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on Feb 4, 2014 | hide | past | favorite

PG already responded in the post. (He got downvoted heavily so his post is muted):

    As we say in the guidelines,
    HN is a news site, not a forum for people with issues with companies we've funded
    (even when concealed as Ask HNs). So I'm killing this.
    If you have an issue with Dr Chrono, please contact them directly.
If you ask me, there wasn't anything wrong with the question. The guy reached out to the startup community for answers about a startup company... We regularly discuss other companies here... (Would the post had stayed if it was linked to external blog?)

With that said however, I think that over half of the comments in the thread were just getting ready to arm their pitchforks anyway so the constructiveness of any discussion was probably already over.

Clickable to original story: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7178004

I'm going to suggest something possibly inflammatory, but I promise I say it with only the best intentions. There's something wrong with the fact that such a big forum for hackers/startups is controlled mainly by individuals who also run a startup incubator. There're issues of conflicts of interest here through and through. This thread is perhaps the best example of things going wrong -- hellbanning/rankbanning (ask michaelochurch about that) is another thing, along with too many threads about serious issues worth discussing getting killed.

Maybe we should move to a place where the power hierarchy is not as objectionable. As earlier suggested, maybe a place moderated by trusted HN members (I'm thinking patio11, potatolicious, grellas, etc.) - we can get started here if there's any interest http://www.reddit.com/r/truehn

You should suggest something a little more provocative: there is something broken at YC.

For some very strange reason, this reads exactly like https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6929705, down to the PG retort about the guidelines.

Why do I say something is broken with YC? They should be inculcating certain values, including not leaving customers high and dry (which is what would happened here and in other cases had the posts not reached the front page). You may argue, correctly, that the customers in question were made whole, but that's only because HN worked as a forum for airing grievances about YC companies.

I think drdal showed a lot of courtesey in posting his complaint here. He had also made it quite clear that he had reached out to DrChrono several times. In comparison pg's response seemed lacking good form. The first time I have ever felt so about pg's responses.

He did more than that: he brought it to the attention of their investors. The investors should feel lucky to have this conduit of information. Because if what I read in the thread is correct, they may have a problem CEO on their hands. Those guys exist- they are very smart and persuasive and can even be charming when they need to be.

But they are company killers. And if I am an investor I want to find out sooner rather than later.

This is one of those weird instances when I think the poster was right to post, and I think PG was right to kill it. The poster was looking to have a conversation about what he should do, but PG saw the inevitable flame war coming (and even beginning in the post itself). I don't think any of us would pretend that thread would end up as constructive, so PG gave the definitive answer: Talk to them.

The unfortunate reality of many YC companies is that talking to them doesn't solve the issue until it becomes a PR crisis. At that point, the company usually falls all over itself to handle the customer's needs and loudly proclaims that it really wasn't their fault that a customer's complaints somehow went un-addressed for months despite multiple appeals by the customer to multiple employees and executives.

That's something that could be reasonably expected from a mega-corporation which has to deal with multiple layers of bureaucracy, but even in those situations a direct appeal to an executive officer usually gets the issue resolved. Getting the runaround is not something anyone should have to deal with when the company has a handful of employees and minimal, if any, layers of middle management. After all, isn't one of the primary benefits of being a startup supposed to be that the company is more responsive to customer needs?

I don't think size matters so much as company priorities. Amazon has bent over backwards for me many times. Whether at scale or not, good support takes very specific focus.

For some reason my experience with Amazon customer service has been subpar at best. On the other hand Zappos (which Amazon.com ) has had exemplary service every time I have had to deal with it.

A lack of customer support is typical these days. The problem is that outsourcing to India doesn't work out and US work is too expensive.

To slightly nuance that, given the fact that he had already tried "talking to them" (to death actually, he's bent over graciously--first via support, escalating to discussions with the CEO and ultimately an unanswered demand letter)... in this case continuing to "talk to them" means "sue them", right?

I mean, that was his question. All he seems to have left is suing. He was asking if he had another option. And, of course the other option is "raise a stink on HN/interwebs". But that's a luxury reserved for "hackers"/VIPs, not lowly customers.

PG told him to sue DrChrono.

>so PG gave the definitive answer: Talk to them.

Which the poster has been doing, and it hasn't worked?

I believe the implied advice behind that was "and if need be, have a judge and a bunch of lawyers present when you talk to them".

I agree. And if the OP really just wanted honest advice on whether to sue a start up or not the OP should have omitted the name of the start up. However, the name was provided because HN was not being used to get advice but was used as a side channel to provoke action from a Y Combinator funded company.

That was not my reading. To me the post seemed to be well intended: a way to get the message through to the investors so that the problem could be resolved without legal unpleasantness. EDIT: That is still well within request for "honest advice" in my books, or at least I dont see whats dishonest about the advice sought.

"a way to get the message through to the investors so that the problem could be resolved without legal unpleasantness."

So, not looking for honest advice but using HN as a side channel.

UPDATE: I never said it wasn't well intended. I said it wasn't for honest advice, OP was using HN as a communication forum side channel.

UPDATE 2: If he wanted honest advice he'd have been wise to omit the start up name.

UPDATE 3: The primary purpose of OPs post was to use HN as a communication vehicle with the start up involved, not to seek advice.

UPDATE 4: If the OP was seeking honest advice then he wouldn't have posted the name of the start up. Posting the name of the start up which happens to be funded by the provider of the discussion medium you are using is going to result in BIASED advice.

Unfortunately, the poster already talked to them. This wasn't a question of how to proceed legally, nor was it a complaint about the company. It was an appeal to the startup community about the morals of suing, potentially successfully, a young startup.

I feel PG is wrong to kill the Doctor's valid question.

It's obvious that HN is not a news site, but a discussion forum based upon censored news. If this complaint had been about a non-YC funded company, the moderators would have left the story up. Heck, every other story on HN is usually about somebody complaining about a company's product or conduct.

Why is YC afraid of open discussion? So what if one company out of the portfolio is having problems? Nobody expects the investments to be perfect, yet killing the conversation makes it look far worse, as though there is something to hide.

End of the day, profit trumps transparency. Remember that the next time people get on the soap box and talk about internet freedom blah blah blah.

I'm going to guess the moderators don't vet every story. They just run a search for YC companies.

If Dr Bedi were to write an article titled "My experience with DrChrono" on, say, Medium and posted it here. Would it be killed as well?

Probably not. Similar stories have run on HN, sometimes at the top of the front page, before. It seems like direct appeals to HN about YC companies are the thing 'pg has a problem with.

It should be noted that Medium article rarely make the front page nowadays due to penalties, so a personal blog post might work better.

> It should be noted that Medium article rarely make the front page nowadays due to penalties, so a personal blog post might work better.

Meta question....What are these penalties you are referring to?

My understanding was the only ban hacker news imposed on sites was a binary one. ie a domain was banned or treated as an equal to all other allowed domains.

A few months ago, I read a blog post by Ken Sherrif [0] which explains (and shows graphs) that some submissions have their scores automatically penalized based on domain:

> Some submissions get automatically penalized based on the title, and others get penalized based on the domain. It appears that any article with NSA in the title gets an automatic penalty of .4. I looked for other words causing automatic penalties, such as awesome, bitcoin, and bubble but they do not seem to get penalized.

> I observed that many websites appear to automatically get a penalty of .25 to .8: arstechnica.com, businessinsider.com, easypost.com, github.com, imgur.com, medium.com, quora.com, qz.com, reddit.com, rt.com, stackexchange.com, theguardian.com, theregister.com, theverge.com, torrentfreak.com, youtube.com. I'm sure the actual list is longer. (This is separate from "banned" sites, which were listed at one point.

Page ranking also decays with time, and I think also once you reach a discussion threshold. (I haven't re-read the entire article as thoroughly just now.) I highly recommend reading the article, as it's VERY interesting and well presented.

[0] http://www.righto.com/2013/11/how-hacker-news-ranking-really...

I understand there are weighting penalties, where points for certain domains only count as e.g. 40% of their real value.

Penalities mean that the link requires significantly more upvotes than usual to hit the front page, and if it does hit the front page, it won't stay there for long.

A good description of the math behind penalties (and a list of some penalized domains) is here: http://www.righto.com/2013/11/how-hacker-news-ranking-really...

I'm sure Dr. Bedi got his point across though. I wouldn't be surprised if everyone at the mentioned company is dealing with this s*storm right about now.

What PG is saying is that HN can be used to criticize anyone except companies backed by YC. That's unacceptable.

In a social context, you make a very strong point.

Brace for business-based rationalizations as on why it's perfectly fine (HN is a YC marketing arm, he runs the website and can do whatever he wants, etc, etc).

If you're lucky, someone will start throwing around the word "entitled" to make you look like the bad guy just for expecting any standard of behavior from another that isn't exclusively profit focused.

> (HN is a YC marketing arm, he runs the website and can do whatever he wants, etc, etc).

HN is much more than a marketing arm — it's one of the most central forums for programmer discussions today. And this makes it YC's responsibility to treat it as such.

Not to nitpick (I agree with you), but according to PG:

HN is a news site, not a forum...

I personally really just see it as a Forum about news that is primarily inhabited by a specific portion of the Tech Industry.

I agree. My trust in HN as a tech news source is shaken by this selective censorship.

Of course, this isn't my sandbox and I don't make the rules. Etc.

Is it really? Can't say I'd do differently. I'd bet the company will be reached by PG about it, despite the thread closing, because it was a near PR hit. If we're interested in a constructive process, then it would have only hurt them to make it a public ordeal.

EDIT: not allowed to reply to jacquesm, so putting it here:

Good points. I just don't think the community is that threatened by PG's moderation in this case. I know it looks bad, but sometimes the Internet can be a bit reactionary, so I can see why he tried to protect his company from a firestorm (like this) when it may not be substantiated.

As for the favoritism, well, it's YC's forum. It's mild enough that it doesn't really worry me.

Imo closing threads like that is a bigger PR hit, it makes both the start-up and HN (and by implication YC) look like they are ignoring feedback if it is public and negative. In a tech world where the norm seems to be that support is a luxury making some noise is sometimes the only way to get action (see countless threads regarding google on HN that did not get axed, implying a double standard) and in a conflict-of-interest situation letting these threads run their natural course would be to everybody's best interest.

Think of them as an opportunity to show that you do care about your customer, and that 'make something people want' is not just a hollow phrase, rather than to muzzle them and potentially adding insult to injury. If we're to believe what the OP wrote then PG's advice was especially bad given that he - by his own words, which I can't check but let's give the man the benefit of the doubt - had been trying to talk to the company for quite a while and turned to HN as a last-resort before suing them.

Thank you for clearing that to me :)

This is Michael, CEO of drchrono. It's definitely a rude awakening to wake up to see a post on top of Hacker News from an angry customer.

I've reached out to Dr. Dal to have a phone call today to see how we can resolve his issues. Me and my staff have attempted to have a phone call with him for the past several weeks to address his issues.

Rather than try to dig into the issues he brought up publicly, we'll do our best to contact him directly and resolve the issues he has.

Now you've just established the fact that HN is a good place to raise problems with YC companies. :-)

It even works for Google, why wouldn't it work for YC companies?

My impression is that this forum provides some extraordinary benefits to YC companies. It's only natural that it would introduce a few risks as well.

One would hope that moderation will be just enough to keep HN from becoming a catch-all support site, without stifling the conversation altogether.

It's effective this time.

It wouldn't be effective if it became a complaint board.

Very glad to see that the CEO cares enough to comment, though. Good faith there, even if the op was "against the rules".

Have you sent him a copy of all of his data? That may go a long way toward reducing/eliminating the risk to his business whilst you reach out.

Your note here suggests you may not have spoken with him yet, and may not even have a confirmed time for a phone call.

Hey Michael,

This is tangentially related, but one of Dr. Dal's complaints was about raising your pricing for billing services. He made it sound like these were a fixed fee, which would be unusual for the medical billing service industry.

Nearly every medical billing service I've seen charges a percentage of collections, and I've seen them range between 4% and 10%. It's a model that seems to work well from the perspective of a provider, since the billing service is financially incentivized to collect more.

Have you decided on a different pricing model for drchrono, and if so, what made you decide to deviate from the norm?

This is how the first thread should have been resolved. Great answer and I really hope both sides benefit from the following conversations.

Which is also a reason the thread should have been killed. If posting here works for customer service, this turns into a different kind of forum.

If "customer service" needs to be elevated to this level, something is severely wrong.

I'm assuming DrChrono is in PST. The previous thread may have been killed before the CEO even woke up.

This was classless of pg.

(Tangent: I found out that if you submit a story linking into the killed thread, your submission gets auto-killed. This one apparently survived because the text URI was not parsed as such).

Maybe the moderators will ban this post manually?

At some point there will a rather innocuous post which will be blocked, and it will be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

I think it's coming. I think people are sick of the nannying and censorship and ready to move on from HN.

Any number of innocuous posts have already been blocked. You don't notice them because, well, they're blocked.

I think there is a value to transparency and a space for a better alternative to HN with that as its founding principle, but communities don't form overnight, and how many sites have been successful with transparency over moderator actions?

My submissions were auto killed a while ago. Don't know what caused it.

Eh, what do I care.

I read pg's reply [0] but to kill this story but not to kill all the other complaint-based stories that we see here on a weekly basis is a double standard. How many other stories do we see here that are "I hope my blog post/Ask HN post causes enough of a ruckus that I get what I want"? Tons, yet they aren't killed despite being possibly against the guidelines. This is the first YC-backed complaint we've seen and, to have it killed, was just poor form IMO. I don't see how it was against the guidelines anymore than the people trying to get their gmail/paypal/godaddy/twitter/etc accounts back.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7178300

The author said that he had reached out to the CEO to no avail. Given that, I don't think that the post was inappropriate or classless. I think that killing the post did more harm than good.

The answer is obvious. HN is not a bastion of independent journalism -- it is the 2014 edition of a trade rag.

This is not to say HN is evil. Think of all the problems that legitimate news outfits have with conflicts of interest. Now take away the imperative to do journalism -- HN has never taken on that mantle -- and there is now no reason to resolve said conflicts in the usual news-outlet ways.

We are in the uncanny valley of news: not quite corporate propaganda, not quite integral journalism. I happen to enjoy it, but let's not pretend that YC is the NYT.

The main reason that I find this hypocritical is that similar complaints against non-YC companies, whether Google or Microsoft or some startup or US Government, are not given this treatment.

An explanation would definitely be prudent - if only to prevent people from jumping to, perhaps incorrect, conclusions in the absence of all the facts.

EDIT: I see from other responses that PG addressed the issue in the original submission. The response feels like an inappropriate copout. The submission did not "conceal" anything. Furthermore - if the submission had been exactly the same but in reference to dealings with a company not funded by YC it would have stood as a useful source of advice to the OP. This relying on ToS puts my back up hugely.

Yeah I think killing this was pretty weak. If the post had been full of praise can guarantee it wouldn't have been killed. Sounds like the guy had exhausted most pre-sue options. Think it's right and important that companies NOT adhering to the presumably high standards that YC strives for get highlighted as well.

This is really similar to a thread that made the top of HN a couple months ago about the guy who was having problems with CoinBase (and couldn't get any support) which was never deleted [1]. It was successful in causing enough of a riot to get the CEO involved [2]. When dealing with lots of money and useless customer support, it's understandable that someone may feel desperate enough to try and raise a storm on HN when there's literally no other avenue to getting somebody to look into the issue. Whether or not this should be happening on HN, I think its important to have SOME place where people can voice their issues so that these startups don't continue to think they can get away with selling incomplete products with little to no support when anything goes wrong.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6929705 [2]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6930109

While I understand PG's reasoning, I wonder if he's not risking drawing even more attention to things, given how much attention gets paid to HN.

Agree completely. I understand PG's reasoning/logic, however, the result risks a perception of the same type of response the OP got from his emails/letters to the company. If he had posted his complaint elsewhere and it ended up here would it have been deleted as well? However unlikely it may seem there is a good chance as well that the OP didn't even realize that this site is related to an investor of drchrono.

He asked the startup community about advice in how to proceed with a startup. He showed much evidence of others feeling similar grievance. It attracted lots of attention in a short amount of time. That should worry someone though:(

>> "HN is a news site, not a forum for people with issues with companies we've funded (even when concealed as Ask HNs). So I'm killing this. If you have an issue with Dr Chrono, please contact them directly."

I understand the reasoning behind killing it but considering the guy was only here as a last resort after trying everything else + it was a YC company it would have been more appropriate to offer some help, especially considering the OP had already tried pg's suggestion of contacting the company.

Also - around a month ago there were several Ask HN posts from people having trouble with Coinbase and they weren't killed. Why? [1]

[1] This is an example from almost a year ago but there were several in the last few months too: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5427985

NB: We don't know all the facts and can't pass judgement on drchrono but I think the above still holds true regardless.

It doesn't seem fair. If the OP (drdal) had created a blog post instead, would that have made a difference?!

Wrong question.

If the OP had written an AskHN saying how happy he was with the service, would that have made a difference.

Can't really have a yes for one and a no for the other, in that case.

A how happy he was with the service post would read more like spam than a call for discussion.

Something like this:

    Ask HN: Should I be really excited about how awesome
    drchrono is? They have treated me with dignity and 
    class since I signed up. This is in addition to saving
    me hours per day and thousands of dollars on each 
    transaction. What do you think, HN?

As we say in the guidelines, http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html HN is a news site, not a forum for people with praise for companies we've funded (even when concealed as Ask HNs). So I'm killing this. If you have praise for Dr Chrono, please contact them directly

Yeah, this is what makes it kinda silly. If he can post it via a proxy blog post, he should be able to post it directly. If someone else blogs about the closure of the thread, and posting that is allowed, then the original complaint should be allowed. *

I'm a firm believer in "if it is allowed while jumping through hoops, either allow it altogether, or ban it altogether".

(* Same thing about choosing descriptive titles for posts btw.. If posting a proxy blog post with a comment is ok, then posting directly should be ok, too)

As we all learned with the Coinbase issues last year, yes this would have made a difference. It's better to link to a blog post and bring the thread here after.

Next up, you'll lose your ability to post.

Permutation of the ethic described here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/03/google-..., I guess ?

Perhaps HN should just ban negative complaints completely, because the same applies regardless of if a company is YC or non-YC.

After all, what was FiftyThree's letter to Facebook about Paper other than an attempt to leverage public opinion to get a company to respond to an issue ?

Negative threads often turn into flamewars and make people behave aggressively with each other. Sure there's a place for negative articles, but maybe that place shouldn't be HN.

Remember when HN was about startup founders and hackers helping each other ?

Why is this user's (drdal) other comments not showing up from his user page?

His Ask HN on an entirely different topic seems to have disappeared from his user page:

Or, are Ask HNs not counted as submissions?

Response from PG on the dead link itself: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7178300

He explained why on that post, but if you're wondering when this page falls off the top of the front page, keep in mind the possibility that it was flagged off by users like me. This thread is pure, distilled drama.

You're welcome to your opinion. There's a reason this thread is currently the 2nd thread on the HN front page.

EDIT: Props to xenophanes for calling me out on my laziness. I've described more in depth the reasons for the attention called to this debacle: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7178857

It being pure distilled drama would be a reason for it to be #2 on front page. You didn't even reply with a different opinion about what reason it's high on the front page.

So he has an opinion that he's willing to write out and expose to critical evaluation. You don't. You're thinking & conversing wrong.

Take 2:

"He explained why on that post, but if you're wondering when this page falls off the top of the front page, keep in mind the possibility that it was flagged off by users like me. "

People are honestly interested on how this issue is going to be handled by Drchrono. People are more interested in how pg handles (or in this case, handled) the conflict of interest between supporting a YC company and supporting the ability to have open discourse on what is a public forum.

These are the reasons why this thread is so highly rated, has a high possibility of not being downvoted into oblivion, and why people are taking an active interest in the previous killed thread.

"This thread is pure, distilled drama."

One man's "distilled drama" is another man's intelligent discourse. YMMV.

That's better :) I haven't been paying much attention to this stuff but one issue I'd raise is that HN does seem to allow (encourage?) complaint threads about other companies like paypal, and also sometimes google, apple, facebook, and many others. Some of them are things where one might think "contact that company directly" is the answer, but there are reasons that isn't always best, such as the company being non-responsive.

Those discussions often do attract some level of drama, but I don't particularly care. HN has stuff I don't want to read including some drama and some non-drama, and my solution is to ignore it.

> the ability to have open discourse on what is a public forum.

I think that's the mistake right there. HN is not a public forum.

Then communicate to your users that its your playground, not an open forum. Or is the fear that if you do that the audience will go elsewhere?

EDIT: Annnnnnd PG killed this thread as well.

For what it's worth: I agree. We're guests here.

Heck, posting on HN is the only way for most of us to get customer service from Google.

Short answer: HN is not meant for ceaseless flame wars and drama (though it sometimes occurs).

That being said, I can feel the frustration of the original author, having been f*cked over before by a company I was a customer of. Seems like the problem is resolving itself, though. A rational corporate agent will try to repair this reputational blow in a swift manner.

I can see both sides of this. On one hand, it would severely degrade the quality of HN if it became a sounding board for complaints against Ycombinator funded companies. One the other hand, there was a chance for a completely germane discussion about quality customer service at Saas companies in general and small startups in particular. If a person does outsource a critical business function and the company doesn't respond, what is a person to do? What is an acceptable response time when the error brings a person's business to a standstill?

I don't remember seeing such an individual complaint laid out against any one company. The post was a personal gripe.

I'd hate to see the front page of HN turn into a YC complaint board.

There actually was a thread complaning about coinbase that got like 600+ votes and a huge discussion. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6929705

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