hacker news with inline top comments    .. more ..    5 Apr 2011 Ask
home   ask   best   8 years ago   
Ask HN: In search of cure to a disease called loneliness...
3 points by anujkk 1 hour ago   8 comments top 4
2 points by antileet 1 hour ago 1 reply      
I put this up just today morning:


1 point by citizenkeys 1 hour ago 1 reply      
"Loneliness" and "aloneness" are two distinct and separate things. A person may enjoy aloneness using a computer to collaborate and do work without being lonely.
1 point by silves89 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I'm not lonely IRL, and I find real value in online social networks.

My cousin has ME, and she is lonely. Online support groups have really helped. A friend of mine, who has been single for a while and I suspect quite lonely, is currently getting heavily laid because of Guardian Soulmates.

But I agree with the goal in a roundabout way - too much of my online time is un-productive - not informative in a useful way, not entertaining, and often emotionally and psychologically draining. I want to spend less time online too.

1 point by rdouble 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Ask HN: If you had to choose, would it be your startup or significant other?
11 points by bdclimber14 1 hour ago   8 comments top 7
3 points by patio11 1 hour ago 0 replies      
This is very related to a work/life balance discussion HN had recently: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2386235

I had more to say, but it got long. Expect a blog post in future.

2 points by rdouble 43 minutes ago 1 reply      
Should be possible to do both. Mark Zuckerberg has had the same girlfriend for 7 years.
1 point by mishmash 1 hour ago 0 replies      
After two failed startups, my fiance later wife has let's say "become very wary" of new projects.

And that sucks. But, I wouldn't trade her (or our kids) for all the money in the world so the choice is easy.

That said, I have two active projects and at the moment and I'm treading very, very lightly with them. My plan is to remain stealth (from her) until/unless I get traction and then that would put me in a better position to further negotiate ala time commitments, etc. :)

1 point by nethsix 55 minutes ago 0 replies      
Finding someone you really like is not easy and may not happen again.

Pushing for more efficiency may help. Some tips:

1. Rid as much of time-wasters as possible. Ditch your tv, game set, etc. Avoid reading too much news, forums, etc.

2. Be more time-conscious with your activities, i.e., don't stray. E.g., reading is good but be selective. I've seen some non-startup related topics making getting so much upvotes even on Hacker News. E.g., debating to get feedback is good but debating to win is not.

1 point by imasr 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Relationships are hardly written in stone.
Take the time to understand your feelings and talk to you ex.
If you can't get to an understanding then is likely that the problems between you two go deeper than you think.
2 points by mindfulbee 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I haven't but I think everything has a reason. If you're really passionate about this idea than keep pushing.
1 point by lvh 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Ask HN: Recommendations on Learning Photoshop?
54 points by krsgoss 19 hours ago   32 comments top 22
8 points by fgblanch 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I think the best way is just by doing. You start with an idea in mind, for example a metallic logo for a website , or a wood background texture for an iphone app, or rounded border gradient button. So look for tutorials in google, you will find a lot, so look for one you like the final result and make it.

By doing tutorials you will learn a lot of tricks and concepts on how to combine layers, styles, create shapes, etc... at the same time you will get work done (with better or worse results but done) Then becoming a pixel perfect designer it's just a matter of practice, and by combining the tricks and concepts you will learn in the tutorials, you will be able to do whatever you may want.

You will find nice tutorials in places like:



2 points by edanm 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Don't learn Photoshop.

"I want to be able to rely on myself for cranking out your standard web/app elements."

I had the same problem (learning Photoshop) with that exact reasoning a year ago. I learned Photoshop and got pretty decent with it in terms of what I could do, although I was far from able to design anything beautiful.

Then I learned there is a much better way for us developers: buying templates.

If what you want is to have a decent design for your site, but you can't afford or don't want to wait for a professional designer, buying templates is the best thing you can do. You can get a beautiful-looking template for as little as $10-$20 dollars, and they'll be much better than you could hope to accomplish with limited time.

Also, if you're looking to just throw up a website quickly, I'd look into getting it set up with WordPress + a commercial template. It will take you 3 hours to get a beautiful-looking website up on the net, and you can always copy the design (and the design's code) if you want to make a web-app with the same theme. This is what I use for all my sites - a quick WordPress site with a theme from WooThemes, and a web-app (sitting on a subdomain) with the same theme, copied from the original template.


WooThemes - beautiful and very easy to use themes for WordPress (and a few other CMS', I believe). http://www.woothemes.com/

ThemeForest - also great themes, available for WordPress or as just plain html/css/js files you can play with. http://themeforest.net/

ThemeForest Admin Templates - I just learned about this one. ThemeForest templates, but that are specifically designed to serve as an "administration interface" for a webapp. In other words, if you're building a web application, these themes have everything you need. I haven't used one yet, but I'll definitely be buying a theme from here the next time I build a webapp. http://themeforest.net/category/site-templates/admin-templat...

Oh, by the way, if you're interested in learning Photoshop just for fun, I really recommend the Lynda videos - http://www.lynda.com/.

3 points by sahillavingia 17 hours ago 0 replies      
This may be unorthodox but maybe try learning without Photoshop? I built http://gumroad.com/ without it and it has the added benefits of: 1) forced simplicity, 2) speed building it and, 3) speed for users.
2 points by andrewvc 17 hours ago 1 reply      
For color correction you cannot do better than this book:

It's a great book for engineers working with color, as its principles are explained through color theory and the mathematical relationships between colors.

Most photoshop 'experts' are people who have dicked around with it forever and just haphazardly learned the tools, Margulis comes from a much more empirical place and shows how to manipulate color in ways that are more natural and less damaging to images by using as few tools as possible.

Additionally, you'll learn a ton about color theory, which is worthwhile by itself.

If you finish that book, this one is awesome as well: http://www.amazon.com/Photoshop-LAB-Color-Adventures-Colorsp...

3 points by kingsidharth 16 hours ago 0 replies      
I've been designing (read: wasting time) in Photoshop for years now. Taking your path now - lest Photoshop. I use it to generate nice noise. Make some visual effects or resize thigns.

Biggest reason is that photoshop forces you to get into details. Taking your focus away from design - that' will be why something is there? Is it the best way to put it? best size? Can there be better layout? What do you want users to do? What do you want them to think? THat's design and Photoshop doesn't respect it.

Do not waste a single minute trying to learn that monster. It's meant for Photos, not for design.

5 points by natesm 18 hours ago 1 reply      
I'd consider Illustrator instead. It's vector based, it's great for layout, and boxes are boxes, not a set of pixels are are coincidentally shaped like a rectangle (admittedly, Photoshop is also capable of this, but it's much more limited). It's also intuitive - you move things by clicking on them and dragging them. Pretty much all of the things it seems that you'd like to do would be possible and easy to do in Illustrator. As you said, you're not interested in photo editing.

If you do decide to stick with Photoshop (and they're by no means mutually exclusive, as long as you're willing to pay for both), stay away from old tutorials. Recent versions introduced nice nondestructive things, like smart objects, smart filters, and layer styles. Those are much preferable to the destructive alternatives that we had to use in the past.

1 point by TomOfTTB 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I was looking for the same thing a while back and a friend recommended a book to me called Photoshop: Down and Dirty Tricks (http://tinyurl.com/3hqdumj). For me it was the best advice because I prefer to learn by doing. The Amazon link I provided has a "look inside" feature so you can see how the tutorials are structured and decide for yourself if it would work for you.

It is meant for people who already know a little Photoshop but if you know enough to use Acorn you should be fine.

3 points by gallerytungsten 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Sounds like you should learn some Illustrator as well for the type of geometric elements you seem to have in mind. What I like to do is create elements in Illustrator, then copy & paste them into Photoshop for assembly. That way you get an immediate reality check by rasterizing. Of course you save the Illustrator file with all it's elements so you can re-paste as needed. (Illustrator's typography works better than Photoshop's; and of course there is a much better set of drawing tools.)
2 points by wordchute 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I love Photoshop and have been using it forever, but it is really for photos. For web graphics its really all about Illustrator, and maybe InDesign if you want to get into layouts - they're almost the same, but InDesign is geared more towards print so you get a lot more visual queues for object placement, etc. I would go with Illustrator though, and with growing browser support for the SVG format knowing how to create vector images will become an increasingly important skill for developers/designers.

If you just want something to touch up photos, GIMP is pretty good and free. Its like an older version of Photoshop. If I just need to fix the color balance or crop an image, I usually find myself opening up GIMP just to knock it out quickly.

With any of these programs, its good to spend time playing around (sometimes known as practice), and then you'll have a better basis for understanding the more in-depth features. There's tons of stuff on Youtube dealing with specific tasks, you just need to know what to search for in the first place.

1 point by acconrad 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Once I started treating "learning X" with the following mentality, I had the best results:

Have a project. Want to learn some photoshop, find a picture/logo/whatever that you want to emulate. Or whatever you want to create, think of what techniques are involved and learn those. Don't try and learn 3D text if you're thinking of creating a logo with a gradient. Google "photoshop gradients", and make sure it's from a credible source (such as psdtuts).

I find if I'm only learning what I want to learn, I don't get bored, so I stay motivated to learn, and simply exploring a tool/language/et al, I will become curious and branch out from what I was originally planning to learn, and thus learn new things organically, rather than forced. So for example, if I'm creating a Web 2.0 and I start using Inner glow, that might entice me to learn about drop shadows, and how the overlay tool works and what the difference is between "Multiply" and "Darker". Give it a shot and see if that gives you some direction.

2 points by zachwaugh 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Just been going through this process myself. I usually use Fireworks, but wanted to learn Photoshop since there are so many more resources available. Here's some that I've found helpful:

- http://365psd.com/ and http://designmoo.com/ - Both have free, high-quality (for the most part) PSD's you can download. Sometimes for me the most helpful thing is just seeing how someone else constructed something. How many layers they used, which layer styles created a certain effect, etc.

- http://methodandcraft.com/ - Just recently launched, but already has some nice videos I've learned a lot from.

- http://photoshopetiquette.com/ - A bunch of quick tips

- http://bjango.com/articles/ - All the design articles are great

- http://designthencode.com/ - Can't vouch for this personally as I haven't gone through it myself, but looks like a really great and detailed guide.

2 points by cageface 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I haven't tried it myself yet but a lot of people seem to prefer Fireworks. My experience with Photoshop so far is that it's adequate for web work but clearly wasn't designed with this in mind.
2 points by splatcollision 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Strongly agree that using photoshop for web design is going the way of the dinosaurs. Don't bother learning the wrong skills. Designers who can't code will need to adapt to new tools or (figuratively) die off. Browser-based web design applications are going to be the wave of the future.

My take on the browser-based web design web app (+ css animation)
First prototype: http://editroom.splatcollision.com
HN thread: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2408173

2 points by raquo 14 hours ago 0 replies      
I also used Acorn but found DrawIt to be much better suited for web stuff (icons, buttons, gradients, etc.), and it's way simpler than Photoshop.
6 points by danielvnzla 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Check out lynda.com. They have some good lectures for free, and a huge library for 25/mo.
3 points by baggachipz 18 hours ago 1 reply      
To threadjack a bit, what about the equivalent for Illustrator? I've made myself minimally proficient in photoshop, but when it comes to creating something new (like an icon, etc.) I'm lost in Illustrator.
1 point by gte910h 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Do LOTS of tutorials on the adobe site of the type of things you're trying to do. Get a "learn by tutorial" book. You'll pick up the toolset that way pretty fast.

I do second the person in this thread though that points you at fireworks. While I can do things in photoshop, many items come super fast in fireworks.

1 point by CyberFonic 10 hours ago 0 replies      
To become proficient in PhotoShop will take a long time. If anything it will make you iterate slower, much slooower !

Just hire a comptent designer and work together to iterate fast, really FAST! It will work out less costly and your productivity will increase.

5 points by cloug 19 hours ago 2 replies      
learn to leverage layer styles
1 point by dfmedrano 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd recommend Fireworks if you want to iterate the whole layout and if you don't need to invest too much time polishing the graphic style of UI elements. Fireworks has a lot more direct manipulation of the canvas elements.

Photoshop on the other hand has more and better graphics manipulation tools: color pickers blending options and effects. It you need to come up with a carefully crafted graphic style, use Photoshop.

I use both, depends on the task I need to do.

2 points by dreww 18 hours ago 0 replies      
the only tutorial you need is:
0 points by viggity 16 hours ago 0 replies      
You should definitely learn how holding control, shift and alt (or some combo thereof) in combination with the mouse (click, drag, wheel) will effect all the various tools. This goes for any mouse heavy graphical editor (illustrator, blend, fireworks, etc)
Should we trust .ly/local domains for our startups?
10 points by brackin 9 hours ago   5 comments top 4
2 points by bmelton 8 hours ago 1 reply      
I think that the takeaway from that post, for me, was that IF you absolutely can't have another registrar, it's probably worthwhile to purchase your domain in long, multi-year chunks, and be prepared to have thrown that money away if they ever take it out from under you.

Obviously, this doesn't speak to whether or not it's 'safe', but Letterly has illustrated that, at least presently, the 'point of failure' is at the registrar. Other (not-expired) .ly domains seem to be resolving just fine, which is the point of DNS of course, and it's safe to say that if they hadn't already been up for renewal, they'd likely be safe until they were.

As it stands, I don't even know if there are any registrars selling .ly domains, or if it's simply their registrar that's having issues.

1 point by sorbus 5 hours ago 0 replies      
There's also a rather longer discussion on the same event at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2406681
1 point by andrewpi 6 hours ago 0 replies      
FYI: Ben Metcalfe warned about problems with .ly domains back in October 2010. (see http://benmetcalfe.com/blog/2010/10/the-ly-domain-space-to-b...)
1 point by timerickson 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I will not comment on wether one should rely on .ly domains, but I wanted to point out it is STILL POSSIBLE to order and update the nameservers of .LY domains.

I did so by emailing lydomains@libyanspider.com

Ask HN: How to stave off decline of HN?
403 points by pg 1 day ago   655 comments top 234
73 points by mixmax 1 day ago replies      
I used to be a big contributor to this site, but for the last months I've found that my interest in the site has waned.

I've thought a lot about why, since I used to really enjoy HN - now it's just one of a few newssites I visit every day. It's hard to quantify but here are my reasons and my take at the decline:

1) The obvious one: Signal to noise ratio in the comments is way down. The problem is twofold - there are both more bad comments, and the ones that are good aren't necessarily voted to the top. This makes it harder for me to find the nuggets that would be shown at the top of every comments page a year or two ago. As others have pointed out it sound easy but is in fact a very hard problem to solve.

2) The interaction in the comments is less interesting. I used to have great arguments in the comments. Sometimes I would convince someone of my point of view sometimes it was the other way around, sometimes there just wasn't agreement to be found. But it was always interesting and civil, and I very often learned something new. Engaging in, and watching others have interesting discussions was for me one of the main things I loved about HN. It's like when you go to a dinner party and get to sit next to this incredily interesting guy that is exceptionally insightful and has some really interesting things to say. The conversation leaves a mark on you.

3) I often find that the comments I make that I personally find insightful or interesting don't get a lot of upvotes, while the ones that state something obvious or funny get more upvotes. This isn't encouraging me to interact with people here on an intellectually interesting level. If others do this as well, which I suspect they will, then it's extremely degrading to the discourse in the comments. I often find that I don't bother to write up a response to something because I know won't get a lot of attention. Sometimes my points are totally missed.

4) Maybe I've outgrown the site. Many concepts that were new to me when I joined HN are now familiar, and many discussions have already been had. RiderofGiraffes describes it well in the linked comment.

I owe a lot to HN, and I really want it to succeed, so I stick around and hope that things will change. But for now it's from a less engaged position.

57 points by coffeemug 1 day ago 4 replies      
Look at http://gamedev.net - they've grown their community from a few active users to more than a hundred thousand and the quality only increased. They had to go through a period of significantly decreased quality as the community grew, and faced all the same problems as HN. I believe a combination of the following changes would fix things: (from most to least important):

- Upvotes need to be weighed by karma, and karma of exemplary members of the community needs to be seeded by you (and other exemplary members). This way cliques of mean/non-insightful users can upvote each other to their heart's content without making any appreciable difference in their karma value.

- The above would fix the quality of articles on the front page, not just the quality of comments. Our most successful blog post to date was "will the real programmers please stand up" (http://www.rethinkdb.com/blog/2010/06/will-the-real-programm...) which is at best a provocative rant. The actual technically insightful content isn't nearly as successful. TechCrunch mastered the art of linkbait headlines. Weighed upvotes will solve this problem.

- Anonymity breeds animosity. If I don't know someone it's much easier for me to say mean, dumb things (see: YouTube). The solution is somewhat controversial, but I strongly believe the downsides of threaded discussions strongly outweigh the upsides (ability to carry on multiple discussions at a time). Removing the ability to have threads will force people to pay attention to who they're talking to and have a coherent discussions instead of snarky oneliners.

- Moderators need to be able to lock down threads that are getting out of control.

- When the article is off the front page, the discussion quickly dies off with it. There needs to be a "hot discussions" tab that allows people to continue the conversations. This encourages people to get to know each other and participate in a coherent discussion that spans beyond 24 hours.

63 points by strlen 1 day ago replies      
Cap the score that is displayed with a comment e.g., past 10 points, just display "10+". Don't display karma and average scores of users, again, past a certain point: this prevents (subconscious) game incentives which lead to e.g., posting comments that say something stupid or mean but which tend to agree with general tendencies of the site.

For example, I can post a comment decrying Blub with a snide remark (e.g., "You wrote a 1,000 line Blub program? Was it 500 getters and 500 setters?" in a thread discussing software projects) that is both information free and mean (perhaps Blub wasn't the author's preferred choice, but chosen for him or required in order to build an application for the iBlubber). People on this site generally dislike Blub, so the comment will get upvotes without adding any value to the discussion (an example of adding value would be saying you were able to do this in 100 lines of Flub using its cool new hygienic macros with a link to a paper on hygienic macros in Flub).

That's not to say all comment score data should be gone. Comment scores can still be kept and comments could be displayed on stories in the other in which they're displayed now (a mix of comment score and how recently it was posted). Generally, what I've found is that comments showing up _first_ tend to be of higher quality i.e., overall algorithm works more often than not.

[NB: I work at LinkedIn and we do this for connection counts-- we want users to network with each other, but we don't want to make it a "who has the most connections" game, that's why when you have over 500 connections (which is perfectly legitimate and allowed), only "500+" is displayed as the count on your profile]

43 points by idoh 1 day ago 1 reply      
Let us not be too hasty in proposing solutions when the problem isn't really understood. At best they are shots in the dark. Even after you ship them you wouldn't be able to tell whether the fixes actually did anything or not.

If this were my product then I'd try to gather a corpus of bad comments, selected outside of the vote system (because the problem is that voting might be broken). While I was at it, I'd also find out the good comments, because promoting good comments might be just as good and easier than getting rid of the bad comments. After that, I'd try to figure out what counts as a good vote or a bad vote, because the problem probably doesn't really lay with the comments themselves, but rather how people vote against them. Bad comments aren't really a problem if the vote system does a good job of spotting them.

Then I'd take a careful look at comments and votes:

- Is the distribution of good comments / bad comments even throughout the set of commentators, or are there users who are dependably good or dependably bad? If it is a lumpy distribution then you can use that. I'm guessing that everyone makes dumb comments, and there is something with the system that inflates the scores of bad comments compared to good comments as more people can vote. But I'm also guessing that only so many people are capable of leaving good comments too. Get the data and find out for sure.

- Do the vote scores that these comments get a reflection of the quality? If the votes are, then maybe the system isn't as broken as you think. If they aren't, then you've got a lead on the problem - you can look at the bad comments that get lots of upvotes and try to suss out what is going on.

- Do high-karma voters do a better job of finding good / bad comments that average? If they are better, then maybe you give them more weight. If they aren't then you'd have to shelve that idea.

- Are there people good at commenting but bad at voting, and vice-versa?

- Are there people who are good at upvoting, but not at downvoting, or vice-versa?

It's all sort of tedious, but basically I'd advise leaning on the data and make decisions based off of that. I'm pretty sure that if you dig in a bit something is going to really stick out in a big way. Once you've found that, then you can build a feature / change around that.

120 points by tptacek 1 day ago replies      
A hard ban on politics and current events, instead of the wiggly one we have in the site guidelines now.
42 points by tptacek 1 day ago 4 replies      
Some policy/feature/system to aggregate related stories ("killing" stories that duplicate stories that already have active threads, and posting a link to the "duplicate" story in that thread, or something similar to that --- I'm being minimalist here).

A lot of dumb comments appear to germinate on threads that are the 3rd or 4th take on some tech news story about Facebook or Apple.

53 points by tptacek 1 day ago 5 replies      
A privmsg feature, available to people who cross a karma or karma average feature, that would allow gruseom to tell people offline that their comments are dumb. Sometimes it's good to make an example of a dumb comment, but other times it just begs for an unproductive fight.
7 points by jedsmith 1 day ago 3 replies      
Complete the fledgling environment of selectivity in one fell swoop and explicitly say, in the guidelines, that low-karma users are no longer allowed to participate. Remove the ability to vote, comment, and perhaps read from all users below 5,000 karma. These meta posts, the how to vote posts, the discussion here and in other threads, the lamenting about comment quality in general: all of this aggravation is dancing around the central issue, which is low-karma users turning Hacker News into something that the high-karma users do not want. Period.

Just look at this thread. One person has eight separate top-level comments on this item, and is winning popular support. A large number of them have almost the exact same number of upvotes. You might as well rename HN to Shaped in the Old Guard's Image and wall it off. Just get it overwith so people will stop:

- Writing tired farewell pieces, and calling it a good thing because they're respected and high-karma

- Then turning around and churning out blog content that is front-paged daily on the community just departed from

- Complaining about HN's slow decline towards Redditdom

- Downvoting comments because they disagree with them

I know this sounds like snark, but it's totally honest. You have a big choice to make here: either you foster and encourage new users to participate, or you wall it off and keep HN in the bubble of functionality and community that the old guard reminisces about.

As a relatively new contributor, I've never felt more unwelcome on a site than I have here at times. It's not even about me. It's certainly not about disrespect to those high-karma users who believe in this community the most. It's about the community. If you want your community a certain way, then lock it to the people who made it that way. I also intentionally set the theoretical karma limit above my karma, because I'd love an excuse to not come back.

Aside: All of this meta crap recently is setting up for HN to be disrupted by a new community. I also find it telling that in the time it took me to submit my comment and upvote the parent post -- say, ten seconds -- I was already at zero.

64 points by pkaler 1 day ago 3 replies      
There is no scarcity with upvotes. If I have an infinite amount of money to spend, I will spend it without prudence.

Cap the number of upvotes that a user gets each day and give explicit feedback on how many upvotes that they have left.

37 points by gleb 1 day ago replies      
I'd try to severely decrease total # of comments.

Really bad comments are not the root of the problem. Simply having large number of mediocre comments crowds out and discourages thoughtful discussion from starting at all.

I'd say:

* create some real cost to making comments

* make bad comments disappear/not display at all with time

* make things less democratic -- to encourage good behavior identify users who have this behavior and make this behavior more prominent programmaticly

14 points by solipsist 1 day ago 2 replies      
The problem lies within the deeply nested threads that continuously go back and forth between a few select people. Most of the mean/dumb comments on the first level thread are downvoted or flagged and moved to the bottom. This makes it easy to read the high quality comments - just look at the top.

The problem occurs when you start reading into a nested thread of comments. Users will sometimes argue 4 or 5 times back and forth, often becoming mean and uncivil. What results is a somewhat personal discussion among a few people that doesn't fit in with the rest of the thread. While the quality may actually increase the deeper you go into a thread, the relevancy to the original thread decreases (which matters most).

I think that this behavior is what is hurting HN's overall quality. Uncivil and deeply nested threads like these are hard to keep track of and deeply get out of control.

The solution:

  - hide deeply nested threads (greater than 3 or 4 comments deep) and
let the users choose to show them

- promote commenting in higher threads (this will come as a result
of hiding deeply nested threads)

- hide or lessen the visibility of threads consisting of comments
from only 2 or 3 people

20 points by jjcm 1 day ago 4 replies      
I'd suggest that there are more tiers to functionality than are currently in place. At the moment, after 500 points you're given the ability to downvote comments. Perhaps there should be additional barriers in place, such as this:

0 - Ability to comment on threads

50 - Ability to upvote comments

500 - Ability to downvote comments

1000 - Ability to submit articles/stories

2000 - Ability to downvote articles/stories

etc. While this may reduce the number of incoming stories, perhaps there could be a way for power users to sponsor stories submitted by those who aren't able to submit them to the feed themselves. The more I think about it, the more I like this approach - create a queue of "pending stories" that anyone can submit to, but only those who have sufficient experience on the site can approve them (or remove them from the queue).

For those who say that I'd be pandering to myself here, note that I'm at 620 points right now - with this proposition I'd be reducing my current abilities. However I think that it's a small price to pay to improve the quality of submissions.

37 points by tptacek 1 day ago 1 reply      
Stop showing people other people's comment scores. They stimulate argumentative comments.
17 points by chaosmachine 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is probably 300 comments too late, but I mocked up a solution:


It's something I've suggested before, getting rid of downvotes and replacing them with flags.

14 points by ig1 1 day ago 3 replies      
I was writing an open letter to HN on my blog for this topic, but this now seems a more appropriate place to reply (apology about the style which seems out of place in a comment):

Once upon a time Hacker News was called Startup News, it was a place to share links and discuss between people passionate about startups. Good links and discussions stayed around for days, every aspect of startup life was discussed.

Sadly that time has long gone. As I write this, on the front page of HN there are maybe 4-5 stories out of the top 30 that relate to startup topics.

Articles relevant to startups are being pushed out by generalist tech and programming articles that are better served by the many many subreddits on these topic. While it's open to debate whether these are on-topic on Hacker News or not, HN is far less about startups than it used to be.

Many contributors to HN don't even see it as being about startups anymore, even contributors who've been involved in HN for over a year are talking about it as a tech or programming site. The startup stories that reach the frontpage tend to be on technical topics, the non-startup tech audience of HN now means stories focused on the non-technical aspects of startups such as marketing and raising money make it to the front page far more rarely than they once did.

I remember complaining at one point about the number of stories about A/B testing on the front page. I wish I could complain about that now.

Take a look at Gabriel's Ask YC archive - it was created to address the startup questions that frequently turned up on HN, for many of these topics I can't recall when I last saw them discussed on HN.

There are a hundred social networking sites that serve the tech community from proggit to dzone, what differentiated HN was the focus on the startup community. That focus is dying out, and we're becoming just another tech social news site.

I don't think we can make HN be more about startups again, the audience has changed too much for that, and it wouldn't be fair to the non-startup tech community that's come to rely upon HN.

So instead I'd like propose that HN stays as it is, but pg creates a new HN called Startup News, which has startups at it's heart as HN once did.

19 points by jacquesm 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think it is in part the comments but also very much the articles.

One very simple suggestion: an 'off topic' tab where stuff that does not fit the HN bill can be moved to. An 'offtopic' link similar to the 'flag' link for users with more than 5K karma, that answers the questions 'what do you get for karma' nicely as well too.

7 points by ChuckMcM 1 day ago 0 replies      
Extracting a requirement from the question, you have

Define bad comment : A comment which has either or both of the properties 'mean' and 'dumb' and is 'massively upvoted.'

Define Hacker News Health : The ratio of non-bad to bad comments.

In previous systems this function has been addressed by moderation whereby a speaker for the culture has the authority to remove comments deemed to be 'bad' and thus by gardening the experience make it more 'good' for the participants. Not a system that scales well.

I see a number of comments "Is this just another Reddit?" which suggests that from a culture perspective there are immigrants from other groups who bring a different definition of 'interesting' which has enough support from the group to prevent them from being pruned early.

That suggests an experiment.

Add east west buttons to comments, and perhaps topics as well. Notionally the value of 'east' is 'more like Hacker News' and the value of west is 'more unlike Hacker News'. Let readers vote on what they see as being more or less what they expect to see. Track their 'east/west' karma (perhaps we could call it there 'wings' with a nod to left-wing and right-wing).

One could imagine then creating a 'fog' effect much like trending topics are moved to the top of the page we could move top left topics to the top of the page and top right topics to a new page. In the ideal world people would self select which page they were more interested in, and HackerNews could in fact develop a community much like Reddit algorithmically with their own start page and their own high karma posters.

Could provide an interesting space to explore if nothing else. Probably a publishable paper in the results if someone were so inclined to go there.

13 points by psawaya 1 day ago 2 replies      
Make it easier for new stories to get noticed before they fall off the new page. It's a crapshoot if your submission gets noticed, and (it seems at least) the stories on the front page come from the same domains and submitters, probably because people tend to vote based on name recognition.

I realize that doesn't directly relate to comments, but I think some of the declining quality of conversation owes to the fact that it's getting a bit stale. How many blog articles about productivity can we discuss without some decline?

I don't think we should ban political articles at all. In fact, I think less blog posts about "are we in a bubble?" and more articles on economics, science, philosophy, etc would make HN much more interesting. The median comment here is still of much higher quality than at sites like reddit. And although certain subjects can be sensitive, I doubt that banning these topics will actually reduce meanness, it will just make the change in decorum harder to notice.

Finally, a more extreme idea: why not add a second kind of vote? Perhaps we could vote comments agree/disagree in addition to up or down. These could be right and left arrows, to drive home the point that disagreeing with something ought to be orthogonal to whether it adds to the conversation. We could weigh these votes less, so that rankings more reflect how insightful we think something is, instead of how popular.

17 points by user24 1 day ago 4 replies      
Limit us to N upvotes per day.

In other words - make votes precious.

That way people will think more about how to 'spend' their precious votes.

A similar thing works in poker. If you empty out your change jar and give everyone a fixed amount to start, and at the end of the game it all goes back in the jar, people play in a certain way. If you play for actual money, even just change, the gameplay does often change for the better, because their chips now have value.

At the moment we all have an infinite amount of votes to spend, so we can casually upvote anything we find briefly interesting - because our votes have no value to us.

By limiting the number available per day, we are forced to spend our votes more wisely.

Alternatively, making upvote decrement our karma will also add perceived value to the action of voting. However I think HN users care less about their karma scores so I think this approach wouldn't work as well as limiting users to N votes per 24 hours.

N can be fixed at, say 10, or increase with karma so 'better' users get more votes and thus more influence.

32 points by geuis 1 day ago 4 replies      
Make voting on comments cost karma. Alternately, make new story submission require at least 100 minimum karma level. I suspect the effect here would be to reduce the number of frivolous and spammy submissions. When more high quality submissions are the topics of conversation, the quality of comments will go up.
7 points by andywood 1 day ago 0 replies      
First, thank you for acknowledging this as a real problem. The quality of HN is a function of the community. This doesn't just mean who's here - it means who's here, and how they act when they're here. While tweaking the "game variables" on the site may help, I believe it's more important and to the point to reinforce community standards somehow.

When I first discovered HN, I quickly learned by various cues that this is not a place to drop sarcastic, one-line zingers, but rather a place to act as you would in a real-life business setting. The cues included both the example of the dominant commenters, and their chiding of non-conforming commenters. Over time, with the growth of the site, there are proportionally fewer commenters setting a strong example, and more commenters lowering the bar and getting away with it.

We are conditioned to feel that democracy = good, but in online communities I do not believe it is the case. Rather, when there were more "good" commenters, democracy was on your side. The "good" commenters had the power of numbers. Now, increasingly, the unconditioned, lower-quality commenters are beginning to gain the power of numbers. In order to counter this, you must provide the "good" commenters with a some other type of power.

You could hand select a number of members, based on your personal knowledge of their historical comment quality, and how much you think they reflect the HN that we want. Give them the ability to super-downvote. This status does not need to be public. It's not a status-symbol. As a bonus, this could give the exemplary members some small incentive for sticking around, by making them feel like they can do something meaningful to fight for HN, beyond just complaining.

Also, Eliezer has dealt with this problem quite a bit, rather successfully, IMO. Maybe ask him.

30 points by tptacek 1 day ago 3 replies      
Have comments start at -1.

(Or, better yet, -thread_depth).

8 points by goodside 1 day ago 1 reply      
"The problem has several components: comments that are (a) mean and/or (b) dumb that (c) get massively upvoted."

Find a few examples of comments that are unambiguously (a), (b), and (c) and have either you personally or someone you trust flag them as such. Next, take the set of all people who upvoted the abc-flagged comments. Their votes now have a 50% chance of not counting towards vote totals from now on, but in a way that the user isn't shown that their votes aren't being counted -- perhaps with an artificial "offset" vote that appears a few minutes later.

There's fun parameters one could throw in there too, like exponential decay on the likelihood of a vote being magically offset that spikes back up every time the user votes stupidly.

5 points by raganwald 1 day ago 2 replies      
One thing I wonder about is whether accumulating personal karma is a red herring: trolls don't seem to care about their karma, and good folks may not care either.

Perhaps the most important thing about upvotes and downvotes is how they affect visibility. Everyone wants their voice to be heard, and some people want the opportunity to influence whether other people's voices are heard or not, e.g. by flagging stories or killing comments through downvoting.

If the big deal here is visibility, then I would concentrate on the algorithms that decide when a comment thread is rendered gray or invisible and the algorithms that decide the ranking of comment threads. I would look for patterns of votes or commenting that might help distinguish "popular but fluffy" from "popular and thought-provoking."

6 points by tokenadult 1 day ago 2 replies      
The problem has several components: comments that are (a) mean and/or (b) dumb that (c) get massively upvoted.

a) If a comment is truly mean, a personal attack on another community member, delete the comment and subtract from the user all the karma that the comment gained. That is something that can only be done by someone with curator powers here, but the rest of us can be encouraged to flag such comments more, and reminded not to upvote them.

b) If the comment is dumb, make a better comment in the same thread and downvote the dumb comment, especially if the dumb comment already has significant karma accrued. Anyone who has downvoting power (and user who has made many upvoted comments) can do all of that, and anyone who can post a comment can do some of that. Again, the curators can remind users from time to time to maintain those standards.

c) All users can browse the bestcomments list


to search for massively upvoted comments that are still within the downvoting time limit, and downvote those that are mean or dumb. Curators can delete those comments as needed.

Example and reminders go a long way. (By the way, because I, and I suppose most users, don't read this site exhaustively, I'm not fully aware which recent comments may be the most problematic. But definitely feel free at any time to provide me or other users with advice on how to raise the quality of comments here.)

After edit: another comment from another user in this thread prompts me to ask whether all new users who sign up see the site guidelines automatically or not. That might also help a little, if it isn't already done. Posting links to the site guidelines in threads with problems might also help.

7 points by citricsquid 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't think you really can. This site is a community and the users matter above all the features. If the user quality takes a nose dive all you can do is hold off the inevitable with new comment rankings. Every site has a point where it gets so big it declines in quality, reddit hit that and now those who want the old reddit back are coming here.

The only way to truly guarantee it would remain high quality would require credentials to use the site, or require invite/referrals, but then that has a whole host of its own problems.

I'm relatively new so I don't know what HN "used" to be like, but in the short time I've been here I've noticed it decline. It seems to me that more and more people who aren't knowledgable or have insights to offer are joining and people like jacquesm and riderofgiraffes are leaving. It was inevitable and has happened in every community I've ever used.

11 points by sunir 1 day ago 2 replies      
Idea 1. Charge for memberships like Metafilter.

I believe in the Quaker rule, "Only speak when you can improve the silence." Other people think speech is like squatting on land. You have to speak to gain footing. By charging people for the privilege of speaking, you make them consciously decide whether what they have to say is worth the $5 to join. They will probably say no.

8 points by tptacek 1 day ago 0 replies      
Add "Assume Good Faith" to the guidelines; this is one of the few Wikipedia rules that I think really helps.


4 points by btilly 1 day ago 0 replies      
This was a long thread, and I have no idea whether my response will be noticed. But I've been around a lot of online communities, for a lot of years, and there is one thing that I have noticed. The key to sustaining quality seems to be barriers to entry.

It doesn't much matter what the barrier is. A commenting system that crashes and destroys conversations occasionally, driving away people who are not sufficiently invested. A focused remit that drives away most people who see the site. A small group that does not advertise. But I've never seen any community sustain itself in a form that I want to be part of without some barrier to limit who gets involved in that community.

I'm not entirely clear on what the reasons are. Is it that we can only track a certain number of people? Is it that communities can only sustain themselves if turnover stays low? I don't know. But I've observed the rule in multiple places.

Given that, I've been surprised at how well HN held up. It started with a good seed. People who find pg interesting have a reasonably focused remit. The site lacks a lot of silly bells and whistles. People mostly find out about it through word of mouth. But still in the end without some barrier to entry, any sense of community is doomed. At least if my experience/opinions/etc is accurate.

13 points by RiderOfGiraffes 1 day ago 2 replies      
A final thought: If you don't discriminate between the actions of the vast majority, and the actions of those identified as being aligned with your desired intentions for the site, nothing will work. I can probably "prove" that.

I think any solution will require the identification of individuals whose actions are "more trustworthy," and giving them greater weight, or more powers.

Anything else can and will be swamped by the majority, whose intentions you have no control over, and no reason to trust.

11 points by tptacek 1 day ago 3 replies      
The comment flag button could be changed to really mean something; for instance: sufficiently flagged comments can stop collecting upvotes.
4 points by Locke 1 day ago 1 reply      
I hate to be unhelpful, but I think this problem is intractable.

The fact that these meta discussions predictably offer a wide array of solutions -- many of which are at odds with one another -- leads me to believe there isn't a solution. In fact, it seems like many of these discussions devolve into:

    1. I have an idea!
2. Yeah, but that won't work because...
3. Oh, in that case we could just...
4. But, then...

The "quality" of HN and it's community is a function of many variables. It's hard, maybe impossible, to tweak the site and expect predictable results (and, there are always unintended consequences).

It doesn't help that the feedback cycle is so long.

Let's have a hypothetical. Suppose, we decided the problem was that HN had become to design-centric. We want fewer designers and more programmers. So, let's make HN ugly. Really ugly. Then all the designers will leave and we'll be left with programmers. How long after making the site ugly will we have to wait to see the results? What if the designers retaliate by making a client-side css hack to make HN look even better? Do we end up with more or fewer designers? Did we do damage to the population of programmers who also happen to be designers? And, how do we account for outside influences? What if a prominent designer linked to HN the week of our changes and our tweak is overwhelmed by the flood of incoming designers?

I hope I'm wrong. I've been here 1467 (!) days, I'd like to stay a long while longer.

6 points by JesseAldridge 1 day ago 0 replies      
Looking at this comment page it's clear that there is an absolute deluge of excellent ideas waiting to be implemented. The bottleneck here is pg. pg doesn't scale. As far as I can tell, he's the one who does the vast majority of work on Hacker News, and as the site grows -- and as YCombinator grows -- pg's (already huge) workload is only going to increase. This is, of course, similar to the "Linus doesn't scale" problem faced by the Linux kernel, to which the solution was git. [1] I expect a similar distributed solution is needed for Hacker News.

Re-writing the software in a language more people understand (e.g. Python) could be a good first step here. But I don't know if pg is willing to give up on his silver bullet (arc).

Turning Hacker News into a business might help. Create a situation where exceptional people can make lots money by figuring out how to make HN great and let market forces do the rest. Although figuring out how to make money off of content could be a pretty tough problem.

More generally, I think pg should be thinking less, "How can I improve Hacker News?" and more, "How can I create an environment where other people can improve Hacker News?"

I mean... investing in startups is a full-time job, running a high traffic website is a full-time job, building a programming language is a full-time job, raising a child is a full-time job... trying to do all four at once probably isn't going to work.

[1] http://lkml.indiana.edu/hypermail/linux/kernel/9809.3/0957.h...

5 points by michael_nielsen 1 day ago 0 replies      
Many people have made interesting feature suggestions. However, the core problem isn't features. It's developing a general understanding of how to scale up online communities while preserving quality. pg has written before about the benefits of essay-writing as a way of deepening one's understanding of a problem:

"If all you want to do is figure things out, why do you need to write anything... Expressing ideas helps to form them. Indeed, helps is far too weak a word. Most of what ends up in my essays I only thought of when I sat down to write them. That's why I write them... Just as inviting people over forces you to clean up your apartment, writing something that other people will read forces you to think well."

So why not write an essay on how to build large online communities?

6 points by silentbicycle 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think that having more content on the front page that isn't shallow industry gossip would have a positive effect on discussions overall - they tend to drag down the other threads, and bring in a lot of people who don't understand / follow the commenting culture here.

The new page is out of hand, IMHO - there's a huge incentive to be the first to submit an article (and no cost), so new content is continually posted. Many interesting posts fall off the bottom of the new page within an hour - a post has to quickly appeal to lots of people, or it's gone. This leads to lowest-common-denominator submissions.

Instead of moronic "first post!" comments, we've got a plague of "first submission!"s.

The sum of the scores on the new page divided by the oldest's age may be a good metric. Currently, the total is 217, and the oldest two say "1 hour ago" and "2 hours ago", roughly 90 minutes. That's only 2.4 points per minute, and this thread (118 points, 1 hour ago) is a major outlier; without it, it's 1.1 per minute.

Whether you make submitting articles cost karma (3-5 points?) and/or add a penalty for posting an article that was subsequently flagged and deleted, fewer dull submissions would improve discussions. (It would also help with spam.)

7 points by tptacek 1 day ago 2 replies      
Allow commenters themselves to publicly flag their own comments to prevent them from accruing karma. Call it the "sincerity" flag. Actually, this is my #1 top feature request for HN, period.
19 points by b_emery 1 day ago 3 replies      
3 words: Bayesian Comment Filter. Just does the opposite of what the spam filter does. Use the corpus of great comments from the past to find great comments of the present.

I'm only half joking. Fundamentally, the thread is about a filtering system.

18 points by euroclydon 1 day ago 3 replies      
When tptacek flags a front page article (and tells us he did), I can't think of a single time I have disagreed with him. Yet, the story usually remains, for hours or indefinitely. So, find more people like tptacek, and give their flags more weight.

In other words: Moderators who enforce the spirit of HN and have the ability to just kill stuff. I'm really surprised this isn't happening already. If I go post some derogatory remark on a heavily moderated blog or forum, it's get's junked almost immediately.

5 points by rlpb 1 day ago 1 reply      
1. Set up a Twitter-like directed graph of users, so users can provide HN with people they'd like to "follow". This graph need not be public.

2. When someone upvotes or downvotes, all followers of that person upvote or downvote the same submission or comment by proxy. If a person follows multiple people some of whom upvote and some downvote, or upvotes or downvotes himself, then cancel their proxy vote. This proxy voting is the sole purpose of the follow graph, eg. "I want to vote the same way tptacek, cperciva and pg do".

Perhaps publish a leaderboard of top followed people and their voting history to try and avoid a Digg situation.

Perhaps limit the number of people one person can follow. This would help with performance as well.

Perhaps the number of proxy votes would need to affect the score of a comment or submission logarithmically instead of linearly.

Edit: there may need to be a minimum level of karma needed to proxy vote to avoid sockpuppets. Perhaps limit it to active accounts, too.

4 points by jcl 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think the main problem is that there are too many comments: The number of comments has increased, but the number of comments that a person can reasonably read, reply to, or vote on has stayed the same. Thus, comments receive less moderation, and less of it from long-time HN users.

Part of the problem is the increase in the number of users. And there's not much you can do about that other than to actively drive users away from the site. (Difficult captcha? Erlang Fridays? Comic Sans?)

The other part of the problem is that the karma system rewards commenting. It isn't considered appropriate to downvote a comment unless it is overtly offensive or incorrect, so mediocre commenters don't receive signals when they are contributing almost nothing to the conversation. In fact, a mediocre commenter will comment more, because more comments mean more chances for random karma. And others see the mediocre comments and reciprocate. There is no way to reward someone for not commenting, even when it improves the site.

A number of the solutions already mentioned would help decrease the number of comments. One additional one: Make more of the site's behavior conditional on a high karma/post ratio rather than a high karma.

3 points by harshpotatoes 1 day ago 0 replies      
Why are mean comments posted? Answer: because they are massively upvoted. People like Karma, and Karma is a useful tool to teach newbies how to act, by giving them shining examples of excellent posters/posts voted on by the community.

Why are mean comments upvoted? Answer: I don't know.

People learn how to act on HN by watching what gets upvoted, listening to the tone of discussions, and reading the submitted articles. Presumably, the unwanted comments are being made by new members of the community. Somehow, these new members were not properly taught by the community. In which step were they not properly taught?

I would like to submit three possible problems, along with three possible solutions.

1) The problem is in the voting system. Mean comments are being upvoted, and the senior members of the community are largely powerless to stop these comments. Sure, they can downvote, but they are just one vote, and there are still many more junior members who will upvote the mean comment.
If you believe that: Senior members know what's best for the community, these members are senior because they have high karma, these members have high karma because the community has voted that these people know best. Weighing a vote by the karma of the user who made that vote would solve the problem of mean comments being upvoted.

2) The problem are the stories that make it to the front page.
Mean comments and the votes they receive are a symptom. The users who upvote are getting their social cues from the stories they read on the front page. Broad requirements on stories that are HN worthy allow for a wide variety of stories to get posted to HN. This is good for somebody who sifts through the 'new' section, but it also means that the only stories that get massively upvoted are stories that have general intersections between all of our interests. Evidence seems to show that the most common shared interest is gossip, which is conveniently unwanted by the community. The solution in this case, is to make stricter requirements about what stories are allowed.

3) The problem is that bad apples will always exist no matter what you do. At the moment, the easiest place for bad apples to exist is on the front page of HN. Unfortunately, this is also the place a lot of normal users like to exist. Perhaps a sandbox could be made for the bad apples to hate each other, and allow the normal users to exist in separate but equal lives. Unfortunately, this seems to go against the HN spirit, and I can't think of any useful ideas on how to implement such a sandbox without it sounding like a subreddit.

Finally I would like to add:
I like that HN takes the time for these self analysis every now and then. But, I think it's important to remember that we don't know what's best for us. The mere fact that we will upvote the type of content we don't want shows this.

This leads me to reiterate a comment best stated by idoh: "Let us not be too hasty in proposing solutions when the problem isn't really understood. At best they are shots in the dark. Even after you ship them you wouldn't be able to tell whether the fixes actually did anything or not."

6 points by Mz 1 day ago 0 replies      
A couple of things I have commented on previously/elsewhere on HN:

A) My understanding is that "formal culture" is the historical human antidote to trying to interact with large numbers of folks they don't know all that well. Older, more densely populated parts of the globe tend to be more formal than American culture. Yet American culture is the primary influencer of many online communities, including this one. The assumptions made by a less formal culture and the practices which grow out of them start to cause problems when you don't actually know people that well and it simply isn't possible to know everyone here all that well with 100k uniques a day.

B) "Greet people warmly at the door": The general assumption that the ill-mannered newcomers are The Problem tends to promote the problem. Greeting people warmly who are new to the site and speaking with them gives them opportunity and motive to learn the culture and try to fit in. Talking trash about how they are mucking up the place and studiously ignoring them until you are ready to chew them out gives them every reason to behave badly or to assume no one really notices or cares what they do and little opportunity to learn to fit into a polite culture. They don't ever even get to experience the polite culture. All they experience is rejection, insults and such themselves. "Eternal September" isn't because there are new people. It is because the new people don't get inculcated. Hating them on sight and giving them a hard time for simply being new (which is the undercurrent of a lot of posts here) is a major fail if you want to preserve a valued culture. Culture is not preserved by just hanging on to the old folks. It is preserved by teaching it to the new people and helping it grow in a healthy manner.

I'm sure there's more but that's what readily comes to mind and, right this very minute, I'm not up to giving it more thought or time and effort.

8 points by diego 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm surprised this book hasn't been mentioned here yet:


If you read that book and then look at HN, it's clear how its design encourages behaviors that are not aligned with the goals of the community managers.

7 points by petervandijck 1 day ago 0 replies      
HN is beyond the point where you can improve comments with small adjustments to the comments or karma system. History (on other sites) shows this. The problem is sheer size.

There is only one real solution, which is to reduce size.

You can do that by closing new signups, which is a little bit like tying rope around a girls feet to prevent them from growing. Not great, and probably leading to rot.

Or you can do that by fragmenting up the conversations. Reddit has the rather primitive subreddit system. It works somewhat. A better system is Twitter's follow or Facebook's friend systems.

In either case, if you do this, the result would be something quite different from the old HN. The uproar would be great, and lots of people would leave.

The alternative is the slow death of online communities with scale. I just don't think that tweaks in the comment-karma system are going to solve this problem.

Good luck!

18 points by noblethrasher 1 day ago 3 replies      
The nuclear option: Periodically take the site down for a while and then rebuild the community (kind of like the Matrix). The quality people will likely stick around.
4 points by Tycho 1 day ago 1 reply      
I know you're talking about comments, but I did a quick snapshot of the front page and color coded each submission by it's category

    blue = hardcore hacker stuff

turquoise = industry-related light reading

biege = acceptable entrepreneur/political commentry

red = fluff, stuff we could do without

black = meta (eg. this thread)


That's a pretty healthy mixture if you ask me. Only about 10-15% or the articles are unworthy of HN, and even that's debatable. The majority is technical stuff, with a few valuable pieces on business/economics in general sprinkled in.

So although some people seem to think the quality of comments is declining, I still believe HN provides phenomenal quality in its capacity as 'news for hackers.'

I'm not sure if changing the rules will do much good; it might have the opposite effect. I think there's pro-active measures we can take which might prove best, like: finding interesting people and inviting them to HN. Quora would be a good recruitment ground.

One last point, I think the role of the founder/leader is very important to online communities. I've been in other forums which went to absolute shit once the 'pg-equivalent-person' ditched them in favour of Twitter. More essays from Paul Graham, perhaps ones talking about online behaviour/ethos, would be a big benefit :-)

4 points by naner 1 day ago 0 replies      
Commenting is almost no-friction and there is an immediate psychological reward in getting your voice heard. This makes it extremely easy to knee-jerk. Perhaps you can A) make commenting cost more or B) delay the reward long enough to force a re-evaluation before the comment goes public.

For A you might try making commenting cost karma in certain situations.

For B I've got no ideas. I'm thinking about how I sometimes will write an emotionally charged email and then wait a day before sending it because I know I'm unable to think clearly. Emotions will have cooled by then and the email looks like it was written by a crazy person. There's not any way to force delays on commenting that I can think of since the articles and discussions here move so fast.

3 points by gnosis 1 day ago 2 replies      
Implement something like a recommendation system for comments.

Any time any two users vote on the same comment, the HN system should create a number representing the "affinity" between the two users.

This affinity should increase if the users voted the same way on that particular comment, and decrease if they voted differently.

Then, instead of displaying the number of upvotes or downvotes next to a each comment, what should be displayed should be the number of upvotes and dowvotes weighted by the affinity of each user who made that vote.

Comments should rise or fall using the formula HN uses now, except it should use affinity-weighted upvotes and downvotes.

In effect, in this system the other users are making "recommendations" on the comments they vote on. And their recommendations are weighted by how similarly their previous votes were to the votes you made.

This scheme results in every user seeing comments customized in a way that automatically infers their preferences.

So, if you prefer deep, insightful comments about technology, you'll presumably upvote those comments, and the affinity between you and the other users who upvoted those comments increases, and when they upvote future comments, the comments they upvote will be more likely to show up on your radar as they'll probably be closer to the top of the page and have a higher numerical score.

Conversely, those people who prefer brief, funny comments would similarly have the comments they see be displayed in a way that caters to their preferences.

Instead of trying to please everyone in a one-size-fits-all top-down approach, this is a more distributed approach which "recommends" to each individual user those comments which are likely to be preferred by that particular user.

Of course, this scheme is more computationally intensive than having the current system of simple, unweighted upvotes and downvotes, or even of manually curated/moderated comments. It also requires active upvoting and downvoting of comments by users for it to work well.

But the advantage of this is that the more users upvote and downvote, the more accurate the system gets in "recommending" comments to them. So implementing this system would provide an incentive for active participation.

It's also an automated, algorithmic system which should scale much better than proposals that require manual human intervention, such as implementing moderation/curation of comments.

A similar scheme could also be applied to articles, such that the HN backend would weigh articles based on the affinity between the user viewing the article list and the users who've voted on those articles.

4 points by bdclimber14 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think the root cause is inherent to growth. As the number of naive new users increases exponentially (assuming this is happening), the more experienced portion of the community has a harder time swinging vote totals for quality pieces. It's not that new users are stupid or malicious; new users are simply uneducated about the type of comments and content that are most fitting with HN. With more new users, the community gives affirmation of mediocre content through votes.

I've been fairly active on HN for about 6 months. A year ago, I remember submitting articles and making comments that, while at the time I thought were fitting, I am now embarrassed of. (This also may be the case 6 months from now for my current submissions).

Sure, I perused the introduction, FAQs, and other comments and articles. However, I didn't get a real sense of quality until recently. Just like with software development, the best way to learn is by doing.

Here are a few ideas:

- Enforce some sort of social contract that users must agree to before submitting articles. Describe appropriate usage to give users a sense of pride in the community.

- A combination of account age and page views could be used to ensure new users are experienced enough to participate. There are the obvious negative side effects of this.

- Allow high-karma users to send private messages (previously mentioned) to users that submit inappropriate content informing them of the reasons why it may not be best. Down-voting and public comments are too cold. A warm private message from a 5 year HN veteran explaining how I can be a better member would be welcoming.

The bottom line is that the quality decrease isn't from malicious users (rude and negative comments aren't necessarily malicious in those users' eyes) but from naive users.

1 point by dman 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I am a bit late to comment but here are a few thoughts

a) Staying on top of HN and current with articles and comments is becoming a fulltime job. Contributors who are productive in their non HN life will overtime realise that they are spending a disproportionate amount of time on HN. Something needs to be done to the mechanics of HN to change this. The only thing I can think of for this is highly unusual but here it is - Do not allow people to comment on stories by default, only vote for them as ontopic and offtopic. Later after a certain amount of time - stories become available for commenting or disappear entirely. This effectively decouples a story into two phases - is this story worthy of discussion on HN and second how good is the commentary on it. Doing this split will allow you to attack the story and comment quality in a more granular manner. Also sometimes its tempting to open an offtopic story just because it has 80 comments, hoping that some HN stalwart has added non trivial analysis to an otherwise trivial story. By not allowing discussion on offtopic stories such wayward curiosity on part of readers like yours truly could be avoided.
b) Remove the indirection currently in place to flag stories and comments. Downvoting is more convenient currently, perhaps flagging should be a bit more convenient than it is currently.
c) Turn HN into a fully customised experience. People prone to gossipping will overtime find themselves in a version of HN where gossip is abundant, ditto for technical users. An implementation is left as an exercise for the determined reader.
d) All changes dont have to be live on news.ycombinator.com. You could try out multiple versions with different incentives, maybe different sub-communities will find different local optima.
e) Force people submitting stories to write a comment longer than a certain threshold about the story.

4 points by nhangen 1 day ago 1 reply      
Relatively new user here...

I found the site when someone submitted something and asked me to upvote it. I didn't know what that was, so came here and made a stupid comment and got downvoted. I didn't know what that meant or why it happened, and no one went out of their way to explain it.

Months later, I have almost 1k karma and still didn't know who RiderofGiraffes was, and don't find myself caring.

The real issue here is culture, and the cultivation of it. There is a culture, but it's tough to find, and it's far from discoverable. Most of the links new users need to know about, such as the top 20 list, are hidden deep in the site. There aren't any avatars, and because of the strange nicknames, I never know who I am talking to unless I click through and they happen to have listed a URL or Twitter handle.

Point being - if you want people to act a certain way, I think you need to do a better job of describing it. I say that to the entire community.

I don't get the feeling of a nurturing environment here, and because of that, it's sort of a "fend for yourself" environment, which leads to the sort of behavior we see.

Just my .02, but this is what I'm picking up here.

I still love HN.

5 points by kulkarnic 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think I am too late to the discussion already, but I think all of pg's a), b) and c) are caused by people who think that this is OK-behavior.

I think a new user should, by default, get "read-only" access. Once the account ages, so the user sees what is acceptable behavior, should you get write-access.

Another idea is to actually make good the name of the site (Hacker news). EITHER a) Show us you actually are a hacker-- do you build things, or just troll? Is your relation to technology deeper than "I read techcrunch?"
This could be a simple matter of adding a text-field or a mandatory homepage/startup URL field, and asking (say) 3 longtime HNers to decide if the "applicant" is interesting enough to the HN community.

OR b) get invited by a long-time HN-er to join (There should be a strong disincentive to invite indiscriminately: for instance, everytime a person you invite gets downvoted, you lose 0.2 karma points).

I know, this scheme sounds elitist. And it is. Yet, I can't think of a single interesting HN-er this would filter out.

4 points by webwright 1 day ago 2 replies      

You could have people who have over X karma (or people you hand pick) have disproportionate abilities to downvote or nuke comments/stories that are mean or dumb.

It would be easy to train a small circle of people how to moderate well. It seems nigh impossible to train the entire userbase of HN to do it.

3 points by colinsidoti 1 day ago 1 reply      
I almost launched a site that was meant to compete with HN. Here was the strategy to take you over:

Note: Thanks to Incubomber.com members and Aaron Burrow for coming up with these ideas.

The specific problems that were being addressed:

1. Karma is given for link aggregation instead of content creation. Consider the user that is lucky enough to be the first to realize that you have posted a new essay on PaulGraham.com. That user will instantly post the link on Hacker News, and is guaranteed to gain a ton of karma. But aren't you more deserving of that Karma?

2. Community bias crushes the little guy. It seems that a bot is constantly running on Hacker News that matches titles against the regular expression "`YC ?[WS]?\d{2}`i" and automatically adds karma until it reaches the home page. But what makes news about a Y Combinator startup any more interesting than another startup? Some power users have a similar effect on the community. This predisposition makes it excessively difficult for unknown users to establish themselves.

3. Up votes are given where up votes are not deserved. It's hard to blame the users, though. If someone makes a hilarious submission, it certainly deserves some recognition. Similarly, if someone reiterates a widely known fact, it still feels right to express agreement. Unfortunately the only way to communicate these feelings is by placing an up vote, which is not the proper way to place votes and detracts from the quality of the community.

The solution was Anonymerit.com (Never launched, but one of us may get to it eventually.)

Eliminating Bias While Evaluating Credibility

What is Anonymerit?
Anonymerit is a new type of community where submissions earn merit anonymously. At the end of each month, the top submissions will be compiled and published with their author revealed (optionally). (Kudos to Hacker Monthly, we may have swiped this from you)

How does Anonymerit work?
Anonymerit is focused on content creation rather than content aggregation. All submissions and comments are the original work of their author, but Anonymerit will withhold their identity. Submissions are kept anonymous so the community can evaluate the content's credibility without introducing bias towards "noobs" or "power users," a symptom that plagues many communities as they become more established.

To evaluate a submission, users can participate in two polls with simple plus ('+') and minus ('-') options. The first poll evaluates the popularity of a submission. In general, this is used to determine if the community agrees with a post. The second poll evaluates the merit of a submission. For this poll, a '+' is used to indicate that the submission was thought provoking, informative, and insightful. A '-' is used for submissions that focus on widely known ideas, or are simply reposted content.

This separation is imperative because it allows users to quickly express their feelings at a granular level. The total scores can reveal that a submission is generally disliked but still worth reading, or that nearly everyone agrees but the content is already well-established and does not need to be reiterated.


A monthly publication combined with anonymous postings is awesome. The publication is required because it motivates people to post their original content on HN rather than their own sites. Entrepreneurs, knowing that investors will inevitably be reading the publications, would kill to write quality content that makes it into the publication. This same fact also serves as motivation to properly vote and comment on submissions. YC already has a huge name, but imagine how much bigger it can be with a renowned publication.

The anonymous aspect is good because it lets people post anything without the fear of being stomped on by PG. In the end, you're only really looking for the best, and you can still find that through the publication. It's a win win.

4 points by sunir 1 day ago 0 replies      
Idea 3. Enlarge space. There are too many people in the common agora, so split up the community into smaller, more focused spaces, akin to Reddit. For instance, there are natural categories here around news, programming, business, science, and politics.


1 point by davidmathers 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Uh oh. Over the past 6 weeks I've had the feeling of being liberated from my years-long Hacker News addiction. Now you want to fix it and suck me back in.

I'm surprised to see so much focus on the comments. I think the front page is the primary problem. I wonder how much of the comment problem would fix itself if the front page had more signal and less noise. Maybe that's naive.

Personalization is most certainly the wrong answer for HN, but when I thought last week of my ideal solution to the problem this is what I came up with:

1. Personalized weighted point calculations. Each vote is multiplied by a number which ranges from 0 to 2 in .1 increments. Everyone starts at 1. Everyone who up-votes the same story as me gets .1 added to their weight. Everyone who up-votes a story I down-vote gets .1 removed from their weight.

2. New users can't submit stories during an initial probationary period. They also start out at .1 and get .1 added to their weight each week they're active on the site. After 10 weeks of activity they can submit stories.

3. Weights are applied to comment rankings but not derived from them. Comment rankings also need to be much harsher. We want fewer comments and higher quality comments. Maybe ((weight*2) -.5) for calculating comment points. But the floor is always 0.

I don't know if ideas along these lines could be successfully de-personalized.

These ideas I think are mistaken:

1. Any notion of explicit control. Such as: hard coded karma values, comment size, non-bayesian content filters, etc. (New user probation being the 1 exception)

2. Anything based on unweighted karma values.

These ideas I'm suspicious of:

1. Economic solutions. They strike me as having the same problem as micro-payments. I don't want to have to think about how I'm spending my alloted money each time I up-vote or down-vote. Also the purpose of money is trading, not creating artificial scarcity. And even assuming the goal of artificial scarcity is worthwhile (I don't) then it implies some kind of hard-coded explicit control to determine purse size, which will always be a mistake.

2 points by crasshopper 1 day ago 0 replies      
Weight upvotes differently as they come from different people -- or, play around with displaying different "top" content to different users.

Some starting places might be:

* upvotes from someone who reads regularly but votes irregularly count more

* upvotes from IP's that have not clicked through count less

* using a collaborative filter on upvotes to guess which stories are more likely to appeal to different readers

* randomly putting a few threads or stories out of order for each user

* users who, early on, vote-up comments that are voted up later are rewarded (f''<0 or just a ceiling on the reward like 10 upvotes) with their upvotes being worth more

* modal version of the above, using a pagerank style algorithm to calculate the helpfulness of users

* upvotes from people with more karma are worth more (again f''<0)

* mess around with sub-thread weighting. I don't know how you do it right now but it seems like a good comment on a lower sub-thread is less likely to be seen than a mediocre comment right below the +43 top comment.

* mess around with page-placement weighting. The very top is most likely to be seen and voted on. 3/4 of the way down is very likely to not be seen -- so a vote either way means more there.

* limit the number of upvotes each user gets. Could be per time, per story, per karma....

I didn't use HN a year or two ago, but it seems to me that across such social news sites the following types of content are unjustifiably upvoted:

- confidence

- lists of books

- slams (mother###ker)

- references to high-IQ stuff

- certain lengths are preferred [must be 2-3 para's long to get hugely upvoted, 2-3 sentences has a higher prob. of just a few points]

If you do some more research perhaps you could just decide on what are "bad" kinds of comments, such as negativity, and use text mining / sentiment analysis to detect them and hold back their points.

Using any of the - ideas would force HN designers to commit to what actually constitutes bad content, rather than social engineering (* ideas).

3 points by anurag 1 day ago 1 reply      
It would be a big change, but enforcing real identities could help. Very few top commenters on HN are anonymous, and people are much more likely to be rude or intellectually lazy when no one knows its them. Given HN's readership there is a big incentive for most users to appear smart and nice through their HN activity - if potential co-founders, investors and clients could dig up my mean/dumb comment (or my upvote of one), I would be less impulsive in commenting and upvoting.
4 points by johnyzee 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thank God you've noticed. I seem to recall that you brushed off this observation for quite some time.

One thing I've noticed repeatedly in the online communities that have scaled succesfully (in a cultural sense) is that the founders/owners/admins tend to take a very active role, both proactively by being role models and also by stepping in and settings things straight whenever they feel the community is straying too far from their vision. Reddit is a good example of this. Joel's forums at joelonsoftware, which fostered a very tightly knit entrepreneur community, were also heavily influenced by the omnipresence of the site owner.

Unfortunately this is not an elegant technical hack, just simple hard work on the part of administrators.

3 points by socksy 1 day ago 0 replies      
I see two issues in comment threads:

1) Despite guidelines, people vote up comments they agree with. If they have enough karma, they vote down ones they disagree with. There's little you can do to change such a situation

This is inadequate ‚Ä" sometimes you can see interesting and informative posts up the top; sometimes interesting posts have a relatively low comment score, simply because they are controversial. The more specific and detailed a post is, the more chances they have to offend (or just not overall agreement), and the more chances they have to get a downvote/not be voted on. If a comment is very general, (eg "How awful.") it will be a lot less controversial, and thus more get more votes.

On the other hand, it can be useful to see comment scores as a barometer to popularity ‚Ä" which framework/language/cool solution for a specific problem is upvoted the most can be genuinely useful information.

This is a problem that many sites that implement "voting" have. I'm not entirely sure of what a solution can be. One might be that there be two metrics ‚Ä" one for interestingness/helpfulness/what the guidelines are for anyway. The other for whether you agree with a post(/find it funny). There are potential problems with this idea, for instance, it complicates voting (the simplicity of a vote increasing a comment's score is one that everyone can understand). However, I think that the benefits would outweigh the costs.

2) Comment threads that try to be increasingly funny, with signal to noise ratio decreasing with every increase in depth. I often find myself scrolling down past a lot of uninteresting and unimportant comments to get to the next comment that isn't part of the first thread. This is a little harder to tackle, as sometimes good comments can be revealing deep in a thread full of mediocre ones, making it difficult to just fold comments part a certain level. Perhaps only fold when most of the comments are under a certain threshold (like 5 points)?

2 points by bonaldi 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is a fairly classic problem of forum scale. If people don't have an investment in their profile and what it stands for, they won't care about that persona, and you quickly fall victim to the Law of Anonymity.

Number of suggestions to solve it:

1) Put a real value on user accounts. Charge $5 for them, or otherwise make them hard to get -- perhaps invite-only from users with a certain rating -- so that they are felt to be valuable.

2) Active editing. Assigning a numeric value to everything a user does only goes so far: eventually there has to be a consequence for their posts (greater than it going grey). It's OK to ban users who are all noise, after a fair warning.

More controversially:

I think threads re-ordering themselves make it incredibly difficult to follow a conversation. Because comments move around, when you return to a thread you either have to re-read or re-skim multiple comments that you've already read. The alternative is to treat threads as one-shot jobs. Visit once, don't come back. That's death to conversation, and conversation is the heart of a community.

It's this reason, I suspect, people don't often post meaty comments in threads once they already have a good few comments in them -- they know they'll never get the traction of upvotes to stay near the top, so why bother? The fix:

3) Flat threads. Don't rearrange, don't indent. Show scores if you will, but don't order based on them. The longest-lived web communities, the ones with the best conversations, from the Well to Metafilter, all have this in common.

1 point by 3dFlatLander 3 hours ago 0 replies      
All of the suggestions listed involve changing some mechanic of the site. Some of them are quite good though (I think voting based on karma is neat).

My theory: Internet marketers descend on online communities that are popular.
Possible solution: No follow on frontpage stories with less than X upvotes or no follow all frontpage stories.

5 points by crasshopper 1 day ago 0 replies      
Bias in favour of upvotes from the bottom of the page.

Everybody scrolls from the top down. Those who vote for lower-down stories are less likely to be amplifying the hive mind.

11 points by ComputerGuru 1 day ago 2 replies      
A hard limit on the maximum upvotes a comment can get. Say, 25.
3 points by dkokelley 1 day ago 0 replies      
Limit comments? I think that commenting must COST the poster something, which means that for a comment to be worth while, it must justify the cost.

Karma might be worth it, but a: I don't think posters value it THAT much, and b: this doesn't prevent stupid comments that are likely to gain popular support. In fact it might encourage it.

Instead I would say that a user gets a limited supply of comments to post. Then, the user must decide if their 'lol this made my day' comment is worth giving up a portion of a limited resource.

Determining the appropriate way to limit comment supply without a major negative impact on positive replies is the tricky part. Karma, membership length, submissions and comments could calculate into the figure. Is the figure reset every day, week, month? I don't know. Hopefully this works as brainstorming food.

3 points by ankeshk 1 day ago 0 replies      
Let moderators mark a comment as "not useful". And everyone who voted for that comment earns negative karma. This will make people think twice before voting for a comment. Dumb and mean comments won't be voted on.

This allows you and the mods to set the tone for comments.

Of course, the weak point is - moderators bias may show up. And a worthy comment may be marked as not useful occasionally. So depending on the number of moderators you have, you could make it so that the minimum criteria is x number of moderators have to mark a comment as not useful.

1 point by JoachimSchipper 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Give high-karma users more power to downvote: if you downvote a comment, click the now-red downvote button again to add e.g. <your karma>/500 extra_downvotes. At any time, a comment with extra_downvotes has min(#extra_downvotes, max(0, #points) / 2) fewer points than it would otherwise have.

Some examples:

- "good": tptacek likes something and gives +1 point - he has no more power than anyone else to upvote

- "bad": RiderofGiraffes downvotes for -1 point

- "crap": RiderofGiraffes thinks a comment at -2 is mean, and downvotes twice. The comment is now at -3, since extra_downvotes do nothing on comments with zero or fewer points.

- "popular crap": tptacek double-downvotes a 17-point comment to 8 points. Two 2000-point (top-1000?) double-downvoters could also get it to 8.

- "ridiculously popular crap": tptacek and RiderofGiraffes hate a 302-point comment. tptacek double-downvotes it to 176; RiderofGiraffes double-downvotes to 150 (half of #upvotes - #downvotes = 300); lots of others also lend their extra_downvotes. The comment stands at 150 and upvotes have half effect.

I think this proposal strikes a nice balance: users with high (500+) karma can better help keep the crap out; extremely-high-karma users get a bit more power (only a bit - realistically, tptacek will typically remove something like five points from a popular-but-crap comment since others also have extra_downvotes).

More importantly, "normal" users still run the site (that 150-point comment is still at the top of the page, and no amount of extra_downvotes is going to dislodge it). If you're going to cry "democracy", remember that the only current way of dealing with popular crap is [dead] - losing half your comment karma is not that harsh. And, again, people with lots of karma are apparently interesting.

Note that points and extra_downvotes must be tracked separately; otherwise, people would want to wait until a crap comment has gained some points to make their extra_downvotes more effective.

Finally, two tweaks: it may be a good idea to let only comment karma count for extra_downvotes purposes, and it may be a good idea to allow extra_downvotes on submissions.

It's a pity that no-one is going to see this comment...

[Note: HN handles used for illustration only, I'll happily remove them if you'd like.]

2 points by GHFigs 1 day ago 0 replies      
Hand out short-term (up to 24-hour) mandatory noprocrast vacations (i.e. bans) freely, visibly, and arbitrarily. If somebody makes a stupid comment, they get asked to leave for a while, and everybody sees it. Simple and unambiguous. It also puts the onus on the user to modify their behavior in a way that lengthy meta-commentary threads about just how bad their comment was tend to not.

One problem with this is the perception that being banned (however temporarily) is a severe punishment reserved for major infractions, and that people might react strongly against that perception. To some extent that's the point: you want to drive away the people unwilling to change. On the other hand, you want to give those who are so willing the reason and opportunity to do so, and I think the occasional "time out" provides that.

It may still be an indelicate instrument for addressing the problem, but I think it's justifiable when the status quo is that known-good people are leaving voluntarily.

2 points by bootload 1 day ago 0 replies      
"... Anyone have any suggestions? We're on mostly uncharted territory here ..."

This is a radical idea probably without merit but small incremental steps to improve the quality of submissions & comments are short term fixes to deeper problems. What are the root cause(s) of poor quality responses?


Good behaviour in any group is important if you encourage identity. I tried hard in any sites I've joined to stick by the spirit of the group because my identity is tied to anything I say. What would joining HN be like with no identity and zero reputation. A place where there is high competition for submissions and few examples of what is really expected of you? The only sign post I see is karma some FAQ's on behaviour - but who reads those? My behaviour is effected by those around me who in all reality want to improve their standing through karma. Progress is measured by a score that is derivative of what I do, who cares about the outcome. Make identity meaningful. SO does this well. Users are recognised and rewarded. The hard bit is HN isn't binary.


I join sites like HN because of the quality gap on the web. The only other way I can do this is directly interact with fellow entrepreneurs. HN fulfils this purpose. HN also is about things that interest hackers. That was the intent, discuss new ideas, intelligently. HN is a lot like the LME discussing the effects of X on Y, substituting copper for ideas, effects of conflict on price for execution of product. What happens when the purpose is subverted or unfulfilled?


Who reads and contributes in HN matters. I don't recognise the readers I started with. As the audience drifts the early adopters leave as the utility of HN drops. A lot of good hackers started here but will probably leave or have left. This is a real problem. Hackers leaving is a signal that things are broken or that the usefulness has been reached. Hackers are really sensitive to certain types of audiences, especially non-technical. Like frogs, Hackers leaving HN might be a sign the audience is polluted with the wrong type of users.


HN is fundamentally broken. We already know this. It's not a new problem. But something has to fundamentally change to address user identity and utility. Encourage good behaviour by looking at [Identity]: the need to fit in, contribute, improve and [Utility]: the reason users contribute and not get bored or get up to mischief, leave.


Entry needs to be set higher than it currently is. Where else of value is entry a handle, email and time enough of a measure of worth? I would put a concrete intellectual challenge in the form of some writing, say 500 words in their profile. For extra credit a link to a site the post exists. The purpose is twofold. Create a baseline set of information that can be classified
through code and used to judge the quality of the HN user. Users could game this if they wanted but a quick check against a post on a users website could avert this. This benchmarks each user.


All subsequent posts are measured against their score. Submission scores are scored against their benchmark.


Make a real purpose for staying on at HN. Encourage interested HN users to also submit to apply to YCombinator, even if they think they don't fulfill the criteria to make them improve. Tie identity to purpose by making contributing to HN a part of submitting to YCombinator. Give some real purpose. Make being on HN way beyond just submitting links, making stupid comments and watching your score.

4 points by pbiggar 1 day ago 1 reply      
Here's one you suggested to me: have people pay to comment.

If this were any other website, I'd suggest simply requiring a Facebook or twitter account to log in. Worked for Gawker et al, but it won't fly with this demographic.

So just charge people $1 to activate their account. It'll reduce the shite, and 99% of the commenters won't care. What happens to the edge-cases of people who don't have a credit card is an open question, but I suggest validating them some other way (solve a problem in Lisp perhaps).

4 points by bvi 1 day ago 0 replies      
Flag comments (essentially public shaming). Look at how Quora does it. If a user's reply is not in line with the question, other users flag it as "not helpful" (and explain why below).

So the more the people who flag stupid comments (instead of just downvoting), the more these comments should descend to the bottom, regardless of number of votes.

9 points by ChrisNorstrom 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't know but maybe get rid of Karma that caries over from article to article. This is what drove me insane about Reddit. The mean, smart ass, slightly funny but useless comments made it to the top while other more useful comments where completely ignored or buried. The problem with democracy is "Bandwagon" + "herd mentality".

I myself tried this on TechCrunch and got up into the top 5 most "liked" commenters. All I did was post snarky, rude ass, criticizing, comments that appealed to the sarcastic douche bag within us all. It was easy. My faith in humanity vanished over that time period because it was so easy to do.

1 point by macrael 1 day ago 0 replies      
A well implemented following system could solve a number of problems. The most important feature of this would be to automatically create (or suggest) "follow" connections based on your upvotes. If I upvote someone a few times, suggest I follow them. Then, display comments from people I follow with some sort of marker.

This would give comments context. The site would in effect be saying "hey, you've read four or five comments by this person and thought they were sharp." or, "don't waste your time with this comment, you haven't liked their others." I don't know how many times I've read smart comments without actually connecting that they were all being written by the same person. It is only extremely good and prolific people who I actually recognize by hnname. This would help me find more.

This is really a reputation/karma system, but scoped per user instead of site wide. You can go further and trickle votes down the follow chain, so that the people who I follow follow also are part of my personal reputation network. This would help cut down the amount of interaction I have to do to make the following system useful. This is essentially page rank.

With this in place, HN can become a more personalized aggregator wherein the links and comments that are liked by the people you like are more often presented to you. It is quite possible this could create the equivalent of subreddits organically as the site's membership creates following chains interested in different things.

Now, this is a very technical solution to the problem, which means it probably isn't merited. I think that metafilter is probably one of the right guides to watch and that for them careful moderation has been key.

Also, there are a number of real problems with this solution, the first being that it significantly increases the risk of the echo-chamber as people start to be split in to like minded groups. I've thought about some ways to deal with these issues, but I don't feel like this post is the place for them.

7 points by mikek 1 day ago 0 replies      
How about notifying people when their comments have been flagged and pointing them to the site guidelines?
4 points by Groxx 1 day ago 1 reply      
Don't make submissions give the submitter karma. Currently, the fast way to gain karma is to be the first to submit a big story, and duplicates abound because everyone tries something different.

If there's no incentive, there's no race.

I, personally, also like the up-votes costing karma. It'd make the act much much more costly to perform, so high voted comments will be more likely to be selected on content than laughs.

1 point by knowtheory 1 day ago 0 replies      
The real problem is that it's difficult to encode social constraints into a system. StackOverflow tries it, and i think that they have erred on the side of restricting contribution in order to preserve their system.

It is far more effective to have members of the community, particularly people who are representative of the ethos that HN has had to point out bad behavior, and recommend more responsible courses of action.

In so far as we are a community, we should encourage behavior as a community. Ultimately the point of writing comments and posting links is for others to see them, karma is worthless otherwise.

To that end, i think there's interesting things that could be done with average karma. If we're trying to encourage hill-climbing behavior towards better karma, why not highlight comments w/ higher average karma than you have? If we are trying to encourage leadership, then perhaps we should point out who is leading, and the behavior which we should be emulated.

3 points by hanifvirani 1 day ago 0 replies      
How about weighted votes based on karma? After a certain karma threshold, your vote value is doubled. The system could also have multiple levels. For e.g. at 2k karma, when you upvote/downvote a post, it gains/loses 2 points. At 5k karma, 3 points and so on. Or maybe the user can choose his vote value, limited by his maximum vote value.
Perhaps we can also use the average karma somewhere in this equation.

Another suggestion is the ability to downvote submissions after a certain karma threshold. We can use the weighted vote system here as well.

Yet another suggestion is 12 hours/24 hours/1 week bans.

Another problem that I admit facing is the unwillingness to post something with the fear of it not getting upvoted and thus affecting my average karma, even though it might have added value to the discussion.

3 points by revorad 1 day ago 0 replies      
The problem with these posts on the declining quality of HN is that people can't agree upon what the ideal comment quality should be, just like they can't agree on what stories should be on HN.

I propose we have complete transparency.

PG, please start by giving 10 examples of the kind of comments you are most worried about, so that you define the problem in very clear terms. There might be disagreements and we need to surface those before suggesting solutions to a vague problem.

Extending the idea of transparency generally, make all votes public, such that everyone can see who voted what.

5 points by ig1 1 day ago 1 reply      
We could penalize commenters not using their real name.

Techcrunch comment quality has improved by an order of magnitude and trolls have been largely wiped out since they started requiring people use Facebook or Yahoo accounts to comment.

8 points by peterlai 1 day ago 1 reply      
You could help people discover good comments by allowing them to collapse comment threads. A simple [-] button by each comment should do the trick.
3 points by randall 1 day ago 0 replies      
I understand this is primarily about comment quality, but I had an idea for keeping story quality high: Score votes via bookmarklet as higher than a standard vote. That'd be one way to ensure that someone actually read a story, rather than just upvoted a catchy headline.

Naturally this would have to be kept secret, since it'd invariably lead to a potential voting ring issue.

1 point by SeanLuke 11 hours ago 0 replies      
My previous comments on this issue:


I think the primary accelerator in the inevitable slide towards 4chan is anonymity. I've seen this in my own experience: I'm anonymous on reddit etc. but use my own real name (easily googled) when posting on hackerne.ws. And the difference is potent: on reddit I am much more of a jerk than I am on HN. I think this is fundamental nature: anonymity gives you license to release your inner jackass.

I think you should require all posters to use their real identities except with special permission.

I know the standard arguments against this: how to verify identities, valid reasons for being anonymous, etc., etc. But I don't think they're enough reason to avoid a simple measure which would keep the site much more relevant, polite, and personal.

3 points by mbesto 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think I have a simple fix:

When you hover the up arrow button a tooltip should say "This comment ADDS to the discussion" and on a down "This comment DOESNT ADD to the discussion". Too often I think people just click the arrows based on (1) the username (2) "oh ya I agree, I hate that too!".

Up/down voting should be an extension of the community's ability to assess whether someone's opinion is adding to the community thought process. We often forget that (I do myself).

2 points by duck 1 day ago 0 replies      
Let's make karma actually worth something. To do this, change these items:

1) You can submit one link a day. Additional submits cost karma.

2) Costs karma to reply to any comment. Top level comments seem to already filter okay. If you get downvotes on the comment you made the karma cost is a multiple of that.

I also think some things would help in general:

1) Title/Domain Regex - Allow me to specify a regex to exclude things from the frontpage. For example /Apple|iPad|techcrunch/.

2) You have to have 10 or 20 karma to do anything besides top thread comments. It would be easy to get that with a little effort, but it would pretty much eliminate all the spam and low hanging crap.

3) Have a option to (turned on by default) to collapse comments using the common +/- interface and display the total score for that thread. I think then you would be able to focus and find the good threads quickly. Coming into this discussion 5 hrs after the fact like I am doing is where this is really needed.

4) This is a big one, but I will throw it out there. Create an API. With that I think a LOT of smart people (instead of a few) could play with all of this and maybe find somethings that no one here is currently thinking of.

3 points by thorax 1 day ago 0 replies      
Experiment suggestion: Upvotes are weighted as today, but downvotes are heavier weighted when you're downvoted by a user with high karma. I'd probably say that weight can't send a comment negative.
3 points by Jarred 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm fairly new here, but I've been in a lot of different internet communities for several years now. This seems to happen to every major growing internet community and maybe this is a way to both filter out the bad content and encourage the good content.

What if user's had the option of investing karma into a submission/comment? If a user wants to comment or send a submission then they have to spend some of their karma points in order for other people to see it. This would bring the submission/comment more default points but would be negative points toward the submitter. That means it will appear higher on the page dependent on the amount of points they invest in the post. When/if a submitter's post is upvoted enough to pass the amount he invested, the submitter would gain karma.

I think this would work better because right now people can basically post what they want without worrying about their karma going down very much. This would do two things, firstly it would reduce the karma inflation, and secondly it would encourage higher-quality submissions and discussions.

I originally said this here http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2403085, but I think this would be a better place to say it.

2 points by staunch 1 day ago 0 replies      
Plenty of good suggestions here. I just want to add one thing: I've been here since the very early days and still think the site is great.

Yeah, it's become a much bigger community and there are more of every kind of post (good/bad/ugly). Overall it's still a great site and it has been successfully maintained.

So please do tighten things up some, but avoid any drastic change for now. The system is working pretty damn well.

1 point by gruseom 1 day ago 0 replies      
This feels like a demographic problem of a larger population dragging down the average. If that's the case, then some sort of curation (vote-weighting or otherwise privileging certain users' input over others) is probably necessary, because the overall level of dumbness, meanness, or mediocrity just isn't going to change that much in response to anything HN does. (I'd much prefer to be wrong about this. Any elitist solution seems regrettable.)

I wonder if this could be tested. Even something as simple as http://news.ycombinator.com/classic applied to comments would be interesting. Or let PG pick, say, a hundred users and let each of them pick an additional two or three. Could the software show us the site as it would appear if those users' votes counted for more? It seems to me it wouldn't take long to get a feel for whether it had helped or hurt.

4 points by scott_s 1 day ago 0 replies      
An explicit voting protocol may help. Personally, I would like to see "No downvotes for disagreement" made official.
2 points by teyc 1 day ago 0 replies      
I believe the decrease of 'quality' is due to the failure of HN to create a society of like-minded people. This failure is on two levels. Firstly, the open voting system and comments drive has a tendency to revert to the mean. Secondly, HN needs to create hackers the way a school creates students. I realize there is an anti authoritarian streak among hackers but a geek club is pretty exclusive in its taste. New members have to be "schooled" into the ways of a hacker. In real life, it is impossible to have a town hall meeting where everybody talks at once, but HN is already bigger than a town hall.

I believe Quora does rather well in this respect because it encourages longer, considered posts. The (fast) rate of decay on the front page partially contributes to the problem because it models a news site, rather than a technical discussion site, where most techniques and approaches remain timeless.

Here are some possible approaches:

1. Encourage longer answers and comments at the top level. This can be either implemented as a simple word limit, or automatically placing longer comments at the top of the comments list.

2. Recycle old posts which have good comments. This should fix the disincentive for people to provide long-lived answers.

3. Make HN a "not" news site. This means that the incubation period is longer before posts make it to the front page. Unless something has a long term value, it will less likely be voted up because the reader would have already seen and discussed it on TC, Reddit, Digg etc..

4. (option to #3). Have posters classify whether the post is a news or a technical discussion one. News links will have a different rate of decay, and will occupy limited number of spots on the front page. Furthermore, these posts will not be recycled.

5. Require a link to be submitted with some comments. This is to encourage submitters reason like hackers do. Provide some guidance - e.g. does this news contain some data? What are the insights/inferences one might draw from this? Does this article discuss a problem domain? Does the post illustrate an assumption that is subject to hacking? What is your personal take on this? It also acts as a disincentive for people to submit links without giving the topic due consideration. I recall that eHarmony was very succesful in its early days because internet dating sites usually have more men than women. By subject the men to a barrage of interview questions, eHarmony was able to maintain a balance between the male and female participants. I thought this was a great hack.

6. Implement some sort of disincentive for upvoting of inane comments. For an example, do an automatic Quora-style follow, where you will start to see this person's comments at the top of the comments page. Make it difficult to "unfollow" (say three clicks). It will encourage people to be more careful about polluting their personalizations.

3 points by rexreed 1 day ago 1 reply      
It sounds like Hacker News needs a reason for being. Who is the audience? What is the value proposition? Shouldn't the needs of the audience and the "problem" HN is solving be the answer to this question?

For me, I came to HN for:

* A free, online location where people can exchange ideas and commentary relevant to tech startups, that welcomes newcomers and experienced alike.

Perhaps it's different for others:

* A place to collect points to boost one's ego and sense of self-worth in front of peers.

* A paid site for members of a small community to exchange topics in a way closed to outsiders

* A place for those who have earned a role as experts or taste-makers to evaluate and/or judge the ideas of others.

Looks like there's no consensus, hence the reason for HN's decline.

2 points by jmtame 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'm making an assumption here, but maybe the original folks who made up HN are voting less. so you might have newer people doing more voting, and they may not understand the quality of comments before upvoting.

similar to how google looks at more than just keywords in a document before it ranks it highly, maybe you can weight each vote. a vote cast by an early HN user isn't so binary, maybe in reality it counts as 2 or 3 votes while we call it "+1" there is a weight to their vote based on how long they've been on hn and their karma?

3 points by eof 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's a significant change, but I think the way to solve the problem generally is to have move than one dimension to vote on.

As social sites rise in popularity, common denominator posts such as humor or common circle jerking are going to rise to the top.

The answer, I think, is to allow people to vote on multiple metrics: 'cool', 'funny', 'good idea', 'hacker porn'.

With those separate signals it would be easier to tweak the algorithm to get the front page looking 'like you want it to,' or the users could choose how they want their posts to be ranked.

3 points by tlrobinson 1 day ago 0 replies      
What about giving more weight to users that (a) have been here longer, or (b) have more karma?

I feel like this would add some "drag" to the rate of change.

2 points by brk 1 day ago 0 replies      
Lots of good suggestions, forgive me if my suggestions are a dupe that I missed.

1)For certain high-profile domains, assign no karma to submissions. This would probably a hand-curated list of domains, but would probably include: Techcrunch, pg essays, avc.com, etc.

2)Allow users above X karma (500?) to vote to give any other user a "time out". At some threshold (25?) of votes, that user is muted for 1 week.

3)For any users that submits more than 5 articles from the same domain/subdomain, either suspend karma accumulation or suspend their ability to submit until they reach some mix of other submissions with an average score above 10

4)Create an article tagging system, and/or a way for users to ignore submissions on certain topics and/or from particular domains.

2 points by crasshopper 1 day ago 0 replies      
pg, you could present cleaned data in a Netflix Prize-style challenge. Let the hackers see the patterns in the data (whether bad upvotes are coming from new users, from old users without a lot of karma, etc) and make the prize be XX minutes of your attention (or money).

It seems like a lot of the comments on this thread are asking for more information -- or at the very least working from very different personal experiences.

2 points by donohoe 1 day ago 0 replies      
There has been much talk of better days, better comment threads and such.

I've been here less than 2 years but I ask if anyone can spare the time and dig up some classic examples of stories and threads, and great back and fourth comment based conversations...

I realize this is difficult given the non-archival nature of HN but can anyone show a "then" versus "now" difference?

2 points by rlpb 1 day ago 0 replies      
Find some way of qualifying upvotes by who made them, at what point in the lifetime of a comment and each upvoters upvoting frequency. Use these factors to adjust the score, rather than just a score+=1.

A user who upvotes ten comments a day should have far less impact per upvote than one with very high karma and a high average score who only upvotes infrequently (and is not involved in the thread).

I realise that you're asking about comments; I think that this applies equally to story submissions.

2 points by tspiteri 1 day ago 0 replies      
For (c): create a limit to the amount of votes a user can use, for example, make it impossible to vote on more than 5 items in 24 hours. Story votes, comment upvotes and comment downvotes would all count towards this limit. This would be useless if there is a large number of users who vote up negative comments, and would only work if the problem is caused by a smaller number of users who upvote a lot of frivolous comments and stories.
2 points by planckscnst 1 day ago 0 replies      
Allow every user to have downvote suggestions. Allowing people to suggest that a comment should be downvoted allows those with sufficient privilege to hone in on the bad comments and it lets other users be more involved. Possibly, track a user's 'discernment' level - increase it when a suggestion is acted upon. Use this to weight how much that user's suggestion effects a comment's "downvote-suggestion rank" as it is shown to the trusted users. Promote users to trusted status when their discernment reaches a certain point. This discernment level would both measure a user's interest in maintaining the site as well as predict how good they would be at it.

Maybe even do this in general (for up and down votes): all users cast only suggestion votes. Trusted users cast the real votes.

2 points by danielford 1 day ago 2 replies      
I've generally found a strong correlation between forum quality and the difficulty of gaining admission. One of my favorite forums put me on a waiting list for three months before they let me post.

So I'd prefer the addition of some sort of barrier to entry. Either an invite system like the private file-stealing sites use, a sign-up fee like Metafilter uses, or a vetting process for potential members.

Ideally, I'd love to see Paul Graham take a couple hundred of the best users and start a new forum. After they had some time to establish the community, people like me could apply for membership, which would involve submitting a written case, and waiting a week for the existing members to vote on it.

*This was originally a reply to lionhearted, who deleted his perfectly reasonable post.

3 points by znt 1 day ago 0 replies      
A turkish message board (www.eksisozluk.com) with about 200k users faces the same problem, and uses moderated user acceptance as a quality filter.

First of all if you want to create an account you have to wait for the mods to announce application submission dates.

If you can manage to create an account during that period, you are made a 'rookie' and what you submit to the message board is invisible to everyone, except mods. You are only allowed to post a total of 10 messages.

When you are done posting your first entries, you wait for mods to read and evaluate the value you bring to the platform and if you keep within the format & legal limits of the board. If so, you are made a normal user.

A similar process would especially prevent the bots spamming this place.

2 points by jacques_chester 1 day ago 0 replies      
> Anyone have any suggestions? We're on mostly uncharted territory here.

I'm surprised to hear someone as experienced as you say that. I've only been online since 1997.

All successful internet communities seem follow a common life cycle:

* Early adopters seem to be good

* They attract more users

* Someone pines for the old days

* Earnest discussions start about how to "save" the community

Here things bifurcate:

* Descent into infinitely recursive navel gazing with site population following a visible half-life; OR

* Equilibrium is reached after a certain number of the early adopters leave.

I imagine this can be modelled as stocks-and-flows. It would be interesting to see if there are any predictable tipping points or at least observable, predictive metrics.

2 points by Devilboy 1 day ago 1 reply      
Admit defeat and just use the slashdot system. For all its trolls and failings slashdot still has the best crowdsource comment moderation system on the interwebs.

The Slashdot System

- Comments start at +1 and can range from -1 to +5 only

- Mod points are limited and distributed randomly as needed

- Only members with good karma are eligible for mod points

- Mod points must be used within 24 hours

5 points by dchs 1 day ago 0 replies      
How about a basic API (make comments/votes/users available as JSON objects) so people can build different filters and see what works?
2 points by ajju 1 day ago 0 replies      
A community can grow only so large before it has to provide some personalization so it is not trying to be everything to everyone.

Reddit has subreddits and you can choose the ones from which stories appear on the front page. HN can start with allowing users to 'frontpage' other users aka whitelisting by showing stories from only these users on the front page. The next logical step is allowing blacklisting. Version 2.0 of this would allow whitelisting and blacklisting of content-sources (sites), in addition to users, so that I could blacklist certain blogs if I wanted to.

This will result in some fragmentation of the community, but in my opinion, it will keep HN interesting for everyone. This may also reduce the need to answer subjective editorial questions such as - we don't allow politics, but is open-source-politics politics? Is coverage of world-changing-elections allowed?

2 points by j_baker 1 day ago 0 replies      
Every article from techcrunch and about techcrunch should get an automatic ranking penalty. Seriously. Techcrunch occasionally posts an article that's useful and warrants not banning them completely, but I don't think the community would lose anything by not having the average techcrunch article that gets posted here.
2 points by mindcrime 1 day ago 1 reply      
A few thoughts

A. "flag" for comments? Whether that just brings them to the editor/moderator's attention, or kills them based on some algorithm, would be an open question.

B. More moderators/editors - drawn from the pool of people who have shown themselves to share the "HN spirit" (or whatever you want to call it), who are empowered to kill stories and/or comments.

And maybe some limits on what new accounts can do? Maybe go so far as requiring new users to lurk for some period of time, before being allowed to post? Or some limit on post / comment frequency, until you've demonstrated some sense of alignment with what's appropriate here?

3 points by YuriNiyazov 1 day ago 1 reply      
Add more moderators, put them on rotation duty, and, instead of having them kill comments (except in the most egregious cases), have them patiently educate the people who put up the mean/dumb comments, as well as the upvoters. Write software that makes this process efficient.
2 points by dreish 1 day ago 0 replies      
Pick as many active users whose judgment you trust as you can find, train a Bayesian classifier on their votes, up and down, and use that to score the voting patterns of users. Set ignore for the ones with the worst scores. Even if it turns out not to help much, at least you'll have had some fun doing it.

Also, there's currently nothing reminding users of the ideals you want them to uphold just before they submit a comment -- i.e., right next to the submit button. It never hurts to ask.

3 points by noblethrasher 1 day ago 0 replies      
Create positive and negative moderators but make the roles mutually exclusive.

The positive mods can promote stories and comments beyond normal up-voting and the negative mods do something similar with down-voting/flagging.

People can become 'supermods' based on karma, election, or something more arbitrary.

2 points by jp 1 day ago 0 replies      
Display percentages instead of points relative to sub-tree total. This way points are hidden but relevance stays intact. Then use colors instead of numbers to indicate "good" sub-trees so that people have to convert hexadecimal values to extract the relative karma. Then add a hidden karma-boost mode where a up-voting "short term good commenter" indicates the presence of another "short term good commenter". Add another view called "contested" where down voted links can get a second chance. This might reduce group-think and content-shaping. Let "short term good commenter" double vote on contested links. Add a content merge option to reduce or group duplicates.

I think people are mean because they get down voted a lot by people who "play" HN like WOW and everyone non-omg-erlang is a target. And lots of people here think KARMA == FREE TRAFFIC SPELL. Because spending most of your life on HN showcases how busy you are making money. Although.. nobody will ever read this comment because the thread is already two hours old and the in-crowd has already started writing meta posts that will take over the front page two hours from now.

Or maybe this is all about.. hello TechCrunch readers !

2 points by dangoldin 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thanks for bringing the problem up. I never contributed too much but dropped in whenever I felt I had something insightful to say. Recently it has been getting less frequent but I think it's just that many of the front page stories aren't as interested as they have been and there is a good amount of duplicates. Since the community is large the comments tend to drop down faster as well so it's more difficult to get a discussion going.

A possible idea is to put up a dump of the HN data somewhere for users to download. Maybe the community can analyze it and find interesting patterns/behaviors and possibly solutions?

2 points by Skywing 1 day ago 0 replies      
Perhaps some logic, during new thread creation, that looks for similar, older threads? Prompt the user to comment in an existing thread if it's very similar. Much like StackOverflow, if I recall. This may reduce duplicates.

It appears to me that most of the URL submissions are just tech blog websites using HN as a tool to drive traffic. There are even users out there that just wait for a new blog post by jacquesm so that they can post it for free karma. I think in situations like this, karma and voting become less useful because people will up vote just so that something might land on the front page, for traffic.

This leads me to another trend I see a ton in #startups. Somebody will create a new submission and link it on IRC and ask for free up votes so that it gets more visibility. Once again, this is where up votes aren't being used properly. But, I also think it highlights a potential difficulty for valuable new submissions - it's difficult to get that initial visibility and up votes. Perhaps to remedy this, make the "/newest" section be the default section, and move the highest voted to something that you have to navigate to. This will at least highlight new entries for people just hitting the main URL.

7 points by eggoa 1 day ago 2 replies      
Institute a one-time $5 fee to participate.
3 points by rexreed 1 day ago 1 reply      
Get rid of the whole point system. I go to HN for the community, not to collect points. It seems to provide incentives for the wrong behavior, even tho I understand that it was originally intended to do the exact opposite.

A community stands or falls on the quality of the interactions. Therefore to a certain extent, you have to let it thrive or die on its own.

Solely my opinion, but I see points as getting in the way, motivating bad behavior, and not relevant to why I come to HN.

2 points by CrazedGeek 1 day ago 0 replies      
The simpler ideas I have are to aggressively kill any snarky or pun-filled comments and raise the downvote karma limit (again...).

A slightly more interesting idea would be to temporarily ban any member that does very anti-guideline things from posting for a little while, coupled with an explanation as to why they were banned. Even an hour-long ban may be effective. The GameFAQs boards do this, and while they have their own problems, not following the guidelines isn't one of them.

2 points by baguasquirrel 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't offer any solutions, but I can offer a cause of the problem.

HN has become important. I know people IRL who will get their friends to help mod their submission. I likewise see stories that just scream, this person has friends who probably modded them. These won't stay on the front page for long at all, but they do increase the signal to noise significantly.

1 point by crasshopper 1 day ago 0 replies      
Make downvotes worth more against massively-upvoted comments.

The point of downvoting a 1-point comment is usually to let someone know their comment was inappropriate. A downvote against a 60-point comment is supposed to mean "This is not that good. It's just hivemind / good placement."

Taking one point away from a 60-point comment doesn't change its position, however. Maybe downvotes should increase its gravity or maybe they should have a greater push-back, even if it's not 1.1*count(downvotes) but rather (count(downvotes))^1.1.

2 points by jerhinesmith 1 day ago 0 replies      
This is more or less me thinking out loud, but why allow upvoting for new users and not downvoting? Does it not make sense to have a barrier to entry for each? Maybe the ability to upvote only happens after you've been here for 3 months and downvoting after 6 months? (I personally like tying those abilities to seniority vs. points as I tend not to comment often, but can easily identify a snarky comment that adds no value -- with no ability to downvote it).
2 points by apollo 1 day ago 0 replies      
1) Provide an api (or release a dataset) and let people experiment with new ranking schemes.

2) The influence of your votes on ranking could be correlated to your relative importance in the community. You could do this with a simple PageRank where nodes are users and edges are votes.

1 point by presidentender 1 day ago 0 replies      
Base moderation on a points system, a la Slashdot. Grant a user one (or three or 6.5 or n) mod point every time another user replies to one of his comments.

The effect this has is twofold. It grants some incentive to posters who start comment threads, rather than making just single comments which are likely to strike more users' upvote chords. It also reduces the tendency to blindly upvote or downvote based on agreement or for dumb humor.

2 points by brm 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've said it before and I'll say it again, limit the number of comments and submissions per user per day... See discussion here:


1 point by Tycho 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Simple and easy suggestion: above the textbox on the reply page, add some guidance on tone and behaviour. Like,

    'Please refrain from making mean-spirited comments,
we like to maintain a positive atmosphere at HN;
and if you are planning to crack a joke, you might want
to think twice as jokes here are usually downvoted unless
they're *particularly* amusing.

Or whatever you think's more appropriate. The problem to me seems that general bitchy behaviour is the norm on internet IT forums, so people come here thinking it's ok. Maybe they just need a little guidance.

2 points by eli_s 1 day ago 1 reply      
Stop trying to rely on the hive to vote good stories to the top. Either the democratic approach doesn't work or HN is getting gamed - either way the site is now effectively broken.

A decision has to be made from the top about what HN is all about. If it's startups and business then that's the only type of story allowed. Everything else gets dumped. I don't need another Reddit.

Mods would need strict guidelines about what qualifies and everything even slightly outside of these guidelines gets turfed.

oh and get rid of karma. It's bs. Encourages hivemind like nothing else.

3 points by rbarooah 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think the larger problem is that comments that aren't emotive, but are reasonably insightful get ignored. HN quickly trains newcomers not to bother with them, and to go for pithy zingers.
2 points by mrb 1 day ago 0 replies      
pg: allow more people to downvote. For example I have 409 points of karma, yet I do not have the right to downvote.

Or perhaps assign more weight to upvotes/downvotes from members with a high karma, than those with a lower karma.

1 point by jackfoxy 1 day ago 1 reply      
The way to save HN from its own success is to take it to the next level. You need to spin it up into a commercial enterprise. Improving the quality of HN, as it stands today, requires expenditure of human effort, either in the form of professional moderation, or some sort of AI-ish enhancement: pruning of message threads, credentialing users in more sophisticated ways, finding ways to bubble up story submissions that otherwise get lost.

No doubt some will find the commercial option distasteful, but I think the pure crowd-sourced option has run its course. Commercializing HN would allow further expansion, for instance splitting it into several areas of interest. Stackoverflow/StackExchange is a model for this. There is much value that can be added on to HN, as many Hackers have shown in the past with various projects.

2 points by dustingetz 1 day ago 0 replies      
* more comments than upvotes seems to correlate with low-content articles, because everyone feels qualified to comment

* articles with disproportionately few comments per upvote are sometimes the most interesting

if you can get low-content articles off the front page faster, and more interesting non-pop articles visible longer, it would probably attract the hacker community more and the pop community less.

misc ideas:

* remove all system incentive to submit links

* change UI to increase visibility into user history, so that reputation becomes even more important, and low-quality activity sticks with you for a while

* fix the new page! incent people to upvote new links, or a creative UI hack like a single new submission at the top (e.g. "sponsored" on reddit)

1 point by gasull 1 day ago 0 replies      
What about making the points of a comment be multiplied for a factor depending on you karma?

That way comments from users with good reputation having comments with more points by default. I know this makes the rich richer, but that's the way PageRank works too. If your karma/reputation doesn't make you to be heard more, what's the point of karma anyway?

This isn't really a reputation system, or if it is, the reputation is comment-based and not user-based. I don't see the karma of a user when they comment. I would need to click on the link of their name, what I never do.

2 points by GBKS 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think it's a problem inherent in the larger audience - it's a different dynamic with less intimacy. To restore the intimacy that begets the high quality, I recommend introducing ways to customize my experience, whether it's sub-HNs, categories, following, or something else. That way people can create clusters and privacy for themselves and control their experience.

I don't think this can just be solved by tweaking karma logic.

1 point by gokhan 1 day ago 0 replies      
Just based on observations, not numbers: Any member can upvote and HN is more popular. There will be more upvotes to be distributed among comments. Early comments seem to be receiving more upvotes than late comments, regardless of the community. So, unqualified comments will be receiving more and more upvotes.

Did raising downvote limit to 500 made any difference in unfair downvoting? If so, giving upvoting to more qualified people will also solve this for some time, means we can focus on measuring the qualification.

Maybe we should be able to mark individual comments as unfairly upvoted. Higher unfairly upvoted scores might decrease the value of future upvotes of voters on that comment.

3 points by pumpmylemma 1 day ago 1 reply      
Consider starting (or merely sanctifying) a HN IRC channel or webchat. I think a lot of people comment and visit HN now just for something to do; they are bored and want to do some intellectual sparing.

If there was a irc.ycombinator.com with real-time chat topics, it might help separate "the wheat from the chaff," so to speak.

E.G. #japan-nuclear-chat

If not a chat, I'd say focus on something that doesn't fight the size of the community. Personally, I'd prefer if HN was shrunk to like '08 levels, but that's not going to happen. I think adding a service that allows for water cooler talk but keeps it isolated from deep technical discussions would work better than karmic tinkering at this point.

5 points by SoftwarePatent 1 day ago 0 replies      
Allow us to mark certain accounts as "friends" or "favorites". Then on every comment and article, display points originating from "favorites". Like "77 points by pg / 15 points from friends." This preserves the democratic aspect of the site, while giving users valuable information they can use to skip boring content.
3 points by ericflo 1 day ago 0 replies      
Reddit solved this problem by splintering into different communities, and let them self-select.
2 points by PStamatiou 1 day ago 0 replies      
Perhaps make it so that posting a comment actually costs karma (maybe based on your comment karma average for some subset of users with low averages) making people only comment when they are sure they are adding value. This makes it hard for new users to get started though.

Edit: appears I'm not the only one that suggested something like this. searched the page for "cost karma" and found a few comments.

2 points by bbulkow 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think the answer is fairly clear. If you remember Digg before it got popular, and Reddit before it got popular, you understand how these sites lose focus when they increase readership. The devistation of Digg, and now the serious problems at Reddit, are forcing more general-readers to HN.


1) Reddit staved off this effect for a while by both re-tuning the karma ranking computation, and wiping everyone's karma back to 0. The effect of hyper-people with too much power is problematic. I don't think that will work here, but it's possible a re-tune will help.

The general idea of a redo on the karma system was stated above: the right answer is to take a look at "good comments" and "bad comments" and look at new threads.

2) HN as invite only. Anyone can read, few can vote/comment. I'm not sure I'd make the cut if you were to have certain blessed voters/commenters. I like the suggested improvement of having this calculation be hidden, and never to show karma.

3) Moderators. The community I live in with the longest lifetime is "chowhound". They don't have a voting system (or good web technology), they have ruthless monitors. Monitors are never supposed to remove for quality of post, but they do simply nuke from orbit "that's what she said" post chains.

4) Look, there's one real fact here. As someone who, myself, sells a database product aimed at people like those who read HN, I have a huge incentive to get an article into HN. It could make or break my company - no fooling. Once you incent bright people to break your system, it will be broken. Socket puppet rings will rule. Eternal vigilance - that is, a moderator-like junta charged with looking at quality every few months and ruthlessly implementing whatever solution is correct at that time, is the only way to continue HN's spirit.

5) I will guarantee you that if something isn't done, there will simply be a slow, sure slide to mob rule and ignorance.

2 points by ssp 1 day ago 0 replies      
Make a graph containing edges from each user to the comments they voted for, and from each comment its author. Then run something like PageRank on it and show the resulting ranks of both comments and users.

It would help with comment quality because it would make people compete for approval from high-quality users.

3 points by bmelton 1 day ago 0 replies      
You might also check out this thread, which pertains to submission karma and its distribution: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2387873
1 point by joelburget 1 day ago 0 replies      
First of all, change is inevitable. The worst response is too much worrying about it and talking about how you would like things to be how they used to be. Users come and go so it will never be exactly the way it used to be. A good response is to embrace the change and make it work.

In this case the problem seems to be an influx of new users that don't completely understand what the site's about. It seems to me the best response is to more actively encourage good commenting from new users. My suggestion is inspired by stackoverflow. Over there, below a certain karma threshold, users must submit their edits to be reviewed by others. It might be beneficial to do the same thing for, say, a user's first 10 comments. They would submit a comment, a more experienced user reviews it and gives feedback if necessary. That way new users are forced to learn a little bit about what the community values in a comment.

1 point by Sandman 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think that part of the solution may be to introduce a feature that would give users that reach certain karma thresholds the ability to give more and more points to a comment when upvoting.

For example: a newbie would only be able to assign one point to a comment he's upvoting, but a user over a certain threshold could assign two points. The user that has even more karma (and is over the next threshold) could assign three points and so on. Users should be able to decide how many points they want to give to each comment.

The same should apply to downvotes. Prominent HN users should be able to make their downvotes "hurt more" if they want to.

Also, these thresholds could be used for "downvoting penalties". For example, a newbie would lose 4 points when downvoting, but a user over the first threshold would only lose three and so on. Users with karma above one of the thresholds would no longer lose karma when downvoting.

1 point by crasshopper 17 hours ago 0 replies      
How about a "suggest an edit" button? Maybe senior members can suggest

# more polite language

# removal of irrelevant bits

# removal of memes

and hopefully this would encourage newbies to write better comments.

2 points by benologist 1 day ago 0 replies      
Comment collapsing ... with 260 comments on this submission it's such a very long page that the voting activity is going to be concentrated in the first thread/s.
2 points by FirstHopSystems 1 day ago 0 replies      
In point I don't think it's a decline, just more of a noise issue. Many of the articles are interesting but I am noticing more submissions that have only a abstract connection to qualify for "Hacker" news.

I don't have any well though out answers to the question. I do think the more questions out there that could help solve this problem.

I'm thinking the commenting is more of a symptom than the underlying issue(s).......

1 point by siculars 1 day ago 0 replies      
Vote scarcity. The way all these karma systems work now is that you, the user, have unlimited votes. But ask yourself, when did you ever value anything you had unlimited quantity of? There needs to be some limit to the number of up or down votes a user can cast in any given time frequency or other metric. The key point is to make votes 'cost' something.

Also, weighted votes based on the karma of the user casting said vote.

1 point by crasshopper 1 day ago 0 replies      
How about giving users two upvote buttons. The second one appears X seconds after the first one has been hit. Because really great comments, I've noticed, often provoke first: yeah, good. And then, later: wow, that was really really good. I wish I could upvote it again. (the second upvote can have a different meaning)

Google Hotpot does something like this, limiting the number of Really Great votes you can make with unlimited +1's.

2 points by moblivu 1 day ago 0 replies      
I may not be a long time HN user, even less of an experienced one, but I think that the race for Karma may be responsible. The core mechanic of HN is to function through Karma, but unfortunately it is also the source of this problematic. If users are obsessed about obtaining it, why not make that every action on HN costs some.

Another problem is what the comments are about. It's more a matter of Objectivity vs Subjectivity. At first the point of a comment is to give a point of view about the article and then discuss about it. I have found that now it is more a matter of who has the best point of view and that if it is contrary to the majority; it will fail. Thus resulting in multiple pointless comments, giant upvoting for the one who "blasts" the one with a different point of view and so on.

Filtering may be a solution, but if the problem can;t really be solved with an algorithm due to the human nature, it is a matter of a longer brainstorm...

1 point by kgo 1 day ago 1 reply      
There's one problem that's similar to reddit. Although there are guidelines (or reddiquite) you need to go out of your way to find them. Sure, clicking a link isn't that tough, but it's not automatic either.

I wonder what would happen the guidelines or some sort of one-page community code of conduct were displayed when you actually created an account. Would that give users a better set of expectations? Or would they just click throug it like a EULA?

Maybe force existing users to click through it one time as a friendly reminder when the feature is introduced.

1 point by Goladus 1 day ago 0 replies      
It would be nice to be able to click a button to inform the poster, discreetly, that the comment exhibits negative qualities like:

unclear connection to parent
factual errors


Discretion is necessary to encourage people to address and fix the problems with their comments and style rather than provoking them to guard their reputation.

Sending individual emails is effective at this, but takes too much time and energy. Being able to click a button that gives a commenter specific feedback could be very effective.

2 points by zyfo 1 day ago 0 replies      
Comment scores should either follow the opinion of
the elite (role models, learn-from-the-best) or your "peers" (like snide remarks? go ahead).

Currently it's the tyranny of majority. Suggestion for b (possibly intensive processing): Change comment display order depending on your previous voting.

1 point by hollerith 1 day ago 0 replies      
Comment quality here is still vastly higher than it is on most other sites frequented by programmers, designers or entrepreneurs, and higher than any other site (e.g. Wikipedia) of its size or larger. It's just really hard to maintain the quality of a site as big as the HN of 2011 when there are no significant barriers to participation by anyone with internet access and a basic command of the English language.

I humbly suggest that for the conversation to lead to HN's doing even better than HN has so far will require the participants in the conversation to verify that they are referring to the same thing when they write "comments that are (a) mean and/or (b) dumb", e.g., by the participant's providing actual examples (with the author's name removed) of comments they consider mean or dumb.

1 point by sage_joch 1 day ago 0 replies      
Add a mechanism that encourages people to think before upvoting, like a karmic bank account. Maybe someone could upvote twice for every once they were upvoted. It could reduce the common reflex of upvoting a short/witty comment; with only so many upvotes to give, you'd want to "invest" in comments that really earned it.
1 point by ohyes 1 day ago 0 replies      
I would recommend getting rid of up-voting and positive karma. People make pithy comments in order to get positive karma. Same reason for meme threads.

The real reason for a karma mechanic on HN is to filter out incredibly stupid comments. So keep down-voting. Things that are down-voted should go to the bottom of the stack.

4 points by th0ma5 1 day ago 1 reply      
A suggestion could well be to not have threads like this one (not trying to be disrespectful!) An interesting thought is the idea that punk music was dead the first time someone said punk's not dead.
1 point by niels_olson 1 day ago 0 replies      
You need gardeners. Which is work. But you don't ask just anyone to tend your garden. You ask a gardener.

Another way to think of it: a university needs teachers in the classroom. You can't just do research and have an open admissions policy. Someone has got to be providing training and feedback to the newcomers. Which is work. And you can't just have anyone do it. You need someone who's already had some training. A couple of thoughts:

1) You could feed those vested and proven folks with say, 1000 karma, 20% of their stories with top-level comments in non-descending order:

-- in randomized order instead of rank order, or

-- in inverse order, so they presumably have less cognitive burden to those undervoted great comments. Presumably it is less of a burden to skip over crap than decide if the 59 pt comment is really not as good as the 12 pt comment further down.

2) You could also add a more pre-emptive burden to rep: eg, you can't earn more than 10 points a day unless you vote on 10 new stories first. Feed a daily cookie to them with a popup with the policy, and encourage them to do it.

If you want an experimental focus group to pilot on, feel free to include me.

1 point by JeffJenkins 1 day ago 0 replies      
How about using the ratio of points to comments as a signal for articles, and maybe the ratio of up+down votes (i.e. number of votes, not net points ) to sub-comments for comments.

This gives you some of the effect of what I think would be the best solution -- limiting the site's scope significantly -- in that it would give you things which people found interesting but weren't so general that everyone felt they could comment on them.

I think this would work well in conjunction with some of the other ideas in the thread which reduce the number of upvotes people are likely to give (specifically, a cap on the number of upvotes and a visual cap on the display of upvotes).

1 point by zbanks 1 day ago 0 replies      
To help improve the quality of comments, what if the OP's vote was weighted more than everyone else's? Their upvotes could be worth 3-5 instead of just 1 point.

An OP is motivated to keep their comment thread awesome: having better comments leads to more upvotes on the story. And, on a personal level, the OP would be less likely to upvote snark against their own story.

The obvious downside would be that the OP could effectively censor opposing ideas. However, I don't think this would happen that often: counterpoint comments generally do pretty well on their own, and would probably still rise to the top even without the OP's help. (Of course, the best OP's would recognize the benefit of discourse and promote these comments anyways... but not everyone is perfect)

1 point by bigwally 1 day ago 0 replies      
The problem is the constant refreshing of stories on the front page. I need to visit a few times a day to have some idea as to what is going on.

If the refresh rate was slower, or the ability for a story to get to the front page would take longer then I would visit less.

At a guess most of the dub/mean comments get made by people who visit many, many times a day and comment out of boredom.

Some method to slow down the entire system would slow down all the posters and would result in longer posts rather than a bunch of witty one liners. Why would anyone go to the trouble of writing an in depth response to anything when it will be gone in three hours.

Increase the quality of the articles and you will increase the quality of the comments.

At least HN doesn't have youtube quality comments yet. :)

1 point by bootload 1 day ago 0 replies      
"... fixing the decreasing quality of comment threads on HN ... Anyone have any suggestions? We're on mostly uncharted territory here. ..."

In any group of people where the cost of joining is minimal and the freedom reins are loose, you will see behavioural changes mutate in ways resembling Golding's "Lord of the Flies". The big problem with HN is the founder assumption that we (users) will be a) civil b) willing, positive contributors and c) thoughtful. Maintaining this requires some means of natural selection. At first it was probably a combination of being curious, an early adopter and nerd-like. Some (quick & possibly stupid) ideas:

- intellectual paywall: add a penalty of a kind that selects readers/contributors

- classifier: run a classifier that categorises users by type and apply rules (behaviour modifier)

- change focus of HN to News with sub hacker focus (radical focus change)

- add a real minimal paywall sending $ to something like EFF or other hacker friendly charity (penalise by currency - bad)

- stop HN altogether (deny)

- wipe the slate clean & build a new HN like community but with http://perlmonk.org like progression of privs by tasks (enforced discipline) at start of user creation.

2 points by planckscnst 1 day ago 0 replies      
Every N times someone upvotes a comment, prompt the person with a reminder that good reasons for upvoting a comment are x,y,z, not a,b,c. One especially important thing for the latter category is "You agree with the content of the comment."
1 point by asdf333 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think it is about whether the identity of the HN community remains in tact. HN can survive as long as the identity (even if it morphs) remains something specific and associable. Reddit, for example still has a distinct identity/culture even though it is a very different one today than in 2007. Digg, for example, had less of an identity and culture. It was more of a "mainstream place". Reddit kept its quirks and its colorful users which made the place unique.

As long as there is an identity that people find distinctive at HN, I don't think it will die.

All of the suggestions here kind of fit into that paradigm for me....how do you control/preserve identity?

- You could give old timers more control (downvoting)

- You could give newcomers less control until they prove themselves (no account creation just to upvote your friend's post)

- Enlist help in keeping tracking/managing the pulse of the community (like reddit, which has multiple admins on the lookout for issues)

1 point by sushrutbidwai 1 day ago 1 reply      
Few suggestions -

1. On top of comments section have one which is for recent comment. I think lot of people feel that once the post is around for 30 mins (for a fairly popular post), even if they have something good to say, it will just not reach audience.

2. Remove karma points completely, just hide them some place where no one will see them. Use them silently in the background to optimize things, but dont bring them at the center. Generally new comers to site want to rise to top (of whatever) because that way they will be taken seriously. This incentive drives people to just write anything

3. No karma for submissions. People submit any article and get 10-15 upvotes but lot of articles do not add any thing to HN.

4. I think there is already some threshold on upvotes, perhaps increase it? Only so many upvotes/downvotes/submissions in a day or even in an hour.

2 points by noahl 1 day ago 1 reply      
I don't know the solution, but let me offer a suggestion as to what the cause of the problem is.

I think the issue is that the things that seem insightful to relatively unskilled programmers seem obvious to very skilled ones. A lot of the blog posts I see on sites like this rehash issues that I thought were settled a long time ago, but what's happening is that people understand things for themselves over and over again. And it's actually helpful when they write it up, because their writeups then lead other people to understand these things. Thus there is a steady stream of posts about the same set of ideas that are always helpful to people, but are still clogging HN.

The trouble is that there's no way for people who have already understood something to stop seeing the same old posts. I see three options:
- get rid of the less-skilled people
- keep the less-skilled people, but stop them from learning from these posts
- somehow let people opt out of seeing posts on things they understand, but keep them around for other people to see

It seems obvious that the third solution is correct, but I don't yet know how to do it.

5 points by julius 1 day ago 0 replies      
Limit the number of upvotes to 1 per thread.
So the user has to choose the best comment.

This adds a cost to upvoting just like the "N upvotes per day" ideas (which I like a lot).

1 point by sunir 1 day ago 1 reply      
Idea 2. Restrict memberships like Gmail invitations.

Give finite invitations to your YCombinator classes and alumni. Have them pass out invites to people they know. Give out more invites when you think you need them. At least this reroots the site back in the "Startup News" seed.

7 points by Sargis 1 day ago 3 replies      
Make it invite-only to post threads/comments and quietly associate the inviter with the invited person.
2 points by scythe 1 day ago 0 replies      
Something slashdotty -- i.e. qualitative moderation, not just quantitative moderation -- would help. If you had seperate upvote buttons for "amusing" and "informative", this could factor into sorting.
2 points by mkramlich 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think it is very likely that there are voting rings and sock puppets here on HN. If so, it would cause a distortion in the scores awarded to all the content, sometimes up or down, depending. Therefore anything that helps fight that would improve the site by more honestly gauging the quality of submitted posts and comments, which then improves the S/N ratio.

How to do this exactly? Not sure. But I'm confident that fighting it more will improve any site.

2 points by dpcan 1 day ago 0 replies      
430+ comments on a Sunday. One might say that for HN'ers, the quality of posts comes in at a close second to having this community of peers to converse with, argue with, share with and even make lame jokes with.
2 points by invertedlambda 1 day ago 0 replies      
If I were to rephrase the question on this thread, it seems to me that it could also be stated as "how do you keep HN comments from turning into Slashdot comments"? I don't say that in jest - I used to read Slashdot, but after a while I got really sick of 1) the vitriol and 2) the inanity of the comments that were on the first page. Granted, some folks had really interesting things to say, but truly funny/insightful comments seem to be a rare commodity.

But look at it in a positive light - the comments on HN could never be classified in the same - or even near the same - bucket that comments on sites like YouTube and Yahoo! News.

2 points by steve19 1 day ago 0 replies      
Explicitly ban bots.

This will get rid of some of the (b) comments from bot sock puppets.

1 point by pama 1 day ago 0 replies      
How about only upvoting comments of at least DH4 [1]?

Comments that state their ranking in your disagreement hierarchy are allowed to be upvoted above a threshold (say 5 karma points) if these comments are at least DH4. The remaining comments are questions, clarifications, suggestions, or plain old mean and/or dumb comments; they would remain below the karma threshold.

You could add an optional DH tag to each new comment and only enforce the threshold rule in an alternative "view" of the HN site (until you are happy with the results).

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html

1 point by xccx 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Simple upvoting/downvoting can't handle the herd voice. Too much text. No time to read it all. Make something actionable to better filter and engage us. Please!

Personally, I want information to inform my actions. I want to make better predictions. Please give me info I can use. Help me sort it. Make me act on it.

I want statements I can agree with, or not. If I'm not sure which, please provide me access to distillable arguments for and against any such statement.

First, I want to very clearly understand what any statement intends to say. Please provide ample means for clarification of such a statement. What is said? What does it mean?

Next, I want to sort and compare reasons to agree or disagree with any such statement. I want to see who agrees or disagrees with such a statement. This is much more valuable to me than the herd voice.

Make it systemic: let broad statements rest on supporting statements, where each statement provides for debate to define whether it is True or Not, Unlikely or Likely.

Something like this might suck less than the bloviating blog/comment/infoglut of yesteryear, especially as the next billion users go mobile.

1 point by bbq 1 day ago 0 replies      
You're trying to control the character of this site. It started in a good position, but has been slowly drifting. You can wait for it to change its course and find its way back to the sweet spot. Or do nothing and hope it finds a new position. These are both long shots and not very likely. The other way is to apply force to move it back where it was.

The content of this site is the average of community activities. If you want to increase the quality of content, you have increase the average quality of activities.

Moderation does this: removing low quality submissions increases the average quality. You could be more aggressive in moderation. Remove more comments. Take away commenting privileges temporarily for repeat offenders. Ban bad users.

Another option is giving trusted users 'megavotes,' worth more than 1 point. They can downvote that admittedly-funny-but-not-constructive comment to a more appropriate point value and upvote that other comment that's downvoted for no good reason. These users work to increase visibility and rewards of high quality content and decrease the visibility and rewards of low quality content. Hopefully this would work in a feedback loop to increase the natural average quality of content.

Both of these suggestions can help force the decline of mean, dumb, and inappropriately upvoted comments.

However, I think many will be wary of these suggestions because it can lead to bad things. I'm concerned too. Trusted users can abuse their power and destroy the feelings of community that have developed. Mistakes will be made and people will be upset.

But it needs to be done. Mistakes are mistakes. People find ways to get upset here everyday. Valuable members leaving already hurts the community.

Technical solutions won't cut it. Hacker News could be about coin collecting and the software could be exactly the same. The software does little to shape the community on a larger scale.

Ultimately, the average of the community is pushing in the wrong direction, so you need to push back by fixing the average to your favor. There may be better ways of doing this then what I've described, but it's time to pushing hard.

2 points by pvandehaar 1 day ago 0 replies      
The question is in two parts: (1) Why do people add bad comments and stories?, and (2) How do we keep those from getting upvoted?

1) When newbies first see the karma system they begin (like in any game) to work hard to raise their numbers. They watch closely to learn what kinds of comments will get them points. Ways to address this:
-Make new users read the guidelines and address this issue more directly there.
-Make Karma look less like a competition.

2) Like other comments have said, figuring out who upvotes bad comments requires data-mining. A serious question here is whether democracy is a viable option any longer. What is the site meant to be: a mob, or a tight community which a mob may watch? Do we educate the problem-voters, or do we dis-empower them?

1 point by rokhayakebe 1 day ago 0 replies      

Threat upvotes/downvotes as currency and limit the amount of coins someone has in one day. If you have only five upvotes per day, you are going to start to think about how to spend them.

Closed doors, but glass walls.

Reading should be open to everyone, participating should not. No more new sign up unless they have an introduction or they submit a request and we can have a way of letting certain users approve.

1 point by ig1 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Comments that are legitimate and well thought out often get downvoted if they disagree with the popular opinion, but "me too" posts that agree with popular opinion get voted up.

HN should make it clear that voting should reflect the value a comment adds to the conversation and not whether you agree/disagree.

1 point by DrJokepu 1 day ago 0 replies      
How about calculating comment and submission scores as log(sum(karma of upvoters) - sum(karma of downvoters)), while the way individual karma is calculated would stay the same (that is, total number of upvotes minus total number of downvotes)?
2 points by physcab 1 day ago 0 replies      
There needs to be a better system of moderation. Perhaps highlighting moderators and/or allowing people to apply to become one.
3 points by gte910h 1 day ago 1 reply      
I disagree that the quality is declining. I think you're just suffering a misapprehension of the quality of old.
2 points by jmatt 1 day ago 1 reply      
Make voting transparent. Provide access to who has voted a comment up or down.

The community will act differently if they know others can see their behavior. Then again this may have negative effects.

I think that in general I'd be more thoughtful when voting comments up or down if I knew others could see.

1 point by projectileboy 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think the best you can do in news.arc is to experiment with various forms of throttling (i.e., the first link/comment vote = 1, the second slightly less than one, and so on). Beyond that, it might require you to play the role of benevolent dictator and kill user accounts that consistently engage in nasty behavior. The most extreme option would be to shutdown HN and spawn a small number of child HN-style sites, each with a narrower focus.
2 points by Panoramix 1 day ago 1 reply      
This is a separate issue, but one thing that is not perfectly clear to me is what an upvote/downvote is supposed to mean. Does it mean that I agree with the comment, or that it adds to the discussion?
2 points by rooshdi 1 day ago 0 replies      
Hide the username and vote count for comments with positive votes. Show the username and vote count for comments with negative votes. Users will be able to see the profile and username of a positive user by clicking on a "see profile" link in place of the username.
2 points by nickolai 1 day ago 0 replies      
How about having an additional metric in terms of responses to a post? If it doesnt deserve a response, it probably doesnt add much to the discussion.
7 points by akkartik 1 day ago 1 reply      
Make votes public.
2 points by roadnottaken 1 day ago 0 replies      
Limit comments and/or submissions and/or votes to a few per day.
2 points by nathanhammond 1 day ago 0 replies      
Decompose commenting score into a two-part system representing up-votes and down-votes:

Up-vote score = sum(karma of up-voter)

Down-vote score = sum(karma of down-voter)

Score is displayed in both absolute and relative terms. Absolute score would be the same method as we're currently using. The relative score is presented as a part of the whole.

Something like [+++++++|--] could represent the ratio of the positive score to the negative score (which are the weighted scores based upon karma).

And, as a possibly added benefit, taking this approach enables the ability to reduce the karma level before allowing of down-voting, making people feel like they're able to participate more-fully earlier.

1 point by crasshopper 1 day ago 0 replies      
pg, how much have you played around with simple weights of upvotes vs downvotes? Eg, making a downvote worth -1.1 and an upvote worth +1.0.
1 point by gersh 1 day ago 0 replies      
I'd look at how different users respond to different articles? Do they click on the article? Do they comment? Do they come back to the site after they see the article? Do they vote for the article.

Next, you can correlate how various people voted with whether a specific person will like the article and/or comment. Finally, you should be able to tell who will like or not want something to get voted up. At this point, you can customize for everyone or weight the influence of people based on well correlated their taste is with the top karma people.

1 point by gasull 1 day ago 0 replies      
Paul, what about using StupidFilter to filter out trolls?


1 point by bergie 1 day ago 0 replies      
On Maemo News we solved this by enabling downvoting of submissions (well, aggregated feed items), and by making downvotes worth 5 upvotes.

The unpleasant side-effect has been a slight tendency to shoot the messenger by downvoting relevant-but-unpleasant news. But in general it has helped with story quality

2 points by zecg 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's a solved problem already, a new /classic/ every two years. Looking forward to /classic/classic/, since /classic/ has really gone downhill lately.
2 points by soamv 1 day ago 0 replies      
It seems that both reddit and metafilter seem have stronger meta discussions than HN. Reddit seems to have meta posts on the frontpage every once in a while, while metafilter has a fulltime forum (metatalk) dedicated to meta discussions.

Though there are meta discussions once in a while on HN too, they tend to be more general in nature, not specific to a certain comment or post.

I think an active meta discussion community would help with continuous small corrections, and eventually improve people's opinions on what kind of comments are good or bad.

1 point by anthonyb 1 day ago 1 reply      
The main issue seems to be that comment quality is decreasing, so you could always try my honeypot idea: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2352247 :)
1 point by ctl 1 day ago 0 replies      
What would happen if people could see both the upvotes and the downvotes on a given comment, rather than just its total karma score? I've used sites (not social news) that worked like that, and I've found that e.g. seeing +6/-0 on one of my posts is more satisfying than seeing +15/-4. If you implemented downvote visibility I think the overall effect would be to discourage comments that get lots of downvotes. (The current policy, in contrast, encourages any comment that'll get a net positive karma score.)

I'm pretty sure that on the whole that would be a very good thing. Downvote visibility would certainly discourage dissent, which sucks. But I think the kinds of posts it would most strongly discourage are, in order, mean comments, stupid comments, and contentless (e.g. snide) comments -- which are exactly the things that have been dangerously proliferating recently.

And I don't even think it would much reduce the expression of minority opinion; there's a certain pride that comes with dissenting that makes it tolerable or even enjoyable when other people disagree with you. Whereas when you make a cheap joke, being able to see all the people who found it stupid or crass is a major buzzkill.

1 point by MrMan 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Question - is a YC class currently in session, or did a selection round just end? I am an outsider and do not know the routine, but what if you are seeing a seasonal effect caused by increased activity by YC hopefuls and participants before and after these periodic selection events?
1 point by weaksauce 1 day ago 0 replies      
Have you thought about scaling the effect of an upvote based on the number of words that a comment has? Of course there are implementation details that you would have to worry about but I could see that encouraging longer more thoughtful commentary and penalizing snarky 5 word answers that garner easy upvotes.
1 point by edanm 1 day ago 0 replies      
Charge people a (modest) sum to participate in HN. Say $10 a year. I don't know many regulars who wouldn't easily pay that money, but I doubt too many trolls would.

Not sure what is behind the paywall, e.g. commenting only, or commenting and upvoting. You can try a few combinations.

2 points by Locke1689 1 day ago 0 replies      
Add a story downvote at a very high karma threshold.
1 point by rafaelc 1 day ago 0 replies      
One idea is that you would only allow users with X month old accounts to comment. X is simply the time since you started noticing the decreasing quality of comment threads, with perhaps a small buffer added onto that time.

This would still allow everyone else to utilize HN as their source of news or as their RSS feed into the tech/startup world, while testing for the source of the decreasing quality of comment threads.

1 point by flipside 1 day ago 0 replies      
If I had a way to improve the quality of HN but that would require a complete overhaul of the voting system, extensive testing, and slightly more work by 5%-20% of users, do you think people would go for it?

My feeling is that things aren't bad enough for radical change here yet, but if the right 5% are, it might be possible.

1 point by dispenser 8 hours ago 0 replies      
As a user of HN for pragmatic (read: non-timewasting) reasons, here's what I want to see on HN in this order:

1) Useful plugins, technologies, tools, or resources for development.
2) New Platforms (hardware, app store, device) or policy (privacy) changes.
3) Inspiring projects, stories, or news.
4) Cool science, physics, math, or other explanations and stories.

TBH - most popular HN stories cause knee-jerk reactions but have little content.

Maybe a specific 'work' filter would prioritize links into these categories?

1 point by sabat 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's not all bad, but I've noted a disturbing trend of dogpile upvoting and downvoting.

What about taking away downvoting? It would change the dynamic, at least. I suppose it doesn't solve the problem of stupid posts and comments being upvoted.

1 point by pitdesi 1 day ago 0 replies      
Agree that there is a problem with comments, but there is also a problem with terrible or duplicate articles getting to the front page. I'd like the ability to downvote articles and we should all patrol duplicates - only allow linking to primary sources, etc.
1 point by BrainScraps 1 day ago 0 replies      
Okay, I've given this a little bit of thought and think that like many problems, game mechanics can be applied to control human behavior here.

HN Karma can be retooled to give people a certain number up/downvotes as well as a rate of regeneration. Perhaps new users will get 3 upvotes a day and no downvotes. Upvotes need to be rebranded so that users understand that they are not the mechanisms of popularity contests or flame wars.

This is my vision, feel free to take from it what you will:
"HN tokens are for you to use to make this is most intelligently crowd-curated site known to the English language.If you find a post or comment that helps you to solve a problem, see another point of view, or expand your thinking, drop a token in to promote it. However, if you are found among those using your tokens to add fire to flame wars or to reward comments that have no creative or intellectual value, your token regeneration rate will be reduced. Choose wisely."

2 points by sampatterson 1 day ago 0 replies      
Rather than making the site invite only, how about some means of differentiating read and write access, i.e. the amount of times you can upvote or submit is tied to your karma.

That way the information is still accessible to everyone, and if someone new has something to interesting to contribute, that info will still surface if it's picked up by vetted users.

1 point by invertedlambda 1 day ago 0 replies      
How about a rotating group of admin users? Every 30 days a new batch of X users with greater than N karma get to bury/downvote/ban poor quality submissions/comments. This group would be forcibly rotated so that you don't get the "entrenched elite" problem.

It would encourage admins to be wise and for others to respect their wisdom.

1 point by jrspruitt 1 day ago 0 replies      
This site has been my go to place for reading material for a year to more. The other day I finally got an account, to test the waters of participating in the comment section, which often times are more interesting than the articles linked to. I hope my participation maintains the expected levels, but there in lies the problem. Anything based on a community, is bound to that community, like democracy, freedom to choose doesn't necessarily mean, the people are going to choose well. One universal truth through out human history, what rises, shall fall, when it involves a community of people. I figure, if my participation isn't rewarded, its not the place for me, so I'll move on, or just refrain from creating more noise. Its hard to convince people to self regulate like that, which is the only way to deal with it not becoming an over generalized, overly watered down link repository, that lost its niche in a flood of popularity, which would be a shame.
2 points by zyfo 1 day ago 0 replies      
Karma threshold for upvotes. Higher for topics than comments.
1 point by malbs 1 day ago 0 replies      
The timing of this post is amazing.

I'm by no means a prolific commenter on HN. If I have something of value to add I'll try to ask; otherwise I usually abstain (but I'm only human, made a few dumb comments)

I just saw another article, http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2404157

and the two comments on it were either bashing IQ, or talking about penis size.

I feel like maybe the reddit/4chan community has started reading HN?

I felt like posting a comment on that thread asking, nay begging, for someone to post something interesting as a followup to the kids question in the video, instead we have.. I just don't know.

And after saying that, I have no useful suggestion. Any feedback system that is implemented can still/will be gamed.

1 point by dglassan 1 day ago 2 replies      
Have you considered adding a down vote button like Reddit has? I know you can flag comments above a certain karma level but I think that either giving everyone the option to down vote or having a lower karma threshold to down vote would allow the community to regulate itself.

Just a thought, but it seems to have worked for Reddit. This puts a lot of responsibility on the community to keep the quality of the discussions up, but I think enough people on here care about the quality of the community to help out.

1 point by rosenjon 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think it would be interesting to have to say why you up or down voted something, along with the vote. Make the reasons public, so people can see how the system is being used, and then publish guidelines based on the aggregate results that give people an indication of the best way to use the system.

It would probably not be ideal to publicly publish names along with reasons, since this might encourage flame wars about why people voted in certain ways. However, perhaps there could be more private means of dealing with people who consistently misuse/abuse the system.

6 points by jawartak 1 day ago 0 replies      
Make commenting cost 2 karma.
1 point by Dnguyen 1 day ago 0 replies      
May I suggest going back to earlier time of HN? Because of the success, there are too many cooks in the kitchen. You have to always increase the number of moderators as the input from users increases. We are all here to read/discuss pretty much the same news. Why not have a chosen few provide the links and start discussions. Maybe the moderators themselves? This will cut down on duplicate links/stories and it will cut down the noise tremendously. Those who are truly interested in HN, will stick around and discuss. Those who are not, will simply go find their news somewhere else.
1 point by Yana_Convelife 1 day ago 0 replies      
How about rather than down-voting, you allow people (possibly with some minimal karma) to delete comments if they violate the terms? If a comment is deleted, there would be a trace showing that there used to be a comment that got deleted by John. John's profile could then show all the comments he deleted, just like it now shows John's submissions and comments and anyone (perhaps with the same minimal karma) would be able to revive a frivolously deleted comment. Hopefully, that would mean that people would not delete comments unless they can stand for it.

But I'm pretty new to HN, so my comment may not take into account its evolution.

1 point by rexreed 1 day ago 0 replies      
Maybe the fact that there's no separation of topics is part of the problem? Right now it's just one big comment bucket. Maybe some categories of posts so that off-topic stuff can be ignored would be really helpful. Right now, it's just one big stream of consciousness.
1 point by sc00ter 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Personalise the front-page? Add a weighting that pushes up contributions posted by users whos previous contributions I have upvoted, on the basis that there's a chance we share similar interests if I consistently upvote their contributions. It could also push up articles that users I've previously upvoted have commented on.
1 point by jarin 1 day ago 0 replies      
Isn't that what downvotes are supposed to be for?
1 point by jamesrcole 1 day ago 0 replies      
In the guidelines, ask people to write titles that try to summarize the content of the linked page. Think of titles as micro-abstracts.

You could even change the 'title' field in the submission form to 'description' (with its content limited to fairly small number of characters, of course. e.g. < 100).

Of course I'm just speculating about the potential value of this, but it might indirectly help a little.

1 point by maxer 1 day ago 0 replies      
having been here for a few years, i feel that any time i comment or post anything interesting it will be downvoted. unless your a rockstar having an opinion doesn't count.. expecting downvotes...
2 points by ronnier 1 day ago 0 replies      
Stop accepting new members for awhile.
1 point by da5e 1 day ago 0 replies      
Perhaps the karma for submitting articles should be separate from the karma for comments. I know when I was out to build karma I focused on submissions because there wasn't a downside.
6 points by allending 1 day ago 0 replies      
Get rid of karma.
1 point by hi_from_cuba 13 hours ago 0 replies      
(a) follows from (c), and (c) is trivial to fix by anonymizing the comments before they are voted on. Way, way, waaay too much fanboyism is going on HN and selected few users get all their comments voted up regardless of the merit. Fix this and the rest will follow.

PS. I'm 3000+ karma, 3+ year HN user posting from public terminal in a hotel, hence the anon account. My apologies.

6 points by paolomaffei 1 day ago 0 replies      
1 point by Naomi 1 day ago 0 replies      
Here's an idea I've seen on other sites: before a comment is approved, the poster has to go through a page that contains general posting guidelines. Often it seems people write something quickly, without stopping to think whether it might be offensive. This would give them an extra chance to censor their contribution.
1 point by 13Psibies 1 day ago 0 replies      
1/ The point of the karma system, as far as a user is concerned, is to increase one's karma number.

2/ External values such as "democratic" likely oppose the actual objectives of HN.

3/ Within HN culture, there is an element of gate-keeping.

1 point by mcgin 1 day ago 0 replies      
You may be doing this already as it seems pretty obvious to me, but you could give more weight to comments based on their length. In general the most insightful comments are longer than poorer dumb comments.
Also be more firm on the shouldn't appear on mainstream news sites rule
1 point by aaw 1 day ago 0 replies      
I really like the /classic front page view. Could we try a similar comment view as well, with votes only counted from users who've been here for at least a year?
1 point by karlzt 1 day ago 0 replies      
what is the best example of a comment that is mean and/or dumb that got massively upvoted?

as a last resort you can always stall HN for 1 month.

0 points by derrida 1 day ago 0 replies      
Have a captcha-like box at the bottom of "submit" with methods that need to be written for some giant program created by the community. The interface that gets implemented could be selected by the community.
1 point by newguy889 1 day ago 0 replies      
Have a hard tech theme day once a month, like Erlang day. Let's do Scala Day tomorrow!
0 points by adrianwaj 1 day ago 0 replies      
Simple, tie board participation more closely with YC application scores. What were you thinking?
Ask HN: What can the Point/Comment ratio tell you about the type of story it is?
9 points by filiwickers 10 hours ago   discuss
Ask HN: Bootstrapping and accepting payments
11 points by imechura 13 hours ago   10 comments top 8
1 point by crasshopper 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Have you looked at CheddarGetter?

CheddarGateway is $20/month and $0.15 per transaction

I haven't used it, just know the developers. Price point sounds in your range (maybe).

1 point by thecoffman 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I've run into this same issue - trying to hack on a side project to accept payments and I don't have $100's / month to pay fees on a real payment processor like braintree or authorize.net - nor do I want to bother with a merchant account for a project I'm spending an hour or two a week on. You can go with Paypal or Google Checkout but both seem less-than-professional in my opinion. You're kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place.

What I'd love to see is something like Square - but for online payments. I can link square to my normal bank account, there's no monthly fee, no merchant account to deal with, etc - just a per transaction fee.

Online payments are a nightmare for a small bootstrapped side project, and in least in my research there's no good solution.

1 point by PonyGumbo 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Manual billing definitely has some drawbacks. My SaaS customers are split between those on automatic billing and those who log in every month to pay. Be aware that people on manual billing (in my experience, anyway) tend to treat it like the cable bill - something they feel have a couple of weeks to pay. They never seem to catch up, either (e.g. 'I just paid that two weeks ago', oblivious to the fact they were two weeks late). And if you hammer them with billing reminders, they tend to tune out, and eventually miss that inevitable termination notice. I've had so many customers on manual billing passively cancel over the years (i.e. stop paying, not respond to emails) and then reappear out of the ether months later that I now wait at least six months to completely wipe their account data.

Manual billing also forces customers to consciously reevaluate whether it's worth paying for your service every time they log in to pay a bill.

1 point by noodle 11 hours ago 0 replies      
i hate it, but i've gone with paypal and spreedly, as suggested by patio11.

i hate the fact that i need to use it, but its wasted time, resources and effort for me to wring my hands at the situation and wish that i had an invite to stripe (http://stripe.com), to hunt down a processor that will accept my low volume (i was rejected from several due to volume), or to buy into a more expensive situation that costs more than my estimated revenue.

1 point by rakkhi 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Ian, I know that Paypay has a poor reputation for being buyer centric but they have 14% of the global market (http://buswk.co/eN1mCa) so they are doing something right. I deployed Paypal for my SAAS (http://www.simplesecurityra.com) and it was really simple to setup. I wanted to do a subscription based service with automatic billing and it works really well. I have quite a few users now and have never had a problem. I would agree that having a monthly subscription is lot likely to mean you get a lot less re-evaluating the service. I mean it works for gym's and cable TV so why not you?

There are no monthly fees and the transaction fees are not that bad (GBP for me):

Purchase payments received (monthly) Fee per transaction

£0.00 GBP - £1,500.00 GBP 3.4% + £0.20 GBP

£1,500.01 GBP - £6,000.00 GBP 2.9% + £0.20 GBP

£6,000.01 GBP - £15,000.00 GBP 2.4% + £0.20 GBP

£15,000.01 GBP - £55,000.00 GBP 1.9% + £0.20 GBP

above £55,000.00 GBP* 1.4% + £0.20 GBP

You could also consider Google checkout and Amazon checkout but I think Paypal is the best of these choices.

1 point by imechura 12 hours ago 0 replies      
One other option I have been considering is a manual process using FreshBooks.com. Using the subscription services, I would just have to add the new customers when they joined and remove them when they canceled. It appears from the documentation that it will send an invoice and automatically charge the customers credit card.

From the freshbooks website...


Managing subscriptions to FreshBooks centers around creating recurring profiles. The same functionality available in the web application found on the Invoice tab under the Recurring subtab is available through the FreshBooks API.

FreshBooks recurring profiles create and send invoices automatically for you so you don't have to manage them yourself. FreshBooks recurring profiles do some interesting tricks:

    * Automatically send recurring invoices monthly, yearly, or as little or often as you would like.
* Automatically charge your client's credit card whenever you generate an invoice.
* Rack up charges. Add or remove line items from a subscription at any time.
* Send invoices by email or through the post.

2 points by rysmit 12 hours ago 1 reply      
Ian, Braintree is inexpensive, I would recommend you bite the bullet and integrate with them from the start. If a customer is willing to invest their data with you or rely on your services then you should reciprocate and show your dedication by paying the monthly fee + transactions. Set it up and then focus on covering those costs by acquiring customers.

Good luck!

1 point by whichdan 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Have you looked into Amazon FPS? I'm in a similar position, and considering them as an alternative to PayPal.
Tell HN: .ly domains starting to have problems (letter.ly)
40 points by petervandijck 18 hours ago   47 comments top 9
17 points by edw 17 hours ago 8 replies      
To this I feel the need to reply with a big "duh!" Whenever I see a see a product launch with an two-letter country code, I look it up if I don't already know it and ask myself: Would I be willing to trust my business to _this_ country's domain registrar?

Joyent's Node SmartMachine services (no.de)? Germany: Yes!

Twitter's URL shortener (t.co)? Colombia? _Hugo Chavez?_ Umm, not really.

There are real countries behind these country codes and companies expose themselves to risks associated with those countries‚Ä"and are arguably supporting the governments of those countries‚Ä"by using a domain name with that country code.

HN readers learn that GoDaddy's run by a megalomaniacal big game hunter and they run for the exits. HN readers discover a punny domain name can be had by giving Qaddafi or Hugo Chavez money (however indirectly) and they place their orders. Hello?!

24 points by rianjs 17 hours ago 2 replies      
I find it amazing that letter.ly finds it amazing that a physical war might disrupt their normal service(s).
7 points by rexreed 16 hours ago 2 replies      
The DHS / Department of Justice have proven that US domains are not particularly safe or immune from arbitrary shutdown either.
4 points by rexreed 16 hours ago 0 replies      
I think .ly domain owners should consider switching to .li domains. Liechtenstein has a better track record for stability and rule of law to limit the exposure to arbitrary shutdown.
3 points by livejamie 16 hours ago 1 reply      
I wonder what registrar they were using? I registered status.ly 2 years ago with libyanspider and they seem to be pretty up-front about what's going on.


They even have a big red phone number on their homepage for emergencies.

I no longer own the domain, but it seems like their customers aren't affected by this.

1 point by eli 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Not to further pile on, but this is also a great reason to register your critical domains for many years into the future. Even for boutique TLDs, the yearly registration is pretty trivial compared to the potential downside of losing your name.
1 point by mbesto 15 hours ago 1 reply      
What will happen to http://bit.ly links if Gaddafi shuts down the Internet in Libya due to protests?


1 point by hessenwolf 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Certain extensions are not accessible through the proxy where I work, e.g., .nr. That represents about 180,000 people in about 100 countries worldwide. I assume it is not specific to this company.

Just a little something else to think of.

1 point by erik_p 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Isn't the issue here more that they waited until the last minute to renew their domain and because a war broke out they are S.O.L. ?
Ask HN: Looking For A Data-Center In SF
3 points by justinksd 6 hours ago   5 comments top 2
1 point by slysf 6 hours ago 1 reply      
I've had a ton of experience with hosting.com's offerings and can get you a discount. Basic reasons I like them:
* itemized billing (know what you're paying for)
* offers great deals on longer terms
* SAS 70 Type II certified (excellent if you have any standards to meet)
* Free parking when you're working there
* No hassles on deliveries (worked with another provider who would charge us $150 if we didn't warn the ahead of time that a hard drive RMA was arriving).
* 24/7 smart hands on site if you're out of town and need something physically done.
1 point by bifrost 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Everything in San Francisco is going to be outrageously over priced or under-serviced. You're going to be much better served by dropping your gear down in the south bay in a good facility. If you gotta be in SF, you are going to get the best deal from someone in the TelX facility at 200 Paul. Forget about the cabinet space, worry about power draw because you can put 10KW in 7U...
Ask HN: How do I market my product?
7 points by combiclickwise 14 hours ago   12 comments top 5
4 points by JacobAldridge 14 hours ago 1 reply      
One thought - even though your product isn't niche, you can market it as though it were. Eg, instead of "a plugin for websites" you're selling "a [solution] for small accounting firms with their own website".

I face a comparable problem (I'm a business coach, which means my clients are pretty well any business). Especially for professional services, talking the talk and appearing more specialised than you actually are (as long as you can actually back it up) helps open more doors.

1 point by revorad 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Im building something to solve exactly this problem. Sign up here - http://laughingcomputer.com
2 points by aspir 13 hours ago 1 reply      
My two tips:

1)Try to find out what type of website owners would see the most benefit (large, small, ecommerce, blogs, Wordpress?) and target them heavily. Get it to as concise a group as you possible can, then make it yours. Then find your next niche, repeat. each niche will take a while to work through though, so do your homework?

2) Try to find the individuals most likely to adopt and try the product quickly. Often this is not the same group as #1, though it may be. Follow similar rules as in #1 and try to take hold of a smaller group of user rather than just going after the huge number "website owners" out there. Web savvy folks are, by nature, early adopters, but with your product, some will always adopt faster than others. Find them.

EDIT- Also, if you can include a more detailed description, or a link, that would help the HN community wrap its head around your tool

2 points by staunch 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Build distribution into your product. Add a little link somewhere "XYZ Functionality powered by XYZ Product". Other business owners will see it and sign up. Make it tasteful and small so it doesn't annoy people.
2 points by bmelton 11 hours ago 1 reply      
If it's technology-related, you should check out http://loudstartup.com/ -- it contains a list of all the tech-related media sites I know of.

Disclaimer, that's my site.

Ask HN: Where do you buy your startup's tshirts?
6 points by rcavezza 13 hours ago   5 comments top 4
1 point by proexploit 7 hours ago 1 reply      
I cannot recommend http://progressofdesign.com/ enough. I've ordered from them 3 times and couldn't be happier. Cheaper prices than most other places I've used in the past and great quality. I wanted to print a larger than average design and they accommodated me for only a small bump in price when other companies said they couldn't even do it.
1 point by triviatise 7 hours ago 0 replies      
we use vistaprint, primarily because the UI makes it easier to design shirts. You should test out the quality of shirts on a short run first.

If you keep an item in your cart, they will send you a coupon. If you buy a small amount, they will send you a coupon that you can use on a bigger order.

2 points by colinwinter 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Checkout http://www.kommonthread.com/
They're working on a new program to help promote startups using T-shirts
1 point by smcguinness 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I've wanted to rekindle "Startup Schwag" as I didn't get to get on it for very long prior to its close down.
Ask HN: What podcasts do you watch regularly?
37 points by SRSimko 19 hours ago   40 comments top 31
7 points by jsm386 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Hardcore History: http://www.dancarlin.com/disp.php/hh - Best way to describe it is 'geeking' out on History. The host is a journalist - not a historian - but he does his research.
5 points by yan 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I always keep up with: This American Life (thisamericanlife.org), Radiolab (radiolab.org), Planet Money (npr.org/blogs/money/) and The Brain Science Podcast (brainsciencepodcast.com). Others are more on a per-episode bases.
7 points by tomjen3 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Hardcore History. It's a very good show about various fascinating topics in history, such as the fall of the Roman Republic, the war on the eastern front in WWII, Apache Culture and it's demise, etc.

It's obviously very far from startups, but I think every curious hacker would be interested and there is such a huge break between the episodes that it doesn't take too much time to follow it.

You can download the episodes here [http://www.dancarlin.com/disp.php?page=hharchive]. If you don't know where to start either try show 32 since it is a self contained episode or shows 27 through 30 if you have more time (and the stomach).

1 point by fsainz 53 minutes ago 0 replies      
The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe it's pretty good, they promote critical thinking with humor and they give some nice insights into the mechanisms we usually use to judge information.
2 points by zdw 17 hours ago 0 replies      

It's a networking podcast mainly focused on high end datacenter stuff, but also they have a wireless specific podcast periodically. If you're into hardware and systems engineering, it's quite interesting. They also get a lot of vendors on and really grill them.

1 point by staunch 12 hours ago 0 replies      
The History of Rome. http://thehistoryofrome.typepad.com/

"A weekly podcast tracing the history of the Roman Empire, beginning with Aeneas's arrival in Italy and ending (someday) with the exile of Romulus Augustulus, last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire."

3 points by harold 18 hours ago 0 replies      
The Changelog,
The Dev Show,
Floss Weekly,
Linux Outlaws,
No Agenda,
Startups for the Rest of Us
1 point by DomainNoob 8 hours ago 0 replies      
In addition to many of those already mentioned I like...
Bookworm! Deep interviews with authors: http://feeds.kcrw.com/kcrw/bw
Stewart Brand's Long Now Foundation talks: http://longnow.org/projects/seminars/SALT.xml
This Week In Venture Capital w Mark Suster: http://feeds.feedburner.com/ThisWeekInVentureCapital-audio
Stuff Mom Never Told You: http://www.howstuffworks.com/podcasts/stuff-mom-never-told-y...
LA Public Library ALOUD talks: http://events.lapl.org/podcasts/rss/itunes/aloudrss.aspx
Futures in Biotech: http://leo.am/podcasts/fib/
Fora.tv audio podcast of the week: http://fora.tv/media/rss/podcasts/featured_audio.xml
Econ Talk with Russ Roberts: http://www.econlib.org/library/EconTalk.xml
C-SPAN After Words: http://www.c-span.org/XML/podcast/aw_feed.xml
Big Ideas: http://feeds.tvo.org/tvobigideas
Automate My Small Business: http://automatemysmallbusiness.com/podcast/
A Prairie Home Companion: http://americanpublicmedia.publicradio.org/podcasts/xml/prai...
1 point by seanc 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Many good podcasts at the CBC! (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation):

Dispatches: Former international correspondent Rick MacInnes-Rae talks to his international correspondent friends
- http://www.cbc.ca/dispatches/

Ideas: One hour lectures and discussions with people who think deep thoughts about a wide variety of topics
- http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/

1 point by stevenp 15 hours ago 0 replies      
For politics with some humor injected, I like to keep up with the Majority Report (majority.fm), and the Stephanie Miller Show (stephaniemiller.com).

I also regularly keep up with the Slate Political and Pop Culture "Gabfest" podcasts, although they can be a bit dry and elitist at times.

For pure entertainment, I like Marc Maron's WTF podcast, and The Moth is also great if you like shows like "This American Life" but can't always commit to a whole hour.

8 points by dsuriano 19 hours ago 7 replies      
5by5's shows: The Talk Show, Hypocritical, Build and Analyze.


1 point by mcrider 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Just checked out startups for the rest of us from harold's recommendation.. Looks good. Anyone have any other good recommendations about startup podcasts? Other than This week in startups--I can't stand Calacanis.

Also, I recommend Too Much Information (http://tmipodcast.com/) -- Interesting topics and wry humor, its a good listen.

1 point by AndrewWarner 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Sal Kahn's programs rock. I listen to them in the background on my iPhone, instead of watching.
1 point by 3dFlatLander 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Astronomy Cast -- They have a pretty big show archive that has aged very well.

In Our Time, a BBC radio podcast focusing on history.

PBS Frontline (a tv show, not a podcast) streams all their shows online. Great for current events.

The Economist Audio Edition requires subscription to magazine, but if you want to catch up on the entire world in a couple of hours, this is the way to go.

4 points by barapa 18 hours ago 0 replies      
RadioLab from NPR in NYC. Interesting stories from a science perspective, with a very cool story-telling format.


1 point by swanson 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I try out a few new podcasts every quarter. The three that have stuck (in order of enjoyment): TechZing, Changelog, Founders Talk


1 point by joeguilmette 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I listen to 'Stuff You Should Know' by Chuck and Josh at HowStuffWorks.com. The topic is usually very interesting and the hosts are very entertaining. While it is usually very well researched, I like that it is light enough that I don't have to pay attention to every sentence.

Who Charted and Doug Loves Movies are pretty good 'brain off' entertainment as well. And I've listened to Planet Money and This American Life for years and years and years.

4 points by zumbojo 18 hours ago 0 replies      
37signals Podcast, This Developer's Life, Freakonomics Radio, Hanselminutes (in addition to several already mentioned by others).
1 point by gnosis 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Radiolab and Erik Davis' Expanding Mind. More recently I've started to listen to Magic Newswire.
1 point by Dramatize 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Mixergy, TWiST, TWiVC, Radiolab & 5by5 podcasts.
1 point by stuartjmoore 17 hours ago 0 replies      
For something a little different, my choice for non-Hacker Newsesque podcast would have to be Comedy Death Ray Radio (http://www.earwolf.com/show/comedy-death-ray-radio-scott-auk...).

The single funniest thing I've ever heard.

1 point by mikecarlucci 12 hours ago 0 replies      
For any baseball people, from more of a stats angle, both Up and In: The Baseball Prospectus Podcast and FanGraphs Audio are pretty good.
2 points by nerdyworm 18 hours ago 0 replies      
http://castcurator.com/ Mostly just the music stuff I listen to and a few recommendations that I got over the past few days. I will go ahead and add all the podcasts that pop up in this thread and create a HN feed for them.
1 point by russjhammond 13 hours ago 0 replies      
WTF w/ Marc Maron - he is a comedian that has been around forever, though I had never heard of him but interviews other comedians every week. The best episodes so far are the ones with Carlos Mencia, Robin Williams and Louis CK.

Also - Monocle Weekly - These are the guys that make Monocle magazine.

1 point by daimyoyo 15 hours ago 0 replies      
TWiT, This week in iPad, TWiST, Kevin Pollaks chat show, and Kevin Rose's podcast(not Digg Nation, the other one).
1 point by closedbracket 12 hours ago 0 replies      
HPR, Peter Day's World of Business, New Yorker Comment, Changelog, Onion Radio News, Front Page, Read'n'Code (had to plug this)
1 point by KeepTalking 17 hours ago 0 replies      
1.This American Life 2.Wait Wait Dont tell me 3. RadioLab 4.Stanford Entrep Videos 5.The moth 6. MarketPlace Money 7.Both sides of the table 8. Freakanomics radio
1 point by jhonnycano 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I listen regularly http://eslpod.com and is a very good help for us non native-english speakers
1 point by reustle 17 hours ago 0 replies      
1 point by kirpekar 18 hours ago 0 replies      
The Moth Podcast
1 point by joeyblake 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I listen to:
and a lot of the 5by5 stuff
SaaS for US customers but located offshore
23 points by alisyed7 1 day ago   6 comments top 6
8 points by patio11 1 day ago 0 replies      
There are many varieties of "offshore" for this question. I am not routinely inconvenienced by being an American living in Japan with regards to charging for things. If you're a Nigerian living in Nigeria... things are going to be a wee bit more difficult.

One does not practically or legally need a physical or corporate presence in the US to charge cards. Of the available options, I use Paypal to charge credit cards -- they had the least involved process to get a Paypal account (Paypal Website Payments standard + Paypal premier account) years ago, and I bootstrapped that into their I-can't-believe-its-not-a-merchant-account (Paypal website payments pro + business account) after a few years of doing (relatively) significant volumes through Paypal proper. That has been impressively painless.

Privilege escalation is, by and large, the easiest way to get into the US banking system. As soon as you're in a bank's systems and they have their Know Your Customer checkbox ticked next to your application, your odds of not getting held up by fraud review for the next product you add go up greatly. (This is why the tech incubator I used to work at would set up anyone going to the US with personal checking/investment accounts at US multinational financial firms. As soon as you have a foot in the door, everything else gets easier.)

Understand that businesses do not refuse to do business with foreigners because they enjoy screwing with you -- it is strictly risk-mitigation. There are a variety of things you can do to reduce perceived risk. In general, things which tend to indicate you're a "real" business tend to work. (Tax forms are practically magic spells -- they look official, it is virtually impossible to second-guess their contents, and the IRS will virtually never tell you "Piss off, we don't want your money.")

4 points by henrikschroder 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Our company is based in Denmark, which means we can't use Authorize.net or the real PayPal services, or any of the commonly recommended services.

However, we're using a local bank, a local payment processor, and a local payment gateway, and it works just fine. We can do recurring charges on the major credit cards in whatever currency we want.

The one thing that doesn't work is AMEX, for some incredibly stupid reason we were only allowed to charge those cards in DKK which didn't make any sense to us, so we promptly cancelled that contract.

So my advice is to investigate your local options as well. Ask your bank what processors there are, and ask your processors what gateways there are.

3 points by marcamillion 1 day ago 0 replies      
Here is a wonderful post that details exactly this for you:


1 point by cloudsafe 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Paypal is very expensive in terms of fees! We opted for a local card processor. They all offered us less than 2% for every transaction and a fixed monthly fee for the service. C

Compare that with Paypal! Paypal is great for quick and easy implementation - but at the end you pay a lot more..

2 points by lautis 1 day ago 0 replies      
PayPal can be used internationally, but it has some caveats.

Simple recurring billing works quite well, except that you have no control over the subscription. Only thing you can do is to cancel it via PayPal interface. Multiple plans become quickly painful.

There's also Adaptive Payments API, which is available for non-US companies. PayPal doesn't really trust you: subscriptions are limited to one year in length, but you have the control of when and how much is billed (within limits of the "preapproval"). Adaptive Payments API is quite painful to use and is challenging from UX point of view. It's probably cheaper to incorporate in the US and use some other merchant gateway than to implement PayPal Adaptive Payments in your software.

1 point by ig1 21 hours ago 0 replies      
PayPal and 2Checkout seem to be the two popular options.

Depending on your country you can probably find a local merchant account that will let you bill in USD, Chargify have a list of non-US merchant account providers which they've worked with in the past.

Ask HN: How to pick between 2 amazing ideas?
8 points by keiferski 17 hours ago   18 comments top 8
2 points by farout 15 hours ago 0 replies      
the biggest issue usually between idea and execution is locating and actually reaching the market cost effectively and in a timely manner.

Suppose your product is for x people who like y.

Good. You have an Ideal Customer Profile.

Then you say, they will need my product when they do z. Those are the triggers. Meaning person has problem and knowledges problem and is actively looking for solution and at the set of a trigger they will do this.

So that now moves us into demand harvesting stage caused by a trigger (not demand generation which is missionary convincing a person they have a problem).

All good. Now all that was easy. The real hard part is reach. How will you find these folks?

Google is not enough. How will you access the hubs, the well connected early adopters to try your product/service and do word of marketing/referral for you for free?

I find in most of my sales jobs, reach is always the issue. Marketing is usually clueless. So I need to usually figure out clever ways to identify and reach this market.

Example from a recent consulting job. Mechanic wants to focus on Minivans since they are constantly used and constantly need repairs.
Ok who drives minivans: moms.

Ok which moms will be hubs early adopters? Moms that are on committees that will tell others so that will we will get word of mouth.

How to we do reach these moms - through their hair stylists.
What. Huh.

To go after your hub early adopters you need to find the people they will listen to and trust.

These high influential moms that will tell other moms are usually in charge of groups and constantly need to maintain their appearance. They regularly go to salons. They trust their hair stylist more than they trust their husbands.

Great: We designed a campaign to have hair stylists at select locations to try the mechanic's services at a deep discount. Immediately after trying our services, we gave them discounted coupons to give to 1 or 2 of their clients.

Then the these high connected (more like switches than hubs since they become to a number of groups) early adopter moms a chance to try us and subsequently tell their friends. Essentially the clairol commercial tactic with a twist.

Hope this helps. No time to make it shorter.

tldr: pick the one that easiest to reach the well-defined market that can purchase your product/service. And that has easily identifiable highly connected early adopters. This will make marketing easier and actually doable.

2 points by davetong 2 hours ago 1 reply      
Try a simple answer: "Which one would you use?" Answering this helps you determine which one you're most passionate about as well as a foundation for looking into a user-base.
3 points by cperciva 17 hours ago 2 replies      
Which can you get to the point of launching the fastest?
2 points by HeyLaughingBoy 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Well, you hit my big one: which one will make money.

Which one solves an actual problem that is already being experienced by people who want it solved? Related to which will make money.

Which market can I reach effectively? i.e., I have no way of marketing to Hospital Administrators without big cash infusions to pay salespeople.

Which market is growing? If both, which is growing faster?

Which ones have visible niches that I can carve out a home in?

2 points by petervandijck 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Take the one that's narrower. In your case, the one that targets entrepreneurs, not the one that targets "everyone". Narrow is good.
1 point by jyu 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Working on two different ideas with different target markets simultaneously is a recipe for disaster. Facing the challenges of a single bootstrapped start up is hard enough.
1 point by triviatise 15 hours ago 1 reply      
you should probably just tell us what the ideas are. The likelihood of anyone chasing after your great idea instead of their own 10 great ideas is virtually zero.

I selected my idea (out of lots of great ideas) based on the fact that it 1) didnt require much technology to implement 2) had decent market based barriers to entry if successful 3) established revenue model 4) aligned with my interest in games 5) good potential for large amount of revenue, but would do fine at smaller levels of revenue 6) Would have a high revenue/employee # so I wouldnt have to have too many employees

1 point by dstein 10 hours ago 0 replies      
The one you are more likely to finish.
Ask HN: Launching a startup. To-do list?
5 points by niico 13 hours ago   10 comments top 7
1 point by mindfulbee 1 hour ago 0 replies      
1) start a landing page using Unbounce.com and reach out to some 1st degree connections to be testers
2) start gathering some data to validate your idea--talk to the people around you and ask them questions that revolves around this topic.
3) If it's a Web app, maybe start working on the mobile UI
4) Research competitors (I would check out Okcupid), partners, financial prospects, etc. Learn the industry and do you homework!

Hope this helps! Let me know how it goes!

3 points by markstansbury 13 hours ago 1 reply      
I suggest you grab a beer. First things first.

After that, maybe see if you can get some people signed up for launch notices. Maybe see if you can get some female early adopters. That strikes me as the biggest dating-site problem.

Good luck.

2 points by bmelton 12 hours ago 1 reply      
You should almost certainly start trying to generate buzz.

I put together a list of media contacts at loudstartup.com, though it's primarily for tech-related startups. Might be of help.

1 point by Mrinal 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Build relationships, relationships and relationships .. with your customers. Definition of "customers" vary from phase to phase of the startup. If you want to create awareness through media, get to know all the people (customer) who write about social dating. Later if you intend to seek funding, map that space and get to know investors ... so on and so forth. It is always best to build relationships with people when you dont seek something ...
1 point by anasol 13 hours ago 0 replies      
It depends on your timeline. You might want to generate buzz before the product comes out so that there is some level of expectation and, if you have been advertising correctly, then you should have some people coming in to check it out once you release it. Ideally your site will be good enough that they will free-advertise for you via word of mouth.

Now, if it is going to take a while for the backend and the rest to be ready, you can make the best out of your time by creating what will be your advertisement strategies for the weeks before the site launches.

Hope this helps.

1 point by niico 11 hours ago 0 replies      
How come people are saying that comments at HN are getting worse, negative and unhelpful... every comment at this thread was awesome!
1 point by niico 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Both advices were very useful. Cheers ;)
Ask HN: What hours would you work on a side business?
7 points by wtracy 5 hours ago   5 comments top 2
3 points by davetong 2 hours ago 0 replies      
If you're serious about your side-business, either quit your "normal" full-time job and ask family/friends/partner to support during the time you need to do what you're trying to do in order to have the best chance at success. Otherwise you risk wasting time, money, under-performing at your "normal" job, only performing mediocre at your side-business and putting strain on relationships with your loved ones because you are trying to do too much... If you don't want to risk it to take the biscuit, then question whether you believe in your idea as much as you think you do.
1 point by mindcrime 5 hours ago 1 reply      
I work almost every "free" hour I can, on my startup project, excepting the occassional "night off" to go to the movies or something, and the rare social outing with friends. I typically leave my day job by 6:00pm, head home, possibly stopping at Barnes & Noble for a coffee and to browse / unwind for a little while, and am home by 7:00pm. If needed, I walk across the street to Food Lion, get groceries, come home, and cook, and eat. Typically by 8pm I'm back working... on a night where I don't stop at B&N or need groceries, I'm working by 7:00 or so. I usually go until near midnight, except Friday night when I work until the wee hours of the morning. Weekend schedule is more chaotic, but I treat both days as full-fledged work-days, committed to the startup.

When I start feeling to stressed, I allow myself a night off and walk across the street to the movie theater, take in a movie, or go out to eat or something, then come home and read some light fiction or something.

Ask HN:Review My Updated Side Project - ShelfLuv.com (250 invite codes)
31 points by wushupork 18 hours ago   33 comments top 14
2 points by maukdaddy 18 hours ago 1 reply      
No one has mentioned it yet, but I think the name is brilliant. Clever and memorable.

You might want to get shelflove.com if your site becomes successful, as I imagine lots of typos and word-of-mouth traffic will mistakenly end up there.

3 points by brianbreslin 18 hours ago 2 replies      
Love the design and use of the patterns in the background. What is the business model behind this? Amazon Affiliate commissions?

edit: Added my profile http://www.shelfluv.com/brianbreslin/

you have some css errors with the inputs and hover states over buttons in chrome 10 mac (borders showing, etc)

2 points by duck 18 hours ago 1 reply      
I like the design and idea. One thing you might think about is letting people put their own amazon referral id (for a cost or something). I recently asked Hacker Newsletter subscribers what books they were reading and had a great response, so I created a page to display the results (http://www.kaledavis.com/2011/03/25/hnl-book-list-vol1.html). Amazon astore's are just not what I was looking for, but something like this would work pretty well.
5 points by singer 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Have you considered that not all book lovers are Facebook lovers?
2 points by mgeraci 18 hours ago 1 reply      
I like the layout - the landing page looks pretty good. A few suggestions:

- While I like the script font in your logo, I think it's a little too hard to read. The letterforms of the "u" and "v" are very similar and could use some slight modification to differentiate them. The kerning is also off - the letters are suppost to connect, but the tracking is too wide.

- I think there's too much movement on the home page. There are three sections that animate (the slideshow, press, and recent activity). All that movement distracts from your call to action. Think about what you want a new visitor to focus on when they first see the page. (This is admittedly not as much of a problem for people with smaller monitors, but I can see below the fold)

- Why not make your search bar in the header wider? Longer titles are cut off.

- I'd shorten your overview sentence ("Share what you read with your friends and discover new books?") and maybe set it in a different color or font to help it stand out. I think this is a very important sentence.

Overall it looks great! Good luck!

1 point by snitko 4 hours ago 0 replies      
So wait, isn't it the same as Shelfari (bought by Amazon, if I remember correctly)? Even the design seems to be similar.
2 points by random42 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Do you intent to make money of it? If so, how do you plan to do that?
4 points by boushley 18 hours ago 1 reply      
You might also try adjusting the number of books that load at one time from 10 to 12 or something divisible by 4 so that you load complete shelves and don't have half a shelf loaded.
2 points by sc00ter 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Proof, if ever it were needed, that it's execution not the idea that's important. No doubt there are others too, as I have a half-backed prototype of pretty much this idea (including Amazon integration), however it's nowhere near finished (it was a Rails learning excercise), and even if it was, would never have looked half as good as this. Nice work!
2 points by boushley 18 hours ago 1 reply      
I really like the design, and the idea is nice. One suggestion I have is making some way to add books from your My Shelf page. I didn't see a way easily, and ended up just going to the browse page. I'm assuming that's probably the flow you want, but you may want to have a plus button or something on the shelf UI that links to the browse page for books.
2 points by mapster 16 hours ago 1 reply      
smashing success! Great idea and awesome execution. I think this sort of 'display my favorites' is wide open for niche products, like maps, for map lovers.
3 points by TimCourtney82 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Very cool project, Pek. It's been great to see you iterate on the design over the last several months.
1 point by wushupork 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Here's an example of what a profile page (your bookshelf) would look like: no login required


2 points by wushupork 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Ask HN: When do you stop working on a side-project?
4 points by peter_l_downs 14 hours ago   6 comments top 4
1 point by tjr 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Should you decide the site is defunct.... Can you reasonably easily modify it so it can run as a free Python web app hosted by Google? That would at least allow you to keep it running without paying for hosting. Releasing the code that does the summarizing as a Python library on GitHub would be another way of keeping something online as a portfolio piece.
1 point by triviatise 14 hours ago 1 reply      
hah this is really interesting. If you built it you might as well publish it. I think a monetization strategy is to find crappy sites on the web and help them to simplify their marketing message. We do software requirements and we receive hundreds of pages of documentation that we have to filter through. An algorithm that worked to help prioritize what we read first would be worth $$ to us and our clients.

Your system is also possibly a solution to tl;dr

I ran your program on your why section (which is too dense to read) and this is what it came up with:

1 (1.000000): The project started out as a simple text generator using Markov Chains, but I wanted to do something more useful.

2 (0.974359): After looking around, although it seems that a lot of people have tried using compling to detect plagiarism, summarizing is something relatively few people have done.

3 (0.611111): It's interesting to consider what exactly makes a sentence important, and if it's even possible to find an objective measure of 'meaningfulness'.

4 (0.222222): I'm interested in computational linguistics.

1 point by triviatise 13 hours ago 0 replies      
One other thing, if this can summarize articles down to their essence, you could create a site which takes HN articles and distills them down to the key points.

Again, solution to tl;dr

1 point by grimtrigger 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Market it to students. Insta-spark notes
Ask HN: Is my co-founder not suitable for a startup?
12 points by rnh123 10 hours ago   11 comments top 10
4 points by nostrademons 9 hours ago 0 replies      
How does his output and skills compare to the other developers? And what type of product is your startup building?

There's a wide variety of working styles that can work out for startups. Don't fall into the startup mythology of believing you have to work 7 days a week, 8-12 hours a day just for the sake of working all the time. Over the long run, you end up being less productive than a team that takes a more measured pace, because you tend to get tunnel vision and miss big opportunities in the haste to get your current goals done. Startups generally tend to be marathons, not sprints; that code you wrote at 3:00 AM in the morning early in your startup's history may end up killing it a year later when everything's been based off it and you find a flaw in the design.

OTOH, there are real cases when you need to crunch, and some startups (based on their product idea) need to crunch more than others. If you're trying to capitalize on someone else's platform that just got to market, it really behooves you to be faster than everyone else. The early iPhone and FaceBook app developers made a killing; the people who got in later, not so much. If you're commercializing academic research, this isn't as much of a factor, because there are many few competitors with the specific technical skills needed to replicate your product. Same if you're in a niche market that requires lots of specialized domain knowledge.

Regardless, you need to work out the expectations with your cofounder ASAP. If one of you expects to be working constantly and the other wants weekends off to be with his girlfriend, that's going to be a problem. It may not mean he's unsuitable for startups, but it probably means he's unsuitable for this startup. I've turned down cofounder positions because the level of intensity that the other cofounders wanted was very different from what I could sustain; that's just a bad situation waiting to happen.

1 point by staunch 3 hours ago 1 reply      
He's off base taking 10 days off without a reason (illness, etc). That's not cool.

You're way off base on the 3 day weekend. You should both spend an occasional long weekend with a loved one. Life is way too short to not do that. Just don't do it all the time.

I also don't agree with working every single day. You're not helping yourself by not taking breaks. Everyone should have 1-2 days per week of no work to recharge. Even hard core startup founders.

I'd say the magic number is 60 hours per week. Working more is a recipe for burn out. Working less is probably not pushing hard enough.

Once you're doing 60 hours per week your biggest problem is spending all that time in truly productive work. Optimize for that.

2 points by freshfunk 8 hours ago 0 replies      
There's really not enough data to give you great advice.

Is he a developer? Are you a developer? Is he really slow or is he just giving bad estimates on how long things take? Are you shifting specs which causes delays?

You're making character judgments of him and obviously you're biased and we have to take your word for it. You point out some anecdotes on his apparent laziness but you could do the same with anybody.

I think one think you can do is recognize that you and this person may not have the same mindset on how to work. That's not saying he's wrong or that you're right. It's saying that there's a disconnect that should be resolved.

Personally, I agree with nostrademons. Working those kind of hours can happen for crunch time but it's not a long term strategy for a company, even a startup. You'll burn out quickly and everyone will hate each other.

Work hard but take time off and don't neglect the rest of life otherwise you'll end up hating it. Leave time to refresh your batteries.

3 points by arst829 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Time spent does not always equal output. Some of the best startup founders in the world can do more in a day than another startup founder can do in a week. It's all about what they produce, not how they produce it.

If your partner meets or exceeds your goals of what should be created, then you shouldn't worry. However, if he is truly slowing things down, then that's a problem that needs to be explored further.

1 point by rnh123 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Thank you for all your answers. It seems like we are in some trouble (sign number one: I'm posting online under a throwaway account).

I'm going to try harder at communicating with him, and then see if he can keep up his side of work to make the two months product launch. I've launched a product of similar scope with the same sized team in a month before, so if we can't do it in two...I'll have my answer.

1 point by davetong 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I second @elgato75. If you're concerned now, then you guys aren't right together... Your co-founder has to be of all things reliable. It doesn't matter how smart they are or how many hours they put in, if they aren't reliable and there's no trust then your startup will have a difficult time succeeding.

Hence the reason why investors are just as likely to invest in a tight team as well as a good idea.

4 points by stray 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.
1 point by triviatise 7 hours ago 0 replies      
You know the answer. I work with about 25 ceos in various small businesses. I have not once seen or heard of a person changing their behavior when put on a performance plan.

People are always too slow to fire, but once they do, not once have I seen someone who regretted it. In fact most wish they had done it sooner.

Your gut is screaming that he is not a good fit.

1 point by elgato75 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Based on your dissatisfaction, sounds like you all will definitely break up sooner or later. Maybe the question you should ask is when is the right time to break up. From the little info you gave, it sounds like you shouldn't split up right now (as that would effect a "significant" distribution deal). After the launch, you should discuss with him how to transition things (perhaps he stays on and continues to help but at a different capacity).
1 point by triviatise 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I would also add that you are not being overly intense and he is not being overly relaxed. Both styles can work but probably not together because it is the heart of the culture of your company. Do you guys have a buy-sell agreement in place?
Ask HN: How do I improve marketing without being a domain expert?
3 points by pdenya 10 hours ago   2 comments top
1 point by pdenya 9 hours ago 1 reply      
Ask HN: Need reverse image search engine for my one-night webapp
7 points by nyellin 13 hours ago   4 comments top 3
2 points by nyellin 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Update: Bob Cavezza (rcavezza) suggested Face.com on StartupGuild, so I am testing that now. If Face.com doesn't work, I hope to hack Google/Bing related images, or locate images with unique filenames.
2 points by vyrotek 13 hours ago 1 reply      
I was going to recommend Tineye but it seems it didn't work for you. I'm curious to know what didn't work.
2 points by kposehn 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Interesting concept overall - Maybe do a freemium with a free first check that is a "lite" scan and the $1 for Facebook afterwards? Or, do the check and show the first 10 results and charge for the rest. Give them a taste of it first before asking for money maybe :)
Ask HN: Would you be interested in flash sales of new products?
5 points by dtyleryork 13 hours ago   discuss
Ask HN: Help me, I fuck around on the Internet too much
167 points by vain 2 days ago   143 comments top 67
69 points by jarin 2 days ago 6 replies      
I know the feeling, you're browsing around aimlessly, checking feeds, checking forums, etc. At some point you start getting that overwhelming feeling where you know you should be doing something productive, but it's just so easy to click one more link.

Here is the sequence I follow when I realize I've been up for 4 hours and still haven't gotten anything done yet:

- Eat something quick to prepare, if I haven't eaten yet. Watch Mixergy or something while I'm cooking/eating. This is the wind-down from "procrastination mode", and watching Mixergy reminds me that there are people out there busting their asses right now and taking all of my future customers or client dollars.

- Put on some good coding music. This puts my brain into "serious business" mode. I prefer energetic hip-hop or dubstep, something I can bop my head to and feel like a boss.

- Go through all my tabs, Pinboard and tag the ones I want to keep for later, and close all of the tabs that don't apply to what I should be working on.

- Take a post-it note and write down the 3 tasks I am going to accomplish today, come hell or high water.

- Get a coffee or energy drink, have a smoke (not recommended), and use the bathroom. Get my mental game plan together.

- Open Terminal and MacVim. This sets the stage.

- Pick a task that isn't on the post-it note (but needs to be done) that takes 10 minutes or less to bust out. Could be anything from a quick design fix to a wireframe or writing up a quick estimate. This is the warm-up.

- By this point, my brain is in full-on work mode. Jump in and tackle the work.

- Feel good. Eat dinner.

- Play Starcraft.

31 points by Homunculiheaded 2 days ago 2 replies      
My solution has been this: don't take crappy breaks, take real ones. Your brain can only focus for so long, it's normal that it needs a break, so naturally you drift over to the web. However this is not a great break and doesn't really refresh you. When I'm working on a project and find myself browsing HN for to long, I just get up and go outside, go for a walk, take a shower (I work from home), take a quick nap, even read a book or something similar. In all of these cases I a.) actually feel refreshed when I'm done, b.) usually spend over all less time distracted, and most importantly c.) gain insight into the problem I'm trying to solve by ignoring it.

Many offices cultures require that you 'look busy' and web browsing is a crappy form of relaxation that unfortunately fits in with this well. If you give your brain moments to actually relax you'll get more done with in far less time. Web browsing when you really need a break is roughly the same thing is snacking on junk food when you really need a wholesome meal.

edit: One key thing I only implied is: leave the space your in. So for example playing a round of video games on the same machine your working on won't work, but (if you can avoid playing all afternoon) going another room to play xbox for 30mins probably will work.

12 points by GHFigs 2 days ago 2 replies      
A significant and recurring step for myself has been recognizing that in my scramble to consume everything that seemed interesting I was trying to hoard something that's in rampant abundance.

You will never have enough time to dick around on the Internet, because there will always be new things that seem interesting. The most interesting thing in the world will be the thing you mark "Read Later" in the moments before you die. It never ends. You will.

What you've got to recognize in this is that "Does this seem interesting?" is not a good heuristic for reading / watching / listening / doing. It's the natural and intuitive one we're all equipped with, but it fails in a world of abundance. To get out of the trap you've got to internalize a rule more like "Do I need this for something?" or "Can I safely ignore this?" or "Am I going to act on this?"

Try it with the tabs you've got open right now and see how you feel.

7 points by paulitex 2 days ago 2 replies      
Just to be a contrarian... don't feel so bad. You're in good company.

"Perhaps fifteen of his [Leonardo da Vinci's] paintings survive, the small number due to his constant, and frequently disastrous, experimentation with new techniques, and his chronic procrastination.(" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonardo_da_Vinci (emphasis mine)

"One of the problems I've faced throughout life is that I'm kind of lazy, or maybe I lack will power or discipline or something."

- Paul Bucheit (http://paulbuchheit.blogspot.com/2011/02/two-paths-to-succes...)

(I've quoted that before, but it seems appropriate again here)

31 points by phlux 2 days ago 3 replies Reddit reddit.com techcrunch.com techcrunch news.ycombinator.com facebook.com fark.com


10 points by m0nastic 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've seen a few folks implement the following system (with varying degrees of success):

- Start a Virtual Machine

- Migrate all your IM, Email, Twitter, Facebook, RSS, HN, etc. to the VM

- When you want to focus/work, shut down the VM

I do something similar with an iPad. I don't check email, Twitter, RSS, or read web pages on my laptop anymore. I've migrated all that to the iPad.

11 points by bluedevil2k 2 days ago 2 replies      
It's all self-discipline. Like a diet, you could eat cake an ice cream every meal, but you'd become fat. You need the self-discipline to limit yourself on the Internet to remain productive.

Another way to lOok at it, depending on what motivates you ... Think in terms of "is mark zuckerberg wasting hours on these stupid forums every day?"

4 points by lhnn 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've started remedying this for myself.

What I did: Told myself not to go to Fark, Reddit, 4chan, or any adult websites. Slashdot, Drudgereport, and Hacker News were allowed for personal reasons (they have interesting content and news while filtering out a lot of low-value stuff. I also spend less time at the latter sites than the former).

-Movies. I watched a few movies and TV shows. Doing this helped my mind relax, because information overload DOES happen.

-Programming: I got back into Scala, and have an idea for a fun project I want to start working on. For me, programming is a mental exercise and is my outlet for creativity.

-People: When I don't have long hours at work (IT, surprise), I hang out with friends more. This can quickly drain funds, though, so watch your spending.

-Sex: Abstaining from adult material on the web for a few days makes you more ready for a mate, if there's one available.

-Less distraction: No matter what I list above, they were all things I devoted all my attention to while I was doing it (especially the last one). Browsing tons of sites on the net for hours on end kills your focus on specific tasks (like having a life, or truly excelling at a task).

Basically, interesting stuff on the Internet is like fats and oils on the old food pyramid: delicious, and necessary in small amounts.

Don't cut out every gluttonous activity you have. Start with the top two or three time-wasters, and start from there. Don't let yourself go to it at all. Cold turkey. Find other things to do when you get bored looking for articles.

26 points by maayank 2 days ago 0 replies      
Asking this on HN is not unlike asking in a drugs den how to quit crack-cocaine
9 points by Encosia 2 days ago 2 replies      
Buy an iPad.

Clear your computer's history/cookies, and never use it for distracting/unproductive sites again. Use the iPad exclusively for your unproductive browsing going forward (preferably in a different physical location).

You will be amazed at how quickly it pays for itself (and the browsing experience is better too).

3 points by SkyMarshal 2 days ago 1 reply      
Tune your internal filter more strictly. Three categories:

1. Signal.

If you're honest with yourself, no more than 10% of most social news will be signal for you, signal being defined as something that directly helps you improve your work. That 10% is different for different people doing different things, though. Read, bookmark, or pinboard the signal.

2. Useful to be aware of, not directly applicable.

Industry gossip & news, scan the headline and first paragraph so you're not totally ignorant about it at cocktail parties, then move on, don't dwell on it. This is different for different folks, depending on what you do. What's #2 for some is noise for others, and vice versa.

3. Noise.

Around half of social media. Infoporn, Entreporn, whatever. Not applicable to you, won't help to know about it at the expense of actually doing or making something yourself. Suppress your Pavlovian instincts and ignore it.

You could even take this a step further and just cut out #2 and #3 altogether. But if you do that you can also cut out #1 (social media entirely) and rely purely on search engines to find you stuff you need when you need it. Extreme, but there you go.

7 points by gexla 2 days ago 1 reply      
Really it's like watching T.V. except it's the internet. Brainless activities which keeps us just enough entertained that we don't go watch T.V. instead. ;)

It's also procrastination from doing the things you really need to be doing. So, check out the tips on dealing with procrastination.

I think what works best for me is to realize that I'm aimlessly wandering and just get up from the computer and do something else. Bonus points for getting out of the house. When I come back, if I fall into the same trap, then rinse and repeat.

Another trick is to simply do something productive on the computer for just 15 minutes. Set a timer and go. Once you get to that first 15 then usually that's all you need to keep going long enough to call it a day so that you can waste your time without feeling guilty that you didn't do anything. ;)

2 points by nostrademons 2 days ago 0 replies      
Most of the posts here focus on not doing the stuff you shouldn't be doing, but I've found it's much more effective on doing the things you should. The biggest help I've found was:

Break down your productive tasks into smaller ones that can be accomplished in an hour or two of concentrated work.

The big reason I procrastinate is because my real projects seem unmanageable. They're big, or they're scary, or they'll just take too much time to be worth investing in now. The solution to that is to make them smaller, less scary, and easily completed with the time you have now. That means doing more of them, but at least you'll be able to make forward progress.

I took on a 20% project at work with the express goal of teaching myself how to break down a large, self-motivated project into one that I can actually motivate myself to complete. It's a library that'll probably be 10-15k lines of code when completed, based on similar projects. Most commits are no larger than 200 lines of code. I can bang out 200 lines of code in an afternoon; that makes each individual piece seem quite reasonable.

3 points by zcid 2 days ago 0 replies      

I'm not sure where I first heard about this, but it has drastically improved my productivity. It doesn't do much to get me started, but it keeps me from leaving my workflow once I'm already there. The short breaks keep me from getting too drained, but I'm always back on time and working again. I love being a slave to my timer.

I usually use http://tomatoi.st/ to keep track, but there are a bunch of other apps to help you out.

3 points by bluedevil2k 2 days ago 0 replies      
As much as he's reviled on this site, Tim Ferris's suggestion (likely borrowed from someone else) has been a great tip. Each day, lay out 3 concrete items to get done. Then do them without interruption. You'll most likely be done with them by lunch. Then you can do pterosaur things the rest of the day. Surf if you're stuck in an office, go to the park if you work from home. By setting put concrete things and going about getting them done, you do them much faster than if you leave them nebulous with an indefinite time frame.
6 points by d2 2 days ago 0 replies      
Stop fucking around.
4 points by X4 2 days ago 0 replies      

0. Not enough knowledge and/or lying to yourself

1. Subliminally trying to flee from taks, because you know it's going to take so much time again.

2. Trying to do something which gives you short term success by posting/chatting/helping etc.


0. turnoff sound and your monitor!

1. read a programming book (offline) related to your
project! yes do it some hours and have a tea/coffee

2. create a todo (offline) / (digitalize it much later)

3. Analyse your project and start coding now.


0. I waste a very large amount of time for ("fun")

1. unquenchable thirst for things knowledgy

2. Not able to meet my time goals

3. Feeling lazy

Hope it helps

1 point by grammaton 2 days ago 0 replies      
Tabbed browsing is both a blessing and a curse. I found that I stopped wasting quite so much time surfing when I derived as much satisfaction from having only a few (mostly necessary) tabs open at any one time as I did from, say, cleaning the apartment or going for a walk. It was mainly a matter of rewiring where I get my sense of reward from, and acknowledging that the vast bulk of the stuff I read on the web just went right in one ear and out the other helped a lot. It's very sobering to tally up the number of hours a week you spend reading stuff you mostly won't remember by the end of said week - try it some time, it helped me a lot.
1 point by kristofferR 2 days ago 0 replies      
Here's four of my productivity hacks. The rest is actually quite similar to what jarin has said.

- The Pomodoro technique. I use Vitamin-R (great app for OS X)

- Immidiately when I see something that looks interesting but I really shouldn't be reading I send it to Instapaper. Each day I get the new stories from Instapaper automatically sent to my Kindle for bedtime reading. If you don't have a Kindle, get one!

- If it's a video, comments or something that's not really readable on the Kindle, I send it to pinboard.in

- When you eat breakfast, prepare a thermos of green tea for consumption through the day. It doesn't sound like it would be different from drinking coffee or energy drinks, but drinking green tea actually gives you a different type of energy. Instead of the energy rush energy drinks and coffee gives you, you get a more long lasting and natural feeling type of energy. It tastes good and is really healthy too.

2 points by Estragon 2 days ago 0 replies      
You're struggling with some kind of internal conflict about how to use your time. Sometimes you can power through that sort of thing by just telling yourself you HAVE to get going, or with technical measures like Leechblock. But those approaches are unsustainable, because they don't address the fundamental conflict. How do you feel when you're browsing frivolous material? How do you feel when you consider starting to work? How do you feel just before the urge to take a break arises? Get clear on these questions, and you will be clearer about the way forward.
1 point by praptak 2 days ago 0 replies      
Nobody mentioned the Leechblock Firefox plugin yet. Of course it only helps you by blocking chosen sites after a predefined spent time (highly configurable), it won't solve your problem for you.

But at least it gives you the "trigger" by bringing your attention to the fact you've already spent your alotted time goofing off.

3 points by edshadi 2 days ago 0 replies      
-wake up
-wash face and brush teeth.
-I set up my dev/work environment (terminal, textmate, browser on localhost, skype, etc) make sure that when I sit on my desk I don't need to do anything but work. I even make sure that I'm on the right git branch and check my status, check my tasks for the day and have the code I'm gonna work on up on the screen. Although I'm still a little sleepy (I need my coffee), I push through to get setup.
-Check my emails while in the bathroom
-make coffee/breakfast
-read HN or other news stuff while I eat.
by now, my environment is setup, my emails are checked, my news are in, my bowels are moved, my stomach ain't empty and I'm ready to hack away.

During lunch, I might check news/HN again, facebook for a sec, etc.

1 point by ohashi 1 day ago 0 replies      
I got a space at a startup lab/incubator. Only been there a week, but I've noticed that I get distracted a lot less when other people are around. Ironically, I am there especially for the social atmosphere because working from home can drive you nuts. But even with the social time, I am more productive because doing all those things like reading non-useful things, videos, games, etc just don't seem appropriate around others. Hoping this works for me, maybe it will help you too.
1 point by awolf 2 days ago 0 replies      
Stop visiting HN so much.

I recently started a routine of only visiting HN once per week - and only on the weekend. I use the 100 point threshold version to gather up all of the interesting articles I missed throughout the week.


I scan through the listing and throw anything I'm interested in reading into Instapaper. Now I'm stocked on great content to last me through the next week.

I'm finding that I'm a lot more focused now that my mind is not being tossed around constantly by whatever the trending topics-of-the-day might be. I'm now driven more to create than to consume.

2 points by johnyqi 2 days ago 1 reply      
I had similar problem, for quite long time, and probably I still do from time to time.

What really worked for me was to schedule time offs when I simply don't do certain tasks online. It took some time to implement that and my mind was playing tricks with me all the time.

I decided that my mornings, until 9:00 and evenings, after 19:00 are offline times and I would only use internet in the case of emergency or if some project has to be finished on time.

I was trying to quit reading news completely but than I realized that considering that I'm running online business I can't really do that, I have to be on top of the things to make sure that our services are always up to date.

I limited my reading activities only on few sources, Tech Crunch, Hacker News, Twitter (following max 50 people) and Facebook (also max 50 people). I give myself only 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening to go through my sources and to respond in some cases.

This was not easy to achieve, it's one kind of addiction and I even wrote a post about it few days ago, "How to deal with mental obesity" http://www.oceen.com/2011/04/01/podcast-information-overload...

Information overload is serious stuff but majority of people are still not aware of that. It's going to become one of the biggest problems in next decade and only way to fight it is to discipline yourself in same way as you discipline yourself with food.

2 points by bearwithclaws 2 days ago 0 replies      
3 points by FreshCode 2 days ago 0 replies      
My biggest weakness is too many tabs. I tend to have 200+ tabs open in Chrome stuffed with my primary procrastination implement: must-read technology news. If I start picking through them to close/mark for later reading, I inevitably start reading and simply reboot the procrastination cycle.

My best antidote: have your IDE ready to work and close all your browser tabs at once.

P.S. You know you read too much Hacker News when you wake up from a dream in which PG rejected both your startup ideas for funding.

2 points by xuki 2 days ago 2 replies      
Every time I need to get shit done, I go out and buy a pack of Redbull and drink it. I always thought it's the Redbull that keeps me awake, turn out it's just to set the mood so that I can get shit done.

Just bought another pack 2 mins ago.

1 point by joe_the_user 2 days ago 1 reply      
I actually find "aimlessly" browsing the web less of a time sink than going to the few websites that truly suck me in.

Lately, I've been using an egg timer to stop working every twenty minutes and stretch. This has the side effect of forcing me to also consider whether the last twenty minutes were productive. That I'm here shows it's not perfect but I do think it has helped (both keeping my body more active and my computer activities more productive).

1 point by code_duck 2 days ago 0 replies      
Block the sites that you waste too much time on.

I have a habit of loading news/discussion sites anytime I'm waiting for something to complete. Blocking the sites I use too much such as HN, Reddit, Craigslist etc. breaks my streaks of going to them, disrupting the habit. The 'site not available' message helps me refocus.

2 points by liljimmytables 2 days ago 0 replies      
Get back to work!

I don't really consider myself an expert on getting things done, but I will suggest one thing. Take a day off every week. A day off the internet, a day off anything with a screen, and a day off anything which is about paid work. When you sit at your computer and think "maybe just a few more rage comics[1]" you're actually feeling a bit uninspired. sitting and staring at your computer is the worst way to achieve inspiration. instead, do the housework, bake, take up a hardware project, knit, read, do a correspondence course. anything that is unimportant to your day job, and pleasant, and nothing to do with those computerboxes.

When my day off is over I go back to my myriad projects and sit down and actually do them. It's much much much more productive than trying to work all the time. I actually suspect this is one of the major advantages of the sabbath in Abrahamic religions.

Oh, and use bookmarks. The blogosphere is much easier to forget about when you know you can find all the good stuff at a later date.

Like I say I'm no expert, but this helps me. I find that when I try to break the trend and work all week my mind quickly devolves into that of a dullard drone.

Best of luck breaking that habit!

[1] don't judge me :(

2 points by kevinburke 2 days ago 0 replies      
Here are some steps I've taken - built http://rssafter5.appspot.com, and set up my email to oly download once every 4 hours, http://kburke.org/kevin/escaping-from-your-email/
1 point by gammarator 2 days ago 0 replies      
Lots of good commments here. I find the LeechBlock Firefox extension a helpful tool: very configurable. You can block certain sites at different times, or allow yourself a given amount of time on a site per day.


1 point by Mz 2 days ago 0 replies      
My standard reply when questions like this come up: If you can't stay focused, you may have an unrecognized health issue contributing to the problem. I have a really serious health issue and while very ill I fucked around a whole heckuva lot on the internet/computer. The healthier I get, the less I do the aimless futzing around type stuff. But, to this day, I wipe my computer/keyboard down (both at work and at home) before getting on it. I react pretty badly to dust and stuff. An unclean keyboard/work area can put me in a fog and make it impossible to stay focused.

Like others here have said: Eating right, controlling my blood sugar, and so on also contribute to my ability to remain focused. When my mind starts wandering at work, I get up, go to the restroom, and get a new drink and/or snack. Then I am usually good for another hour or two. (If your health issues are less serious than mine, I assume you probably won't need such frequent intervention.)

1 point by senegoid 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you are not meeting your goals, it could indicate they are unrealistic or not clear. Most of the tasks you do might be mundane, but they are necessary. The satisfaction from completing a list of tasks will drive you.

I have a method, which I find it extremely effective:

- At end of day, spend 30-45 minutes reviewing it, following up with people, and planning next day (already have a list of tasks saved). If I feel I need to improve in some areas (for example, presenting), I will create tasks from it (research presentation classes, book presentation class etc.)

- Each morning, spend 30-45 minutes entering tasks into my calendar so I know what I need to achieve for the day. Each task has a time period assigned to it. Make sure tasks don't overlap - pad the time

- Check emails every 45 minutes or so. Delete, defer, delegate or action (loosely based on David Allen's GTD)

- For new projects, break down into small parts and turn these into tasks. Some tasks might seem trivial, but that's okay

- Set-up two monitors. One has a task app open, so if something comes up (let's say by email), I can create a task out of it. Inbox is always visible. On my other monitor I have everything I need for the task at hand. If you don't need your browser open to complete the task, close it

- Reward myself for completing all tasks for the day

Other tips:

- Read about how people become great at something - focusing on the task itself is paramount. If you fail, gather feedback, make adjustments and do it again and again and again and again

- Burnout is very real. A particular industry might have a culture of late nights and 60-hour weeks, but humans are not designed for this. Burnout kills relationships. Stick to a reasonable work day and devote time to other activities, for example playing sport in a social setting, and most importantly spending time with those you care about

- Create a personal skills document, where you list out what you want to learn about/become skilled at. You can then create tasks and set a clear path for success. That way, you can let the goal drive your search for information instead of aimless browsing driving your goals

1 point by cheald 2 days ago 0 replies      
I use Toggl (http://www.toggl.com/) to track where I'm spending my time - when I pull up HN to read it, I swap to timing that. Somehow, having a timer logging how much time I spend on non-productive work helps keep me focused.
1 point by Psyonic 2 days ago 0 replies      
This might be unconventional, but it's the only thing that worked for me:

Exercise, but not out of duty. Use it to pump up your state and get endorphins flowing. Weight lifting works well, but pushups, squats and other body weight exercises are fine. Air boxing works really well for me. Running is ok but I haven't found it to be as effective.

End your shower each day with 3-5 minutes of cold water. While you're in it, fight to keep control of yourself. Stay resilient.

Basically force yourself to overcome trials everyday, and use that to get yourself into "Beast Mode." Once there, concentrating usually comes naturally.

2 points by swah 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm worse, I come here dozens of times a day, seeking new stuff done by folks smarter than myself, and later blame myself about the time I spent online, and how much more I would have won if I had instead read a book on programming languages for the last few hours.
1 point by ashitvora 2 days ago 0 replies      
- Unsubscribe from all the feeds except that are very very important for you. So you have at the max 20-25 feeds to read.

- Follow only those people who's tweets are very important. Don't follow people who have a habit of tweeting very 15 mins.

- Deactivate your facebook account.

- Go to any social site only when you are going to bed. Don't spend more than 30 mins there.

I have actually deactivated my facebook account.

There's too much info on the web, there's no point in reading / listening to all that if you can't apply or digest. If something is very important, you will eventually get to know about it from somewhere.

You don't always have to be the first one to know about it.

When tired, don't try to relax by visiting blogs, twitter, facebook, youtube.
Instead go out for 10 - 15 mins and get fresh air, make coffee.

It helps me alot. Might work for you.
I have been thru the same phase your are going thru :)

2 points by orlandop 2 days ago 1 reply      
How come no one has mentioned the Pomodoro Technique?
I started using it about a month ago, and I can tell you it's been my most productive month ever. I use the Pomodoro for Mac app to keep track of time. They recommend 25 minutes work blocks, with 5 minutes in between and 10 minutes every 4 blocks.

I found out that I prefer 40 minute blocks, with 5 minutes breaks, and then 20 minutes every four blocks to disconnect from everything and relax.

1 point by silverlake 2 days ago 0 replies      
I used Windows Live Family Safety to block all non-work related sites. Someone else controls the filter. It blocked my Internet addiction, but I found other ways to waste time.
1 point by aaronf 2 days ago 1 reply      
This is a classic procrastination story, but also a side effect of the 40-hour work-week. Would you still spend so much time surfing if you could go home when your work was done? Killing time eats into your free time, affects the quality of your work, and makes you feel lazy at the end of the day. The problem is not that you're reading all these articles; it's that you're reading them at the cost of your productivity. You'll enjoy this activity much more if you can do it after you know your day's work is done.

We're building LazyMeter to help with procrastination and overwhelming to-do lists. LazyMeter filters each user's overwhelming to-do list into a today list, so that they have an achievable goal each day, with an end point, and then tracks their progress so you can see how much they've done. Our users know exactly what they need to focus on, and can recognize when they're killing time. As a result, they know what to do, they know when they're done, and they feel better at the end of the day. We're now in beta and would love to get your feedback. http://www.LazyMeter.com

2 points by damaru 2 days ago 0 replies      
- Try to only create and care. If I am not creating nor caring then it's probably a waste of time (create = code, draw, make music, solder etc... care = do yoga, train, clean the house, repair stuff around the house, garden, water the plants, cook food etc...)

- klip.me to read page later on my kindle (any page that has a lot of text I send it to my kindle so I can walk away from my computer once in a while to read about other stuff I want to do)

- 2 screen computer - one for watching stuff (video,web stuff) one for working, creating,producing

- Being clear and telling myself : It's been 30minutes that you check facebook photo aimlessly anything else you can do ?

- Do the dishes, clean the house, have so non computer task that needs to be done when too much procrastination happen

- Not feeling bad or guilty as it ends up making me wanting to do more aimless browsing

- Have a precise goal and passion in my life ;) If I am confuse about these I make mind map to see where I am at !

1 point by vermasque 2 days ago 0 replies      
I understand the feeling. It can feel like that you'll be ignorant or less informed unless you click that next link. Keeping up with the Internet could be a full-time job.

When I get on my computer to get some work done, I usually jot down some things on a notepad or in vi about what I want to get done. When I do this, I usually get right into it the tasks at hand.

If I find myself wandering and realize it, I usually close my laptop or get up and walk around.

It's funny to see this because I've been reading HN for at least 2 hrs, and I realized a few minutes ago that I should have been doing other things.

If you use GNOME, there is a timer applet that will flash a notification message when the time runs out. I think I'm going to try timing things as I do them so I get flashed when I should be off.

1 point by gumbo 2 days ago 0 replies      
I know how it feel. We all at some point loose control while browsing.
It often start with a good intention: "let't have a quick look at the HN homepage" and several hours later you're still here reading news, success story.
This is even more frustracting at the end of the day as you lookback and notice nothing in your priority have move in the rigth direction.
I'm now more productive since i'm applying the GTD method it help me keeps control. I suggest you to read "making it all work".
1 point by simc 1 day ago 0 replies      
Make a contract with yourself. Set the times of the day when you shouldn't be screwing around on the internet. Get a program that takes screenshots of what is on your monitor every ten minutes or so. At the end of the day use those screenshots to estimate how much you spent screwing around on the internet inside "work time". For each hour spent, donate $10 (or more) to a hated poltical candiate's run for president. For example, Sarah Palin for President 2012.

If you are giving Sarah more than $100 each week, I think you should seek advice from a professional.

1 point by spacemanaki 2 days ago 0 replies      
Don't forget HN's "noprocrast" setting. I bet it's often overlooked but I found it invaluable in breaking the habit of "cmd-t news.yco..."-ing.
2 points by aangjie 2 days ago 0 replies      
Well, i didn't realize how much i was wasting on reading online(even though i had an idea) Then came across rescuetime got it installed and looking at the amount of time spent reading forced me to change a lot...now am a lot better. but still get into binges of old habits...
1 point by mcasaje 2 days ago 0 replies      
I haven't personally done this, but here goes!

- Make a list of websites you want to explore before doing work and give them a video/article count per website.
- At the end of the list add a video or article to read that pertains to your actual work/task that you wish to accomplish. Hopefully, after you read/watch this, you're more motivated to work or at the very least, you realize that you need to get cracking at it.
- Crawl into your 'Cave'. And I mean bury yourself! Block the outside world, listen to music that has no words (that you can understand), dim the room and have a spotlight upon your desk, get a pitcher of water and a pack of Depends. Whatever it takes!

Hope that helped a bit.

Good luck!

1 point by Luff 2 days ago 0 replies      
Alt text on http://xkcd.com/862/ :

"After years of trying various methods, I broke this habit by pitting my impatience against my laziness. I decoupled the action and the neurological reward by setting up a simple 30-second delay I had to wait through, in which I couldn't do anything else, before any new page or chat client would load (and only allowed one to run at once). The urge to check all those sites magically vanished--and my 'productive' computer use was unaffected."

Implemented in node.js: https://gist.github.com/845591 (by kuroikaze85)

1 point by jacoblyles 2 days ago 0 replies      
I start a project with other people so I am accountable to someone other than myself.
1 point by jlees 2 days ago 0 replies      
Productivity on desktop machine, browsing on the tablet/laptop. Pinboard/ReadItLater anything that looks like a timesink and catch up when away from the desk.
1 point by tobylane 2 days ago 0 replies      
Find some middling distractions that stop you from worse distractions. I find trance music stops me from looking around, hearing and thinking about odd noises without taking any of my attention, and also lifting my mood (uplifting trance podcasts like Lee Harris).

Control your blood sugar. This mostly means a good snack of at the very least, a piece of wholemeal toast, every 3-4 hours. No sugar, and probably no caffeine.

Find the limit to your want to do something else. I can binge on Wikipedia, but then I get bored and save all the pages I have open for another time. Keep doing this and the binges will get shorter in time, in about six months I got them down from two hours to 20 minutes.

1 point by fremdkraft 2 days ago 0 replies      
What has helped me is a well filled task list. I use pivotal tracker more or less as a task list and for some scope control, even though I work alone. I guess every form of task list will do the job, however.

The important thing is that there is some sort of backlog. That serves two purposes: I feel more motivated to get started when I see all the work which needs to get done as concrete steps. And I can pick a simple or complex task whichever fits my work mode best at the time.

1 point by astrodust 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's pretty simple how to fix it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYLMTvxOaeE
1 point by uahal 2 days ago 0 replies      
1) Maintain a long list of large issues you need to resolve.

2) Regularly take a few of those items off the list and resolve to do them in a given g session.

3) When not working, take a real break. Do something else.

4) Exercise regularly. This is so massively critical for me that I can't overstate it. Regular exercise aids in focus, sleep and maintaining a positive mental attitude.

2 points by GeoffreyHull 2 days ago 1 reply      
Try the Google Chrome extension StayFocusd. Its essentially a website timer that blocks time-wasting websites after a predetermined amount of time has expired. Good luck..
2 points by denysonique 2 days ago 0 replies      
Ok, now I am stopping reading TechCrunch, HN etc. Back to http://localhost:3000
1 point by humblest_ever 2 days ago 0 replies      
I got an app for time tracking and I track everything. Eating, watching videos, browsing, sleeping, and the occasional working. It's awesome because when I looked back at the pie chart for the day and see three quarters of it is sleeping and browsing, I felt like a complete doofus.

(I use aTimeLogger, it's free and does everything I need)

2 points by yycom 2 days ago 0 replies      
Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I do this.
Doctor: Then stop doing it!
1 point by jonsen 2 days ago 0 replies      
At my age I don't have the agility to fuck around too much anymore. I can spend a full day on HN.
1 point by rbarooah 2 days ago 0 replies      
1 point by KleinmanB 2 days ago 0 replies      
1 point by dbuizert 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am using Stickies to write down my to-do. I have them on my desktop at all time. This way I know what to do at what time.
1 point by andrewstuart 2 days ago 0 replies      
My router allows me to blacklist sites during working hours.
1 point by denysonique 2 days ago 0 replies      
Just like reading this article right now...
2 points by ssutch 2 days ago 0 replies      
Smoke less weed.
Idea HN: OneNote for the Web?
11 points by wslh 1 day ago   12 comments top 3
3 points by magic_haze 1 day ago 1 reply      
ah, OneNote... so much potential, yet such an appalling lack of vision. The online version of onenote you mention is one of the best experiences I've seen in a javascript-based editor - blows google docs out of the water in terms of responsiveness and simplicity. And where does Microsoft put it? Some dark corner of that Windows Live documents/skydrive mess no one ever uses.

I feel OneNote would be better if it acquired that awesome Operational Transformation features that Etherpad demonstrated so well, and shed all that fancy formatting features that requires so much complexity.

Normal people don't require yet another Word clone - a simple editor that supports basic Markdown-like features (bullet points, numbering, headlines) is perfectly sufficient to get the contents of a document rolling (and if needed, Word can be used for adding formatting later), but what _is_ essential is a dead simple way to collaborate.

I've been following the OneNote team blog for quite a while now, and it seems like they're adding more collaboration features in the next version of Office, but don't hold your breath - it looks like yet another incredibly complicated mechanism that requires more trouble than it is worth.


2 points by mwilcox 1 day ago 0 replies      
I bought a Mac this semester, mainly for use for general university study. OS X is great, but Evernote is nothing compared to OneNote, and I've considered installing Windows on Boot Camp just for OneNote.
1 point by SoftwarePatent 1 day ago 2 replies      
Have you tried Evernote?


Ask HN: What open source packages are available to display chart and graphs?
6 points by zubairshams 17 hours ago   8 comments top 6
1 point by _delirium 16 hours ago 0 replies      
For time-series, I like dygraphs: http://dygraphs.com/

For server-side chart generation, I tend to use matplotlib (semi-recently changed from gnuplot).

2 points by flacon 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Highcharts is my fav and default charting library.


Highcharts is not open source but is free to use for non-commercial use.
I have paid the $80 to use it on commercial websites and client/managers are always very impressed with its capabilities. I think its well-worth the $$


3 points by jsundram 16 hours ago 1 reply      
There's always Protovis: http://vis.stanford.edu/protovis/
1 point by madhouse 17 hours ago 0 replies      
There's flot: http://code.google.com/p/flot/
Raphael.js (along with gRaphael): http://raphaeljs.com/
jqPlot: http://www.jqplot.com/

I'd recommend flot out of these three, had the best experience with that one so far.

1 point by JoshCole 9 hours ago 0 replies      
One option, depending on the type of chart your looking for, might be the Javascript InfoVis Toolkit: http://thejit.org/
1 point by jschrf 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Check out Flot for jQuery: http://code.google.com/p/flot/

Some excellent examples here (scroll down):


Ask HN: Is that important for a developer to have an impressive personal page?
6 points by cosmorocket 16 hours ago   1 comment top
1 point by flacon 16 hours ago 0 replies      
It doesn't hurt. Though an impressive Github repo might make more waves with developers. Depends on who your trying to impress/appeal to.
Ask HN: How would we know if the tech bubble "popped"?
4 points by baran 17 hours ago   1 comment top
2 points by jtregunna 17 hours ago 0 replies      
News will get around if there's no money to be had for future projects. That said, don't focus on the bubble, focus on your ideas. Distractions kill.
Ask HN: What would make you quit Delicious?
4 points by rinnku 18 hours ago   6 comments top 3
1 point by mhd 18 hours ago 1 reply      
A good collective tagging interface is something I'd really like. Give me a bookmarklet that just let's me send something to the site (with a simple, Instapaper-like "saved") and once I've got enough time let me sort them and apply tags. And it should be better than clicking checkboxes... (at least something with gmail-like keyboard navigation)

Don't really care about the whole "social" aspect myself, so it would be nice if there aren't any new features in that area that distract you if you don't need 'em. That includes cluttered interfaces...

1 point by runjake 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Already done.


I migrated my delicious library to it in a minute or two.

1 point by jdee 18 hours ago 1 reply      
A working firefox 4 compatable bookmarklet. The delicious one doesnt work in firefox 4.
       cached 5 April 2011 09:05:01 GMT