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An Update on HN Comments
339 points by sama on Apr 17, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 262 comments
Several people have mentioned to me that the comments on Hacker News seem much better recently, and asked me what changed. As far as I can tell, two of our experiments are working.

The first is posting feedback in the threads about what's good and bad for HN comments. Right now, dang is the only one doing this, but other moderators may in the future. We've learned some things about how to do it: 1) the feedback should be as neutral as possible; 2) it should be about the comment, not the commenter; and 3) where possible, it should say what would make the comment better.

Other HN users have been pitching in with feedback too, which is great! If you'd like to help, please do. Just try to follow the three guidelines above.

The second experiment is a change we made to the comment scoring and ranking algorithms. These algorithms do more than just counting and sorting because pg wrote a lot of code to address systemic issues as they came up over the years. But the community doesn't stay static, so the algorithms shouldn't either.

After studying the data, dang and kogir tuned the algorithms to make some downvotes more powerful. We've been monitoring the effects of this change, and it appears to be reducing toxic comments.

The majority of HN users are thoughtful and nice. It's clear from the data that they reliably downvote jerks and trolls (and specifically, they don’t silence minority groups—we’ve looked into this). What dang and kogir found was a way to turn the volume up on this kind of downvote. We believe this has made the comment scores and rankings better reflect the community.

We will be trying a lot more experiments. We'll stop the ones that don't work and continue the ones that do.

dang and kogir, great work so far. I'm enjoying reading HN much more.

I appreciate the changes. But while we're on the topic, could I throw out a thought?

It should be easier for a late-arriver on a post to add a useful comment, and have it be promoted. Have you considered using randomization to adjust the score of certain comments?

HN comments seem to exhibit a rich-get-richer phenomenon. One early comment that is highly rated can dominate the top of the thread. (I will note that, qualitatively, this doesn't seem as bad as a few months ago.)

The problem with this approach is that late commenters are less likely to be able to meaningfully contribute to a discussion, because their comment is likely to be buried.

One thing interesting about the way FB feed appears to work is that they use randomization to test the signal strength of new posts.

Have you considered using randomization in where to display a comment? By adding variation, you should be able to capture more information from voters about the proper eventual location for a comment. It also means more variation is presented to people who are monitoring a post's comments.

On the note of the rich getting richer, it isn't only when someone arrives in a thread. Average comment score is also a big factor. The way the algorithm works is that late arriving commenters with high average comments scores can often jump ahead of older comments from users with lower comment scores.

Once example, I created a new HN account a little over a year ago to switch from a slightly unprofessional name to my current one. Some of my early comments got upvoted a decent amount giving me a higher comment score. That higher comment score led to appearing closer to the top of comment chains. That in turn resulted in more visibility and again more upvotes. I don't think the quality of comments is any different between the two accounts, but the comment score on this one is 2.5x higher simply because I started out with a lucky advantage.

I am not sure if people will view this as a problem, but I certainly wasn't aware of how big advantage having a high average comment score was until I had one.

Having a high average comment score helps a lot (maybe a bit too much as you've said) but AFAICT the average is only among relatively recent posts.

I'm pretty sure it is something like the average of your last $X posts that matters rather than average score of every post you've ever made. So while it may still result in a "rich get richer" situation, it isn't quite as dire as it would be if your entire post history worked into the average.

I have strong recent evidence of this in my own score, and It was an interesting experience for me. Lets just say my average was less than one for a while, but then climbed back quickly over the last 72 hours. Its an interesting system that really punishes the type of comments that get downvoted, and while I was upset about it for a few days I can see that it is a good system.

The last mover advantage of waiting for other people to do the heavy lifting for them and then swoop in for the win.

>...to switch from a slightly unprofessional name to my current one

I suppose it's not technically possible, but I for one would not mind a possibility to update your user name (even if only once).

I think that is a feature of limited utility. In most cases where I would want a new username, especially in the case of wanting to appear more professional, I would want a new comment history as well as a new username.

I really wish, instead (or in addition), that there was a "new" indicator so that I could quickly see recent comments. This won't do a late comer any good as all posts appear as new, but for those engaged in the thread, it would help them be able to scan and read any new comments since they last visited.

And/or indicate posts made in the past X minutes.

Maybe these could be toggle options to quickly show/hide or just shrink/lighten to the background older/read posts.

This is something I've been wanting since day one, but may impact performance too much, unless they handled the indicators/toggle client-side based on a last read timestamp cookie (or similar implementation).

Some of this (especially the new post indicators) can be provided by a Chrom{e,ium} extension I've been using called Hacker News Enhancement Suite [0].

[0] https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/bappiabcodbpphnojd...

I just installed this. How do I know when a comment is new? I just looked at a few threads i hadn't opened before and I was expecting all of them to have the "new" UI element but they all looked normal (other than the new UI that the plugin brings for all of HN)

edit: and as I post this, my own post is marked as new. For those interested, new posts seem to be denoted by an border on the left

One new experiment we're currently working on is something like that for stories. If it works for stories, we may try a variation for comments.

You're right, the problem is especially acute for story submission.

Once an article is on the frontpage, it is likely to stay there. People are much more likely to upvote a frontpage article than something in new, simply because they are far more likely to look at the frontpage.

What you really want is to estimate the probably that a reader will click and/or upvote a link, not the total number of clicks/upvotes. You might also want to discount this by time, but this discounting might not be necessary---there might be a natural decay in the probability, particularly if you compute a moving average.

If you'd like my feedback about how to model this, feel free to email me. I'm happy to provide you with a more concrete methodology.

Maybe this is what you're thinking of, but instead of randomly altering the actual score, how about randomizing just the position on a per page view per user basis?

I.e. a particular comment/story has it's normal score + X% chance of being promoted to somewhere near the top. You can vary X depending on age & actual score.

This seems much easier to implement, and many more stories/comments would get exposure (each to fewer users).

Have you considered, instead of basing rank on upvotes/time, basing it on upvotes/views? Views could be either views of the actual link, or just views of the listing page containing the story, or a combination of the two. (Of course absolute number of votes would still have to factor in somewhat so brand new stories with one vote don't jump to the top.)

Perhaps this is already happening, but my (probably simplified) understanding of the system was that it only took into account time since the story was posted, not the number of views it's had, compared to votes.

So there is something that is different with the ranking/presentation of stories?

Recently I have noticed that the front page will look dramatically different (story wise) than it did five minutes ago. By dramatically different I do not mean story #3 is #15 five minutes later, but that stories #2-12 will be completely different some of which I remember reading 8 hours before.

No, the experiment I referred to hasn't been rolled out yet. We'll post about it when it does. In the meantime it's mostly moderation as usual.

So the method for listing stories on the front page has not changed recently?


Correct...dfc, you are going crazy.

While you are here I should take the opportunity to thank you for making my favorite corner of the internet even better. Thanks dang...

That's an interesting approach; it would cause comments that are really good to float to the top no matter when they are posted. In terms of Bayes' theorem:

    P(upvote | good post) = P(good post | upvote) * P(upvote) / P(good post)  
Let's neglect that opinions vary, and assume P(good post | upvote) = 1. P(upvote) should be proportional to P(post is read); but the readership at the bottom of the page (or wherever latecomers are dropped) is quite small.

But this begs the question: what does it mean to "float to the top" if highly-rated comments are being placed in a random location?

See also: Reddit's "best" ranking for comments: http://www.redditblog.com/2009/10/reddits-new-comment-sortin...

Reddit's algorithm gets around much of the brain-damage of simple vote counts or capped moderation (e.g., the Slashdot method -- utterly broken).

What it doesn't address is the quality or relevance of the upvotes themselves. Spend much time on reddit and it's clear that there are a great many people who are voting on stories and content with little regard to its significance or truth.

As a measure of popularity or agreement, the metric is ... better than most. As an indicator of true quality it continues to inherit the faults of virtually all online moderation systems. Absent either creating a class of users who are considered "trusted moderators", or a means of finding agreement between a given reader's preferences and those of the raters indicated, that's pretty much a persistent issue. The better subreddits, in my opinion, address this through guidelines, posting policies, and very strict subreddit moderator policing: removing nonconformant or low-quality posts, banning individuals who troll or don't follow posting / commenting guidelines.

Even subreddit mods cannot change the voting on submissions or comments themselves (nor can they see who's voted on what), but they can influence what is visible within the sub -- editorial prerogative.

> The better subreddits, in my opinion, address this through guidelines, posting policies, and very strict subreddit moderator policing: removing nonconformant or low-quality posts

A moderator deleting someone's comment should be the last resort. It's irritating to spend 5 minutes writing a comment in a subreddit, press post, then see "the comment you're replying to no longer exists" because the moderator decided deleting a thread of 10 comments was more appropriate than taking some time to write a comment with their own opinion. It's also irritating when one's own comment with 4 upvotes is deleted while someone else's comment with 6 downvotes remains untouched although collapsed. This recently happened to me twice, a week apart, on a subreddit I'd been visiting intermittently for the last 4 yrs, and very occasionally commenting in, without any trouble.

> Even subreddit mods cannot change the voting on submissions

Perhaps this is the real reason a subreddit moderator deletes upvoted comments they don't agree with, while leaving downvoted ones. Downvoting and replying should be the means to control quality, with a moderator deleting a comment as the last resort.

AskScience and AskHistorians regularly delete comments. Both are intended for the serious discussion of the topic at hand. Hell, they'll even delete comments which are serious but don't reference their sources. I've had this done to a few of my own comments. The mods are fair-handed about this, and point to the rules. The result is a good experience and high level of discourse.

The tune's a bit different in /r/economics, where while posts aren't deleted, there's a very strong bias toward economic orthodoxy, despite the many, many, many flaws it contains (full disclosure: my degree is in economics).

For my own subreddit, the focus is on intelligent discussion. I make no bones about deleting trolls, or even just vapid comments. I'm not looking to win any popularity contests.

Some sub reddits make it clear that they delete a lot of comments. (Askscience is one example). This is great. A well crafted answer to a deleted post is still useful - someone has a mistaken idea about science and that is deleted while your well crafted post corrects the myth.

And in some subs it is iust a lot easier to delete posts that are almost trolling than to allow a large angry thread to spawn. Often those are the same tedious meta topics, or very simple beginner topics, that have been covered very many times and which are not interesting but which are flamebaity.

Yes, every commenting system which has an 'upvotes' system should learn from reddit's sorting, because it's the only major one I've seen so far which takes care of this 'problem' of early comments get more votes, later ones get buried.

Would it be possible to use that algorithm and get the same sort of 95% confidence here given that many people can't downvote?

It would be cool if HN opened up a read API so that folks could build alternate frontends / scoring algos.

This is planned.

Cool. Looking forward to it.

Is there a resource on how much karma you need to do what on HN and what the username colors mean? I assume green is new, blue is a couple months old and grey is even older?

Not that I'm aware of. Also, I've never actually seen blue, somehow. I believe that downvoting comes in around 500 at this time.

But green is not reliably "new". It tends to be strongly correlated to newly created accounts, but I've seen weird behavior (like a child comment is marked green... whereas the comment thread was started by the same commenter in gray in the first place), which leads me to believe there's something subtler going on. I thus have no idea what the difference in color is supposed to indicate at all.

I don't think you can fix these problems without totally changing the way HN works. The "News" in "Hacker News" means that current topics will always be prioritized over a long term discussion, pushing relatively healthy topics off the front page. The threaded Reddit-esque conversation model makes it incredibly painful to follow any modest conversation or even just read them after the fact. That comments are ranked in addition to this, unlike a mailing list, just makes it even harder to follow, because everything is constantly jumping around the page. The upvote system gets into your subconscious; as much as I tell myself that the points don't mean anything, it's hard not to feel bad when your highest rated comments are snarky one liners and the ones you actually put some time into rarely get any. Sometimes I find myself spending 15+ minutes writing a comment just to delete it because it "isn't good enough," despite being relevant to the thread and possibly helpful. We pay lip service to the benefits of long form writing and thoughtful conversation on a site that is designed to bury them.

The Reddit discussion model is completely oriented towards providing the fast food of news commentary, where your enjoyment of the first look you take at a comment page is prioritized over active participation. That's great if you're trying to attach ads to pictures of cats, but if you're trying to have a real conversation, it just gets in the way. I can read, I don't need an algorithm to tell me which comments are notable and which ones are junk. If I see a troll post on any other site, I don't seize up and have an aneurism, I just scroll past it.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I can easily follow 50+ page PHPbb threads that drag on for months or even years, or 4chan threads with hundreds of posts and more on the way every time you refresh, but a small conversation (in reality; I considered it huge by my HN standards) I had on here the other day with about 10 comments or so made my head spin. I wrote half the posts and it was still hard to follow! Oh, and of course, no one but the people I responded to will ever read the things I wrote hours after the thread dropped off the front page.

I think that the community, not the particulars of the software, is the reason for this site's success, and things would have turned out the same or better if it were a barebones BBS with a flat discussion model. You don't need complex ranking systems or update notifiers to browse those, you just need to be able to scroll down.

There are indeed many proponents of flat discussion models. The most famous of them is probably Jeff Atwood, cofounder of Stack Overflow:


But one major disadvantage of a flat BBS is that after a while, it becomes difficult to keep track of who's replying to whom. This is especially dreadful when two or more discussions are going on at the same time and they get interleaved; it's catastrophic when the moderators merge several loosely related threads. That's why most forum users make extensive use of quotes. Without quotes, you quickly lose context. So after a few pages, half the text on the page is made up of quotes nested inside one another. A forum archive will probably compress very well ;)

Of course, this can probably be fixed with a better UI. But if so, the threaded discussion model could also be greatly improved by a better UI. So I think it all ultimately boils down to how good the UI is. The ability to highlight new comments and collapse threads, for example, will probably help a lot. I also like the way Reddit notifies you of replies. It helps you avoid missing replies in the mess of a large thread.

> I also like the way Reddit notifies you of replies.

This is one thing I wish HN did. This is a good post, and I care far more about the replies I get here (when I have generally at least tried to provide thoughtful input) than the ones I get on reddit, but those confront me more directly as a result of the UI.

I use http://hnnotify.com/, it seems to work pretty well.

Me to. Same thing with mobile. There are services/apps/sites for it, but you need to know the possibility exist. I see requests for 'notify on comment' and 'mobile-view' pop up every once in a while. I understand HN doesn't feel a need to provide extra services beyond this site, but it would help a lot of (new) people if there was a way to show them that, yes, you can receive a notification and you can have a good mobile experience on HN.

I just use the "Threads" link at the top of the page.

Yeah, I feel that pain when browsing PHPbb-style forums and reading mailing lists, but the 4chan/2chan/futaba UI solved this problem over a decade ago.[1] Each post has an associated number, and clicking it inserts a >>[post number] link into your comment. You can then hover over the >>links in any post to see a floating preview of the post in question, or click the link to be taken to the post directly. Any links to your posts have (You) next to them to make it easier to know when someone is replying to you. At the top of every post is a link to every post that linked to it. In addition, if you're replying to a large post, or one that contained multiple side conversations in it, it's common courtesy to include a small literal quote under the quote link.

Put it all together and a typical thread might look something like this:

  Anonymous No. 1   Replies: >>2, >>3
    I like posting here a lot better than posting on Hacker news.
  Anonymous No. 2
    For what reason, >>1_(You)?

  Bob Saget No. 3   Replies: >>4
    I don't really like multi-threaded discussion models either. Way too hard for me to follow.

  Anonymous No. 4
    >I don't really like multi-threaded discussion models either. Way too hard for me to follow.
    I strongly disagree, you are stupid.
With this system, I find it very easy to navigate anything from month-long threads with medium to large sized posts and very linear conversations, to threads that last a few hours and accumulate hundreds of small to medium sized posts that span dozens of simultaneous conversations.

>I also like the way Reddit notifies you of replies. It helps you avoid missing replies in the mess of a large thread.

4chan has a few similar systems. You can set a thread to automatically update every few seconds, or you can "watch" a thread so that even if you close the tab, you can see when new posts arrive. Also, in addition to the (You) next to links to your posts, when a thread updates, any posts that link to your posts are colored differently until you scroll past them. So these systems make it easy to follow entire threads in progress, not just the people directly talking to you.

I totally get that 4chan and company are not everyone's thing, but I don't understand why very few sites that aren't already 2chan or futaba clones borrow elements from its design. They're very usable while being minimalistic and low-tech; even without javascript and most of the goodies I mentioned disabled, its still very easy to use. Meanwhile, web forums are huge and clunky and filled to the brim with verbatim block quotes and obnoxious avatars, the average mailing list email is an enormous email quote followed by a single line of commentary, etc...

I thought HN already did this. At least new comments usually appear at the top of the thread and then gradually fall if they don't get any upvotes.

Someone made a post about your suggestion here: http://danluu.com/randomize-hn/

And another person suggested an even better algorithm here: http://www.bayesianwitch.com/blog/2013/why_hn_shouldnt_use_r...

Yes. That is what they do. Or used to do.

"It should be easier for a late-arriver on a post to add a useful comment, and have it be promoted"

That'd be nice, but not important enough to the discussion for me to recommend a feature. It'd just encourage threads to last even longer and with even more bickering.

I'd love to able to fold a nested conversation once I think that particular branch is going nowhere. HN should treat the folding as a signal similar to a down vote on that particular sub-thread. I often don't think any particular comment warrants a down vote, so I have no way to tell HN that the thread should be pushed back.

Plus everyone has been asking for a way to collapse sub-comments (and many plugins do it already).

Personally, I fold almost everything once I've finished reading it. I don't think it's a a very strong signal about the quality of the comments.

On reddit, I often collapse long threads of comments if I'm bored of reading them (I have neither the time nor the attention span). It has no bearing on their quality.

Something that I always found a problem was getting "stuck" in the middle of a huge comment chain of irrelevant content, so I made a chrome extension to fix it:


That looks fantastic. If I used Chrome I might even use it.

Its aesthetics are, well, not the best, though. Consider just a solid line?

Yeah, I need to work on it some more ... that's top of the list!

On reddit, I find [personally] most of these threads are never-ending chains of well-trodden memes or loops; this isn't something usually encouraged on Hacker News. If a thread is boring or doesn't pique curiosity it probably isn't too encouraging.

I do that too as far as Reddit, but I agree w/ OP. Reddit-style collapsing is useful for reading & skimming but it doesn't persist across browsing sessions. On the other hand, the 4chan UI will hide a thread and all its updates forever. Sort of like if you could collapse/downvote reddit headlines off the front page. (is there a plugin for that?)

HackerNew (apologies for my inability to present this link elegantly) https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/hackernew/lgoghlnd... allows folding and dynamic loading, similar to RES. It also increases the font size slightly by default, which I am embarrassed to admit is rather nice.

[HIDE] on reddit will remove these stories and comments from your view.

Collapsible comments, please!

I've been using the Hacker News Enhancement Suite extension for Chrome with pretty good success.


I discovered HN Special for Chrome a week or two ago, and I'll never go back. It adds every feature I've ever wanted (better, higher-contrast design; foldable comments; user info hovers, etc).


Interesting note: the same guy who wrote the original 2048 game wrote that Chrome Extension! Pretty great stuff.

HNES is the best, I hate using Hacker News on computers where I cant install my own Chrome extensions because of this.

Disclosure: I've contributed to HNES before.

(You mention they exist, but here's an open source plugin that does comment folding and nothing else: https://github.com/andrewheins/HN-Comment-Hider)

Awesome! I've been waiting for a long time for the HN guys to implement this (though dang notes in a sibling comment it's probably coming, sweet!), didn't even think about greasemonkey...

I've made a few tiny edits so that it works with https (the github repo has this, but not on userscripts.org), as well as the threads page. Also, I put slightly less space between the [-] and the commenter name, it looks a bit better/more reddity.

I didn't bother making it work for anything but the greasemonkey script, or trying to upload it to userscripts.org. But it might still be useful: https://github.com/zwegner/HN-Comment-Hider

Treating folding as a downvote-like signal is interesting, but I would like the ability to collapse without it being treated similar to a downvote. Collapsing a branch would be useful in long threads even for branches about which I could not justify sending a negative signal.

Collapsible comments would be awesome, but having them count as a downvote wouldn't make sense to me. There are other reasons to want to fold a thread.

Agreed, folding shouldn't count as a down vote. However, in aggregate, if 100 users all folded a thread around the same half-way point, it's telling you something.

Yes, but to me, it's still too ambiguous without correlating it to downvotes - there would be a lot of noise to sort through from people closing threads just because they've read them, or don't find them interesting but not necessarily objectionable, or whatever.

Also, thread folding is reversible - maybe someone folds a thread but decides to periodically check it* if you count folded threads against it you have to recount every time someone reopens a thread as well. Downvotes, at least, are meant to be explicit and non-reversible, in that you can't directly un-downvote something (unless you can at some mystical karma level)

I can see how in extreme cases it would be a signifier but I don't really see many of those cases which wouldn't also have a lot of downvotes anyway, so i'm thinking it would be repeated work.

* a feature to let you peek at the last posted comment in a folded thread, btw, might be very handy...

Agreed. Something along these lines is very likely.

collapsing/folding would solve the 'rich get richer' problem as well

the reason comments at the top stay at the top is because of scrolling attrition -- the more you make people scroll to see more comments, the less they're likely to do it.

if comment threads collapsed like reddit (for example) then they'd be much easier to read through -- giving more exposure to new / low voted comments near the bottom

On reddit, I collapse conversations to show myself that I've read as much of that thread as I want to, not that I have any particular problem with it. I'll do it for a variety of reasons, the conversation strays into a topic I'm not interested in, or gets too technical. For me, collapsing is a positive, it means I read the thread instead of just passing it by.

While I support introducing collapsible threads, I don't think they should have any weight on the ranking.

I would like the same feature, but for a different reason:

The ability to collapse the top thread would help the next thread (and all subsequent threads) get some much needed visibility. Right now, the top comment and its replies often take up so much vertical space that I get tired before I ever get to the second thread.

"Hide" after "link" would be handy.

dang and kogir tuned the algorithms to make some downvotes more powerful. We've been monitoring the effects of this change, and it appears to be reducing toxic comments.

That's interesting to me because I find myself downvoting much more often than I used to. But the comments I downvote are not that often toxic in the sense of being nasty. They're more often low-content or low-value comments that don't add to the conversation.

The jerks and trolls are out there but I'm not positive they're most pernicious problem.

I am very circumspect about downvoting, and rarely do it as I am still unsure of the criteria. I rarely have the opportunity to downvote vitriol and trolls, as others have usually done that and there seems little point in piling on.

I personally have a much higher threshold for comments which are worded aggressively, sarcastically, or humorously. I occasionally find myself upvoting comments which have been downvoted by the community due to "tone," if I think the core statement has a bunch of validity.

Where I am most tempted to downvote is statements that repeat sticky memes that have been repeatedly disproven, but "sound true" within areas I have the most expertise, especially when they are presented as fact. Those kinds of comments lower the bar more than any other, IMO, by forcing a debate over whether the sky is in fact blue every single time the community attempts to discuss weather patterns and cloud formation. However, it is unclear to me whether that is valid criteria for downvoting, so I rarely even do that.

TL;DR I am unsure when to downvote so I mostly don't.

The criteria for downvoting is simply "do you feel like downvoting". pg stated a while back that it is perfectly HN-acceptable to use the downvote as a mere statement of disagreement. I haven't noticed any forum staff mention otherwise.

I've seen downvotes on my comments even when they're neutral statements of fact ("dang is a moderator, recently announced" got a downvote from some HN denizen). Most people seem to follow the criterion you lay out though. Ultimately if a good comment gets a downmod that makes it less visible (why, oh why, does only one single downmod do this?) someone else usually comes along and 'corrects' it back to normal visibility.

Some original guidelines suggest it was ok to down vote for disagreement but I'm not sure "perfectly acceptable" would be the best way to put it. And more recently I believe he was even less encouraging of the practice. My own view is that down voting should never be used for simple disagreement (as long as argument is decent and good faith).

I'd agree with that. Comments I disagree with that are well-thought-out often add a lot to a discussion, or at least to my understanding of what's going on and other people's points of view.

I do tend to downvote comments that contain obvious factually-incorrect information, though, even if the information seems to have been provided in good faith.

How often do you upvote comments like that? Those comments you disagree with, yet are well-thought-out, add a lot to the discussion or at least your understanding of what's going on and other people's points of view.

I don't think people do that enough and it leads to comment-bloat. "I'll make my point and then add in a platitude to draw in the upvotes, hopefully balancing out the downvotes I'll get for my opinion."

I'm probably slightly biased toward upvoting comments that I agree with, assuming similar good quality, but I tend to upvote comments I disagree with fairly often as well.

Well, 'perfectly acceptable' doesn't mean 'actively encouraged'. If you don't have a problem with something, it's acceptable to you, whether or not you endorse it.

I haven't seen a recent comment where pg spoke against the practise, but it'd be very easy to miss in the firehose of content (which is why I specified 'I haven't noticed'). Do you have a link to the relevant post?

I downvote when I think it might make HN better, or at least keep it from getting worse. Sometimes this means I downvote just because it can substitute for some stupid reaction I might post in response.

In other contexts, I often have a much higher threshold both for what I think is appropriate and how much civility plays a role in filtering what I post. But that's because elsewhere on the internet incivility often provides a substantial portion of the entertainment value. On HN, the entertainment value is largely in thoughtful discourse.

I tend to downvote when someone is mean spirited, overly pedantic or takes the discussion off topic in an unproductive manner. Or if it appears that the commenter has not read and considered the comments/article that preceded his/her comment.

Are you saying the are not as pernicious because they are not as common?

I down vote the same as you, but I would hesitate to assume that the algorithms are tuned one way or the other. In reality it's probably more about velocity or even the voter.

I have noticed the absence of low value comments near the top (except in fresh threads) so to me, it's working.

I think the hardest behaviors to manage are the marginal ones, such as the mechanical turk who calculates how little work he can do and not get kicked.

I think he's agreeing with the absence of low value comments near the top but suggesting that comments that may add value are being forced from the top.

Yeah, lower-content posts, narcissists, etc. I find more harmful in watering down the content than the obvious trolls or "cruel" posters, which don't tend to last as long.

The community is nice, but I'd rather focus on the interesting comments and stories I wouldn't see on any other site.

When do you get the ability to downvote?

The threshold has been 500 karma for years. We've got some ideas for lowering that, actually.

It's actually 501.

(I spent a few days at exactly 500 wondering why I couldn't downvote yet...)

  (> (karma user) downvote-threshold*)
Right you are.

Is HN open source?

It was open-sourced at least two years ago[0]. I believe it hasn't been since to prevent gaming of the system, but I don't remember where I heard that.

[0] Based on this handy Github repository: https://github.com/wting/hackernews Original: http://arclanguage.org/install

No, but dang's a mod, so he has access to the source code.

I wonder whether being able to downvote makes you a more thoughtful commentor. Perhaps run an analysis on quality of comments (maybe as simple as avg. karma per comment) 400 to 500 vs. 500 to 600?

Perhaps not a good thing to admit:

I have a couple of handles* on HN. One of them is this one, which has enough karma to downvote, and the other has too little karma to downvote. After being really thoroughly raked over the coals for a time, I began mostly logging in under my other handle in part because some people had been really horrible to me and I found myself going "YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE -- DOWNVOTE!" I didn't like interacting with the site that way and was also worried it would have negative consequences for me personally, especially since pg was not handling things in a transparent manner and there was no clear, easy way to get with a mod and sort anything out. I returned to active use of this handle at a point where I was less bitter and also the culture seemed less toxic and I no longer felt like I was just being consistently shit on, all the time. So that isn't an issue for me anymore.

And my main point is that moderating is a human thing. Karma and other technical tools are just that -- tools. There are no magic solutions. Algorithms and what not have their uses but we are all human and building community is more about how people treat each other and making judgment calls and all that then about any specific technical anything.

* This is not a secret and there is no reason to believe they cannot be readily connected to each other -- it was not done to fool anyone here, it was done for other reasons.

Downvoting is still abused IMO; people who simply disagree with you will downvote without explanation.

If they wanted to make an adjustment to the downvote karma threshold, I would suggest "require comment with down-vote" would be an interesting thing to test.

To me, the sets of "downvote-worthy" and "response-worthy" comments overlap very little. I downvote when a comment is not even wrong. When I comment in response to another comment, it's because I've seen some sign that the other person might be interesting, correct, amusing, curious, or any combination of those. A requirement to compose "justification" comments would just about end my downvoting.

Why? If it's so cut and dry, it should not be a problem to explain this.

I would of course assume that less people downvoting + more specific complaints would lead to more moderator action on the more obnoxious/distracting posters, if that wasn't the case I wouldn't recommend the change either.

They're supposed to do that. It's an HN norm. A downvote is better than a boring rebuttal.

> It's an HN norm.

I'm aware this is how the majority of HN members use the down-vote feature, but the first time I've seen it presented as working-as-intended.

The fact that you're saying this makes me think we need more formal guidelines on the proper use of this feature. More often than not I see it claimed that down-voting should be an expression of "adds value" vs. "does not add value".

If I had to choose, I'd pick the latter.

"adds value" vs. "does not add value"

Actually, that may not be a bad way of putting it. Comments that are blatantly false do not add value. Comments that get something wrong, but are otherwise high-quality, still add value. So this distinction may capture the nuance we want here. Let's think about it.

HN discussion is only sometimes technical, mostly it's opinion, so the norms should be different.

On a site like stackoverflow where the goal isn't discussion but answers to questions it makes sense to use a combination of mostly upvotes (for good material), lack of any votes (for mediocre material), and very occasional downvotes (for actively bad/outright incorrect answers). In that case it makes sense to engage with the poster and explain the problems, which can increase the potency of the downvote by providing context, while also helping to correct the original poster's misunderstanding.

On a site like HN that is mostly just opinion and commentary those patterns don't make sense. Most of the time comments that deserve downvoting are the sort that are either poisonous to productive conversation or just so monumentally wrong they need to go away. In that case engaging with the poster is precisely the wrong course, because doing so usually exacerbates the problem. Either by validating the behavior (if it's trolling) or by dumping a side-discussion into the larger conversation and polluting the SNR.

Well, then why do you have to earn the privilege to downvote after 501 karma?

Your karma is proof of your ability to judge a comment without the need to refute it, whereas anyone with <501 karma should only be left the opposite?

I don't know what the karma threshold has to do with the norm, but it's a norm because Paul Graham said it is.

It would be a neat thing to test for DH1 and above comments. But do you really want to have to comment on "The author is a self-important dilettante" or "u r a fag!!!!!" However maybe I should be flagging these comments instead of downvoting them?

I've had comments downvoted that might have expressed an unpopular but not necessarily wrong opinion. Getting downvoted with no comments as to why is really frustrating. Especially if I'm making a good-faith effort to participate honestly rather than trolling or whatever.

I get that not all downvotes NEED a comment categorically but there's some meat on the "downvotes deserve comments" bones.

Yes, and it's especially frustrating when you are a newer user and trying to "learn the rules" and contribute constructively. Although I understand HN is cautious about welcoming new users in general, it probably ought to welcome more warmly new users who are trying to be constructive.

Also: A couple times I have accidentally hit the down arrow. There is no undo. How does this relate to comment quality? The only remedy is to add a "Sorry, I downvoted you accidentally" comment, which I've seen people do. Although it's good etiquette that's a relatively low-quality comment.

I think that downvotes without context or downvotes without comments would me more tolerable if downvotes didn't also automatically white out text - maybe there should be a margin of two or three before that happens to allow for the inevitable drive-bys and people who just don't like what you say but don't care enough to refute it.

Requiring justification is a super bad idea. Some people will just not get on well and being able to downvote anonymously and move on is probably about the least harmful way for two people with unresolvable personal friction to deal with each other. You are basically asking for shitshows here, which is very much the opposite of the goal of the culture and I think would drive off a lot of people.

Being on both sides of the table is always instructive. I'm sure voting has made me more thoughtful. Hours spent considering comments that combine a useful insight with snarkiness and deciding whether to up- or down-vote them has made me lastingly less snarky on the internet.

Possibly. But I think people shouldn't be able to up or down vote on threads they're in, it's a conflict of interest. (If they did vote, give it back to be fair.)

One of the things I noticed was that when I was just over the threshold I was more choosy about downvoting because each downvote reduced your karma by one (so over-zealous downvoting would result in you losing the ability to downvote).

I don't think I've ever seen this. I don't downvote all that much but my karma seems to stay the same if I do.

Once you get 500 karma, you are able to down-vote (with certain restrictions).

Yes, the restrictions are interesting -- I've personally noticed (corrections/additions welcome):

- Cannot downvote comments in threads older than 24 hours

- Cannot downvote comments in response to you

You might be holding on to 'outdated' definitions. Here they are as they stand now:

Troll: Disagrees with individual or community. No/little/inadequate attempt to soothe egos potentially damaged.

Toxic: Disagrees and presents an alternative that is dangerous to the ego of the individual or community.

This comment is now considered "trolling" and I, a "troll".

Edit: An especially correct "troll" (as above) can be promoted to "toxic" without presenting an alternative if the disagreement is particularly damaging to the ego of individual or community.

"Troll: Disagrees with individual or community."

It's not that they disagree or "hold an unpopular opinion", it's how they express said opinion.

Some people can champion unpopular opinions in insightful and interesting manners. Others are kneejerk contrarians and collect opinions that are likely to get themselves the negative attention they seek.

While on the subject of HN comments, I have a request: could the "avg" score for a user be readdressed?

The avg score is the average amount of points from the previous X comments a user has made. However, this disincentivizes user from posting in new threads which are unlikely to receive upvotes. I've lessened my own commenting in new threads because of this.

I'm surprised that you would consciously not post comments to keep your average score up. The goal here is not the score; the goal is civil and interesting discussion. Comment scores are a means to achieve that goal.

Anytime there is a proxy metric, quirky incentives will crop up. (Such as lines-of-code as a metric of productivity; time spent in office as metric of work commitment; comment average score as metric of contribution to civil and interesting discussion.) My hope would be that when possible, people would realize that the metric used is not the real goal, and make conscious choices which get us closer to the real goal, but are irrational if we only value the metric itself.

I will also point out that your username was not lost on me.

It is relevant, however, if the avg metric is being used for the new HN algorithms.

None of our recent changes consider avg. I personally never look at it and forgot it was even a thing.

Does the average comment score still have some effect on placement among siblings within a thread? I had noticed that in the past.

That's very good to hear! :)

That's enough to encourage a change to my commenting habits, anyways.

Avg is very important, i had an account a few years ago that was a few years old. I made one to many "bad" comments without thinking, and I got shadow banned.

I suspect that your average score had nothing to do with the action taken against you. Rather, it was the accumulation of a certain number of "bad" comments. I also suspect that there was a human-in-the-loop.

Your point is well taken. It is up to each user to decide whether or not this is a disincentive to commenting in a particular thread.

I use fluctuations in my comment karma average as a reality check on how I am doing recently in making constructive, helpful comments. But I burn average karma sometimes in

a) mentioning duplicate submissions (this kind of comment rarely gets an upvote, although I try to upvote most of Colin Wright's comments of the same kind)


b) answering direct follow-up questions someone asks me (which often aren't even upvoted by the person who asked the question).

You can tell I care (at least a little) by the examples I'm providing here, but I try not to worry about it too much. The single best thing to do for average comment karma score (for whatever that's worth) appears to be to make consistently good comments.

To not discourage commenting in low-view threads, should we divide each comment's score by the number of views of the thread? Or probably by some nonlinear function that estimates comment voting activity as a function of views.

My gut feeling is that my average karma at any given moment has far less influence on the rate at which I accumulate karma than the quality of what I write, where I write it, and how I edit it.

It's not that I think page placement doesn't have an effect, it's that writing a ten point comment when my average was two still tended earn ten points. Likewise my three point comments when my average is four tend to earn three points.

That said, the habit of deleting my more or less useless comments is a practice that became more permanent at a time when I was attempting to stay above four. But the idea that I was not helping people because I was worried about average internet points, became too strange...my worrying about accumulating internet points turned out to be absurd enough for me. So that's the absurdity I stick with.

Anyway, I understand where you are coming from and I suspect that you'll let yourself fully enjoy HN again.

You are looking at it the wrong way. You should comment when you feel the need to add value to the discussion. In fact, the more good/meaningful comments you post, the more chance you have to get upvoted and actually increase you average over time.

In my experience, this is a semi-truthful account of how karma on HN is awarded.

I say semi-true in the sense that it's not wholly inaccurate. Valuable and thoughtful posts are rewarded and up-voted.

However, if my goal were to game the system for maximum karma per unit of time & post, I would contribute comments to hot-button issues that were in line with the prevailing mentality.

This is not to be facetious at all. I'm sure the moderators are well aware of this, but it's quite astounding how many up-votes are thrown around in discussions on polarizing topics (e.g. gender issues, NSA surveillance, etc.).

In my experience, up/down votes correlate more closely to agreement/disagreement than to whether they are good or meaningful. Knowing the audience of HN is often more important than adding to the discussion. That doesn't mean that good or meaningful comments are useless. But if you do present a good and meaningful argument that goes against the majority, you will often be silenced. This frequently results in that person deleting their comment as the downvotes accumulate. I'm not sure how this is accounted for in the statistics of the site.

The amount of upvotes a comment earns is a function of how many upvotes the parent submission receives. (Makes sense: the more upvotes the parent receives, the more people will see your comment)

Often I see threads in new submissions which ask for quick feedback to a startup idea or blog post. They would never get upvotes enough to hit the front page normally, and so I would rarely get more than 1-2 upvotes for them.

I used to do that, but my clear impression was that pandering to Silicon Valley trope was a more consistent way to have votes. I repeatedly got bad scores when pointing at problematic misuses of statistics, and unhelpful US-centric focus. I hesitated to keep on, but I stopped both when I learned my score affected my ability to contribute.

I used to worry about that as well, but then I found when I tried to make comments really meaningful and useful, I couldn't quite get them just right.

Now I view comments as a means of continuous practice, so even if there's no recognition by means of votes, I'm still improving my ability to contribute positively.

It also appears to be a trimmed mean, removing outliers. That one amazing comment I made didn't seem to matter at all!

I agree, it would be nice to address this, although I have a feeling I really shouldn't care.

posted elsewhere in this thread - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7606784

re: deleted comments should still count toward karma

>The other day I saw a user making comments that struck me as factually questionable. I'm not an expert in that field, so I asked for an explanation. The user had an avg over 5, so there was reason to believe the user might have known something I didn't. All of a sudden, the user's comments on that topic started getting downvoted. Despite the initial downvotes one of the comments was still at the top of the thread (my understanding is that a user's avg impacts the comment ordering). The user never responded to requests for more information or reputable sources, and then all of a sudden, all of his/her comments on that thread were deleted.

>Curious, I went and looked up the user's previous comments. In multiple fields this person put on an air of expertise. Maybe he/she is and then again, maybe not. But the comments were almost all disparaging, with this air of expertise. So, the user makes definitive claims that come across like an expert, if their comments start getting downvoted, they delete the comment and don't get penalized. Otherwise, they reap in the upvotes and have an avg that appears to the world to justify their expertise.

Great username/post combo there

I wish there were multiple kinds of downvotes. "This is actually bad" (spam, etc.) vs. merely useless, vs. factually incorrect but reasonably presented.

I mostly only downvote spam or abuse; I try to ignore "no-op" comments, and would rather reply to someone with information about why they might be wrong vs. downvote, but I'm not sure if this is universal.

I wish there were multiple kinds of downvotes. "This is actually bad" (spam, etc.) vs. merely useless, vs. factually incorrect but reasonably presented.

There's arguments for and against that.

On the one hand, we do want to minimize the mental effort put into making a valid vote by a good community member. Up/Down is the simplest, and it is mentally the easiest. When you ask someone to put that vote into a category, that person may or may not then choose to vote at all, and we've missed the opportunity to capture a bit of information.

On the other hand, requiring a little bit more thinking effort may yield more information on average, and help better quality comments rise.

We do kind of have a two-tier vote system now anyway. You can downvote a comment that is just crap. And you can flag a comment that is awful (spam, etc.).

Upvoting should be lightweight, but I'm ok with downvoting requiring slightly more effort (picking a reason).

I probably upvote 20x more than I downvote, if not more. (this would be an interesting statistic to show the user on his own profile page, or even to make globally visible).

>but I'm ok with downvoting requiring slightly more effort (picking a reason).

How about downvoting requiring a reply? I reply to everyone I downvote, the exception being copypasta, strictly-copypasta. A one-word variation on copypasta gets a reply.

Be anti-echo.

> I reply to everyone I downvote

Thanks for doing that. I really hate it when a comment that I put some thought into gets downvoted without a single reply. I'm pretty sure I didn't do anything obviously wrong, so if somebody still doesn't like my comment (e.g. they have a reasonable disagreement), I would like to know why.

Requiring downvotes to be accompanied by a reply would also make trolls hesitate before they downvote something just because. Otherwise they themselsves will be downvoted for their failure to provide adequate justification for their downvotes.

But it might also have unintended side effects. For example, all those replies will take up valuable screen space without actually adding anything useful to the discussion, especially if the downvoted comment is worthless to begin with, and especially in the downvote-the-downvote scenario that I just outlined above.

>I really hate it when a comment that I put some thought into gets downvoted without a single reply. I'm pretty sure I didn't do anything obviously wrong, so if somebody still doesn't like my comment (e.g. they have a reasonable disagreement), I would like to know why.

This is exactly why I have that personal policy. If you pass the CAPTCHA, the 'post-to-account-age' ratio, and whatever tests you took to post then you deserve a reason when someone clicks 'DOWNVOTE'. Let the software take care of the real shit-posts.

>Requiring downvotes to be accompanied by a reply would also make trolls hesitate before they downvote something just because.

If you think "trolls" are doing a statistically appreciable amount of downvoting, I would suggest they aren't. "Disagreeable" people are more interested in making their point than they are with suppressing the ability of others to make theirs.

>For example, all those replies will take up valuable screen space without actually adding anything useful to the discussion

'folding' comment branches would fix this. Not folding by default (unless nested deeply enough to justify it anyway); That's just another way to hide 'undesirable' content.

>especially if the downvoted comment is worthless to begin with, and especially in the downvote-the-downvote scenario that I just outlined above.

Put the power in the user's hands. Downvote-the-downvote comments create transparency.

"I reply to everyone I downvote"

I try to give constructive replies generally, but some people freak out over even positive advice so I just save the low-content back and forth "something is wrong on the internet I must comment on this!" that would make everyone else miserable and downvote them.

I try to avoid downvoting reasonable people.

I have the same habit as you; almost exclusively upvote.

But I do think that downvotes should require the downvoter to leave a comment-reply in order to downvote.

As opposed to selecting from a menu of reasons; they need to actually type something.

I think a menu of reasons would be a great start.

Not only does it require a bit more overhead on the downvoter's part, but the reasons can be used by the algorithm.

I also think that some sort of feedback for the comment's poster could really help comment quality.

edit to add: It also reduces the possibility for 'accidental' downvotes, which I see on a regular basis.


On a related note, deleted comments should still count toward a user's Karma and avg.

The other day I saw a user making comments that struck me as factually questionable. I'm not an expert in that field, so I asked for an explanation. The user had an avg over 5, so there was reason to believe the user might have known something I didn't. All of a sudden, the user's comments on that topic started getting downvoted. Despite the initial downvotes one of the comments was still at the top of the thread (my understanding is that a user's avg impacts the comment ordering). The user never responded to requests for more information or reputable sources, and then all of a sudden, all of his/her comments on that thread were deleted.

Curious, I went and looked up the user's previous comments. In multiple fields this person put on an air of expertise. Maybe he/she is and then again, maybe not. But the comments were almost all disparaging, with this air of expertise. So, the user makes definitive claims that come across like an expert, if their comments start getting downvoted, they delete the comment and don't get penalized. Otherwise, they reap in the upvotes and have an avg that appears to the world to justify their expertise.

I always assumed that deleted comments work the way you are suggesting. I wonder why they do not work like this?

Is the thread you are referring to the Lavabit appeal discussion?

I would love an option somewhere between a downvote and a flag. I like to be able to use downvotes almost casually, to signal that someone is wrong or even that they presented their idea poorly and should be knocked down the page. I reserve flags for serious offenses that should result in moderator action. I don't currently have a way to mark a comment as "terrible comment but is not a ban-worthy offense".

I agree. But it is possible that a 3 choice downvote would increase the number of downvotes. Many people do not downvote at the moment, but they might if they had the option to say "abusive/insulting" or "incorrect".

It would be interesting to come up with a way to vote on specific portions of a cmoment. Often when I comment, i'm putting forth many different ideas in one comment box. I don't make 5 comments to put forth 5 different ideas. But because someone disagrees with one of the parts of my comment, the whole thing is downvoted. (And I sometimes have extreme, negative and unpopular opinions, so my average is pretty crummy ;) I would like to see a way for people to show what specifically caused them to downvote; maybe that's categories, maybe voting per-line or per-paragraph, or highlighting and then downvoting?

Just for the sake of putting it under consideration:

Make this a user option. If you want fine-grained downvoting (or at least downvote confirmation), enable it in your user profile. If you don't care that much, don't.

Slashdot tried this, without much success. All the -1 mods were treated pretty interchangeably (can you distinguish between "-1, Flamebait" and "-1, Troll"? Is your distinction going to be the same as the next modder? And much of the time they were really being used as "-1, I Disagree" anyway).

As were the +1 mods, for that matter, save "+1, Funny".

I think slashdot intentionally(?) picked silly voting reasons.

Spam, Mean/Abusive/Rude, Incorrect would cover the vast majority of reasonable downvotes, I think, and are fairly distinct and intuitive. There are some gray areas about downvoting (something which is interesting but offtopic: is that spam?), but I don't think those gray areas usually are between two of these categories.

I loved when /. introduced the vote-categories, if for no other reason than it finally solved the internet humor problem for me. Some people like the joke/comedy comments that occur in discussion threads. Nine out of ten times I find them uninspired and formulaic. /.'s voting system meant that I did not have to see the "funny" comments and all of the "comedy fans" were able to get their laughs in without my downvotes.

slashdot user id = #8912

I actually thought Slashdot's way of doing it was quite effective, especially the idea of rolling moderators.

The only thing that matters is separating agree/disagree from constructive/unconstructive. (The latter is used for raising comments to the top of the thread. The former is mostly to force people to make the distinction, and maybe for getting a sense of the crowd's opinion.) None of the other distinctions are really useful for action.

There actually is a second type of downvote: if you click on the direct comment (e.g. on the 'link'), you can flag that particular comment. You should use that for the "This is actually bad" type of comments (spam, etc.)

The first class should be flagged. If you click through to the permalink for the comment, you should see a flag option.

I like that idea, and I don't think a multiple downvote system would have to be hard to implement. It would take very little change to the site, for example, to promote a system in which we flag for spam, downvote for irrelevance, and reply to posts we perceive as factually incorrect.

Maybe classification like this would be helpful: "up" (=well written/insightful/continues the discussion) xor "down" (=spam/rude/trolling/prevents discussion), "agree" xor "disagree", or "problematic" (=bad grammar/bad-language usage/logical flaws/prospect of improvement). Comments would still be mainly sorted by up/down counts, partly by the count of reported problems. The agreement-percentage will be displayed for everyone and the problems will be displayed only to the commenter so that the comment can be improved accordingly.

"make some downvotes more powerful."

Yes this will be great. Any comment that has personal attacks,abusive language, racial slurs, trolling, off-topic self-promotion/marketing etc. should allow downvotes to be more powerful. Usually, comments like these get a lot of downvotes pretty quickly but I am sure there are a few who upvote those comments as well for their own reasons.

May be comments like those should not be allowed upvotes once it reaches a number of downvotes ? Also, not sure if you guys already do this but really bad comments should be killed automatically once downvoted a certain number of times within a short time span ?

Now, when it comes to unpopular comments which are not necessarily outright bad, I am sure those are tough to program because how do you handle the sudden upvotes and downvotes at the same time ?

I've experienced minority view comments being hit with downvotes, so I'm not a fan of creating permanent statuses...or rather creating coarse rules for applying permanent status.

It is also the case that comments with poor tone can be rehabilitated and getting people to edit poorly presented thoughts to be presented more clearly and directly.

Totally this. I've normally been well received but believing state discrimination is bad regardless of what ones personal beliefs are saw a wave of down votes rain down (re: eich- don't even try to reply to that point, I've given up arguing about that here).

Hopefully the algos take into account that sometimes one just holds views which go against the community but aren't malicious.

> "make some downvotes more powerful."

> Any comment that has [xyz] should allow downvotes to be more powerful.

Hmm, that's an interesting interpretation of that phrase. I assumed that "make some downvotes more powerful" meant that more weight would be carried by some (algorithmically identified, probably based on how they voted on some manually analyzed comments) users' downvotes, or possibly by downvotes made in certain (algorithmically identified) circumstances. The following paragraph ("The majority of HN users [...] reliably downvote jerks and trolls") makes me pretty sure it's the first interpretation. Still, your comment makes me think.

For an HN change to do anything to comments identified by the fact that they contain "personal attacks, abusive language, [...]", it would have to rely on either manual tagging or algorithmic analysis of comments, and the latter would inevitably be rife with false positives. However, your comment makes me realize another option: have an algorithm somewhat-clumsily tag comments based on their content, and give the tag no direct effect, but make it cause downvotes to that comment to be more heavily weighted. It's still sort of algorithmic censorship, but it has no effect except insofar as humans manually express their intent. ... Maybe useful.

I have noticed that some unpopular opinions get many up and down votes; how should we treat these controversial comments?

I am of the opinion that downvotes on previously positive-scored comments should be regarded as suspect.

I have noticed that some unpopular opinions get many up and down votes; how should we treat these controversial comments?

I too, tend to post comments that immediately get about 3 downvotes then many more upvotes. It seems like I frequently elicit knee-jerk reactions, but then get support from others. (Who I think of as the smarter readers.)

Once in a while I post a comment that starts out in negative number territory before those smarter readers come along. :) But I think most of those cases are cases I encountered before the most recent algorithm change.

I wanted to add that I believe this to have gotten worse, perhaps since downvoting for disagreement has been more actively encouraged.

I get that too. When your comment gets negative votes it turns grey and attracts a lot of attention. More people read it out of curiosity to see what's so bad about it. In turn it attracts upvotes.

Something that I've been finding lately is that replies to my posts have been downvoted when to me they're fairly reasonable disagreements with what I said. I've actually taken to upvoting replies to me that go grey a lot of the time, even though I don't particularly agree with what they're saying.

To me it seems like a lot more stuff is getting downvoted than used to, and I'm not sure I see a meaningful pattern in the places I see it happening.

What you're seeing is a side-effect of the changes kogir and I made to the algorithms, and we share your concern about it. We're watching the negatively scored comments closely to see how much of a problem this is. The fact that this change has had the huge benefit of reducing toxic comments does not make it 100% salutary in every respect.

My current sense is that about 1% of the negatively scored comments don't deserve it. In most cases, though, when users passing by see a slightly-faded-out comment, they identify unfairness and upvote it back to par. I do that a lot myself. If enough people do this, it's the ideal solution to the problem—community practice is better than intervention. If it isn't enough, we'll eventually do more.

>My current sense is that about 1% of the negatively scored comments don't deserve it.

There is a profoundly strong confirmation bias going on in this whole thread. Not only from you and the other mods (have comments gotten better? Comments, in my opinion, have gotten significantly worse. Yes, they're "nice", but more often than not of absolutely zero information or value), but much of the feedback you get whenever you post is of the pandering, supportive, back-patting sort. Because really, what is the alternative? The likely hellbanning or slowbanning that is so often the resort of HN?

For years the same "we're tuning algorithms" argument has been plied on HN. It is transparent, and I'm surprised anyone actually still buys that.

I think I'll stick up for us a little bit here. I said "my current sense" because I like to be cautious. But I literally look at every single negatively scored comment on the site—a task akin to walking through slop—watching for cases where the downvoted comment was both substantive and civil. There aren't many of them, in my view. 1% is an overestimate. If you think I'm wrong, let's see some examples. They ought to be easy to find.

Lame comments that aren't rude but just mediocre are also a problem, and one which has been growing for years. That's not really what Sam's post was about, though. We can't solve every problem at once; we don't even know yet what will help with that one. One thing that would not have helped, though, is allowing toxic comments to run rampant. HN already lost some good users because it was heading that way, and we weren't about to let that keep happening.

Edit: By the way, since kogir and I made this scoring change, noticeably fewer accounts have been getting banned.

I find the idea that commenters with higher karma having more powerful down-votes slightly disconcerting. My fear is that if people down-vote comments that are well meaning and relevant but they disagree content we will only ever see one train of thought rise to the top of comment threads.

This could start a vicious cycle where voting cabals of power-users form. For example if Idea X becomes popular among some members of HN they will be able to always steer the discussion to talk about Idea X or down-vote a competing valid Idea Y into oblivion. Comment readers could be converted to Idea X, as it is always appearing at the top of relevant comment threads. So now the voting cabal as even more members. Growing the dislike of Idea Y. The cycle then repeats. The discussion is then steered over time by the thoughts of a select few power-users.

Maybe this is just the natural order of things and I'm subconsciously afraid of change. Thoughts?

Do we know it's directly karma-driven? I'd hope it's more statistical, e.g., downvote to other activity ratio. I'd think that people who downvote very infrequently probably mean it.

On that topic, I'd really love to see downvotes with an accompanying comment weighted somehow.

It's not karma-driven at all, except insofar as downvoting itself requires a karma threshold—a restriction that has been the same for years. It's possible that we'll lower the threshold at some point.

Thanks so much for the response. Can you tell us more about the algorithmic changes, or is the HN source code public?

In my opinion,just like SO, downvotes should actually cost Karma. Yes sometimes some messages are just bad and trolling but sometimes people get downvoted just because they dont "go with the flow",and they have unpopular ideas. So if a downvote cost 2 , the downvoter should lose 1 for instance. And please dont downvote me just because you disagree.

EDIT: just proved my point,why am I being downvoted? it was a simple suggestion yet,someone downvoted me,just because he can and it's free. I was not trolling or anything... I just wanted to participate the debate.

I don't think I agree with this. Remember that downvotes on SO only have a cost when they're cast on answers, not questions, and that cost is a fraction of the gain from an upvote (1/2 for suggested edits to 1/10 answers).

It makes sense for downvotes to be free on questions and expensive on answers because questions are low effort while answers are high effort, and the community wants to encourage more answers.

On HN, everything is low effort, and everything is worth 1 point. Also, our problem with comments isn't that we don't have enough, it's that we have too many low effort/factually incorrect/abusive/spammy comments that we need to discourage. So it makes sense to keep downvotes free.

Will there ever be the ability to upvote a story without it going into your "Saved stories" section? 99% of the time I upvote a story it's because I want to save it for future reference. I'd like the ability to upvote (and downvote) stories based on whether they're HN-worthy without it impacting the "Saved stories" section.

Yeah, I'd also love to see a separate "save" feature and split out "upvote" from "save". I upvote a lot of stories just to put them in the "read this later" list (which is how I view "saved stories") when I might not other upvote them and give them an explicit endorsement.

"I think this is worth reading" seems like a high enough bar for endorsement. I guess it is at least a higher bar than is used for many of the votes for stories that already end up on the front page.

Controversial topics create a problem. People should be reading more than one viewpoint on them. But submitting multiple stories creates duplication issues. A 'save' function would allow people to increase access to information without promoting the visibility of the topic on the front page.

This is the kind of thing we might do if enough people really want it. On the other hand, HN's minimalism is one of its strengths and we don't want to mess with that. So new features have to sing for their supper.

This could be implemented minimally and cleanly by having a "save" link appear once you click into the comments for that story, much like how "flag" appears for individual comments. Upvote would +1 the submission and not save it. Clicking "save" would save the submission and not +1 it.

This would let users indicate "This was a very worthwhile story for HN, but I have no desire to read it again" (upvote) or "I'd like to read this later, but I'm not sure it's HN worthy" (save)... or save and upvote. The placement of the "save" link only once you click through to the comments keeps the home page as it was and only introduces one discreet new option.

I hope that's a tune you can dance to. :)

i inadvertently found a workaround when i installed the pocket chrome extension -- https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/pocket-formerly-re...

i now see an "add to pocket" link next to every HN story, so i am able to separate voting and saving for later (albeit on a different app).

I'm glad to hear that these changes seem to be working. One thing I am (slightly) concerned about is the occasional funny/witty/hilarious comment that will get downvoted into oblivion rapidly. It isn't necessarily that it is a troll posting, but maybe someone injecting a bit of humor.

That said, I do understand if the mods/community do not feel that witticisms have as great an importance on HN - yes, seriously - so this is not a criticism, just an observation.

I've thought about this a little bit lately, and I've started to believe that it may be difficult to have both; if you let "funny" start to be valued, then it quickly overtakes the other values.

Having spent quite a bit of time on both Reddit comment threads and HN threads, sometimes on the same topics, I find the earnestness and thoughfulness of HN extremely refreshing. At reddit, I feel momentarily amused but then I'm left empty from the total flippancy and lack of substance.

I think that most of the “funny” comments usually decrease the signal to noise ratio. But I have a personal rule of not downvoting them when they are already gray. I only downvote gray comments if they are very offensive.

One of the things I love about HN is the lack of people trying to be funny. Between Twitter, Facebook, G+, <insert social media outlet>, there are plenty of places I can go to laugh. But HN is one of the few places where I can get top-notch news with input from a lot of smart people, as well as intelligent, civil discussions even when people disagree. I'm happier without the witty comments.

I agree with what people have already said, but I think there's one more point to add: people usually over-estimate how funny their own comments are. We have a tendency to think, "This idea of mine is hilarious! And different! Surely this witticism is the exception." And we are usually wrong. When you have N people all doing that, there's a lot of noise.

I try to gently point this out to people who complain when their attempt at humor has been downvoted by the community. It's not that we don't like humor. We just don't like banal attempts at humor, which becomes noise. Or, put in a less charitable fashion, "You're not as funny as you think you are."

On HN, humour is almost only ever desired if it's in combination with other content. If someone injecting a bit of humour is not quickly downvoted, then others start throwing out their "witticisms" and things degrade rather quickly. Better to nip it in the bud and potentially upset someone making an innocent comment than to have things overrun.

I think people want high SNR value before a clever triple entendre, but accomplishing both is far better. Failing that, expressing a clear, reasoned sentiment is also another tact.

I've found the voting to be a great measure of what's hilarious. Whereas comments that are only moderately funny or diverge into off-topic are usually heavily downvoted. So, I think the threshold is just very high for jokes.

Dang and friends, any chance of tweaking the layout so that it's not so easy to accidentally click the downvote button when using a mobile browser? This is commonly reported. Thanks!

We're going to release new markup that Kevin has designed that is more mobile-friendly. (Sorry, I don't have an ETA, but we're working on it.) When it comes out, please let us know if this is still a problem.

Dang, since this is already a meta/feedback-y topic, I'd like to add another request: consider giving YC employees /HN mods a distinctly colored username, similar to how the OP is shown in green. I'll probably lose all my cool points to admit this, but I didn't realize who 'sama' was that posted this thread :)

Awesome, thanks!

Wow. I am overly happy that you guys have figured out a way to give commenting feedback. i had an account way back when shadowbanned for i never knew what reason. Still dont. I feel like if this system had have been implemented back then I would have had a better idea of what was wrong that I said.

Also, I'm pretty sure you've found the secrets to good Internet moderatorship. So many forums went offcourse from ban-happy moderators that didnt want to actually take the time to moderate the community, instead just banhammering people. Kudos to you guys

> The first is posting feedback in the threads about what's good and bad for HN comments. Right now, dang is the only one doing this, but other moderators may in the future.

I've seen dang do this and I think it's actually quite effective. I'd love to see more of this.

Glad to hear it. What specifically makes you think it's effective?

I think HN is generally inhabited by intelligent but highly opinionated people. Sometimes an opinionated discussion can degenerate into a frivolous argument even between well-meaning parties. It's helpful to have input from someone whose aim is the furtherance of productive discussion. Often all it takes to turn a flamewar back into a reasonable debate is a prod in the right direction. Generally the argumentative parties (myself included, perhaps included foremost) were only carried away; many good conversations can be salvaged with a bit of third-party influence. Obviously this doesn't apply to trolling, etc., and I don't think heavy-handed modding is a solution, but at least in the threads I've seen you participate as a mediator, it has been beneficial.

> The majority of HN users are thoughtful and nice. It's clear from the data that they reliably downvote jerks and trolls

I have to say, I'm a bit confused now. Aren't "trolls" the sorts of comments that are supposed to be flagged[0]? (I understand that spam is meant to be flagged, but HN gets very few true spam comments[1]).

What is the difference between downvoting and flagging for comments specifically - and more importantly, what comments should be downvoted?

I've read conflicting arguments (both sides quoting pg, incidentally) that disagree on whether or not downvotes should be used to signify disagreement, or whether one should downvote comments that are on-topic but have little substance (ie, most one-liners).

[0] I guess this depends on your definition of "troll", but I think a well-executed troll is similar to Poe's law: the reader can't tell whether the commenter is being flippant/rude or sincere. In other words, it's just enough to bait someone into responding, without realizing immediately that it's a worthless comment.

[1] eg, ads for substances one ingests to change the size of a particular masculine organ, or (less blatantly) direct promotions for off-topic products.

You should flag a comment when you not only think it is bad, but that the entire class of comments it belongs to should never be on HN. Flagging alerts moderators and, increasingly, algorithms. It's ok to flag as well as downvote a comment, since they do different things. But flagging should be rarer than downvoting.

As for exactly when to downvote: that's harder to put into words, and premature precision is worth avoiding. But here are some half-baked thoughts.

Downvoting for disagreement is not always bad, but it sometimes is. There should be some nuance here. Don't be indiscriminate. When a comment is blatantly false, downvoting is probably ok, especially when there's something else wrong with the comment. But high-quality, polite posts don't deserve penalizing just because you don't share their position. When you see one of those in negative territory, please be a good citizen and upvote it back to par. Users doing that is one of the community's self-correcting mechanisms, and it's more important now that we've made some downvotes more powerful.

Two things we can say for sure, though. One is that unsubstantive and/or uncivil comments can fairly be downvoted; the other is that complaining about being downvoted is off-topic.

Do both, flag and downvote. Think of flagging as something used by data-mining that the moderators are doing offline; when you flag something, you're calling it to their attention. Not every bad comment needs to be brought to the mods attention, so be a little bit thoughtful. But not too much; my understanding is that not enough people are flagging.

Out of curiosity, do you (personally) downvote either comments that you disagree with (e.g. "We should all be using DNSSEC for better security"), or comments that are factually incorrect (e.g. "Heartbleed was caused by incorrect use of null-terminated strings in C")?

(I assume neither of these are inherently flag-worthy assuming they're made in earnest and not egregious).

I try not to downvote disagreement, except when I feel like downvoting will keep me from writing a boring disagreeable comment.

Indeed, I usually see at least one or two comments a day (out of a thousand) that I find to be so completely void of content or contribution that I feel they merit a downvote. But, in 6+ years, I've only flagged about a half dozen comments (if that) - usually vitrolic, racist, or homophobic slurs that have already been nuked into downvote oblivion.

I like the new openness.

I recently joined Hacker News, and actually read through the guidelines before making an account. If there was one area where I feel that anything convinced me to be smart about what I post, it would be those guidelines.

Just FYI, that first comma usage is erroneous.


Well, fancy that: it worked! Sounds like you'll get on fine here.

Signals FTW.

I've seen plenty of downvotes around from people who didn't understand what was being said/wanting to exert opinions. To be honest, that partly gets me to just not want to contribute thoughts since they may be unpopular/do not jive with a hive mentality, and has gotten me to visit the site less for the comments, especially with the recent tweaks.

It'd be nice if something could be figured out to discourage this behavior through reduction of the value of the downvotes of such, especially if a comment has not had a response to explain the downvote.

If you can phrase them interestingly and insightfully, they're not going to be downvoted into oblivion. Perhaps you should put in the effort to explain them to the uninitiated and you might change the dominant opinion?

Otherwise it seems like a hit and run for many people, from the outside.

Expressing disagreement by down-voting is actively encouraged. I'm not a fan of it.

I have noticed that people oftentimes downvote because of disagreement, even when the comment seems to be okay (to my eyes at least). How about eliminating the downvote, leaving only the "flag" which makes it clearer that it should not be used for disagreement? It would also make comments more consistent with top-level stories (which I sometimes think of as "root-level comments".)

Are comments ever deleted or hidden from view completely? I've been reading HN for a year or two, and I've never noticed an issue with comment quality. In topics with a larger number of comments, you get one or two heavily downvoted posts, but that's it.

My question, is there an issue with comments I'm not seeing? Do the popular topics on the homepage have dozens of spam or troll comments that are pruned out constantly, so I don't notice the problem? Or is the issue those 1 or 2 downvoted comments I mentioned earlier?

HN receives a small number of comments, so fine tuning algorithms isn't a big deal in my opinion. This isn't Reddit, where the number one post right now has 4,000 comments. That presents a lot of complications, since they need to try and cycle new comments so they all receive some visibility, allowing them a chance to rise if they're of high quality. On HN, you have 20 comments, or 50 comments, so regardless of the sorting, nearly everything gets read. As long as HN generally sorts comments, they're fine.

There are two ways for comments to be hidden from view. One is "dead" and the other "deleted". Comments can end up "dead" for a variety of reasons (such as if the commenter is banned), but they're not really hidden—you can turn "show dead" on in your profile to make them appear.

"Deleted" comments are hidden, but much less common. If a comment is deleted it almost always means that the author removed it or (very rarely) asked us to remove it later for a compelling reason.

When we talk about toxic and other low-quality comments, though, we're only concerned about comments that are live on the page. So yes, you are seeing them. I'm glad they haven't been spoiling HN for you! Personally I think the fading out of negatively scored comments is one of the best design choices PG ever made for the site. I once told him that, and he expressed surprise and said he never sees it. (The admin version of the software doesn't do any fading.)

> "Personally I think the fading out of negatively scored comments is one of the best design choices PG ever made for the site. I once told him that, and he expressed surprise and said he never sees it. (The admin version of the software doesn't do any fading.)"

I concur. It makes a big difference to how I read the site and react to comments, especially since comment scores are not visible. I'm kinda surprised that pg (as an admin) didn't experience this.

>(and specifically, they don’t silence minority groups—we’ve looked into this)

How have you looked into this, and what have the results been?

What efforts are you going to take to ensure it stays true in the future?

There are other comments asking these questions that have so far not been answered; it would be good to answer them. It's very unsettling when people (primarily from a privileged/majority standpoint) proclaim that things "don't silence minority groups" and handwave the justification.

In general I've found HN to be much more positive towards feminism in particular than similar communities like Reddit or others that I won't name, but the tech industry has large issues in this area and it's surprising to me that this would be the case.

In particular, it seems likely to me that HN will selectively not-silence minority voices that tend to agree with the status quo or pander to majority voices. I'd be surprised if your analysis accounted for that, but I'd be very, very happy to be wrong.

> posting feedback in the threads about what's good and bad for HN comments.

Am I the only one who thinks that posting more meta-discussion directly in comments reduces the overall quality rather than increases it?

Maybe a downvote should come with a chance to add an explanation that can be seen on a user's page or on a "meta" page, but not dilute the discussion itself.

Meta-comments do reduce quality—no question. They're almost always off-topic, and they have an insidious fascination that can easily take a thread into the weeds. All other things being equal, they're bad.

These feedback comments are a special case, though. First, it's an experiment that we've always intended to be temporary. Second, there's reason to believe that what they destroy in local quality they more than make up for in systemic improvement. Third, I've noticed that—except when I've made a mistake—they almost always get no (or very few) replies.

"It's clear from the data that they reliably downvote jerks and trolls"

Most people know what a jerk is. Perhaps though you (and others) could define what a troll is for the purpose of interpreting this statement. (Of course I know the online definition [1] but think that there seems to be much latitude in "extraneous, or off-topic messages" or "starting arguments".)

Specifically also from [1]:

"Application of the term troll is subjective. Some readers may characterize a post as trolling, while others may regard the same post as a legitimate contribution to the discussion, even if controversial."

While as mentioned I know what a jerk is, I can also see very easily someone throwing out "troll" to stifle someone else in more or less a parental way. That is to nominalize something as simply not important or worth even of discussion.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_%28Internet%29

The more I think about it, the more it seems like a mistake to nail these terms down precisely. If we try to, then whenever a comment doesn't match the definition, people will argue that it must be ok because it doesn't technically break the guidelines. That's not what we want to encourage. We want HN to be motivated by the spirit of the law more more than its letter.

It's true that "troll" is particularly ill-defined. Perhaps we can try not to use that word. I like the phrase "toxic comments" because, while imprecise, it conveys what those do to the ecosystem. In practice, I'm not sure this is as big a problem as it seems. As Sam pointed out, the bulk of the community has little trouble recognizing these things.

I think some of the lessons from "Raising a Moral Child" from two days ago fit here. We tell people "don't be a jerk or troll", but when an individual makes a toxic comment, we tell them "you're a good person, even if you wrote a toxic comment, and we know you can do better".

I like "toxic" too.

The biggest problem I see is that the combination of a threaded discussion and the strong ranking provides an incentive for replying to a another comment even if a new comment would be more appropriate.

This, for example, is much more likely to be buried than if I replied a few comments down on the thread from bravura.

I know it would be a pretty big experiment both technically and conceptually, but I will propose it just in case.

I have noticed that usernames might influence the way I vote. What if usernames were not displayed in comments? Now this leads to two problems: 1) it makes it hard to follow who replied to what in threads 2) it makes it more tempting to post bad comments given the lack of accountability. I think the first problem could be solved by assigning users a per-submission temporary username picked at random from a name/word list. The second problem could be solved by linking those random usernames to the actual profile page of who posted (just like HN currently does). It wouldn't stop deliberate attempts at up/down voting specific users, but it would remove the unintentional bias.

Can anyone explain to me how this is not putting the common denominator in more power even further? At this point, unless you extensively agree with the majority of the echo circle, I doubt you will be able to have any impact on discussions.

Every thread is a rehearsal with same opinions at the top over and over and non-fitting opinions float to the bottom. In which turn, they get less "downvote-power" so they will stay low and can't get their peers above. I am not saying that the current flow of discussion is bad, I am just saying that participation is flawed.

We are simply in a system where you get awarded to fit to the masses and you get more power once you have been accepted into the hive-mind. A circular-reference at some point.

This is a really popular belief with understandable roots in human nature, but it simply isn't true. It's not hard to be skeptical of the things the echo-chamber (which definitely exists) values. In fact, assuming a skeptical pose is a karma-positive strategy for HN.

The problem isn't contrarianism; it's banal meanness. Hackpad sells to Dropbox and the top of the thread is, for a time, somebody talking about how the acquisition is a sign that the whole startup house of cards is falling. A markov HN cynic could write that comment; it's boring, it's distracting, and it's mean-spirited: some of the people who worked on Hackpad also read HN.

If you're going to be contrary, don't be boring and don't be mean. You'll be fine.


Longtime YC Cynic

Outside of the echo circle you have a celeb circle. They intersect at some point but the intersected oval isn't that big. I am not saying you are common-denominator-fluff, just that some people simply upvote you when they see your user name.

Having said that, I think your opinion and views on the echo-chamber are highly biased and out of scope.

I'm not talking about me. Look at 'michaelochurch. Or, out of the echo-chamber along a different vector, 'rayiner.

I don't know what your last sentence means.

You're really playing into the echo chamber of "celebrities" by giving such a damn.

The solution is to stop caring about upvotes and karma. They are internet friendship points, not validations of personality.

"Highly biased" probably isn't fair. Thomas goes looking for heated discussions, but what's the point if HN we can't have a good thesis defense every now and again. :)

I'm shocked that someone who disagreed with tptacek got downvoted.

It may be. Hacker News was created to combat the "Eternal September" problem, and if you're a relatively new user who moves against the consensus, you may be the problem it's trying to solve. Although, I suspect the intent is to encourage civility more than groupthink (even with the new group moderation feature, I think real censorship would be impossible without a large scale purge of new users - the diversity of opinion is just too great.)

Find a comment that was well articulated and didn’t match what you consider the hive-mind; find as many as you can, really: show how those got more downvotes than similar comments matching the majority opinion, and less visibility as a consequence.


Here's one of them. I could spit through dozens of comments and put a whole list of comments here to satisfy your request further - but would it make a difference? It's well known (and probably verified research can confirm) that vote-systems adhere to common denominator circle-jerking.

There's "out of the echo chamber", and then there's "fully out of the scope of HN", and debating the merits of Turkey's suppression of the Internet vis a vis the Internet as a conduit for western propaganda is "fully out of the scope of HN".

There are good places to have that debate, and HN just isn't one of them.

Yup. It's not a geopolitics IRC chat. Only the tech aspects of evading censorship would qualify but only if they were novel.

That comment was (a) not substantive, and (b) inflammatory. It was appropriate to downvote it. I'd guess it got more downvotes for being a (very) minority view than it otherwise would have, but that doesn't mean it didn't deserve them.

By "not substantive" I do not mean false, but rather that the signal-to-noise ratio of a comment containing many grand, unsupported claims is low.

Since you don't want to provide us with dozens of examples, how about picking, say, three that have the highest signal-noise ratio of the lot, and weren't uncivil? I'd like to see those. I know such comments exist, because I see them, yet the people charging HN with groupthink never seem to cite any clear examples.

May I also suggest an update to the flamewar trigger algorithm? Or at least this is what led me to believe it is a flamewar trigger [1]

Oftentimes a post is doing really well [2], accumulating a dozen up votes within 30 minutes, jumping up the front-page, but then because of two comments, it gets penalized to the third page. I can see it being triggered when there are 40 comments, but there seems to be an awfully low first trigger?

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7204766

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7578670

>> and specifically, they don’t silence minority groups—we’ve looked into this

curious to learn how this analysis was conducted. e.g. how does HN determine which users belong to a minority groups?

> specifically, they don’t silence minority groups—we’ve looked into this

I would love to have more details about that: what do you define as minority, and how do you measure ‘silencing’.

"We believe this has made the comment scores and rankings better reflect the community."

It would be interesting to see how you could actually change the community via comment filtering.

For example, if some individuals are always posting negative comments and were previously not silenced. I wonder if now that they are being silenced if they would leave the community entirely, just keep posting and ignoring the results, or change their comments to fit the community.

I've always thought of upvote/downvote as a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" - do I like your comment?

Sounds like the new algorithm penalizes disrespectful/spammy comments, rather than the "difference in opinion" comments (which is good). Could a 3rd option be added to differentiate this, though? Have option for upvote, downvote, and mark as spam (I'm thinking a "no" symbol).

Awesome. Keep up the good work. I am definitely enjoying the new HN much more. The quality of articles is way up and the comment noise is way down.

I had a moderator intervention happen in one thread, however, I think the moderators, when speaking "on behalf of HN" should have a way to indicate that (like an indication on their username, or something similar)

Otherwise it looks like anyone just decided to intervene.

It would be interesting if you published stats for each user: how often they upvote and downvote compared to the average for starters.

It would also be useful to know how often other people upvote (downvote) the comments I upvote (downvote).

These stats should only be privately viewable.

Definitely gotta give you guys a standing ovation for yeomen's work.

Is there a template or example post for the first item?

I've thought about doing this in the past but I didn't want to seem too elitist.

"We believe this has made the comment scores and rankings better reflect the community."

Is that desirable? A better debate surely entails more than one opinion. I also don't know what a 'jerk' is, someone that disagrees with the group think?

I just don't think its that big a problem. But thats just one opinion that might differ from the collective and therefore must have no merit? An odd place. Over engineering! To be expected I suppose.

The issue isn't community opinion. The community doesn't have an opinion. It's divided.

What we're talking about here is the community's sense of basic good conduct: for example, that it's bad to be personally aggressive to other users. On this, fortunately, we're not nearly so divided.

I don't think "groupthink" is the right word for that, because there are few views, if any, that cannot be expressed in a substantive and civil way. Minority opinion, reasonably and politely expressed, doesn't do too badly here. Some negatively scored comments do fall into this category—not much more than 1-2%, if that many. That's something we care about and watch for, and may try to do something systematic about, though in practice it's usually enough for a few fair-minded users to upvote those comments back to par.

Far more common is that people post comments which aren't substantive and civil, and then, upon getting downvoted, complain that groupthink is suppressing them.

Users can turn on "showdead", which will allow them to see all comments (and upvote them, if necessary).

In general, disagreeing is just fine; one can do so in a polite way. Being a 'jerk' usually entails disagreeing and being vitriolic about it. (An example of this is insulting the person rather than addressing why one disagrees with the arguments in the comment itself.)

There is no karma requirement for 'showdead'; it just requires being logged into an account.

Thank you, I have corrected my original post.

Downvoted already! hilarious!

IMO, this downvote show you are right.

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