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Ask HN Mods: Why Do You Completely Change What Users Submit?
386 points by unclebucknasty on July 19, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 163 comments
I recently submitted an item:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8052399

It made it to and remained on the front page for a while. Then, after some hours, ~180 votes and many comments, a HN mod changed the title completely and also modified the URL to a completely different article on a different site.

I understand that the new article might have provided additional detail (which another user had also indicated on the comments thread), but why is HN completely changing what its users are posting, while still attributing it to those users? It's odd to have something attributed to me that I did not submit. And, if the answer is that "the topic was the same", "the first article referenced the second", or similar, then it seems that editorializing to this extent wholly changes what HN is about. That is, why not just have users submit proposed topics for discussion rather than URLs?

And, what of any quotes or references to the initially submitted URL in the comments section?

BTW, on the one hand, it seems fairer to allow the user to keep karma earned for the article (as HN did), but this begs the question that if so many people had already upvoted the article, then might it have already been "sufficient"?




I asked a very similar question of dang [1] about two months ago when he decided to change an article's URL to one I added to the comments [2].

His response to me (w/ irrelevant stuff redacted):

    The short answer is that HN's goal is quality, so that's
    what we optimize for. Optimizing means trading other things
    away. One thing we're willing to trade away–if it's a clear
    win for quality–is fidelity to the original submission. HN's
    focus should always be on the content, and the details of the
    original submission are of little interest compared to the
    subject at hand.
    
    HN isn't a purist's kind of place. Our goal to make the
    front page and the threads as interesting and substantive
    as possible. We change a lot of things to serve that
    principle. If we knew how to serve it better, we'd happily
    break more crockery to do so.
    
    Someone (perhaps a purist!) will object that terms like
    "quality", "interesting", and "substantive" have no precise
    definitions and are in the eye of the beholder. True, but (a)
    they're not arbitrary either, (b) the alternatives suck, and
    (c) someone has to make the calls. We don't get them all right,
    but we do try hard to correct mistakes, and I'll defend the
    principle any day.
1: dang = Daniel Gackle, HN's moderator. http://blog.ycombinator.com/meet-the-people-taking-over-hack...

2: Original thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7747401


Maybe there should be some indication on the post that the article/title was changed so the edits aren't attributed to the original submitter. This would at least resolve that confusion.

It seems like the current model tries to be like SlashDot (where everything curated) but retains the appearance of user-driven content by keeping it's curation hidden.


When an article and/or title is changed, I'd like to see a comment with the original title and a link to the original article. I should note that dang often adds a comment that a change occurred -- which I appreciate -- but I'd like to see a little more context.


The modified/edited/curated title and/or URL could always be shown underneath or beside the original title and URL, which remain unchanged.


Or, how about "forking" posts. If the content is truly of higher quality, then the fork will be up-voted more from that point on. If not, then the original post will be. And why must the article be attributed to only one person. Karma could be shared by some mechanism if a forked post gits [sic] more up-votes.

I think "hellbanning" should also be a part of this conversation. The combination of mods non-transparent editing practices and hellbanning makes an extremely strong case for categorizing the mod system as a form of censorship.

HN is a private website. So, I fully believe that HN should be allowed to censor if it would like to. I certainly at times censor my friends when they post to my facebook wall. But my facebook wall isn't a community. And it doesn't purport to provide news. Thus, I believe HN should be held to a higher standard.


I wonder why the parent comment was voted down. I don't see anything wrong with it. In fact, it has some perfectly reasonable ideas and suggestions.

I find it odd that people within the discussion here can suggest that bad flagging or bad voting isn't an issue, when we have a perfect example of it involving what's currently the 7th comment from the top.


I'm just at a complete loss at to how I was down-voted so much without a single comment as to the reason why. I was trying to be constructive and on topic.


You were lawyering about whether or not something is censorship, but the question of what words to assign to what acts has nothing to do with the question at hand. You made a weak argument to declare X, then presumed X in a weak argument to declare Y, and you tried to amplify your argument simply by declaring that you're being convincing.

Also you took the opportunity to be clever with some weird pun about git(?) and readers probably inferred certain things about your motivations for making a post.


I see your 'straw man' and raise you an 'ad hominem'. I've just read through your HN comments. You're consistently extremely negative, to no purpose. "Your argument sucks because..." etc.


Yes, I am not that good at posting and I often get downvoted accordingly.


I simply don't like the fact that someone can change a link that I submitted to something else. Moderators have the right to kill a story or ban a user for valid reasons, but changing a link to point to another completely different article is just being pedantic and definitely crosses the line. We might as well then just post topics, and let the mods choose the best story for that topic.


I agree that mods changing submissions is a little like putting words in the original submitter's mouth, but if the practice is well known I don't think there's much harm in it.

Like I hinted at in the other thread, and as dang seems to confirm, it's an issue of purism vs pragmatism.


Then there should be a way to say:

    <a href={{new_link}}>new title</a> [changed from <a href={{old_link}}>old title</a>]


I don't think the practice is well known. I've been on HN for a year or something, and have seen reference to the practice in comments a maximum of 5 times. And I think I tend to read pretty deeply.


Since Dang has taken over as the main moderator and been more public about it, he's announced doing it more times than that.


Do people pay attention to who submits items? I never do. Maybe the display of the submitter could be removed without any loss.


Yes they do. Some people can get to front page at will. Now, whether that's good or not is a different discussion, but people trust their judgement so they get more weight.


I don't usually pay any attention to who submitted something, and one of the biggest issues I see with HN is the imbalance in points between someone who submits an article and someone who has valuable input in the discussion.

Half of my karma is from 2 submissions but I think a good comment is much more valuable that being the first person to submit a link.


> Do people pay attention to who submits items?

Would we be having this conversation if they didn't?


I think he primarily referred to other readers, this topic was posted by a submitter.


What you fail to articulate is how anybody benefits from seeing the old URL.


It's a problem when there is discussion about a submission, then the URL is changed to a somewhat different article, and the existing discussion no longer makes as much sense.

Ripping away the original context unexpectedly is the problem. So making the original context more accessible is one good solution to this problem.


I've seen that happen, and you'll never believe what happens next:

The people on the thread, being adults, write a couple sentences about how the story there were commenting on used to say something else.

For many of us, this infinitesimal inconvenience is more than offset by the improved experience of not clicking through blogspam to get to the right sources. Nine times out of ten, when this happens, the original submission is awful compared to the one we end up with.


    > I simply don't like the fact that someone can change a
    > link that I submitted to something else
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_voting


Nothing would ever be changed for the better if people simply walked away from problems, rather than discussing them in an attempt to find a solution.


Your perspective is wrong.

The important thing is not that HN gets "better" according to your preferences (which appear to differ from those of the moderators), but that you have a community that more suits your preferences.

In a similar vein, you can complain as much as you like that company x's smartphone doesn't have the features you think are important, or, better, you can buy company y's smartphone that does.


so, instead of trying to make hn better, you suggest that whoever does not agree with something here should just silently walk away? if everyone acted like that what a happy society we would have been living in.


By "make hn better", you mean "make it different from how the originator and moderators want it to be".

Given that, yes, you should find a community whose leadership agree with your perspective.


Make our own HN! Quick someone register nothn.io!


Let's be honest, this website isn't a democracy or a republic or anything like that, even if there is "voting" on submissions and comments.

Average users really have no say while they're here. There's no real ability to control or even influence how this site is operated.

Leaving, or choosing not to actively participate any longer, probably does have the biggest impact of all of the options available to a user. Discussion forums need participants, and participants leaving over time can have a huge impact.

Slashdot is a good example of this. Various site owners/operators started changing things in ways that users did not like. Many users spoke out, but they were ignored. In many cases, they were subjected to downmodding, especially those who spoke out against bad UI changes or the recent beta site. Seeing that discussing the problems had no impact on the situation, they left. Now Slashdot is a wasteland compared to what it once was, a decade or so ago. The decline in participation may be gradual, but it's very real, and its impact is significant.


> Average users really have no say while they're here. There's no real ability to control or even influence how this site is operated.

I have to take issue with this. We change decisions all the time because of what users think, and I've left many records of that in the threads. HN moderation is really a collaboration between us and the community.

What HN isn't, is purely driven by votes. If it were, the front page would consist of outrage, gossip, and fashion. Those are the things that reliably get upvotes regardless of how substantive they are.


Reversing a bad moderation or operational decision when it's widely pointed out as having been a bad decision isn't what I consider giving the community any control or influence. That's merely fixing mistakes that probably shouldn't have been made to begin with, had real community involvement been in place.

What I mean, for example, is that while submissions and comments may be critiqued, there's pretty much no formal way for users in general here to critique that critiquing. The best that can be done is a submission like this one, which for whatever reason ended up off of the front page rather quickly. That's what I'm talking about.

Slashdot has its meta-moderation system, for example, which is somewhat useful and somewhat accessible. There's nothing even approaching that here, as far as I know.


> Now Slashdot is a wasteland compared to what it once was, a decade or so ago.

So it seems as if leaving slashdot did not really make it better. I'm not aware of a reincarnation that kept the good bits, either. So, to put a sharp point on it: just because blowing a city up has a "bigger impact" than being in it and complaining, doesn't necessarily make it the better option, if you know what I mean?


I think the exodus from Slashdot has been beneficial. It has shown that the various problems there are in fact severe enough to drive a large number of users away.

It may not be an ideal situation, of course, but it's better than the problems continuing to build under the surface, and users remaining miserable.

Now that the discontent is much more visible, there's at least some hope that real improvement may just happen there. That would not have been the case if people had remained, even if they were merely just vocal about their discontent, without acting upon it in some measurable way.


I would rather call it "censorship" and "impersonation" instead of "quality". Sorry, if you (dang or whoever) edit whatever I put there, just remove my name from there, so that people know who write the new content.


Agree. It wouldn't be hard for it have a little "originally" link/flag that pops up what was actually submitted prior to the mods fiddling with it. The attribution could also be changed from "username" to "modname via username", providing additional clarification about where it came from.


Every site has a duty to respect its users, especially when their content is the driving force of the site, this shouldn't be an optional thing at the whims of some "quality optimisation expert". Moderation should be about filtering the toxic users, not about getting in the way of the legitimate ones.


>One thing we're willing to trade away–if it's a clear win for quality–is fidelity to the original submission.

What worries me about this is how bias comes into play. For example, what if a mod thought a pro-Republican view on an issue had higher fidelity than a neutral view? Sure it might not always be that blatant or obvious, but this is an area I'd think twice about editing so the stories don't reflect what you think is ideal.


The guidance on this is pretty confusing, I agree. On one hand, we have this:

  If you want to add initial commentary on the link, write a blog post about it and submit that instead.
On the other, we get this:

  If a blog post reports on something they found on another site, submit the latter.
So, which is it? Report just the original source without the additional discussion, or the additional discussion if you feel it worth the talk?

It worries me how much power a few people hold over submissions. A few flags on a popular topic, and it's burned to the ground. A few people complaining in the comments about the "original source", and the entire post is changed. It just feels wrong.


Sounds pretty clear to me: If you write an opinionated blog post on an article you are free to submit it just as much as the person who submits the article itself. But if your blog post is just a summary of the article it's probably going to get removed.


I would agree, if reality had matched up with this theory. I've watched many insightful blog posts be replaced with the original article over the last year. Usually as a result of a few people just linking to the original article (despite some dozen plus other threads continuing the conversation started by the blog).

Sadly, no, I don't have links (and it's not something you can search for), so you'll have to take me at my word, and choose an appropriate amount of salt to go with it.


Maybe it's as simple as having a changelog on titles. If a mod changes the link or title, you could show something to indicate that on the frontpage, and on the comments page show more details like what the original link/title was, and what it was changed to, and by whom.

IOW it seems like transparency in moderation is what you really need. This would also solve the problem of original discussion referencing the old article no longer making sense when the article changes.


Dang is really transparent about his modifications. I always see him posting a comment on many threads about title changes, and voting ring detections etc. He's a great moderator who does a tremendous job.


A comment at the bottom of a 180+ comment thread is not sufficient. I'm always annoyed when I get to a comment thread that is talking about a different article than the one I clicked on. There needs to at least be an indication in the UI that this happened.


Wholeheartedly agree. But it'd be good if the surfacing of title/url moderation were automatic rather than reliant upon the mod's (current) good behavior.


Usually dang post a comment when he changes the title or url. https://hn.algolia.com/?q=author%3Adand+changed#!/comment/so... Most of the times the change is sensible.

It's still a problem because some of the comments refer to the old version.


Simple fix: a "moderator comment" which simply sits at the top of the thread and is required when changing the URL or title.


"usually posts a comment" is not sufficient. Dang is human and humans make mistakes. If the system allows somebody to have that kind of power, it should also make it transparent so that we can call them out when it is being abused.

I agree with the parent, if we as a community are going to allow this type of stuff, there needs to be a changelog. We can't rely on good graces of the moderator. It will be abused.


HN has never, ever been more transparent than it is today. "The system" has always allowed people to have that kind of power; the difference today is that 'dang goes out of his way to point out when he's using it.

"We as a community" have "allowed this type of stuff" since its inception.


Just because a situation isn't as bad as it once was doesn't mean that it's somehow "good" now, though.


Perhaps we disagree, but I think the transparency has measurably improved HN over the course of more transparency.


What bad things happen if there isn't a changelog? Somebody changes the URLs on you without a log? So what? What's the harm here? As far as I can tell, the only people that have a reason to get angry are those that post suboptimal links. Usually it's a link to a rather crappy article.


> This would also solve the problem of original discussion referencing the old article no longer making sense when the article changes.

This isn't really a problem. It doesn't matter.


I'm perfectly fine with them changing to a better sourced URL and a more accurate title - however I never thought about your attribution point. If they change both of these things you now have something attributed to you that has absolutely nothing to do with you. That definitely seems like it could cause problem, especially for people who are not 'anonymous' and are using real names.


"I'm perfectly fine with them changing to a better sourced URL and a more accurate title"

I can see how this behavior can bring some benefits. However, what if the mods just change the urls in order to point to their own blogs? Or to blogs where the opinion expressed shares their view or supports the interests of whoever? That behavior can dangerously lead to manipulation.

I do not like the fact that I can see some news in the front page with 200 votes and the article that I read is not the one that received those 200 hundreds votes.

I also do not like at all the attribution issue that you mentioned.


It's publicly known who the HN mods are AFAIK so if they were personally benefitting from changing the links the community would know about it.

>> "Or to blogs where the opinion expressed shares their view or supports the interests of whoever?"

This is what got me thinking about the dangers of attribution, particularly when linking to a political article.

I think the reasons for changing titles and links (click-bait, blogspam instead of source) is sound but we as a community need to police it and generally that's done pretty well. When links or titles are changed there is usually a comment from someone who noticed and the comment usually lets people know of the original link/title.


You submitted http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/07/15/documents.... That's just a digest [1] of the firstlook.org article [2], so a moderator correctly changed it.

Every major article spawns countless knockoffs as media outlets compete for views. The HN guidelines ask you to post the original source. When you don't, moderators change it. When we don't, users ask us to.

This is routine moderation that we do every day. Tracking down better sources is one way that the community and moderators keep up quality here. We'd prefer it, of course, if submitters would do this before posting.

When I change a url, I often post a comment saying so. The other moderators can't, because they're not public. It isn't clear to me yet what to do about that.

Story submissions on HN are not the property of the submitter. They are pointers, not values—the content belongs to the source, and the HN slot belongs to the site and to the community. If changing the address in that slot makes the site better, we do.

(Comments are different. Story titles are not supposed to be your own words; comments are. We never change those, except on rare occasions when users ask us to.)

I know it sounds subjective and arbitrary to say "make the site better", as if by fiat, but it's less arbitrary than it sounds. The community nearly always agrees about one source being better than another. (I'd be surprised if there were much disagreement in the present case.) And on the relatively few occasions when users think we've made the wrong call, we usually change it.

1. High-end blogspam might be a more accurate way of putting it.

2. https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/07/14/manipulating-o...


Could you comment about how the item was buried shortly after the changes?

If it wasn't buried by a mod, then either the penalty that's applied to surveillance stories is incredibly enormous, or the story was flagged into oblivion by users. Did flagging only start after the title and link were changed? Isn't that quite suspicious? It really looks like someone's doing title/domain/url monitoring for stories to flag, and this story is a good candidate for examination.

I guess I'd just like confirmation that 1) mods didn't bury the story, and 2) it doesn't look like flagging suddenly increased after the change. If flagging did suddenly increase, it would be strong evidence of flagging abuse. There's no explanation for flagging the second story and not the first, other than failure to detect it automatically. In fact, you would expect the exact opposite pattern if the story were being flagged legitimately.

Thanks.


The penalty applied to NSA stories --- if it still exists at all, since 'dang said last week he was considering ending it --- is tiny. The way I know that is: 'dang publically said it's tiny; the second smallest on the site, which has many penalties (almost all of them, as I understand it, quite boring).

I didn't flag the GCHQ online poll story, but I would have a very hard time arguing that someone who did was "abusing" the flag button. It's a marginal story, at best.


You've asked this several times, so I'm not sure where to put the answer. Let's try here.

(By the way, one reason we ask people to send moderation questions to hn@ycombinator.com is that then we're sure to see them. We can't possibly read every post to the site. We miss most of them, in fact.)

The story fell off the front page because of a moderator penalty, though user flags caused the fall to be more dramatic.

We're not trying to suppress surveillance stories [1]. We're trying to balance it so the major ones get attention but the me-toos don't crowd out other things. A moderator thought this was a me-too rather than a major. I might have made the opposite call, but it was probably a borderline case. For one thing, the article was shorter, and that's usually but not always correlated with lesser substance. Since we can't come close to reading everything, we're forced to rely on such heuristics. They're miserable, but they mostly work.

We moderate this way not because of personal opinion (I'm personally more inclined the other way, for what that's worth), but because if we didn't, the site would skew heavily toward these stories and there would be many more complaints (remember "Why has Hacker News turned into NSA News"?) than there currently are. The HN community is in disagreement here. Our job is to mediate that. Which of course is impossible. So we try to fail less badly.

We're open to suggestions about how to get the balance better. We do need to balance it somehow. The idea that votes can just determine everything—without irrevocably changing the character of the site—is sadly, utterly wrong.

Some of the most vocal feedback we're getting on the surveillance stories is from people who seem only to care about this one issue and would happily have it dominate HN. That feedback isn't so helpful, because it's at odds with what this site is. But if those of you who follow this issue closely would help us make better editorial distinctions between the major stories and the pilers-on, we'd be grateful. We're not domain experts on any of this.

1. To pick an obvious example, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8058362 has been on the front page all day.


>We're open to suggestions about how to get the balance better. We do need to balance it somehow.

At the risk of suggesting the site become more like reddit, the site should maybe become a scosh more like reddit. Since the HN community has become more diverse in its interests than the structure of the site was perhaps intended for, it needs to be possible to group posts not just by votes, but contextually, either with tags or through sub-boards. This wouldn't necessarily have to affect the way the site appears to function[0], for users who like things the way they are now - but users who want to see more NSA related content could choose (maybe through their account page) to have NSA related content bubble up for them, regardless of their actual gravity.

[0] although to prevent certain stories from overwhelming the site anyway, it might be necessary to sort the frontpage by trending tags/groups when multiple stories of the same type exist... I don't know.

Furthermore, I think it might help to alleviate the suspicions of people like discostrings if there were some automatic feedback to actually show the effect of user/mod flags on a thread over time... surely "mostly killed by user flags" is something that could be graphed somewhere.


Thank you for the detailed explanation of what happened to the post and your thoughts on the topic in general. I'm happy to hear that what's been going on with some of the bigger surveillance stories is the result of the difficulties of moderation and not external manipulation. I now have a greater understanding of why efforts to stop the topic from dominating the site end up supressing it.

As it seems you noticed, my main frustration is that surveillance stories with new information, and other particularly insightful pieces about the topic, often aren't staying on the front page, which essentially means that no one sees or discusses them at any level of depth. HN is generally so good at what it does that for most topics of interest to the community, it can be one's daily news source for an overview of what's going on. Readers come to expect that topics that interest HN will be covered well and that important developments will be posted. So it's particularly jarring after reading tech-related news only from HN for a few days to see you missed a major surveillance story, especially one that deals with the tech or tools. When you search HN and see you missed it because it was submitted but probably buried before anyone discussed it, you start feeling that moderators are parting ways with the community or that something sinister is going on.

I think a number of other difficulties arise as a result of the major stories not showing up. I imagine users start getting the sense that an important topic isn't being discussed, so they submit and upvote even more "me-too" stories. On the stories that do make it, people don't bother writing long and substantive comments because of the risk of the post dropping to oblivion at any moment and no one ever seeing the comment. Those who know a lot about the topic become less likely to write about it insightfully here, increasing the noise further and giving the topic a worse reputation for quality.

How to improve things is a difficult questions, as this topic's scenario really doesn't play to the site's strengths. It seems there's really no feature for "best-of-a-type" other than penalties.

Never-the-less, here are a few ideas (some of which are assuredly overly vague or simplistic, but since I don't know which might be helpful...): - Consideration could be given to how many surveillance stories are currently on the front page. Very few people want an entire front page filled with these stories every day, but given the level of interest and the continuing developments one would still expect to see a number of stories every day or two. Maybe only resort to giving a penalty to an article that isn't obviously low quality / blogspam if there are already surveillance stories on the front page?

- Using heuristics concerning novelty, and whether the particular novel issue has been discussed on HN, could supplement length

----- A quick check of whether the article claims it's new information, the date of the article, and a general search for the main claim of the article

----- Less scrutiny of publications with a history of breaking stories or that have access to documents, like theguardian.com, firstlook.org, washingtonpost.com, and spiegel.de

- A way to know a topic isn't going to quickly disappear after investing time in writing a comment would be nice. Some indicator that a topic has been "blessed" by a mod and won't receive a penalty would be helpful for this.

- Having a moderator who follows the topic might be helpful. I definitely understand that not every moderator does, and that it's probably really hard to make judgments if you're not following it. Someone a bit more familiar with the topic would be a good resource and could keep an eye out for sub-optimal penalties being given out.

- In general, visible transparency about what's going on would be helpful. I'm not sure how to achieve that because the site's not really designed for it. Talking to you here is great. Having other people with the same concerns get the information is important too.

- The root issue isn't really that interest in the topic is too high--it's that there's a low signal-to-noise ratio in the stories that are submitted and the passion for the topic is so high that even the noise is upvoted. Some users probably want to make sure everyone knows what's going on. Once a normal level of the best stories are making the front page and there's an outlet for that passion, perhaps the submission problem will decrease and a virtuous cycle will begin.

I'll email first in the future for anything I'd like a response about or if I have more suggestions--I took the comment approach because in the case of a forum or many other online communities, it would be better to have the conversation publicly, but I agree that HN's not really set up well for that (as evidenced by my multiple requests for a response).

Again, I'm grateful for your response, and I greatly appreciate the work you're doing here and your commitment to addressing users' concerns.


Thanks for the thoughtful analysis. I agree with almost all of it.

I'm not sure how practical these particular suggestions are--for example, we do already try to identify which issues have already been discussed on HN; it's just hard to get right every time. But I do think the pendulum has perhaps swung too far the other way, so we've provisionally turned off the automatic weight on NSA stories. Going forward, I hope the community will help us distinguish major articles from minor ones. People can do that by flagging minor ones and commenting here or (better) emailing hn@ycombinator.com if they see a major one that they think might be weighted unfairly. We can override the flags when that happens.

HN's goals here are balance and substance.


Thanks for your reply. I wanted to respond sooner (while the thread had a little life left), but was traveling.

In any case, I think a major issue is the continued attribution without notice to the submitter or publicly on the actual submission itself. You clearly appreciate this because, as you've indicated, you generally try to note when you've made changes, however not all moderators do because they are not "public". It seems a simple solution would be to have the system automatically generate a public change note on the submission when any mod makes a change. The actual mod can certainly be anonymous if that's desirable for some reason. An additional automated email to the submitter would be good as well.

Not only is this a courtesy to the submitter, but it improves the experience for those who may be actively involved in discussions on the thread. And, frankly, it is simply the right thing to do where the principle of proper attribution is concerned, so it is worth ensuring the consistency that automation would provide.

The idea that people are submitting a "slot" seems contradictory to me. Does HN want topics or actual content? The UI and submission process (allowing URLs, asking for title retention, etc.) are also inconsistent with this notion of slots. Most importantly, I think most people associate attribution with actual content versus a "slot".

My apologies for not using the email address to present the question that is the subject of this submission. I was sincerely unaware. However (and not to qualify that apology), I will separately add that a lack of consistency from HN mods invites confusion and guideline violations (inadvertent or otherwise). That is, given that there is an acknowledged value in HN publicly notifying the submitter/community when a moderation action has been taken, then on the occasions when it fails to do so it leaves users open to confusion and frustration. Hence, more questions will be asked and, statistically, some of these will--inadvertently or otherwise--not be via email, thus contributing to an increase in the almost comically hated meta-noise.

This is actually consistent with UI design. Just as any good UI provides consistent feedback and teaches the user in order to prevent errors and frustration, HN can teach consistency by demonstrating it and by answering questions before they are even asked via providing reliable feedback.

Speaking of "meta", it seems worthwhile to have some forum for public discussion of HN operation/moderation, which can obviously be apart from standard content that winds up on the frontpage. Because, as this thread alone indicates, there is obviously a great deal of interest on the topic, and that interest is on both sides. That is, ironically enough, those who seem to most hate "meta" also become vocal about their hatred for it, thus contributing to it themselves. So, they really do want to talk about it.

Most importantly, however, those folks who advocate maintaining the status quo without further discussion have plenty of means for sinking content, including flagging and simply ignoring/not upvoting. And, of course, they are free to use comments to openly bash that with which they disagree. Since they are supporting the status-quo, their comments are encouraged and welcomed.

Yet, the only means by which users can offer suggestions or pose questions of concern is privately via email. There can be no discussion among the community as a whole without bringing out the anti-meta zealots and being modded/flagged into oblivion. If HN is OK with its approach because it believes it to be the best way to ensure quality, then OK. What else can we say? But, it opens itself to a bit of a confirmation bias problem, wherein only those who agree with the status quo are heard at significant volume.

It also seems that the number of factors that contribute to "quality" creates an unnaturally supressive effect on content and appears to lead to a bit of over-modding (or an overly robust negative toolset). How is it that a story can have more interest than any other story and, at the same time, be flagged or modded into obscurity? This effectively says that, while there is nothing more interesting than this submission to the community as a whole, there are nonetheless enough people who dislike it (if even for technicalities) to kill it, thus stifling discussion for others. By definition, it will then be replaced with less compelling content. I hear you that upvoting alone may not be sufficient to surface content. But, it does seem to be a serious bikeshedding problem when a submission that rockets to the top spot and lingers for a few hours is suddenly sunk on a "technicality". The net effect is that a minority of HN killed a community-relevant story that garnered much interest. Is that result in the best interest of the HN community? Or has some purism crept in?

At the end of the day, HN can do what it wants and part of the problem may be that its appearance is democratic, when it actually is not. I mean this with regard to both how it is operated and how content is surfaced. So, that may lead to disappointment for a number of users, which I believe we are seeing on this thread.

Thanks for reading and, again, for your reply.


HN is not as open as other group sites like, say, reddit where it's up to the users to decide what's important. It's run with a specific purpose of quality of stories within a specific set of topics and a vehicle for promotion of YC-related content. Voting exists to provide group input within those guidelines.

The bit about writing a blog post and submitting it is out-of-date based on current mod behavior. If you want to provide commentary, post the original source and add a comment. Links to blogs are nearly always pulled for the original source unless the blog is the original source on an overall trend, research, etc.


> a vehicle for promotion of YC-related content

That's not true. YC companies get to post job ads. They get no special promotion—that is, the only promotion they get comes from the fact that the YC startup community and the HN community happen to overlap. The site mechanisms don't favor YC cos and the moderators try hard not to.

Your point about original sources is exactly right, or at least I hope it is.


take a look at /r/undelete some day. Reddit is frighteningly unopen.


It varies quite a bit by subreddit, of course. Some mods like to rule their little fiefdoms.


This is very true.

Many of the subreddits that are very specific to a given technology or programming language or something like that are often the worst. The audience is comparatively small to begin with, and mostly made up of people who hold the technology in high esteem. Any user who submits comments that may be deemed as slightly negative or questioning of the technology are targeted and "eliminated", so to speak.

This leads to a very toxic environment where quality content and discussion become totally non-existent.


Especially after the discussion has referenced the original article, now the entire context is broken.

But in the end, they can have whatever rules they want and it would still be bad because of one problem that prevails all of mod activity: that there is just so infrequently any notification that anything happened. Don't enforce them in secret, leading us to wonder what, when, and why something happened.


@unclebucknasty, could you show your original submission for comparison?

At https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8052399 it says right now: "Hacking Online Polls and Other Ways British Spies Seek to Control the Internet", which is linked to https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/07/14/manipulating-o...

What did you originally post?


Here's a comment of mine from that thread explaining what he posted, how it changed, and what happened [~]:

This story was in the first position on the front page less than an hour ago. It was there for hours. The link was then changed from [0] to [1], and within thirty minutes, it was on the second page at number 47. (It first took a drop to around 17, hovered there for a while, then hit 47.)

Could we have an explanation of what's going on here? How can penalties from flagging be this steep for a story with 200 upvotes and 90 comments? Why did the position suddenly change shortly after the link was changed, but not right away?

[0] http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/07/15/documents...

[1] https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/07/14/manipulating-o...

[~] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8054173


interestingly enough , I submitted [1] after it was initially published and no one cared

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8031791


No one cared because it was quickly buried, which could quite possibly be due to a flag ring or automated monitoring for flagging of the firstlook.org domain. Here's my other comment on the topic [~]:

It would be incredibly easy to use this sort of program to game visibility on HN.

This story itself serves as the perfect example. When it was submitted four days ago [0], it quickly took a huge ranking hit and dropped off the front page. When a story drops off the front page this quickly, it's nearly impossible for it to get the upvote momentum required to gain any additional visibility. And the same URL can't be submitted again, so the opportunity for discussion of the article has essentially been removed.

Then, we're left discussing a breaking story as the top item four days later, when a summary report about the original story that contains no new information is published on Slate.

One might be quick to blame moderators, but in the discussion of another recent First Look story, dang said most of the penalty came from users flagging the story. [1] How many users flagging the story does it take to produce this outcome? Does GCHQ just need three accounts with a little karma to seriously diminish visibility here for days? Safeguards should be developed to prevent this sort of malicious activity. Maybe some sort of collusion penalty, where if the same users are flagging the same stories, the effect is diminished? Or a greater restriction on the maximum penalty?

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8031791

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8008472

EDIT: And it's happened again! This story was #1 when the link was to [3]. About a half hour ago, the link was changed to firstlook.org, and within minutes, the story fell to the center of the main page. Now, thirty minutes later, it's at number 47 (with 200 points after six hours). It was at the top for hours, then dropped to 47 within thirty minutes of the link being changed. The fact that flagging happened right after the link was changed seriously suggests that some someone has automated monitoring for First Look links to flag.

[3] http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/07/15/documents...

[~] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8053852


Thanks! How about the text? Would be good to know the text changes as well.


The title was "U.K. Intelligence Agency's Ability to Manipulate Online Polls, Etc.", which notably doesn't include words that would trigger automated alerts if someone with an agenda that involved flagging surveillance stories had set them up somehow.


The mods here are out of control to the point where I'm considering going back to Reddit completely. The fact the stories are being censored due to "topic association" despite having enough up-votes is ridiculous.


Why do you assume it were the mods and not just people flagging?


Many stories are flagged by users off the page.


I think the penalty levels for flagging seriously need to be looked at, and some measures to prevent flag rings and other malicious flagging should to be put into place.

The story this thread refers to is the perfect example: it was #1 with 200 upvotes after just a few hours. The link was then changed to a different domain that covered the topic in more depth, and the story was suddenly buried within a half hour--apparently by flagging. How was the first link so popular and the second link inappropriate for discussion when the topic was the same? Either some users are just very prejudiced against certain domains, or there are some users and/or organizations that have automated systems in place to detect certain domains or links and send alerts to bury them.


I think the problem extends beyond submission flagging.

There have been enough times where I've witnessed completely factual and legitimate comments here that happened to criticize or even just question Mozilla, Rust, Ruby on Rails, NoSQL, or some other "revered" organization or technology get heavily voted down without justification.

Some of this may just arise naturally. Certain submissions may draw the attention of people directly involved with the given organization or technology. They may take it personally when the discussion touches on perfectly valid, yet perhaps painful, topics. They respond by downvoting these comments that are totally valid and raise some good points. Even if these people are not intentionally acting maliciously, this misvoting can still be quite harmful.

I'm not certain that there's a good way of dealing with this, however.


I rarely ever see wrongly gray comments, certainly not in a systematic way. I do see many rightfully gray comments, though. A comment being wrongfully downvoted is not actually quite harmful. There isn't any harm that happens. Unless somebody can't stand the notion that people disagree with their opinion -- but that's helpful because it drives them off the site. Usually, though, gray comments are not those where it's a matter of opinion.


Here's one example of systematic downvoting that I can think of: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7836937

So sum it up, me and somebody named jsmthrowaway happened to point out some painful realities regarding the Rust programming language. The facts we brought up must have hurt the feelings of some within the Rust community (several prominent figures were involved with that discussion), and so numerous factual and perfectly legitimate comments of ours within that thread of discussion basically ended up censored.

Now, I personally don't care about karma, or whether people agree or disagree with opinions I express or facts that I may happen to point out. What I don't like, however, is seeing perfectly good content grayed out, regardless of who posted it. Censorship is always harmful.

These days, I find the grayed out comments more disruptive than beneficial. Many of them are perfectly valid content. Some of them often are quite insightful, in a way that some people probably find painful.

So instead of being comments that I feel comfortable ignoring, I usually find myself trying to read the grayed out ones even though they've been obscured and are harder to read. They're often the most worthwhile comments within a submission's discussion.


You don't think maybe people just responded naturally to a comment that started "The similarity to Rust should scare the hell out of Rust's creators and proponents" and went downhill from there? You instead think your slightly downvoted comment is evidence of systemic bias?


I merely pointed out one recent example that I could demonstrate quickly, because it happened to involve some of my comments and those of somebody else who happened to express similar ideas.

It isn't the only instance, of course. Mis-moderation is quite frequent here. Some of the discussion under this submission is a good example of that. I see I have once again been targeted by people who find it easier to downvote than to bother discussing the matter at hand like adults.

I wish that people here were more willing to discuss stuff that they might happen to disagree with, rather than engaging in censorship.


I think people downvoted that comment because they thought it was wrong, was based on a completely hyperbolic worldview, and had a very high excitement:substance ratio.


The disconnect here is that downvotes are considered OK when you simply disagree with something. The problem arises in that people can be made "dead" when this happens, and that individual posts become virtually unreadable because a few people disagreed with them.


Almost always the "dead" posts are worthless, and the people who replied should have been downvoted for indulging the conversation.


Your (and others') comments about Rust/Mozilla normally get detailed replies indicating how they are either wrong, or misrepresentions (I would go so far as to label them as willful mispreresentations now, given the number of times the discussions have come up).

(I don't speak for the other topics, though.)


Which stories?


NSA for example. Any topic with "NSA" gets a very large hit.


Stores with "NSA" get a large number of user flags. As recently as last week, they also got a small penalty --- the second smallest on the site --- to compensate for the very large number of NSA stories that are generated every day.

If you submitted an NSA story and it fell off the front page, it was user flags that did it, not the penalty.


Although the issue with NSA is important, the problem with most of those threads is that they all the same. Same predictable arguments, or no arguments at all.


Why do they get upvoted then?


Because the community is fallible.


I'm willing to bet that has way more to do with the substantial body of people flagging down all the NSA posts than some mod conspiracy


It's probably people flagging it and not the mods, yes. But are the people flagging it actual users?

The story in question here had 200 upvotes when it was a link to an NSA story at Slate. The link was changed to the same, source NSA story at First Look and it was quickly flagged to oblivion. I think there're likely some monitoring scripts and flag alerts at play, not just NSA fatigue by actual users.


Where do you go to get this definitive data on HN activities?


From Daniel Gackle, who comments on the stories that get buried.


That's exactly the problem. You received that info directly from a third person. There is no transparency. Would you believe everything I say? I wouldn't. But if the facts where out there you wouldn't need to. On an issue such as this where people take such sustained and intense interest, your second hand account of someone giving you their word is not sufficient. Maybe it is for you, but please don't condescend by passing it along as though it must be for others.


The third person is the site moderator. And yes, I believe pretty much whatever Daniel tells me. He's that kind of guy.

"That Daniel Gackle is the HN moderator" is the kind of factual detail you might want to know before developing very strong opinions about how the site is run.


Please see my other comment on this page where explicitly say I completely agree HN is in the right in running a site in this manner. I was just trying to point out that while you may know Daniel others might not. And, again, I believe that a moderator system is 100% fine. HN news has made it work and produces quality content. But, for someone to tell me that since they know someone I should keep my trap shut, it's a little presumptuous.


First, nobody told you to keep your trap shut.

Second, if you don't trust the site moderators, HN isn't going to be a pleasant place to spend time.


sheesh. your comment isn't a pleasant place to spent time. someone needs some internet kitten love.


Is this real data or are you just going on gut feel?


A few months ago, kens wrote a detailed black-box analysis about the penalization system. http://www.righto.com/2013/11/how-hacker-news-ranking-really... HN discussion https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6799854 (920 points, 235 days ago, 190 comments)

But many articles are flagged by users, don't assume that all the penalties/kills are dew to moderators actions.


An article on global warming by Michael Crichton was killed a few hours ago.


That was killed by user flags.


This might seem simplistic, but couldn't this problem be solved with a "related" list?

It's been many moons since I've been to Digg, but it had a notification if you're submitting a post with a similar title/URL. While we're discussing it, it may not hurt to have a "previous discussion" list either.

Opinions, information other relevant factors can change over time, so it may not be so bad to revisit a topic.


I think this question would have been better via email to the mods. There's a good chance they would have reverted for you based on what you've mentioned in this particular instance. For what it's worth, while they are only human, I think the mods do a great job with both titles and (more rarely) changing URL.

When a URL is changed, it is a way of saying, 'Look, we think this other URL is better for the discussion', while keeping the discussion. Daniel does a great job of mentioning these changes in a comment - hardly ever to a complaint. https://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=dang for some of Daniel's comments.

Title changes are also generally good ones. Often they happen in response to a complaint.

If you don't like it, email the mods with why!

They do a fantastic job. I approve of changing the titles (even silently) or URL's, especially with a comment. If you have a complaint do feel free to email the mods about it.

And here's a thanks to the great work the mods do and to hoping they will keep it up.

You're only reading Hacker News thanks to their tireless work.


Public discussion doesn't hurt anybody.


No, but it clutters up the site, and having the discussion in public can make the actual discussion impossible as the thread gets swamped with people threatening to leave for Reddit or worried that 'dang is a secret Republican.

Which I assume are among the many reasons that the moderators have asked that these conversations go to hn@ycombinator.com instead of threads.


Nonesense.! I am sure there are lots of people who submit links for reasons other than karma and HN base discussions. Not everyone will appreciate the redirection of traffic from their researched and well written post. Not to mention the prestige of making it to the front page!


I knew I'd be downvoted but its the unpalatable truth


1) slate is a shitty source. There are a bunch of websites that keep getting posted to HN and those sites are really fucking awful. I hope mods have a panel that flags up any time those sites are posted so they can chose whether to change the source to something better or not.

2) mods usually mention that they've changed the source or the title.

3) I gently agree that having the title / source changed but leaving it attribed to the original submitter is odd. But at least that person is still getting the karma. I imagine people would be much less happy if the mods put their name on the articles.

4) So far I haven't seen any example of mod changing urls or titles that I disagree with; I have seen plenty that I am very pleased with.


I'm not a mod, but I can answer your three main questions.

1.) Why do titles get changed?

2.) Why do URLs get changed?

3.) Why do things drop off the front page?

The first two questions are answered in the HN guidelines:

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

In short, is says to always avoid "linkbait" and misleading titles, and always submit the original source URL. If someone suggests a URL to the original source, then changing the URL helps everybody. The same is true for changing bad titles. Regurgitated blogspam with a linkbaiit title is always annoying, and most aggregators fight against it every single day.

The third question is tougher to answer, since you'd need to do a whole lot of reading. The two most common things which will cause the rank of a submission to drop are users flagging the story, and setting off the voting ring detector (i.e. trying to fake up-votes).

Sam Altman (hn user: sama, YC S05, and a YC Partner) mentioned the ring voting detector issues here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7972941

And somewhere in the comments of our fearless public moderator Daniel Gackle (hn user: dang) was mentioned the issue about user flags affecting the rank of stories.

Your fourth question:

4.) Is it fair to attribute something to a user that they did not actually submit?

If you failed to follow the guidelines, then yes, it is fair because it helps everyone else on HN.

For notes, I've had titles of my submissions edited for clarity, and the only part that bothers me is that I made a moderator do unnecessary work that I should have done myself.

EDIT: Found the link where dang mentions user flags sinking a story:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8008472


I think we all understand these points, however people such as the OP seem to have their URL/title changed, even though it doesn't "violate" the guidelines, but just because some seem to think differently in the comments.

I can't really judge since I haven't noticed such changes, it's just what I take away from the discussions above.


> seem to have their URL/title changed, even though it doesn't "violate" the guidelines

Posting original sources is an HN guideline, and an important one.


On this issue, Slashdot strikes a pretty good compromise, I think, by providing a link below their posted item to the original submission, i.e., in the "You may like to read:" section.


Because the OP continues to receive points for the modified title/URL, it seems as though the current system incentivizes "first to post", not "highest quality". Would it be better if the mods could more aggressively sink poor content with weighted downvotes? This way, the original submission remains attributed to the OP--title and all. If it's a bad/misleading title, secondary source, etc. it might be briefly interesting, but then modded down in favor of better content. But if it remains interesting to the community, it could remain afloat with enough upvotes. It seems like this system would be fair in terms of attribution while incentivizing people to submit primary sources with good titles.

Sorry to bikeshed here, but curious why it doesn't work this way? Too much work? Is there too much luck involved in making it to the front page & mods are interested in changing poor content into good content rather than hoping the good content will eventually make it there itself?


If the shared URL changes, the moderator that changed the post should also re-attribute the submission to the person that suggested the new link. When this happens, the system should auto-post 'the original submission: ShortURL by USER has been modified to ShortURL as suggested by NEW USER.'


The HN guidelines ask you not to post questions like this to the site, but instead to email us: hn@ycombinator.com.

I'm going to demote this submission now. I will come back and read it properly when I have the several minutes it will take to do so.

I don't remember what happened to item 8052399 at the moment.


If would also be great if you could provide some information about whether the link change set off a flurry of user flagging. From the outside look of things, the change of domain appeared to set off someone's alert to have a bunch of accounts flag the story. Either that, or a single flag is extremely powerful. I suppose a lot of people could be extremely prejudiced against certain domains, but it appeared something more organized was going on. Some insight into how flagging suddenly started and buried the story shortly after the change would be nice. Thanks in advance.


He probably assumed that, like with most organisations, negative publicity is the best medicine for HN too.

Personally, I don't see this as being just about you and OP, everyone else has a right to see this as an instance of poorly done moderation on a site we all use.


Ugh what why??? What a terrible way to conduct things. This was the top voted post on HN today, and there was great discussion happening. In the future, please consider letting good discussions about HN continue, instead of immediately censoring criticisms of the site.


> please consider letting good discussions about HN continue

The discussion is continuing. You just posted to it.

The HN front page has never consisted of just the most upvoted posts. If it did, HN would be unrecognizable. Whatever you call this policy—people say 'moderation', 'curation', 'censorship', and other things, depending on how they feel about the most recent thing we did—it isn't secret and it isn't new.

I'm happy to debate this with you till the cows come home, but my first duty is to see that the stories on the front page are the most intellectually substantive of the ones currently in play. I'm not seeing that here.


"The HN guidelines ask you not to post questions like this to the site, but instead to email us"

Is this for the reason that you do not want site criticism on the front page, with lots of people commenting about the policies? Instead the site would rather only one person emailed you about the problems rather than hearing a mass voice of concern?

This is the biggest entry on HN today, yet you have decided to remove it from the front page! I realise that at this moment in time you have not read the thread, but this is one of the issues which was highlighted and one that also pisses me off!


First of all, please kindly don't use language like "pisses me off". This is YC's platform, which it built, maintains and pays for, and works very hard to make good. We are guests here. I don't have a problem with you airing concerns, but I really think it will be more beneficial for you and everyone else to remember that we are guests, and to be civil. Actually, being civil is usually better anyway.

Secondly, regarding your concern - I'm not a mod, but I'll take a stab at why the guidelines are the way they are:

HN, above all else, wants to be a place where hackers find interesting stories and discussions. Meta threads are generally not "interesting", not in the way that HN wants.

But that's not the only problem - the problem with "meta" threads like this are that they are very superficially interesting - after all, they concern one of the few things all of HN has in common - HN. But almost everyone here has ideas of how to improve HN - almost everyone here sometimes has things they would like done different. If every user wrote a post on this, that's all we'd talk about. Moreover, since most users are talking from a position of ignorance compared to the mods, oftentimes what they talk about will simply be wrong without them knowing it.

Therefore, the best solution is exactly what HN asks - email questions directly to them. I've never done so, but from what I understand, they usually answer.

Also, in terms of timing, you couldn't pick a worse time to complain about the moderation - this is literally the time in history that HN has been the most open and straightforward about moderation policies, and they're doing IMO a fantastic job too.


You're offended by someone being pissed off? I think the problem here is you, not him. He didn't direct insults towards anyone, and there's nothing uncivil about using a colloquialism to express personal feelings. If you can't deal with people being human, maybe you should stay out of discussions you don't need to be a part of.

Also, excuse me but "things they would like done different"? All OP asks for is not to have something he posted replaced with something else, and that's how it normally works already, it's not an "idea", it's a status quo, and it's desirable.


Nobody on HN has a right to "not have something they posted replaced with something else". Dan said it today, and Paul Graham has said it in the past: you don't own submissions to HN. It's for the same reason that posts can't simultaneously be "Ask HN" and a link to a site --- the submitter of a link doesn't get a special privileged comment to go with it.

The slot you fill when you submit a new story to HN is community property. If you're worried about the outlandishly weird case of having your name attached to something that a mod decided was better than your submission when it actually wasn't, submit with a throwaway account.

None of this is news. The site has always worked this way. What's galling is the reason people are bickering about it now: because the moderator is making an effort to be more transparent about it.


Why do you have to "own" your submissions for them to be left as-is in the first place? Is the only way to go around here with a stick? Just because they reserve the right to change them doesn't mean it should be done at their own leisure, like "fuck OP, here's what the post should REALLY contain".


Firstly, I hugely disagree with your comment on civility. This is because "pisses me off" expresses my feelings in a way that just could not be captured using other words. If you knew me, which of course you can not, you would understand it really means something when I swear on the internet. At present I can not think of another time when I have done so.

Secondly I would disagree that the "best solution" is to email them as a single entity. Emailing the powers that be could only be the best course of action (about topics such as this) if somebody organised a mass email campaign. Seeing as the site is a medium for news and communication, I feel having this thread in full view of all eyes may not be the "best" but it is still a good solution.


I really don't want to hear another fucking word about "karma" on this site, ever again. "Karma" is what ruined reddit, with spam and reposting rampant only for the sake of stupid fucking Internet points. That is not what the system is meant for.


That's an argument I hear a lot, but karma was integral in building the community when reddit is young. It motivated people to contribute.


Why not have a public edit history? (Or why not show multiple versions, one grayer or smaller print?)


I was once the receiving end of such editing and I thought the mods did the right thing (Added a better link).

It's probably a good idea to give some visual indication to submissions that are tampered with though.


Considering that there is a lot of users using their own identity, changing the title - or worse - the actual source of a submission, could result in misunderstandings.


Suggestion: to have a checkbox on the submission interface, unticked by default, that says "remove my name if the content is changed".

If it is ticked on and then someone else changes the title or link, the the submitter's name is automatically removed.


> It's odd to have something attributed to me that I did not submit.

They could just change the submitter and add something like "Originally submitted by xxx" below it to let people know it's been changed.


I think that at least the edited entries should be marked as such! (Maybe in the footer with a small link to reveal the original.)


Solution: If (mod wants to change link AND link is front page) then mod leaves a comment with link to original.


That's what the moderator currently does.


> then it seems that editorializing to this extent wholly changes what HN is about

This has been being since very many years, so it doesn't really change anything per se. It's that you're just realizing it, and lately primary sources are being preferred more.


No, the mods have definitely become heavier recently. I saw one the other day which was a letter from Richard Feynman to an ex-student, explaining to him, amongst other things, how to choose problems to work on. The original title mentioned that it was from Richard Feynman, the modded title was just something like "How to choose problems to work on", with no mention of Feynman, which is so generic and boring that I would never have clicked on the link.

Dear mods, modding is something to use when there is a clear threat to community values. The default position, if you are in doubt, should be to do nothing.


The rules around titles are to always use the title from the article. If people could make up their own titles we could end up with a tonne of click-bait. There are clearly situations like the one you mention where the title doesn't do the article justice but I'd rather miss the occasional article that see a tonne of click-bait and waste my time viewing dozens of shitty articles.


The rules around titles are to always use the title from the article.

In general, that is the rule.

The cynic in me couldn't help but notice that an article with the original title "One of a Kind: What do you do if your child has a condition that is new to science?" has been on HN's front page for a day now with an alternate title.

For some reason, the same mods who removed "Feynman" as "click-bait" that is "not the title from the article" don't seem to have a problem sticking with the alternate title "Thanks, HN: You helped discover a disease and save lives" [https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8050106].


The submitter here is Matt Might, whose family was the subject of the article. His first comment in the thread makes it obvious why this is an exceptional case.


With all due respect, you've only been on HN for a couple of months.

Why would there be an "exception" to the policy of discouraging submitters from editorializing headlines? Even if the submitter had a personal connection to the material (which isn't unusual), the guidelines should be respected.


Because the purpose of the guidelines is to make the site better, and changing that headline would not make the site better.

Also, the headline modifications in that case were not made with the same intentions that other (harmful) headline modifications are made.


I noted that on the article. Hopefully they will correct it. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8057767


...or just downvote me for even mentioning it :(


So the Feynman article's title did change! I thought my eyes were playing tricks.

Dear moderators: please don't do that. And when someone reposts the classic "You and Your Reseach" again, don't strip out Hamming's name from that title, either.


We'd rather have a primary source than a click-bait blog post.


am i still hellbanned here?


No.


Nope.


sweeeet. ty!


I think the HN community will much prefer having an unmoderated HN over a moderated HN with a bit higher quality as the main reason why people come here, is that the content here is solely selected by the community.

If however, people find out that HN is much more a controlled environment, they will surely turn away from HN. So instead of trying to control the whole thing just in return for a bit of increased quality, rather sacrifice a bit of quality for an open HN. Of course there can be some moderation, however, it becomes a bit tricky when titles and content is changed, and upvotes are controled.


Flagged for meta noise.

I'm pretty sure one of the guidelines is to email in for these kind of questions rather than polluting the frontpage with these kind of posts.


There's something strange about adding meta noise to a post you believe is meta noise.


The entire thread is meta noise.


Because they are nazis.


Hacker News mods are just dicks! That's all.




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