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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.


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 (_) (... _ ...))
http://www.paulgraham.com/arc.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc_%28programming_language%29


IIRC, it's written in Arc

http://arclanguage.org


Arc


[deleted]


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.


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...




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