Right! Let me try to set you at ease, at least a little. Yes, we will make an effort to make moderation more transparent.
In fact, we already have. It was my decision that PG should out me as moderator, and that was mainly so I'll be able to answer users' questions.
I think your points are mostly correct and entirely understandable. Qua user, I feel pretty similarly, so I don't anticipate much trouble seeing eye to eye about this in the long run. I'm optimistic that we can eventually please both the bulk and the core of the community—though that will still be far from everybody.
Also, there's no one on the team arguing for secrecy. The question is not whether to be more transparent, but how.
A few points from the moderation side.
You should know that what appears to be HN's "secrecy" has in reality mostly been extremely limited bandwidth. For most of HN's existence, PG ran it at the same time as he was building YC plus having two kids. That made for an awful lot of dropped packets. One might argue that he should have handed HN off sooner, and one would in my opinion be completely wrong about that. So without HN's "secrecy" there would have been no HN.
Second, it's been true for a long time that you can get answers by emailing info@yc. (We're going to change that to hn@yc, but that's not up yet; I'll add it to my profile when it is.) I'll be taking over the HN-related emails from Tara, who has been valiant but will soon be relieved.
I intend to be a lot more responsive in the threads, partly because we know that community concerns around transparency need addressing, so we'll make a priority of it, but also for two non-obvious reasons: (1) I've written software for navigating and moderating HN very quickly, and (2) I type faster than PG.
Beyond that, there are a lot of questions about how to get this right. Many of the factors aren't obvious. I have more to say about this, but this comment is long enough, plus I'm tired and my brain hurts, and we'll have lots of opportunities to discuss it further.
Strongly suggest setting up http://meta.ycombinator.com for the same reasons we did so on Stack Overflow. Self governance and public discussion of policies is hugely important to sustainable community.
Thanks! This is just what I was hoping to hear and presages very well for the future of HN!
Here's an example that I've observed a few times... And I'd love to know what is actually going on in these cases...
I often submit articles with a slightly tweaked title. Eventually, a mod (you, I guess!) gets a'fixing and the title is fixed to be exactly the one on swombat.com (the rationale for that is slightly dubious seeing as I'm both the writer and the submitter in some of those cases, but let's pass on that!). What I've noticed several times is that at the same time as the title being fixed, the article suddenly dropped 10 or sometimes many more places...
It's easy to interpret that as "moderator didn't like my article!"... But what is it really?
I don't remember any specific examples, but there are different sorts of moderation decisions we make, and it's not uncommon to make more than one of them at once. If you want to discuss specific examples, email me.
Also, I'm going to be the head moderator for a while, but not the only moderator. I'll answer the questions, but not necessarily do everything.
Title changes are a topic unto themselves and we'll probably have a dedicated discussion about them. We're not going to change the policy; the policy has far, far more benefit than cost for HN. The trouble is that the costs are visible ("hey who changed my title") while the benefits are all just taken for granted. With that kind of accounting, anything will seem bad.
What we can do is have a way for title changes to show up for users who want to know about them.
We often combine a title and subtitle for this reason. What we strive not to do is make stuff up. The key to a good HN title change is that it is made out of pieces already there: doc, h1, and h2 elements, mostly; or the first sentence of the story, if necessary. If the original title is misleading or linkbait, that is how we change it. But if the original title isn't misleading or linkbait, we don't change it at all.
2 of the most common reasons that make people think mods are randomly killing stories which they don't like:
1. People sharing direct links to their HN submission, asking their friends to upvote. I believe the HN algorithm auto-flags such posts.
Most people don't know about this, so they assume the worst (PG killed it because he didn't like the article/author). Those who do know about this now get around by telling people "Go to /newest and look for my submission".
Most times people just want their friends to upvote the submission, but sometimes people are genuinely seeking comments on their submission.
I don't know the solution but the current way of dealing with this is too heavy-handed and causes a broken user experience.
[EDIT: What if you merely reduced the weight of votes from direct link visits, instead of flagging the post?]
2. Users can themselves flag stories off the homepage! Again, it appears that most people don't know about this. So, even a story which got to the homepage in a legit way, sometimes gets flagged off because enough people think it's lame. This has happened a number of times for controversial topics like sexism in tech.
Once again, outsiders assume it's because HN mods are horrible people.
Finally, I think PG's inclination has always been to fix HN's problems with software, but what it needs is more human solutions, not more code.
May I suggest that the new approve-a-comment software seems ideally placed for any meta-thread talking about moderator actions. I would love to see why a moderator took action, and even some valuable commentary on that - but the ability to vote to stop such a thread degenerating into uselessness seems the best use of self-policing.
The silent majority want HN to be the best it can be - and we are quite willing to help, as long as it's not that much effort :-)