comments designed to convince the audience of how intelligent I am, because I only have the city's attention for a moment. Perhaps this leads to the preponderance of middlebrow dismissals or other "how can I look smart here?" comments. In a village, by contrast, these comments are much less lucrative. If I walk around and the only comment I can give to others is that their new crop idea might not work, I'm probably not going to be very valued, because people will notice over time that those are the only comments I give.
It's difficult for me to articulate quite what I mean, perhaps someone could help.
It's still possible, even on the HN of today. Focused technical articles, which are not conventionally controversial, often produce the most valuable discussions to me. They may only have on the order of 30 comments, but those commenters are either interested in learning about the topic, or knowledgable of the topic.
Someone who takes more time (relative to the time the link was posted) to make a reasoned argument with many words (a paragraph or two) will start lower down and have a lower chance of getting up votes as it takes more effort read the entire comment.
In other words those that take more time to consider what they post are effectively punished compared to those that post quickly and wittily.
There's nothing wrong with subdividing a group that gets too large, the problem is there is no obvious impetus to do that.
How about just arbitrary partitions? Create random sub-communities of 500 active users, show stores submitted between those 500 first, then those top stories to the rest of hacker news. That kills three birds with one stone: You get smaller community thinking, people are more willing to submit stories to smaller groups, and people are more willing to see new stories.
There's tones of ways you can subdivide a community! I am envious of their opportunity to try something. Hacker News is free, they can do what they want! They should have some fun with it.
HN is good because of the quality of the submissions... which is still slightly questionable at times, and I've only been around here for a couple years, not long enough to assess whether it's dropped dramatically.
Average quality of comments drop with the quantity of users; that's something anyone who's run any number of web forums knows. Unfortunately, because the users also curate HN's content collectively, despite any weighting that might go on, a higher number of users leading to a lower quality of content will also lead to a lower quality of curation.
This is why Slashdot's article content varies with the quality of the editors, largely independent of the quality of comments. HN doesn't have that advantage, or any of the disadvantages that come with it. They're interesting foils in this case.
And there are plenty more incidents like this.
tptacek's comment also mentions another hellban tragedy: 'Paul Graham personally hellbanned Maciej Ceglowski for calling Sebastian Marshall a "prolix douchebag". Maciej's comment was not a high point of Hacker News decorum and in that instance probably degraded the site slightly, but no reasonable person could have looked at 'idlewords comment record and not come to the conclusion that Maciej is someone we want on the site.'
Has this tragedy been told from another viewpoint? Joshua's telling characterises pg/ the modocracy as being almost implausibly high-handed.
Would you wish that on anyone, even if they were annoying or angry or wrong?
What would you suggest that we do with posters like losethos, if not hellbanning? The guy knows he is hellbanned, and has at various times made new accounts (which also get hellbanned). A regular banning would just have him creating new accounts anyway, so you may as well just let him keep his regular account. In elementary school people like him would be removed from the normal student population and given special attention/treatment, but that is not an option for HN.
If a hellbanned user is supposed to get frustrated by the lack of replies to their posts and then go away, then it doesn't. You're not supposed to ever know it's there, after all, and you're not supposed to be willing to put up with it.
In the case of someone who might not care about being replied to, or who just doesn't notice they're never being replied to (entirely possible if they don't post often), being hellbanned doesn't work. It's security through obscurity.
And as a result of hellbanning, people can become paranoid about speaking their opinion because they never really know if they're actually participating in a conversation or if the system has decided to make a silent mockery of them.
That is part of the beauty of hellbanning, if you realize you have been hellbanned, give up and leave... then great! If you realize you have been hellbanned, don't care and keep on posting... then great! If you realize that you have been hellbanned, come back with a new account and keep it up, you'll be hellbanned again (and quickly. losethos's new account was hellbanned again with its first comment... so great!) If you realize that you have been hellbanned, come back with a new account and clean up your act... then great! If you don't realize that you have been hellbanned... then great!
Hellbanning is not about security; it is about removing people from the conversation. For that it works wonderfully (though I would argue that it is actually too hard to become hellbanned).
IMHO, hellbanning is both cruel and damaging - the community may lose potential interesting contributions.
For example, I've watched a bit of what losethos wrote for his 64 bit OS - it's an interesting approach. There are not so much at the time, but he seems to submit articles time to time.
I sometimes even read losethos comments, which sound to me like hybrid talk from Galactica. Words linked by references obscure to me, but which still might have a sense (the old greeks did believe in Oracles, so do I. My fault: I shouldn't be a believer, and just accept the traditional medical theory who claims it's just nonsense)
I also have showdead enabled, mostly because I like to look back in hellbanned posters histories and see why they were hellbanned. In very few cases do I find someone for which I don't understand the hellbanning. In those cases I usually try to give the person a heads up, but in the vast majority of the cases I realize that the person was excessively abusive, spamming their pet project, participating at a stereotypically "reddit" level, or otherwise submitting crap.
(Also, I am pretty certain that losethos's comments are computer generated. He thinks that a god talks to him through a RNG when he initializes markov chains with the bible or something... Any meaning derived from what he says after "god says:" is likely just apophenia)
> Hellbanning is not about security; it is about removing
> people from the conversation. For that it works wonderfully
> (though I would argue that it is actually too hard to
> become hellbanned).
clobber 8 hours ago | link | parent [dead]
As someone who is posting from a recently hellbanned account, I can say you easily know you're hellbanned when the site becomes unbearably slow (by design as that's what hellbanning also does) and in the case of losethos, he just made a new account: SparrowOS. Why not just "hide" those posts but still let people reply to them if showdead is on? It's really cruel in the case of someone like losethos.
For the part about "removing people from the conversation" - what about when it's a single post or one that rubs a moderator the wrong way? Or say your comment was made to a friend/partner of a VC and they didn't appreciate the dissent? I've seen some very old accounts hellbanned that racked up thousands of karma and were stilled wiped out from a single post, maybe because they didn't want to toe a particular line.
The fact that HN is tied to YC and not independently/transparently run by users means it's open for conflicts of interest and possible "abuse" as it is certainly no democracy - and the rules could never be applied evenly or fairly. Since it's grown into something more from when it started, it should be spun off from YC the same way reddit was made (somewhat) independent of Conde Nast.
There is no "beauty" to hellbanning. It's a bad form of censorship and moderation and only leads to resentment. It's worse than downvoting without a reply because you've essentially told someone to "fuck off" when a mod disagreed. I've felt this way about hellbanning way before I was hellbanned.
Insulting your downvoters and calling people psychopaths is toxic. He would be wise to refrain from doing so in the future if he wants to continue contributing here.
Also, as far as I know most (all?) hellbannings are triggered by downvoting, not mods. It certainly seems likely that in his case it was triggered by downvotes.
calling people psychopaths is toxic
I agree, and this is what makes it tricky for me. But I think the problem here is with the opinion itself, rather than the way it is expressed. I don't know Andrew, and don't wish to insult him. But some reasonable recent research suggests that 4% of CEO's are clinical psychopaths. Is this possibility simply off limits to discuss here? Maybe it needs to be, or maybe there is some way it can be approached more tactfully.
We'll have to agree to disagree about whether that kind of censorship is ever really 'great' for a forum or not. I find the whole idea cynical and offensive.
I don't think that Losethos should be the standard by which we should judge the merit of hellbanning. Yes, seeing his posts plain would probably be irritating (though I have showdead on and I can see them anyway.) No, his being hellbanned still doesn't prove that it does more good than harm, because most hellbanned users are not necessarily like him.
Forum health is not about free speech.
And the people who are most upset are this are those who genuinely believe in free speech. I did too.
It's only after seeing many forums devolve that its clear to me and many other mods, admins, writers and foru users that forum operation, forum discussion health and real world free speech do not overlap perfectly.
Free speech is great so long as it doesn't descend into anarchy. And when that happens, you're effectively in a situation where nobody really gets chance to say anything because the forum is flooded with hate. So it sometimes takes a little weed killing to allow comments to fully blossom.
We should also bare in mind that there's a difference between hateful comments and trolling - which are only posted to offend, and unpopular or incorrect statements. Sometimes unpopular comments will lead to heated discussions; it's a pity when that happens, but that's sometimes unavoidable because humans are often passionate beings. But generally such comments shouldn't be down-voted (instead the helpful, insightful or correct arguments should be up-voted). The only comments that should be down-voted are the hateful and trolling remarks. And when it becomes clear that such remarks are inducing anarchy, then it's clear that stricter moderation is required to restore the balance so that everyone else doesn't have their freedom of speech removed due to the lack of an open discussion on the forum.
All analogies are flawed to some extent. I'm responding to this one because, by putting it in emotional terms like you have, you overemphasize the harm to the one, and don't take into account the loss to the rest of the readers of the site.
Remember the above the next time someone claims that a rogue contingent must be flagging stories on a particular topic because it is further down the page than other stories submitted at a similar time and with a similar number of points.
Maybe what HN needs, could be some way of giving people who want the heated discussion, a way to express these seperate from rest. Maybe a tab that shows controversial comments, so you can switch between the "calm" and the "heated" discussions.
Most of these problems aren't a big deal on a case by case basis because, really, what's the harm of one more google vs microsoft flamewar in the scheme of things. But they're a problem in the example they set to other users, especially newer users who are still malleable. They'll write better comments if they think that this is a forum for good comments. At least that's the philosophy.
I like this idea. I'd say all who are hellbanned should see other hellbanned users' and they can nuke each other from the orbit in their own little sandbox.
It's so low-tech that HN runs a log tailer that bans your IP if it sees a "suspicious" number of requests, the threshold being something like 4-5 reqs within 1-2 seconds. Personally I don't do anything weird (I just browse in Chrome on my Mac and on my iPad), but still I manage to get my IP banned frequently. Instead of fixing the algorithm, Graham added a way to unban your IP .
A hypothesis was put forward recently that Graham has intentionally designed HN to be technologically backward to attract serious hackers and repel everyone else. In that light, everything -- the "unknown or expired URL" errors, the impossible-to-hit-without-zooming-on-a-mobile-device up/down arrows, the IP banning, the awful UI, etc. -- makes perfect sense. I am not convinced that it's all intentional, though.
It's funny how the stability of modern computers and operating systems has allowed my reading and research habits to evolve toward the representation of state in the form of open browser windows and the groupings of tabs therein.
One unfortunate effect of these is that I tend to ignore the single downvotes, and rationalise those away as accidental clicks.
Really, I need to train myself out of that. When I get a downvote I should re-read my post to see if I've been clear, and to see if I said what I meant, and if I still mean it.
These days, out of fear of clicking the wrong arrow, and because zooming in and out is a chore, I up/downvote sparingly when I am on a mobile device.
Me too, with s/Chrome/Opera/ and such. I avoided it by setting the maximum number of connections to news.ycombinator.com to 1 rather than the usual 128 in Opera, which seems to avoid this problem for me.
In addition to because presumably the logic is that the article content is flame-bait.
One thing I want to say is: I think it's okay to be ... well, a little bit mean sometimes. My favorite commenter on this site is rayiner -- one of the reasons I like him is he's never afraid to say what he really believes (sometimes in a slightly mean diction), even if it's going against HN userbase consensus. He's not out to get karma (as some other opportunist high-karma users here are sometimes... complete with amazon affiliate links in their comments, indeed, that is singularly the only thing that annoys me about HN). There's inevitably going to be disagreement when we're discussing important things we have strong feelings on. As long as the discussion doesn't devolve into corrosive name-calling and ad hominems it's fine, and I don't think we go that low very much. I think HN will be fine going forward -- there's a strong identity that is enforced by all users. Thanks pg et al. for keeping this hangout alive and rocking.
Silicon Valley is supposed to be this great meritocracy where it doesn't matter where you went to school or who you know, all that matters is how well you can build and "make something people want."
However, it always amazes me how much cronyism (for lack of a better word) there still is in Silicon Valley. Even Y Combinator is not immune to it. To their credit, PG et al are great at pattern recognition and identifying what separates good/great teams from the bad, but I feel like there is still too much cronyism, personal bias, and subjective judgment in their model that excludes a lot of entrepreneurs who don't fit their "type".
Given how influential PG's essays and YC's model have been on other VCs and angel investors, I wonder if it's becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy and/or vicious cycle in the industry where because YC prefers a certain subset of successful founder, it causes many/most investors to also prefer that subset, which makes it easier and easier for this subset of founders to quickly get funding and access to critical resources and networks, while it becomes harder and harder for new subsets of entrepreneurs to break through this walled garden.
DISCLAIMER: I really like YC and I read HN every day. I just think that if e.g. Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins were VC 1.0 and YC was VC 2.0, a new VC 3.0 that addresses the shortcomings of the current model is way overdue.
But humans form groups. That's what we do. And this group is pretty easy to join. You don't need a particular skin colour or religion. Just rock up and rock on.
Thank you PG for creating Hacker News. I read it daily.
I don't often comment or submit links, and when I do I don't really care for the karma beyond hoping I've provided something constructive, but despite the shift in focus I continually enjoy the spirited, structured and technical discussion that hn provides. Like gregpilling I read it daily, and would like to thank pg amongst others for continuing to curate such an interesting community.
That I'm not as interested in the technical submissions any longer, and the non-technical ones continue to leave me cold is more about me and my preferences than the HN community.
> Having a big audience isn’t really the goal. In comparison, Hacker News’ inspiration and the first big YC exit, Reddit has seen as much as 4.4 million page views in a given day.
If 4.4 million page views in a given day were special for Reddit, it would not be the hugely successful page it is and tech journalists should have a rough idea of traffic figures like these. The same thenextweb post claims further down that Reddit averaged 3 billion page views a month in 2012.
(it was the Obama AMA subreddit that hit 4.4 million page views in a single day)
 : We like to apologise for things
The point seems to be that we are reading a story about hacker news and someone takes issue with what appears to be an example of lazy journalism.
I could find my own examples in the article. Right off the top there are only quotes from PG and tptacek when it would have been really easy to email other users and get some thoughts to round out the story. (Not to mention the fact that it left out a fairly important point - that tptacek has the most karma on HN other than PG).
Still, I often find grey comments that are brought in a completely respectable way. I feel like these comments are getting downvoted because someone disagrees with them, rather than because they are bad or toxic comments.
The opposite is also true, I often find comments with a positive amount of votes that are in the "internet jokester" style and don't really contribute anything meaningful to the topic at hand.
There is a constant flow advertisements posing as articles where startups write random fluff to get their otherwise unrelated and uninteresting startups on the front page.
There is a constant flow of mainstream blogs and people meticulously tailoring content for this site.
There have been numerous large companies that have blatantly spammed the site for years undetected, and probably plenty more that still haven't been detected judging by all the 'submissions-only' accounts churning out generic links to mainstream sites.
I don't think routine exploitation fosters a healthy, happy community.
It sort of reminds me those companies you hear about every once in a while that say "No" to being sold in Wal-Mart. It seems crazy but there is value in passing on certain kinds of growth.
The only hiccup to this plan in HN's case is that the very specific community it is targeted to is itself growing and growing. So staying "small" might be impossible.
Speaking of which, I wonder what became of this one?
Apologies for deviating from the thread's topic, but I re-read that the other day and got to wondering.
Walmart to sell Briggs & Stratton Snapper mowers
Here is a forum comment apparently from Jim Wier ("The Man Who Said No to Walmart") regarding the Sears deal after his departure: http://ppecongress.com/showpost.php?s=b79ee2a3f907acf9594e26...
I didn't know this. I think the prudent and thoughtful guy is doing a generally good job. I don't think anyone can read every thread here exhaustively, but there is some good signal:noise ratio here even after all the years of growth.
"I wish I could get people to stop posting comments that are stupid or mean" is pg's summary of what still needs to be fixed. I'm on board with that too.
I see lots of complaints about supposed censorship or excessive moderation or hellbans, and I understand why those things might frustrate people. Really, I do. But it's not like this is the only place on the Internet where people can go to post comments about tech news. The fact that HN isn't trying to be all things to all people, and isn't trying to be as fair as possible to everyone at all times, is actually what I love about it.
I'm glad that there's places like Reddit where everything is community-driven and the maintainers are totally hands-off as to the content of the site, and I frequently enjoy Reddit as well. But I'm also glad that there are places like HN which are actively molded into being a specific kind of site with specific standards of discourse, even if I don't always agree with it. I wish more news sites had such specific visions for content and comments. Not necessarily the same vision, just some vision other than avoiding even the perception of censorship at all costs.
I hope not. This is one of the best & brightest online communities I've ever seen.
I learn so much every single day from the content & insights posted on this site, I'm not sure where I'd be without it :)
> Reddit has seen as much as 4.4 million page views in a given day
These numbers didn't seem right to me; reddit gets way more than 3 times hn's traffic.
Last December, reddit had 2 billion page views [http://blog.reddit.com/2012/01/2-billion-beyond.html] which works out to over 60 million a page views a day and over 30 times hn's count.
Being accepted by you guys really does help me get back into tech and do what I know best. THANK YOU!
I've read your story the other day and I thought it was both amusing and clever, even if it was also clearly unethical. 5 years seems disproportional but great to see you on the outside.
If there is any way in which I can help you to jumpstart your career should you need it or throw work your way let me know and I'll see what I can do for you, email in my profile.
Also if there is downwards slope in the quality it is very mild - for the two years I have been here it is quite consistent.
I also get the feeling that "groupthink" is a growing problem and that people are getting downvoted for simply having the audacity to go against the local "received wisdom", but that's pretty subjective and I may be wrong.
Also, journalists find stories here. I've seen Show HN's that turn into news stories - even journalists that give the hat tip to OP within the originating thread. That's pretty cool :)
On the backend, Hacker News runs on one core, and Graham calls this a “remarkable feat of scaling.”
There are a few details here. I don't know jack about servers and stuff but this was the only place I knew it was mentioned. From what I gather in the thread it is impressive.
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5229548 (pasbesoin's comment)
I've been aware of this for a while (a few YC founders I got to meet confided this to me), but it is the first time I've seen it being publicly admitted.
Along with the DMCA link below, I'm happy to see this ever increasing level of transparency on Hacker News. I believe it is a great way to foster trust among the community.
I don't have a lot of +50 comments, but I try to self-censor if I'm not getting more +2s than not.
No idea if or when eternal September kicks in here, but... I guess the upside is what pg has proved: anyone dissatisfied with online communities can just build a new one, use a singular purpose and a stripped-down ad-free interface, and people will come (for better or worse).
I like the choice that people make here. People decide to be constructive and useful. It'd be interesting to see how that can be replicated in other places. Reddit has some good subs. Ask science and ask history are great. They have big moderation teams who frequently delete comments. (That's a good thing!). SE is good for their very narrow tasks - they really need to open an ad-supported open discussion version of the sites. At the moment there is a site, its meta site, and its chat site. Having a noodling discussion site would allow people to have that interesting chat stuff.
It's interesting that wikipedia, while being brilliant, is also really toxic and unpleasant for some people.
This coming from Tech... crunch/fund?
Also, there are many innovations in comment systems. Gawker's Kinja system is quite good at surfacing or organizing interesting comments, among other things. Post segmentation and comment filtering are techniques used by Slashdot and Reddit, which dampen the impact of growth on community "feel". But, despite the massive growth, there is strong aversion to incorporating any deep changes here.
I perceive two specific challenges: prominent voices might actually want a feeling that is (or appears to be) impossible to restore, and there's general apprehension about messing too much with the magic formula that brought HN to the point it's at today. With the influx of users, this appears to create an identity crisis for the site.
I wish I could suggest solutions along with these observations.
Edit: I do think it would be useful to understand what members of varying karma levels subjectively/qualitatively perceive to be the values and valuable traits of the site.
Still my favorite site and primary source (directly or indirectly) of new knowledge.
>>> import datetime
>>> print datetime.date.today() - datetime.timedelta(1397)
>>> datetime.datetime.now() - datetime.timedelta(days=1894)
datetime.datetime(2008, 3, 12, 16, 24, 16, 996897)
Without a doubt. In fact, if a prominent hacker in a non-english speaking country set up something similar, it will definitely become influential.
Hatena Bookmark of Japan used to be like the old reddit with predominantly hacker subject articles, but it grew and became mainstream, kind of like new reddit. Now the hacker community there is yearning for something like hacker news; something that is for them.
However the question (which might not have a satisfactory answer) is whether you can keep the same quality standards while still growing. I think that forcibly keeping the community small can be worse than dilution itself.
that said I did once have a fiendish (and probably terrible) idea for a similar system where you could only post if you had a certain amount of karma, but also, where you could buy karma points outright.
Alternatively, there could be a time period before users can post comments or articles, though I don't really like having a time limit for posting comments, since that hinders insightful comments from throwaway accounts. It would also hurt users that only want to post because an article is extremely relevant to them and they know the subject well (or are involved in it). Really no winning scenario to this.
We could have some sort of user "turing test" to see if users are ready to post/submit on HN, but then one is left with answering "how does one know a user is ready and what are the qualifications?" On some of the Android forums where every user (hyperbole sorta) that roots their phone thinks they're a development expert, I always wanted to implement forcing users to look up various parts of the AOSP source (and/or answer questions about terminology) before they could comment in the development specific subforums. Though that is a bit more black and white than something similar applied to HN.