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New Hacker News Guideline: Avoid Gratuitous Negativity (ycombinator.com)
1248 points by sama on Apr 3, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 631 comments



One of the most negative habits is in my opinion the failure to read a comment charitably (to make an effort to interpret it in the best possible light). Instead, people often tend to misread or miserunderstand what's being said, only to use the opportunity to write a "correction" based on that false impression. A worse flavor of the same problem is a misunderstanding that is then used to justify outrage or personal annoyance.

That's what I find worthy of being changed, and I will certainly make an effort to read comments more charitably as well.

Overall though, and I realize this is quite anecdotal, rampant negativity - especially about things other members of the community have created - seems to have gotten less common recently.


This comment brings to mind the concept of the the steel man [1][2].

Steelmanning an argument means to go one step further. In addition to selecting the most charitable parts of another person's argument, one seeks to improve on it, by making it the best possible representation of the other persons position.

From there, one can offer their own counterpoint, to this improved version.

[1] https://themerelyreal.wordpress.com/2012/12/07/steelmanning/

[2] http://lesswrong.com/lw/85h/better_disagreement/


Theatre Sports (competitive collaborative dramatic improvisation) has the concepts of offer, accept, and block.

Accepting an offer means to build on it in some way, as a real part of the scene - in the way you mean.

A block is when you ignore or undermine the offer, denying it instead of building on it. There's temptation to do so for a cheap laugh. The uncharitable negativity of HN seems similar.


One thing that took me a while to understand as a player - accepting doesn't always mean ignoring conflict. If you offer me something, I accept that your version of reality is true; I don't have to agree with specific parts of it.

For example, if someone starts a scene with "Isn't it lovely to be here in Paris?", I accept that we are in Paris, but I don't have to think it's lovely.

The takeaway from this to non-improv discussions is that I'm more aware of the fact that although I might disagree with the comment someone makes, I accept that the writer has that opinion and that they believe it to be true, and if I want to challenge any part of it then I'm going to have a much better time of it if I start from their version of reality.


I hope the order in which these comments lead to yours will stay this way in the future. for reference: https://www.dropbox.com/s/xh6gdqlm8jargi4/Screenshot%202015-...

Why? They perfectly highlight what's the "good common-sense reply" is like, how we should measure with each other opinions and how to handle disagreements.

HN might as well included the conversation as an example.


Accepting means logging|auditing?


Sounds not dissimilar to the "bid/turn towards/turn away" terminology in Gottman relationship theory.


Log is an act we miss. (Change is act limited by log law.)

The steelmanning combinatorially #buildingmentalhealth and emotional regulation while mods are drone operators hiddren unrestricted violently cutting and copping audit logs to get page views clear for what depth of order of self empowerment determination?

[1] http://web.archive.org/*/https://news.ycombinator.com/item?i... [2] https://archive.today/https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9... [3] http://www.webcitation.org/query?id=1428133249694151


I'll note that straw-man seems very common in language flame wars. Steelmanning in that specific context would tend to make one examine the particular context in which the language is most used and why. Come to think of it, many language discussions would vanish in a puffs of pointlessness if it weren't for the many levels of subtlety with which one can disguise straw-man.


At the risk of further derailing the thread, I wonder if there might be a more inclusive term than 'steel man' — I don't feel great about using that phrase to describe 'the best possible representation of a position.' (The issue is fresh in my mind, since I stumbled across the gender-neutral alternative 'straw person'[1] this morning.)

[1] http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2013/18.html, para 21.


What benefit would that bring? Sure we will be more inclusive to the people who don't understand that steelmanning comes from the (opposite) strawmanning, which comes from strawmen, which have been called so for centuries.

Is a person who gets offended by that really the kind of person you want on HN?


I tried to express my comment in a way that made it clear I wasn't attacking the parent. I realise that 'straw man' is centuries old, like many of the terms that are now coming to be supplanted by inclusive alternatives. Of course using such terms doesn't make you a bad person, but I think we can all benefit from considering the connotations of the words we use. Even if you think the harm caused by non-inclusive language is negligible, in many cases it costs you nothing to use an alternative, so why not do it?


I was attacked for being "PC" the last time I used straw person here on HN. I just thought it sounded better, but the poster was adamant that I was responsible for all the ills in society.

Hopefully, this new guideline will avert similar incidents.


Considering how toxic PC people are to debates (ironically exactly because the gratuitus negativity they bring) that is more than a defence mechanism that any healthy community needs to develop to protect itself.

Political correctness should be considered the same as writing a negative comment.


You might get fewer downvotes if you define "PC" and offer some examples so we understand your perspective. Most people who rail against "being PC" are walking pits of gratuitous negativity, so people are probably assuming you're one of them.


PC: Political correctness.

Best example of my head: the developer on Node.js who got haunted to hell because he reversed a change from he to some gender-neutral term. For the feeling of some undefined person Node.js, and I suspect open source in general, lost a good developer.

Other example: after landing a satelite on a rock tens of thousands of miles away the lead of the rocket team is forced to make a tearful apology because is found to wear a shirt with semi-dress women and guns on it. Said shirt being made by his friend, who is a woman.

Other example: dongle gate, github metocracy.

So yeah, a few of these people may, sometimes, have a point, but the community will be much better of if we kick them out on sight.


This seems a bit different from my example: being attacked for using a less common term. In this case, the "PC police" (going by your examples) were the people attacking me because I used a term that offended them.


They attacked you because they assume, incorrectly, that you were one of the PC people, because you used a PC term, not just a less common term. This isn't unreasonable and the cost of letting PC people in is high.


It's not a "PC word." I like the way the word sounds more, so I use it. Word choice is my prerogative as a writer.


It is a PC word. Your choice of word is as you said, your prerogative. How people read it is theirs.


I think you nailed the real problem, which is that people have become so quick to write off anyone who ruffles their feathers at all.

Drew Houston describes the HN feedback he received for Dropbox as all the motivation he needed to keep going. He also explained that he knew it was a hit because of how many people were saying negative things.

Today though, any truly critical comment means you're either a hater or a troll. Every person is either a friend or an enemy. Inside the club or outside the club. You can't sincerely like something, and also be very critical about aspects of it, without instantly transforming into a jealous hater.

Assuming the worst about other people is probably the most negative thing you can do. Everyone is a mixed bag.


I would like to say though that as someone who occasionally makes things, I do appreciate proper critique and I do like to hear about different view points.

Voicing legitimate and non-pedantic disagreement in a polite manner is to me one of the major features HN offers, simply because it's a collection of interesting people.

Myself, I don't always agree with the majority opinion either. For example, I disagree with Sam's opinion about AGI, and even though that particular comment was received quite badly, I never meant it to be anything else but an invitation to see things from another perspective.


Sometimes I like to ask a lot of critical questions because I care and I really like it.

Other times because I'm trying to rip it to shreds. It's probably impossible to tell for someone online which mode I am in.


he knew it was a hit because of how many people were saying negative things

Most get negative reviews, few are hits. The irony is that I've seen that thread and I thought it was generally well-received.


[flagged]


There may be a misunderstanding here.

This guideline isn't about who you "write off"—obviously you can have whatever opinion you want to—and it certainly isn't about giving everyone the same amount of time and respect. It's about maintaining a minimal level of respect when commenting, for the sake of the community as a whole. As for time, you always have the option of giving people zero of it simply by not commenting in the first place.

Nor is this about making HN "touchy-feely" or, as another commenter put it, Panglossian. There are infinitely many ways to be neither touchy-feely nor abusive. It is not hard.


I responded to the idea behind a specific statement, I did not make a generalized observation about the guideline.

I even quoted the idea I was responding to. Perhaps you should practice some of that charitable interpretation.


You did make a generalized observation about the guidline: "If HN has decided to be touchy feely than this most certainly isn't the place for me. I prefer actual discourse where bullshit opinions are called out as such."

I also think you misunderstood the point the person was making with that statement:

It's harder to make helpful critical statements when people let their feathers get ruffled, decide to treat you as a hater, and then disregard your comment. (I think that exact behavior is in play in this series of sub threads).

I don't think your original comment should have been downvoted due to disagreement the way it has been so I am upvoting it to balance that out.


I can see the interpretation, but no, I didn't reference the guideline, I was referencing the community. This may no longer be the place for me and if that turns out to be the case I'll gladly leave.

> I also think you misunderstood the point the person was making with that statement: It's harder to make helpful critical statements when people let their feathers get ruffled, decide to treat you as a hater, and then disregard your comment. (I think that exact behavior is in play in this series of sub threads).

And I gave a reason for dismissing people that had nothing to do with ruffled feathers.

An observation I like to make to people in politics.

Do you know why those people do those things with absolutely no regard for how you feel about it? Because you're so biased against whatever group they fall into that absolutely nothing they do is going to be ok. You'll dismiss the good, you'll amplify the bad.

So why wouldn't they dismiss you?

The same can be said of the internet. There are too many idiots who think having an opinion is enough. I will not waste my time on them.

Does that make me closed minded? So. Fucking. Be it, I'm closed minded. I learned that from experience.


You know, if you see a bullshit opinion or statement, there are ways of refuting it that don't need the level of aggression you are showing here.

Here's an example: homeopathy. If someone believes in it, then you can give counter statements without calling them an idiot. You can explain that you believe it's without basis through reasoned argument, and you absolutely should show respect for the other person. You don't even have to respect their opinion - heck I have zero respect for homeopathy - but that other person might have reasons for their stance.

At the end of the day, Hacker News works because it allows the free flow of ideas through discussion. HN knows that being wrong and failing are important to innovation because there are so many things that are non-intuitive that you need to give people space to think and act outside the box.

To allow for innovation needs robust discussion where you freely share your wild and unorthodox thoughts in a safe environment. A safe environment is one where you invite criticism and allow others to point out the flaws of your ideas, but you do so in the knowledge that they are doing it out of respect to try to help you improve your theories, plans or projects - not to treat you like a complete idiot not worthy of any respect. On the other side of the coin, you should be able to freely and constructively criticise without fear that you will be penalised by the community and that your criticism is given to help the other party limit their failure, or think of ways of improving their idea by ironing out flaws.

In essence, when you call another person an idiot, or treat them as such, you break the very model that makes HN successful. So with the greatest of respect, if you can't get your point or view across without denigrating the other party, I don't think HN was or ever will be the forum for you.


>To allow for innovation needs robust discussion where you freely share your wild and unorthodox thoughts in a safe environment

That may be useful, but that isn't HN. If your comment is positive about Javascript (which is actually a good language once you get to know it) or SPAs that comment is very likely to be downvoted.

If you even find a place that actually allows discussion of unortodoc views, please tell me.


Speaking just for me: I've never downvoted somebody for liking JavaScript or approving of SPAs, though I disagree with the first and cringe at the second. But I've downvoted you enough to recognize your username because a ton of your posts sound like you're looking for a fight. Your behavior is regularly (and elsewhere in this thread, even) toxic and aggressively misrepresentative of people who don't agree with you.

Maybe you should consider if the signals being sent your way mean what you think they mean.


I think that's the goal of this new guideline.


And yet, some would probably argue that refusing to engage at all shows a certain amount of respect for a person's right to have an opinion.

The issue is one of using a word that can be applied to both sides of the argument. I was quite clear from the very beginning. This is about me not wasting time on people. It has nothing to do with respect or disrespect.

Take ZenoArrow, for example. Why have I chosen to completely ignore him whilst seemingly engaging with others in this thread? Is it because he's been extra mean compared to everyone else?

Because it isn't enough to simply disagree. In ZenoArrow's case it's the arrogance of his thinking he can manipulate me into whatever direction he wants to go.

Why in the world would you bother engaging someone who is smarter than you are? It's a waste of time for all parties involved.

> To allow for innovation needs robust discussion where you freely share your wild and unorthodox thoughts in a safe environment.

You say this in a response to a subcomment of a flagged comment that attacked no person, nor idea. It simply stated that I dismiss people readily, and will continue to do so. Is that the sort of safe place for wild and unorthodox ideas, or is it only the wild and unorthodox ideas that everyone else has that's acceptable?


> This is about me not wasting time on people. It has nothing to do with respect or disrespect.

Your first flagged comment says:

> I'm quick to write off people and I won't apologize for it. I have better things to do with my time than to give everyone the same amount of time and respect.

So people think it's about respect because you explicitly said it was about respect.


ok, fair enough, I did say that. I guess my point is that the word is too broad and that isn't how I meant it.

They're not important enough in my life for me to spend my time worrying about. Or maybe I should say I don't get emotionally involved in anything they say at that point. They live in whatever bubble they live in and it has nothing to do with me.

And that some might consider it respect that I simply let them have whatever opinion they want.


I'm genuinely confused.

When someone makes an idiotic comments the options are:

i) ignore them

ii) call them an idiot

iii) explain why they're wrong

All these new guidelines are askig you avoid is ii). This thread has a few other people saying that criticism is valuable. But the guidelines are not asking people to stop giving criticism! They're just asking people to avoid either needless negativity or personal negativity.

You can still, if you wish, destroy bad ideas while staying firmly within the guidelines.


I specifically replied to a comment roughly stating that part of the issue with HN is people who choose option i) by stating I choose option i) and I do it fairly quickly because I have better things to do with my time than give everyone an equal share of both my time and my respect.

I don't want to explain why someone is wrong, they don't care. Do you know how often I've corrected someone online and had them not deny the problem?

Not often enough for me to spend my time worrying about it.


"In ZenoArrow's case it's the arrogance of his thinking he can manipulate me into whatever direction he wants to go."

We clearly disagreed, I'll not deny that, but the arrogance and manipulation you're referring to was an invitation to comment on something I believe is fundamental. I didn't tell you whether you had to agree, but instead was looking for the point at which our opinions diverged. I can't make you agree with me, nor would I necessarily want to, a world where we all thought the same would be lesser for it, instead I'd prefer to find out about the thoughts guiding our differences.

Perhaps the problem was that I wasn't angry, that you needed conflict in order to bring out what you could've said. I can't be sure that it's true for you, but in my experience some people are fuelled by that sort of drama. It's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just not what I personally want.


You just keep talking at him. You don't seem to understand that he's winning. Everything you're saying just slides off him.

He's stated his position and believes it's confirmed by how he's been downvoted and flagkilled. For what it's worth, I think he's right, I think that whatever you think of his comment, the reception was disproportionate; but that doesn't matter now: he's gone.

And you jabber on and on. You find his other comments so you can make him read more, desperate for another chance. You can't walk away.

You hate to lose.

I bet you want to respond with some gimmick about how you're concerned about him. Stop lying to yourself: he left the conversation with you, and you're alone talking to yourself. This is about you now.

(Well, and me. But I'm trying to teach you something about how your constant search for a middle ground is in reality pretty condescending.)


> And you jabber on and on. [...] You can't walk away. You hate to lose.

Personal attacks are not allowed on Hacker News. Moreover this subthread has gone far off topic. Please stop.


dang, thank you, but it's okay. I don't feel offended, and I'd rather let this thread run its course, but if you do want to stop the comments I don't mind.

FWIW, I've admired how you've responded with consideration and honesty to feedback elsewhere in the comments, clearly it's a contentious issue but I believe the thread has been more productive as a result of your approach.


If anything throwawaymaroon should be commended for attempting to spend time I'm not willing to spend on explaining it to Zeno (and I think throwawaymaroon understands my thinking).

I get what you're saying, but it wasn't fair calling throwawaymaroon out in this conversation. If anything Zeno and myself deserve it, but not throwawaymaroon.


"But I'm trying to teach you something about how your constant search for a middle ground is in reality pretty condescending."

Good. So why is it condescending? What do you find offensive about being reasonable with those you disagree with?


Sorry this took so long. I was rate-limited and still rate-limited before I went to sleep.

>What do you find offensive about being reasonable with those you disagree with?

To start, here it feels like you're trying to put words in my mouth. I didn't say it was offensive to be reasonable with those you disagree with.

Now I can see, on closer reading, that you're just extending what I said about finding a middle ground. And it's a good way to detect where a miscommunication is by saying what you think I meant (that is, you're telling me how you received it).

But it causes a miscommunication in that I receive it as an uncharitable reading: the tone of "I'm lightly incredulous that this is what you mean, please clarify" becomes "You believe something utterly and obviously ridiculous."

But that's not really what this has been about. More to the point, I think the problem you're having is that you assume someone has to want to meet you in the middle. There isn't any rule that says this about discussion, even if it's generally assumed and often true.

mreiland made his point and then he didn't want to spend any more time with you.

>Your post perfectly shows part of the problem, which is... you can give it, but you can't take it. If you're not prepared to give people the benefit of the doubt, why would you expect something different in return?

>>You missed my point, have a good day.

In some ways it's unfair of him to do this, but at least he did it directly and honestly. And you still had, in my opinion, a chance to re-engage him. You tried:

>>>Then let's discuss what I missed, perhaps I did misunderstand you. Let's start again from this, do you agree with the golden rule? What does it mean to you? http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Rule

Why did this fail? I think it's at least partly true that you weren't being fair to him. You are trying to find middle ground, it's true, but it's middle ground you're beginning with conditions favorable to you.

And more importantly it's a bit absurd to ask him to move to a discussion on basic ethics terms. That's where I got the 'school exercise' bit: you're asking him to jump through hoops to satisfy your desire for a peaceful resolution, or a 'further understanding,' or whatever it is your goal was.

Rereading your comments more closely, I'm starting to think maybe the problem is that you're charmingly naive (and I mean that well): you're a genuinely positive person with thick skin and an earnest desire to communicate. Maybe today that reacted badly with a gruff and grumbling persona; maybe in communicating with friends you can successfully get people to sit down with introspective and meditative discussion questions like this one:

> I know I've made mistakes in the past. If I make a mistake in something I've said, does that exclude me from being able to learn from it? How will you know who is capable of learning without exploring their reasoning?

"Let's go around the circle and share an experience, shall we?" -- Fun in some situations, but not really appropriate to mreiland.

I think that's most of what I can think of to say about your tactics.

I'd like to broaden something out to make a meta-point, though, because none of that explains why mreiland was so deliberate about ignoring you. In some sense, the conversation is about the right to write someone off. It's a right mreiland exercised gleefully in your case; perhaps even a touch too gleefully, but even that's part of the point: it's his right to do so if he chooses, because you can't force him into a conversation.

There's also a sense in which that was a necessary part of his strategy: refuse to muddle that point and stick solely to the right to discontinue conversation. I don't know how well he managed that in the end, but the main event is still: mreiland made a level-headed comment saying "I'm inclined to write people off," and got written off by the community.


"I'm starting to think maybe the problem is that you're charmingly naive (and I mean that well): you're a genuinely positive person with thick skin and an earnest desire to communicate."

That's one of the highest compliments I've ever received! Even naïve sounds heroic to me in the way you put it. Thank you very much!

"Maybe today that reacted badly with a gruff and grumbling persona"

Maybe, but it wasn't completely uncalled for. For what it's worth, I understood the risk of asking for clarity with a leading question, it's not the first time it has backfired. Sometimes I forget people need to vent freely, as I often want to cut to the core of the matter. It's possibly a sign of impatience, I'll try to give people more time in the future.

To be clear, whilst I certainly do desire peaceful resolution of conflict, I'm also interested in the truth. Whilst all truth is subjective, it should bear to stand up to a certain amount of scrutiny. You're quite right that mreiland made a level-headed comment about writing people off and subsequently got written off, my only real feedback was that such a response was predictable. The reasons given for writing off were slightly different (writing off idiocy vs. writing off intolerance) but at the core it's the same issue, in that to give is to receive in return. I don't know mreiland's history, and maybe he/she has more reason than most to write some people off quickly, all I can say is that it's a vicious cycle. I hoped some exploration of it could help change that cycle, but it didn't work out this time, no problem, time for me to let it go.

Thank you for your thoughtful response throwawaymaroon, it was very much appreciated.


> I'd like to broaden something out to make a meta-point, though, because none of that explains why mreiland was so deliberate about ignoring you. In some sense, the conversation is about the right to write someone off. It's a right mreiland exercised gleefully in your case; perhaps even a touch too gleefully, but even that's part of the point: it's his right to do so if he chooses, because you can't force him into a conversation.

Exactly it. Normally I just stop responding, but I was making a point.

Putting real effort into each and every internet conversation in which a disagreement happens will leave you emotionally drained and angry at the world.


"Does that make me closed minded? So. Fucking. Be it, I'm closed minded. I learned that from experience."

I can't remember where I read it, but someone I believe was wise once said 'Our first approximation of other people is ourselves'. If I considered myself to be closed minded, it seems to be a burden. Sure, it would make some things simpler, but it's also quite isolating. Furthermore, it's too simplistic, no one is wise or a fool all the time, do you see the space in yourself for both?


Somebody said that the people who don't care are the people who once cared too much. Perhaps those who now consider themselves close-minded are those who have seen too many stupid ideas?


I think that's somewhat true of me.

I'm still apt to argue and discuss until the cows come home, but I have to evaluate the other person first to determine if it's worth the emotional effort.

You never know if you're arguing with a 50 year old who has seen some shit or a 17 year old who has read some shit. One of those is more useful to argue with than the other.


Your post perfectly shows part of the problem, which is... you can give it, but you can't take it. If you're not prepared to give people the benefit of the doubt, why would you expect something different in return?


You missed my point, have a good day.


Then let's discuss what I missed, perhaps I did misunderstand you.

Let's start again from this, do you agree with the golden rule? What does it mean to you?

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Rule


You're not going to get anywhere by throwing discussion questions at him like this is a school exercise.

You missed his point and he's gone.

Edit: Oh, don't mind me, I'm just dwelling on how you seem to be in some starry-eyed optimistic we're-all-in-this-together quest to "further understanding" in a pit of petty verbal combat.


"You missed his point and he's gone."

He made extra posts after the comment you replied to. Furthermore, the exercise could've been used to further understanding. If the poster decides they have something to say in response, I'll take the time to read it.


no you hit the nail on the head, I chose to ignore him specifically because of his questions.


> I'm quick to write off people and I won't apologize for it. I have better things to do with my time than to give everyone the same amount of time and respect.

Well, if a comment/post doesn't deserve your respect, why do you take time to reply to it to begin with?

I always oppose to non tech savvy people saying "there are horrible things on the internet" that those are sorted out by themselves : what is bad is ignored. A bad thing becomes a thing from the point you give more attention to it than it deserves.


I didn't say comment or post I said people.

See, this is why people get dismissed, because they do things like quote me and then attack something I never said.


So you write off people, but not what they say? Since this comment was made in the context of HN, I assume your avenue for determining if you're going to write them off is their posts and comments.


brazzle, please stop. I don't really know why you've chosen to follow me around across multiple sites like this, but I wasn't even the only one trying to talk you down out of your addiction.

no good deed ever goes unpunished, eh?


I have no idea what you're talking about, I don't play that video game. What site do you think we had this discussion on?


edit: shit you guys, can't you go with the reading my comment charitably or will you hit that downvote button again, thereby showing your hypocrisy?

I think you misunderstood the new guideline. My takeaway was that people should try to interpret things charitably and not react blindly and impulsively, especially when their reaction is to write a comment. I can't find anything in the guideline that suggests that people shouldn't disagree with you. That's what's I believe is happening to you: people read your comment, try to interpret it charitably and find that they still disagree with you enough to downvote it.


There are always going to be those times when the most charitable reasonable interpretation is still incredibly bad.


(For me) the kicker in your response was: than to give everyone the same amount of time and respect

Who then, is worth of your time and/or respect?

What is your criteria? Fine by me to have your opinion. But at least be able to back it up with some substance.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ017D_JOPY&t=3m15s

But I honestly fall into the other camp that believes respect should be given freely.

BUT

that lasts until you open your mouth and say something stupid. I've had "discussions" with people about whether or not MAtz Ruby had a GIL.

You don't get my respect for holding that opinion and I have better things to do with my time than worry about your feelings.

There's a clear difference between someone with a differing opinion and someone with a flawed thought process. I'm ok with a person telling me C++ is the most horrible thing since sliced bread despite my love for the language. I'm not ok with someone telling me allocation/deallocation in C++ is slower than C# because some article on the internet talked about allocation without going into the cost of deallocation.

One of those is understandable, the other is flat out wrong and if you choose to hold to that opinion then you're going to get dismissed as someone whose thought process is too faulty to trust.

And I have better things to do with my time.


You're setting up a huge strawman. The new guideline is not asking you to suffer fools. It's to give people the benefit of the doubt, because in online conversation, there is dramatically more room for interpretation than in face-to-face conversation.

HN doesn't have a problem with listening to knowledgeable people and speaking the blunt truth. It does, however, have a problem with civility, and addressing that by asking people to be a bit nicer does not merit a sky-is-falling response that straightforward honesty is going to be chucked out the window. Frankly, given the personality type here, there is no slippery slope anywhere in sight.


[flagged]


You're being down voted because your posts are mean-spirited and not adding any value. You've made your opinion clear that you don't give a shit and the people have spoken with their down votes. Your posts are quite literally the definition of what HN said they do not want here. You suggested that this might no longer be the forum for you - perhaps that is something to consider further.


I hate being that guy but when I see people that are inexplicably angry I try to understand where they're coming from and that inevitably involves being a creepy internet stalker.

I couldn't find anything that would concretely explain the anger but I did find that they seem to have a consistent chip on their shoulder, to the point where I had to stop reading because the negativity was starting to make me quite angry for the people that have interacted with this person.

The final straw was a post where she/he asked for help with PowerShell and then bit the person's head off because they had the audacity to treat her/him like he/she doesn't have a CS degree when they had absolutely no idea what his/her qualifications are. This is highly speculative but I can only guess it's insecurity strengthened by every negative interaction they have, perhaps cementing this idea that they're a misunderstood genius in a world of idiots. I genuinely feel bad for them.


I am that guy a lot too - I struggle to understand people who are not kind or don't make any sense to me. But as I get older I try a lot harder to simply move away from such people without giving them any real estate in my thoughts. It's easier said than done to be sure.


For those that are curious, brazzle and myself got into it a while back about his league of legends addiction and he's kind of kept tabs on me ever since.

For those who can think critically though, the post he's referencing was about 1.5 years ago. An awful lot of reading for someone who did nothing more than state an opinion about not wasting time on people.


>For those that are curious, brazzle and myself got into it a while back about his league of legends addiction and he's kind of kept tabs on me ever since.

Are you being serious?

>An awful lot of reading for someone who did nothing more than state an opinion about not wasting time on people.

Not if you're picking posts at random. And you've done more than that and you know it. If nothing else you know it from the reaction you've garnered. In expanding on your opinion you've revealed someone that's either very negative or very much blind to normal human interaction norms even if we take into account relative cultural values.

That post from 1.5 years ago was absolutely vitriolic. If you think people respond to you this way repeatedly on different forums because they're stupid I can only assume you think so because of insecurity. Intelligence amounts to little without wisdom to guide it and only someone without wisdom would ignore the obvious pattern and common denominator.


This has gone far off topic and it's time for both of you to stop.


It wasn't my intention to respond to him any further.


LOL. You're being downvoted because you're not even engaging with my argument, tone is the least of your problems here.


So true, and the downvotes are a great example of what one should do instead of shitting all over people/opinions/posts/projects/etc. As long as at least one side in every HN argument is willing to speak less and vote more, reasoned discussion can prevail.


That would be the dismissing part :)


Above, you wrote:

I have better things to do with my time than to give everyone the same amount of time and respect.

I understand that feeling. Life is short. But why take the time to respond at all, then, dismissively or otherwise?

"A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer." [1]

For me, sometimes a charitable interpretation of a "foolish" question or comment provides a framework to think about, or write about, what I see as the more salient point. Responding is optional, after all, so why not respond from the perspective of charitable discourse?

[1] Bruce Lee (!)


The difference is in how you respond to the person.

So, with the person who has read an article, or heard a soundbite and repeated it incorrectly, consider how you would respond to it in person if they were in front of you.

Gratuitous negativity is being rude, and not addressing the argument. Perhaps they are holding that opinion because it is the only one they have heard.

Did you ever change anyones mind by screaming at them that they were an idiot? Why would it be different online? Present your case for disagreement, with sources, and your experience, then walk away from the discussion if you feel the individual is not going to be taking it on board.

Perhaps your well written, calm, take down of their points will persuade someone else. I always view it as "I do not have to persuade the author of anything, but perhaps someone reads my position and changes their mind" In which case, I would rather not come across as if I was about to burst a blood vessel, or incapable of pointing out flaws in an argument without resorting to "Your thought process is too faulty to trust".


> So, with the person who has read an article, or heard a soundbite and repeated it incorrectly, consider how you would respond to it in person if they were in front of you.

I would dismiss them and go on with my life.

> Did you ever change anyones mind by screaming at them that they were an idiot?

I'm curious as to why you think my statement about dismissing people implies "screaming" at them? When I dismiss someone I dismiss them. I have no interest in changing their mind or teaching them something. I am not here to teach the denizens of the world how to read up on subjects before speaking of them. I'm here for myself, no one else.

> Present your case for disagreement, with sources, and your experience, then walk away from the discussion if you feel the individual is not going to be taking it on board.

You don't get to tell me how much time I should spend on them before dismissing them ("walking away").

But see, I didn't specify either. Your statement about walking away implies you agree with me about dismissing them.

> Perhaps your well written, calm, take down of their points will persuade someone else.

Why do I care?


This thread is about commenting on an online forum. If yu are not commenting the entire thread can be ignored. You have replied to the thread. Thus, you are not talking about things you imagine when you read a dumb comment because noone cares about that. You are talking about the style of comments you leave so i'm not sure why you're talking about when you're not leaving comments.


Rather than getting yourself wound up with faulty thinking over something that's clearly wrong, is it not just better to show them the facts? It's quicker than arguing too.


Do you seriously think someone who dismisses people so quickly gets wound up about it? The entire point of dismissing them is to avoid wasting time on them, what in the world gives you the impression I'm getting emotional about it?

To answer your question, I'm 36 years old. I've been online for a quite a while.

It took me a lot of years but I did eventually learn the lesson. On the internet people are never wrong and even citing sources gets you drug into yet another stupid conversation you don't want to be involved in.

I didn't invent the idea of "don't argue with stupid people, they'll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience".

But I wholeheartedly agree with it.


The "live and let live" approach you're describing works, I agree that it's a necessary part of being online, arguing with everyone you disagreed with would be tiring.

Couple of points...

1. You said before that you have had conversations with people about whether MRI had a GIL. In hindsight, do you agree it would've been preferable to link to a recent article about that GIL and then leave if it was wasn't sinking in?

2. I know I've made mistakes in the past. If I make a mistake in something I've said, does that exclude me from being able to learn from it? How will you know who is capable of learning without exploring their reasoning?


shit you guys, can't you go with the reading my comment charitably or will you hit that downvote button again, thereby showing your hypocrisy?

The whole "why won't you be tolerant of my intolerance?" paradox again. Cute.


The whole "why won't you be tolerant of my intolerance?" paradox again.

Without going into further detail, it's not really a paradox. In fact it's a reasonable if somewhat mean, observation to make.


No, hypocrisy.

You don't get to pick and choose who to interpret charitably unless you want to be a hypocrite.

But here's the thing.

That idea is valid even though your dislike of my post is going to drive you to continue attacking me unnecessarily.

and that is why I have a tendency to dismiss people.


"Charitable reading" is not synonymous with "ignore abuse and snark".

Edit: oldmanjay - I can't reply yet, so editing here:

mreiland is basically arguing that abuse should be let through because of 'charitable reading'. I'm commenting against that concept, not chiding mreiland for being abusive.

However, mreiland is definitely being snarky - if you wanted to read this comment as chiding the behaviour in this thread, don't chop off the last two words.


Just so you know, if you want to reply to a comment before the reply link shows up, clicking on the description of post time (e.g. '1 hour ago') will enable the reply feature. It's not very intuitive, but it is a reliable workaround.


I'd hit the "5 comments in a few hours" HN limit, but thanks, I hadn't realised that.


Oh I assumed it would be inferred that I agree that there is snark. I just don't see abuse.


It seems like you would have to be incredibly uncharitable indeed to feel abused by anything in this discussion. Although I admit I am not particularly sensitive.


What I like to tell people is this:

If you have to tell me what my position/argument/opinion is, chances are you're involved in a strawman.

In particular, I responded to someone complaining about people who dismiss others easily. I responded by stating I dismiss people quickly and will continue to do so and I explained why.

A few back and forths later and here you are telling me I'm arguing that HN should "ignore abuse and snark".

For those who are maybe a bit more middle of the road in these types of conversations. THIS is why I'm so quick to dismiss. I could respond back with "nuhuh, that isn't what I said" and let this stupid conversation devolve into a time wasting exercise in futility.

Or I could recognize that vacri didn't like something I said or the way I said it and came into the interaction with a negativity towards me such that he chose to do exactly what this thread initially recommended people do, which is to interpret things charitably.

And it is for this reason that I'm going to simply dismiss vacri as too biased and emotionally clouded to spend time on.

here is a concrete example of how and why I dismiss people. In case it wasn't clear to anyone.


> people often tend to misread or miserunderstand what's being said

This is like the phenomenon examined in this 2005 paper: Egocentrism Over E-Mail: Can We Communicate as Well as We Think?[1]

From the abstract:

> Without the benefit of paralinguistic cues such as gesture, emphasis, and intonation, it can be difficult to convey emotion and tone over electronic mail. [...] this limitation is often underappreciated, such that people tend to believe that they can communicate over e-mail more effectively than they actually can.

When we read a HN comment negatively, we should second guess our interpretation of it before we reply. We may not have perceived it the way the author intended.

Likewise when writing comments, we should ask ourselves if our wording might be received more negatively than we realize.

[1] http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/nicholas.epley/krugeretal05....


Another factor, although probably less prominent, is responsiveness. Back when I used to code on a MUD I noticed that conversations on one of the messages boards were much more likely to heat up than chat sessions. Just being able to react and clarify things from one sentence to the next makes a big difference.

I suppose it's possible there's also some sort of face-to-face feel with chat that encourages sympathetic responses.


I'd say social cues are important. When you write in text you're really speaking in the tone and voice of someone's mind - which means their current emotional state, perception of the writer etc.

The only reliable way I've found to make text only social interaction work is basically to be what feels like overly nice. Which manages to average out to a casual conversation in the real world - I think. I mean who knows?


> Instead, people often tend to misread or miserunderstand > what's being said, only to use the opportunity to write a > "correction" based on that false impression.

Part of this issue is what at Stackoverflow was called the "Fastest Gun in the West Problem" [1].

I think a successful strategy on HN is: Write many comments really quickly and take the risk that some of them are bad or even wrong. The incentive for being an early commenter outbalances the penalty for being wrong sometimes.

[1] http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2008/10/solving-the-fastest-gu...


You are right. I read this somewhere, something along the lines ... that when you disagree with someone, you should first make sure to repeat and restate the arguments of the opponent you disagreeing with, in your own words, before making any of your own arguments.


Here's one version, from Daniel Dennett:

> How to compose a successful critical commentary:

> 1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.

> 2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

> 3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.

> 4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/03/28/daniel-den...

I add thoughts here: http://blog.jessriedel.com/2015/01/28/links-for-january-2015...


I've seen it put as "steelmanning" an argument, as the opposite of a strawman. A strawman misrepresents the opposing argument to make it weaker; a steelman interprets an argument as strongly as possible before refuting it.

At the very least, I try to phrase feedback as "this is awesome; I particularly like the ability to ... and the approach addressing .... I think it would help to also ...", or similar statements that make it clear what's good before commenting on what could be improved.


It's an excellent list. A little amusing as Dennett's own debating style is a touch more robust than this might suggest. Though in all fairness, if it's him vs. another philosopher of similar standing, both with subtle and complex positions built up over 40+ year careers, working through steps 1 - 3 might lengthen the discussion somewhat.


But, are you disagreeing or agreeing with me? LOL, j/k. Things are always so subtle with human communication. It is always fun to watch/see people put down rules to manage the psychology of communication (referring to original thread). But following rules, or have conscious awareness of the least minimum rules (etiquette is a better word) is always so important in having a reasonable environment.


Thanks for sharing that list.


I also like the (related) idea of an Ideological Turing Test:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideological_Turing_Test


That's a really good idea; you shouldn't just be able to restate the opposing argument as a devil's advocate, you should be able to understand all the arguments well enough to make them as effectively as any advocate. And you shouldn't sound like a caricature of that position unless all advocates of that position sound equally ridiculous.


I ended a debate with a local firebrand Baptist with a simple question. He insisted atheists are immoral, so I said: "It sounds like you're saying I'm immoral."

"It does sound a little ridiculous when you put it that way. You seem like a decent person, if a little more sinful than average."

Apparently he was so used to talking exclusively to other religious people that he assumed everyone shared the same concept of morality, which for him was tied up in religious law. It didn't occur to him that alternate morality frameworks (like humanism) could exist, so he assumed atheists were immoral.


I used to try to do that.

Then some people were against gay marriage. And I listened to their arguments - or tried to because they literally didn't have a single one based on logic.

So if I was to follow that rule I couldn't critize such people at all.

Which lead me to the following conclusion: all of these rules of debate are excellent when you sit around the tables in Oxford or similar places or the debate is held under the Chatham house rules with a selection process for the invites.

Outside, in the real world, arguments are politics, which is just war fought by other means, and should be treated as such, for the same reason that you end up with defect-defect in the prisoners dilemma.


You end up with defect-defect in the prisoner's dilemma only in theory. In practice, you tend to get mutual cooperation. The prisoner's dilemma is an incomplete picture of human rationality. It assumes you are playing against an agent you can't actually identify with.


That is true, I guess I should have specified that I meant it between entities (people, countries, etc) that really disliked each other.


"you shouldn't sound like a caricature of that position unless all advocates of that position sound equally ridiculous"

No, you owe it to yourself to make the best possible argument for the other side's position. It might still sound ridiculous in the end, but you really want to nail it and understand the argument. If for no other reason to expand your thinking on your side.

Sadly, you probably should also understand the sound bites, but that is concession to how the world works and not your own education.


> No, you owe it to yourself to make the best possible argument for the other side's position. It might still sound ridiculous in the end, but you really want to nail it and understand the argument. If for no other reason to expand your thinking on your side.

I think we're saying the same thing. I was suggesting that in some cases, the arguments really don't hold water at all, and there's no way to make them sound otherwise. In which case, if you're attempting to pass a Turing-like test for sounding like someone advocating that position, you're going to sound equally ridiculous.


Sometimes, the best thing to do is repeat someone's ridiculous view back to them. Most of the time, I get "yes, that's correct" back and can be sure there's no point in continuing. Saves time and energy.


I've never heard that before, but it's excellent advice. Sometimes I like to come up with the best argument I possibly can against my own beliefs (basically playing devil's advocate with myself) to better understand opposing viewpoints, but this is even better.


That reads like some of the mediation or non-violent communication advice I've heard.

The point is that it lets people feel like they've been heard and understood.


I think you're right! It's difficult to communicate tone and other 'out of band' stuff through text. This is what Wikipedia's "Assume good faith" guideline is to addresses.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Assume_good_faith


The corrections I find the most frustrating are the ones that attempt to frame something that is reasonably a difference of opinion as a black/white, right/wrong issue.

A made up example using something that is about as subjective as possible: No, that's wrong, strawberries are awful.

(just changing that to "I disagree, ..." gets rid of a lot of the nonsense)

There also ends up being a lot of what is essentially squabbling, comments going back and forth over what someone meant, or pedantically squishing some point that had done a good enough job of transmitting the idea (I'm all for being careful when it matters, I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter all the time).


The pedantic bickering is brutal because you cannot collapse threads.


Check out the Hacker News Enhancement Suite for Chrome.


Comment collapsing and new comment highlighting are both excellent reasons to use the extension.


The whole site needs rewriting and modernizing. Considering the audience, it's kind of shocking how stale it is.


I have a sneaking suspicion that maybe, just maybe, the looks of HN have helped protect the community against trolls. Everybody knows internet commenting is crude, rude and awful more often than not. In my opinion HN is a glorious example of an online community done right and I'm not sure we should change the site.

But who knows, maybe it will even be better if it gets a little make-over.


I think features can benefit the individual without damaging the community. For example, AJAX enabled replies would leave me in the place I was reading, rather than taking me back to the top of the page, requiring me to hit 'back' twice after every comment. It would be nice if the 'next' link always worked too, instead of just throwing an error if you're browsing too slowly.

Email replies are covered by HN Notify, which, while hacky, does the job. It would be nice to have a simple Reddit-style red envelope, though, rather than clicking my username, then 'Comments' to see if I've had replies.

Of course, there are people who will say, "How much effort is it to click the back button?" but the irony is that these are exactly the kind of bad UX choices that the HN community would criticize any "Show HN" for.

I find the dissuasion away from multiple levels of replies as though in-depth discussion is a bad thing to be bewildering. Comments like "Replying here because I can't reply deeper" shouldn't need to exist. Apparently it's to prevent arguments, but collapsible comments would hide away anything you don't want to follow further.


"It would be nice to have a simple Reddit-style red envelope, though, rather than clicking my username, then 'Comments' to see if I've had replies."

I agree that a notification of replies would be useful. Small tip, instead of clicking your username then clicking on comments, which is something I did for a long time too, just click on the threads link at the top of the page. Takes you to the same content, but in one click rather than two.


I'm not sure what made reddit turn so bad (and I mostly mean the default subreddits and the subscribers rather than the site itself) but I hope that some care is taken to avoid it. HN is a breath of fresh air compared to reddit and I would endure a lot of bad UX if it helped keep it that way.


> I'm not sure what made reddit turn so bad

Popularity, I guess. It became a very general interest site that covers a wide range of interests, and therefore appeals to an equally wide range of visitors -- including those with, shall we say, poor taste and etiquette. HN, on the other hand, is largely centered around the working programmer, a group of people who, for the most part, are looking for something interesting rather than memetic jibber jabber.


I've noticed a big improvement since dang took off the invisibility cloak. All the famous attempts at replacing HN tried to solve community problems technologically (like public referral trees and user-based discussions), but they all fall short of just having a visible and active moderator.


It also helps that dang has been willing - eager, even - to issue a mea culpa and reverse a decision. In other words, he's willing to admit to mistakes, or if not mistakes, at least sincere and reasoned discussion. This goes a long way. He doesn't just say, "Hey, I decided, you live with it."


The site in general is good, but the user moderation system is utterly awful. A 'disagree' mod double-functions as a censor, and there's no need because there's also a separate flagging system. My profile page has a bit of a rant about the shortcomings of the mod system here with more detail.

The autodetection algorithms probably need tweaking as well - from time to time I see users with polite comment histories mysteriously getting shadowbanned. Sometimes another user will look into it and post a comment to that effect, but without a user-to-user messaging system or a method to reply to dead comments, there's no guarantee that a shadowbanned user will see a friendly message.


Not only does it censor, it gives some people undue power. A few days ago, I commented on a now flagkilled post. Within a couple of hours, some 15-20 other people had commented on it, and each and every post, except mine, was grayed out from downvotes. I had gotten a downvote too, but I had enough votes to counterbalance the briagading. I read the other comments, but did not notice anything nasty or disrespectful in there.

This abuse of power is ruining the system for those who have new accounts or only post occasionally.


"the looks of HN have helped protect the community against trolls."

Trolls just use the add-ons. Trolls will put in effort that normal users would not. A lot of online communities design based on the idea that trolls are lazy, and I think that has not served us well.


I would like to put the downvote to rest. The upvote seems like it would be sufficient? The better comments rise to the top. The lesser comments are left at the bottom.


Trolls exist on HN, I assure you. They're not scared off by the simplicity of the layout.


They exist but they are not that many. The spartan layout might be one reason.


There might be a correlation, but I doubt it's a strong one. Maybe there just aren't that many unique accounts here, and this isn't a particularly mainstream site. There are reasons to be turned off of Hacker News that go beyond the layout.

Imageboards can have pretty low-tech and annoyingly obtuse UX as well but trolls adapt and abound because there are no user accounts and they know they have an audience. Most of the trolling I think i've seen here has been done through throwaway accounts, so who knows whether or not those are sockpuppets of existing accounts or people showing up from /g/ to have some fun?


That's true if you assume that every feature moves the community forward. But not all of them do; many features regress us. For instance: unlike on Reddit, there's no indication when someone's responded to one of your questions. As a result, very few arguments last more than a few hours here.

I'm particularly leery of collapsible threads, although my understanding is we're about to get them anyways.


> I'm particularly leery of collapsible threads

May I ask why? As someone who considers that the one change/improvement I'd like to see on HN I'm curious what there is to be leery of that I may not have considered.


Because this isn't like reddit where the most upvoted comments are elevated in otherwise collapsed threads. I've only read some of the most insightful and interesting comments and discussions on HN buried most of the way down the page because they were available for me to see despite their lack of being voted on. On HN, popularity isn't valuable, the ideas are, and non-precollapsed threads support that.


Sometimes the good stuff isn't even on the first page. For example, see [0] (scroll down to the follow up) and the HN discussion [1] referenced there. Also, collapsible threads doesn't have to mean pre-collapsed threads.

To me it seems like collapsible threads would help, not harm, in this case because more people would have collapsed the OT first thread and participated in the discussion about the actual topic. I realize there are two assumptions built in to the above that may not always be true: 1) OT threads are bad or less desirable and 2) more people in a discussion is better.

0 http://braythwayt.com/posterous/2012/03/29/a-womans-story.ht... 1 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3772292


> Because this isn't like reddit where the most upvoted comments are elevated in otherwise collapsed threads.

HN supporting collapsible threads doesn't mean automatically collapsing threads.


I'd argue that the main point of collapsible (not pre-collapsed) threads is to support what you're saying. When a comment spawns several pages of discussion on a topic you're not interested it, collapsing it would let you go directly to the next comment you are interested in, surely?

Right now, for me at least I often just scroll down to the next top-level comment because it's a bother to find the end of a comment tree that started several indentations in.


I use Reddit Enhancement Suite to collapse all child comments by default, then open interesting top-level comments in a new tab to read the full discussion. I probably miss a lot of good discussion on HN because it doesn't support something similar.


That concern could easily be remedied by having thread collapsing be an optional setting in your account. I personally think having every thread collapse after a certain depth would make it much easier to tell which threads are probably worth looking deeper into.


very few arguments last more than a few hours here.

Very few posts last more than a few hours here :)

There have been times where I've gone to bed, then checked HN in the morning, and some huge issue or release has happened, there's a quality thread with hundreds of comments, and it's largely inactive because everyone's had their say already, so they're not checking for new stuff.

I'm not supporting reply alerts as I also think they'll do more harm than good, just noting that posts come and go pretty quickly.


Counterpoint: unless you are on HN all the time it is often impossible to get answer to a question because the post is a few hours old.

Worse: There is no point in comming back and edit you post with sources because by that time nobody is going to see it.

Disaster: There is no benefit to writing a thoughful, well sourced comment in the first place because nobody will read it by the time you are done.


I'm subscribed to HN Notify, and personally, while I admit I sometimes use it to carry on unproductive arguments, I also often get replies that are positive or neutral in tone and contribute more information to the discussion; since they're replies to me and to whatever specific point I commented on, I'm generally interested in reading them even if the version of the entire discussion I originally read did a decent job of covering the topic. (Actually, scrolling through a list of my HN Notify emails, it seems non-negative replies are by far the most common case. I don't remember them as such, probably because involved arguments stand out more than random bits of discussion.) Therefore, I'm glad to have the service, and I'm skeptical that it would really be so bad to give it to users who aren't savvy enough to know that HN Notify exists.


I'm tempted to chalk that up to HN being, essentially, a pet project implemented in a toy language as a not entirely open source[0] forum maintained by volunteers. Of course, I don't know but that's my guess, that pg just didn't work very hard on polishing up the parts he didn't find personally interesting. For some reason, people seem to be weirdly elitist about HN's layout, and act as if any slight change to the UI is going to allow the barbarians of the internet to storm the gates, until Hacker News is aught but cat memes and ashes.

[0] The language and original forum are, obviously, open source. But AFAIK you can't make pull requests against the code HN is actually running, which has had tons of modifications made to it, because that's special sauce. There used to be a repo for making bug and feature requests but that seems to no longer be active.

Of course, you could roll your own minimalistic threaded forum, but getting people to move from HN anywhere other than lobste.rs[1] (if they want more moderation) or reddit (if they want less) might be difficult, unless you're serving some specific niche like DataTau[2].

[1]https://lobste.rs/

[2]http://www.datatau.com/


Considering the audience you might be right. I'm not a typical audience member. I read in the evening on a phone with a slow 2.5g connection. For that reason I use opera mini. HN works perfectly on it and the combination of the browser and whatever it is HN does for layout means I can load a HN page faster than anything else on the web. It doesn't seem to matter how many comments there are. So I hope it doesn't change. But you are right. I'm not typical.


I disagree. A lot of HN's character and culture are a result of how unmodern/unconventional it is.

For example, not being able to get reply updates by email means you have to come back to the site to check, for example. Is that good or bad? I don't know the answer, but it selects a different audience. A modern HN would be a different HN community and culture.


It is actually possible to get e-mail notifications via this external service: http://hnnotify.com/


However, that still makes it a conscious choice to engage with the service that way - the default way is still checking back, and that shapes the general usage patterns of the site, even if some people have concluded it benefits them more to modify their experience.


Yes, good point.


Always interpreting what was said to him in the most intelligent light is the distinguishing behavior of my favorite professor from grad school. If people are constantly correcting you on jumping to the wrong conclusion, and telling you they actually meant something else, then you are not as smart as you think you are in that context. (Yes, this is indeed related to Dunning-Kruger!)

On the other hand, my favorite professor would often come out with an interpretation of what someone said that was levels more intelligent than what was said. Then the reaction would be surprise or even delight on the part of the other. (Sometimes, I think this was a deliberate tactic to keep the conversation on a higher level.)

One of the smartest men I've ever met.


rampant negativity...seems to have gotten less common recently

HN does do a good job of weeding out uselessly negative comments and other trolling behavior. If you want proof of that, go to your profile and turn on "Show Dead". It is amazing to see how many people are shadow banned yet continue to post on a daily basis. I've seen several accounts that have posted daily for years completely unaware nobody is seeing anything they post. They know nobody has ever upvoted or downvoted their comment or replied to it but just can't seem to make the connection that they're shadow banned.


I've noticed the opposite. I browse with showdead on, and roughly half the time I'm left to wonder what on earth transgression the person committed to merit being silenced in that way after examining their comment history.


I browse with showdead on as well. A lot of the time it does hit the target. Other times someone appears to be shadowbanned from only a couple of snarky comments a while back but before and after were polite. Occasionally it hits people that have only ever been polite, and I'm left scratching my head.


> I've seen several accounts that have posted daily for years completely unaware nobody is seeing anything they post.

I may be in the minority here, but I do not consider this a good result for anyone.


Agreed. Wish there was a way to upvote dead comments that I liked to contribute to their status being reconsidered.


Soon there will be!


That's a wonderful change to consider, thank-you.


Such a problem could always be solved by phrasing your response as a question.

"No, it's actually this way" vs "Have you considered the possibility that it's this way?" carries the same information with drastically different results.


Yup. Not just comments, always trying to find the alleged negative aspects of everything and clinging only onto that, without so much as acknowledging other possibilities.

This is the reason I stopped reading HN as much, just as I stopped reading comments everywhere else on the internet. I don't want to tiptoe through arguments trying to preventively push aside all possible misinterpretations or people trying to put words in my mouth.

This is not critical thinking, this is just cynic criticism.


I don't mind the negativity on HN and sometimes it's even helpful if I can avoid getting upset, but the negative comments on Amazon really make it hard to decide what to buy.


One of the most negative habits is in my opinion the failure to read a comment charitably (to make an effort to interpret it in the best possible light

I don't even want charitable interpretation necessarily—I just want close reading and reasonably deep understanding of the topic! For example, the top reply to this comment of mine: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8941152 totally misses the plot.

Looking through my recent comment history, though, I'm impressed at the overall quality of the responses.


Agreed. This really got on my nerves a few weeks ago and I couldn't resist going meta (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9013259). There's even a Wikipedia article on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_charity


Your posting of this a little while back has caused me to think to myself "Geez, 'Principle of charity' would be useful here" over and over and over since you originally posted that. Really useful name to put to a concept like that. So. Thanks!


There's a well established social phenomena for what you describe as uncharitable reading the words / actions of other people. It's called the fundamental attribution error.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error

It has been studied in detail with respect to computer mediated communications as far back as the dawn of email and the tendency of readers to assign a lot more negativity to the emails they receive then their senders ever intended.


Yes I can count with one hand the people that consistently uses the Principle of Charity.

And the saddest part is not seeing the interlocutor full of himself and completely ignoring the fact that, by not using this principle, he makes his own argument weaker (showing that his intelligence didn't reached those heights).

The saddest part is the public false victory because depending on the peers (audience), he will likely be perceived as in a stronger position when the opposite is true.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_charity


This goes both ways. If I think someone has misinterpreted me, I usually apologize for being unclear and clarify my statement. I would rather clear it up than start a flamewar, even if someone else might be itching for one.


Why should I try to interpret comments in the best possible light? I could make an effort to interpret them in the worst possible light, too. I have no reason to believe that internet commenters mean well.


Because the failure conditions are worse.

Let's see, here are the possibilities:

1. Someone means well, you interpret it as them meaning well and respond accordingly. Everything is fine and dandy, everyone's happy. 2. Someone means well, and you interpret them as meaning ill, and respond accordingly. Now you are angry for no reason, they have had the experience of making a well meaning comment and being shot down for it. Everyone is miserable. 3. Someone means ill, and you interpret it as them meaning ill, and respond accordingly. Now they have gotten the thrill of getting through to you (remember, they mean ill, so that is their intent), and you are angry (for a good reason). You've made yourself miserable and a troll happy. 4. Someone means ill, and you interpret it as them meaning well and respond accordingly. Now they don't get the pleasure of having bothered you, you have shrugged it off an it's not great loss to you. You are now happier than option 3, and they haven't had a chance to hurt you like they meant to.

Of course, real life isn't quite a simple as that; but that does cover a very large number of possible interactions on the internet. By biasing yourself toward the most charitable interpretation of others comments, you reduce the risk of a simple misunderstanding leading to everyone being unhappy, reduce the risk of just giving a troll exactly what they want, and contribute to a more positive environment in general.

It really does help out in an awful lot of cases, and reduces friction dramatically if you always assume good faith unless you have very compelling evidence to the contrary.


> Why should I try to interpret comments in the best possible light?

Because doing so contributes to the community and not doing so harms it.

When you respond to the strongest interpretation of a comment, you're responding to what's most substantive in it. That raises the signal/noise ratio for everybody, and that's what we're trying to optimize for.


There is a different between the "strongest" interpretation of a comment and the "best possible light".

For example, if somebody tells me "Angersock, you can go happily fuck yourself", I'm not going to expect them to be wishing me a rousing and cheerful round of masturbation--that is the "best possible light", but not the "strongest interpretation".

Properly handled, assuming the worst of a comment, articulating the argument you think is being made, and then rebutting it, is far better than just assuming the best--provided it's done civilly, of course.


You're responding to a pretty weak interpretation of what we're talking about here. :) The point is to address the strongest plausible interpretation of what another is saying. It's pretty well-established what the Principle of Charity means [1]. (By the way, you can see from [2] that there's an ongoing discussion about formalizing it for HN.)

I don't think it's a stretch, mutatis mutandis, to take even a comment like "go fuck yourself" charitably. It could, indeed probably mostly does, mean "I'm angry about something unrelated."

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_charity

2. https://hn.algolia.com/?query=author:dang%20principle%20of%2...


Since "you can happily go fuck yourself" is not in fact an argument, the principle of charity does not demand that you interpret it as anything more than a rude interjection. At its strongest, it would require you to assume that the commenter was legitimately upset and deeply invested in the argument, which would perhaps keep you from responding in kind.


> At its strongest, it would require you to assume that the commenter was legitimately upset and deeply invested in the argument

I don't think even at its strongest the PoC would require you to assume that the commenter was legitimately upset, only that the commenter was intending to express that they were upset.

The PoC only applies to interpreting what the intended message is, not to conclusions about its justification as would be necessary to support the interpretation that the commenter was legitimately upset.


I can't help but suggest that your pretty nitpicky distinction between "interpret[ing] in the best possible light" and "rebutting the argument you think is being made" is, perhaps, not interpreting the argument for the guideline in the best possible light.


Because HN has an international audience where English is often a second language; also cultural expectations can be markedly different to the US.


This is a much larger factor on HN than I think most people realize.


Even within the US.


A bigger project than HN that has put a lot of time into the norm we're talking about today is Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Assume_good_faith


That actually came from the original C2 Wiki, although it's been refactored (across sites apparently...it's now on MeatBall) significantly since I first came across it c. 2003:

http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?AssumeGoodFaith

I suspect it's a much older idea than that, probably dating back to the Enlightenment. It's closely related to the Principle of Charity, which was coined in 1958 but again, refers to a much older principle of logical discourse:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_charity


> That actually came from the original C2 Wiki

That's fascinating! Has anyone traced it to its precise origin there? I'd love to see that.


I think the Principle of Charity is pretty spot on for 1958. I suspect John Rawls said something assuming good faith, too, given the quotes I've found [1]:

In his book A Theory of Justice, Rawls stated that citizens are obliged to act in good faith, and to assume good faith on the part of others until clear proof emerges to the contrary. They must recognize, in effect, that the system cannot meet everybody's claims at once and accept that at times they will be on the losing side.

And a good recent blog post [2]:

Several maxims guided me in doing this. I always assumed, for example, that the writers we were studying were always much smarter than I was. If they were not, why was I wasting my time and the students’ time by studying them? If I saw a mistake in their arguments, I supposed they saw it too and must have dealt with it, but where? So I looked for their way out, not mine.

[1] http://www.rbc.com/aboutus/letter/may_jun1995.html

[2] https://parentheticalpilgrim.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/good-f...


Here's the obvious link to Archive.org ('02):

http://web.archive.org/web/20020502092511/http://www.usemod....


Think about the possible outcomes:

Wrongly assume the best: It quickly becomes apparent, things move forward, you may even steer things in a better direction.

Wrongly assume the worst: You look like a jerk, possibly demotivated people or made them feel bad, and now there is an air of conflict that needs to be ventilated by unnecessarily defensive comments.


Pedantic "corrections" that offer no additional value are seen as pretty contemptible behavior in real life, so you probably shouldn't make a habit of it.


This is either a non sequitur or a wildly uncharitable read of the remark you're replying to.


The issue is really with speed of judgement. It's all too easy to become close minded after judging something, especially when judging something negatively. The key is remaining open minded as long as possible to take in more information, then you're in a better place to judge. Disagreement in a respectful manner is a reflection of how you've balanced the positive and negative, if you prejudge Internet commenters you'll have made it much harder on yourself to find that balance.


Let's assume for the sake of simplicity that the debate concerns a non-subjective question, so it has a right answer, only it is unknown which it is.

The best outcome for HN is if we as a community converge on the right answer.

Now if someone brings argues poorly, but for the right answer, and then someone comes along and crushes the poor argument. Then the counter-arguer "wins" and succeeds in humiliating the "opponent". But the the wrong answer wins, and that is bad for the community

If on the other hand, someone comes along, reinforces the poor argument, and then brings a weak counterargument, then that gives the right answer a better chance of winning.


Because if your goal is learn something in a dialogue, not win internet points, you'll want to understand the strongest version of someone's argument -- which isn't necessarily what they wrote verbatim.


Generous interpretations raise discourse. Because they're attempts to find strong versions of positions.

However, it takes two to tango; worthwhile discussion is a cooperative venture. There's systematic reasons why a forum is incapable of reaching a certain level. Take Twitter and misogyny. (Or HN for that matter; Twitter's rampant death threats shouldn't lower expectations when evaluating other forums.)


> One of the most negative habits is in my opinion the failure to read a comment charitably

More generally - the failure to r e a d the article/parent comment etc.

(People who disagree with me seems particularly prone to this :-P )


Sadly it's spawned by the rampant ignorance most intellectual people face on a daily basis. This creates a cynicism and impulsive reaction to "check off" that perspective without vetting it further. This will be a good case study in guidelines that defy human behavior. It is tendency for many to go against this policy, which is why it was begat. Interesting how Y Combinator is wanting to thwart group think I welcome the spike.


Yes, there are parts of this community very uncomfortable with things they do not understand or agree with, and are very quick to argue or dismiss rather than try and see the value of the contribution or different point of view. Reddit went through the same shift as it became more popular.

There is hope: one of my best received comments was a gentle chiding of someone who had belittled someone's comment.


Another issue is that text is quite poor at conveying tone, both on HN and elsewhere. Saw something recently about adding emoji's for tone.


A related issue is people downvoting comments that they haven't properly comprehended. Instead of asking "why do you think x" or "do you mean x" they just downvote the comment. Sometimes it happens with controversial comments, even when the controversial comment is based on facts. Sometimes going against HN groupthink (e.g. saying something bad about libertarianism) results in downvotes.

EDIT: I'm surprised that I got a downvote on this comment. I think that illustrates the problem.


> EDIT: I'm surprised that I got a downvote on this comment. I think that illustrates the problem.

I think it illustrates the problem with "sometimes UI elements get clicked without intent" and "HN has no way to undo up/downvotes".

In fact, I can say that with authority, since I was the one who made the accidental click.


This seems not to be the only reason:

There seems to be a consistent tendency that some people downvote comments not because the comments are wrong but because accepting the comment would undermine their position/opinion. See anything that touches into google/apple/feminism


Off topic, but the idea that the HN "groupthink" is libertarian seems ridiculous to me... Other than the NSA stuff which is superficially libertarian, I don't see it at all.

The prevailing attitude here is sort of vague lefty-"liberal", basically what you'd expect from, well, a bunch of college students and recent graduates who don't take politics too seriously and live in places like SF and NYC.


I'm talking about things like not wanting to be searched at the airport, not wanting any NSA surveillance or spying, not wanting copyright theft to be illegal, etc. Libertarian seems a more correct word to describe these positions than liberal, as the common theme is distrust of authority.

I find it a little ironic that your comment was downvoted, even though your comment was a very reasonably presented and valid opinion. I just upvoted you. Another example of the problem with the downvote button.

IMO there is no need at all for a downvote button -- it just causes more problems than it ever solves. Much better to just have a 'flag' button for abusive/inappropriate comments, and an upvote button.


I'm surprised that I got a downvote on this comment. I think that illustrates the problem.

Sometimes when I've said something perfectly reasonable and then gotten downvoted, I've realized that in fact my statement was unclear and liable to be misunderstood. The downvotes have helped me to write more clearly, and they're more charitable than rude rejoinders.

[I didn't downvote you. Your statements were perfectly reasonable to me.]


Can we also have a rule against Gratuitous Positivity?

Seriously, it's a slippery slope. "Nothing of substance" is a term that needs more clarification that what that post provides. It seems to suggest that if the criticism is too harsh, then it's no longer substantial. I think there's a better guideline than that.

The best ideas not only can withstand criticism, they get better with criticism. If you examine what's being revealed about Apple and Steve Jobs -- the most successful company in the world right now -- it's not that they avoided criticism. And contrary to rumors it's not that they didn't nurture seemingly "dumb" ideas. Jobs would toss them out there all the time, by his own admission. Nurturing crazy young creative ideas and rigorous critical analysis are both part of Apple's process.

Apple's secret is that the criticism is directed at the idea not the person. That is what defines "nothing of substance": the target of the criticism, not the intensity. If it's about the idea, that's substantial, even if it's harsh. If it becomes personal, then that's truly not adding substance.

You "throw it in the cauldron" and then rigorously debate everything in the pot in a manner divorced from the people who contributed it. That's how you boil it down to the best stuff, not by holding back.


I think it will be a while before we come to the point where a guideline against "gratuitous positivity" is required. This forum is pretty far towards the other end of the spectrum right now.

I see where you're coming from though. The comments on HN, while often being negative, and almost entirely constructive. I try reading the comments at product hunt from time to time, and while all the "beautifully designed" and "i've been using this since [earlier than you] and i love it" comments are nice and surely make the developers feel good they inevitably add nothing of value to the submission, and as far as providing useful context to the submitted link they may as well not exist.


The post you're responding to is at pains to explain that the new guideline isn't "no negativity", which seems to moot your concern pretty much completely.


Not at all. You've highlighted the problem with your phrase "isn't no negativity". It's a poorly defined slippery slope of a criterion. Where is the line drawn?

Banning personal attacks, but allowing unlimited criticism of ideas, is more of an objective guideline.


Unlimited criticism of ideas is fine as long as it's substantive. Critical comments must contribute something to the discussion. A reader unfamiliar with the topic of the discussion should be expect to learn something from critical comments, more than "a commenter named $foo doesn't like this thing".


Perhaps what abalone is referring to is anything seemingly positive that doesn't add any value to the discussion should also be pointed out. In other words, gratuitous comments in general, positive or negative, should not be supported. For example, we see lots of "XYZ just raised $10mil" on here and the comment section is littered with "Congrats Jim!". Should we not be downvoting those too so we keep the consistency of "I learned something here" comments?


> the comment section is littered with "Congrats Jim!". Should we not be downvoting those too

That is a good example of an edge case. It's already pretty accepted that "Nice article!" comments should be downvoted as noise. "Congrats Jim!" is pretty much noise as well. The difference is that "Nice article!" can be a very, very common occurrence if it's not moderated because it can occur in pretty much any post. Whereas, "Congrats Jim!" is at least celebrating something rare and very much worth congratulating in the specifically entrepreneurial focus of HN. Also, maybe you see "Congrats!" comments more than I do. But, my impression is that they are at least 10x less common than "Nice!" comments that are already widely downvoted.

There's a fine line between moderating noise and being the "HN Fun Police". There's room for fun and occasional silliness in HN. What I'd prefer there not be room for is the permeating noise of snacky/snarky "cleverness" that constantly drowns discussion in Reddit.


You're right, "congrats Jim" is an edge case, but so are the cases of "this sucks" or "commenter $foo doesn't like this" one-liners. That's a complete straw man. That stuff, as you note, already gets downvoted.

Sam is targeting something else. The post is wading into the realm of "gratuitous" negativity (or "unwarranted", to use tptacek's equally slippery qualifier), which is not necessarily just brief, unsupported stuff. It's clear I think that Sam is getting at the disheartening feeling that entrepreneurs can experience when facing a withering critique of a nascent project.

We want a supportive community but a withering critique can actually help ideas get better. This guideline is ill-defined and could be interpreted as "tone it down, folks". And paired with a move towards community moderation, it's all about interpretation.

This guideline would be better redefined around clearer, more concrete criteria.


Unwarranted positivity simply isn't as harmful as unwarranted negativity. There's basic psychology behind that, for instance, loss aversion.


I think our industry has seen more money lost, late nights spent, and souls damaged to "Unwarranted positivity" then any other cause.


"Unwarranted positivity" has also been the root cause of many of our industry's greatest successes.

The costs of negativity and discouragement are difficult to judge because they usually take the form of opportunity costs which aren't directly visible.


> The costs of negativity and discouragement are difficult to judge because they usually take the form of opportunity costs which aren't directly visible.

That has nothing to do with anything I have said. You have unfairly added an assumption to my comment and asserted I said something I did not. Saying that going too far on one side of an activity is bad does not imply that the other side is better. You have basically said because I don't think running 50 miles a day is healthy that I am advocating sloth.

> "Unwarranted positivity" has also been the root cause of many of our industry's greatest successes.

Our industries greatest successes have come from a place of optimism but been realistic in their thinking. Most programmers have suffered from people, including themselves, giving estimates that were "Unwarranted positivity".


Just a reminder that this subthread is litigating the value of unwarranted and insubstantial negativity.


Yes, which I believe has been demonstrated on one of my comments by stating a position that I did not take. I can think of no worse source of the two things you mention than forcing a position on someone who didn't take it.


When HN becomes an unending fount of positivity, we can address it then. Right now it's veering off the other side. Course correct first, finesse later.


> Can we also have a rule against Gratuitous Positivity?

We could, but I don't see any evidence that there is an amount of that going around that requires an addition to the guidelines.


Especially on Show HN posts, there are people that can be categorized as fanboys and haters. Both groups add nothing substantial to the discussion. The constructive, interesting and insightful comments come from the normal users.


You must not live in San Francisco.


> You must not live in San Francisco.

No, but I'm rather familiar with it. In any case, I don't see how that's relevant; the context of the discussion is HN guidelines, not guidelines for San Francisco.


That's a very good point. I'd be much happier if they said the new guidelines is no personal attacks. That's very clear and easy to check.

Instead we end up with this slippery slope of certain types of negativity vs. others and all it really means is the mods have a blank check to remove anything they don't like that isn't meaningless happy fun compliments.


As Sam pointed out, gratuitous negativity has always been against the guidelines. Personal attacks are, too, of course.

The way this stuff really works out is in practice, so judge it based on what you see actually happening on HN. The intention here is pretty modest: to nudge the community slightly in the hope that the culture will grow a little more aligned with the guidelines. We're not interested in false positivity either.

That doesn't mean this isn't a big deal. Gratuitous negativity is a hard problem because it's mostly unintentional. That's why the most important part of this is asking the community to gently give commenters feedback when they see it. Any significant effect of this guideline change will not be in what moderators do, but in what the community does. Given the quantity of comments posted to HN, there aren't enough moderators to make that big a dent by direct intervention anyhow. We like it that way.


I think the downvote functionality is holding back the utility of HN more than anything else. It is grossly overused and very rarely for guidelines violations like it was designed for. Most people use to show they disagree with a comment. It's an awful experience and is the main fuel in a negative feedback loop that travels with users from thread to thread.


I have a difference of opinion on the matter of downvotes. A long time ago I decided to try to treat downvotes on my own posts as editorial feedback. In the best case, it just meant I was unclear. In the worst, case I said something stupid. In between there are cases where I knowingly wrote something likely to get downvotes.

I believe downvoting a comment that I disagree with is often far better for HN than expressing my passionate "well informed" opinion. Downvoting prevents my inclination toward "trolling lite" in the form of explaining how someone is obviously wrong for the sake of correcting the internet.

To put it another way, downvotes are for downvoting. Downvoting and moving on is the right choice whenever it proxies the possibility of worse behavior. A downvote can be a way of mocking out a flamewar or general meanness.


Side note: How do I know if someone downvotes my comments? On Reddit it's easy as you can see the score, but here? Am I missing something?


> Side note: How do I know if someone downvotes my comments? On Reddit it's easy as you can see the score, but here? Am I missing something?

Here, you can see the score on your comments when you are logged in (your comments have a red asterisk and the point score before your name, others comments don't have either feature.) Additionally, if the net moderation is negative (net score is 0 or less, since score starts at 1) for any comment (yours or not) the comment will be greyed (moreso the more negative the moderation is.)


The only way to know is by noticing the comment's score changing.


I agree with this. Conflating disagreement with downvoting seems to be mixing unrelated concerns. It is currently inconvenient (in karma terms) to hold dissenting opinions.


There are threads where expressing a well formed, well reasoned, well supported but contrary opinion runs the risk of downvotes to greyness. The root of the problem is inevitably that the topic of the thread is a poor fit for HN at that particular point in time [and perhaps always].

A symptom of the problem is that such threads tempt so many people to express their opinion for the sake of expressing it. I get lured in sometimes too. But when I can stop myself, I just flag the thread. And if I need to feel better, maybe I go through and down vote comments I disagree with in lieu of telling people their political, economic, or ethical views are wrong.

That's better than me just adding to the noise and heat and lack of civility. Downvotes are socially acceptable. So are upvotes.


What about topics that are important and relevant to HN but invoke a polarised opinion on HN?

My concerns can be summarized into a single question - If HN had existed historically with the rules as they exist currently, would Georg Cantor have thrived in it?


> If HN had existed historically with the rules as they exist currently, would Georg Cantor have thrived in it?

I doubt it. Unconventional ideas that are orders of magnitude less radical than Cantor's get reduced to convention and dismissed all the time on HN. It's dismaying. But it is what human beings do, and especially what human beings in groups do. HN can't change that by proclaiming rules. Maybe we can mitigate it a little, such as by asking people to avoid gratuitous negativity.


I flag bad threads. To me if a thread is producing bad behavior then it's bad. Most of the threads that fall into the category of important and bad are posted for discussion elsewhere.


My experience tends to be that if you can hold a dissenting opinion respectfully, and back up your assertions, HN treats it favorably in the long run.

Holding a dissenting opinion without being willing to defend it with awareness of your audience's hostility to your ideas rarely goes over well in any forum, though.


I think you're being a bit optimistic here. Downvotes will happen regardless of how well reasoned your argument is, and they'll come in a hurry if you hold an unpopular opinion on a sensitive/political subject. It's definitely my biggest gripe with HN -- there's too much of a political echo chamber here.


> Downvotes will happen regardless of how well reasoned your argument is

Some will, but its very rare that I've seen posts retain a net of negative moderation when they contribute substantially, regardless of the side of an issue they are on (though I've seen controversial-but-substantial comments quickly get heavily downvoted before recovering.)

And I've seen this on every side of issues -- often to opposing posts in the same discussion -- so I don't think its an "echo-chamber" effect, but more that certain topics bringout more kneejerk negative responses from people on either side.

(Its funny that, in regard to accusations of HN being an echo chamber or hivemind, I've seen various posters proclaim with confidence that it was -- and that that hivemind was, variously, liberal, leftist, libertarian, capitalist, pro-corporate, anti-corporate, and in support or opposition to various companies, and any of a number of other things. I think people are way to quick to equate some people disagreeing with or downvoting their posts to HN being a hivemind biased against them.)


Bad threads produce bad behavior. By definition. When I see it happening, I flag the thread. Sometimes despite wishing that there could be a positive discussion of the subject because the subject is relevant and important and intellectually interesting.

I think "Maybe next time it comes up the comments won't devolve."


My unpopular opinions frequently get early downvotes, but it seems that it'll swing back into the black given enough time/eyeballs, if I've made a good argument.


Of particular note, sometimes expressing an unpopular opinion on a sensitive subject (or a subject on which some people have very strong feelings, even if it's not sensitive to most people) can trigger a cascade of "revenge downvotes". So while the original comment might get upvoted back to positive, comments on completely unrelated topics might pick up undeserved downvotes.

I once had a few week period where I noticed the majority of my comments drop by exactly 2 karma, usually around the same time of day, regardless of how many upvotes they'd received or how heavily trafficked the thread was. My best guess is that I'd upset two people (or one person with two accounts) and they kept clicking back on my profile until they got bored with it.


> My experience tends to be that if you can hold a dissenting opinion respectfully, and back up your assertions, HN treats it favorably in the long run.

I think "in the long run" is key here.

When I make a comment that challenges some band of partisans, but strikes a factual tone, my observations is that it initially gets downvotes (presumably from the partisans who are hovering over the thread/story), but in the end gets moderated highly.


Try saying anything critical about Apple and see if this strategy works out in practice.


Well, I just checked, and my last comment critical of Apple (and not even charitably so) is currently at +97 karma, so I'm not quite sure the argument holds much weight.


Exactly. Doing a poor job of critiquing Apple will garner downvotes. Writing a well-reasoned and supported argument critiquing Apple will get upvotes.


Thanks for taking the time to look into this. I am afraid it does not address the wider concern I have of which criticquing Apple is a specific example.

On topics where there is a deep skew in the opinion held by the HN readerbase, it is probabilistically likely that going against the widely held view will receive more downvotes. This has a chilling effect on expressing dissent. Of course there will be people who will be able to mitigate this with their gravitas and eloquence. But it would be better if we can come up with a scheme where we lower the burden on people holding a dissenting opinion.


I've made many negative comments about Apple, Facebook, MS, Google, etc and did not receive downvotes for them.

If HN is tribal then attacking one tribe while praising the others might be a method to farm positive karma.


I've been pointing out problems with Apple and seen little punishment.

Then again I am kind of thoughtful when I do and often make sure to point out that I like Apple, and recommend it to others, -I just personally find their products annoying to use for specific reasons


I think true criticism is treated well (for example, discussing validity of walled garden in app store). It's the trollish comments, like calling Apple users sheep or ignorant hipsters that thrown money away, that are problematic.


I've been very critical of Apple in this forum, and it doesn't seem to have hurt my karma too much.


I think the topic is also important. Was the topic about a positive apple article, or a positive android or windows topic? You are more likely to draw a crowd that relates to the title's indicated company. Having a negative view point about windows is sure to get a better response in a topic that is praising an apple product.

I'm making assumptions here on anecdotes of course.


Interesting, what if in downvoting a comment you had to pick a reason? What are all the reasons one would downvote something?

"I do not agree" "I do not believe this adds value" "Inappropriate conduct" "I think you are being mean / rude" "Bad attempt at funny" "Off topic to parent" "Off topic to post" "Difficult to understand/Noise"


Slashdot does this.

What generally happens is that instead of one argument about been downvoted/upvoted you end up with even more arguments about whether something is +5 funny or whatever.

I've no idea how you solve this in the general case tbh.


Part of that though is that +1 Funny doesn't add to your slashdot karma. So people sometimes "upvote to denigrate" because you can only get +5 anyway, a silly comment can get +5 Funny without actually rewarding the commenter (mocks the comment) - you can see this when replies get +5 Insightful or +5 Informative and are very contrary to the original comment.

Personally, I like the idea of having qualifiers on the downvote without one on the upvote - makes you think a little bit before downvoting... plus the vote buttons are ridiculously small on an mobile Safari - so having to click twice would prevent accidental downvotes.


So far, while it may not be ideal, I think HN actually hits pretty close to the sweet spot.


thanks i'll check it out. I wasn't thinking to show the stats to others, possibly to provide feedback to the poster that they're 'above average' on the 'mean' or 'not relevant', etc scale.


I havent put a lot of thought into an ideal solution to this problem. But heres the best I have so far. Change the definition of karma to capture notability which would be a monotonically increasing number. So when a person mark a comment as notable, it increases your karma score by 1. Seperately have a agree / disagree score per comment whose lifetime is limited to a particular thread. Within a thread a reader can use the agree / disagree scores of comment to selectively read both sides of the debate.


I don't have a strong opinion on whether that'd work, but it sounds a lot like the Slashdot comment moderation system. Perhaps someone with a good level of experience of posting on Slashdot can help shed some light on how it works out in practice.


I think it works well (been reading and posting to /. for about 15 years), and if I designed a forum then it'd work the same way. The trick is it forces you to justify your opinion in some way. There isn't a "-1 Disagree" or "+1 Right On" so to mod a comment you have to find some actual flaw with it, or justify why you think it should be raised above the rest. If you pick a dumb reason that clearly can't be justified based on the text, meta-moderators will wash things out later.

That said, it's not perfect. There are -1 Overrated and +1 Underrated mods. I would not have these if I was king for a day, because:

• They apparently somehow bypass meta-moderation, or have done in the past (!) so not surprisingly they get abused a lot

• They are vague and don't force you to justify what's good or bad about a post, in many cases I have seen abuse of these mod types devolve into reddit style agree/disagree modding

• They don't adjust the adjective that goes with the post, so for a long time and maybe still now you can get posts like +5 Troll or -1 Insightful, which is just confusing and generally bogus

Stripping out Underrated and Overrated would improve things a lot. I'd maybe make +1 Funny count for karma too because funny posts deliver a lot of value to the slashdot reading experience, IMO, and I see no problem with encouraging them.

I think the balance of adjectives is important though. There is no -1 Wrong or -1 Misinformed mod and that's important. If someone posts something polite, earnest and completely wrong there's no justifiable word to mod them down with. Instead you have to wait for a reply to correct them and then mod that up as Informative, Insightful etc.


Another idea is to make down voting cost karma. Stackoverflow does this.


Downvotes not being for disagreement is an absurd redditism. Upvotes are used for agreement, so it is only natural that downvotes are used for disagreement.

PG has stated in the past that downvoting things you disagree with is proper usage on HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=658691

I don't know if 'dang has changed this policy, but if so I haven't heard about it.


I would think that it would be fairly obvious that trying to assert that down-votes are not for disagreement is extremely futile. It's human nature to react to things they disagree with, and if down-votes don't mean disagree... then what? People aren't allowed to disagree? The only way to disagree is to actually invest significant amounts of your time?

Sounds great in theory. But then a small number of zealots can derail just about every thread with minimal effort. I image it would really degrade a community in a heartbeat. So it's probably a good thing nobody has found a way to enforce such a policy.


You can downvote zealotry and flawed arguments without downvoting mundane disagreement.


I feel like two separate point counters for each post would work best. One for well thought out post, and one for disagreement. They wouldn't affect each others score, and only the positive point counter would determine the ranking of the score.


I have noticed this too and have a humble suggestion: down-votes should require a comment from the down-voter. This would have the following advantages:

- The extra effort will slow down causal unthoughtful down-votes.

- If there is no justification, the down-voter can be down-voted in turn presumably by a greater degree.

- Any pattern of abuse can easily be seen in user profiles.


I like advantages (1) and (3). I have a bad feeling about (2), however. And there is one immediate disadvantage I can think of: the required comments for down-voting would dilute the average karma, which is important for some people.

One solution is to treat comments that explain down-votes differently than normal comments. That would complicate the system a bit but maybe it will be worth it.


Another advantage would be better feedback for the downvoted. Don't knowing why I was downvoted routinely drives me nuts.


My experience has been that my comments that are posted to disagree with highly upvoted (often top) comments have been my most upvoted comments. I feel like most people on HN disagree with a comment by upvoting a counterargument, which causes a back-and-forth flow to a thread where the strongest counterargument to each reply is the top child reply. This flow is what often makes threads here great.

I'm actually surprised to see people here complaining about downvotes being used to disagree with comments. A large chunk of HN users can't even downvote. And I can't remember the last time I saw a gray comment that wasn't gray for a really good reason.


> I'm actually surprised to see people here complaining about downvotes being used to disagree with comments.

It is quite common and gets really annoying after a while. Some of my comments in the past have broken the rules. Fine - downvote those. But quite a lot of them have most certainly not, and were written in all earnestness with intention of productive dialogue. And too many of those were still downvoted to a very light shade of grey within 30 minutes of being posted - without a single reply to indicate exactly what anyone's problem with such a post could possibly be, and therefore no hope of improvement (or even any real indication that improvement is needed in the first place).

When I read through threads, I see that I'm not the only one this happens to. And for the record (since this always comes up), no I don't care if they usually get voted back up eventually anyway.

I think it's the greying-out that's the worst. As though the rest of this community needs to be protected from the substance of your post, because a few randoms downvoted your post after they concluded you weren't capitalist enough, or were too capitalist, or think hip new framework X is rubbish, or that a blog post really was just poorly written and not worth reading, etc. It is a subtle aggression perpetrated by the forum software against every user here, and it contributes more to negativity than any single post ever could.

And, it's something that the mods here take special pains to totally ignore even when you bring it up in a direct reply to them discussing meta issues on the forum, multiple times over several months.


Since you're using yourself as a data point, I paged through your comment history looking for your grayed out comments. I have to say that your grayed out comments were all well deserved. They are a very small minority of your comments, but they are comments that generally involved ad hominem attacks and/or gratuitous negativity that did not add to the discussion. I would say the downvote system has worked well in these cases.


> were written in all earnestness with intention of productive dialogue.

That doesn't mean downvotes were for disagreement. Just because you intended it to contribute to productive dialogue doesn't mean that downvoters didn't think that it failed to provide a substantive contribution.

Your argument seems to recognize that people can disagree with you on your message, but seems equally to fail to recognize that people can disagree with you over whether the message was, independent of agreement or disagreement with your point, a substantive contribution.

> It is a subtle aggression perpetrated by the forum software against every user here,

Its not an aggression at all, and, if it was, it would be perpetrated by the downvoters, not the forum software. The only way it can be seen as an aggression by the software (or, more accurately, the forum operator) is if you think you have a right to be protected from seeing (or perhaps having others see) an indication of whether other members of the community think your comment is worthwhile. But that opinion is directly opposed to the entire idea of participating in a public discussion forum.


> That doesn't mean downvotes were for disagreement. Just because you intended it to contribute to productive dialogue doesn't mean that downvoters didn't think that it failed to provide a substantive contribution.

> Your argument seems to recognize that people can disagree with you on your message, but seems equally to fail to recognize that people can disagree with you over whether the message was, independent of agreement or disagreement with your point, a substantive contribution.

Perhaps you started writing your reply before I amended my post to add "without a single reply to indicate exactly what anyone's problem with such a post could possibly be". I do realize that people might not be downvoting for mere disagreement but because they think my post did not contribute to the discussion, however without a reply to elaborate on that, it isn't very helpful. The downvote alone will not usually lead to a correction in behavior, since there is no way for the receiver of the downvote to even know that the downvote was given for that reason as opposed to disagreement, much less what the reason might even be. Instead, he'll conclude that this forum is full of negative people who downvote for specious reasons, or for no reason, and perhaps begin to become a negative HN member himself. That's a loss.

And since your next objection might be that I feel entitled to a reply from everyone who downvotes a post - I don't. But less than one in ten heavily-downvoted posts that I read, has a reply to indicate why that post was downvoted. I feel that number is low.

> Its not an aggression at all, and, if it was, it would be perpetrated by the downvoters, not the forum software.

Well, I don't believe the forum software is actually capable of aggression, heh. What I was getting at, is that it is an act of aggression by the site operators against community members here. And no, I don't have a problem in general with an indication of whether the community thinks a post is worthwhile or not - I do strongly disagree with this particular implementation of it. I would have no problem with, for example, just displaying the raw upvotes and downvotes next to a post.

Like I said, it's as though readers need to be "protected" from reading your post (by making it harder to read), which is patronizing to readers and a bit harsh to the author of the post, considering all it takes is for one random to downvote your post to make it happen. If a post truly is so offensive that people probably shouldn't be made to read it (racial epithets, bullying, etc), we have flag-killing to take care of that.

Greying-out earnest comments merely because they are useless (and remember that's in the best case) is over the line because the consequence of a false positive is too high and the threshold for it to happen (again - one downvote) is too low.


> Perhaps you started writing your reply before I amended my post to add "without a single reply to indicate exactly what anyone's problem with such a post could possibly be".

It is not generally the practice to comment to explain downvotes, and, IMO -- especially given the absence of collapsed threads on HN, but even if it were present -- it would defeat the point of downvoting and decrease the signal-to-noise ratio to do so, as then meta-discussion of the problem with posts would take more real estate, at the expense of the worthwhile discussion of the topic at hand.

> But less than one in ten heavily-downvoted posts that I read, has a reply to indicate why that post was downvoted. I feel that number is low.

I actually feel that that number is too high. If a comment is worth responding to, its probably not worth downvoting, and if it ought to be downvoted, responding is counterproductive.

> Like I said, it's as though readers need to be "protected" from reading your post (by making it harder to read)

Well, yes, the whole point of moderation, community or otherwise, is to suppress content that is outside of what is desired for the forum so as to maintain the character that is intended for the forum.

Put bluntly, censorship based on the community perception of how well posts align with the ideals expressed in the guidelines is the whole purpose of having downvotes. It is, by design, fairly soft censorship that doesn't (through downvotes alone) actually make the content unavailable, but it is exactly to protect the community from the unwanted content interfering with the wanted content.

> which is patronizing to readers and a bit harsh to the author of the post

I don't think its patronizing to the reader to hold out a representation of what the purpose of the forum is and to minimize the visibiity of content that the community has found to be out of line with that purpose. Nor do I find the manner in which HN does it "harsh to the author", despite myself having had many comments go gray -- though far fewer stay there.

In fact, I've often found that a comment going gray triggers my own review and reconsideration, and an edit which makes me happier with the comment. Or results in me deleting a comment which on reflection I realize was ill-considered.

> Greying-out earnest comments merely because they are useless (and remember that's in the best case) is over the line because the consequence of a false positive is too high and the threshold for it to happen (again - one downvote) is too low

I disagree. While its true that a slight greying that lets you know that a comment has been downvoted occurs at a net of one downvote, I don't see that as a "too high" consequence of a false positive. The slight greying at that level doesn't impair readability, and if anything draws more attention to the post. Its only at higher levels of downvoting that there is a substantial negative consequence.

I fail to see the harm you are concerned about here. Perhaps its just being around a long time in online forums, but I think the consequences of no moderation (and voting that doesn't actually reduce the visibility of negatively-voted comments at some point is "no moderation" for this purpose), or of relying primarily on centralized moderation rather than community moderations, are much worse than HN's style of community moderation. And while there are different styles of community moderation (e.g., those used at Slashdot or Reddit), I don't see any clear evidence that they produce better results than HN's.


Well, since you've staked out your reply in direct and total point-by-point opposition to my own, bizarro-world style, there isn't much room for discussion. I will address one thing:

> It is not generally the practice to comment to explain downvotes, and, IMO -- especially given the absence of collapsed threads on HN, but even if it were present -- it would defeat the point of downvoting and decrease the signal-to-noise ratio to do so, as then meta-discussion of the problem with posts would take more real estate, at the expense of the worthwhile discussion of the topic at hand.

I am not suggesting that every single downvote warrants an explanation. I thought that was obvious. But if you look at the two extremes:

* No downvote is ever expanded on in a comment by the downvoter. The site rules themselves will explain some of the downvotes. However, alone they do a poor job of encapsulating what this community considers productive and unproductive discussion. We usually don't know why downvotes are happening. Nothing improves unless mods take direct action to make it happen, as this community has no mechanism for self-regulation.

* Every downvote is explained. I gather you believe this is the worse of the two extremes and I agree. The forum disappears up its own asshole in endless boring meta-discussion and everyone leaves.

Downvotes should be explained sometimes. My one-in-ten figure from before was a total guess. I haven't harvested any data and I don't have any spreadsheets, but I too often see greyed-out posts that I can't for the life of me figure out why they were downvoted. As in, even if I approach it with an unusually high degree of cynicism I still can't guess at a reason. It's gotten to the point that if I see a grey post I'll just automatically upvote it even if I don't read it. I encourage others to do the same.


I disagree, explanation is fundamentally incompatible with the purpose of downvoting. I suppose it would make sense if the explanations were hidden and only made visible to the poster whose comment was downvoted, or by activelt interacting with the downvoted post. Otherwise, its polluting discussion of the topic with meta-discussion, compounding further the problem posed by posts that are downvoted.


I would like downvoting to require an explanation. It could be a single-line text box with the label "Explain why".

If you're serious about downvoting, it's no trouble to type in a short explanation such as "incorrect", "not funny", "obvious troll", "unnecessarily rude". (Those seem to be some typical reasons for downvotes.)

And if you're not quite sure why you're downvoting, having to explain would certainly serve as a determent.


I don't see an existing problem that this would in any way make better.


Commit logs ask questions without hurting anybody.

If there was ever a psyhotechnological empathic determination of medico-lego "Do No Harm" principles, commit logs are the definition of info emo sec.

Bitcoin/factum public transaction messaging (uncomplete) is also equal to power for votes of parts of speech are important news triggers.


I guess part of the problem is that there is disagreement about what the down vote is for. I try to think like this: I press the up and down arrows if I think something should be farther up or down on the page. Since the comment score was removed a while back, this approach is now more intuitive. Since I read from the top down, and will stop reading when the comments become uninteresting, it should also produce the desired effect. Whether I disagree with something is orthogonal to whether it is interesting or informative.

I do wish, however, that there were simply two voting options: one for up/down on the page and one for agree/disagree. Just to give us all something to do when we disagree with a comment, other than reply or downvote. It would give "disagree" downvotes their own place and let the other votes dictate a comment display order and user karma. Of course, it would also be interesting to see a user with high karma and high disagree score, for example.


pg a few years back commented: I think it's ok to use the up and down arrows to express agreement. Obviously the uparrows aren't only for applauding politeness, so it seems reasonable that the downarrows aren't only for booing rudeness.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=117171

I don't know if he's made another comment on this issue since then.

Shouldn't flagging a post/topic be generally used for a guideline violation?


> Shouldn't flagging a post/topic be generally used for a guideline violation?

Yes.


As I understand it, flagging should be used for egregious violations of the guidelines, but borderline or minor violations, simple lack of substance, or (per pg's comment) perhaps even mere disagreement are suitable uses for downvotes.


Weird. My experience has been the exact opposite. Rarely do I get downvoted for comments merely because people disagree with it. It happens, but often enough for it to be a problem. IMHO, the benefits from seeing unconstructive comments downvoted has been more beneficial than the damage done from the occasional good comment that gets downvoted because someone disagrees.

At the end of the day, a good comment will always get more upvotes based on its perceived quality than downvotes from people mis-using the downvote feature. I credit this to the fact that you only get downvoting privileges at 500 points, at which point, you've been around long enough to have a sense of the HN culture. At 500 points, you feel like you're receiving a great power that comes with great responsibility.


I've heard of communities improving when downvoting was added as an option, and deteriorating when downvoting was added as an option. I've also been along for the ride for the former, and then the community revolt when they tried to remove it in a forum upgrade (it was later re-added.)

> It's an awful experience

It can be, if taken the wrong way. It's important to stress that one shouldn't get too freaked out over losing some meaningless internet points over what may have very well been a misclick. Keeping this in mind, it has not been an awful experience for me when I've been downvoted. I wouldn't even say it's been a bad experience for me.

> Most people use to show they disagree with a comment.

I think this is only true when the reasoning or tone is poor - or at least that's the only case the negatives outweigh the positives. I've seen exceedingly few downvotes when I've disagreed and argued here on HN.

As an extreme example, I've seen a thread advocating Cannibalism in a serious tone gain rating, due to it's solid reasoning and proper treatment of the pros and cons of the matter. More typical topics behave similarly - constructive, well reasoned disagreement gains more points than it looses. This on a forum unlike HN - in that, I believe, you could downvote immediately upon account creation.


That, and the inability to change a vote. There are many times I've hit the down arrow when I meant to hit the up arrow. After just one downvote, the comment starts to turn grey, which leads to more downvotes.


I agree about the downvoting. The harm it's doing has increased in recent months, and it's common to see perfectly reasonable satements of fact (much less opinions) that someone else doesn't like be downvoted. It's discouraging to see when it's not even your comment, and really offputting when it is.

It's gotten to a point that I'm not sure downvoting is a net positive for the community any more.

EDIT- example, this comment was downvoted in less than 2 minutes after it was posted. Did this voting improve the conversation or the community?


What did your comment add that the OP or the others replying to the OP didn't state previously?

An "I agree" or "hear, hear" should be downvoted.


He/she added:

- facts are sometimes downvoted - it's gotten worse

I don't like being negative, but if you had actually properly read and comprehended the comment rather than downvoting it, that would have been preferable. In fact this is a perfect example of why downvoting doesn't work properly.

PS, I've upvoted both your comments.


> and it's common to see perfectly reasonable satements of fact (much less opinions) that someone else doesn't like be downvoted.

I don't see why "reasonable statements of fact" being downvoted to be a problem. Something can be a reasonable statement of fact without contributing substantially the discussion. That's a perfectly good reason to dislike it being presented in the context, and a perfectly good reason to downvote it.

pg may have said it is acceptable to use downvotes for disagreement, but that doesn't mean that downvote implies disagreement. Being a fact doesn't, on its own, make something a productive addition to the discussion.


One thing I like about stackexchange is how downvoting has a cost. I'd like to see downvoting on HN cost the person doing the voting at least 1 karma, maybe 2, maybe even 5 or 10.


yea, that's a good idea. I would back this idea.

It would prevent people from hunting down someone, and downvoting all of the posts without penalty just because they didn't like them.

Though I'm not sure how much of a problem that is here.


I agree with you. I don't participate enough to be able to have a downvote option but I've seen how a different viewpoint (mainly one that doesn't align with HN demographics) will often get downvoted and, even though this site seems much better than others in that regard, it will still discourage anyone from posting anything they might consider controversial.

Of course, any comment about downvotes is also, understandably, frowned upon and discouraged so there doesn't seem to be much recourse.

We could avoid political or ideological topics altogether but that's very hard considering any conversation can lead to them.

To get back on track, I see it as an extremely hard problem to solve since downvoting due to disagreement is a very big temptation and, once you start, you might not even notice you're doing it anymore.


...and you got downvoted. It's absolutely ridiculous that a forum like HN supposedly frequented by the best and brightest has so many immature children.


I've lost almost all of my karma on this thread and not a single comment as to why I'm being downvoted (-7 points or so). The original article is right that HN has become an incredibly negative community. Downvoting is the internet equivalent of saying "fuck you." So many people want to tell me to shut up but no one will actually say one word why?


> but no one will actually say one word why?

Here's a word about why. Your comments were rightly downvoted because they didn't contain any information. They lashed out at something you happen to dislike, using phrases like "immature children" that merely vent personal displeasure and offer nothing of value to the community. If HN threads are a swimming pool, that is peeing in it.

HN has a long history of users repeating the same complaints about downvoting. These get downvoted because they lower the signal/noise-ratio. They are such a cliché that the guidelines have for many years contained a rule asking you specifically not to post that kind of comment.

If, instead of familiarizing yourself with any of this and taking your lumps like the rest of us do, you decide to post such things anyway, the only surprise is that they aren't downvoted more.


From the FAQ:

  Resist commenting about being downvoted. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.


Shouldn't there be an exception to that rule? "Unless the original discussion is about downvoting, or about an aspect of HackerNews that would lead to a comment about downvoting being on-topic". Of course, there still needs to be something of substance in the comment.


The comment we're talking about isn't quite substantial. Even the meta-discussion that's happening around most of this stuff isn't all that useful. There have been a lot of people who haven't really gotten the hang of commenting here, complaining about the power of a downvote.


Expressing disagreement is an appropriate use of the down vote: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=117171.


Agreed. I got substantially downvoted for asking (what I thought) was a valid question about a Privacy Policy update. Seems the downvote is being treated more like Reddit.


I agree that downvoting is overused, but I don't see it in the guidelines that it should be used only for guideline violations and if that would be true than what is the comment flagging should be used for? Or are they the same? And why is there two ways to mark a comment as negative (downvote and flag) and only one as positive (upvote)?


I agree, I see so many comments downvoted to oblivion simply because the comment betrays a lack of rockstar ninja coding ability even without being egregiously wrong. Downvoting should be reserved for trolling, bullshit, and objectively wrong information.


Also - potentially interesting but controversial threads in which the first post is inevitably blotted out into oblivion. This to me is a sure sign that the fade effect of downvoting doesn't work as intended, either to prevent people from making such comments, or to prevent others from engaging them in conversation by making it slightly difficult to read them.


Ironically this comment has been downvoted a few times. Point made.

EDIT: try giving a reason for downvoting. Apparently opposition to downvoting is not a popular opinion.


A down arrow can mean "I disagree" as well as "this is negative" but in practice the latter is applied (content starts to fade out, etc).

Perhaps instead of a down arrow the icon is a circle with a slash?


Maybe the button icon could be replaced with a word next to the reply link? Kind of as a reminder of what it means?


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