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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?


HOW DARE YOU BRING UP VALID POINTS. WE NEED A PENDING COMMENTS SYSTEM SO I COULD NOT APPROVE THIS COMMENT!


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:

https://gist.github.com/maxerickson/8456792

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

http://alexander.kirk.at/js/hackernews-collapsible-threads.j...

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)




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