I'll add a pending page that collects pending comments. Maybe that will solve the problem.
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.
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 ><.
I'll try to do my part, but I worry about the tragedy of the commons here. The current incentives may actively discourage endorsements.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Honestly, the more I think about this, the more complicated it seems, which is usually not a good sign.
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.
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.
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.
We could get away with temporary user names, changing on a per thread basis for instance, but that might be heavy to implement.
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.
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.
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.
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.
 I know, apocryphal at best.
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.
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.
(newsop pending () (pending-page user))
(newscache pending-page user 60
(listpage user (msec) comments* [if (and (cansee user _) _!pending) _]
"pending" "Pending Comments" "pending" nil))
Regarding the square bracket syntax:
[... _ ...] is an abbreviation for (fn (_) (... _ ...))
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 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?
 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)
Bryce Glass (similar topic/similar takeaways)
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 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.
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.
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.
I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays out.
I tend to be awake at odd hours, and over a 24 period, it's quite interesting to watch.
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.
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.
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.
 For example, not realizing that RC4 is now hopelessly broken, and asking for a couple of recent references.
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.
(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)
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.
(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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
This could be some additional meta-info to add to the 'post stories on Mondays'-"rule"...
I don't think this idea has been thought through enough to deploy.
The above will allow people to submit comments even when the thread has lost its popularity.
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?".
If you really want to make sure that every post gets voted on you may need to do something like that to incentivize endorsements.
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 ...
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.
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.
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, 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.
 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.
And thank you for working on this!
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.
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.
The back and forth comments deep in threads no one reads are some of the most interesting I have had.
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.
I use http://hnnotify.com/ , and it works incredibly well for this case.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Email isn't public discussion.