Some users have started kindly informing the hellbanned posters that, for whatever reasons, don't seem to notice that no one ever responds or upvotes their comments.
If I may get on my soapbox (if I wasn't already), I find the whole thing symptomatic of Silicon Valley's culture of networking hell and reputation management. It's a policy of elitism; a policy that disenfranchises in the name of some fictional notion of quality; a policy that demonstrates just how rotten the tech industry is at heart.
Why do I go that far? Because community culture is indicative of so many things. This is the community and atmosphere that pg set up, that pg creates, moderates, and maintains.
pg may not be formally 'responsible,' but he's certainly at the head.
Because I'm an asshole, but not enough of one to get hellbanned (at least on this account), I am in some state of suspension: an artificial delay imposed on every request.
(That's what I don't get about HN's moderation: what, did you think I wouldn't notice that you're essentially trying to herd me like chattel? I stubbornly keep this account kicking out of simple contrariness.)
You're right (to continue going slightly meta), it's a policy of elitism, but in the same vein as Wikipedia. They too are still around as a result.
Side note: Quality is quantifiable to a degree and is by no means a fictional notion.
This isn't Wikipedia, it's a discussion forum--and the discussion pages on Wikipedia are moderated fairly and openly.
I didn't mean that quality as a whole was fictional, I meant that the notion of quality this policy is attempting to enact was fictional/unattainable.
Flame wars still happen. People still complain about the nastiness of HN comments. It's a discussion forum: angry conversation is what it's for.
Hellbanning does absolutely nothing to improve 'quality of discourse,' it just makes this place nastier.
My own opinion on hell-banning or any other forms of account "punishment" is that it is, as you say, cowardly and ineffective, as long as the user has no idea that it has occurred. Either inform the user, or completely ban the account. Otherwise you're leaving people screaming into the wind when you could just tell them no-one is listening.
Telling somebody "you've been banned" will make them upset. Some people get severely offended and they want to fight. So they go and create new accounts and start over, or they seek revenge in other ways. It can be very time consuming to deal with. Granted, this will still happen because some people will realize that they've been hellbanned, but the ones that simply get the impression that people aren't responding to their trolling will get bored with it and go away. Which is a win.