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Tell HN (dang, kogir, et al): Thanks for all your hard work
85 points by jcr on May 17, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 36 comments
I hit a few timeouts, and checked @HNStatus as instructed:


  > Currently fighting what appear to be some rather aggressive spammers.
I'm not sure how I could help, or if I could help, but I'll certainly offer to help.

Yeah, the site has gotten substantially better over the past year, and especially in 2014. The unmasking of the fearless moderator was a brave decision, and seems to have been highly positive.

Maybe 2009 was better still, but the site is immensely better than 2-3 years ago when the front page was full of 10 identical stories from fluffy blogspammers most of the time.

I think the reason moderation was done in private was due to lack of time, not a decision against transparency.

My gut feeling is that I agree with you that quality of stories has gone back up but that comments have been getting worse continually with no bucking of the trend. Of course that might just be viewing history with rose-tinted glasses, and either way it's completely subjective.

Comments got a lot less bad over the past year, at least what I've seen -- especially since pg threatened the pre-screening tool.

However, they've also gotten a lot less good. Comments now fall in a middle range of mostly not abjectly stupid or offensive, but also not amazingly insightful.

Twitter is pretty much where I go for the extremes of good/bad, now. It's easy enough to filter out the bad -- what I really care about in comments is the quality of the top 0.1%.

I wonder how hard it would be to make a blind test of comment quality by year, like a hot or not of comments...

Other than setting it up, my questions would be a.) How to filter out comments that give away when they were posted ("wow, didn't expect them to announce a smaller ipad!") b.) How to deal with comments that are part of a chain (and therefore their relevance may not be visible on their own) c.) How many comments would one person need to rate to get a statistically sound reading of what period in HN's history they think is better

I think the easiest test (at least for my "1% metric") is reading HN comments on articles after they're populated (a day?), and then deciding "was there anything in there which was amazingly good, such that I'd actively seek it out in the future?"

The disappearance of grellas is a major factor against this recently.

Grellas seems just as active as he usually is: https://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=grellas

50+ avg comment karma can't happen weekly. Substantive comments require waiting for substantive stories, which are relatively rare.

Asking yourself that question allows you to decide whether the current quality is "<subjective scale from awful to amazing>, but it doesn't help compare now vs. previous though, there are far too many cognitive biases to objectively remember and compare

Thanks for the offer, but it's really hard for anyone without access to the traffic logs to do much to help.

The drill is usually:

  Site goes down
  Look at logs to see what's different
  Fix the bug, improve performance, or block evil traffic
Wish there were more to it. Improving performance helps across the board, and we're working on that too.

dang has been forewarned that I've been working on something lengthy (about 2000 lines) that might help with the usual moderation chores and performance. I should be done with it this week. If it passes the dang sniff test, I'm sure he'll forward it to you.

Thanks for adhering to the Number One Rule of Webdesign.

Number One Rule of Webdesign: "Never change your webdesign."

I guess temptation must be there. To add a few new items in the menubar. To add infinite scrolling that won't quite load all the time. Cross-promote some BS. Remove some functionality that the users loved. Move things around because the focus group was manipulated into liking that better.

I can only assume the most positive things about the people running this site!

We do intend to add a few things, such as a "show" link in the top bar for Show HNs, and collapsible subthreads. In general, though, the look and feel of HN is unlikely to change. Infinite scrolling is right out.

I'm most glad for the fact that dang always mentions why he does something and when he does it. The vast majority of moderators on the Internet are nowhere near as good as you, dang. Thanks for all your work making HN as good as it is today.

Well, thanks. But s/always/sometimes/. The bottleneck is usually just typing, but occasionally thinking.

Probably we'll come up with ways to record the more formulaic moderator interventions (such as burying an item as a duplicate) that don't involve adding comments to threads.

As someone who used to be in a similar role (not with HN), the best you can do (IMO) is continue to use the tools at your disposal to report spam, vote up thoughtful responses, refrain from engaging obvious trolls, and, of course, contribute interesting links and knowledge yourself.

I think it's great that the named and unnamed people know we appreciate their efforts, but me getting karma for it just feels kinda wrong.

A long time ago in pg's "Stave Off The Decline" submission, tptacek suggested a "sincere flag" for submissions/comments that you could set so you get no karma for the post. At the moment, I wish it existed.

Edit: Add reference https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2404027

The thing that I do not understand about the sincerity flag is that it seems to presuppose that my nonflagged comments are insincere? Why would I not flag all of my comments as sincere?

That's a good question, and I've thought about it a bit over the intervening three years.

tptacek was shooting from the hip that day, and posting a lot of his ideas (and regular annoyances), one per post, in rapid succession, but without the time needed for a lot of planning or analysis.

His idea of "sincere flag" could be improved by combining limits and disincentives to prevent high-karma accounts from just always setting the "sincere flag". There could be the usual limit of a karma threshold for the feature. There could be a limit on how many times or how often the flag could be used. There could also be a disincentive such as making each down-vote or flag cost a lot more (10x/100x/1000x), or making the use of the flag cost something substantial like -X% of all account karma.

With the right combination of limits and disincentives, his idea might work, and only be used on special occasions rather than be (ab)used constantly.

The notion of sincerity and karma is rather apropos for me at the moment. Recently someone mentioned that they noticed a high-karma commenter had deleted some comments that were being downvoted and opined that this was a good way to game karma because it meant that they were refunded the negative karma when the comment was deleted. Is this an accurate description of the karma accounting?

As luck would have it elsewhere on HN I am hemorrhaging karma at the moment for expressing an unwelcome opinion. I am not ashamed of the content or the manner in which I expressed my opinion so I have no intention of deleting my comments. As far as I am concerned by clicking the reply button I am implicitly stating that my comment is sincere. It seems that HN could introduce an implicit sincere flag if commenters did not get a refund for deleting karma-negative comments.

As far as I know, the karma lost through down-votes on a comment is permanently lost rather than returned/refunded when the comment is deleted. Even if I'm right, your point still stands, since deleting a down-voted comment would put an end to further down-votes, so it's possible that some may delete comments to save face/karma. Similar could be said for editing.

Unpopular opinions are always tough situation. Part of the problem stems from "up" and "down" votes meaning different things in different contexts. For example, up-voting a submission is a way to say "thanks" for submitting it. This usage is problematic since the opposite of "thanks" really doesn't exist. The typical negation "No Thanks" is not strong enough, and "flag" is far too strong. For submissions, there is no down-vote. In contrast, votes on comments are often used differently, such as an up-vote being used to show "agreement", and a down-vote being used to show "disagreement". The contrasting usage of votes results in both user-centric context and submission/comment context influencing what each vote means.

> Is this an accurate description of the karma accounting?

No, it's false.

Why not make karma completely invisible?

The most obvious effects of karma, that downvoting blanks out a comment, that you can downvote at a certain threshold, and that the threads are sorted by karma, don't require actually being able to see the number assigned to a poster.

As a thought experiment: what would be the main downside of hiding karma completely?

Maybe, it would remove a convenient proxy by which to judge a posters' credibility before reading their comments? I'm not entirely sold on the utility of karma as a filter for quality, though, but I know some people use it for that.

I thought of that, but 1) if you're invested enough to go do that, you're likely to already notice posters you 'like', 2) even high-karma people can say stupid things and vice-versa, and 3) there could be a 'percentile' system where the top x% get some kind of marking, or even just 'in the top x% of karma).

To be honest, who cares. Even if your motivation was karma, if it's a good post we can upvote, if not we won't. Until prizes start getting awarded for karma I'd hope most people don't care about other users getting karma ('deserved' or not), even if they do care about their only karma. The only exception here would be that you don't want karma driving baity content, but a "no karma post" option wouldn't help fix that at all.

I think they're doing a wonderful job of moderating the comments and submissions, as well. Duplicates are down, and discussions seem to be trending toward the informative and useful.

My thanks go to the HN moderators and everyone else who helps run or pay for this site.

If there was something equivalent to Reddit Gold for HN, I'd be glad to buy some, so that I can distinguish a particularly good comment or post.

Thank goodness HN gold doesn't exist. The last thing HN needs is a divided community.

How would HN Gold divide the community?

It would just be a Super-Upvote for the comments that you wish you could upvote more than once.

HN Gold could be nothing more than some text - "you recieved HN Gold for this post" - and a tally of how many posts you've had gilded; with a leader board of people who have received HN Gold.

It would provide small income to the website and hopefully encourage better posts. People might take the extra time to find a good URL to support their post or to give extra information.

Unless you remember how the "highlight members with high average comment karma" experiment divided the community, it may seem confusing how HN gold could possibly divide the community. Such features are inherently divisive (in this case "those who have gold vs those who don't.") Leaderboards are generally divisive; that's why they're marginalized and hidden behind the "lists" link at the bottom of the site. Etc.

We don't need to promote elitism to encourage better comments. We just need to encourage better comments.

Also, as a small critique specific to HN Gold itself: there's no way to prevent someone from gilding their own comments. (They can just use an alt account and a different credit card to get around any account-specific self-gilding restriction, for example.) Suffice to say, self-gilding would be detrimental to the commenting ecosystem here on HN.

I don't think we'd need leaderboards or any thing like that. Maybe HN gold just gives access to the 'gold lounge' and that's about it.

I just wanted some way to say 'awesome job' for a good comment and help support the site. If someone's got a better idea, I'd be open to that.

I to would like to offer my appreciation for the hard work that goes into HN but, since I was hell banned after a few days... I guess it will fall on deaf ears.

could your brown nosing be any more obvious? I'm embarrassed for you.

/going to be downvoted/moderated for this. don't care.

I'll respectfully disagree with you. I have a saying about life: "Nobody ever gets enough appreciation." Most of the time, people just quietly go about doing their work, even unpaid volunteer work of great value, with no particular expression of thanks. So I generally think is a good idea to say thank you whenever notice something worthy of thanks.

(But of course I might be mistaken, and in this community perhaps someone has a thoughtful reason for disagreeing with this general principle.)

Since you don't know what I've been working on to help the mods/devs, your opinion and assessment are fair. dang knows, so we're good.

And yes, it's embarrassing and I'd fix it if I could:


On the bright side, people getting timeouts/failures on HN and wondering what's happening now know that the site is getting attacked by spammers.

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