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Coming Soon to Hacker News: Pending Comments
661 points by pg 1133 days ago | hide | past | web | 805 comments | favorite
A surprisingly long time ago (2013 was a busy year) I mentioned a new plan to improve the quality of comments on Hacker News:


Since I'm going to check out of HN at the end of this YC cycle, this was my last chance to get this done. I didn't want the people who are going to inherit HN from me to have to build it as their first project, because it interacts with so many different bits of the code in such subtle ways.

So I found time to implement pending comments this past week, and with any luck it will launch tonight. Since it's a big change, I wanted to warn HN users in advance.

Here's how it currently works. From now on, when you post a comment, it won't initially be live. It will be in a new state called pending. Comments get from pending to live by being endorsed by multiple HN users with over 1000 karma. Those users will see pending comments, and will be able to endorse them by clicking on an "endorse" link next to the "flag" link.

Someone who has a pending comment will have to wait till it goes live to post another. We're hoping that good comments will get endorsed so quickly that there won't be a noticeable delay.

You can currently beat the system by posting an innocuous comment, waiting for it to be endorsed, and then after it's live, changing it to say something worse. We explicitly ask people not to do this. While we have no software for catching it, humans will notice, and we'll ban you.

Along with the change in software will come a change in policy. We're going to ask users with the ability to endorse comments only to endorse those that:

1. Say something substantial. E.g. not just a throwaway remark, or the kind of "Yes you did, No I didn't" bickering that races toward the right side of the page and no one cares about except the participants.

2. Say it without gratuitous nastiness. In particular, a comment in reply to another comment should be written in the spirit of colleagues cooperating in good faith to figure out the truth about something, not politicians trying to ridicule and misrepresent the other side.

People who regularly endorse comments that fail one or both of these tests will lose the ability to endorse comments. So if you're not sure whether you should endorse a comment, don't. There are a lot of people on HN. If a point is important, someone else will probably come along and make it without gratuitous nastiness.

I hope this will improve the quality of HN comments significantly, but we'll need your help to make it work, and your forbearance if, as usually happens, some things go wrong initially.

My may concern with this system: Sledgehammer meets tack.

The comments on HN aren't perfect, but they're far from bad when compared to other sites of this nature. There has been a downwards trend most probably due to the increasing popularity of HN. A response is warranted. However, this system has the potential to silence a lot of high quality comments on any threads that aren't on the front-page for an extended period of time. Thus, you get a feedback loop. Good posts require quality discussion to stay on top, but must stay on top to get quality discussion going with this added approval lag.

I think you should ease these changes in as conservatively and gradually as possible. For example, apply it only to the top page at first, and reduce the number of endorsements required for display to 1. You might also consider merely greying out comments that have not yet been endorsed, as currently happens to down-voted comments. Another option would be to apply the endorsement system only after threads have reached a certain age so as to jump-start discussions. Additionally, I would recommend that authors of a parent post should be able to see all child posts regardless of their karma. Below, Babuskov raised the point that the endorsement system will obstruct useful back-and-forth discussions between sub-kilokarma users in buried threads that often takes the place of a private messaging system on HN. This would fix that more effectively than merely reducing the endorsement requirement.

You should not entertain any illusions that you can flip the switch and watch this system work perfectly, and that you will therefore be able to avoid confusing people with many changes over a lengthy period of time. Tweaking will almost certainly be required.

I'm not sure that I qualify to contribute a reply (and that may be a problem here) - I've read HN for 4+ years and have only started actively contributing very recently on this account - I have neither karma nor history of posting in my favour.

One of the most powerful things about HN is that it is currently not like reddit - we don't end up with 400+ comments that sit at the bottom of the page gathering dust and downvotes. I feel that a system of pending comments plays better in a more moderated community - especially so as sometimes the most seemingly innocuous comments here can be important or generate discussion that would not otherwise occur.

If the system were to be brought in immediately I'd like to see something along the lines of a 24 hour window; all comments are published after 24 hours with karma directly correlating to the reduction of that window - i.e. Those users with karma of 1440+ can comment with relative impunity on the assumption that their past contributions merit their voice being heard instantly, whilst users with lower karma must either wait for their comment to be 'approved' by a higher user or of course wait out the period of 1440-karma. A relatively simple fix, I would hope, given that you are willing to let 1000+ karma users basically moderate the comments.

I absolutely agree with beloch that these changes should be eased in as conservatively as possible: the worst thing that can happen to HN, and the tech industry as a whole, is presenting itself as a closed community in which you must gain favour to advance - we all quite literally live on the new blood that so often disrupts the status quo.

This really worries me as well. I'm in the somewhat the same boat as you, a good relatively recent anecdote is one of my early threads, an Ask HN thread which while it never got more than a few votes, got enough productive answers and discussion that it cleared up some issues on my part. (also, the entire discussion took place within the first 24 hours by primarily low karma users, after which the thread was dead.) If that discussion wouldn't be feasible without "approval" that entire exchange and the benefit I drew from it would have been unobtainable.

I must admit I do not feel compelled by this change.

Interesting proposals all around.

Perhaps the best idea might not involve trying to determine the best path to take. At least we're asking, right?

I think this is a great idea, it's simple (one karma = one minute) and it addresses many of the problems I foresee with this new rules, in particular getting stuck in "pending limbo" indefinitely (given that you can't post if your previous comment is still pending).

It still makes it take extremely long for a new user to obtain 1000 karma, though. Much harder than previously, I imagine. Although maybe not, since there will be less posts visible, those that are will get relatively more karma points?

I agree with this entirely. As it currently stands, implementing this policy in such a abrupt way will hurt discussion and negatively impact the quality of the community.

And although there are ways to improve the actual implementation of the system, I still think it is fundamentally flawed for a few reasons.

First, any system in which a comment is assumed to be spam or trash until proven otherwise will produce less meaningful discussion. Maybe most of the good comments will be filtered through; but some will invariably be missed, and people with valid ideas will not have their comments seen by anyone. Moreover, from my understanding, the HN user base is primarily in North America. (I could be wrong.) If this is true, won't users in other countries be disproportionately affected by this kind of oversight because there are simply fewer high-karma users in the rest of the world?

This is fundamentally a debate over whether HN should have 50% fewer good comments and 100% fewer bad ones, or whether we should just get everything. I believe that latter.

Second, this program places excess responsibility in the hands of high-karma users. HN is now moving from a passive system (eg. one where everything is visible and the best stuff gets voted to the top), to one where every comment must be scrutinized and evaluated just to be visible. Logistically, I don't see how this works. Users with over 1000 karma are rare. From what I've seen they are less than 5% of the total HN user base. This minority is now going to be responsible for evaluating every single comment?! I truly do not see the small number of high-karma users on HN being able to sort through every comment. Many, many comments will be missed or ignored.

Overall, I believe that any effort to stop spam on HN should be given consideration, but this system poses substantial logistical problems and will, in all likelihood, hurt the community.

I do particularly enjoy the mostly civil posts here. I've always held out HN as an example of an open community commenting system that works. I personally disagree with the new policy.

Since I don't comment often, this probably doesn't mean much, but this is the last comment I'll post on HN until the policy is reversed.

I didn't even know HN had a commenting problem until HN told me. As is often the case, the comments are pretty informative on this topic too.

Well, so long everyone. Logging out for now. Someone please let me know on Twitter if this gets reversed.

"Users with over 1000 karma are rare. From what I've seen they are less than 5% of the total HN user base of."

But a much higher percentage of people who actually post. The top 10 posts on this page (for me, right now) are about 50% from such users, and of the top 10 newcomments right now there's only 3 from users with 1000+ Karma, but several more from >900. If you're participating on the site for a while, it doesn't take that long.

  You might also consider merely greying out comments that 
  have not yet been endorsed, as currently happens to down-
  voted comments.
I agree with this, except that pending comments should probably be visually differentiated from downvoted ones (maybe a shade of green like new usernames). Otherwise, you risk subtly prejudicing a reader that has grown accustomed to the original meaning of the greying-out.

Either way, I'd advocate for a "showpending" toggle for users with under 1000 karma.

I think it's a good idea, as the quality of comments have been degrading.

Perhaps after a post has reached a certain age (few hours) comments would slowly open up to users with less and less karma. Just a thought, but I agree a "show pending" toggle would be nice too.

It is important that we encourage new users to comment on HN. The reality is that early posts from new users may not make the grade set by 1000+ Karma users. Let them be visible as otherwise you may discourage such new users from re engaging/commenting further.

Color coding comments to flag they as 'pending' is fine. But complete hiding them sounds too strong

Its great to have the conversation on how to improve HN comments

Why is important to encourage new users to comment? That, too, seems to be solving a problem that doesn't exist.

I'd ask the converse - why inhibit new users from commenting? They seem almost as likely to have a contributing comment as established users.

Not all accounts are new users of course.

For note, HN isn't necessarily increasing in popularity.

Number of HN submissions over 3 years: http://i.imgur.com/r9Ayvb1.png

Number of HN comments over 3 years: http://i.imgur.com/4FwglA8.png

It's possible for HN to be increasing in popularity while decreasing in # of submissions. For instance, if more users are coming to the site, the site is growing in popularity. If the X percent of users who normally submit the most frequently are decreasing their submission rates, submissions will go down despite the user growth.

Of course, this scenario assumes that # of submissions follows a power law distribution: a small percentage of posters make the majority of submissions. That pattern emerges on many content sites, especially sites with active forms of communal self-moderation. I have no idea if it's the case here, but it seems feasible.

Whoops, it should be noted that the spam algorithm changed at around the peak, which also explains the decrease. (I made the chart)

This data isn't relevant to the discussion.

IMO, the quality has degraded due to more people viewing the site, not the submissions. If I get my post on the frontpage of HN I can expect roughly 1,000 hits per hour. This wasn't the case 4 years ago when I first starting lurking here.

There are two problems with this:

1. More people (of poor quality) upvoting stories that attract the most attention (link bait, stories that aren't relevant, etc)

2. More people (of poor quality) upvoting comments that are not relevant to the discussion.

No graph will be able to chart this - it's purely subjective.

According to Google Trends Hacker News' interest seems to be be stable: http://www.google.com/trends/explore?hl=en-US&q=hacker+news&...

But this is just one metric, how about the number of users? It certainly counts toward "popularity", doesn't it?

Does that graph include comments under "submissions", or only stories? I bet the latter. There are only so many conceivably-appropriate-for-HN stories out there, and many of the rest get taken out as spam.

If the number of comments, on the other hand, hadn't gone up since 2012, I'd be shocked.

Submissions only.

Here is a chart of the comments: http://i.imgur.com/4FwglA8.png

Thanks for making that! I'm not shocked. :)

To me a problem with karma systems that are based on a specific relatively well-defined ruleset is that you still end up with a score that doesn't really convey much. For instance, the karma I have is made up of meaningful discussions, which involve telling others about relevant facts, as well as one liner jokes and a few quotes from random dead folks that are smarter than I am.

I always wonder how useful it is to really try to get down to defining what it is you want out of the conversations, and then giving the ability to narrow based on that. Obviously, the narrowing would have to be quick, because it's hard enough to get people to click an up/down arrow once, but if it were to include even two or three more specific categories, or flags, could you put enough information into the system to automate some of the problem folks.

For instance, having a way for users to flag a post as vitriolic, or not containing real information, and then collating the data and either stopping that user from posting, or putting them into a state where their posts are pending.

I also wanted to mention that it seems as though he does address not having illusions in the last sentence: "I hope this will improve the quality of HN comments significantly, but we'll need your help to make it work, and your forbearance if, as usually happens, some things go wrong initially."

I think all of that spitballing is predicated on having a well-defined course you'd like conversations to follow with well-defined rules that don't block the flow of useful discourse, or stifles the community.

This isn't a topic I've done any research on. Just throwing some thoughts out there. I appreciate the parent post, though, because it raised a lot of notions I hadn't thought of immediately when I read the pending idea. I think I tend to lean toward giving people with higher karma the ability to flag people into a status that makes there posts go into pending, according to a set of defined criteria (like were posted) rather than starting folks in that state. I think it would be less impactful to the rate of conversation, but obviously then you have people who make accounts to get around it, which would be solved by the solution to be implemented.

Also everything I'm suggesting is complicated and possibly overkill/overengineered. I wonder if there's an elegant way to get more useful classification information into the voting system to give it more focussed goals.

Well. Enough rambling on my part.

It's been a decade since I've posted there with any regularity, but this more or less lays out why I feel like I still haven't seen a more elegant solution to moderating comments than Slashdot's metamoderation system.

Comments not only receive a +/- minus score, but they receive a reason for that score. Additionally, meta-moderators are selected randomly from eligible moderators who go behind and moderate whether the scores given to a particular comment were justified. Get metamoderated down often enough and you lose your ability to moderate.

It baffles me that every site on the web keeps using simple up/down systems and then complains about how hard it is to generate quality discussion when this is hardly a new problem set.

Do you feel like slashdot has high quality discussions? I don't. The problem isn't new, but it also isn't solved.

I haven't visited Slashdot on a regular basis in the better part of ten years, but it tended to 15 years ago. Back then, it was the kind of place where you'd find people like John Carmack randomly chiming in on a thread.^1

And that's also entirely beside the point.

Does HN have the same level of comment quality as reddit? They both use simple up/down systems.

The point is that Slashdot's metamoderation system better leverages the community as a means of directing discussion. The initial upvote has a reason attached to it, and the meta level moderation allows the community to filter out people that are moderating inappropriately. What constitutes appropriate is going to depend on the standards in place for that community.

I wouldn't expect to see an option to moderate a comment +1, Funny on HN, for example. The system itself, however, is designed specifically to bring quality content to the top.

But I think you're making the mistake of conflating the design of a system that is meant to address one problem with the state of a site that declined for other reasons years ago.

[1] - http://floodyberry.com/carmack/slashdot.html#s19991123x08382...

Perhaps I misinterpreted you. When you said

> It baffles me that every site on the web keeps using simple up/down systems and then complains about how hard it is to generate quality discussion when this is hardly a new problem set.

It sounded like you were saying "if those sites just used a better moderation system, it would be easy to generate quality discussion". But the moderation system you propose does not generate quality discussion on slashdot.

If that's not what you're saying, then I'm not sure what particular benefit you think slashdot's sytem does have. What does it mean for a system to be good at directing discussion, but not at generating high-quality discussion? Why is it useful to be able to revoke mod privileges, if that doesn't generate high-quality discussion?

Or are you saying something like, it would be easy to generate quality discussion with slashdot's system given certain other factors (where simple +/- does not make this easy), but slashdot lacks those factors?

You bring up another interesting point for me. How do you even know when the problem is or isn't solved? There are two common themes I see in forums like this (and of course, many others of varying nuance). One group has been around for a long time and says it's just not like the old days, and a second group says that it is, and that the former are looking at the past through rose tinted glasses.

I can't objectively say that slashdot was better or worse here. Firstly, because I didn't go to slashdot nearly as often as I do here, and secondly, because I haven't done anything to thoroughly define and measure what I would consider a quality community.

If my problem is that the community is bad, I think I need a way to show to myself that it really is. I need a set of guidelines which I want my community to interact according to, or standards for the goodness I'm trying to push, and a way to see how much goodness there is, then a plan to drive that goodness.

And I'm not even saying that you need to be rigorous about it. Maybe that would help, but I think you can get some ideas with some general notions like tiny surveys, or something like that. I guess you could start getting more interesting and use sentiment analysis after auto-classifying posts, looking for meta content talking about the board.

As another aside, I think more specialized, smaller fragmented communities tend to be better for me, which is why I also enjoy subreddits like r/types and such, but again, I think that by no objective standard

+1 Interesting.

There's probably a parallel to make between moderation systems and Russel's paradox[1].

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell's_paradox

>you still end up with a score that doesn't really convey much

Exactly. Mostly I try to make constructive comments, but the most upvotes I have received were on comments which were hateful to one of the tech companies - they might still not be the best comments in pg's dictionary.

I disagree that it needs to be done gradually.

They can roll it out tonight and immediately roll it back if it is stifling conversation in a way that causes more harm than it resolves. They can also iterate on it if any part of it works in a way that isn't optimal.

Essentially, if you trust HN/YC to not leave something horribly broken, there is nothing to worry about. The code is not set in stone, and you can bet they'll be watching closely for anything not working well about the new system.

I agree in principle but not in practice.

Social systems can be broken in a way that won't manifest until a certain type of discussion comes up. So while I trust HN/YC to do their best to protect and promote discourse, I don't know that the types of conversation that come up during the evaluation period will be representative of all future conversation on HN

That's true. The same argument can be made for any system that is put in place, though. Even the current one likely has types of discussions that "break it" in some way. There's even evidence of such breakage if you include arguments/bickering as something that the system should prevent.

We can summarize this change as moving from a system where (at least some of) the system's weaknesses are known, to a system where the people running HN believe it should be a better system, but it still probably has points where it breaks in some way. Doing changes like this and reacting to breakage is the only way that progress can be made.

I'd also like to point out that plenty of us with plenty of karma also have some degree of RSI (repetitive strain injury, sometimes loosely called carpal tunnel syndrome (that's just one of many forms of RSI)), in part acquired by what allowed us to get so much karma.

No way can I afford to spend a lot of mousing and clicking on a zillion "pending" comments to make them visible to the hoi polli. Heck, ignoring the greater good, why would I personally care, I've probably got enough karma to see everything.

Good to see someone point out a flaw on basing the success of the site on the dependability of the 1k+ group. They need not all be benevolent dictators (or even interested) in spirit.

Like you said, this change may lead to the case that "high quality comments on any threads that aren't on the front-page" will not be shown. The lack of those comments and subsequently the lack of a vibrant discussion might discourage other users from participating, leading to the article never making it to the front page.

I foresee this causing an even worse problem than low quality comments: The front page will be flooded with stories that make it their not because of the quality of the accompanied discussion, but because of the "clickability" of the article title.

However, it seems like there is a relatively simple solution. The number of "endorsements" required to activate a comment could be inversely proportional to the articles points. Or as some other users have suggest, it could be inversely proportional to the quantity of other comments on the same article.

I share your concerns. I think that this system would be best applied in combination with some sort of flamewar detection. In other words, only enable it in threads that have high comment:upvote ratios, or in threads where there is high velocity back-and-forth or downvoting.

I agree.

At a minimum, I'd suggest lowering the karma threshold to 100 and/or only gray out comments that are 'pending'.

Someone who has a pending comment will have to wait till it goes live to post another. We're hoping that good comments will get endorsed so quickly that there won't be a noticeable delay.

Is there some timeout? If not, commenting on a several-day-old thread will guarantee that you can never post another comment, since once threads drop off the front page it's not likely that many 1000+ karma users will even see those comments, never mind endorse them.

Hmm, trust cperciva to find the thing I'd overlooked.

I'll add a pending page that collects pending comments. Maybe that will solve the problem.

That might work... but only if people actually read that page. Given how few people look at /newest (as estimated by the fraction of votes which are cast before submissions hit the frontpage) I'm not optimistic.

How about only placing comments into the "pending" purgatory if the submission they're attached to has received more than X comments in the past Y minutes? I assume it's the chatty discussions which you're concerned about cooling down, so this would handle the problem case while avoiding the side effect on quiet/abandoned threads.

I think I like this idea quite a bit. I don't know how many users there are with >1000 karma, but will they be motivated to keep endorsing everyone else's pending posts? Sometimes good discussions do happen on quieter threads, or way down the list that the 1000+ users might not see.

Well, I guess it really comes down to just how much (proper) endorsing ends up happening. One thing I like about HN is that it's open and fast to use. Having a pending mode on everyone's comments affects not only the troll-users, but many of the normal ones too who aren't abusing the system ><.

If endorsing comments too hastily risks the loss of that privilege, but endorsing comments correctly has only a social benefit...

I'll try to do my part, but I worry about the tragedy of the commons here. The current incentives may actively discourage endorsements.

I was thinking the same thing. There's currently no known harm for upvoting, so we do it to promote good discussion, despite the fact that there's typically no personal benefit. But if endorsing posts not only provides no personal benefit but also bears the risk of possible harm, people might be too cautious with endorsements for this system to work.

One concern is that there's no direct feedback to the endorser, so he or she would have no sense of the relative importance of their endorsement to keeping the discussions rolling along. With visions of the Stack Overflow police, how high a bar should a comment have to pass? Although maybe that's a positive -- after all, we no longer directly see comment scores, only the derivative effect of thread reordering.

So, have a new meta-karma that is equal to the mods given to the posts you endorsed? (An alternative would be giving karma directly, or some fraction of karma).

[ed: spelling]

Perhaps that could work, although it goes a bit down the road toward heavier and more explicit mechanics, as at Slashdot and Stack Overflow. In another comment somewhere in this thread, pg mentions that he'd like to keep it as simple as possible. Unspoken is the "...but no simpler" part.

It's fun to consider that a dynamic system could provide someone on the back end (or a smart algorithm) with a variable nozzle controlling comment flow.

But endorsing not at all guarantees loss of that privilege, in that you're never actually exercising it. If the penalty doesn't extend further, I'm not sure the cost will discourage terribly much.

>I don't know how many users there are with >1000 karma

There are about 5500 such users. There have been around 245,000 users to ever post on Hacker News and around 85,000 users have posted over the last year.

Source: I'm working on a fork of the Hacker News Karma tracker (not ready to be live yet) that uses Algolia's new HN Search API; I also downloaded every comment ever made similar to how minimaxir downloaded all of the submissions.

I wonder how many upvotes we would collectively have to give each day to bring comments out of pending?

Looks like in the last 10 minutes we've had 30 comments on HN - that's about 180 and hour - that's 4,320 comments in a 24-hour period.

Let's say 50% of those are worthy of being seen. If we assume it takes two upvotes per comment to bring it out of pending status then that group of 5500 people need to cast 4,320 upvotes a day collectively to to stay caught up.

Given the fact that A: it's unlikely that all 5500 of these users are still active, and B: it's very unlikely that they would be upvoting the same comments then it seems almost certain that there will be a SIGNIFICANT backlog of pending comments created each day.

Well, hopefully new users can hit the 1000+ mark quick enough to not have it affect them too much.

But, I wonder how the lack of visible scores on comments has affected the overall comment scoring rate. For the average new user today, how long do they have to wait to get to 1000 karma? How long was it a few years ago? These would be interesting questions to answer.

I joined more than 2000 days ago. I don't have 1000 karma. This way I'll maybe never will reach it. Seems a bit of a high threshold to me. But maybe my commentary just isn't good enough.

Karma per post is not well correlated with the actual quality of your contributions. You can get hundreds of karma for posting superficial observations early on a post that become popular. Someone that has observed HN for long enough could probably get 1000 karma in a day from just trying to optimize for karma instead of quality.

If you really do want to reach some karma threshold I would suggest trying to get it from submissions instead. You can easily get hundreds of karma per submission if you submit the newest release of some popular software product or the latest Zed Shaw rant with very little invested. This also has the bonus that you are not actually lowering the quality of your commenting for more karma.

That, and doing some basic research to post additional useful information (facts, numbers, stats, references, background info, etc) on a relatively new thread.

I'm mentioning this because I believe such posts are genuinely useful and surely deserve the points they get.

BTW I don't think I ever got near a hundred points for a comment. But I suppose it can happen in the above circumstance in a popular thread.

Maybe the easier solution would be to have two thresholds - one for un-endorsed posting and one for endorsing. Or having a heuristic that includes ave. comment score as a factor. Or... Or...

Honestly, the more I think about this, the more complicated it seems, which is usually not a good sign.

I'm not sure it is a worthwhile endeavor to hope that new users hit 1000 karma. I think the discourse would be better served by having a wide variety of people saying something worthwhile occasionally rather than trying to say something popular more often to play a karma game.

The best idea I've heard so far is a timeout, such that even if no one endorses your comment is to let you comment again anyway after a day.

I'm still not sure what the benefit of adding endorsements is compared to using a generic upvote as the endorsement.

> How about only placing comments into the "pending" purgatory if the submission they're attached to has received more than X comments in the past Y minutes?

Fluff will pass through.

Another option would be to enable the pending machine on big stories for the time they are on the home page, then auto-validate everything (but mark the unendorsed comments as such).

It would be nice if users with a lower karma could validate the replies to their own comments, once they have been validated.

I like this idea; perhaps it could be a continuous function. There's already some sort of velocity-like calculation, with a time coefficient, so stories have to kick increasingly hard to keep their heads above water. It seems logical to attach the posting threshold -- a new cooling saucer dimension -- to that same calculation.

Let's see how much of a problem there is first. I wanted to start with the simplest possible thing. If it breaks in some cases I'll add stuff to fix those.

An additional suggestion- don't show username on pending comments. Let the comments get approved solely on their own merit.

That should cut out a lot of concern about a ol' boys club, and honestly should do a lot to improve comment quality as well.

This is a very important consideration.

The are discussions where user name matters, for instance when refering to the nth parent in the same thread, or when trying to bring more context to a point made previously or even retracting a comment (knowing it's the same user posting is important).

We could get away with temporary user names, changing on a per thread basis for instance, but that might be heavy to implement.

>for instance when refering to the nth parent in the same thread

waterlesscloud's suggestion is to hide them only while the comment is pending. Once the comment is approved, then the username can be displayed as normal, allowing references.

Apply the on first participation to the thread then ?

Or just copy 4chan's system directly, since that's what you're iterating towards, and they've already solved this problem.

My immediate thoughts were very similar to cperciva's. In the status quo, there's already a disincentive (for those who care about average karma) to comment on any posts that require scrolling down, especially if posts above them are heavily nested or if they themselves are. I can think of a particular discussion I had with a well-known HN user who has professional/financial incentive to care about his karma statistics, and as our two person back-and-forth got slightly too nested but very much unresolved, he merely liked my final comment and never replied.

If pending comments are applied to anything except the top-level, I could see this having disastrous effects on the quality of response in discussions since responses in low-traffic branches will likely not even show up.

With the availability of browser plugins and user scripts, I anticipate an "off-HN" application popping. Interested people can shadow the "canonical" HN discussion and continue a discussion that has legs, possibly grafting it onto HN itself.

Of course, it may be simpler to bot up a subreddit and do the same thing via convention. That may be the best result, redirecting the reddit-like dross back to reddit, where it belongs. Throwaway accounts will be mechanically discouraged along with the me-too, ya rite, and other useless posts.

Hopefully this will prove overly pessimistic. The way I see it, either we'll be proven wrong or pg will revert to the system we know and love until he comes up with a better method for improving the quality of comments.

I actually found it optimistic, in the "destroy a village to save it"[1] sense. HN, as it currently stands, will cease to exist. I suspect the volume of submissions pointing directly to old wikipedia articles will dry up. I consider this a good thing.

I suspect the volume of submissions that are reposts piling onto something already on the front page (Erlang, Erlang, Erlang, Erlang, Haskell, Haskell, Haskell, Go, Go, Go, Snowden, Snowden, NSA, Erlang, Lisp, Lisp, Lisp, Lisp-flavored Erlang, NSA, Erlang, Erlang, Bacon and Spam, Javascript, Framework, Framework, NSA, Erlang, Haskell, Haskell, Erlang, Lisp, 2048, will dry up. I consider this a good thing.

I suspect I will spend less time on the site, either because conversations will become static expressions of views or because I won't have to filter through as much content, even though much of which marginalia I find quite engrossing. I consider this a good thing.

What comes next is open to conjecture. It could be a more mature salon full of reasoned discussions or it could become a ghost town with lots of great, old, discussions.

[1] I know, apocryphal at best.

That seems rash. The 'simplest thing' is a first-order approximation of a good thing. It could quash conversations, lock out users for days perhaps. And how can someone even talk about problems, if they're locked out? Catch-22.

At least measure the results, including people who give up and go away. It doesn't take much frustration to discourage even an active user with cogent remarks. I can see the quality taking a dive when regulars are driven away.

Looking at it statistically - there's always going to be a chance that a given comment will remain pending indefinitely. Over a long enough timeline, a greater and greater percentage of contributors will be unable to post.

So, will this be only for top-level comments, or will each and every reply in a thread require this sort of endorsement?

Toxic replies in threads are even worse than toxic top-level comments. A toxic top-level comment probably will drop to the bottom of the page, and, more importantly, the toxic reply is personalized.

I totally agree here. The replies are the real issue.

Just from personal experience, if I have something to share on the topic, but the discussion already has a couple hundred comments, I look to contribute as a reply to an already highly rated comment. I'm much more likely to get actually engagement that way.

The issue isn't comment quality. It's UI. New comments, even on busy articles, should be discoverable. It should be possible to have discussions past the front-page-life of an article. It should be easy for the reader to decide whether to explore a given thread of conversation in depth or skip it altogether.

For threads that have fallen off the frontpage, drop the required number of endorsements to 1 and let the parent commenter have the option to endorse the child comment regardless of the parent poster's karma. That will let back-and-forth continue in old threads.

Please, please do make this. I have exchanged very useful information with other commenters on HN this way.

Sometimes I ask a question in the comments, and it gets answered days later. I go through "comments" in my profile periodically to see if someone replied to those. In this process I also see if someone asked my something and reply there as well.

IMHO, HN should have a "private message" feature if comments get policed this hard.

I endorse this post strongly. I too have occasionally had some informative back-and-forth's in buried threads. With this update, this would only work if both users have >1000 karma.

Additionally, people may be more willing to have these conversations if the comments made in old threads didn't impact their average karma. Long ago I decided I didn't care about average karma and just try to add something to a larger discussion or attempt to have a conversation in an old thread, but in the beginning I was concerned.

The back and forth comments deep in threads no one reads are some of the most interesting I have had.

That'd be nice, it explains why my avg karma is still less than 2 while I also get quite a few upvotes.

On the other hand, if I'm having a useful discussion with someone in an old thread, I often give them an upvote for their troubles as well. It's not like it affects the sorting or anything.

> Sometimes I ask a question in the comments, and it gets answered days later. I go through "comments" in my profile periodically to see if someone replied to those. In this process I also see if someone asked my something and reply there as well.

I use http://hnnotify.com/ , and it works incredibly well for this case.

I am a big fan of HNNotify. I have had a link to hn notify in my profile for a while now. There is one glaring problem with the service: in addition to notifying you to comment replies it sends an email for every top level comment on stories you submit. I sent the owner an email a while ago pointing out the issue and it sounded like the system was set up in such a way the the developer could not differentiate between comment/submission replies.

This would be a really nice feature if it was integrated into the current system. You wouldn't even need to use email, there could just be some kind of notification in the threads screen. Maybe an "inbox" section that shows the most recently replied to comment.

It does: put an email address in your profile.

I don't entirely disagree with you guys, but I wonder why these discussions aren't being taken to email (or whatever you kids are using these days) anyhow.

I think what I don't like about the e-mail route is that it removes the conversation from HN

Any time I learn about a new tech or shiny thing, I search for it on HN and read as much of the back and forth as I can. A number of times I've noticed those conversations didn't happen that long ago, even on old threads. Having it there is pretty invaluable to me to get perspective on stuff.

I actually think that coming up with a way of tying those old posts back into the new posts to continue growing those conversations would be nice. (take that as a total aside; I'm really shooting from the hip by even saying that, because any implementation I'd say would be an idea I had uh, well about ten seconds ago, when I suggested it, and it's not really relevant to the point at hand)

HN is not a good place for conversation. (I wrote about this once and it was sorta well-received and then, case in point, everyone forgot about it the next day.)

HN is primarily a news feed. There is some discussion, but it's topical and very short-lived.

I only mention this because the site seems a lot better once you give up on the notion of it being conversational.

Hmmm, yeah. I see your point. If two people really just want to shoot the breeze (I don't mean that flippantly), or get to know each other better, or talk about off topic things, then an e-mail is a much better way to do that.

I'm specifically thinking about topical conversations or discussions, where someone asks a question in a thread, or brings up a point and someone else finds it somehow and answers the question, which can lead to a series of enlightening posts/responses.

I like the HN comments because they have people who disagree, as long as the disagreement is civil, informative, and doesn't seem to have too much ego tied up in it. I like the reality check the comments offer.

I wish it was more conversational. There are lots of experts on here from a variety of disciplines, and a meaningful back and forth can be great on here.

But, it's not a good fit for the current format. Perhaps if when a thread got too deep, it could collapse and require a reader to actively expand it. That would help support the threads that start to push too far to the right.

But, it's probably better dealt with in a full redesign.

Yeah, me too.

There really needs to be an entirely new kind of discussion forum, something that merges the various strengths of phpBB, IRC, newsgroups, and reddit. I have some ideas on that, but sadly not the time to code it. I hope someone beats me to it.

I like conversational places. I guess a lot of this has to do with what type of place the creator wants to create and how they want to try to mold it into that.

My ideal place would clearly define types of behavior that were to be discouraged. For instance, I like to err on the side of suppressing vitriol too much, rather than letting it run too much. I like environments where everyone feels like they can try to contribute, or participate, without wondering if it'll come back at them. I have pretty strong feelings about how far that should go, though, and it's usually further than a lot of folks would, or at least, further than a lot of vocal folks would go.

But I guess that's just it. I think generic karma/votes tend to promote a more general idea of what's popular, or fun, but don't necessarily promote a specific well-defined ideal.

I read HN as much for news links as for the ensuing intelligent discussion and pointers. Should you take them away, to me, the appeal of HN drops significantly.

Perhaps the tendency to move everything to email is one reason so many people around here seem to have such a problem maintaining their inboxes. I don't see any reason to move a Hacker News thread to email.

Fair point but sometimes people don't want their real identity known. Either as a matter of policy or because they are using a throwaway to discuss something sensitive.

Anonymity? The bar for having an engaged, non-private conversation shouldn't be creating a new email account.

Keeping the comment thread together is useful for anyone who happens upon the thread later. Moving the discussion to email just results in rage: https://xkcd.com/979/

Because anyone who stumbles on the thread later can't see the resolution.

Email isn't public discussion.

By the way, you can use HN Notify (http://hnnotify.com/) to get an email when someone responds to your comment. This way you don't have to dig into your comments every time just to find replies.

FWIW, anecdotally, HNNotify doesn't appear to work all that well on topics older than a few days... or maybe it's just me. I've noticed that I definitely miss comments, and the trend there tends to be when the discussion has cooled somewhat. I always get discussion notifications for topics that are still on the home page.

Or it will allow people to silence those with a differing opinion that the OP doesn't agree with...

This was all the code it took:

  (newsop pending () (pending-page user))

  (newscache pending-page user 60
    (listpage user (msec) comments* [if (and (cansee user _) _!pending) _]
              "pending" "Pending Comments" "pending" nil))
In this project I've really benefited from having kept the code tight.

Forgive me for asking what's probably a simple question: what's HN coded in? That's pretty clearly a flavor of Lisp... what's the square bracket predicate syntax?

It's written in Arc.

Regarding the square bracket syntax:

    [... _ ...]  is an abbreviation for (fn (_) (... _ ...))


IIRC, it's written in Arc




The second comment refers to a small portion of the first comment's reference.

Another option would be to allow the withdrawal of pending comments by the submitting user. Reply -> you already have a pending comment (with a link to the explanation of the system). Would you like to withdraw your comment X in thread Y and post this comment? -> Y/N.

A good idea but race conditions could still cause both comments to be posted. Maybe if we decide the user can't do that reliably, we cod just let that case slide.

Surely allowing two comments to be pending (and posted) rather than one, isn't a big deal? I do wonder if this can scale, though. I usually open up the top 10-15 interesting (to me) stories, along with a list of my old threads, whenever I take the time to check hn. I then reply to old threads (if that seems to make sense), and post the occasional comment across the stories that I find interesting.

Do we really believe positive moderation will be in the range of a few seconds to a minute?

I know there's been really great experiences[1] with negative moderation/flagging -- but then all users could flag, not just a subset -- and flagging something that's clearly wrong (as in goatsex wrong) is much less effort and much higher incentive than approving a somewhat contributing comment to a story.

Which brings us to what the goal of a comment policy should be. Should we really work towards discouraging people to post things like github-links to stories missing them, because sometimes they'll be beat to the punch by someone else, and now have to wait before contributing to the discussion on a different post?

Perhaps allowing "one pending post per story" might work better?

[1] I'm not sure which talk this was from, but I think it was "building web reputation systems" with an example from Yahoo that touched on flagging (users flagged in sub-second time, much better than automated spam detection). Not sure if this is the same thing(s), but they seem relevant to this discussion:

Randy Farmer (I think this is what I remember) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yn7e0J9m6rE

Bryce Glass (similar topic/similar takeaways) http://www.slideshare.net/soldierant/designing-your-reputati...

What about reserving the pending system for stories on the front page where you typically get the bulk of low-quality comments? A user commenting on a 2-day-old front-paged thread is either contributing meaningfully or feeding a flamewar, so by automatically endorsing all comments on stories that have fallen off the front page, you allow the former to continue a meaningful discussion unhindered and you give the latter no incentive to continue a meaningless argument (no one is seeing it).

Also, from what I've noticed, the Ask HN posts tend to receive comments of higher quality since the questions/submissions there aren't as sensationalist or polarizing, yet that particular section of the site receives only a fraction of the attention that the front page gets, so implementing the pending system there might unnecessarily stifle discourse.

The fact that that consequence was literally what I immediately thought of when I read this makes me believe that you have not thought this issue through deeply enough. You say

>the thing I'd overlooked

but this is a drastic overhaul you are proposing, and I believe you have overlooked many other things too.

Let me give you some examples of other consequences: The amount of activity on HN varies with time of day. This is a problem, because on low activity hours, there will be fewer approvers (presumably, every approver has a particular taste, so the more people around, the higher the likelihood someone with compatible taste will find and approve your comment) around. This will mean that the few people that are there during the off-hours will have reduced posting speed. Since the site is more American than European, this will favor american posts over european. Furthermore it will be risky to respond to people down low on the page. Longer post delay! This will (further) encourage threadjacking people up high on the page. One potential consequence is that you will have to be attention grabbing. Probability of approval=eyeballs*individual probability.

I had a bad feeling just reading the initial post, before thinking about any specific drawbacks. But this? If you failed to notice that your system would result in many users being arbitrarily and permanently banned, what else have you missed that no one else has pointed out yet?

Personally, I wouldn't read a "pending comments" page, because I come to HN to read and discuss stories that interest me, not to browse piles of random, context-free comments. I suspect that most users will feel the same, so it won't help much.

This entire thing is a bad idea, and the current state of Hacker News comments is nowhere near bad enough to warrant such drastic measures.

I think it'd be smart to only have this pending workflow during the period where the signal to noise ratio can be affected the most: the first N hours after a post first hits the front page.

After that, either nobody is posting anymore or the relative impact of a snide comment is quite low (in terms of viewership and also relative to body of the thread.) Usually after a day or two people are just ping-ponging in their own private threads and there isn't much need for the endorsement bottleneck.

The place where this seems crucial is in determining which comments end up being the upvoted root comments for the main thread. These comments are upvoted early on and ultimately end up forming the shape of discussion from that point forward, so it's a good idea to ensure they aren't flamebait.

Also worth mentioning that 'patio11 posts late at night (our time; he's in Japan) in little bursts. But he's not high-volume, so maybe that doesn't matter.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

I wonder how this change will play out with respect to the 24 hour nature of the site. It really has a different flavor depending on when/where you are in the world. In general I tend to think of HN as having four flavors: East-Asian, European, East coast (NYC) and West coast (SF).

I tend to be awake at odd hours, and over a 24 period, it's quite interesting to watch.

Considering Patrick's tendency for amassing huge amounts of karma (not a dis), even on older threads, I'd be surprised if that poses any issue whatsoever.

I'm just wondering if there's maybe an atypical gap between the time Patrick tends to post comments and the time those comments tend to soak up their comment, so that the endorsement delay could be an issue.

There will probably be a nonzero negative impact. Patrick and a couple of other users recently tag-team-assisted someone with a website problem in the middle of the night, and this new feature probably would have about killed that.

I still think it's a net win though.

A few of us with very broken sleep patterns can put a little more effort into checking comment threads.

I agree that this is going to be a net win.

There are enough people to assist in fixing a website, so there should be enough users to [endorse] posts?

Doesn't negative imply nonzero? :)

I'm not particularly optimistic, but I'm all for experimentation.

How about purging pending comments after a certain time (say 24 hours)? If they haven't been endorsed by that time, they will most likely never be endorsed. And even if they would be, nobody would read them anymore.

That is exactly what happens.

A shame.

Whilst I am always intrigued with what hits the front-page, I rather more often than occasionally, find myself getting to page 10 or so on the weekends.

Just to see what has been going on that I missed.

Your change will basically mean that someone like me who might have something to add to an existing conversation might as well not bother.

It'll be years before I have enough karma on ycombinator's hackernews >1000, and that means I might as well seek another avenue. I guess I am back to post link on social media and comment on it.

Oh well, back to the 00's I guess.

> Your change will basically mean that someone like me who might have something to add to an existing conversation might as well not bother.

That is already the case. Very few people read or participate in threads more than 24 hours old. You're already walking into an empty room and having a conversation with yourself; all this change does is lock the door.

Is that really the case? I find quite a few users seem to check replies to their comments -- so eg: answering a question usually isn't a waste of time. It would be if the person asking a question doesn't have 1k karma (see other comments for riff on this topic). Just struck me that this is rather bad -- while hn isn't (probably nor should be) a "stack exchange" type site, there's always someone asking on a story "what is this X that everyone here seem to know". Where X is anything for traditional MVC to data normalization etc[1]. I'm sure we all have some gaping holes in our knowledge of computer science and history -- having such questions answered seems to me to be a good way to maintain a sense of community.

[1] For example, not realizing that RC4 is now hopelessly broken, and asking for a couple of recent references.

If that were the case then wouldn't a more appropriate solution be to lock commenting altogether after a particular time since thread creation (or an expiry after falling off of the front page?).

> Very few people read or participate in threads more than 24 hours old.

I don't reread the thread, but I will pay attention to someone replying to my comments even after several days.

as bsder said above me, "I don't reread the thread, but I will pay attention to someone replying to my comments even after several days."

Also, (not unlike this comment) I'll find myself late to the party and add comments to posts because I believe my thoughts might be relevant.

I actually treat HN comments to be a ledger of sorts. Like other industry forums around the net, it is a collection of some very strong minds on tech-related subjects, and a decent resource to check for opinion or tangential information on all sorts of topics. If there is a discussion on something that I have unique insight to, I will post on long dead threads just to know it was posted.

I'm probably an outlier, and this use case is probably not all that prevalent, but pending comments being purged without endorsements would make this forum unarguably more temporal, for better or worse.

No you're not an outlier. This will change the face of HN, and I'm not really sure what for.

(well I have an inkling and it's spelled pretty clearly in the OP but I fear it may be considered "gratuitous nastiness", to speak my heart)

I wasn't aware that there was a page 10.

In my experience, page 2 is inaccessible after carefully scanning page 1 for a minute or two, and maybe clicking on or two links and reading the articles. Some generated link to page 2 expires during the time I'm scanning page 1.

Five years, I thought that was by intent and not some bug. Equally frustrating, but damn.

TLDR: Yes, Virginia, there is a Page 10 of HN. You'll just have to take someone else's word on that.

This is my core concern also. pg says that hopefully traffic will be high enough that you won't even see a delay - that's logic that only holds true for the front page. Further down, comments won't come through for large amounts of time. That's going to ruin discussion and also create pileups where 10 people see that some link should obviously be posted and do so before anyone gets approved.

Will the comment actually disappear completely, or will it just go into a state where nobody else can see it? It seems like it is 1) useful to be able to see your comments that never got endorsed (to let people build a mental model of what makes the cut and what doesn't), and 2) less confusing than just having stuff mysteriously disappear.

People who can see pending comments (= those who can endorse them) will always be able to see them. They just won't be endorsable after a day.

Hmm... Now I find myself hoping that I never hit 1000 karma so I won't have to wade through all the never-endorsed comments. Could this feature deter high karma users from logging into the site?

If the quality of "showdead" comments is any indication I don't think you have anything to worry about.

(they are perfectly fine most of the time, their light-greyness is in fact more of an annoyance than the actually quite rare racist slur)

Another problem that you may not have thought of:

Several sub-kilo-karma users may realize the same useful and valuable thing to comment (say, a reference link or clarification). They all post this before the first one gets endorsed.

All the others get penalized with a 24 hour no-posting timeout, for contributing a thoughtful/useful post.

(maybe a few of them will eventually get endorsed, so they may suffer a somewhat shorter penalty, at the cost of everybody else seeing duplicate content)

Oh, that's just a great solution.

You have any idea how much time I spend sometimes on a comment?

(it can sometimes be quite a bit longer than the average person would on a similar comment, for reasons I don't really want to go into)

The first time one of those gets flushed down the toilet for no other reason than that nobody with >1k karma happened to notice it within 24 hours, I will know not to bother contributing any more.

Sometimes when I make a contribution to an older or less popular thread, I take the trouble anyway because I know there will at least be a few people that see it. Random passers-by, maybe in a few years arriving from some Google search. There's gems there. But I don't like to gamble on whether my post will even be kept around or not.

Downvote, bury, sure. But to delete without ever even being seen?? Well I guess it ties in with the joyful hellbanning theme here, or something.

Ok, so those of us with 1k+ karma will have the option of creating an new account for posting, leaving the old one to just be used for endorsing our pending comments...

Now, since we're great guys and girls (having reached 1k karma) we wouldn't do that of course.

I still think slashdot has the least bad large-scale, distributed moderating system I'm aware of -- I think maybe being able to thread and filter on votes/mods is a better approach. Still, it'll be interesting to see how this thing plays out.

I guess that would be caught by the vote ring detector or similar.

If the pending comments feature is an answer to a problem, it was so poorly thought out and brash that it wouldn't be approved under its own system.

Another idea would be: tie the number of outstanding comments allowed to the user's karma.

For those of us in non-US timezones, it would be nice to be able to post a few comments before having to wait while the site isn't getting much traffic. I would say something like 500 karma = 1 extra comment you can make before getting the previous ones endorsed.

Related to this: are there any hourly visit stats available? I currently work nights in the GMT+1 timezone, so I'll probably end up all over this scale (depending if I'm posting from work, or during the day when off...).

This could be some additional meta-info to add to the 'post stories on Mondays'-"rule"...

No, that does not solve the problem. It still means that if a user ever posts a single comment that doesn't deserve or doesn't get endorsement for some reason, then they can never comment again.

I don't think this idea has been thought through enough to deploy.

Furthermore, how about auto-accepting pending comments after 1 day? And maybe, not having the pending state for threads which are more than 1 day old?

The above will allow people to submit comments even when the thread has lost its popularity.

I think this goes against the ideas the curators of HN have for HN. For the simple goal of furthering (meaningful) conversation, I think dropping comments would be better.

On the other hand, I think it'll drop the number of really good comments -- those where commenters go out and lookup a few (possibly obscure, but very interesting) references. Doing that kind of work, just to have the text be deleted with hardly anyone seeing it doesn't seem worth it.

Which brings us back to the question of "What should HN be, for whom -- and how do we achieve that?".

I'll admit I'm slightly alarmed that "you can't ever post another comment until other people do X" didn't set off some klaxons for you.

For another thing you might or might not have overlooked: doesn't a person endorse a comment for the same reasons she would upvote it? If so, upvoting would endorse it, and you don't need a dedicated 'endorse' button. The pending comment can stand out with a [pending] tag or a different shade. That would make endorsing weave itself more naturally into users' current habits. On the plus side, if a 1k+ karma user is into the habit of upvoting fluff comments it will soon bite them when they do that mindlessly to a pending comment. Pavlov is a good teacher.

It would also be good for a person commenting (especially at toplevel) to be able to see replies, endorsed or not. There are plenty of useful comments that might not really merit endorsement or visibility by all but are a widely used - various small technical corrections, requests to get in contact, etc.

What about when a permanently-pending comment is deleted? Does that satisfy the conditional? Relatedly, can there be a case to ensure that pending comments can always be deleted?

A site I used to work for had a pre-moderation system for pictures posted on the site that worked like this, to the best of my memory: There was a moderation queue and various volunteers (here it could be the >1000 karma people, I guess) went through it and gave their vote. A picture had to reach all positive 3 to go live or positive six to go live if there were any negative votes. Moderators were awarded points based on how many of their votes matched the consensus. This encouraged them to keep doing it, even though it's kind of boring. Here that could be karma bonuses.

If you really want to make sure that every post gets voted on you may need to do something like that to incentivize endorsements.

> Moderators were awarded points based on how many of their votes matched the consensus.

That's cool because I can imagine for a picture site you want all pictures to gravitate around the consensus, a strong self-selecting group-think can be very desirable.

But for HN ... well at least the people who end up sticking around will surely love it ...

To be clear, this was content moderation and not some kind of hot or not thing. They were basically there to prevent porn or pictures of dismembered penises from going up.

There were a handful of people who had multiple points per vote who could swing it drastically away from the 'consensus' if it was wrong, and doing so also penalized the people who voted for it.

How about making the pending comments scoped to a thread? That way, no one can get locked out of commenting completely, but they can't make a bunch of bad comments on a certain thread if they violated the rules once.

So if I write a comment that people don't want to endorse – let's suppose it's actually bad – then it's pending forever and I can never post again?

PG mentioned somewhere else that there's a 24 hour timer, after which point the pending comment is deleted -- and one can post again. It does sound to me as a rather steep penalty for wandering off the beaten path. One would be free to self-censor of course, which I suppose is the intention.

We'll see how it goes, but it does sound like it'll likely work against HN being somewhat heterogeneous, and (even more) towards group-think.

ok that's a bit less bad but i still think i'll pretty much quit :/

> Hmm, trust cperciva to find the thing I'd overlooked.

I don't understand. The whole point of not being able to post until your previous post is endorsed--which is strictly separate and independent feature from invisible-until-endorsed--would be that people stop and reconsider "hm is this really the best I can do" because if it isn't they'll be muted ... indefinitely?

Or can you delete your own pending comment if it seems that no one is going to endorse it for you?

If not, that's going to become a huge chilling effect on unique thoughts and ideas that may either be controversial, or simply unpopular. Quite a stifling gamble. And even if you do get to remove that post from pending-limbo so you're at least not muted indefinitely, that still means the unique idea hasn't been shared, and in fact has been self-censored.

And will controversial ideas be endorsed? Because you said that endorsing the "wrong" kinds of comments will get your endorsing-rights revoked. I'm assuming, like all moderator-actions on HN, the user will get absolutely no notice or feedback about this.

Endorsing slightly controversial comments will be like feeling your way in the dark, err on the side of caution, better to just endorse comments that align with the perceived HN-groupthink (which may very soon become much realer, with this new system).

This is not a question of "but we have to be better than that", because these processes run on the aggregate of a very large group of people. Very large groups of people are vanishingly unlikely to "be better than that", no matter how clever, smart, talented or well-intentioned their individuals are.

So that will happen.

And that's just the collateral effects regarding content of posts (I say collateral because they are at best orthogonal to the quality of discussion on HN).

Like cperciva points out, if people are going to hesitate posting if they are unsure they'll be stuck in pending-limbo for how long or indefinitely, they are going to adjust their behaviour with regards to all factors that may influence how long it takes before a post gets sufficiently endorsed.

Which includes very irrelevant ones, like whether it's a quiet or new thread. Or, you know, making contact, silly stuff like "drop me a mail at <username>@gmail" between two sub-kilokarma users in a not-very-busy thread, risk locking their commenting privileges for quite a while.

Sorry if I dare to say so, but overlooking all these things, it seems like you just considered only the positive consequences of this big change, and none of the possible negative ones?

Then there's the final big negative one, which I think lacks a bit of self-reflection in order to overlook: HN already is quite the echo-chamber. These new rules are going to make that much worse. If, after a month or two of these new endorsing+feeling-in-the-dark+best-safest-to-conform rules do not make me feel like the quality of discussion turned into an ingrown toenail of monkey-discussion[0], then the most probable conclusion is: HN has turned into this echo-chamber (which seems quite inevitable), except it just so happens to be the kind of echoes I agree with. Which is probably worse than an echo-chamber you disagree with.

Hey, good luck. This community building is hard stuff.

Also watch out for the lure of power and control, it's also "hard stuff", of a different kind.

[0] your new rules are already making me doubt whether this is "gratuitous nastiness" or just a funny visual way of expressing a critique. this saddens me. it also makes me feel a couple of other things which I now don't even dare to express any more. that's bad.

If a thread is several days old, not many people will even look at it, so why not just auto-accept those comments?

Give it a whirl. I will certainly read it and can commit to do so daily until the end of April, by which time we'll know if it is working or not. I spend about 50% of my time on the New page already because lots of good stuff passes through there without ever hitting the front page.

If the intent is to keep things racing to the right, simply allow root level comments by everyone and then impose the new pending status to comments on comments. This fixes cperciva's issue and makes it easy to code without having to do timeouts or summary pages.

And thank you for working on this!

There are so many things you've overlooked... This will be an interesting experiment, however I don't think it's a good approach and this decision will likely be reversed.

What would help HN is a system for qualitative feedback to posters who make poor posts. Currently, users notice they are slow or hell banned, have no idea why, and register another account. Why not provide warnings with one or a few preweitten reasons? How about holding banners accountable for their bans, as some seem to ban contrarian viewpoints?

Anyway, good luck with this system. I'm unlikely to spend time writing a comment that may not be seen. I already care less about what I'm writing here, because I discount the chance that it may never go live.

Is the lock on new comments not per-thread?

I'm not sure how well that would work, with the number of comments coming in per second it would be easy for some useful comments to get lost into oblivion.

How about allowing unapproved comments, even older ones, to be deleted by the submitter? That seems a simple and fair solution. Users can unclog their own queues if need be.

But then, what if you make one comment that doesn't make the cut? Again, you never have a chance to comment again.

Also, so much for 1-on-1 comment threads that are deeply buried and are not intended to be prominently displayed to anyone else. I've had lots of interesting conversations like that.

As I understand it, that's kind of the point.

To kill conversations which are deemed useful by all participants and have no negative impact other than the negligible cost of hosting them?

There's something like a "scrolling cost" -- people are only willing to skim so much of a comments thread, without seeing something interesting to them, before closing it.

This is why HN dislikes humorous fluff-posts: they both easily rise to the top, and encourage humorous fluff-replies, which means the first few screenfuls of comments will be guaranteed to induce the kind of "scroll-pain" that makes people close the tab.

Fair enough. I would much prefer fixing the long comment thread problem with 5 lines of JavaScript than implementing this bizarre system.

If you have a solution to this particular problem, whether in 5 or 500 lines of JS, I think it would be novel.

I've yet to see any discussion forum solve the problem of long threads with lots of useless fluff floating to the top.

Collapsing threads do the job pretty well. And you're always going to get comments that aren't relevant to you, because you're not the only person doing the endorsing. If a comment is useless fluff to you, but gets endorsed by someone else, then you still have a scrolling problem. Not so with collapsable commeents.

All I meant is to by default collapse all comments with depth > n.

You don't use Reddit do you?

They use a very simple system, collapsing posts after a certain depth, and hiding more comments after a certain number (10, I believe) at the level below the top comment (sorted by score obviously).

It works extremely well, and thanks to the fast JS collapsing, it's not at all a hassle to read a subthread that happened to get collapsed if it piques your interest.

It's so simple it may easily be overlooked in its obviousness, but really you don't need a very complex system that is strictly a lot better than no collapsing at all.

What's wrong with (old) slashdot (I mean, technically) ?

While I'm usually a kind of hard core html-first, ajax/js/webapps later kind of guy -- I'd love for the comments to be served up in a json-blob, with a couple of user-settable preferences ("Show only comments rated higher than N, hide threads with lower (median/mean) rating than N, show all direct replies to my comments -- and similar).

The solution to this is to allow collapsing uninteresting comment threads. I use this all the time on Reddit.

You have to read a thread enough to know you want to collapse it, which incurs exactly the same "scroll-pain" as actually scrolling. It's not a physical tax from the action required to scroll, but rather a mental stress from making a decision to skip something. Enough of that stress building up at once, and you decide that the comments page itself is probably skippable.

If uninteresting comment threads could start collapsed, that'd be great. But they won't, because humor-fluff and other such things are superstimuli for upvotes, so you can't use anything about the vote tally to determine collapsed-ness. (If there was a secondary voting system--like, say, if enough people collapsing a thread would make it start collapsed for others--this might work. But then you'd have to take into account the people who collapse everything as they read it, to mark their place...)

Is it really that taxing though?

The problem is, your definitions of what is uninteresting, useless and fluff are subjective, and no more relevant than anyone else's, which leads to a conflict of interests within the community about the bounds of what Hacker News content should and shouldn't be.

I think the models which would satisfy the most people are opt-in, in this case, choosing to collapse threads and ignore users rather than expecting the hivemind to do it for you.

Perhaps if users had a custom set of filters which automatically collapsed threads for them based on their own criteria, that would solve part of the problem. But I don't think it's too much to ask of people to actually take the minor effort to form an opinion on what they read, or curate their own account, if they expect content they don't like to be hidden from themselves and potentially from others.

Disagree on your first point, the top comment is often obviously spawning a huge argument that goes nowhere because it touched some hot-button political issue that was a minor part of the story.

Of course this is the most obvious solution, least intrusive that changes the least things and as far as I can see has only positive side-effects.

But for some reason or other pg won't do that.

I know there's some extensions/bookmarklets and I use them, but they can't do the auto-collapsing based on score+amount, the very simple yet elegant algorithm Reddit employs, pretty much the one thing that is absolutely necessary to have a well-usable threaded commenting system.

Instead, pg "just wrote the simplest thing first", or something.

I could be wrong, but I don't think this site is supposed to be for "useful conversations".

I think there's a difference between a constructive conversation and a flame war.

If the worry is that comment threads are too long, HN could implement something like reddit, where you click to read additional comments in a long thread.

If purging (substantial and interesting) one-to-one conversation is an intended effect I think that'd be a shame.

No, that's not intended. If it happens we'll fix it.

This would be great to keep an eye on.


Two commenters X,Y with sub-threshold karma (<1,000) could never have a dialogue (two-way, real-time) as a third party Z would need to endorse their each and every comment.

Two commenters X,Y (Karma 1,000+ each) in substantially different timezones with a-synchronous dialogue (eg, overnight replies) would need a third party z to endorse each and every comment (at least until the other wakes up).

Two commenters X,Y (Karma 1,000+ each) with opposing views, could never have a real-time dialogue without a third party z to endorse each and every comment (unless #)

Hopefully these are at least helpful to dilineate.

# "Thank you sir, can I have another".

Adding a "private message" feature could solve this for all the people who don't want to give a public e-mail in their profile.

I think for what HN aims to be, keeping everything public is a good thing. I seem to find quite a few "one-on-one" threads that get the occasional input from a third,fourth,fifth participant -- and also a few I find interesting even if I'm not participating.

When everyone knows that what's being discussed is public, it tends to keep the tone more conversational and clear -- I think. The "feel free to contact me, email in profile"-response seems to work well enough for those that do want a private (albeit not anonymous) conversation?

There's a huge difference between doing that on the front page and doing that on an article that's already 3 days old.

Related to this, I imagine there are readers such as myself who tend not to engage in conversations so much as offer specialist information on sometimes obscure technical matters. Subjects that even high karma members aren't particularly qualified to have an opinion on.

For example I recently gave a short comment on the PonoPlayer submission that never made it to the front page. For the rare soul that read that submission I indicated the electronics details that indicated how it was distinguished from your usual consumer electronics. That information would be lost from what I see here.

From my own experience, I often won't offer comments unless it seems to me that a contradiction to an existing comment or stream of comments is required, if I feel there is an error. While this system would require best argumentative practice in comments, for clarity and to avoid bias traps and so on, I do hope it doesn't lead to an excess self referentiality.

Even absent the problem with with older threads, there has to be a timeout, otherwise one iffy comment risks putting you into mute forever. That is, IMO, ridiculously punitive especially in light of the warning that you should not endorse if unsure, etc.

And keep in mind that an 'iffy' comment may not even be a bad one. It is pretty common on HN for more than one person to make the same basic point as someone else in a reply to a post (because they both started posting around the same time and didn't see the other replies before making their own) but due to either timing and/or karma boost pulling one person to the top, the rest are basically ignored for upvoting -- I can't imagine that situation would be any different for endorsing. Who wants to endorse a post that says the same thing as another post which is already endorsed (but just happened to be posted 30 seconds later, or by someone with less of a karma boost?).

Perhaps add the ability for a poster to retract his orher pending comments? You could add a mandatory waiting period to prevent abuse.

That's what the delete link does.

This may be a stupid question but exactly where is the delete link? I see deleted comments, but I don't see a delete link or even a downvote button when comments are downvoted. Is there a karma threshold for these?

In the line of gray text beginning with your username at the top of your comment.

I didn't realize there was a duration set on 'delete'. It all makes sense now.

In which case, a "time out" is redundant if the goal is to simply avoid locking users out.

This system seems to skew discussion toward already popular / active topics, though, since there is less risk of being stuck pending there. Perhaps allowing for multiple pending comments per user (with a limit based on karma, or length of time on the site) would make it less "risky" to post comments in unpopular discussions.

The edit and delete links vanish not long after a post is made. I've never bothered to research the exact duration, but I believe it's no more than 24 hours.

Edit: After some observation, it appears to be two hours. I don't want to be pissy about this, but this is what I was worried about in my other comment--you seem to be making this drastic change with no little thought to how it will interact with the systems and behaviors already in place.

The limit on 1 pending comment per user could be changed to 1 pending comment per user per top-level story. Although I don't see why limit them at all.

So, now that pg has killed HN, where do you guys suggest we gather ?

A new subreddit /r/UntouchablesOfHN?

I fear this change will have some unintended consequences:

1. In a Ask/Show HN post, (which is often similar to a reddit AMA), the OP will not be able to reply to clarifications questions until their previous one is 'endorsed'.

2. Multiple (<1000 karma) people will post very similar response to a question, or other objective comment, since they would not be aware of other pending comments on that thread. This would lead to...

2a. Either moderators endorsing multiple such comments, due to race conditions and stale views during moderation, or

2b. Moderators would endorse the first (or "best") of them, and many people with reasonable comments will be in limbo in the rest of HN, for the fault of writing a similar response to another endorsed poster.

3. (NEW) If a user has something meaningful to say to two different posts, he/she is now more likely to choose the one with more activity since he can't post on both anymore, and he/she wouldn't want to wait for the moderators to see the less active post. As a result, the power law distribution on post activity is going to become even more prominent than before.

I would recommend the following changes:

1. Apply this policy on a per-page basis, rather than on a global HN basis.

2. Allow 2 or 3 pending comments per person, rather than 1. Anyone who needs more than that, and is not getting endorsed at all, is probably trolling or spamming, and can be dealt with other means.

3. Auto-accept pending comments after 24hrs for users with >250 karma (or some other lowish number that filters out absolutely green accounts).

4. Add a "showpending" option. Even if people can't upvote/reply to them, it's democratic to be able to see them.

5. (UPDATE, adding tantalor's suggestion) #1 above can be solved by auto-accepting the OP's comments instantaneously. I would even go further and give endorser rights to the OP on a Ask/Show HN post.

What's more, since people with under 1000 karma can't fully participate because unlike high-karma users they can't see if their comment duplicates someone else's and will get stuck in limbo as a result, it's going to be rather difficult for them to reach the 1000 karma threshold - certainly more difficult than it is now.

They'll just keep submitting stories to get to 1,000 karma instead of participating in commenting or be shut out so only old users can talk.

I'm sure there are different types of HN users, but I would never have reached 1k karma by submitting stories. I go to HN to read news, not make news. Now, that might be good or bad, depending on your perspective.

I guess my point is that it will be much harder to reach 1,000 karma by commenting. Since it seems like this is board wide and not story based then you really need to think which of two or more interesting stories you are going to comment on.

> it's going to be rather difficult for them to reach the 1000 karma threshold - certainly more difficult than it is now.

Then again, if their comment does become approved, it will be more visible than under the current system (less noise) and therefore likely to receive more upvotes. Also, their bad comments won't be punished with downvotes.

I don't have any numbers, but lets try to reason about this anyway.

Today, if you post a comment, someone sees it, and thinks is interesting, they'll upvote it. It seems reasonable that a comment on a fresh story (eg: on the home page) is more likely to be seen, and it might be more likely that a comment will be upvoted while it is still "young".

With the new system, you will get no karma until after some 1k karma curator notices your comment. Being approved (as I understand it) grants you no karma in and off itself, while (as someone else mentioned) normally that approval would've been equal to an upvote before. So if that's the case (easy fix: make upvote=approve) new comments on average earn one less point (so I might end up at .61 average, not 1.61 -- possibly fair indication that I talk too much).

At any rate -- anyone below 1k won't be able to upvote the comment until after approval, I don't know what kind of impact that'll have -- but it certainly means new users come to a substantially different playing field than old ones.

OP's comments should be automatically endorsed.

2b is not really an issue. Endorsing only the best of similar comments is a feature.

You can remove your pending comment after some time.

It may also have a second order "unintended" consequence over time- People would stop posting shallowly obvious responses, due to the negative feedback of never having them endorsed.

The problem is that people are being penalized for writing something completely reasonable because someone wrote something slightly better or wrote it first, even if they were unaware of the other comment existing at the time of posting.

As a penalty, they will have to go back and delete their pending comment from whatever thread they were on, if they came back to HN after a break. cperciva's auto-purge or my auto-accept suggestion partly solves this issue.

Perhaps another feature is needed: mark redundant. So when you mark one of several similar comments as good, you can mark a others as redundant -- so that the owner can retract it.

I suppose preferably you'd link it somehow, so that the author of a "redundant" comment would get a "deemed redundant due to: <list of> comment<s>.

Why list: maybe 1kkarma-user #1 found commend x to be best, #2 found y to be best, and both found your comment, z, to not be best.

That sounds like a waste of time for the non-winning comment writer (especially if they could have seen the situation comin from the beginning like now). People put time and effort in their comments; I suspect they don't want to play quality lottery with it.

I'm not convinced the idea (pending comments) is a good one -- partly because I think it may lead to wasting time, as you say (and at least one other commenter touched on, can't seem to find the comment right now) -- and so increasing the "risk" associated with writing especially good comments (I tend to spend a few minutes if I need to look up links references -- who's to say someone didn't start writing a similar comment, a few minutes ahead of me, but haven't published it (or gotten it approved) by the time I hit "reply"?

My idea of having a "mark reduntant" feature, is simply to aid an author in checking if he or she agrees that the (entire) comment is indeed redundant -- and to provide somewhat constructive feedback (no, your comment wasn't bad, you were just too slow, and in the interest of conciseness, it is considered redundant).

It does feel a bit strange keeping to defend the slashdot moderation system -- but it already has a "redundant" moderation -- and fwiw afaik it is the least bad community moderating system for discussions.

As I've alluded to elsewhere, I think there might be a bit of a disconnect between parts of the users (including ycombinator as curator) as to what hn is and/or should be. On the one hand there is some strong leanings towards not being a discussion forum at all, "just" a news-site -- on the other hand I think there's tacit agreement that the only thing that sets hn apart is it's community. I'm not sure how we can expect to have community without free, many-way, constructive communication.

And I'm not sure how pending comments would help strengthen the news part, or the discussion part of what hn is today.

Again, I'd very much like to see a problem statement, before a fix is proposed (or even worse, introduced).

Is not being endorsed a penalty, or is it just neutral?

On one hand, it doesn't subtract from your karma, but on the other it may discourage you from posting in the future.

Eh. Yes, but not at the cost of wasting good-faith efforts to contribute and making it hard for them to contribute on other threads. I'd probably endorse similar comments on a thread, even though they were redundant, for that reason.

I definitely won't, unless they're adding something unique.

Threads are cluttered enough as it is, and the idea isn't to encourage good faith efforts, but to improve comment quality.

But that's the problem. It's going to shut me up and out of conversations. I can ask a question but someone else may have already and I can't / don't want to risk not getting endorsed and not being able to comment else where.

I see this new feature as being a reason I stop participating altogether. I get not wanting reddit like comments and threads, but I fear this swings too much towards a "good old boys" club.


But, I mean, it's your button, use it how you want.

Oh good, shifting standards.

That alone reduces the positive impact of this change, and keeps the negative. Eh. Less interested in this than I was.

"Endorsing only the best of similar comments is a feature."

Since vote count of posts was hidden, there hasn't really been a way to tell how many people agree with a viewpoint other than similar comments.

> 1. Apply this policy on a per-page basis, rather than on a global HN basis.

Maybe even only for articles on the front page.

This is ridiculous. It's bad enough that people are downvoted for contrarian opinions, but now our comments need to be vetted by the elite HN users before they can be shown to the rest.

I don't get it. This site looks like something made in 1996 (with absolutely no regard for readability), but the big new upgrade we're getting is a draconian (and wholly unnecessary) comment moderation feature/policy?

A lot of HN users bitch about Reddit, but they would never implement something this ridiculous since it would kill their community. But I guess that's the whole point of this exercise...to cull the userbase.

Ironically, this comment is precisely the kind of thing that may never receive an "endorsement."

There's this attitude I see a lot, that I think started with Digg, then attached itself to Reddit, that a community should A. be about whatever its users want it to be about, and B. be free to join. These principles are usually claimed to be somehow representative of "democracy."

Together, however, these principles will invariably mean that the "community" will be reduced to a snapshot of the world-at-large, as new only-somewhat-related-to-the-community's-current-interests people join, and further expand/dilute the scope of the community. The eventual equilibrium consists mostly of partisan political debate, sex RP, and cute animal pictures, with nobody recognizing anyone else and nobody sharing any interests with anyone else--in other words, not a "community" in anything but name.

Digg was reduced to this. Reddit avoided it by shattering into postmodern everyone-gets-a-different-flavor subcommunities, but all the "frontpage-default" subcommunities then succumbed to this anyway.

If you want a community, you must moderate either participation or membership. Personally, I think moderating membership results in better communities. But--unless you follow the SomethingAwful strategy of "you can be unbanned as many times as you like, as long as you keep paying ten dollars"--moderating participation is easier at scale.

Well, I wouldn't endorse it. But, since some of your points are often raised...

> It's bad enough that people are downvoted for contrarian opinions

That particular disease doesn't seem to have taken hold here yet. Comments that are downvoted below 1 more often are angry, abusive, trollish, or devoid of content.

> ...but now our comments need to be vetted by the elite HN users...

An "elite" group of, by a rough estimate, 50% of the site's users. A lot of users, anyway.

> This site looks like something made in 1996 (with absolutely no regard for readability)...

This mistakes graphic design for community value. Reddit was also (and still also, by most measures) one of the ugliest sites online.

> ...but the big new upgrade we're getting is a draconian (and wholly unnecessary)...

I think the most common complaint on HN, especially among its longtime users, has been the diminishing quality of comment threads. So this is an update that's dealing with the #1 problem on HN.

> A lot of HN users bitch about Reddit, but they would never implement something this ridiculous since it would kill their community.

On the contrary, some of the Reddit communities with the most recognition for high quality discussions are the ones with the heaviest moderation. /r/askhistorians is consistently great; /r/askscience is another good one.

Some people finally seem to be coming around to the realization that you don't have to hear everybody's opinion on everything to have a worthwhile community.

> Ironically, this comment is precisely the kind of thing that may never receive an "endorsement."

Well, and no offense intended, but hopefully not, since your comment is a good example of the problem this is trying to solve. It's unnecessarily angry.

> That particular disease doesn't seem to have taken hold here yet. Comments that are downvoted below 1 more often are angry, abusive, trollish, or devoid of content.

I've had a few of my comments downvoted to oblivion that were contrarian and sincere. It's human nature to view things you don't agree with a more critical eye. It takes wisdom to consider the other viewpoint.

If the intent of Hacker News is to inspire discussion and open minds, then accepting contrarian viewpoints is an important step to increasing insight. At best it leads to a meaningful & evolving discussion. At worst, it forces one to have a solid counterpoint.

> Well, and no offense intended, but hopefully not, since your comment is a good example of the problem this is trying to solve. It's unnecessarily angry.

Possibly frustrated. Definitely ironic. Certainly a valid viewpoint. I think your answer is one that encourages groupthink...

> > It's bad enough that people are downvoted for contrarian opinions

> That particular disease doesn't seem to have taken hold here yet. Comments that are downvoted below 1 more often are angry, abusive, trollish, or devoid of content.

Some of the comments voted below 1 are, indeed -- but a more relevant metric to respond to that critic would be: How many well articulated contrarian opinion expressed on HN are voted above 1? There are other, less draconian ways, to avoid abuse. The one chosen here would do that, and more -- too much if PG, YC and HN goals remains to take more risk. My impression of actively commenting for the past month is that contrarian opinions are already extremely unwelcome, while passive-agressive abuse roams.

Do you have any examples? This thread (and some other recent activity) notwithstanding, I'm not really active on HN anymore.

The most striking aspect I can see is how consistent almost all comments are: I’d made the same reproach to TED, or any ‘democracy’ without a scandal. Everyone agrees that MtGox are clueless and ill-intended, women founders are too few because female hackers are, Musk is a hero… I believe that too, to be honest. But it feels like too little surprises to my taste. I like being wrong; I rarely change my mind on HN, certainly not in the comment sections. Comments are great for the moment if you want implementation details, gritty bug fixes and it’s fine in a community of doers where thinkers aren’t the priority.

The only recent examples that I can give -- because I only have access to number for those -- are my own comments. I get 5 or more points for saying something obvious that I know most of HN agrees with and knows; I get nothing for saying something original, or based on my own exclusive work; I get downvoted for challenging (with an argument line and question marks all along) what I consider to be… local bias. That’s often under the guise of being negative, while I clearly offer constructive solution. I don’t really expect upvotes for the later kind, just response that don’t miss my point.

Fair 'nuff. FWIW, HN has always been like that on some subjects, for as long as I've been a user here. But, the echo-chamber problem might have gotten worse lately, since some key people have fled the site.

It's tough to draw many conclusions from reactions to just a few comments. There are too many variables: tone, time of day, subject matter, who happens to be browsing the site at that time. And people can suffer from argument fatigue, even if it's a totally civil debate.

So I'm not yet convinced that this will be a huge problem for contrary opinions, and if such a problem already exists, this change might even fix it a little by removing some of the noise that's distracting people from better comments.

We are back to my original point (and, really as a statistician ‘Data’ scientist what has been my main focus for the last 15 years), poorly expressed by the story about the guy searching for his keys where there’s light, not where he lost them:

You can’t make progress by using exclusively your archives. You need to imagine how people from whom you haven’t heard anything make decisions.

‘The community has always agreed on most points’ (“HN has always been like that”) and ‘there is no problem for contrarian opinions’ (“I'm not yet convinced that this will be a huge problem”) should be considered violently contradictory statements. That policy might not make things worst because there has never been that much discussion -- but it won’t fix the reason for bad comments which are usually two-fold:

* people don’t know how they could phrase one (I’ve turned every one of “Aha-ha! You are dumb…” into a more insightful questioning dozens of times on other sites.);

* contrarian feel excluded, powerless, and react poorly or violently. I would love to see Hacker News clarify if it is the internal communication tool of Y Combinator, or the leading source of hacker-focused information on-line. Any reader who isn’t a US resident feel disempowered by this contradiction, for instance (and don’t give me the ‘but there are non-US applicants…’ that is the equivalent of ‘But I have a black friend…’)

Check my post history for some fantastic exmaples.

...alright. I'm 9 days back in your comment history at this point, and I have no idea how to proceed without potentially igniting a flame war.

But, I don't think your comment history is a good example of, "downvoted or ignored for posting high quality contrarian opinions".

Some of your comments are critical of startup culture, but "ahahahahaha no try again" wouldn't exactly be a net loss for HN if it never got published to the site.

If you think I'm missing something important, let me know.

The tone and emotion police on HN, like you, are tedious and stultifying.

> Well, and no offense intended, but hopefully not, since your comment is a good example of the problem this is trying to solve. It's unnecessarily angry.

Do you seriously not understand the point that I was making? You're basically saying that my comment is unworthy of an audience...not because it was nonsensical or rude or offtopic or abusive...but merely because I wrote in an angry tone. My tone offended your delicate sensibilities, therefore my voice does not deserve to be heard.

I'm sorry, but people like you are precisely the reason why this moderation policy is a bad idea.

I agree with thaumaturgy here; your comments are very emotionally charged for something as insignificant as a change to the moderation policy of a link aggregator's comment section. I hope that this new system will bring down the emotions that tend to run high in the comments.

In your first comment, you've criticized change, ridiculed the site's look and feel, and provided an opinion that was astutely refuted by thaumaturgy with a reasonable amount of data. In your latest reply, you questioned the grandparent commenter's intellect, created a strawman argument, and minimized the validity of the commenter's emotional reaction. You then made an inflammatory generalization about a group of people who shared the commenter's point of view and created some sort of strawman faction out of them.

All the while, I have yet to see a well-formed argument come out of your two comments; just, as thaumaturgy said, needless anger. Just because you can write in complete sentences and can write passionately does not mean that your comment is substantive.

If you think people can comment on each other's comment without a single emotion that's a mistake.

People share stories about their past experience, anger and frustration with one another. He cares about his ability to express here thoroughly and fully. Clearly thaumaturgy is now the one getting upset and doesn't want to make direct response anymore after offending OP.

Well, I don't think I said without a single emotion. I do think, however, that you can express concerns without resorting to anger and negativity.

I don't think there's a useful distinction to draw between the community where expressing any emotion is prohibited and the one where positive emotions, but only positive emotions, are welcome.

Yeah, if one wants a site without opinion, emotion or discussion there is always stackoverflow.com

You want emotionally charged?

This new rule is F*ING STUPID!

We are humans, not robots!

If you agree and you have more than 1000 Karma points, please upvote and approve this message. Thank you.

I completely agree. The responses to your comment are a great illustration.

Y'all really need to get over yourselves and your belief that, "my dribble deserves to be heard, no matter how inane it is."

I don't have delicate sensibilities, I just don't care for you pissing in the metaphorical swimming pool, and unfortunately, people like you have made this moderation policy worth trying out.

This'll be my last reply to ya.

Some issues are worth getting upset over, whether doing so helps or not. People get passionate about things. We're not robots.

Calling someone's opinion "dribble" in the context of this moderation system is completely hypocritical. Is this forum not about informed opinions and logic thought processes? Where does "dribble" fit in?

He's apparently correct in assuming that people like you are going to be selectively crafting the comments of the site to your personal liking, as opposed to now where everyone gets a voice, even if unpopular.

I think, if anything, you just proved his point.

Inane dribble? I thought I was the angry one?


Agreed, if the "elite" don't agree with your differing opinion then it will never be heard. When has that type of dictatorship ever worked out well...

I agree about choosing this for new functionality, if you are going to improve comments why not first start with notifications. Currently I'll make a comment and 10 people may reply but I'll have no idea unless I actively look through my own comments, which I might do once a month. This leads to a whole lot of dead end comment threads.

The first thing I do each day (or couple times a day) is click on my name/comments to see if someone has said something interesting in response to a post of mine.

In fact, if the responses are interesting enough - I may never actually look at anything else on HN unless it appears in my RSS feed (filtered to topics > 100 points).

I completely agree, I personally want to see everyone's comments not just the ones that have been curated by the chosen.

Yeah, this is absolutely going to hurt people posting opinions that run counter to groupthink. The fact that the contrary opinions only start showing up about halfway down the page should give you a pretty good idea of how this is going to go in practice.

I wonder if this'll be a good idea to, but I'm willing to give it a try. My biggest worry would be that it slowed-down discussions too much.

> I don't get it. This site looks like something made in 1996 (with absolutely no regard for readability), but the big new upgrade we're getting is a draconian (and wholly unnecessary) comment moderation feature/policy?

I like the look of HN, it has all I need and nothing else, plus it loads fast. The only thing I'd like is a way to collapse comments (Reddit style) so I can easily get past a long chain in a discussion. I'm curious why you think it's hard to read.

> The only thing I'd like is a way to collapse comments (Reddit style) so I can easily get past a long chain in a discussion.

This is the only thing I want as well.

Here's a sort of solution, a bookmarklet:


It turns the timestamps into collapse buttons. It's sort of adapted from here:


I have another gist there with a bookmarklet that turns the timestamp into a button that hides comments of that age or older.

> It's bad enough that people are downvoted for contrarian opinions

I have observed this as well and it is rather childish.

This is helpfully "fixing" something that isn't particularly broken.

> Ironically, this comment is precisely the kind of thing that may never receive an "endorsement."

And as far as I know very opinionated (in either way) comments usually gets upvoted. And with that I'll assume they'd also get endorsed.

I would endorse it, because I think you're mostly right, but then i'm probably part of the problem and not the solution. Even if I disagreed with you I would endorse you because I think a too-well tended garden all too quickly becomes a tomb.

The readership and contributions here are very tame, I think this change is unnecessary. Whats wrong with some debate involving contrarian opinion with a little fire in their bellies? We can cope, we don't need to be saved from one-another.

It will end in a bunch of people all agreeing with each other in one massive group think.

At the very least that would be unhelpful when people are seeking varied opinions on their work.

Bonkers really. Hey ho.

HN becomes news aggregator only.

I agree! My reply would never be endorsed either!

It's important to remember that news.yc is, and always will be, a Y Combinator owned private website.

It's the community which is what made it what it is today, but there's no question that it's by no means a democracy. I had to come to grips with this a long time ago after getting slowbanned and my submission privileges revoked a year ago without any prior warning whatsoever. It was a stupid article, yes, but come on.

Twas then when I learned that PG is Mussolini in disguise. Hey, at least he made the comments run on "quality." (terrible joke, I know)

I fear that this is going to have the effect of drowning out minority or contrary opinions, even those that are legitimate (non-trolling) and expressed in a respectful manner.

Currently, the downvote button is only supposed to be used for unproductive comments - drivel, and the like. Of course, people use it to show their disagreement (even though that's not how it's meant to be used).

As a result, people that post controversial or minority opinions often get downvoted, even if their comments are well-thought out. This effect is less noticeable on Hacker News than on some subreddits (/r/politics is one of the worst), but it's noticeable to someone who reads Hacker News regularly.

I fear that this is going to exacerbate this effect. We can establish rules for which comments should be endorsed, just like we establish rules for which should be downvoted, but in other forums, the way that these tools are used in practice oftentimes do not match the stated guidelines.

EDIT: Also, I'm not entirely sure why this is preferable to simply allowing users to automatically hide comments below a certain score. Unless there really is a significant difference between the views of users with > 1000 karma and the rest, the "endorse" button is not fundamentally different from an upvote, is it? (In principle, not in implementation).

Currently, the downvote button is only supposed to be used for unproductive comments - drivel, and the like. Of course, people use it to show their disagreement (even though that's not how it's meant to be used).

No, that's wrong. Downvoting for disagreement is how downvoting is meant to be used, as pg has made clear on HN many times over the years.

[I edited the previous sentence to make it less ambiguous.]

The confusion persists because Reddit's rules are different, and people remember those and mistakenly assume they apply to HN.

I'm a bit confused by the wording of your comment. Are you saying that downvoting "is only supposed to be used for unproductive comments" or to show agreement? You use "it," but I can't tell which statement you are referring to.

Sorry for being unclear. What I mean is that downvoting something because you disagree with it has always been legitimate on HN. I'm too lazy to dig up the many links where this was discussed, but the point is that if upvoting is a legit way to agree, then downvoting is a legit way to disagree. This is a good thing, because it provides a silent way to disagree when you don't have anything substantive to add to the discussion.

The idea that downvoting for disagreement is not legitimate is a classic instance of the canonical invasive species on HN, the Redditism.

There is very little value in knowing that some people disagree with a comment, but there is tremendous value in learning other ideas. This is a bad policy.

That's a good point. But let me ask you: do you think HN actually has this problem, i.e. of ideas being suppressed because people disagree? If so, I'd be curious to see examples. Most of the downvoted stuff I see has some other readily available explanation; usually some form of rudeness.

I see it a lot. What's worse is up and down votes are a corrective mechanism.

If you get downvoted, that kinda feels bad, if you get upvoted, that kinda feels good. It shapes your discussion and teaches you the rules of what the community finds acceptable/unacceptable.

What is the honest to god pragmatic result of this policy?

You're training people not to say something others disagree with.

Even if you don't agree with that, downvote to disagree causes pragmatic problems outside of training! Consider a discussion where someone starts off with an unpopular view, and then an interesting discussion happens back and forth between two parties discussing that position. Downvote to disagree hides that discussion.

> I see it a lot

If so, you should be able to find three examples. Can I please see them? Specifically, three comments that aren't in any way rude, downvoted for expressing an unpopular view?

The reason I'm curious is that I try to watch out for that, yet have only seen one comment recently which seemed to me downvoted purely for expressing an unpopular opinion, and even it was somewhat borderline.

> You're training people not to say something others disagree with.

That's not true if most such comments get more upvotes than downvotes.

I'm not going to go through my whole freaking history to highlight the 5 times I've specifically marked where a downvote to disagree has happened on otherwise civil text.


this was 15 days ago.


> That's not true if most such comments get more upvotes than downvotes.

so it's not true were training people to keep unpopular opinions to themselves, because if those opinions will also be upvoted... because why? Because people don't agree with them? What?

It's not about being suppressed in an active way. For the problem I'm talking about, it's completely sufficient for the disagreed-with posts to simply not rise to the top of the discussion.

Remember, HN doesn't even show the vote counts on posts, so you can't extract hardly any agreement-disagreement info from a post (other than it's not so bad as to be downvoted to oblivion). The true and important function of the votes is to control visibility.

Try expressing a conservative or religious opinion. I've gotten downvotes for both even though I haven't been the slightest bit rude. I enjoy hacker news, but at times it can really feel like a hivemind.

I think you're wrong and are just trying up make some claim about Reddit. I don't think it is as simple as "upvoting in agreement is legitimate therefore the converse is true." Down voting as the effect of removing the comment from discussion and is even used to indicate there is something unfair, mean, or what have you. I think what you're talking is more for a site that shows the scores of comments but does not obscure them.

Yeah I know you can find pg quotes about this. Does that make it true? If that's the case then you win.

However, if you want to use reason, it is clearly the case that under this view then the voting and karma is a misnomer and little more than a way to stifle dissent. It's good thing, I think, that most don't hold this view.

> Does that make it true?

It makes it true that it's the site policy, yes.

>downvoting something because you disagree with it has always been legitimate on HN //

Um, no. You downvote when a comment doesn't contribute. If you disagree then you can state it and if that contributes it can get upvoted too.

I'm talking about what the HN policy has always been. This is a factual question, and it's not as you describe it.

What's interesting is how the opposite gets repeated far more often, usually in an authoritative tone, as if the speaker had just consulted a rulebook.

TBH that's the only use of votes I've seen agreed on as valid here.

Despite your relative long-standing I'll bow to your claim of factuality and request citation of that fact?

Do the first two links I listed here count? https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7451438

I wouldn't say it's ever been agreed on; I'm pretty sure people disagreed about this from day one. And downvoted each other about it :)

Both of those links (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=117118 [actually 117171 for the pg comment], https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=658683) appear to be simply pg saying people do downvote when they disagree rather than him endorsing that activity.

Indeed the first link says in part:

>"I think it's ok to use the up and down arrows to express agreement."

Which reads to me as having an implicit "also to express agreement" especially in the context of the thread. The thread consensus appears to favour not downvoting for mere disagreement (but I would say that !).

In the past when we had votes visible we'd have been able to tell better the general consensus from that information.

So, I upvoted you for making your point well; presumably you downvoted me as you disagreed.

Those two comments are far from the only data points, though. But now I really am too lazy to look any more up.

My memory is simply that PG always said downvoting for disagreement was fine and many users have always thought he made the wrong call. Still, it's his site, so his call to make.

The interesting thing to me is how confident these users are that they're quoting the site rules, when really they're contradicting them, de facto if not de jure. Just like a lot of us Canadians think that famous U.S. laws (e.g. Miranda rights) apply here, because we've seen them many times on TV, so a lot of HNers assume that this Reddit rule exists on HN.

> presumably you downvoted me as you disagreed

Couldn't! Also wouldn'tve.

>Still, it's his site, so his call to make. //

It's not his. He certainly has a lot of control over it though. Debate/Culture isn't owned by those who facilitate it. I find the idea that this is solely pg's plaything to be damaging.

>quoting the site rules //

De facto standards don't necessarily have documented support. Down-voting for disagreement seems fundamentally wrong [to me] on any site intended to be more than an echo chamber - unless there is a parallel means to promote quality - combined with the established [it seems amongst many long term users] and upheld viewpoint of voting for quality causes me to promulgate that position.

Here are two PG comments with slightly different takes on downvoting to signal disagreeing:



My takeaway has been that HN does not have Reddit's "don't downvote people just because you think that they are wrong" rule. Interestingly, PG's observation that people do not tend to downvote people who's comments are already gray does not seem to be true at all on reddit.

I've always thought that downvoting was for things that didn't contribute, and for things that were technically wrong (including logical fallacies and similar). However, disagreeing on opinion doesn't strike me as an area (on HN or otherwise) where downvoting makes sense.

So downvoting "1TB of data can easily be uploaded over a 20Mbps connection" (Takes 4.8 days, versus a 20 MegaBytes ps connection, which takes ~14 hours and while not easy, is at least more feasible) -- should be ok. But a comment with correction would normally be better...

Downvoting someone for saying that they prefer working in Eclipse (just because I prefer vim) doesn't seem very useful?

I don't think that the line between "I disagree with your opinion" and "I think this is incorrect" is always clear, particularly when new theories or analysis is being floated. As examples:

If I state that "chocolate is better than vanilla", and you disagree with me, it's not really that you think I am incorrect; you simply just disagree with me.

However if I state that I think "[country] will do [something] in Crimea", then you might disagree with me because you do think that I am incorrect. However in that case, because my statement was speculative, there isn't a strong sense of "objectively correct or incorrect".

I think that most 'disagreements' in online conversations are closer to the second than the first.

Downvoting someone saying they prefer some text editor is useful because those conversations are often very dull.

Downvoting the incorrect post is valid but as you say it would be more useful to provide a correction post.

> Downvoting for disagreement is how downvoting is meant to be used

Ha! I am so downvoting this comment, because I disagree with it.

(but but but ... yeah figure it out)

pg is wrong on this.

Currently, the downvote button is only supposed to be used for unproductive comments

pg has previously stated that it's perfectly acceptable to use the downvote button as "I disagree".

The problem is that downvotes affect karma, so someone with unpopular opinions will likely have lower karma than what their level of contribution indicates. Thus leading to an echo chamber of 1000+ endorsed popular comments only.

Seeing this comment downvoted is amusingly ironic (although perhaps undeserved).

Downvotes meaning "I disagree" contribute to groupthink, no?

I think the moderation system in use on HN is inferior to moderation systems seen on some forums as far back as the turn of the century. I am not a fan of it (see my profile page) and don't like it in the least.

I think it's better than having nothing at all (no up/down at all), but that's not saying much.

I wanted to downvote your above post just for the delicious paradox of it, but that profile page made me reconsider ;)

Agreed. This will only work to increase the echo chamber that is HN. Any type of debate will now need to go through the HN elite. I really didn't have a problem with the current system, any obvious troll comments were always downvoted out of sight. I rather see any unapproved comment and make up my own mind on its "worthiness" instead of someone else.

It's something that is somewhat worrying, but I believe that there is enough diversity of opinion in the "elite" (somehow I am barely included in that version of counting karma, I doubt anyone remembers my username for than a few minutes) that I don't really believe it will stop people from posting things that THEN get them downvoted to hell.

At least every other day I see someone being downvoted into oblivion for espousing a contrary opinion, and while there is not enough upvotes to save that comment, I still kick one its way if the comment is thought out and posted in good faith.

My biggest concern is still about the overall amount of eyeballs moderating the new comments, and losing interesting or useful information. I almost think there should be a pending "downvote" to limit the number of times that people are reviewing a specific pending comment, so that if it is trash it dies and gets out of the way of newer pending comments worth reviewing, or maybe something where there are subgroups of pending comments so that you don't somehow languish in a low priority queue if no one looks at it, but instead get a chance at someone looking at it.

The 24 hour rule also is a bit sad because as far as I can tell, HN dies down a lot during the weekend, and some interesting articles come out that dont receive the attention they deserve. I imagine the same thing would happen with new comments.

Yeah, the 24 hour rule seems a bit excessive. I see a lot of Show HN posts where the OP will respond to questions that users have about the particular thing they are showing off. The OP now needs to hope that a 1000+ user is continually monitoring their post in order for them to quickly answer any questions others may have.

> This will only work to increase the echo chamber that is HN. Any type of debate will now need to go through the HN elite.

I think that's not a bug, that's a feature. PG mentioned before that HN was growing too fast and that keeping up was hard. I'm guessing the problem trying to be solved is the Eternal September[1], and this feature does exactly that: you are only allowed to post once you learned how to behave the HN way.

[1] In case someone doesn't know: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September

Cool, so how did that work out for Usenet? :)

There is no "do not endorse" button. So the people who would downvote to disagree are not able to suppress endorsement. They can ignore the endorse button, but other people will endorse valid posts.

This is a poorly thought out, reactionary response to allegations of dreadful comment quality.

1. It doesn't solve any problems of group think, because if pg and the Y Combinator folks think the system is already tilted toward a certain group and set of beliefs - this now empowers them all as citizen moderators.

2. It further empowers this group by giving them the ability to remove other members of the group's ability to moderate comments.

3. It increases the "cost" of commenting far more than most other moderating proposals would. Not commenting on a popular post? Why bother. Continuing a conversation in replies? Again, why bother.

4. It had such a poor specification that cperciva found a critical flaw in the implementation details in mere minutes. If pending comments is an answer to a problem, then it was not the sort of answer that would have been approved by this comment system.

This perhaps marks the beginning of the end for HackerNews.

Who wants to contribute to a "community" where there is active censorship of posts critical of YCombinator companies (see Dr Chrono), or you get hell-banned for no good reason, and now this poorly thought-out "rule"?

CPerciva pointed out an obvious flaw. Another is this: if you had to start a brand new HackerNews tomorrow, would you implement the rule? Of course not, because nobody would have any karma points to begin with, so they wouldn't be able to approve or see pending comments, meaning no comments would ever get posted! Duh!

Now you could argue that the HackerNews moderators and owners have karma points and they could approve comments to seed the system... but then why not just have a private forum for all your start-up friends, invite only, so you can be sure they all speak right?!

Honestly, it's a shit idea and I will stop contributing entirely.

I have been a lurker and infrequent poster here for a number of years and have lately been feeling increasingly alienated from the HN community. I am not on "the in" by any means in startup culture or silicon valley (in fact, I live in Southern California). As somebody who very much feels on the outside looking in on the craziness that is silicon valley and the startup culture (although my entire career has been spent in startups) I feel like this move only serves to further alienate people like me.

I think that once I break the habit of typing "news.ycombinator.com" when I open a browser I won't miss this place very much.

> this now empowers them all as citizen moderators

I prefer to think of them as the high priests; only they get to decide what constitutes divinely ordained Truth.

I think this change makes the mistake that people with lots of karma are good contributors.

I think it should be based on weighted karma/comment in addition to total karma. Imagine two users - one with 1500 karma & 1.1 karma/comment versus one with 600 karma & 10 karma/comment, which one would you trust to be able to judge what is a good comment and what isn't?

The total karma weight is to give at least some favor to frequent users, but not too much.

In addition, if someone replies to your comment, you should be able to at least see their comment regardless of your karma or whether it's been greenlit.

I think this change makes the mistake that people with lots of karma are good contributors.

That's not an invariant property of participants with karma over 1000 points, to be sure, but the population of participants with over 1000 points skews to include a fair number of people who have been long-term contributors (patio11, who has my same join date and deservedly much more karma, immediately comes to mind among several other participants). What's practical about this bright-line rule is that it strictly limits the number of participants who can review pending comments at all, and allows the moderation team here to go to the next step of evaluating the reviewers, while ALL OF US are put on notice that what's desired here is substantive, polite comments.

So while I agree with you that the relationship "high karma implies good contributor" is not an invariantly true relationship, it has enough heuristic value to start as a seed for the system as further hand-tweaking of review power by the moderation team responds to your legitimate concern here.

That's a good point, but I think it would have an unintended negative consequence of punishing late comments, which tend to have low karma but may nonetheless be worthwhile.

It would also punish comments on 'new' threads, which often stagnate with 0 or 1 upvotes.

Karma/Comment is not a very good metric as well. As someone that posted a big post that stayed in the Front Page for long can amass a lot of karma in little time. Giving them a very high Karma/Comment. You would have to remove the outliers.

A perfect opportunity to use comment-karma H index! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H-index

Karma/Comment is a poor metric, I think, because it encourages the strike attack comment style.

If I post something and people post counterpoints or questions or concerns, I will respond. But the truth is that from a pure karma average perspective, by far the best action would be to simply leave the threads hanging, the single post floating at the top of karma heaven. That works great from a pure karma perspective, but it subdues conversation because every point is a single attack.

It also encourages the stealthy comment editor. While Paul mentions this, it is something that happens regularly -- people make a comment, someone responds unfavourably, and the original person subtly edits their comment to make them look unfairly attacked. This is a specific problem on HN given that quoting is generally discouraged. So everyone piles on the downvotes and upvotes, respectively, to right this seeming injustice.

Karma on HN is easily gamed, as it is elsewhere. It is unfortunate when we care too much about it because it leads to completely artificial conversations.

I think that bsamuels' point about replies is also important: I sometimes reply to comments with the intention to be helpful to the author of the comment, not necessarily everybody else.

> I think this change makes the mistake that people with lots of karma are good contributors.

You're making the related mistake that comments with lots of karma are good comments.

By coincidence, I (at the time of writing) have roughly 1500 karma at 2.2 / comment. Here's a selection of some of my sub-10-karma comments that I happen to like:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7203273 (for reasons I don't understand, 0 karma)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7276538 (2)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7156141 (3)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7396659 (4)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7239733 (4)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7352327 (5)

Here's every 10+ karma comment I've made in the past 50 days:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7206460 (10, with a 12-point comment two levels down)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7329150 (12)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7296981 (11)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7206436 (14)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7194772 (22)

Weirdly, the intuition I got from going back over these is that I'd probably use a threshold of 8 to divide "popular" comments from "unpopular" ones.

Anyway, I see a clear trend in the 10+ comments: they either openly mock someone, or they take a stand on a contentious political issue (the 22-pointer does both!). My favorite of them all is the 5-pointer, and I dearly hoped that someone would reply to it... but no.

Obviously, I've got plenty of less-worthwhile 1- and 2-point comments to my name. But I'm not at all convinced that someone with 10 average karma per comment is making better comments than someone with an average of two; it seems more likely that they're either demagoguing or just witty, possibly nastily witty.

postscript: average karma of some bright lights:

patio11: 15.2

cperciva: 11.3

tokenadult: 6.1

tptacek: 5.4

This seems like a rather hostile change to an already hostile community. HN has never felt like a welcoming place to me, and I don't think this will help. Maybe PG prefers the community to be small, so he's trying to trim it down? Because I'm fairly certain this will drive users away, and not just the ones he wants to keep out.

Please noble 1000+ers, free my humble comment from the depths of the low-karma peasants. For I have but 522 karma, thus I deserve to be spat on and excluded from the flawless utopia which is the HN comments section...

I have to agree with you that this looks like a hostile change. There are, of course, many here who would prefer a smaller community. That's an elitist group, imo. I've always felt that the quality of discussion here has remained top-notch, even as the popularity of the site has grown.

> Because I'm fairly certain this will drive users away, and not just the ones he wants to keep out.

Absolutely. One of the benefits of the size and diversity of the HN community is that there are lots of subject matter experts in a myriad of niches that can provide useful commentary.

If it becomes dramatically harder to have a comment be seen, these people will simply stop commenting here. The idea might be that infrequent but insightful commenters will get endorsed, but not every comment a valuable commenter makes is necessarily going to get endorsed. That's going to be frustrating enough that many will decide not to bother, and the discourse will be poorer for it.

Exactly my thoughts. I know if my first comments had been voted off the island I would have swam away.

I think it does have this risk, not in the sense of deliberately driving users away, but simply the fact that the cost of posting would be much higher and engagement would drop as a side effect.

The goal of HN isn't to become large and popular. It's to be a useful forum for discussion. See the Guidelines and FAQ links on every HN page for more on this:


As for gaining points: given time and quality contributions (as well as winning the front-page lottery a time or two), it's possible to gain 1000 karma in a year or so, pretty easily, if you want to (and quite possibly faster). Which is as it should be: you need to make your bones.

I'm not fond of the idea, but at the same time, playing the victim like you are here doesn't exactly do much for comment quality.

HN really loathes humour, doesn't it?

In my opinion this is a feature of HN discussions and one of the things I detest about reddit discussions.

Slashdot had the ultimate solution for our different tastes: you could configure a comment type (informative/funny/etc) modifier/threshold. You could say you wanted to see more funny replies and I could say I did not want to see them. It was a tiny bit complicated initially but I think the big impediment to adoption at other sites was the clunky UI. There is not a simple/unobtrusive way to display so many feedback options for each an every comment.

You have to be clever, topical, and insightful. Or just damned lucky.

Like comedy anywhere else, really.

eogas is referring to my profile commentary. What eogas isn't recognising is that just because something has the trappings of humour doesn't also mean it's not crap.

HN has thankfully opened up a little in regards to light humour; that part of my profile was written quite a while ago.

This seems quite drastic to me. Personally I don't have a lot of Karma (and I don't really care to) but every known and again I post a comment and usually I hope it provides a good contribution.

Like this the system is putting a lot of weight on the users with more Karma... and I am guessing there are "many" more users with less than 1000 compared to those with more? Some people may never have a chance to state their opinion like this.

Rather, the opposite approach might work? Users with more than X karma can completely remove some comments, and say if your comment has been removed, you are not allowed to comment again for a specific period of time. If you post x rejected comments in a row then potentially you get banned.

EDIT - maybe a little off topic: another "comment" about comments - I notice you can up vote and down vote comments. I see this functionality sometimes is used to indicate agreement (or lack of) towards a comment. This as far as I cant tell is not the intended functionality, I am unsure however how this can be fixed easily.

http://news.ycombinator.com/leaders shows at least a hundred with over 1000, and probably many more than that considering the falloff in points becomes more gradual as you go down the list. My comments are nothing special and I have >6000 karma. Even if only 10% of those people are still active, there will be no shortage of endorsers for the livelier discussions.

Why is there a blank line in the list between jrockway and cwan? Is it someone whose account was deleted?

It's just top-10.

The HN leaderboard shows 100 users with > 15500 points, they mostly all seem to be active users, and the scores seem to be doing the usual long tail dropoff that such distributions tend to do.

So I would expect there to be a ton of active HN users with more than 1000 points.

according to a comment in this thread, there are 5500 users with over 1000 points. Whether they are active or not is unknown. Whether they want to view pending comments or just read and comment like normal users is unknown.

If you are in this >1000 karma club, please approve this comment. I have been a user for 1044 days.

It's not that hard to get to 1000+ slowly. All you have to do is hang around for years and make the occasional decent comment. If anything this is biased towards old timers.

It's not currently that hard to get to 1000+ slowly. By slowing down commenting and making it harder to even get comments through, this is presumably going to make it harder.

I browser HN daily, been around for coming up on a year, and I'm not even half way there.

Since commenting is such a huge aspect of these sites for me, I'll probably frequent HN much less often since I won't be able to participate in conversation. PARTICULARLY, I won't be able to get in the early comments that are necessary for making high-karma. You can't have your comment show up an hour or so later after "approval," you'll only net a handful of upvotes, because you'll be buried under the high-scoring top comments by senior HN users.

Perhaps make a mid tier, say 500 karma, where you can't endorse users, but don't need endorsement?

So now we have to wait years to be considered good enough posters to be allowed to fully participate?

Not, years, months; assuming a couple of decent comments per day, with a couple of points per answer( my definition of a couple is ~ 2-4 here ).

I've been around for 250 days or so and am not even halfway there.

Then again, I only say something whenever I feel I have something to add, rather than just blasting comments and hoping to get upvotes (and now, endorsements)

I think this would result in a worse off situation because by allowing users with X karma to remove comments and prevent other users from commenting, it is effectively censoring them.

True, however you could require say 4 users to block a comment out and this maybe would mitigate the problem a little?

I think the point I was trying to make was that by turning it around it would require "less" active participation from the users and by default everyone gets a chance, but the really bad comments would still get removed I think. Anyway we shall see how it works out!

I don't comment often. I came here following the dice purchase of slashdot, and found a quality tech oriented site without too much crap.

At the rate I (slowly) accumulate the imaginary internet points here, it will be the better part of a decade before I end up with the ability to "endorse" any other comments. I don't really care about that, except you're locking out those of us that don't have a following here, or name recognition. We, collectively, have seen how "voting" works -- here and elsewhere -- after a very short time, people just upvote based on who the person is, not the comment. Endorsements will work the same way.

Being limited to only one "pending" comment at a time, and the very high probability that I'll see significant delays between being able to comment, pretty much guarantees that I'll leave and find my tech news elsewhere.

Perhaps that's fine with you. But it's a shame to ruin a community to solve a problem that, quite frankly, doesn't exist.

I share your concerns. For me it "should" be ~4+ years. But that assumes that I can post at the same rate, which I won't be able to.

I primarily follow HN for news, with the option of discussion and clarification of said news. Many (most?) of my comments are buried deep in the comment tree, as responses to specific comments, and tend to get one or two responses.

And that sort of thing - responses back and forth, clarification and additional questions - are the sort of thing that won't be able to be done. There is no sense in posting a reply to someone with less than a thousand karma if it's buried deep in the comment tree, even if it's something the parent commenter is interested in, even if it is something that other people would be likely to want to have answered. Because it is a niche conversation, and there are so few people visiting it that it is unlikely that someone with 1000 karma will visit it.

If I cannot comment, why stay? Most, if not all, of the interesting articles are crossposted elsewhere, places where I can comment.

I agree with you and share your concerns, as someone with similar posting habits.

This is the wrong approach, and it's going to help deteriorate an already small community.

1. HN doesn't have an issue with comment quality.

2. HN should be concerned about growing the community, and increasing comments. A lot of discussions already suffer due to a lack of activity. This is going to do the opposite, it's going to decrease comments.

3. We live in an instant world. Pending comments is a step backwards for user experience.

4. Occasionally I see a topic with 10 comments, the majority of which were written back and forth within the first hour of the topic. You're going to kill these discussions.

5. Manually moderating topics doesn't work for communities like HN. It works on a blog, where your article from last year gets another two or three comments every month, half of which are spam.

6. You're creating unnecessary work for members in the community. People come here to enjoy the community, not to moderate.

7. It's a poor method of moderation. You can have 99 users decide not to endorse a comment, then one person decides to click the endorse button. 99% against, and yet it's approved.

8. I'll have to question every comment I write, and avoid spending time on any detailed responses, because they might never leave the pending stage.

HN comment quality has decreased a bit as it's grown, as you would expect. Some people don't have a problem with that, other find it bad enough to leave (and, ironically, sometimes leave a particularly low-quality comment in doing so).

I do have a problem with 'only one pending comment', which I think is a particularly bad part of the upcoming change. It effectively means that you can't participate in two different conversations happening in the same post. If you have karma 10k+ you are (currently planned to) 'auto-endorse', so those people can have multiple conversations.

One clear example - there was a post recently where an immigration and tax lawyer (can't remember the handle, sorry) did an AMA-style comment, which was massively popular with the community, and he answered a lot of raised questions.

If he could only make one pending comment at a time, it would not have worked: 1) Respond to a question. 2) Wait until enough people have freshly loaded the page to have the new comment in it. 3) Wait until enough people have scrolled to the right place to see his particular comment amongst all the other pendings. 4) Wait until enough of those people were endorse-capable and endorse-willing. 5) During all this waiting, keep on refreshing so you know when you're good to post the next comment.

That lawyer's one posting spree provided many people with pertinent, site-relevant, professional information... but the new system would have made it so onerous that he probably would have decided that he deals with enough boilerplate micromanagement in his day job.

Having only a single pending comment at a time will decrease the sense of community, simply by significantly reducing the number of conversations you can have.

I think this is a horrible decision. I've never seen this work. My biggest objection is based on the fact I have to wait for someone to endorse my comment.

I post a lot of comments here, regularly. Some of them get hot and turn into a linked-list O(n) depth tree... I also post during time when few people are around. By the time I want to say something interesting and hope someone can engage with me my comment would be so deep down. This is not really karma whoring. But I want to be able to express myself instantly, right away so anyone reading the article at that moment may check out my voice too.

I don't see why we need this restriction. This should be restricted to people who have a history of getting downvoted and people who are new to HN. That makes sense. But people who have been here long enough and with a good record shouldn't be penalized.

Call me impatient but I read and write quickly. I can't wait an hour to get one comment approved.

Note I am well above 1000 karma and I don't like this...

And if the whole point is to promote comments that can contribute to the discussion, then downvote will work just fine. Any uncivil or harsh comment usually get to the bottom of the page quickly. If I express similar or even same opinion as someone else, should my comment be approved? If the answer is yes, then almost every comment should be endorsed. Then what is the whole point of this pending feature?


I am probably too young to think of one with the same restriction. It doesn't work because there is no real gain.

The point seems to be to improve the quality of comments.

Look. The intention is good. But I don't like this feature. Since most comments will be endorsed eventually, we won't gain much from this restriction.

Some people don't understand sarcasm (I am with this group!). Sarcasm is not necessarily a bad thing and can be quite fun to read. This is not a forum where people post scholarly comments. As long as the comment is genuine I personally consider it a good comment.

Now some people have a more compelling reason to "karma-whore".

I think one compromise could be to remove this restriction from users with > x karma. It's not ideal to me but it is something ...

A bad comment is a bad comment whether I write it or a green-named user does. Jerkface.

This is why I think the anonymous idea above is a good add-on, if we have to have this system.

The number of bad comment is relatively low. And what kind of bad comments are we after?

Wow do I ever disagree with that. Comments on HN have gotten genuinely awful.

I hear you express this sentiment often. Could you explain your thoughts on this?

If anything, I think the stories are the problem. Cool hacks and interesting science often fail to get the 2-3 upvotes they need to escape the new page. On page 2 of "New", I've found the following fairly decent stories that died recently: http://simplystatistics.org/2014/03/20/the-8020-rule-of-stat... http://googlecloudplatform.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/cassandra-...

Yet both of these are vastly more useful than Julie Horvath's "omfg, I had a workplace conflict" or "Yay basic income, no facts, no reasoning, yay" (currently 380 pts, 441 comments, was #1 for a while today).

I'd suggest that it's far more important to improve the stories than to improve the comments. The comments on a story like "JDK 8 Release Notes" or "Circuit Breaker" (about a distributed computing design pattern) are actually quite good.

I agree: as long as we restrict ourselves to tech stories in which (a) no startup is implicated in any way (lest the thread devolve into litigation of San Francisco real estate prices) and (b) no sharks/jets rivalry exists (rails v node, rust v go, mongo v cassandra), the comments on HN are pretty good.

Every other story has mean, uninformed, badly-written, unproductive comments

I also agree that the stories are the bigger problem.

I don't think that 'general' topics that most people have something to say about are inherently bad (in my opinion). They just have a few problems.

First, On 'developing statistical methods' the average HNer has more insightful things to say than the average person. On alternatives to social welfare the average HN commenter is not much more insightful than the average person. The only reason to do it here is because here is the community where they discuss things online.

Second some articles contributes no more than just the topic ("Yay basic income, no facts, no reasoning, yay"). HN isn't for that so it fails. It works for discussing articles or specific facts and news items, not for discussing 'topics.^' ATM it looks like there are 2-3 of these on page one.

^BTW, is there any software specifically designed to allow discussion of these "forever topics." IE, the topics that keeps popping up in every forum and get pinned in the traditional BB forums?

Okay. But what is a bad comment then? Maybe your standard is very different from my standard.

If only there was some way to aggregate the opinions of all participants, like through some sort of voting system.

um ... ok. But the thing is I don't think this necessary so I would like some way for the echo chamber to not hold. Obviously, the ideal would be to not have the restriction. :)

It is, actually. Comments by users with over 10k karma go live immediately.

Really? Are you sure about that decision? If it were my site, I'd decide the other way, if only because I'd worry about the interaction between high-karma commenters that can rapid-fire respond and normal users who have to wait.

I don't think people will have to wait so much they'll notice, but we'll see.

Unfortunate, and I say that as a user with more than 10k karma. All comments should earn their endorsements on their own. High karma users are as capable of mean/stupid comments as anyone.

It looks like the number of users with >10k karma ≈ 0.3%[^1] Do you have any estimate of number of users >5k and >1k?

[^1]: https://hn-karma-tracker.herokuapp.com/overall

I like the intent.

Given that karma is a function of votes from articles posted as well as net votes from comments made, is there a way to use the second but not the first for karma limits related to comments?

Wow, this seems like a rather large change -- with a lot of dynamics and moving parts -- for what seems like a relatively minor problem on HN. Not that there aren't bad comments, but bad comments get a lukewarm response, and insightful comments seem to do pretty well. Comments that get more airtime than they might deserve will still get approved by someone (and upvoted/downvoted accordingly)

The bigger problem to me seems to be that great comments that come in a few hours after the posting of a hot submission will almost never reach the top of the comment stack, because older comments that are decent enough will inevitably keep getting upvotes by every new reader of the thread. I'm not sure what the best tweak for that is, but the proposed feature at hand would seem to exacerbate the situation.

Note: OK, I've realized I made the archetypical dickish HN comment ("OK the OP is interesting but on a tangent, why don't we all discuss this other thing I care about?")...but I do think the proposed feature will have a direct impact on the circulation of fresh, insightful comments. I'm a 1000+ Karma user, but after I've read a thread a couple of times, I probably won't re-check it...I can't be the only HN'er who has this lack of attention span...and so this queue, even if perfectly implemented, would seem even more to suppress new comments (unintentionally)

It sounds to me like an excuse to drastically slow down discussion under the guise of improving the community. Imagine this scenario, which feels plausible to me: "good" discussions on HN don't offer much value to HN stakeholders, but "bad" ones (whether regarding employment discrimination, or bad press for YC companies, etc.) pose a credible threat to HN stakeholders. Then, anything that simply dampers discussions, even if it does so at a constant rate across all types of discussions and comments, if good for HN stakeholders. Shutting HN down altogether would do the same, but might itself result in bad press throughout the community.

While I am willing to give pg and company the benefit of the doubt, I would consider what you said to probably be the most noticeable difference that would matter to the bottom line of the parties involved who have felt the brunt of such situations.

With this new system, I can't imagine YC companies being called out on their dirty closets like they have in the past (any maybe indirectly large swaths of people who are employed by big co's who are power users on HN with those stories, or in general up and coming companies people engage with in the community).

I know some may feel I'm over exaggerating (because there are the passive bans through blocking upvoting/downvoting effects for comments/posts/polls, filters, hellbanning, etc.) , but I feel like until now, I have taken the information access, discussion that goes on here and all the interesting people this board attracts for granted. I just don't see it being the same place to discus/mention ideas/concepts and ask questions if pg and co decide to stick with it, and it just becoming more watered down onanism that it can increasingly be and has been on track to becoming more of up until today. But this is the internet, and moments like these may inspire someone to offer other environments.

On another note: I'm finding it really fascinating to be able to experiment with social systems like this. I'm excited to see the posts of people analyzing the affect of a change like this via the search api or scraping.

> "after I've read a thread a couple of times, I probably won't re-check it"

It's funny, since we lost usenet 10+ years ago, we lost reader software that show which comments are new since you last time looked at a thread.

In this sense, the software we had in the 90's was technically superior to the web forums we have today.

To be fair other web forums have that capability.

You hit on a important thing for me. I know the "quality if the comments" thing gets talked about a lot but I think it is much ado about nothing. I think it, like you say, a minor problem.

I agree. I don't understand what problem pg is trying to solve here.

I have ~1900 karma so I'll be one of the endorsers ... but I am not sure I want to be. I think this is a very aggressive change and one that puts too much power in the hands of people like me. Just because I have enough free time to sit around and rack up HN Karma doesn't mean I should control the speech of other, newer users.

Also I think the delay caused by waiting for endorsements on comments will really kill a lot of fast-moving comment threads. it will make it harder for people to have a discussion until the 1000+ karma gods take notice of the thread and throw enough endorsements around to make the comments visible.

Disqus just turned off the ability to see how many people have downvoted a comment.

So now every comment will look positive and be re-affirming instead of challenging someone to think, "Hey, I agree with that comment, but hundreds of others have disagreed, maybe I should read the thread to see why people disagree, maybe there is something I should learn about."

There is too much gaming of comments. Let people speak freely, moderate for illegal stuff, and be done with it.

Karma 2600 or so. I don't have time to sit around much but I do like some of the more recondite niches of domain knowledge that get air time on HN. My own niche is dynamical systems. You would be surprised what effect a very small amount of damping can have on a dynamical system.

I would suggest that the proposed damping system if introduced should be reviewed after a few months. I suspect however that the main effects will be qualitative and so hard to analyse. I have gained a lot from deeply forked comments where one person provides me with a fact or Web site.

Please consider making pending comments anonymous. Let the comment stand on its own.

Please consider making pending comments anonymous. Let the comment stand on its own.

User names are shown next to comments now, but I find that my eye gravitates to the text of the comment. I used to think I had an "enemies list," that is I used to think that there were other participants here who I would reflexively never upvote, but in fact I have found that among all the user names I recognize, I have from time to time upvoted comments from all of those participants. (And, in general, to fight the rot here I try to upvote the good stuff at least as often as I downvote the bad stuff. Changing either the numerator or the denominator can change a signal:noise ratio.)

But if it's not too much technical trouble (I have no idea about that issue), sure, we could let pending comments live on the basis solely of their content, with their authorship being exposed when the comment itself is exposed after review. I could live with that, as a user who has enough karma to review under the new system.

What if they just made all the comments anonymous for 24 hours after they're posted? If you really wanted to know someones user name you could just go back in 24 hours. Hard to say whether it would improve content, but it does still allow people to have a name tied to a comment thus providing incentive to post well thought out answers and not go on sprees of acting obnoxious (I assume).

I second this, too. HN has some very divided cliques.

Whether that makes sense depends on the context. Particularly in the case of someone submitting a link to their own (startup|open source code|blog post|etc), people often ask questions along the lines of "what does the author think about X" and the identity of the person replying matters a great deal to whether a reply is meaningful.

It should be obvious whether such an answer sounds authoritative or not, and it sounds like a comment could still be downvoted once endorsed. So I don't think this is as big of a problem as users endorsing (or not endorsing) based on username.

There's also certain commentators who are more authoritative on certain topics, because they are known to have positions at certain companies etc.

Every few months I find HN starts to impede my productivity, and I kill my account by removing the valid email address, and changing the password by mashing keys. Having breached the 1000 on at least one of those, possibly more, I kinda regret that. Especially since it obviously doesn't work, at least not for more than a week or two at most.

I'm also concerned because of the hive mind effect. Just because something is popular, doesn't mean it's quality. You attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, but you get a LOT more with a steaming turd. And sure, the turd is popular, but is it good eats?

And I find using the karma total is a poor choice. Reaching 1000 karma isn't that difficult, nor is it an indication of quality, it can be an indication of the age of an account, or the prolific nature of the commenter. Someones ratio is a far better way to ensure that the individuals deciding are also quality posters. A single troll with an account in the 1000+ can chose to use that to green light his other accounts, and other trolls.

I look forward to being proven wrong though.

Let me just say it straight out: I think this is a truly terrible idea.

I've been reading HN for over 3 years and I am more than happy to use my own judgment to ignore comments that do not contribute to the discussion. I rather have that than miss a comment that others have not deemed important.

(technically this does not apply to me as I have karma > 1000, but I am speaking from the viewpoint of somebody who hasn't)

We do not need rules like this. We need good judgment.

Good judgment cannot be enforced; it has to be cultivated. It'd be better to post reminders about etiquette somewhere prominently and trust that people tend to do the right thing (and most people do).

Since this will probably be the last time a comment of mine appears in HN due to the new system I figured I'd give my take on it.

I'm someone who doesn't join in threads pretty often; I'll chime in if I find the topic to be something I'm interested in but my ignorance to most other matters leaves me from wanting to join into threads because of a fear of people piling on negative responses or "schooling" me in terms of the topic at hand.

I don't submit new articles because most things I'm interested in are discovered by more well connected individuals so I'm usually late the party so my score is relatively low despite how long I've lurked.

I'm fearful this new system discourages my participation further; if I don't add some insightful comment or my ignorance of a topic causes others to question whether my opinion is worth discussing I'll be kept from participating because I haven't built up a score. I won't even have the chance to join future conversations because my comments will be pending so until someone decides my opinion has merit I'll be censored from joining into other aspects of an article.

I may not be the most social of the HN folks here on the board but I do like to join into conversations when the topic is of interest to me. I guess this sort of system just makes me feel unwelcome because I'm being punished for not joining in earlier.

Even the most negative comments incite conversation; a person who may have an unwelcome opinion or whose ignorance prevents them from understanding a topic can learn from discussions based off their response.

I understand the reasoning for this and I think, for the most part, it'll help keep the comments section fairly civil. I'm just worried by solving this issue you're throwing away a part of the community who haven't had a chance to prove ourselves over time. I'm regretful I haven't spent time building up my karma in retrospect.

Why wouldn't your comments get endorsed and be seen as much as anyone else's?

Have you perhaps misunderstood the karma restriction to mean that people with less karma will have their comments be less visible? That's not the idea.

The problem isn't that I think my comments won't be endorsed. It's more I'll self censor my comments that I think would be less popular because I'd be afraid if I'm censored I wouldn't have a chance to join in future conversations until someone would agree with me.

If I release more popular opinions by the majority I'll be instantly accepted and have a chance to further join in conversations. From a gaming perspective the correct choice to better adapt to the system would be for me to always speak to the majority to increase my odds of being accepted until I am part of the elite caste of folks who can vote.

You're missing two important facts: first, that your pending comment eventually (after 24 hours) expires of its own accord, and second, that you can always delete the comment if it's taking too long and holding you up on a better comment you could have written.

In reading a thread (say, over the course of 5-15 minutes), I will often want to post comments at various points. Because I am not in a popular HN timezone, if I needed to wait for comments to be endorsed, I would find this seriously frustrating. Waiting and checking to see if a comment had been approved would be a huge time sink.

Edit: I think that limit has been lifted to five now.

So, a "the rich get richer" commenting system. Great.

What exactly is wrong with just downvoting? Sure every thread has trolls and useless comments, but a lot people bring up really great points and ideas and having to go through and moderate all this shit on every thread is going to be a trainwreck.

This is a great forum for debates and discussions on technology but also the issues affecting our world. Can we please choose not to limit everyone's voice to the whim of the "karma wealthy" just to stave off a bit of bickering and "lol kewl site" comments?

I think this is a great change. It's great that you're still iterating on HN and changing the fundamentals.

Can someone with over 1,000 karma start replying to a fresh comment before it's endorsed? Or will the reply link not be there until it's endorsed? If it's the latter, I'm worried that this might stifle the (admittedly rare) back-and-forth discussion between two experts, such as tptacek and cperciva. People who want to reply probably won't sit and wait until the reply link is active, and since replying to a different comment than intended is taboo, they're likely to say nothing instead.

That's a minor concern though.

EDIT: Also,

Since I'm going to check out of HN at the end of this YC cycle,

If I'm reading this right, does this mean you're going to leave HN entirely? I'm sorry to see that happen, but I understand why you'd need to.

> If it's the latter, I'm worried that this might stifle the (admittedly rare) back-and-forth discussion between two experts, such as tptacek and cperciva

Why wouldn't they just endorse each other's comments and continue a meaningful dialog?

It sounds like each comment requires multiple endoresements.

Somehow I doubt a meaningful and substantial discussion between two experts is going to have a lack of people endorsing it. But I guess we're going to find out soon!

So only popular posters with popular opinions will be allowed to endorse posts.

This feels like you are walling off HN for those who are already established here.

I've been here for years, I like to feel like I have a chance to contribute to discussions without hoping some karma overlord will approve.

I believe this change will cause HN to stagnate and become an echo chamber of the thoughts of those who are already popular enough

Same here. I have followed but rarely make any comments and those are usually too late after the post's popularity has cooled.

Yes, this seems like the whole point of the "feature".

I'm really missing what problem is being solved..

it's pretty clear to me that HN is already an echo chamber in many respects - the consensus VC and corporate views are frequently those that get the most upvotes. requiring approval from 'old guard' users will only exacerbate this echo chamber property of HN and will, imo, likely degrade the quality of discussions more than it will help.

what has made HN and reddit so popular is the ability for anyone to participate, even if their comments get downvoted. by removing this open posting property, you are going to switch from a "burning man" culture to a "popular nightclub" culture. i would like to think that most of the developer types on HN recognize this as a bad thing.

i, for one, will not bother participating in discussions with the same frequency if i know that it requires approval from a karma overlord. i expect this chilling effect will be similar with many users of your site.

People who regularly endorse comments that fail one or both of these tests will lose the ability to endorse comments.

Punishing people for endorsing comments that don't meet an arbitrary and vague content standard will inhibit endorsements. Endorsements are necessary for comments to show up. Seemingly weird comments that are brilliant only after reflection will not get endorsed. Hacker News will trend towards mediocrity. Another site killed by excessive moderation...

I run with dead comments showing. I hardly use my ability to down vote comments, but I rarely see a dead comment that didn't deserve it. There's a consensus on what should die here and I see no need to add more moderation.

Punishing people for endorsing comments that don't meet an arbitrary and vague content standard will inhibit endorsements.

This happens already with flagging and downvoting. If you flag or downvote too often/aggressively/whatever, you will have those privileges revoked. I used to go to /newest daily and upvote/flag until I lost my flagging privileges. I eventually got the ability to flag back but now I rarely go to /newest. It's the tragedy of the commons - if I go to /newest and flag/upvote, this is a better community because I'm active and participating. But if I am worried about being punished from doing so, I won't do it and will just hope that others will.

Some thoughts:

1) It would be fun to try this on only a subset of articles posted, so we could get real A/B testing on how well it works. The same issues get posted under multiple submissions, so we could see if the quantity and quality of comments is improved by pending, independent of the topics.

2) "showpending" to allow <1000 karma people to view the pending comments, much like "showdead" today.

3) These's now a huge incentive to farm a few 1001 karma point alt accounts. You can do that with a few submissions.

+1 for showpending. At least allow people some way to choose read what's being intentionally kept out. Might be interesting.

I keep showdead turned on for purposes of the hellbanned folks, some of whom really don't deserve the ban.

I wouldn't turn on a showpending, though. If you can't get a few users to endorse you, it probably wasn't worth saying.

I suspect anything remotely substantial will get the endorsements it needs. The userbase here is more diverse than is readily apparent.

As someone with 24k karma, I'd like a way to turn showpending off, too. Like, whenever I read an article about certain topics, I'd like to not be forced to see the pending comments. (I'll probably just use incognito-mode for that)

These's now a huge incentive - keep things in proportion :) Presumably, there are (or can be) checks for heavily reciprocal accounts.

I'm sure that this has been brought up before, but I've always wondered whether it makes sense to split karma into comment karma and submission karma, reddit-style, and grant this new endorsement power only to folks who cross a certain comment karma threshold.

Since now users with high karma will have a lot of power (than just downvoting, which IMO was relatively innocuous), I think it makes sense to ensure that this power goes to folks who have gained that power by contributing meaningfully to the community over a long period of time, and not by by a few - oftentimes lucky - submissions.

Am I totally off-base here? Or maybe this has been considered, but was too big of a code change?

I'm more comfortable calling it hn-influence than I am calling it power.

If the idea is to take it away from people that are misusing it, I don't think the occasional lucky submitter getting some undue hn-influence will be a big problem.

1) Maybe the "cannot submit a comment if you have an pending comment" should be a per thread thing, rather than for the whole site.

I suspect a lot of people read in batches. They take a break and read a dozen new stories over the course of a few minutes. If the exclusion is site wide, and the endorsement rate does not turn out as high as you hope, that would in effect in many cases mean that they only get one comment per batch. If there are more than one story they want to comment in on a batch, they will need to remember to go back during another break and revisit the old story.

2) Won't someone think of the children? Suppose X comments, and his comment is endorsed, and goes live. Y sees it, and comments on X's comment. Y's comment gets endorsed and goes live.

If X and Y's aforementioned comments have each received an endorsement from a third party, count that as an endorsement of the conversation between X and Y, and allow their future comments to go live without endorsement if they are children of the X/Y conversation.

Take a look at the several long back and forth exchanges between tptacek and cperciva in this discussion: [1]. It would be a shame to impede such things.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7439363

It's only an issue if it takes a long time for comments to get endorsed, which we don't know yet. But if that is a problem it's easy to make the restriction per thread. I just wrote the simplest thing first.

You expect 1000ers to endorse most decent comments they come across that aren’t greyed out yet. Based on how many votes most comments currently have, I doubt that would be the case. Unvalidated comments would appear greyed-out, therefore suspicious, and most 1000ers would assume there is something wrong about them that they haven’t figure out. Especially if they expect to be punished for validated anything that isn’t exceptional… I’m not sure what ratio of comments you expect to weed out, but I expect most will be gone.

Pending comments aren't greyed out. They just have [pending] prepended to them. So I don't think there will be a lot to figure out.

This looks like a solution without a problem. If there a desire to reduce participation in the site, then this change will likely work. Whether or not that is a good thing will reflect a difference in philosophies amongst the users here. As this site has grown in popularity, it is no longer small and exclusive. This will never cease to bother some people.

For what it's worth, I think the quality of discussion on this site is still solid. I'm skeptical of this incoming change, but am open to being wrong once I see it in action.

I feel like this really discourages unpopular truths from the discussion. This is one of the worst options I've ever heard for a comment system.

As I understand the idea, endorsing a comment doesn't mean you agree with it. It just means you think it deserves to be in the thread. That should leave room for unpopular views as long as they're respectfully expressed.

> As I understand the idea, endorsing a comment doesn't mean you agree with it.

Yeah, that's exactly how it will be used.

Sarcasm aside, the word "endorse" has a very specific definition which basically guarantees how this system will be used, intentions or not. I think about every single grayed-out comment I've seen, downvoted simply because it shared an opinion that made people feel uncomfortable but was nonetheless on-point, and now realize that we'll never even see those comments.

Real bummer for those inheriting HN to get it after this bad decision has been made. Will probably represent the end of useful dissent on HN.

It will work better than you think it will. People will endorse comments they disagree with just to get the opportunity to rebut them. Users don't debate things on HN to right the wrongs of the universe; they debate because debating is (or can be, when the comments aren't horrible) gratifying.

No it won't actually. What you described might be the 1/1000 of the cases. Most of the times when someone tells an unpopular truth that is hard to debate, it'll be more gratifying to just silence that unpopular truth. And that is called human nature.

This is related to the problem I have. I think endorsing something, or upvoting it, or downvoting it is too ambiguous. I try to treat things like that the same way I would when I name something coding. I want the intent to be unambiguous.

That's why I think the notion of giving a really limited subset of reasons to upvote or downvote something could be potentially useful. "Inflammatory" or some other, much better word, would better describe why I downvoted something, and might make it easier to take appropriate action on that, or figure out if the post is a one off for the user, or typical of their habits.

All of this, of course, if heavily dependent on the moderators/creators of the community deciding what exactly they're trying to drive, as far as specific behavior (with or without the input of the community--it's their ship to guide).

Someone who is expressing an unpopular opinion honestly, as opposed to just baiting or venting, can take care not to be disrespectful or accidentally provocative. I don't see why such comments wouldn't get endorsed.

"Don't downvote if you disagree" doesn't seem to work very well anywhere, so I'm not sure this will be any better in that regard.

Downvoting has always been used for disagreement on HN. It's a stubborn myth that that's somehow wrong or against the rules.

In principle, this should work.

Many users will endorse a comment whether it is popular or not, so long as it contributes to the discussion.

I agree with this. "Feelings" and "opinions" should not have an effect on whether or not a comment is allowed to be posted. Historically, people (innovators) who have correct (but unpopular) outlooks on things have been suppressed.

> Someone who has a pending comment will have to wait till it goes live to post another.

As currently stated, if a comment's never endorsed out of pending, the commenter will never be able to post again?

With the current settings, a comment has a day to make it out of pending. If you delete a pending comment, it's no longer pending.

If the comment doesn't make it out of pending in a day, what happens to it and its poster then?

Edit: Deletion is currently possible for less than that (2 hours?). Will this be different for pending comments?

Yes, deletion is possible for a pending comment as long as it's pending.

I see. You said above that a comment only has a day to make it out of pending. Why not auto-delete it when it doesn't? Edit: Never mind that question. Based on https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7446005 this seems to be the case (i.e., you won't have to delete a failed pending comment manually).

On a related note, the new system may prevent people from posting in the feature suggestion thread (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=363). Since it's already a special thread that never closes for comments perhaps comments posted there should not be made pending.

The other type it could cause problems for are whoishiring.

Oops, yes, another thing I overlooked.

How long is the immutable timeout? I've never timed it, but I have a hunch that comments lose their delete-ability in less than 24 hours. So please be sure that pending comments can be deleted for the entire duration of their 24hr pend state.

Don't worry, they can.

Is there a 'pending mention' for the author of the comment ?

I like the idea of pending comments, but I don't like encouraging the deletion of the unsuccessful pending comments. Especially in the low flow threads.

I suppose that the 24 hours is a parameter that is easy to change and tweak. I think it's a lot of time. What about 1 or 2 hours?

Another possible idea is to have up to two pending comments, so someone can contribute in two threads, go to work/eat/sleep, and read the replies. But this version is more difficult to implement and more difficult to explain.

You need to add a cool off timer of say 5 minutes still even if you delete a pending post, otherwise can bet somebody will abuse this to churn up there system DOS style. There be dragons out there.

Also some visiable indication on near the user/logoff part of the page indicating if can post or awaiting approval of a pend - say a "+" indicating can add a post and a "-" indicating you can't as have pending post.

That might increase by a lot the number of new account created by people who don't want to wait to comment.

We already have pretty good protections against that from years of spammers and voting rings trying it.

I'm guessing there's an implied "in that thread" to that particular rule. I'd still rather see a timeout than give people only one shot at a thread.

This sounds like a feature, not a bug. :-)

Except if you post a comment in a dead thread, your account is practically banned from participating again.

It breaks down for threads that only ever get a single viewer (who comments).

At least, I don't get the impression that this update is intended to prevent such posts regardless of content (eg a reference to a related paper on some obscure topic).

Sorry, I hate this idea. Especially the gating if your pending comment never gets approved. It honestly feels like a slap in the face to your users. There are guys like me with 600-700 karma who have been here for years, but only post from time to time, and you've immediately alienated me with this system.

I'd like to think that I've had useful things to say in my time here, but maybe not, I suppose. Your loss if it turns out I have.

I just don't see it improving the quality of comments. I think you're going to find that it drastically reduces the number of people who want to contribute to the HN community (like myself, now).

This is an interesting feature, and certainly not something I would have expected as the "next" feature to add. When I read "pending comments" I expected something similar to slashdot's old "preview" feature so one could double-check spelling, formatting, etc. i.e. preview the post before submitting to HN. I would not have expected "pending" to mean "pending moderation" given the successful voting feature here.

I would ask what the goals of the change are, but they seem obvious:

1) Limit nastiness and negativity

2) Encourage deeper and pensive comments

3) Cynically, it seems like a private goal would be to limit criticism of YC, though I know this would never be a stated goal. The criticism may simply have increased the priority even though HN has seemed more civil in recent months as an outside observer.

While the change may achieve these results, I would expect the following effects:

1) Fewer comments overall (there is a new "tax" to post, so-to-speak) and as a result there will be fewer visitors in the medium term (sites like HN, reddit, slashdot, huff post, etc all thrive on both the quality _and_ quantity of comments since that's what entertains people). Without controlling the number of front-page stories, you will in effect decrease the available content for viewers to consume. The demand will be filled elsewhere. I always assumed there was a private, invite-only forum for YC and that you would leave HN alone as a great PR platform... this move makes me wonder some more.

2) Comments will trend towards the quality of bane, tokenadult, ChuckMcM, patio11, cperciva, etc (we all know them) at the risk of fewer "provocative" posts. Often the greatest quality posts, however, are in response or to contradict simple-minded or provocative posts.

3) I am concerned by this line: People who regularly endorse comments that fail one or both of these tests will lose the ability to endorse comments. I like meta-moderation and all, but I don't like being reminded that all actions are recorded and tied back to my account. I would ask for some separation between "endorsing" and "agreeing" -- as a continual skeptic, I like reading and promoting contrarian views since it helps us learn.

I look forward to watching the experiment, and as a parting request, would you be able to record and measure the goals? There must be a YC company that can help with that, and I imagine it would be a wonderful blog write-up!

It wouldn't limit criticism of YC. A comment only needs a few people to endorse it to become visible. To suppress comments on any specific topic would require all the users with over 1000 karma to agree not to endorse them, which is hard to imagine.

Correction: it would require all users with over 1000 karma to read the comments of every post to HN. It seems like you are making the assumption that every user reads every post

If a comment isn't seen by many users with over 1000 karma then it isn't seen by many users period, and thus doesn't have much influence anyway.

Does a comment need to be seen by many users to be worthwhile? If it contributes to the discussion of a small group of users (who may not have over 1000 karma), is that not still valuable discussion that you would want to continue? I understand the goals of trying to promote healthy discussion, but I fear that this will have many unintended consequences.

Comments are often used as communication between specific users and not necessarily intended for widespread consumption.

Can you give us some indication of what % of active users have over 1000 karma?

It seems like a fallacy that if a comment isn't read and endorsed by users with over 1000 karma within a certain timeframe it will never be influential. Weren't most of the literary and artistic geniuses completely unappreciated by their contemporaries? We may not be a literary and artistic community, but I think the rule applies all the same.

Nonsense. Lots of conversations continue with an interested subgroup, especially new or niche topics. Its easily possible no one with 1000 karma will ever visit.

Which means such topics are dead to HN. What remains? Something we can't predict right now, but I suspect it won't be what we want.

But that would be a reason to show it, not hide it.

I believe this is not hard to imagine at all. It's unlikely that all >1000 karma users will take the time to review every comment. So it'll be enough if the few users who happen to browse a thread have the same views on that particular topic.

It will be an act of service to the community (which will be amply rewarded by the community being a community of higher-quality comments, methinks) for the users with more than 1000 karma to regularly visit the new submissions page


and the active threads page


to keep track of which threads are most likely to need comment review. It looks like pg will also attempt to set up a pending comments page, from which it might be necessary to trace back to the original fine article to know whether or not a comment is good, but that doesn't sound like too much work to help build a better community. (I used to look at the noobcomments and noobstories view of the site from time to time, until automation pretty much took over spam-filtering here.)

Best wishes to all of you who desire to post good comments here. I'll do my best to use some of my recreational time to review those for general visibility as early and as often as I am permitted.

Maybe users with over 1000 could get a point each day they review a new submission on the new page and lose a point for each day that they don't do a review.

Clearly, this:

    1. Limits speed of information distribution

    2. Can be used to filter out specific information

    3. Promotes centralised points of view -> Fewer people decide what is information is valuable

    1. May lead to better quality of information

3 facts vs 1 possibility

I've had an HN account for over two years.

I have 328 karma.

That's a whole lot of comments I'd have to post to get to 1000 karma. I don't feel that invested in HN, so it's more likely I just won't comment again.

This seems like a pretty good way to freeze the current set of commenters in stone.

edit: It also occurs to me that, while endorsing may be novel now, there's not really any incentive for people to keep doing a boring rote task into the far future. Plus you're threatening bans for people who do it badly. So why would anyone do it at all?

"Since I'm going to check out of HN at the end of this YC cycle"

To be clear, you mean you are going to stop maintaining the codebase of HN, not stop actively participating in the community, right?

It's impossible to predict the future perfectly, but I hope to leave completely. The only YC thing I'm going to do is office hours with the startups.

So you're making a radical change to a site you don't even intent to carry on using, like a student society president changing all the rules just before they graduate?

Any idea what you'll be doing next?

What I was doing before: writing essays and software.

Would love to hear about the software :)

Don't tell me you're going to be starting a new startup?!

In Arc, or...?

can't respond to PG's comment directly for some reason. Any cool software ideas you'd like to briefly share?

You have to wait or just click "link".

Why do you hope the leave completely? What's next? :(

What led you to this conclusion?

I feel suddenly very sad. I don't think HN will be the same without PG. I hope this frees your time to write more essays.

Does this have any impact on Arc? Are you still going to be using it for things you make? I hope you are.

I am going to be a @henchgoon

When suggesting a major change like this, I think that it'd be a very good idea to do some back of the envelope calculations using data that you could probably get straight from the DB.

My starting assumption would be that all users with 1000 karma actually keep reading all comments as they can do now. Some might visit a 'new comments' page to make sure posts by new posters get promoted. Others will just filter them out completely. So we might as well start by claiming both effects will counteract each other.

So take, say, the last week of submissions, and see how many comments that actually received an endorsement are made by noobs like me that have less than 1000 karma. Then, take a look at how many of those comments were endorsed by members that have more than 1000 karma, then, check how many were endorsed FIRST by someone that had 1000 karma.

Given the starting assumptions, this would give you a pretty good idea of how many comments would just stop receiving karma altogether, how many would receive less, because people would not be able to see them before a 1000+ user promotes it, and how many would remain roughly the same.

Then, you can add your own bias on whether you think people will be more active at promoting those new posts, or if they will be more easily forgotten. But without some hard data, all you are doing is making a major change to the site, with no idea of what it's really going to do.

I am sure this information would also be considered useful by anyone geeky enough to visit Hacker News, and you could use it to defend your position, one way or the other. It's harder to be outraged when a proposal like this comes attached to some nice evidence.

I think this is a very interesting development and I'm excited to see what impact it has when it goes live. That said, I have one perennial bone to pick.. ;-)

So if you're not sure whether you should endorse a comment, don't. There are a lot of people on HN.

This is true, but so much good stuff flies by on /newest without picking up an upvote (or just one or two) that I'm not entirely convinced enough people fully participate here (or maybe /newest just isn't quite the right way to do that job either, I admit I don't go there every day myself).

This won't work on high volume threads. This one had 3-4 comments per minute. You will need a horde of moderators to handle that load, otherwise a most comments will never be read AND endorsed. Coupled with the rate articles drop of the front page almost guarantees most comments on high-volume threads will ignored.

If you lower the moderator karma threshold to try to handle the load, then most readers will be moderators and what's the point? Moderation exists to benefit non-mods. Personally I would rather not have that power.

I argue upvote solves "say something substantial" and downvote solves "be civil". This form of moderation is easy and works.

There have been a lot of comments stating why this is a poor idea, but as someone who is sub-1000 karma, I haven't seen this reason posted yet (although I could only read the first half or so). In a typical day, I can't spend all day sitting on Hacker News refreshing threads and seeing if anyone has responded to me (or promoted my comment). But occasionally I'll read a thread, find a couple of interesting places to comment, and then go about my day until I can check in again later. Only being able to leave one comment in a single reasonable-length session would absolutely kill that use case. And frankly, it would make this site much less attractive to browse as an occasional commenter. Maybe you're okay with that, but I think that would be a mistake.

And frankly, it would make this site much less attractive to browse as an occasional commenter.

I find myself wondering whether that's part of the unstated goal of this action - getting fewer "occasional commenters". I have no clue on the reasons but clearly that will be an effect of the change. I think we can all see how rushed this rollout was so it's possible that is an unintended consequence.

Maybe they're after the comments that require several hours of research and multiple drafts. Anybody who can make a couple comments over a short period of time isn't putting in a whole lot of thought and effort into their comments. I get the feeling they're looking for comments that resemble blog posts rather than the conversational type of comments.

Why would rendering your comment invisible to the majority of people reading the thread make you more likely to put effort into it

I find this change frustrating. I've been reading and occasionally commenting on HN for 4 years, and I'm still not able to fully participate. I haven't yet reached the magical karma number needed to "earn" the downvote button, so I can't help moderate except by flagging.

Now, with this change, it's extremely unlikely that I will ever achieve the ability to truly participate. It seems that if you want comment quality to improve, then maybe it's a bad idea to even more tightly lock out people like me who would happily downvote bad comments or endorse good ones.

As a long-time lurker but new user, I see little reason to ever even attempt to participate on a forum with moderation rules like this. This may be speculation but I'm guessing many others would make the same cost/benefit analysis.

1000 karma can't be a high bar if someone like me can have over 4000.

You've also been here for almost 4 years. So that would be nearly a year of being treated like a second class citizen. I agree with the parent that this would stifle participation by newer users.

The majority of it was from a tiny number of comments and submissions in a small amount of time.

This makes it even worse. You will never reach 1000 karma unless you are lucky to hit the karma lottery with a big post.

Someone like me will never bother. It might as well be 1,000,000.

This is very un-hacker like. There has be better way to rank the comments considering you have so much information, specifically, graph of people with karma values upvoting/downvoting each other. Can't we just do simple variant of PageRank to rank comments? You can even simplify thing by having child comments inherit rank of parent (or may be adjusted rank). Individual users can set the noise level that they find acceptable in their profile. I strongly believe this is a ranking issue and shouldn't be left to humans with all of their potential to bias things.

Proposed system might work ok on head posts but there are lot of tail posts which have smaller audiences but interesting topics nonetheless. On those posts, minority opinions or "ridiculous ideas" would have lower probability of getting endorsed.

Another way to tackle bad comments issue:

Add "Follow" feature and then you can see comment tree up the nodes that are created or upvoted by users who you are following OR the users who are N-edges away in the graph. You can set N in your profile.

Will there be a 'show-dead' style option for those who choose to read HN unfiltered?

Otherwise, new users are unable to judge for themselves whether they agree with how the community endorses comments*.

Without such options any community eventually becomes a self-perputating hivemind.

I haven't implemented this yet but it would not be too hard.

My first thought was also "show-dead"; my second thought was a "comment cost".

Klocs are silly because they represent cost rather than value, correct? So perhaps comments should start out with (-1) karma rather than (0). That way, people will think twice about posting snark.

Are you at all worried that the increased comment friction will cause us to lose a lot of users? I guess the counter argument could be made that if we lose people because they are upset they can't post angry/useless comments, we might be better off without those users. And if it's so many that HN ceases to be useful to everyone, it might be better for the world if HN didn't exist. Which is a sobering thought.

The other failure mode I can think of is that there are plenty of high karma users who make occasional intemperate comments. I myself have been guilty betimes. Are you at all worried that such folks will just go back and forth endorsing each others' bad comments?

Re: your plan to check out of HN. You will be missed.

> Are you at all worried that the increased comment friction will cause us to lose a lot of users?

Not speaking for pg, but he's stated in the past that growth was never a goal for HN.

HN could lose a lot of users and still be no worse off than it was 4 years ago, and it was pretty OK 4 years ago.

A bad new user experience is just plain bad. I've been on at least one forum where they did this for the first N comments and my experience was basically that you are taken out of the conversation. Yes, your comments eventually get approved, but 15, 60, or 600 minutes later. By that time the people who can speak freely have already moved on and whatever you had to say is no longer relevant.

I feel like it will continue down the path of groupthink that has been a criticism by some I think. I think that claim has been a bit too much but at the same time it is a real thing. But, I've also never been a fan of needing to be "sponsored" to have your say.

Do we know what fraction of active users has over 1000 karma? As someone with forty-two karma currently who only comments rarely, it's a bit scary to know my comments will face moderation to be posted, although it will surely increase the substance/message ratio, which has seemed to be decreasing some.

It's not so much that I care about the karma, as I'd post more if I did, but more that if someone asks a question that not many other users care about, but I happen to have unique insight, I'd hope that my message can get through to them. :)

It sounds like users with over 1000 karma also need to go through the pending stage. So in that sense you are still on equal footing with them. You just won't be able to vote on other pending posts.

I picked that number pretty arbitrarily, but it's just a variable and HN has a repl.

This is especially troublesome to me with regards to posts that quickly drop off the first page. Will there be enough page views by users with karma > 1000 on posts like that to get any comments approved?

I can't speak for other longtime HN users, but I wrote my own news reader and regularly browse threads that have disappeared off the front page. Anybody with an RSS reader or other similar thingy would do the same.

I found a user with approximately 1000 karma and used http://hn-karma-tracker.herokuapp.com/ to get the number of active users.

There are ~6000 with more than 1000 karma and ~9000 with more than 500 karma.

I think this is a poor implementation. I'm here to have discussions with people and read the good comments, so I have little incentive to spend my time reading unendorsed comments, and anything that stops me from seeing a good comment in a timely manner is taking away value for me. I assume similar motives apply to people with less than 1000 karma, and the community will cease to grow if they don't obtain value as well. But the worst part of this is that for those with >1000 karma, we're being asked to pay attention to posts with a high chance of being bad or mediocre. That's the opposite of what I want to be doing.

Starting around the same time comment scores were hidden, people have been voting less on comments, and it often seems like few people even read your comments in threads not on the front page. What this effectively means, especially in less active threads, is that I can only hold conversations with people if they have >1000 karma. Others will simply fade into the ether.

A slightly less bad approach would be if the popularity of the thread determines the threshold for posts needing endorsement. So as an example, non-front-page threads get posts from people with >50% endorsement rate and >20 endorsements immediately live, threads on the bottom half of the front page get posts from people with a >75% endorsement rate and >50 endorsements immediately live, and threads in the top half of the front page have everyone go through endorsement. Or maybe the number of posts already in the thread determines those thresholds. The issue with that is that in a thread with 200 comments, I'm never going to look at all of them, or even a quarter, so any that need endorsement will likely be missed.

Another possibly less bad approach would be to start posts at 0 points if the poster is under a relatively high karma threshold.

Also, after 24 hours, all "non-endorsed" posts should go live with an indicator, not disappear, so we can see if the system is even working as intended, and have one last chance of finding those hidden gems.

That said, you will be missed, Paul! I hope we'll still see you post from time to time.

This sounds promising. I'm worried about two things:

1) Will a minimum number of endorsements lead to groupthink? Will a substantial, polite but unpopular comment still get endorsed?

2) If this works initially and improves comments immediately, could it have negative long term affects? Will new users find it confusing or intimidating? Will people comment less knowing that others are less likely to see it?

And one question:

Why not have comments with 0-3 upvotes only visible to people with 1000+ karma? Isn't that the same thing as the endorsement system?

Worthy experiment, regardless.

There probably enough people with 1000+ karma to reduce potential groupthink. You just need three people to say "this comment doesn't inspire rage", not necessarily as far as "I really like this comment". That's still the upvote's role.

0-3 upvote hiding would massively inflate karma, as you'd have a minimum of 3 karma for every "acceptable" comment. Not to say it couldn't work, as the karma source is then at least slightly filtered, but it would change the fact you can post a ton of average but not inappropriate comments and maintain close to zero karma.

I am worried about this as well.

I believe it will likely kill decent and valid discussions. HN already is a little disconnected from reality sometimes, with this we will end up with a fake consensus. Besides, it will become harder to attain 1000+ karma, so we will be endorsing a small group of people of old users and will be unwelcoming for new folks.

The first big issue I see with this is in submission. When you submit something often you need to leave the first comment to give it context. So stories on the "new" page are likely to get a lot fewer upvotes.

The second big issue I see is when responding to comments on a post about you/your company. I'm at 950-ish, and I suspect that is on the high side for a founder at a 2 year old startup. When posts about us hit 3 months ago I didn't have 500 points. I "hustled" to get to this level so that I would not look like a noob, but if these rules had been in effect 3 months ago I wouldn't have seen comments and questions about our product, and I wouldn't have been able to reply.

I'm a "noob" as I have under 1000 points, but I have been a top 100 contributor in many other communities, it doesn't sound to me like this is a good idea. I think it will limit discussion and feed back by Authors, Founders, and others who find they are suddenly getting traffic from a site called ycombinator that they have never heard of.

Basically I think this is a move away from community and towards elitism. If that is the goal, then I think you should do it, but it feels like it is counter to the stated goals of this change.

@PG if you want an automated system for determining the quality of a comment I make one. We could probably work something out to leverage our technology at HN to prevent all the negativity, and to do some sort of blend of the quality score of the comment and the user karma to calculate if the comment "passes".


I posted a history of Digg and how changing the way powerusers and noobs were treated lead to its downfall.


One of the strengths of HN is that founders and creators of products can and do have the ability the ability to engage with people posting about them. The proposed rate limit and censorship-by-default largely eliminates this unless the response happens to be on a sufficiently high traffic thread.

Hmm, aside from the distaste of a "guilty until proven innocent" formula being injected, this suffers from a critical flaw. The word "endorse" symbolizes something different than "substantial and not nasty". It symbolizes subjective support, agreement. Because of this association, the use of this system will tend to signal that groupthink is valued, and a cycle of groupthink will become entrenched.

The fix is simple: use a different symbol. Something that more precisely, objectively signifies "not simple and not nasty". This will create a more permissive gate that allows opinions of moderate substance and moderate tone through (an "err on the side of allow" policy). Inevitably the symbol must also consider the tendency of moderators, being active participants in a discussion themselves, to favor their own views.

Taken all into account, I suggest the "endorse" link be renamed "tolerable". (Rather than an action, it becomes a kind of flag.) This has the explicit connotation of erring toward permissiveness of differing views, and contrasts the two fears expressed in the post: comments that are boring or unprofessional/spiteful/mean.

(And as it stands, upvoting already signifies "endorsement".)

Consider how many people disagree with you here. Well-respected users.

If we disagree with you here on what you may have thought a well-regarded idea, who is to say how many well-regarded comments we are now going to miss?

How many excellent comments are headed for the dustbin because of a misunderstanding?

This might work, but it will turn HN into a community that is very inward.

We can try it out, and if it doesn't work switch it back.

How can we try it out? How can all non moderators know what they are missing?

This type of feature is exactly the reason I don't participate in StackOverflow. Granted, pending-comment is better than can't-comment.

That said, I expect this will save me hours of my life since I expect that I won't bother to write comments once this is in effect (and as an added bonus, there should be less comments to read). I tried noprocrast and couldn't handle it, but this will do it.

SO has a lot of garbage posts which people expect two lines of description will receive a programmatic solution. Sometimes some moderators and users with high reputations do over-edit posts. But HN is not excluded.

Could you please move endorse and flag to be far apart (maybe on separate sides of the line, or at least with a no-op like "link" or "parent" in the middle)? I iPad or iPhone often, and accidentally hitting the wrong thing would be annoying; I might not be watchful enough to unflag.

I honestly think the overall quality of comments is quite good on HN. Besides the quality of the articles (which is also top notch), it's a big reason why HN is a thrice daily part of my routine.

The bigger issue is that nesting is a poor format for displaying comments, once a discussion gets large enough. I've been a part of the team revamping Huffington Post's discussion interface, and I think it's a great solution for giving people the option to switch between breath-first and depth-first exploration of the comment tree as they see fit. It's not a perfect solution, but I do think it beats some of the worst problems of nesting.

I agree about the nesting issue. But i hate the new HuffPo discussion interface because it breaks the reading flow.

I think it is horrible to use. What would have been better is use the same system but without this horrible pop-up window.You can totally open/close a comment tree without having the feeling you are going to a new page just to see the comments.

I think the way disqus works is a good compromise.It's perfectly ok to limit the depth of the comment tree to 2/3 sub comments no more.And even limit the number of sub comments.

There are a lot of other stuffs I hate about the HuffPo ,the fact that HuffPo tries to trick you into clicking the same link multiple times by changing the title and the picture of an article I already visited makes me angry ,it's just click bating ,and makes me feel HuffPo thinks i'm an idiot, i dont have time to waste with these tricks,and I think it's borderline dishonest.

Anyway that was my little rant about Huffpo UX. I really wonder if your userbase is growing thanks to these choices. People use to come to HuffPo for its content, and there is a lot to say about its quality too today.

Well, I should specify that I work for an agency that does work for HuffPost, so I don't make strategic decisions and can't represent their point of view. From a personal standpoint, I agree that there are definitely ways to improve upon what we've built. My point is just that nesting is broken, and that I'm all about alternatives.

I find Disqus great for content with only a small amount of commentary, but extremely unpleasant to use on articles that have more than say 400 comments (and CNN regularly has articles in the thousands of comments). At that point, if you're viewing either the oldest or most liked comments, it's damn near impossible to browse the comments that are directly on the article. I think even HN's low tech interface is better.

pg - I am going to reply to this (even though I fear it might cause me to never be able to post another live comment again)

It seems to me that your aim is to trying to protect the people reading the comments, but this will only protect the people whose Karma is less than 1000! That is to say, it actually protects the people who use the site the least, and in response to what, those people "diluting" the site? Presumably the others who have 1000 Karma earned it by making enough good posts and comments. So you are protecting the wrong group!

Reddit allows people to see highly nested comments by explicitly clicking a link. Here you would be completely hiding them from anyone except the HN "regulars". It seems this will only decrease value for those people. Why not give them the OPTION to see those comments by clicking a link to expand, like on Reddit?

And what if I delete a pending comment after a couple days, does it reset this status - which is like a hellban but only with regard to visibility to lower-karma users? Also what happens to replies to a pending comment?

Requiring too many people to vote and participate in site governance (and given the number of comments, this will require a lot of HNers with high karma to keep being active) often doesn't work. Consider when facebook asked its members to vote - it didn't receive enough "turnout":


Thus until you get this system to a point where it's good enough, I strongly suggest you give everyone the OPTION of seeing "pending" comments. Or at the very least, make the pending comments grayed out so that high-karma HNers would be psychologically conditioned to click on them to endorse them (and subsequently click again to un-endorse them).

This might be a terrible execution of this idea that will cut the amount of discussion on HN by a large amount. Maybe even by 90%.

This puts the onus on the older members of the community to do even more work administrating the site -- for every comment posted there need to be a couple of users with karma > 1000 to endorse it, and they will need to literally work to allow comments through.

> cut the amount of discussion on HN by a large amount. Maybe even by 90%.

Indeed, this seems to be the point.. which is kind of ridiculous.

What problem is this solving again? If it's bickering sub-threads, just add UI to collapse threads.

This might cause duplicate comments, which were previously not written, because commenters were able to read comments posted before them.

That could pose a dilemma to the endorser too. Two comments with similar text: do you only endorse one?

I like it when social problems can relate to computer science: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_of_check_to_time_of_use

There are many good suggestions in the comments here (which I've been upvoting, on the assumption that that's going to focus attention on them); but I have one that I haven't seen made yet: collect data on pending comments to see which, if any, of the potential issues being raised in this thread actually are issues. For example:

(1) Measure the distribution of comment endorsement for >1000 HN users: how many they endorse, how often they endorse, and how that varies with things like hour of the day, time logged on, etc.

(2) Measure the distribution of "time to endorse" for comments (how long it takes from posting to endorsement), and how that varies with things like hour of the day, etc.

(3) Measure how many comments get lost in limbo because they are never endorsed.

My initial sense is that this is going to significantly raise the cost of participating in HN, which will make me less likely to participate. (By "cost" I mean both the added cost of having to endorse comments, and the added cost of having to wait for my own comments to be endorsed before I can post another one.) But I may be overestimating what the effect will be.

I am calling it, this will be the deathknell of hackernews, you can already see huge bias in the stories that get flagged on this site now you will see it in every comment.

> I am calling it, this will be the deathknell of hackernews

I agree. This is an incredibly drastic (proposed) change to HN. I think that, years from now, it will be written:

   As his final act before leaving YC
   Paul Graham shut down Hacker News

If it is it's pretty reversible as deathknells go.

  (= pend-on* nil)

Reputation is not as easily reversed.

I worry about timezones, what percentage of users with 1000+ karma are in low-population timezones?

No. Just no. Reasons:

a) it WILL kill off those who want to remain (pseudo/ano)nymous and create throwaway accounts for discussing sensitive stuff (like the multiple "my startup is failing" posts in the last months)

b) Sorry, but I (and many others) have actually lives to live and jobs to do. 1000+ karma users are not moderators, and many simply will be too lazy / too occupied to click "endorse" all the time.

c) Discussions live on the "live" part - and <1000 karma users will have to endure MASSIVE waiting times, effectively killing discussions.

Sorry, but I (and many others) have actually lives to live and jobs to do. 1000+ karma users are not moderators, and many simply will be too lazy / too occupied to click "endorse" all the time.

Well any site with community based content is going to fail if users don't interact with it. "Endorse" will just be the equivalent of upvoting something if it hasn't already been endorsed. It's not an onerous burden.

Endorse and upvote is one click too much. Especially if its done like the "flag" link which will redirect you and make you lose your focus.

> People who regularly endorse comments that fail one or both of these tests will lose the ability to endorse comments. So if you're not sure whether you should endorse a comment, don't. There are a lot of people on HN. If a point is important, someone else will probably come along and make it without gratuitous nastiness.

So there will be a group of people (group B) who are going to check the quality of HN users with 1000 karma (group A)?

and, will there be another group of people(group C) who are going to check the quality of the work of group B?

The concern to me is this might cause a chilling effect on people's comments.

This sort silence by default will stop a lot of good contributors from taking their first few steps to joining the conversation.

It may make people who might take opposite views to the general consensus think twice about posting, even if they might have more information than most on the subject.

Will users with 1000 or more karma be able to reply to unendorsed comments?

Will there be a "show pending" setting (for users with under 1000 karma and/or those with >= 1000 karma)?

No one can reply to a pending comment, or vote on it, or see it in most cases.

This will prevent comments from people that disagree with the standard view on HN. I think that is very unfortunate. :(

But then, I didn't think the comment situation on HN was that dire.

Perhaps the strongest value of this will be to slow down the threads that involve a dozen replies from someone in a short period of time. Rarely are those comments substantial enough to be meaningful, often they're just someone reacting in a reflexively emotional way to a discussion.

I really like the idea of making pending comments anonymous (proposed by 8ig8). I strongly suspect that many current upvotes are based on who is making the comment, rather than the merits of the comment itself.

It seems bureaucracy has come to HN.

I personally won't follow the new rules. I prefer not to comment anymore.

I was one of the early users of HN, this alone made me have enormous karma and influence out of nothing.

I forgot the password several times and created new accounts. Now my comments were worth nothing just because I was new.

One of the reasons I write anonymous is that I don't want to carry my real life reputation with everything I say, call it the Feyman effect: when he got the Nobel price everybody started considering everything he said like God words, even if he wanted to just do a funny stupid remark.

I don't want my comments to be judged by gatekeepers, or to be the gatekeeper myself.

Probably, given the size of HN this is necessary, like Reddit we just have to find a smaller community that cares about science and start over again.

It's unusual how intolerant of experimentation entrepreneurs can be.

This may or may not work. PG even acknowledges that it's likely to go wrong initially. Implicit in that is that they will work on fixing it until it's working better than the current system. In the end, it's guaranteed to either completely fail as an experiment (they'd probably roll it all back) or yield something working better. Yet there's so much angst about the changes here.

It's not always irrational to get concerned about changes. For example, laws are typically written and then there are substantial barriers to revisiting them. In the case of a website, though, why worry? If this isn't working better, it's extremely unlikely that YC would leave it in that state.

This whole proposal is intolerant of experimentation; it's censorship-by-default of community members whose attempts to contribute aren't guaranteed to be viewed and endorsed by the top 5% of users within a short time frame.

It's entirely rational for entrepreneurs to oppose something which appears to be a dreadful idea, and especially to oppose initial implemention of it on a grand scale (a proposal to experiment with pre-moderating only brand-new users, low average karma users or threads which are flagged up as possible flamewars would, I suspect, be considerably less unpopular as the solution might actually be less harmful than the problem. Edit: looks like this now is the proposal.).

I'm excited to see how this works, and how the process changes after some testing. If reddit is any example, stricter moderation almost always results in a better user experience and a tighter, more respectful community. Look at r/askhistorians as a prime example.

While I still can get a word in: I predict this is going to be a clusterfuck.

Social systems are fragile. PG hasn't even thought about users loosing ability to comment by having a pending comment on an old post nobody will ever see. There are likely countless more subtle problems...

This is nothing but a censorship and will make HN useless.

As an early HN member who has seen comments decline since the early days, I like this change. This comment you've written falls in line as one I would not endorse. Would you say that Amazon is censoring their products because not all reviews show up on a given page? The community decides what shows up, that's not up to Amazon. Same thing going on here; the earliest and most active members are the ones who decide what comments are worthwhile. I welcome this change and think this is a great idea/experiment.

Then you are playing the exact game the parent is worried about. It is an extremely fair point, whether you agree with it or not. It is also something arguably outside of the standard view, and will therefore be de facto censored. I don't think comparing this to product reviews on Amazon makes sense; these are two completely different things.

This comment you've written falls in line as one I would not endorse.

Same thing going on here; the earliest and most active members are the ones who decide what comments are worthwhile.

This is terrible. Some people don't have time for HN every day, every hour and now these users have to suck up to the elite, early and most active members' preference?

It doesn't change that fact that this is censorship. If it wasn't any comment would have a chance to be shown. If the comment is bad it can be flagged or voted down, but still anyone can see it.

This is exactly the kind of comment I wouldn't endorse :)

Why? This is substantial and not nasty.

That's just a different point of view. Although it doesn't add a lot of context to his opinion.

That's the problem with moderation. People will tend to endorse what supports their beliefs. You can endorse a post you don't agree with.

It's hyperbole. That comment claims it will make HN _useless_.

What makes hyperbole so terrible? You recognized it was hyperbole, so you must also recognize the point he was making. It's funny to me that the GP is basically saying this change is unfavorable and will greatly diminish the value of HN to a great number of users, and your first "use" of this system is to say you would stifle that comment because it wouldn't affect you negatively. It's almost too perfect.

Guess what? your comment wouldn't be endorsed either.. You will not have any chance to even see that comment. It may be a good thing, but the current system has few issues one of them: it will be much harder for anyone to get to 1000+ karma so effectively current "crème de la crème" will be in total control. Remember how some news with NSA in the title were being censored? This new system is much worse than that.

Hacker News has a pretty strong history of being apolitical, and for good reasons. I don't see how stronger moderation of comments by the community is worse than encouraging political discussions. FWIW I'm strongly against the NSA stuff, but I understand that it starts to become a discussion similar to ones religious people hold rather than actual intellectual discussions about how to solve a problem or discover something. If I want to solve the problem with the NSA, I have to become politically active or donate to an organization like EFF so they can go do that for me, not have conversations online about them.

To be fair HN is not apolitical in the slightest. Sure, it is taboo to speak highly of any particular party by name but espousing particular political ideologies is not at all uncommon.

He wouldn't need to write that comment under the new system.

How is it much worse? For a comment to be censored, literally every user with over 1000 karma must refuse to endorse the comment. That doesn't sound like centralized thought control to me...

At least few 1000+karma users must endorse the comment for it to become visible.

Presumably there are quite a lot of those. It's not like your comment will be reviewed by The Cabal of Twelve. I certainly am not part of any Cabal, as fun as that sounds.

The problem I see now is we are killing each other. We got members who think they are the elite, the voice of the true HNers. And there is this other group which people are unhappy with their downvotes because people disagree with their alternative views. This extra moderation to me seems to be causing a war among HNers.

I agree 100%, HN should be an open place for discussion.

Better delete that comment or you'll lose a lot of karma. They keep down-voting me :)

Censorship is not always a bad thing, when used in moderation.

you are absolutely right sir! it is what I think will kill HN ...

HN was using more subtle censorship before, I'm glad that they are more forthcoming with what is actually visible now instead of pretending that this is an open forum.

They're keeping all the non-transparent, behind the scenes stuff though - except now it affects not just commenting yourself but also approving the wrong comments. Is the controversial but insightful comment you just approved going to pass the vague behind the scenes restrictions? Why risk it!

> 2. Say it without gratuitous nastiness.

I really hope this change addresses this! Maybe I'm just becoming an old curmudgeon, but there really seems to be mean, argumentative tones to a lot of the conversation I read on HN these days.

I hope we can address it because HN really is a community of smart, earnest, helpful minds that can be a wonderful crowd to eavesdrop on when at their best.

If you want to improve comments, you need to have less carrot-and-stick (that will drive comments into parroting types) and more specific criticisms, or offer the possibility of re-writes. Children, no matter what age they are, do not learn faster by being slapped on their fingers but guided; I believe that kind of mentoring is the exact reason why YCombinator improves naked capitalism.

I had enough of my comments voted down for “not respecting community standards” because a handful of people can’t imagine my questions are not rhetorical. If they had to re-phrase them, they would have realised negativity was only in their knee-jerk.

As much as I'd like to see the quality of discussion on HN improve I think this is a terrible change that will do the opposite as well as driving people elsewhere.

I think this is an interesting solution to a common problem. The problem isn't poor comments, it's how to deal with a community site when it's in the post-early adopter phase. In the past, when sites like this hit a certain maturity level, you have a few problems: people complain about all the new users and the loss of character. It's all part of what happens when network effects take hold and your site has an increasing number of users. Once you've hit a certain inflection point, each site evolves whether they want it to or not...

I think Slashdot ignored it and lost a lot of relevance to Digg. Digg tried to pivot to be more marketable and drove people to Reddit. Reddit hit that point and decided to fracture into lots of sub-reddits (which I think was the most successful way to evolve so far). [1]

The pg/HN approach is basically to leave it to the users who've been around longest to cultivate the community. It's a lot of trust to put into those 1K+ users, but probably not overly so. It remains to be seen if this can be a successful way to keep HN relevant to more than just the YC-set, but we'll just have to wait and see. Hopefully this works out better than Slashdot meta-moderation (which was just odd).

[1] This is my take on the histories of these sites... they all went through the growth, plateau, and loss phases to some extent. I'm sure others can tell me if earlier communities had the same patterns.

There are probably less than 100 HN users who are openly female with over 1000 karma-- food for thought.

I think that your comment and submission system is imperfect to begin with.


How many time do you see a new submission that is basically a repost from another one. This is quite high in fact, specially with topic that some user feel really strongly about. It is diluting the potential for meaningful discussion.

But you have as well the issue of submission that don't match PST timezone which means in turn that the submission, although it would match the interest of the HN population and the type of topics that one would expect to find on HN, take a huge dive in the list of upvoted topics, and once again no meaningful discussion comes out of it.


The current upvote system shows very little information. And more than often, user can comments to just thank the author, instead of just upvoting. It might be because there isn't any visual cues of what the current points a comment has gathered or who has upvoted that. One could argue more transparency could lead to a clan issue where some user might want to consciously upvote a sumbission / comment as a group for their own visibility as a group.

There is also the issue of duplication of opinions in the comments, and discussion that take a tangent from the original topic. Both that are mentioned and addressed through the pending comments, but a simple collapsing of child node in the comment tree would have more welcome than this highly debatable feature.



I'm a bit torn on this idea.

On the one hand, I think it would be great for some of the bigger threads, that often go to hundreds of comments, many of which say the same thing over and over again. It could do a lot of keep those shorter, more insightful, and more on-topic.

On the other hand, what about the smaller threads, that tend to get one or two dozen comments, if that, and probably not many page views? Would discussion there become essentially impossible unless a >1k-er deigns to drop in and bless a few of the posts with some endorsements? Has anybody actually checked what proportion of users are >1k and how willing they are to drop in on every thread on the site and endorse comments? Or constantly reload bigger threads and scroll all around to see new comments for that matter?

If it were up to me, I'd do a sliding scale. Something like no endorsement/auto-endorse all for under 20 total comments in the thread. At >50 comments in the thread, users with under, say, 100 karma need endorsement. At >100, you need maybe 250 karma, 200 posts 500 karma, etc. Maybe users under 5 or 10 karma always need endorsement. Maybe some formula to compute it that you can tweak the factors on as needed if there is too little discussion or too much fluff.

Another point - say I make a comment that sucks. Oops, happens to all of us sometimes. What happens then? Does it stay unendorsed and stuck forever? Can I just delete it, or will it auto-delete or something? Does it get downvoted without ever being endorsed?

Hey wait a second, I think we're just getting closer to slashcode here...

This would prevent users from commenting on multiple articles in a short period of time, and for articles that don't hit the main page the op may never see someone's thoughtful remarks.

For users with over 1k karma, do their comments go through the pending phase too?

> Someone who has a pending comment will have to wait till it goes live to post another.

This is kinda crazy. You can't expect 100% of our comments to be brilliant. There needs to be some timeout or something, if not, people will start creating new accounts every day.

Comments don't have to be brilliant. All they have to be is not stupid or mean.

"Don't say something mean" is a lower bar than "say something substantial", which is what your post said the standard of endorsement should be. There's going to be a mental tax involved, asking "would PG be OK with me endorsing this? is my threshold for 'substantial' higher or lower than his?" to each comment, weighing the risk of losing the privilege for guessing wrong. I've apparently already mis-judged what you think warrants endorsement. The meta-moderation aspect of someone subjectively reviewing my endorsements is a disincentive to participating in that moderation.

The number of people that can upvote is very high, yet most comments probably sit at 1 point despite not being mean or stupid. Now restrict that pool to 1000+ karma users, add a mental tax to the task, how many of those same comments are going to get two people to click "endorse" if they couldn't get one person to click "up"? I wouldn't put money on the rapid-fire sub-second moderation materializing, especially outside the top 10 stories or at odd hours.

Wait, does this mean that the motivation for filtering all comments is to combat comments that should already be flagged?

I'm getting a stronger and stronger feeling that there is plenty of room for focusing the stated goal of this change, and then perhaps redesign the solution.

Please see references at my other comment:


(quoted to avoid readers having to click through):

[the following] seem relevant to this discussion:

Randy Farmer (I think this is what I remember) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yn7e0J9m6rE

Bryce Glass (similar topic/similar takeaways) http://www.slideshare.net/soldierant/designing-your-reputati...

Assuming this is how the endorsers actually behave. There's a good chance that they will end up acting more as 'curators' than endorsers, and only treat the endorse button as a 'like' button.

Maybe the verb 'to endorse' is a little bit too strong then. How about a button that literally says 'not stupid or mean' or 'appropriate', so that one doesn't have to indentify with that action as much.

I wouldn't feel inclined to endorse every and each "non-mean" comment. I'd assume there are a lot.

What's wrong with the current system, by the way?

> Comments don't have to be brilliant. All they have to be is not stupid or mean.

You can wish all you want, that people will use the endorse button in exactly this way and not the other.

Easier is, to simply wish that all comments will be thoughtful and constructive as they are posted.

You have about the same chance of seeing either fulfilled. Good luck!

Love the idea, think and hope it will improve comments greatly - a few questions:

Will you be able to tell whether a comment you posted has been endorsed enough to become visible (or even how many endorsements)?

Would it be a good idea (and if so, would it be doable or too complicated) to automatically figure out users who deserve to get auto-approved, at least until they are flagged enough to undo it? Maybe if x% (95? 100?) of your last y comments (100? 500?) have been approved it could give you the benefit of the doubt?

Would it be worth offering users with 1000+ karma the ability to disable their abilities so they could enjoy the filtered version others see? Or would too many people chose the option making it not work at all?

Finally, I lost my flagging rights ages ago, presumably for using it too liberally - is there any system in place whereby that might reverse? Will that mean I don't see new comments, or can I see but not flag/endorse, or can I see and endorse but still not flag?

Anyway, excited to see the change :)

Edit: a related, slightly, question: Does HN "shadowban" users from downvoting, i.e. do some users think they can downvote (or indeed upvote) but their votes aren't counted? Not sure why, but I've felt that might be the case for my downvote for a little while.

A major problem is that this makes it very difficult for someone to get established on HN.

Imagine how many pending comments will have to be accepted for someone to reach the 1000+ mark?

The limit on one pending comment has the potential to slow or completely block a one-to-many discussion.

Say I post "I made the linked project. [Some cool facts about it]." and four people ask me questions. I start answering, and can't submit my second answer. I'm probably annoyed at this point. Repeat for the remaining questions.

Maybe the system could have a provision for submitting multiple pending comments on your own link or sub-thread to solve this.

PG, instead of adding an endorse button, why not just use the upvote button and display the pending comment after it's been upvoted by a few 1000+ karma users?

Do you want the standards for endorsement to be different than the standards for upvotes?

Yes. It should be possible to endorse something without agreeing with it.

Isn't that already the (desired) standard for upvotes, though? To promote high quality content, regardless of whether we agree with it nor not? I'm still not quite sure of the intended difference between them.

No, that's not the HN standard. HN overtly endorses downvoting disagreements (I don't like that, but it is what it is).

It should be possible to endorse something without agreeing with it.

You honestly think that's going to happen? Thanks for the chuckle Paul.

That doesn't have to be common for the system to work. I'm just explaining why they're separate.

But if the upvote/downvote buttons have ended up being used as "I agree/disagree" buttons instead of "productive/unproductive discourse" buttons, what mechanism will stop the "endorse" button from also ultimately becoming an "I agree" button too?

I understand the desire to promote higher-quality discourse, but why not go with a less drastic method, like making the value of a user's upvote equal to their average karma, so people with better reputations on the site have a greater influence in sorting comments to the top of the page, but their endorsements aren't required in order for the comments to be seen in the first place?

I'm afraid that with the solution you're planning, it'll become extremely difficult for new users to establish themselves on HN, and HN will become an essentially closed community.

Hey PG,

I think you're doing the right thing. I've watched HN start to turn into a place full of snark and very useless comments. This is a great measure, but is the 1000 points karma a high threshold for the endorsers? Why not 500 or 750?

pg says 1000+ is arbitrary. It probably stands to be tuned. I wonder if this will have any effect on interesting comment sub-threads on links that don't hit the first couple of pages.

It's probably going to be for the better. My biggest concern though is that HN may become to clique-ish... Those with low karma that have interesting thoughts may now be discouraged from sharing...

I don't think that will universally be the case. Low karma might also indicate you don't post much, so you're less likely to be annoyed.

As HN becomes more popular,it will attract more and more uselss commenters.

Sounds good in theory, the best communities are almost always those that are strictly moderated or have their rules heavily enforced.

It will probably make HN worse though. HN already suffers from being too much of a "rich, startup boys club". This will only get worse as those that have been around longer and made comments that "fit" within that viewpoint get karma and get to decide what comments are shown.

I would suggest that this is a fine time for those of us with unfinished HN clones and visions of disrupting the whatever to try and see if we can do better, although the network effect around HN would seem to suggest that most people will simply put up with it or leave for reddit or another larger site.

I'm in. An unbiased HN for scientists/engineers/old-time hackers would be just great. This site's format is perfect, but the scope is too narrow.

Is the endorsement requirement a set threshold throughout the entire day?

As an international user, it is already fairly difficult to participate in discussions because of the lack of activity here at certain times. So I would imagine that there will also be far fewer 1000 karma users here as well. I fear that this change might cause the activity level on HN to have higher and lower peak activity periods throughout the day.

I am afraid that the bias of the "1000+ club" will silence many comment authors whose views and opinions are substantially different. The result is you will have a smaller community, the member of which are in agreement with each other, so there will be less interesting discussions, and the disagreed ones will flock away, having no chance to be heard here.

I certainly would read the comments less frequently.

Wow, this sounds great. My only question is if you're sure you want to put the "endorse" button so close to the "flag" button? I don't want to accidentally flag something incorrectly.

It's not a very big problem, because it's possible to unflag a comment.

Is it possible to unendorse a comment?

Ah perfect. I haven't flagged anything as of yet so I wasn't sure.


Just my 2 cents : often the top comment becomes the root of the discussion for all the "thread". Would be great if top comments were shuffled so all the discussion is not concentrated on the first comment of the "thread". Bad comments can still be pushed at the bottom of the page.But the top comments with the most karma should not stick at the top of the page.

Hmmm, in this thread the dead comments are some of the best. Or at least, the ones with which I best agree.

Only a few more days to go before April 1st. Did PG accidentally post a little early? If he's indeed serious, then his idea strikes me as similar to the person tossing a grenade back into the room they are just leaving. Either that, or an attempt to permanently cement in place the discourse control privileges of the Ancien Régime before their figurehead steps down.

Another problem I have with HN's structure, is that the control/censorship details don't seem to be laid out clearly anywhere. The post order sorting algorithm still mystifies me, and I only learned of 'dead/showdead' recently, when it was discussed in a thread. After that I leave showdead permanently on, and notice a distinct ideological bias in the killing of posts.

Seems likely the details of the 'pending' system won't be documented clearly for new users either. How do you think new arrivals will feel, when their posts are segregated and they don't even fully understand why?

Are there other existing regulatory schemes in HN I'm not aware of? For instance after I first started participating my karma count was going up sensibly. Then I made one comment mentioning the J and Z words, and got almost instantly smashed to negative karma. (Maybe that was before hell banning was implemented?) Since then I still seem to have random posts voted down, that seem reasonable and positive to me. My tiny karma grows very very slowly, and doesn't appear likely to ever reach 1000. So effectively, HN with the 'pending post' scheme implemented would be closed to me.

If the objective is to restrict forum participation to actual startup principles and their invited friends, why not just say so, and enforce that directly?

That sounds like a system designed to produce another forum hive-mind, and the internet really doesn't need any more of those.

Please offer an opt-in to see pending comments (without the ability to vote).

Maybe they'll remove the ability to reply cleanly - but it's a better option than filtering based on the whim of others.

This system of empowering community members to endorse comments from newer users has worked really well on Gawker!

<< The editors are the only ones who can give you a star, and we'll be giving them out to the commenters we trust the most. ... [Y]our comments will automatically appear in the featured comments, and you will have the ability to promote non-star comments up to the top level. In fact, just replying to a comment will bump up to the front page. You'll also see all of the unapproved comments left by new users and can approve the ones that you think are up to snuff. But use your powers wisely. We're going to be taking a closer look at who's doing what. Use your star powers to make mischief, and we'll take them away. >>


I don't have a Facebook page, gave up on twitter, only lurk on Reddit, but here is where I occasionally comment. I sit at only 102, not nearly enough to past the pending comment threshold. Not sure if I'm going to participate much anymore :(

I'll hangout for awhile and give this experiment a shot, but I don't expect much.

So I would like to have someone explain to me why I am wrong But I feel like this will penalize discussions that are happening off the front page. I spent a decent amount of time reading things that don't make it to the front page. I comment and am involved in discussing posts that rarely get much altitude. So now comments that are made on articles that are interesting only to a minority require the ok of a member of the majority. This seems more exclusionary than worth while.

Perhaps an option would be to add filtering on any post that is up-voted above a certain score. This would allow early movers to help generate conversation and then trigger moderation when the conversation is going to go wide.

This type of a tactic would encourage better behavior in the big leagues while giving room for smaller voices that may not be fully part of the community.

If I want to make a Show HN post that links to a project, and immediately comment to introduce it and fill in details will it have to wait for a 1000+ karma person to endorse it? Any way to make that kind of scenario work a little better? I have a feeling a lot of Show HN stuff will just get buried.

I love the experiment of it! My concern is that the scale of the discussion changes the discussion itself. Hear me out:

1) If a post is unpopular less people will be there to endorse.

2) With less people endorsing, replies will appear slower to people with low karma (lots of us), so we are disinclined to reply because we can't see the discussion. Less replies mean, less discussion.

3) The system also creates a strong disincentive to comment on unpopular posts because if no one reads it you can't comment on anything else. This will slow the comments of unpopular posts further.

One solution would be to weight the number of endorsements needed by the popularity of the post. The more people seeing it the more endorsements needed. For new posts (not popular yet) I would say comments shouldn't require any endorsement and let the existing down/up system rule.

How about instead of only allowing a single pending comment, allowing some number, where that number is managed in a similar way to the TCP sliding window. Start by allowing a single pending comment, allow an additional pending comment if that is endorsed, and so on, up to some maximum number of pending comments. However, if a comment is rejected, reduce the window size. You could employ all sorts of heuristics here - reduce the window by one per rejection, halve the window if there are two consecutive rejections, reset the window to its initial size if there are three, whatever.

One obvious problem here is that we are not getting a way to positively reject comments; rejection is simply not being endorsed after 24 hours. That is probably too noisy a signal to base a mechanism like this on. Oh well.

Um, how will this work out with timezones? Should I even bother writing comments outside of US office hours?

Just throwing out an idea, but why not allow the user who posts the article to select whether or not they want to use pending comments? This way one user doing a simple Ask HN can get immediate feedback while another posting a controversial article can have an intelligent conversation.

It seems to me you're forgetting an important aspect of human psychology with this system. People generally don't like submitting to 'supervision', in what they feel should be free discussion. If you create an environment in which people feel they need 'permission' to post, then they simply won't. Or at least, your average post will become more likely to be from an insensitive person, who doesn't care about such things as freedom of speech.

I think this change is a bad, bad idea, and will have subtle unintended but quite harmful consequences.

But of course, if the intent is to create a clique-controlled forum, in which only thoughts consistent with the majority views of long-established members can be seen, then this will probably achieve what you want.

I'm not yet sure how to feel about this, but I have one question that remains unanswered: Will this apply to submissions (possibly in the future) as well?

Not currently.

Has anybody actually done the math?

Is the ratio of superK users to subK users sufficient such that they won't spend all of their time approving comments?

Back of the envelope calculations from where I sit suggest that this has no choice but to slice the number of comments by at least an order of magnitude (and I actually think it is closer to 2 orders of magnitude).

If that's really the goal, why not just implement a comment killer that every now and then just randomly stomps on a posted comment and blocks someone from posting for 15min/30min/hour/whatever when it fires.

If you tie the probability to karma and karma ratio, it would do almost as good a job and not inconvenience the superK folks. And you could tune it to get the comment posting rate that you want.

Three things.

First, I'm not sure this solution is actually necessary at all.

Second, endorsing sounds like a lot of tedious work.

Third, the system as described has a number of issues. I would modify it in the following ways:

1. Number of endorsements is proportional to story rank, and changes as the story rank changes. After story rank 60, no endorsement is required.

2. Number of pending comments allowed for a given user is proportional to his or her karma. Users with karma of 1 should have 1, users with karma 1000 should have more, perhaps 5-10.

3. Unendorsed comments appear visually distinct from hidden posts and down-voted posts. Perhaps a shaded background?

4. If a user has exhausted his or her unendorsed comments pool in this 24-hour period, they should be informed of this fact where the new comment text area normally is.

In my opinion this is a fix in search of a problem. In reading all comments on a post I see very few "worthless" comments and many of those are grey. Skimming over tit for tat threads happens on an almost subconscious level. Maybe it's just me.

"<Insert Minority Group Here> in tech" submissions will probably be interesting to see once this is implemented.

Comments get from pending to live by being endorsed by multiple HN users with over 1000 karma. Those users will see pending comments, and will be able to endorse them by clicking on an "endorse" link next to the "flag" link.

I have over 1000 karma but I don't have a flag link for comments and I'm fairly sure that I never have. Is the threshold for flagging comments also supposed to be 1000?

Also, I really like this idea. There will likely be some issues to iron out but it should almost immediately eliminate a lot of noise and give new users a more clear idea of what sort of comments are appropriate.

censor-by-default is such a bad approach. if people are passive (very common) then HN censors. defaults matter, like with mailing list opt-ins, etc, b/c ppl frequently don't want to bother changing the default.

I don't know if this has been discussed, but why doesn't hacker news support folding comment threads? You (Paul Graham) have written about your observation that the quality of comments are inversely proportional with the depth of replies.

If this is true, why not just let users fold threads? Or provide a way to jump through threads at a particular comment level? I find it frustrating that if the highest voted comment on a post has many replies, it is difficult for me to navigate and bypass that thread to find out what other lines of thought might be on a topic.

I was actually thinking about joining the hacker news community. I'll see if I can find another place that better fits my needs.

Elitism and some pseudo-plutocracy among a "hacker" community is laughable.

This is obviously an attempt to increase the quality of quality of comments, is there some type of guideline you can give about the type of comments/commenter HN is looking for? I worry that there is a karma feedback loop in action where users with higher karma are better known and naturally get more upvotes than an unknown poster making the same comment.

1000 just seems like a really high threshold that would take a very long time to reach. I'm not sure if this is desired and HN just really wants people to work for it or I just don't provide much value. Obviously I think I provide value but I haven't even reached the threshold to downvote yet and after over a year HN is putting my comments on probation? It just really seems to devalue new members, it makes me wonder if I should be posting comments at all. Now I'm going to be scared to comment since I might get stuck is approval hell. So now it'll probably take an even longer timeframe to reach 1k since I'll be posting less. I know that in some way this what HN wants, fewer fluff comments but honestly sometimes I don't know what HN is going to upvote.

Is there some guideline to how long it should take to reach 1K? I know it depends on how active you but maybe some idea of how the karma average looks for quality commenters at 100 comment intervals from 0-1k. Obviously I'll reach it at some point but that doesn't mean I provide the value HN is looking for.

I have 4663 karma after 958 comments and 21 submissions in a bit under 4 years. Out of that:

- 2908 is comment karma; 1804 is post karma. (The total adds up to a bit too much; I'm probably miscalculating.)

Out of the post karma, 1634 was gained by 5 submissions which made it onto the front page and acquired hundreds of karma. None of the posts I submitted, including those, were written by me. (I'd like to start a blog, but I'm too lazy and shy for now.) And in my opinion, the value I contributed to the community simply by submitting them is rather low; considering that I've frequently tried to submit a story I found especially likely to generate interesting HN discussion only to find it already submitted, it's more likely that I won a race. On the other end, it's well accepted that whether a post manages to get a few points to bring it out of /new before it gets buried is somewhat random - IMHO some of my other submissions were just as good, but they didn't bite for whatever reason - making the correlation between value and post karma even more skewed.

- The comment karma histogram is a bit less lopsided: my top 100 comments (i.e. the top 3%) are responsible for about half of it (1469). But on the other end, 48% of my comments ended up with 1 or 2 points; while many of my comments are bad, I suspect that the difference is more about being seen than the top rated comments being that much better than the 1 pointers.

Also, if you sort by comment length, which is to some extent a reasonable proxy for quality, only 537 karma was earned by the top 100. Many of my top rated comments are relatively simple rebuttals to (in my opinion) bad comments; in my opinion, these can be valuable (since articulating why a comment is wrong is much more useful than simply downvoting it, and most comments never get responded to), but aren't as valuable as the long ones.

It probably doesn't help that (I think) I'm much more likely to respond to other comments (and try to have a discussion, the very thing that this change makes difficult :() than to comment on the post itself.

In my not-so-humble opinion, if you have the time and volubility to constantly make long, good comments on popular posts, you'll be rewarded. But if you don't, because the vast majority of comments will net you nothing, you'll get more by optimizing for quantity and being first to the scene, hoping for a small number of posts and comments to semi-randomly get a large fraction of the karma, than pre-selecting for quality.

Which, come to think of it, sounds a lot like how Y Combinator makes its money.

Oh, and submit a lot of posts.

Thank you.

Why not implement a simple algorithm:

If your past 5 comments have not gotten more than 3 cumulative upvotes from ranking users then your commenting is throttled to 1 comment per day

If your past 5 comments have a cumulative negative score your commenting is limited to 1 comment per week

There is no pending comments list, only a message telling you: sorry, try to post higher quality content to be able to comment more often. You will be able to post another comment tomorrow / next week

New users are limited to one comment per day until they get at least 3 cumulative upvotes in the last 5 comments

How many 1000 karma users are there on HN exactly, and how actively do they visit and interact with the site? This will have an enormous effect on what the endorsement latency actually is. I assume the karma threshold of 1000 was chosen so that there would be a reasonable number of users to do this, but I still want to check.

Edit: I notice that my comment is marked as pending in this thread... so the system is already active?

Edit2: Yes: https://news.ycombinator.com/pending

When I endorse a comment, does that also upvote the comment? Or is voting completely separate from endorsing?

Separate. Endorsing just means you think a comment is substantial, not that you agree with it.

Can you find a different term for it? To 'endorse' something means that you support it, and that you put your name behind that support. The action you're describing is more like 'publish' or 'pass' or 'authorise'. Probably 'release' is a good term, given the concept of 'pending'.

And that is where this solution falls down. You are relying on a subset of people to ignore their human nature and endorse things they do not agree with.

Whilst I'll admit they maybe some who will do this, I believe the majority will just follow their instincts. This sort of behaviour can be seen in any internet forum.

Inevitably new posters are required to write posts they think will be endorsed in order to achieve the karma threshold needed to use the site properly

So one might endorse a substantial comment which is incorrect just so one can downvote it for being wrong.

I can't wait for the first "I endorsed this just so I can tell you how stupid you are" comment.

You can tell someone they're wrong about something without 1) thinking that person is generally stupid 2) being mean, of course.

(e.g. if someone says "I think bitcoin is the first digital currency system which has attracted VC interest", I'd love it if someone from Flooz/Beanz (late-90s), or DigiCash (1980s-1990s) or various stored value systems would comment and say "Actually, ...")

Oh I know, but inevitably someone is going to use this endorse thing as a way to be incredibly condescending. Hopefully this system will then prevent that post to show, but I doubt it.

Although I understand the reasons behind the change, to me it largely seems overkill. No matter how much we try to convince ourselves that good comments will still be discovered, that would just be wishful thinking. On top of that it also places a certain responsibility on the shoulders of users with karma above the threshold. They may simply not have the time or motivation to screen the large number of incoming comments.

Instead of a default blacklist, a default whitelist might make more sense, while at the same time not sacrificing some of the useful comments. To be clear, it would not be much different from how it is presently. The flag option could get an overhaul so that when a user flags a post they should be given a choice to select the appropriate reason in a dropdown such as, 'negative comment', 'off-topic', etc. and based on the reason the comment could either be deleted, hidden or collapsed.

However, this could also be acheived without making any changes to the commenting system. If the objective is to bring down the number of negative comments, the flag option would probably help achieve that, and if it is to decrease the frequency of off-topic comments, a private messaging system might serve well as HN is not just a place for reading tech news, for many people it's also a place to network and connect with like-minded people.

If you do go ahead with this change (which seems likely), at the very least add an option for users to see pending comments if they choose to, as that only seems fair.

The posting delay sounds like a terrible idea. Say I spend some time writing a very long comment to a not so popular thread and hit submit. Then I notice that someone replied to another comment of mine and had a question or something. I can't reply to him in a timely matter since I used my one comment already. So do I need to go and delete my newest comment, reply to the person who responded to me, then go back and re-comment the one I initially did? This sounds very silly.

A configurable/optional karma filter which defaults to enabled could be the solution since there are genuine concerns for and against this feature.

Unregistered users may have karma filter enabled by default so that hackernews doesn't give a bad impression to the general public due to low quality comments; and registered users can switch it on/off at their preferences panel, then it could be interesting to analize the stats and see how many and who use it.

I am also going to add my two cents and say that I think this is not a good idea. HN has in no way reached Eternal September, and if it has, then this isn't the way to fix it.

I think it would make much more sense to add moderators (if there already aren't any, I'm not sure). A dozen or so moderators could definitely mitigate any threat that post quality is going down. There are only a dozen new posts per hour, they could definitely handle it.

What about something like this: https://www.dropbox.com/s/wisoy2og4rb4zps/rationalmedium.pdf [mockup]

Key features:

- Different claims are made, and you can discuss them individually (ie. in a separate thread). This thread would have a summary of the key points at the top, so new users can more easily join the conversation.

- There's an open thread.

- There's a thread to discuss tangents.

Is this the biggest change ever made to HN? The last major change I can think of was not showing comment scores, and this is at least an order of magnitude bigger.

If I had a suggestion, I would modify the display setting of pending comments to permit the submitter of the comment to see the pending replies, and interact. Only the two parties would be able to see the thread, until endorsed at the root node.

This would help prevent the staunching of discussion in long running threads, as well as offer a means to communicate directly with a person in a faster amount of time than endorsements would provide.

While I certainly understand your goal here, wouldn't you have a better moderation regime if you hired people to do this as their jobs? Metafilter is my example of a hired-mods-done-right setup. I fear that a 1000 karma policing setup will make this place more like slashdot. Not that I'm taking a strong stance against slashdot, but is that the culture we want from this website? Just my two cents.

Given that you seem to be viewing this as a first level screening, I think you need to make the 1000+ karma people review 10-20 pending comments before reading any article based on what's in the queue.

This would insures that the queue doesn't pile up. It would actually encourage good comments in the same ways that knowing a blog reads everything does. It would insure that if the system doesn't work or has problem, you'd hear about it immediately from long-term users.

I would implement it as "( ) endorse ( ) favorite" side-by-side so that the net effect is that great comments pop out of pending with better velocity.

Finally, the 1000+ karma rule for reviewers while convenient is probably a bad framing.

Instead, I'd say that 1000+ karma users are required to review and 100-1000 karma can volunteer to review. If you volunteer, your endorsements have to correlate with 1000+ over 95% of the time or they don't count. Obviously, you can randomly test that to whatever statistical significance you like.

Good luck with the new system -- this is the only site where comments are any good in my experience.

Even if this system worked flawlessly as intended, doesn't it disincentivize getting to 1000+ karma? Unless I'm misunderstanding, your most active users don't seem to get any benefit (they see all the comments, good and bad, like everyone did before). Maybe if there was also an "unendorse" option... but then you've just implemented meta-(up|down)voting.

Sorry, if I'm asking stupid question or if I'm suggesting something already implemented, but why not do opposite: endorse all comments at start and give 'delete comment' right to HN users with karma > 1000? This way the number of false positives (published comments w/o value) will certainly increase, but you loose none of valuable/significant ones.

I find this very ironic given this: http://paulgraham.com/say.html

Comments get from pending to live by being endorsed by multiple HN users with over 1000 karma.

By "multiple", does this literally mean 'by at least two', or by a fixed number that you may or may not want to divulge, or by some other more complicated factor? I think the answer to this will heavily impact the 'unpopular (but not bad) comment' concerns.

Right now it almost always means two, because I'm starting with the simplest possible implementation, but there might be optimizations in the future. E.g. the threshold could vary with how active a thread was, or based on the results of applying some classifier to the text.

As to the second: "without gratuitous nastiness", I would encourage you to go further towards the postitive and think about building on a FIRST robotics meme, "gracious professionalism" -http://www.usfirst.org/aboutus/gracious-professionalism

Hm. I was on the fence after reading this thread a few hours ago, but coming back to and seeing some of the responses I have come firmly down on the side of this being a good idea.

Apparently a number of commenters are under the misapprehension that Hacker News' raison d'etre is to provide an egalitarian community some (very loose) definition of hacker. This is first and foremost a forum and recruiting venue for an elite tech incubator. Some people have gotten relatively comfortable using it as their personal soapbox, but it exists to benefit Y Combinator.

As a long time user, it has been disappointing to see the decay in community quality in roughly three waves: Bitcoin, the women in tech controversies, and Snowden/NSA. There used to be more substantive tech/science/math discussions here. For whatever reason, a lot of the newcomers have poorer writing skills, present less coherent thoughts, have less domain knowledge, and are less well adjusted socially.

I hope that this works.

FYI: Pending comments will not be enabled by default as pg just clarified here.


So, this isn't going to be a drastic change, rather it'll be more like a tool for the moderator to improve the quality of conversations that are becoming nasty.

" And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?"

"..and we in the haste of a precipitant zeal shall make no distinction, but resolve to stop their mouths, because we fear they come with new and dangerous opinions, as we commonly forejudge them ere we understand them; no less than woe to us, while thinking thus to defend the Gospel, we are found the persecutors."

"For if they fell upon one kind of strictness, unless their care were equal to regulate all other things of like aptness to corrupt the mind, that single endeavour they knew would be but a fond labour: to shut and fortify one gate against corruption, and be necessitated to leave others round about wide open. If we think to regulate printing, thereby to rectify manners, we must regulate all recreations and pastimes, all that is delightful to man. No music must be heard, no song be set or sung, but what is grave and Doric. There must be licensing of dancers, that no gesture, motion, or deportment be taught our youth, but what by their allowance shall be thought honest; for such Plato was provided of. It will ask more than the work of twenty licensers to examine all the lutes, the violins, and the guitars in every house; they must not be suffered to prattle as they do, but must be licensed what they may say. And who shall silence all the airs and madrigals that whisper softness in chambers? The windows also, and the balconies, must be thought on; there are shrewd books, with dangerous frontispieces, set to sale: who shall prohibit them, shall twenty licensers? The villages also must have their visitors to inquire what lectures the bagpipe and the rebec reads, even to the balladry and the gamut of every municipal fiddler, for these are the countryman's Arcadias and his Monte Mayors."

I use HN regularly and post comments once in a while. I have asked a few questions which never reached the front page but have 1-2 answers which helped me immensely. The posts have 1-2 upvotes only. But it still works for me. Now with this pending review feature, those comment will never show rendering it useless for a small time guy like me.

You use karma as a measure of quality (here as a way to indicate someone should have rights to endorse). One other change which I think would help comment quality is to separate or cap points for submissions (which can be disproportionate), so that users do not gain karma from posting popular stories. One person posting some flamebait article can easily get over 1000 points just by posting a link, and they are encouraged to post sensational or gossipy articles by the current system in order to get around karma limitations.

Popularity is not the same as quality, and the divergence will only grow as more users join the site.

It will be interesting to see how this change plays out, but you definitely need a solution to the problem cperciva points out - at present anything not on home simply doesn't recieve sufficient attention for this scheme to work. The new page is regularly full of articles with less than 3 votes.

An interesting, and perhaps time saving option would be an "endorse entire thread" or "endorse entire sub thread" button, for threads that are interesting but really so tame that the likelihood of bad posts is small.

Also, it would be interesting to know what problem this solves, and how you will know if it works.

I find these changes to be very degrading of what I love about HN. Regardless of objective truth or upmost importance being the defining characteristics of comments, I happen to enjoy the quirky humor and general remarks of fellow HNer's. Very disappointing, PG.

I love this idea, and welcome any attempts to improve the quality of comments on HN (despite already being one of the more sensible discussion sites).

My problem is with the not being able to post more comments while one is pending. I'm mostly a reader/lurker and only really comment on posts which really get me fired up. Now what happens when I'm taking 30 minutes in the morning to read HN and want to make 2/3 comments on a couple of different posts? Would I now only be able to comment on one and hope the others remained suitably visible for me to find them later? I really think blocking further comments while a user has a pending one is a terrible idea, and will only harm HN in the long run.

I wonder if this will this lead to more karma whoring?

I think I understand the motivation, but this smacks of elitism to me. Unless the 1K users constitute the majority, then by definition a minority of HN users will effectively moderate (and can potentially censor) the discussions. That seems very unfair.

After reading a lot of the discussion about Facebook's Hack I can see why this is necessary. I agree with a lot of the concerns here though. Particularly, commenting on older posts will never elicit an endorsement. I'm also concerned about how many qualified folks will actively endorse comments. This can be quite a job endorsing every good comment on the site. It might require following a comment feed covering the entire site, but who would want to do that? Will there be any sort of reward for endorsing comments? I'd be afraid to endorse the wrong comments and lose my ability to endorse. In any event, I'm very curious to see how this pans out.

Will this take effect in the "Ask HN" section as well? I would argue to leave it as it is (or at lower the threshold of number of endorsers) because it will be harder to get endorsers for a non popular thread. Let's say somebody asks "What are the good places to meet hackers in Barcelona?" and I post an answer helpful for the OP, it will not get many endorsers since this question will not be viewed by many here. Also, I have my doubts for the "Who is hiring?" thread as the people who are looking for jobs will not have the incentive to endorse posts since it will increase the number of competitive applicants for the jobs.

I'm kind of skeptical. The biggest problem as I see it is that a lot of the more interesting comments get voted to zero because 'controversy' or not 'mainstreamed thought,' while frequently a lot of the heavily upvoted comments are platitudes/acceptingly normative/self-reinforcing meh kind, while many of the more interesting ones are often in the middle. Now I may be wrong about this, but I don't think high karma is indicative of the quality comments so much as it is indicative of a comments' closeness to the communities normalized colloquially accepted wisdom, since the crowd is self-reinforcing.

I think I can see the intent behind requiring comments be endorsed by ‘users with over 1000’ karma: this is a somewhat arbitrary way of saying ‘users who themselves are good contributors to the community’, but I think that specific way of measuring is naïve.

Using an incrementing value to represent karma means that you can slowly accrue and work your way towards achieving that state of being a good community contributor in principle, whilst in fact still behaving in all the negative ways you are hoping to minimise.

There are quite a few metrics that could be of relevance when looking at people who comment on HN. How often do they reply? Do they post the first comment, or only replies? Do they only reply to controversial subjects? Do they upvote often?

I'd propose that the solution be more subtle. As others have pointed out, you shouldn't implement a system that acts as a positive feedback loop for the most popular topics; that will simply filter out things that aren't in the zeitgeist (and god knows HN doesn't need any more of that).

My suggestion would instead be that all comments are visible immediately, but will be automatically hidden after a period of time, unless they become sufficiently popular. The length of time before they become hidden will depend on the another value, associated with the poster, which would be something akin to the ELO rating system; all users start with the same score, and then that score is modified based on how many people approve of / disapprove of their comments.

Obviously just using these things ignores context, so I'd encourage some more clever introspection of the other things I mentioned above to determine whether they're just posting on a controversial subject (maybe the first reply gets a bonus to the length of time it's visible, or controversial subjects — measured by the frequency of up vs downvotes — don't reduce your personal ELO rating as much).

Of course, these ideas could be equally terrible but I think thought should be given to testing them before committing, and using something more subtle than just slamming the door in the face of people who aren't able to get their comments into the eye line of the HN elite.

  If a point is important, someone else will probably come along and make it ...
I definitely do not perceive this to be the current situation. The new rules will have to effect a change in behavior or much will be lost.

It's hard to tell how much friction HN needs. Some more, probably. A lot more? I'm guessing not. A little moderation goes a long way.

Metrics for comment approval might include opening up a thread complete, or for folks with a karma threshold, or who have made posts in the past without being downvoted much. (The _Making Light_ site has some interesting ideas here).

You might include who voted on an article, and how. If someone's gonna moderate, they may as well be listed as having moderated (so they can get the credit or blame). Meta-moderation might be one of the things that killed Slashdot, though.


gg :( was fun while it lasted.

Oh no, does this mean I can't add "first!" w/o knowing for sure it's actually first (or one of the first)?

Serious question: can I delete a pending comment? And does that allow me to comment again?


I don't understand your system. So someone with over 1000 Karma would have to decide if my comment is worthwhile to be live. But at times my comment could be a good single line comment.

This is not a good system.

and thus, like every other forum online, "those who came before" are massively rewarded, and new users are basically treated like crap.

coming soon to HN - AOL keywords, blinking text, and animated ASCII art!

So if you have over 1000 karma the site will look exactly the same, except for a bunch of "endorse" links?

Are the endorse links far enough from the flag links to avoid fat-fingering issues on mobile devices?

As I understand it, it would lack responses to pending comments, since nobody can respond to a comment before it's endorsed.

not a fan of attempting to police speech no matter how "dumb" or "bad" it is perceived to be...compared to the internet average comments on hacker news are already far better.

Maybe this will strike a better balance between comment quality and participation?

* A comment by a person with karma < 1000 stays pending until endorsed

* Once 5 or so successive comments by this user have been endorsed, he/she can comment freely

* Now, if a new comment by this user gets flagged, every subsequent comment goes into pending state until 5 or so comments have been endorsed again

Of course, the numbers and the algorithm can be tweaked. But the basic idea is: reward users once a certain threshold of their comments are endorsed, and punish them if a comment gets flagged.

This will kill any kind of spontaneity in the conversation. Now you’ll have to wait an indeterminable amount of time before your comment becomes live and by then it may be irrelevant. So instead of a conversation we’ll end up with a series of statements. From an academic point of view it would be brilliant but that’s not why we’re here. If we wanted only educated opinions we could just read blog posts or technical books. Speaking for myself, I’m here for the community.

The more complicated a system gets the less usable it becomes.

Is the only difference between pending and live that pending will lock them out of posting again (within the timeout period)?

Or, will they eventually drop out of visibility from others?

Pending comments won't be visible, except to the submitter and to potential endorsers. That's the whole point of pending comments.

Why not add a user setting - like Google does for censored results? You'd tick a box "Show less relevant / unmoderated comments" - provided directly on the discussion pages. You would tick that box at your own risk, knowing you may find offending comments. And if you find too much spam, and can't seem to enjoy moderated comments enough, just untick it and the spam goes away. This way you ensure moderation can't be abused for censorship purposes.

Here's an idea: Give users the option of seeing all pending posts.

I personally want to see everything and don't really care what a small subset of HN deems "worthy" of seeing.

I apologize if I have missed the answer, but the thread is very long.

Will clicking endorse automatically upvote the answer? It would only make sense to, and you wouldn't have to click twice.

> You can currently beat the system by posting an innocuous comment, waiting for it to be endorsed, and then after it's live, changing it to say something worse. We explicitly ask people not to do this. While we have no software for catching it, humans will notice, and we'll ban you.

Why can't you make the edited comment go through same cycle \process\flow as the original comment went through? that way you don't have to assume - no one will try to hack\fool the system

Can we grandfather in people with at least 5.6 years of HN participation? Okay, I happen to have only 593 karma point but I've been around for a while, 5.6 years actually.

for negative voting you needed 500 karma's, I have been on hacker news for 1900+ days, currently have 438 karma's .

though I read lot of posts and checks top and new posts every couple of hours. I don't submit many posts, or ask questions. I only comment where I see a value or I can contribute to the discussion in some form.

but if for my comment to be endorsement needs someone with 1000karma, I will take anywhere between 5-10 years to get to 1000+karma and be able to endorse other comments

Presumably I could work through your comment history and just give you 62 upvotes ... wonder if there's a system in place to stop that?

Reminds me of the 'one last time' syndrome. My boys would always ask to sled the hill, or ride their bikes around the park 'one last time'. This was when the injuries happened. The urge to make your best effort, when the time has almost run out, often results in disaster.

If you value this community please don't fire this mortar round into the midst of this thriving market of ideas, then ride off into the sunset. It has bad idea written all over it.

As a woman who has long struggled to find a way to fit in on HN, I worry this will just make it harder for anyone who isn't already part of the "in crowd" and will just magnify problems for women, minorities, newbs, whomever.

I hope it works well but it does concern me. I don't know what else to suggest though since HN is a larger scale than I know how to moderate.

Edit: So count me as feeling kind of threatened and wondering if I will ever be allowed to comment again.

After reading the headline, I had to check if it was April 1st.

It really feels like this is solving a problem that doesn't exist, and as a result will hurt discussion. Additionally it assumes that people with 1,000 karma will sift through all of the comments to approve. Based on how few things get upvoted in the "new" section, I sincerely doubt that your members will sit on the "pending" tab waiting to approve.

We'll see how this plays out, but I'm probably done trying to comment here for now.

This is great. HN used to be a real community, but lately there has been no incentive to post anything intelligent because every comment gets buried in a sea of crap, and there are so many throwaway comments that it's impossible to find the ones by regular contributors. The amount of noise also just brings out the worst in everyone. I know you can't step on the same stream twice, but hopefully this at least makes it readable for a while.

Would adding pending comments encourage a more diverse and inclusive user base, or a less diverse and exclusive one? Not only diversity of opinions, but of gender and background? Is anyone talking about this?

In ecology and nature conservation a diverse ecosystem is encouraged as this ensures the overall health of the system.

Edits: I wonder what percentage of the 1000 Karma users are women? How about less controversial attributes: What are their backgrounds, Where do they reside?

A checkbox that says 'Hide comments from noobs' would suffice.

I have 41 karma (rarely comment) but have been here 2546 days. Would appreciate being grandfathered in, thanks.

Apologies if anyone has already made a similar suggestion... but, 1000 seems like an arbitrary amount of karma. What do you guys think of a fluid amount of karma required to post a non-pending comment. Popular stories on the front page can play by PG's rules. However, to encourage discussion on new submissions, scale back the karma requirements. The kinds of people who post obnoxious comments are looking for a crowd anyways.

This will fix a lot of the random bickering back and forth, but I'm not sure it will fix the issue of snide remarks always being the number one comment.

I think the comment I received the most karma on was when I misunderstood an article and bashed it due to my misunderstanding. I was wrong, but apparently others shared in my misunderstanding because it had a lot of upvotes.

I think this will probably be a net positive though in terms of comment quality here.

I can see how any system can be abused, but why not treat the user as positive contributor initially, and then if they accrue negative/downvotes; similar to what happens now.

It seems the new pending way involves more effort from the 1k karma people to actively click posts to make them visible. Could this also stop them coming here as if they don't do any work, the site could stagnate?

I am curious what percentage of users (active with upvotes/downvotes and passive interaction by reading mostly and dormant users) are past that threshold of karma? any insights to this pg?

I am all for better dialog on HN though as it has been on a downward trend but not terrible yet. I think this is a change for the better. Not certain that the vote hiding had a huge effect though.

I wonder how this will affect users is sparse timezones. The conversation could slow down or get buried to the point of being unusable.

This sounds like a very rash idea, and an unwarranted imposition of the view point of a small number on a majority. I've been using th site for 3 yrs only, not since the good old days when all the commenting was pure and holy. And yet, I find the standard of commenting here wonderful. It doesn't need this sort of illiberal policing by the 1k elite.

What happens if the story you commented in gets killed before your comment is endorsed? Are you done commenting on HN for how long?

How long until we see a new ShowHN post : "Alternative to Hacker News" or "Why I coded my own HN alternative"

lamernews monocle etc etc

Most interesting concept was the one where you needed an invite and everybody could see who had vouched for who. Can't remember the name and also found no one to ask for an invite ;-)

Someone was talking about lobste.rs

Does anyone else find it rather coincidental that this article also happens to be currently on the front page?

http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html ( https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7443420 )

This looks a lot like a way to implement group-think by effective censoring and burdening exchange. I'm not interested in reading a sort of Hacker News Reader's Digest. Being unable to figure out the reasons of your own greatness is a popular road to demise. It was a lot of fun, though, thank you for the ride.

A few questions:

> Someone who has a pending comment will have to wait till it goes live to post another.

Does this mean that if you write 1 bad comment which no one wants to endorse, you can effectively never comment on any thread again?

> Since I'm going to check out of HN at the end of this YC cycle

What do you mean by "check out"? Are you going to stop commenting?

Please don't push this live. It will significantly cut down on contribution, and create a lot of busy work and bureaucracy which gets in the way of people having a good discussion. If you want to improve the quality of comments then address the core algorithm or find a better way to harness user power.

I don't like the idea of curated comments. People aren't perfect and have biases. You may have set guidelines for what to endorse, but I guarantee endorsements are not going to be completely objective. Filtering comments and karma systems often become a popularity contest and not a discussion.

Great. Yet another "Pending Review" to wait through. HN is now the App Store of internet discussion.

pg you founded HN, please don't destroy it before you leave. Whatever your paternalistic instinct led you to this, please swallow it and leave HN alone. You did humanity a great service by founding YC/HN, but its time to leave such drastic decisions to your successor. I implore you!

Seems like something that would increase the quality of comments, but also prevent any meaningful discussion.

184 karma user here, who often posts late to discussions but until now still felt like part of the community. Guess I'm not going to be able to post anymore. :-( If this policy goes forward, I hope PG and the rest of the wealthy elitist clique on here enjoy their circlejerk.

I'm curious: how many 1000+ karma users are there on HN now i.e. how big is the pool of endorsers?

Interesting system, it kind of reminds me of the way I used to read Slashdot. There is a setting where you can filter comments below a certain threshold so you don't see them. I used to have mine set to +2. This was a great filter and made reading comments much nicer.

Seems great! I'm wondering what the incentive is for users to endorse comments, beyond improving HN's quality?

There is a malus for endorsing bad comments, shouldn't there be a built-in bonus for well-behaving endorsers, to compensate and make the system self-sufficient?

Karma is going to be even harder to get now for < 1000 karma users. This includes occasional casual users. You do not want to constrain the power to just the hardcore users

For example: I pop on once or twice a day. I have been doing so for 1044 days. I have 478 karma points.

As a user with only ~200 karma who is still interested in contributing to the discussion, what's the best way to tell when this feature takes effect?

Make a dummy comment? I won't be able to see the pending comments of others, since I'm not one of the HN elite.

As an aside - is it going to be prohibitively difficult for casual users like myself to become part of the elite now? If all but the most useful/insightful comments are stuck in pending until deletion, it'll be difficult to slowly gain karma through the odd up vote here and there. Even comments that start huge discussions (see my history for a recent example) seldom get more than a couple votes here, so it seems reasonable to assume it'll be harder to advance.

Does this create the potential for essentially becoming perma-banned from commenting once you have a single comment that doesn't make it out of 'pending'? Won't most commenters eventually be unable to comment, or am I missing something?

It's seems like this would severally tip the balance towards people getting karma via story submissions and not comments.

It also seems like it will kill questions and dissenting opinion. I cannot help but feel endorsements will be few and fit in group beliefs.

Being purveyors of good taste, leaders have to take action. Despite my karma score (73) I support implementation of a solution to a known problem, despite the risks.

It provides a motive to achieve a higher score, whereas before there was little to no reason.

Just one more reason to not comment at all.

If your intent is to turn this site into something more like Designer News or Echo JS, then doing this is the right start.

Both of those sites have great links and almost no commenting whatsoever, despite having the functionality.

pg seems to have more of a problem with the "quality" of comments than many users who actually enjoy the use of deep threads for conversation. I understand pg's point of view that that is just noise to him, but to those speaking constructively it is the conversation they want. If this was a move to cut down on trolls I would understand. The question to ask is what is HN really for? Is it for the users to converse/think freely or for the site creator to wrangle/curate smart comments. It seems the later is more in tune with HN's mission as a business, and alas the direction it's heading.

An issue with this design is that it ensures that the current high-karma commentators maintain what they like on HN. If a really good idea shows up that they don't like and don't want to see, that is not going to survive.

Actually, http://www.tweakers.net (a popular dutch techsite) has a good system for downvoting.

Just hide the box that shows the comment and only show the authorname and the downvotes...

Would be interesting to have a new url:


and a way for 1000+ users to view comments scores as reward for good endorsements

Sounds like an interesting experiment, but also the type of thing that will require quite a bit of adjustment and tuning. So I hope the complexity will not prohibit the new site runners from making these adjustments.