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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
 http://web.archive.org/*/https://news.ycombinator.com/item?i...  https://archive.today/https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9...  http://www.webcitation.org/query?id=1428133249694151
 http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2013/18.html, para 21.
Is a person who gets offended by that really the kind of person you want on HN?
Hopefully, this new guideline will avert similar incidents.
Political correctness should be considered the same as writing a negative comment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most get negative reviews, few are hits. The irony is that I've seen that thread and I thought it was generally well-received.
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 even quoted the idea I was responding to. Perhaps you should practice some of that charitable interpretation.
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 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.
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.
If you even find a place that actually allows discussion of unortodoc views, please tell me.
Maybe you should consider if the signals being sent your way mean what you think they mean.
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.)
Personal attacks are not allowed on Hacker News. Moreover this subthread has gone far off topic. Please stop.
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.
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.
Good. So why is it condescending? What do you find offensive about being reasonable with those you disagree with?
>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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Let's start again from this, do you agree with the golden rule? What does it mean to you?
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.
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.
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.
See, this is why people get dismissed, because they do things like quote me and then attack something I never said.
no good deed ever goes unpunished, eh?
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.
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.
But I honestly fall into the other camp that believes respect should be given freely.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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." 
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?
 Bruce Lee (!)
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".
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?
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.
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?
The whole "why won't you be tolerant of my intolerance?" paradox again. Cute.
Without going into further detail, it's not really a paradox. In fact it's a reasonable if somewhat mean, observation to make.
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.
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.
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.
This is like the phenomenon examined in this 2005 paper: Egocentrism Over E-Mail: Can We Communicate as Well as We Think?
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.
I suppose it's possible there's also some sort of face-to-face feel with chat that encourages sympathetic responses.
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?
Part of this issue is what at Stackoverflow was called the "Fastest Gun in the West Problem" .
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.
> 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.
I add thoughts here: http://blog.jessriedel.com/2015/01/28/links-for-january-2015...
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The point is that it lets people feel like they've been heard and understood.
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).
But who knows, maybe it will even be better if it gets a little make-over.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This abuse of power is ruining the system for those who have new accounts or only post occasionally.
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.
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?
I'm particularly leery of collapsible threads, although my understanding is we're about to get them anyways.
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.
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.
HN supporting collapsible threads doesn't mean automatically collapsing threads.
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.
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.
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.
 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 (if they want more moderation) or reddit (if they want less) might be difficult, unless you're serving some specific niche like DataTau.
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.
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.
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 may be in the minority here, but I do not consider this a good result for anyone.
"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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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 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:
That's fascinating! Has anyone traced it to its precise origin there? I'd love to see that.
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 :
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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 )
There is hope: one of my best received comments was a gentle chiding of someone who had belittled someone's comment.
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.
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
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 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.
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.]
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 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.
Banning personal attacks, but allowing unlimited criticism of ideas, is more of an objective guideline.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.)
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.)
I think "Maybe next time it comes up the comments won't devolve."
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.
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.
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.
If HN is tribal then attacking one tribe while praising the others might be a method to farm positive karma.
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'm making assumptions here on anecdotes of course.
"I do not agree"
"I do not believe this adds value"
"I think you are being mean / rude"
"Bad attempt at funny"
"Off topic to parent"
"Off topic to post"
"Difficult to understand/Noise"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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.
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.
> 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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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.
> 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.
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?
An "I agree" or "hear, hear" should be downvoted.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Resist commenting about being downvoted. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.
EDIT: try giving a reason for downvoting. Apparently opposition to downvoting is not a popular opinion.
Perhaps instead of a down arrow the icon is a circle with a slash?