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Now that the moderator's identity is public, a useful next step would be a public log of all moderator actions. lobste.rs has one[1] and the transparency is great.

[1] https://lobste.rs/moderations




A log of moderator actions seems like an invitation to many years of debate over the moderator's actions. The current system, of sporadic conspiracy theories regarding moderation, actually seems preferable to me.


The far more damaging part of HN IMHO is the silent banning. It's a very ugly sledgehammer which is routinely used to censor dissenting voices. Victims of it have no real recourse even if they do notice they've been censored. It doesn't make for an open relaxed environment where people can express their opinion.

It's a lame, lazy and flawed system of moderation which ends up with a ton of false positives.

I wouldn't be surprised if this comment gets me silent banned!


Just an anecdote that may be relevant: I was banned at one point. I thought it was unfair, and emailed HN explaining why I made the comment that I did and that it wasn't meant as meanspirited or snarky as it may have come across. They re-instated me very quickly. My experience tells me that if you're trying to be a reasonable member of the community, you'll do fine.


Is there a forum that doesn't ban people?


On other forums, when you've been banned, you get an email or message telling you why and you no longer have access to that account. You also probably will have gotten a few warnings from moderators before that point.


When the barrier to entry is 0 this is an ineffective strategy. From my experiences moderating a fairly large geographic area forum negative influences on the community do and will just recreate a new account immediately and resume when you do that. At least this way you delay that from happening for a while and force them to expel effort on nothing.


Maybe, but determined trolls will adapt to just about any environment - here, for instance, people just create sockpuppet accounts (HN doesn't track account IPs I guess)

When it applies to the most egregious of problem users then it works as intended, but there have been cases where people have been, apparently, posting while banned for some slight, and providing reasonable content. That suggests to me that some banned users might be amenable to a warning or might well change their behavior if they were made aware that their actions were intolerable.

Also, it makes no sense to me to continue using up the site's resources stringing people along who, by definition, the staff doesn't want there. Although I admit I have no idea how much of a problem that is with HN itself, since it doesn't use a database.


Tracking IPs doesn't help that much. Even non-technical trolls discover proxies quickly.

Because you cannot stop them so at this point it is less about saving resources and more about harm reduction. It's unfortunate some people who probably would change get caught up in it but it's really a small price to pay(their not having their comments public but still being able to use the site normally) for the greater enjoyment.


You're understanding of trolls is flawed. A troll will generally make sure their messages show up (using incognito mode, tor, etc). Think about it, the people who don't check to see if they're shadow-banned are the ones that don't expect to be banned. Trolls very much expect to be banned. It's their modus operandi.

The only people you're effectively hurting are the ones who think they are making useful contributions but make the unfortunate mistake of hurting the moderator's feelings.


Trolls generally don't expect to be shadow banned they expect to be banned. Until they figure that shadow banning exists it's a very effective method and once you realize you make them check if they've been shadow banned regularly so it effectively doubles their work. Quite often their willingness to invest time into trolling drops off with lack of response so often they will leave before they understand that shadow banning is a thing.


>Trolls generally don't expect to be shadow banned they expect to be banned.

I disagree with this assertion. Shadow-banning on HN is quite well known, and any troll worthy of the term understands the landscape of their endeavors.

>banned regularly so it effectively doubles their work

How is opening a link once a day or so in incognito mode to check for their comment effectively doubling their work?

>Quite often their willingness to invest time into trolling drops off with lack of response so often they will leave before they understand that shadow banning is a thing.

Again, I think we both have very different ideas on the transience of a trolling campaign. I assure you, once someone is determined to troll a specific community, its a much longer commitment than you are estimating.

Edit: Impressive. Down-voted for stating my disagreements with counter-points.


I voted you back up because what you're saying is interesting. But please, everybody: enough with the complaints when you're downvoted. It happens to all of us and there isn't a thing you can say about it that isn't old and boring and makes you look bad. It's the worst HN trope there is, so just move on.

If the downvote was unfair, someone often comes along and fixes it; and if it was fair, then you should reflect on what you said. Either way, the impulse to complain should be held in check.


I honestly can't see how/why people care so much. Maybe I'm not doing HN right, but I usually don't have a lot of time to read a thread and make a cogent comment and stuck around for discussion. This is unfortunate; I think discussions are better than just one-off comments. But add to this the vanity of checking if my comments have been downvoted? Man, I've got better things to do.


I think we're going to have to agree to disagree.

From my personal experience having dealt with trolls on other popular forums and implementing shadow bans myself previously my experience runs counter to your beliefs.

You don't have to catch every troll with shadow bans. You make the experience for the new ones unenjoyable by removing their feedback and they are more likely to move on before they become committed enough to start cycling accounts.

If someone is determined to troll a community than no form of protection other than brute force moderation will work but compared to the number of trolls out there the number that rise to that level of abuse are very small.


I don't know of another forum where reasonably long standing members are banned silently, without even the courtesy of telling them. It's kinda a douche move.

Silent banning is more like censorship than banning - you're silencing someone because you don't agree with them, without telling them they're being silenced.

It's also a matter of where the line is drawn. Most forums ban obvious spam - viagra, porn, etc. But HN (IMHO) bans people for being overly critical, for not agreeing with the groupthink, or perhaps not having enough tact or politeness.

Silent banning has 0 effect on spam and trolls - they'll verify their spam/troll comment has appeared, and if it hasn't, just create a new account. The people it hurts are simply people who happen to offend a moderator.

You can be pretty confident not to post spam, but how do you know if your comment may offend some moderator? - These days most things offend someone. That IMHO makes for a 'walking on eggshells' type of forum, rather than an open place to discuss.


I would be surprised if the evidence showed that a comment like this ever got someone silent-banned. Usually, when you look at the comments of people who have gotten banned, there's a nasty tone to accompany the critical intent.


>I would be surprised if the evidence showed

Yet you argued in another comment that this evidence should be hidden from the community. If you have faith that the evidence would show that bans are always justified, why not argue for them to be public?


The same comment you're referring to to make this argument answers it.


>A log of moderator actions seems like an invitation to many years of debate over the moderator's actions. The current system, of sporadic conspiracy theories regarding moderation, actually seems preferable to me.

That's the one I was referring to. Can you point me to the one you are referring to that says why you prefer an opaque system?


Is "nasty tone" really the basis of silently banning people? Just because something offends a moderator, then all of their subsequent comments are censored?

Being offended shouldn't offer anyone any special rights. If something "offends" you, ignore it and move on.


> Being offended shouldn't offer anyone any special rights.

Its a good think you said "shouldn't" rather than "can't", because any number of laws forbid various kinds of offensive behavior.

> If something "offends" you, ignore it and move on.

Not everyone can "move on", which is why we have the laws we do. This is only peripherally associated with the present topic, but no one should imagine that offensive behavior is absolutely tolerated, or that people can only relocate themselves to solve the problem.


Just because a law exists, doesn't mean it should exist.

For example, sending "offensive" tweets should not be illegal IMHO.


> Just because a law exists, doesn't mean it should exist.

Yes -- that's a point I made also.


I think the problem with what you're suggesting is that it can rapidly devolve the forum into being uncivilized. I do think silent banning is a little bit mean, but if you tell people they've been banned, they just start a new account.

Perhaps new accounts could start off dead until endorsed, and bans could be reversed. A bit like pending comments, but at an account level. It takes away "starting a new account" as a solution to being banned if both accounts have the same (100% dependent on content of posts) likelihood of coming back.


There are other forums with the rules you propose. Many, including the people who control this site, believe that part of the reason for the quality of HN is that we have these rules. I for one agree, but if I didn't, I'd go find one of the easily available low-moderation or no-moderation sites.


It doesn't suppress dissenters. It suppresses people who contribute nothing.


The difference between those two to a biased moderator (e.g. any human) is very blurry.


I think debate over moderators' actions is crucial and should be encouraged.


I agree that it should be possible when necessary, but I'm not sure about encouraged. At least, it shouldn't go so far as to significantly impact the signal-to-noise ratio (I'd still consider them noise). Then again, I guess there's one way to find out whether it would or not.


If there was a page that logged all moderator actions, that's where the discussion could take place. I don't think it was noticeably affect the signal-to-noise ratio of the rest of the site.


Thanks for clarifying!


Depends, in good-faith communities like these they more bring harm, than say a standard phpBB forum.


At the very least, a log of title and content changes by moderators would be useful.


I'm not sure what you mean by "content changes", but I plan eventually to open-source the software I use to keep track of title and url edits.


I was assuming moderators sometimes edited post content as well. If not, I was mistaken.


If by "post content" you mean things that people put in text fields like comments and Ask HNs, then no, we basically never change those. I say "basically" because I did once fix a typo in one of pg's comments. But then I emailed him about it.


The debate will still be there either way, will it not? It's probably preferable to base such discussion on a correct log of the events, rather than speculation and unsubstantiated allegations.


In a choice between (a) uninformed but relatively infrequent debates about the moderator (b) routinized and personalized debates about the moderator, I definitely choose (a).

I have a different perspective on HN than I think many other people do here; I consider myself a guest, and don't see myself as part of what makes HN HN. In the somewhat unlikely event that Daniel and Nick do something to make the site unworkable for me, I'm not going to get angry about it.


Modesty is generally a good trait, but I'll say that to me, HN seems to be unique among all other discussion board I've been a part of as far as having a lot of highly accomplished and knowledgeable software people from all walks of life, from startup founders to big-company cogs to freelance contractors. There's lots of places to find jokes, memes, puns, and discussion of the latest TV shows, but I haven't found anywhere on the internet as good as HN is now for this kind of discussion.


>"I consider myself a guest, and don't see myself as part of what makes HN HN" //

That's very interesting. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels you're quite a central part of what makes HN what it is. Without contributors - "guests" if you like - who add genuine value there is no community here beyond that you could find on any number of other tech/business news sites. A party with no guests ...

This an especially strange comment - perhaps an attempt at modesty - when one sees in your profile, this:

>"Must-read list: 'idlewords (emeritus), 'pbsd, 'apaprocki, 'patio11, 'gruseom, 'anigbrowl, 'mechanical_fish, 'carbocation, 'potatolicious, 'grellas, 'dctoedt, 'yummyfajitas, 'tzs, 'rayiner, 'DannyBee; Yeah, yeah yeah, 'pg too."

which rather suggests that for you these people make HN what it is, or at least are essential to giving it the twist of flavour you seek. You've got to realise that should everyone else be forced to make a list like this then you'd be on a large proportion of them, surely?

For me, I try to ignore the source of the comments before I consider them but I've been here long enough to have enjoyed many of your comments whether they added a sweet, or sour, flavour to a particular thread. Thank you.

This too shall pass and anger is probably not the right response to that passing, fair play.


That's a curious position. I've been commenting here for over 5 years, and I was reading for longer. I participate in this community in some fashion most days. If HN was taken away or ruined, I would feel I had lost an important part of my life.


Mod logs are a call to concern trolls and bike shedding.

They're usually a bad idea.

Better is to assume good faith and accept that mistakes happen, rather than assume mods need to be kept in check and all actions need to be scrutinised.


I don't know. Concern trolls and bike shedding already happens here. Given the conspiratorial nature of some of the community, maybe a bit more transparency is a good idea.

Although, where this would really be useful is with banning. Unfortunately, banned users aren't supposed to know they're banned and being able to actually see what straw broke the camel's back might give the game away. But it might help demonstrate to users what's expected of them.


> banned users aren't supposed to know they're banned

As someone who has been on the receiving end of a shadow-ban several times over the years, you realize it right away if you actually pay attention. Your comments suddenly get no votes or responses.


>Better is to assume good faith and accept that mistakes happen

This leaves no room for improvement of the moderation that does occur. This could be fixed by allowing people with 5000+ karma or so to see the mod logs.


A log of moderator actions seems like an invitation to many years of debate over the moderator's actions.

If that's the price to be paid for transparency, I think it's worth it. The idea of a cabal of mysterious insiders ,pulling the strings while the rank-and-file plebians stay in the dark, blissfully unaware of what's really going on, - sounds more like the plot for a (bad) cyberpunk movie, than a desirable model for real life. It also strikes me as pretty close to diametrically opposed to the "hacker ethic".


HN isn't real life though! It's not a democracy, and is not meant to be all things to all people.


True, true... But I think (some|most|a lot) of us see it as something of a microcosm of real life, and base some our (hopes|expectations|whatever) in terms of real life "things".


I would agree IFF there were a lot of moderators. As it is, there's no real need for accountability because there is no accountability (and there doesn't need to be).




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