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.