Correct. The plural of anecdote is conversation, which is exactly the reason we're here.
I think this one comes down to people misunderstanding the reason we're here in the first place. If you start to notice that the discussion here resembles the sort of conversation you'd have around the watercooler, that's probably has to do with the fact that Hacker News is indeed the internet's watercooler.
Complaining that that seems to be the case and asking people to stop having lively conversation is not really helping anybody. As much as some folks want this to be the Royal Society for Correctly And Properly Dismissing The Ideas Of Other People, it's not.
Good thing, too. That place wouldn't be any fun.
A watercooler in a very passive aggressive, argumentative office perhaps. HN should be more like a watercooler, IMO, with more common courtesy and less flamewars (and less devil's-advocate-for-the-sake-of-devil's-advocate). But at the end of the day, the internet is the internet. (Just a side note: I'll still come on HN every day despite this :) )
If I apply a corrosive black salve to my face and I feel that this saved me from cancer and really want to share it as advice, my story actually does nothing to establish self-application of black salve as an advisable practice. It is indeed an anecdote, not data. It should not be taken as data. This is very important, or people will be misled and burn their noses off.
Drives me batty.
1) If people agree with the idea they'll probably just nod their head, or upvote. If they disagree it is more likely they'll post something rather than just downvote (people feel the need to explain perhaps why they downvoted)
2) Geeks feel the need to say something contrarian to show how smart they are. It is a way to tell everyone they have a bigger intellectual penis than everyone else.
Also, to another of your parent's gripes - if someone only responds to a narrow point, it should be safe to assume they agree with the other, or broader, points, and that's why they didn't respond to those.
But silent agreement and loud disagreement does make it seem like everyone is mad at each other all the time.
Everyone thinks of the karma/reputation feedback mechanism in terms of how it promotes civil discourse, but in this case it's fairly remarkable to think of how it could be biasing the conversation toward a negative tone. Maybe it's usually civil negativity, but it's negative nonetheless. I can see how people would tire of this eventually.
I wonder if there'd be a simple way of limiting the bias? Slashdot's modpoint classes comes to mind, but then that opens a whole host of other problems...
It may make #2 worse though. People love to argue against the majority, especially geeks, especially on the internet.
Thought that's rarely the case. What usually happens is someone will read a clever article, get upset that they didn't come up with it and choose a narrow interpretation or a minor nitpick to attack the piece, thereby making themselves feel better.
More often than not, I hit back instead of submit.
Sorry, I just couldn't resist.
To actually add something to the conversation (and sadly, to be just a bit contrarian), I hope nobody reads this as "oh darn, I better not take an opposing view for fear of being voted down as contrarian." I actually do like reading respectfully contrarian responses. Not the childish ones you describe, but the ones which have a bit of thought behind them. I think a better term is "devil's advocate."
Please people, keep doing that, at least.
While in certain "communities" this maybe is driven by the profession it self (oh, CS and all its true/false 0/1 domains ;), very seldom "cooperative discussion" is presented as something beneficial... just check most newspaper and tv reports... we get controversy presented as the way to go while the world is clearly much more complex as to be grasped in simple black/white true/false terms.
For single humans tending to such patterns in thinking certain medical conditions are associated with... in our societies looks like we embrace it much more thoughtlessly. All has to be a controversy (Parties, Companies, People)
Also, anyone that bothers to publicly point out to you a misspelling is someone with too much idle time and not enough decency. One must hope for more cunning and aggressive frenemies so you may be judged accordingly.
I find that productive discussions do grow out of conversations with people who can note both what they agree with and what they don't. I've actually learned quite a bit from this.
I understand this is a place for serious debate and constructive criticism, but sometimes it's more uptight than getting interviewed at a border control.
I visit and get value from it, but this article is spot on. Well, I still think  is relevant sometimes, in the case of a legitimate/interesting (or maybe questionable) citation that would produce more value with the citation. (But sometimes it goes like this "The sky is blue")
Imagine someone walking into a coffee shop and ordering coffee by saying: "Coffee required" -- while drawing imaginary square brackets around his head with his fingers.
It's pretty much the equivalent of "RSVP" on an invitation -- a shorthand request that the person it's directed to take an action out of consideration.
Reading it as passive-aggressive strikes me as the attitude of someone who's looking for a social slight. In my experience, that search is rarely unsuccessful.
Another way is just a psuedo-politeness. (... and applying ohms law aka power = voltage / current ...) (citation needed?) (quick google search results in ...whoops)
It does make perfect sense for situations where the literature is lacking. Yesterdays discussion of ultra minimal RISC architectures is a good example. So, seriously, the linked to paper only has three references? And I've read two and don't have access to the third? In the grand history of bored programmers daydreaming about turing tarpits I'm somehow familiar with 2/3 of all written articles yet never heard of the remaining 1/3 until yesterday? Citation needed. There's got to be more academic articles than listed. Just looking at the turing tarpit section along of various esolang sites...
Perhaps for some. For me it's clear that I've encountered someone whose worldview is fundamentally transrational and further discussion isn't necessary.
My purpose isn't to change the person's mind but to understand it. And if that understanding leads me to the conclusion that they're not worth wasting time in discussion, so be it. What's frustrating is when someone drops some vaguely provocative hint of something without giving a sense of what underlies it. Knowing the source of the bullshit is helpful.
It does make perfect sense for situations where the literature is lacking.
Also for where the person posting has a specific instance or reference in mind but cannot be assed to provide it. Again, my experience is that discussions with such people tend to be pretty unproductive. I only wish H/N had the ability present on, say, Reddit, to tag people as idiots. I've similarly created "idiot", "troll", "denialist", and "libertardian" circles on G+ simply to keep tabs of who's not worth engaging with (or noting to others that their conversation will likely be unproductive).
I understand that HN is not a debate team, but I don't think it's asking all that much for people to cite sources on something that's likely to be controversial.
It's a politeness thing, really. If you're making claims about something or other, link to WP, or Google, or somewhere out of consideration for your fellow reader. It doesn't take that much longer and significantly contributes to a discussion.
Meanwhile, not doing it in this troll-filled place called the internet tends to make people wonder A, why you didn't bother, and B, what kind of fast one you're trying to pull. Debate is adversarial, after all.
The  is a quick and simple way to shift the onus back onto the OP where it belongs, and also serves to warn people who maybe didn't read the comment all too closely that shenanigans may be afoot. And often times that's all you get, because a distressingly high portion of people won't reply when challenged in this manner.
Is it? [citation please]
and the most uptight are the ones who feel the need to pretend.
The reason to post this is not so much thinking the comment is necessarily wrong as that it makes an extraordinary or absolutist claim absent any evidence, which if accepted as fact is going to change the shape of the whole discussion...perhaps appropriately, but the onus is on the person making the claim to support it.
A link to a logical fallacy, such as ad hominem or more pretentiously tu quoque - this isn't a debate team and you don't score points for this.
Considering the requests that if one thinks something is wrong, one should explain why, I'd say that identifying errors in reasoning is quite appropriate; though some of them are so frequent that I just downvote rather than pointing them out yet again. Fallacies of composition are astonishingly frequent, for example.
Personally, I don't feel that you need to back your assertion up with facts. If I wish to take issue with it, the onus is on me to go and scrape HN to produce the definitive validation or refutation of your claim. Which was Saurik's point, I think.
Sure, when you leave a comment asserting something, you don't need to provide a full bibliography of references, but if someone asks for it (ie, someone follows up with ) then the onus is on you to show that your facts have a basis in reality. I don't see anything wrong with that.
You can't really disprove something which doesn't have any factual basis.
The burden of proof lies with the initial claim AKA Russell's teapot. In a strict academic forum, the person making the claim should provide evidence at the time of making the claim or at least be prepared to defend it with facts.
No facts required! One man's half-baked opinion versus another's! See the surprise ending tonight at 9!
There is this (subjective) notion of relevance. When it's relevant, a simple  communicates a lot more than merely these words.
I've seen "" abused more often as I've seen it used when somebody is "[making] an extraordinary or absolutist claim absent any evidence"
And the main claim still holds: provide a link that disproves, descredits or calls into question the extraordinary claim. Or at least explain why you think it's extraordinary.
And most people forget that calling something an ad hominem attack does not mean that it's wrong. Most things which get called ad hominem are usually not, in fact -- saying "you are dumb and your arguments is wrong because of X, Y, Z" is different than saying "your argument is wrong because you are dumb" (the latter would be ad hominem, the former is merely an irrelevant statement)
I'm not sure I agree. The use of ad hominem is the shift away from the discussion proper. Calling ad hominem (or any logical fallacy) out is merely a recognition of that shift, and could be considered a (weak?) attempt at getting back on topic. When used correctly, that is.
I agree, that looking for logical fallacies in the argument often is a straw man in itself, which is ironic and which is the reason many are skeptical about pointing them out altogether. But in the end you can't abandon logic and talk relying only on intuition and emotions and discarding all reasoning, which would happen if people "rather focus on the matter of discussion than shift focus to technical delivery".
True, and there's a name for that logical error -- it's the "fallacy fallacy" or "argument from fallacy", the error of assuming that, because there's a fallacy in one's argument, therefore the conclusion must be wrong.
> So while you're certainly free to attack the structure behind a conclusion, really you're better off attacking the conclusion itself with an argument of your own.
Yes. On the other hand, such a reply may serve to strengthen or clarify an argument, and is therefore sometimes appropriate.
I sometimes find myself debating with people who never do any research, who expect to get by with flowery rhetoric. For such people, links can serve as a reality check.
Sometimes refutation comments are good and valuable though.
In general the decisive factor in the value of a comment is what I will call the "lebowski rule". If a comment contains a statement of someone's opinion and nothing more it is rarely worthwhile.
By way of illustration, this comment would fit that criterion up to this point.
However, I will explain my reasoning which will hopefully rescue it. In the internet age most people are aware of the variety of opinions on a topic, especially the most obvious pro/anti points on a given topic. What can often happen on sites like reddit or HN is that the first comment that espouses a well-known opinion then becomes effectively an impromptu poll. This breaks the link + comments model though because the opinion of the link is inherent in the link itself so a post voicing unadorned agreement would be easily recognized as valueless and thus generally not created or voted up. Whereas the contrarian opinion has no representation and thus becomes the proxy poll for disagreement. The problem is that people voting for/against place their votes differently, either for the link or for the most popular "middlebrow dismissal" comment. But because these are two separate beasts they can't compete against each other directly. Which is why you get the behavior of highly upvoted rejection comments, since that is effectively a reflection of the controversy around the subject. Even though that rarely improves the level of discussion.
In contrast, a more thoroughly thought out refutation which follows through lines of reasoning and evidence will be more likely to contribute to both the disemination of new knowledge to readers as well as higher quality discussions.
Additionally, the mere attempt to try to improve the quality of a comment through fleshing it out will lead to a higher rate of abandonment of less worthwhile posts.
P.S. Here is one area where I think the HN software doesn't help, because it encourages shorter, more quickly written posts which tends to favor the exploration of shallower depths of thought.
Though I acknowledge this is a really tough pattern to battle since it's much easier to be certain a quick factual correction provides concrete value than it is to assess a reply with a complicated or nuanced argument. And there is nothing wrong with comments that make a factual correction, it just leads to poor results at the top of the discussion page.
The top-rating issue is simply symptomatic of the lack of insight of many of the folks clicking the little arrows over their first morning cup of coffee. News delivers a brief stimulus; commentary even briefer: the spasmodic twitch of the mousing fingertip merely signals the assent (or dissent) of the mayfly mind.
Mea culpa: I'm guilty of this, too.
Totally agree and it's hard to blame them. The real problem might be that people who are over-familiar with the cliche don't bother to down vote.
Reminder to all: take the time to down vote over used cliches that bother you.
Well, I suppose they could set up a voting ring, but that seems a lot of trouble to go to.
The real problem is that those contradicting comments usually are plain simple negative (not to be confused with criticism, which is alright, I am referring to the grumpy negative ones), demotivating.
When I've read six pages of interesting and useful article it's depressing to see the top voted comment on HN is about a footnote on page 4 with little relevance to anything interesting.
I would love this to be called "Moomin's Law"
You get extra points if you start your reply with a cold remark such as "No." "Wrong." "False." And then you put some random citations to Pubmed or Wikipedia at the bottom of your comment.
Exactly, I automatically downvote comments like that.
It's ok, you can downvote this, I know it'll make you feel better about yourself.
Law of Reddit XCVII:
You can make a redditor believe anything, no matter how outlandish, so long as you preface it with "Contrary to what you hear in the MSM...."
But if I disagree, I can say how I disagree. And this can move the conversation forward. Like this comment here.
Good one. The author could have complained about self referential comments too, and how writing one doesn't make you Douglas Hofstadter.
I liked it, though.
Just because these comments appear quite frequently it doesn't necessarily mean that they are responsible for making your eyes tired, after all, correlation is not causation. Maybe try to adjust the font on your browser or use one of the popular HN chrome extension. Remember that HN is a free site and if you're not paying for it, you're the product, so try to see how you can improve your comments, thereby improving the product.
Even though Pg has a legal duty to maximize shareholder value for YC 
changing how people comment would be premature optimization - why don't we see how the site shakes out after a couple of years. Saying that this is a place for discussion is at best a leaky abstraction, like Playboy magazine, I come here predominately to read the articles. I feel that I understand most of the technical articles posted here, even though some people say I suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect I feel that is just a needless ad hominem.
You can read more about this in a blog post I wrote:
Is the quality of HN discussion falling?
There is benefit in new approaches to old problems. Incomplete attempts are still useful. Actually getting a project into a state that more than one person can use it, even if that use is just "Here, read the code. It doesn't work, but you might find it enlightening," is an effort worth respecting.
It's extremely rare that these comments have any worthwhile content in them. They seem to serve to point at the commenter's username and say "Aren't I clever for spotting the problems with your project?" What effect is that supposed to have past your own ego? You can't rewind the universe to a state where the project didn't happen, so why not take 3 minutes instead of 2 and find something positive to highlight rather than a negative to pick on?
"This is a cat, but I like dogs, why isn't this a dog?"
Once you understand the type you start noticing it everywhere all the time. Any time there is a creative work there will always be someone complaining that it's not the thing they wanted created instead.
Those kinds of replies always read to me in one of three ways:
1. "I wish I'd thought of this obvious application of X, and because I didn't I will denigrate it." Typical responses are as you described.
2. "I am special. I am more special than the person who posted this thing or had this idea, so I will discuss how neither the person who had this idea nor the idea itself aren't that special in a passive-aggressive way" These are especially common when the person originating the idea is exceptionally young or otherwise noteworthy.
3. "This person is not as smart as I am. I will prove it by attacking his or her idea." These replies are typified by off-the-cuff responses that outline one or more extremely obvious weaknesses in the idea/approach being discussed. Such responses ignore the likelihood that the person or people who have spent weeks/months/years formulating
the idea could have possibly considered such a basic flaw that the respondent spotted immediately.
There is also a fourth reply: genuine criticism of the idea, including suggestions on how to improve it. In fairness to HN, I see that type of reply more often here than anywhere else.
It would be cool if more people realized that someone else's intelligence and/or good ideas don't reduce the intelligence of other people, nor take away from the ideas of other people.
This phenomena can be seen in forums without karma also but i think in places with karma it is usually worse, worst offenders being digg and reddit where everybody tries to make a silly joke as those are easy points.
A better algotithm calculating the karma as an average over all your comments maybe could help..
It's validating to get a few upvotes, but more than that it's disheartening to spend time on a comment and recieve no feedback whatsoever.
I'm an outgoing person, but I find myself shying away from commenting on HN for that reason. Admittedly, I don't usually have some brilliant insight, but it does make it harder to feel like part of the community.
The metric I would most like to know is how many votes my comments got divided by the total number of words in my comments.
On the contrary I often learn useful things from HN comments. Sometimes I even submit stuff to HN because I am curious about the opinion of HN commentators.
b) there are downvote arrows
To me it's OK if people just leave anything as a comment here because it will be modded down if it's irrelevant to the discussion.
My reading buffer most certainly can.
If the s/n dips sufficiently, I'm out.
It's the Yogi Berra Restaurant Syndrome, or the Evaporative Cooling Effect:
It would be great if down voting was more prevalent. Many people don't down vote for anything but the absolute worst comment. Some people downvote for disagreement and not poor comment.
If more people were science-literate, these platitudes wouldn't be necessary. But they aren't, so they are.
"Correlation is not causation" mistakes are not always obvious. Especially when there's ideological bias. E.g: the claim that owning a gun increases the chances that you will be violently killed by X%.
Too true. My recent favorite was a popular account of a marijuana study. The popular article was titled "Marijuana causes psychosis" or words to that effect. The popular account went on about how teenagers went crazy after smoking killer weed. The study itself said, "We don't know whether marijuana use sometimes causes psychosis, or psychosis sometimes causes marijuana use. More study is needed."
The whole reason people felt the need to mention "correlation is not causation" is that correlation is evidence of causation. Some people seem to think this catchphrase means the two are unrelated which is also false.
No, without evidence that assumption is false. Correlation can only be evidence for an unexplained link, and even that is often undermined by desperate researchers' predisposition to offer any detected correlation as though it couldn't result from chance.
Given A and B, absent a plausible causative mechanism, and a correlation between them, possible explanations include:
* Chance -- quick, publish!
* B caused A.
* A caused B.
* An unevaluated cause C connects A and B.
If this seems to go to extremes in skepticism, well, remember that skepticism of new results is -- or should be -- the scientist's job.
Title: "Drug development: Raise standards for preclinical cancer research"
Quote: "Fifty-three papers were deemed 'landmark' studies (see 'Reproducibility of research findings'). It was acknowledged from the outset that some of the data might not hold up, because papers were deliberately selected that described something completely new, such as fresh approaches to targeting cancers or alternative clinical uses for existing therapeutics. Nevertheless, scientific findings were confirmed in only 6 (11%) cases. Even knowing the limitations of preclinical research, this was a shocking result."
> Some people seem to think this catchphrase means the two are unrelated which is also false.
But without evidence, without a rigorous scientific evaluation, that's a scientist's default assumption, an assumption that relies on the null hypothesis. Using the null hypothesis, one assumes there's nothing there, that the association between A and B results from chance, then looks for reliable evidence that might lead us to a different conclusion.
I did not say it was conclusive evidence; I said it was evidence. I'm well aware that "A is correlated to B" does not prove "A causes B" or even "A causes B or B causes A", but it is a data point in favor.
Saying "We should evaluate other evidence before we decide if A causes B" is reasonable skepticism. Acting as though "A is correlated to B" has no bearing whatsoever on the question of whether A causes B is another matter.
(Not that I actually disagree with most of your post, mind you! The real message of "correlation is not causation" is "don't overrate this specific data point; it's a common mistake". But the realist shouldn't underrate it either.)
But it isn't. The null hypothesis requires us to assume that there's nothing but chance at work, and let evidence force a different conclusion. The fact that A and B appear correlated is not by itself evidence of anything other than chance.
> I'm well aware that "A is correlated to B" does not prove "A causes B" or even "A causes B or B causes A", but it is a data point in favor.
No, this is false. Without testing a hypothesis, and without a careful examination of a mechanism, the correlation has precisely no meaning apart from chance.
Here's an example selected at random from a vast literature that tries to make this point:
Title: "Creating a phony health scare with the power of statistical correlation"
Quote: "In the United Kingdom, the more mobile phone towers a county has, the more babies are born there every year. In fact, for every extra cell phone tower beyond the average number, a county will see 17.6 more babies. Is this evidence that cell phone signals have some nefarious baby-making effect on the human body? Nope. Instead, it's a simple example of why correlation and causation should never be mistaken for the same thing."
I could link to a thousand similar stories, many being mistaken for actual scientific results.
> But the realist shouldn't underrate it either.
A realist -- a scientist -- always begins by assuming the association is the result of chance (the null hypothesis), and then examines evidence that might argue for another explanation. This is why all self-respecting scientific papers include a p-value. The p-value describes the probability that the result arose from chance, not the hypothesis under test.
Quote: "In statistical significance testing the p-value is the probability of obtaining a test statistic at least as extreme as the one that was actually observed, assuming that the null hypothesis is true."
Translated into layman's language, the p-factor is the probability that the observation -- the "correlation" -- arose by chance.
A properly educated scientist always assumes the null hypothesis is true, i.e. that the observation arose from chance factors. She then tests this assumption with evidence.
* First comment debunks the article.
* Comments that start with "No." It's worse if the "No." is in its own paragraph.
* Mentioning Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
* General passive-agressivness.
* Lack of humour and light-heartedness.
* People upvote some really shitty stuff. The newest submissions page is sometimes more interesting than the homepage.
* People love to upvote blogposts of some people, e.g daringfireball.net or paulgraham.com, no matter the quality.
Facile, poorly reasoned content is abundant on the internet. Hacker News is a firehose of content – both good and bad – and commenters aim to filter that by tagging the content through comments.
It is not always a good use of your time to make a reasoned argument against blatant logical fallacies, scientific/engineering ignorance and failure to understand modern tech business practices. If you're spending more time discounting vapid content than its idiot author spent creating it, then the world is suffering a net loss.
As Bettridge himself said:
> they know that story is probably bullshit, and don’t actually have the sources and facts to back it up, but still want to run it
Identifying a headline & story as an example of Bettridge's Law of Headlines should highlight that the headline is nasty link-bait phrased as a question purely to manipulate the reader and that the article provides no insight – in fact it merely serves to further highlight the insidious nature of the headline and the nasty journalistic choices of the author.
This is valid in the same way that it is valid to point out when a headline contains a false and self-serving claim.
I don't think anybody is under the slightest illusion that having heard of Betteridge's law demonstrates any particular intelligence.
Do you think people reading the comments are going "ah, that is something I had yet to consider about this article; I had previously been curious to know the answer to this deep and burning question, but now that I read this comment, it is clear time that not only am I a fool, but I should down vote this article, all articles like it, and start my own crusade to scream the name of this wonderful law of headlines every time I see such an article".
The best you are getting is "oh, I didn't realize someone had assigned this a funny 'law'... that will be a great trivia item I can being up to demonstrate my epic knowledge of jargon". The result is then just another person in the article comments adding noise. It is nothing more than a way to add mild justification to the seemingly-dying practice of yelling "first": you just need to know, for each article, what bingo terms happen to apply, and then be he first to lay claim to them.
More seriously, these aren't just gripes, most of these have some kind of remediation step too. Most of the comments here seem to be missing that.
That being said, most of these are still very valid things to be said here, the problem is not that they're being said, but that they have to be said. People in general are lazy and carry around terribly poor models of the world in the heads. 8 of these are really constant, low pressure attempts to correct this problem with the last one just being a cultural issue that this isn't reddit.
Have you considered the importance of the lambda calculus in your daily life?
"just use bootstrap/heroku/nodejs/techoftheday"
"hn is turning into reddit"
"http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html Anything that good hackers would find interesting."
complaints about: negativity, wrong tone and cursing.
looking for reasons to get offended.
Copying != stealing, because apparently time stopped about 8 years ago. And this is digg.
IE is hard to develop for even though all the problems it had have been solved for approximately 11 thousand years before anyone alive today was even born.
First they came for [whatever we're talking about] and I said nothing ...
> If the original title begins with a number or number + gratuitous adjective, we'd appreciate it if you'd crop it.
Many of these classes of comments are fairly reasonable in many cases (as discussed in the rest of the comments here), and I really hope that we're not about to begin the cycle of "I hate this place, it used to be so much better" that seems to start up when Internet communities mature when I just got here.
Before HN, Reddit.
Before Reddit, K5.
Before K5, Slashdot.
Before Slashdot, Usenet and Listserv.
Before Usenet and Listserv, every community ever.
"The web is utterly broken, when are people going to realize this?"
"For all these years I ignored RMS/Assange/etc. but now I know he was right."
Comments with the words "nail" and "hammer".
In fairness, the HN guidelines are pretty clear about this one:
Please don't submit comments complaining that a submission is inappropriate for the site. If you think something is spam or offtopic, flag it by going to its page and clicking on the "flag" link. (Not all users will see this; there is a karma threshold.) If you flag something, please don't also comment that you did.
I had a interesting discussion with @ColinWright a few months back about how you might design a forum based separate cohorts for each time period in which people joined, and on scoring each post separately within each cohort - if I had a few months to spare I would love to try building & launching that. Sadly, I don't.
HN is always interesting to read. You can learn a lot from people posting on a variety of subjects while always tending to return to the core tech mission of the site. I enjoy this aspect a lot. And, yes, things go off in tangents sometimes yet HN has proven to self correct.
I don't really understand the focus on these comments.
I think the psychology of sociopath is complicated enough without the need to assume one who made it to the top is a sociopath.
"The problem with the middlebrow dismissal is that it's a magnet for upvotes. The 'U R a fag's get downvoted and end up at the bottom of the page where they cause little trouble. But this sort of comment rises to the top. Things have now gotten to the stage where I flinch slightly as I click on the 'comments' link, bracing myself for the dismissive comment I know will be waiting for me at the top of the page."
As other readers have noticed, my idea of an interesting water cooler conversation with colleagues is referring to verifiable facts about the external world while checking the reasoning of a submitted article. The Internet is, indeed, mostly about sharing unsupported opinions, as the article kindly submitted here suggests, but I enjoy having my opinions examined by comparing them to facts in the real world, and I try to extend the same favor to the friends I meet here.
HN is by far the place on the internet where I find the most insightful comments.
For each of these irritants, perhaps someone has just recently discovered them and is keen to appear knowledgable the next time the debate comes up.
If I had my way, a comment that matched something like /^This\./ would result in an immediate hellban. I don't know why this particular habit annoys me so much.
Ah well.. a man can only dream.
And while we're on the subject, I dislike the use of the word sure on nerd sites. I say nerd sites because I haven't seen it (ab)used so much on other sites or movies.
Basically, people say "I'm sure" to mean "I think" and "I'm pretty sure" to mean "I kind of think."
I just went to reddit and the fist thread on my front page had 3 instances of "pretty sure." I'm pretty sure it's the most common phrase and it gets posted thousands of times per day in contexts where the user is not sure at all.
Any time I see either of these, it's end-of-thread-time.
On the other hand, expecting such nuance to come through in the phrase "I'm almost positive" or "nearly certain" (my preferred variants) is likely a bit unreasonable.
I can maybe understand the point of using numbered references like this (although honestly it barely affects readability having links inline) but you're not a computer. It just comes across as pretentious when you start counting at 0 as though you're referencing an array of references or something. We get that you Know Computers.
The problem here is the difference between a conversation and a mob of emotional ranters (And I plead guilty to being in the latter category many times). Most of these comments are meant to provide context.
The author seems to forget that it's much better to have a reasonable conversation in context than it is to simply wander far afield on whatever the outrage of the day is. Correlation does not equal context. Companies are there to provide shareholder value. Google doesn't owe you anything. And so on. Yes, these can be throwaway catchphrases (bumper stickers), but hell, I'd rather have the usual half-dozen bumper stickers and then talk reasonably about something that try to un-fuck a conversation built of some bullshit fallacy with somebody talking very emotionally about things about which they aren't fully informed.
We make the mistake over and over again of rewarding emotional content, not useful content. I'd argue this post is a prime example of that. The reason the same phrases come back again and again is that we continue to make the same cognitive mistakes again and again. Ignoring that won't make it go away.
How about you do one for story submissions? #1 on the list can be ones whose titles are link-baiting "N Xs that Y" types.
"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
If you want to argue against surveillance, please do it with your words instead of just going "Well Benjamin Franklin said..."
I'm not saying don't quote him or use his arguments in yours, but simply quoting a man who has been dead for hundreds is not an argument.
These people should be shot in the face with a double barrel shotgun.
(You may now commence to argue over whether or not both barrels are really necessary )
Sometimes discussion boards need to have opinions on them and not just facts, IMO!
"Abstraction in mathematics is the process of extracting the underlying essence of a mathematical concept, removing any dependence on real world objects with which it might originally have been connected, and generalizing it so that it has wider applications or matching among other abstract descriptions of equivalent phenomena."
This also sometimes misses the point. EG, when YouTubers complain about being cut off from monetising they're not the customer, nor the product. Google is the customer, choosing whether to buy the product or not.
And yes, I love communities nitpicking news items, because it's not as if the internet is in lack of discussion boards, and seeing different approaches on the same items is so interesting.
Your example doesn't support the argument since it just states that if users pay for something it doesn't mean that they aren't also the product.
So it is possible to pay for something and be part of the product, to pay for something and not be a part of the product, and to not pay something and be a part of the product but not possible to not pay for something and not be a part of the product.
I'll reuse a newspaper example fo simplicity. An ad company might pay to reach some portion of the audience (for instance the female worker segment between 18 and 30). But you don't control who will actually accesses the paper, and the 5 years old boy using it to craft paper boats is not in the target and just happens to use the product.
A company doesn't have to monetize 100% of their user base, and it might not want to for any reason. There is no binding forcing a user of something to be on some side of a product/not product fence. It can be neither, ot can be both.
I, also, get annoyed with comments that are far too long for the point being made - go write an article in response if you want. Expletives are also a no go.
People ought to be held to some standard of rigor if they decide to make an assertion. For me, that standard starts with the original assertion, not with someone who decides to question it.
Can we please discuss ideas and concepts?
Sometimes people (myself included) just like to comment. Fart out a completely subjective opinion without worrying about the little army of pedantic party poopers coming along to spoil the fun.
It's just a discussion board after all. Must everything be quite so serious. all. the. time. ?
Yes. Yes it must. It's what makes HN unique and wonderful. There are thousands of other discussion boards that aren't as serious.
The only one that bugs me more is "tl;dr". People have become terrified of writing long text, so they apologize beforehand. Either stand by your long text or shorten it so it's not long. I skip every "tl;dr" summary. It adds nothing.
If you don't like other people opinions then you can always do Mathematics. The paradise where other people opinions don't care.
A useful comment is one which moves the conversation forward. A non-useful comment is one which serves NO useful purpose.
Correlation is not causation. This is useful where a naive correlation is shown without causal mechanism. It's not useful when a correlation is shown and there's a strong causal link known.
If you're not paying for it, you're the product. I disagree that that this is useless, though it's not necessary to point it out without some justification.
"the legal duty to maximize shareholder value" Agree. Companies have numerous stakeholders. The "shareholder value" proposition was birthed by Milton Friedman and given a solid kick into the public eye by Jack Welch, who later called it "the world's dumbest idea": http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2013/06/26/the-orig...
 Appropriate when someone makes an extraordinary, unsubstantiated, and difficult-to-source claim. No, this isn't Wikipedia, but it is a high quality, high s/n discussion site. Not appropriate where source is trivially confirmed or when intent is strictly snarky.
Premature optimization Depends on technical context. If substantiated, it's a fair gripe.
Dunning-Kruger effect Sadly, far too often appropriate, IMO.
Betteridge's law of headlines This is most often a meta-commentary: the story posted is vague and poorly conceived, it really shouldn't have made the front page. Increasingly I'm flagging such items (but not the Betteridge comments on them).
Logical fallacies As with "citation needed": the quality of discourse is served when people don't take cheap shots or rhetorical evasions. If you're trying to make a point and you're committing obvious logical fallacies, you deserve to be called on it.
Cue ... FTFY ... Cue: http://i3.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/406/282/2b8...
I have to say that I disagree with this meme in general. Google does not sell me (yet, at least) to its advertisers. It sells screen real estate and placed links. Sure, the links are very targeted, and more specific than much (probably not all) advertising that preceded it.
I know that this meme is trying to make a general point, i.e. "there's a hidden cost to using this service", but I think it's overly-general and unnecessarily negative. Many people enjoy newspapers and TV that rely primarily on advertising for their revenue. I actually find Google's sponsored links on their search results to be very helpful on occasion, and at other times I find advertising a problem. Why the tendency to be so dismissive and over-simplify?
I also think that this meme is part of a general trend of finding pithy ways to sound smart without acknowledging that most issues, such as the way web services should be funded, are actually quite complicated.
In a broader sense, "if you're not paying for it" falls under the broader rhubric of "understand the philosophy driving the tools you use".
One of the key advantages of using Free Software is that, fundamentally, the development model aligns the interests of the developer with the user. Not perfectly and not always, but in general. Some projects make this explicit, and the Debian Project is among the best-known examples, having a Philosophy, a Constitution, and a Policy, all as explicitly stated documents, detailing what the goals, concerns, and specific actions and rules of the project are.
Contrast with the proprietary software world in which the goal generally is profit maximization, often with short-term interests, and often sacrificing user experience in the process. Some companies avoid the pitfalls of this focus to a greater extent -- Apple has long placed end-user experience above all else, and, though I'm not a particular fan of the result, I can see its appeal especially for less-technical users.
Microsoft, by contrast, has from its beginning a winner-takes-all dominance strategy and had as its key customers OEMs and large businesses. I as an individual user (or developer, or administrator) am well down the priority list. Oracle would be another company whose alignment is often at odds with mine -- and extends to its stewardship of its free software projects (the core of which has largely migrated elsewhere, somewhat predictably). And yes, other free software companies can get confounded missions -- I'd classify much of the issues I encounter with Red Hat and GNOME as being fundamental to the mission and goals of the projects.
In the Web space, there are a relative handful of successful models:
- Amateur hour: not in the sense of "unpolished and crude", but literally "a work of love". Something done by an individual (or sometimes small group) out of passion. Often surprisingly good, but intrinsically limited in both scope and technical capability absent some larger base of support or organization.
- Propaganda: Whether it's selling a specific good (as opposed to mass advertising) or a philosophy, this is _somebody with a message_. H/N falls somewhat under this category.
- Public service: Sites such as Wikipedia. Often donor or sponsor supported. One way of scaling amateur hour.
- Commerce: Directly selling some good or product. Can still lead to a significant informational / conversational role, e.g., Craigslist or Amazon forums.
- Advertising: An aggregator of eyeballs. In which case, the particulars of the user base are of interest to the site (and its advertisers). And there's also often a very conscious effort to water down content to appeal to the greatest number. Both of these can set up perverse incentives which tend to drive down the ultimate value and quality of the site. Google has historically balanced the interests of its users (e.g., the product) and its customers (the advertisers), though I'm seeing a bit of a drift lately. Among the challenges: advertising and marketing teams increase in prominence within the company, chasing out the technical and user-focused talent (e.g., Marissa Meyer). Though she's landed at a company which is much, much further down the "provide benefit to advertisers" scale.
Then there's the additional issue that state surveillance (and hacker communities) have a significant interest in such data troves.
One of the advantages to being pithy is that there's an implicitly referenced and much longer argument which takes too long to type.
So, include above by default in "If you're not paying for it, you're the product."
As is implicit in the link you give, there is no legal obligation for executives or other employees to maximize shareholder value (for the directors, there is a fiduciary responsibility). Milton Friedman asserted that there was a _moral_ duty to maximize shareholder value, which is quite different, but this also has become quite controversial recently.
Nothing I read suggested that every case was a problem. Simply that over time, most of these types of comments aren't helping anyone.
> Correlation is not causation....
It's useless as a comment. Spouting that off, and then adding a sentence on how bad science reporting is is where I see this most often. Or, often, it's applies to the reporting, not to the actual study. Thus, the study is dismissed because of the report.
> If you're not paying for it, you're the product.
It's mostly useless in the way it's used. Your condition of justification is where it makes it mostly useless. I mostly don't see it used with justification. Just a mere comment mentioning this, followed by a general rant about the state of being the product.
>  Appropriate when someone makes an extraordinary, unsubstantiated, and difficult-to-source claim.
This appears all the time as the only text to a comment. First, it's factually incorrect. A citation is not needed. Merely requested. Secondly, it's usually used as a passive-aggressive way to assert that you disagree with someone. Don't have a way to argue around something someone said? Just place  in a comment. Thirdly, I see it often used when, in the course of simple discussion, someone presents a hyperbole. It's not meant to be taken literally. However, a reply will seek citation on that specific point. Finally, it's also often used in cases where someone used a subjective adjective to describe something. People get robbed, no one will argue with. However, say "Significant people get robbed", and people want a citation, despite the fact that significant does not mean majority. It's subjective to the discussion and the condition.
> Premature optimization
Again, in the context of HN, it's most often trotted out when people are explicitly exploring optimization.
People always forget that there is such a thing as mature optimization.
> Dunning-Kruger effect Sadly, far too often appropriate, IMO.
Citation requested. =)
> Logical fallacies As with "citation needed": the quality of discourse is served...
If the quality of the comment doesn't move the discussion forward, down vote it. You do nothing by replying with a statement of the logical fallacy. Unless I'm mistaken, up and down votes do not apply to comments you reply to, or to comments that reply to you. Regardless, if you comment on a worthless comment, you are doing nothing more than contributing to the slow degradation of the thread. If, however, the comment does contain redeeming qualities despite a wart or two (as we've all had happen to us), then work to bring the thread back in order.
And the end of the day, this "you deserve to be called on it" attitude is that of a passive aggressive vigilantly.
Informed by a few things: some 40-odd years living on this planet (and possibly others), much of it involved directly or indirectly with technology and complexity. A general observation that much of the H/N crowd is younger (20s), often with the heightened sense of self-confidence which comes from youth, (often) a privileged upbringing, and a lack of exposure to hard knocks, as well as an overdeveloped faith in technological solutions.
A recent exploration of complexity specifically (see Joseph Tainter) and its dynamics. People don't choose complexity where it's not necessary, where they do, it's because it solves problems, but in doing so it imposes a tax -- higher resource (and especially energy) requirements, as well as decreased resilience and increased brittleness.
You do nothing by replying with a statement of the logical fallacy.
I disagree. You point out to others that the writer is relying on invalid arguments and/or facts. This may be out of laziness, out of a warped worldview, or out of deliberate manipulation of data and/or opinion (something I've been noticing increasingly on H/N). I'm content to observe the fallacy and move on. Sometimes the author (or someone else) will respond, occasionally copping to the error (in which case: success, a conversation ensues and the conversation moves forward), fairly frequently not and digging themselves in deeper (success: you've uncovered someone who's generally not worth arguing with, at this point I may simply drop the thread, or reply noting that they're repeating their earlier error).
I've actually made some interesting progress in understanding a few areas I'd previously had challenges with, in particular Libertarianism and the whole von Mises school, largely by discovering through conversations (and ensuing research) that the whole concept is based on a rejection of empiricism or real-world relevance. That and a healthy dose of corporate / plutocratic psychopathy courtesy the Koch brothers and others. Which explains much. And I rarely enter into discussions with those types other than to point out their irrationality.
this "you deserve to be called on it" attitude is that of a passive aggressive vigilantly.
Again, I disagree, and on this particular point, rather strongly.
Mind, yes, people will be wrong on teh Intarnets: http://xkcd.com/386/
But: we, humans, as a species, are facing some immense challenges. Global warming, peak oil, population, food, other resource exhaustion ("peak everything"), and a whole host of others.
And our institutions are exceptionally unfit to the challenge. Politics, economics, religion, technology, philosophy, the press, educational systems, liberal democratic principles (civil and human rights, etc.), even our own physiology and psychology (risk management, dopamine response, short-term/long-term focus), and a host of other factors are utterly maladaptive to what we're going to face over the next years, decades, assuming we survive that long, few centuries.
I'm not even pretending to have a clear view of what we need to do, or even all of what we face, but calling it "tremendously disruptive" is a mass understatement -- what else would you call a 7 to 14-fold (and possibly more) reduction in human population over a few decades at best? If HBS survives, you can bet they'll be teaching this one in 500 years.
So, yeah, I kinda take this shit a little bit seriously. And calling people on bullshit is part of that.
Even if the future of civilization isn't at stake, I've seen tremendous harm and pain come from sloppy and wishful thinking. But odds are quite good the stakes are slightly higher than that.
Of course this is more of an aesthetic gripe rather than a gripe with some rhetorical device.
Mindless evangelism of proprietary technologies, disguised as an attempt at an insightful comment (microsoft's mvps and evangelists are particularly guilty of this).
You're the product (https://www.hnsearch.com/search#request/all&q=%22you're+the+...)
Correlation is not causation (https://www.hnsearch.com/search#request/all&q=%22correlation...)
Maximise shareholder value is trickier, but here are three (and there are many mnay more) (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5001366) (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4262187) (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6045044)
Citation needed (scroll through the list a bit) (https://www.hnsearch.com/search#request/all&q=%22citation+ne...)
Dunning Kruger (https://www.hnsearch.com/search#request/comments&q=dunning+k...)