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YC Summer 2011 Applicants Live Web Chat
7 points by abtinf 20 minutes ago   discuss
Ask HN: Review my MVP - Scenic Motorcycle Routes from Three Rides
26 points by bigsassy 2 hours ago   28 comments top 12
5 points by mikerhoads 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I had a similar but more generic idea. People could share routes and rate them for what they are good for (ie motorcycles, seeing autumn foliage, straightaways good for speeding, etc). Glad to see someone doing this and would love to see you expand it further.

My advice: Don't give people a search box and return an error if you are going limit them to certain areas. You should either:

Remove the search box and showcase the limited content that you do have with a message which areas are coming next


Leave the search box open to any input and then prompt users to add their own routes in regions you do not currently have content for.

I'd also recommend a subscribe feature, so I can be alerted when new routes are added for cities that I am interested in.

EDIT: I'd also think about adding a feature that showcases key interest points along routes (The view at this point is amazing or try the peach cobbler at so and so diner).

Good luck

2 points by cullenking 1 hour ago 2 replies      
I like the idea, and I hope you focus your efforts on a mobile application. Having a good ride database is definitely cool, but there are existing ride databases out there (EveryTrail, RideWithGPS). What there isn't though, is an adhoc notification system for going on rides. What would be really cool to have is a mobile app that notified me when someone was going to start a ride in my area. As a motorcycle rider myself, I don't often plan on going riding a couple days in advance, I just get the itch to get out and go and will usually take off within 30-60 minutes from getting that itch. If I could, using my phone or the site, declare I was leaving on a ride and have that published, and anyone in the area also subscribed to the area could consume it (be notified automatically), that would be really cool. I would focus more on connecting people than on mapping. From my experience with ridewithgps, motorcyclists are more social hungry than data/map hungry, so I think you'll find better traction with this approach. Obviously you want to keep up with the mapping portion so you can have your marketing ideas work out, but I wouldn't make it the foreground of the user experience.
1 point by apitaru 20 minutes ago 0 replies      
I think you're off to a great start. Looking forward to seeing you grow the service.

I recommend heading over to the http://www.advrider.com/ forums - it's a great community of riders (mostly dual-sport) and I'm sure you'll get great feedback there. Also, try to observe how they set up meetups for rides - it might help you decide on which features to build next.

As for the site itself - I love the design, not as macho as other sites out there. I wonder how riders will react to it (I'm guessing the scenic riders might like it more then adventure riders - but who knows).

Good luck!

2 points by marcamillion 1 hour ago 1 reply      
Hey bigsassy congrats on finally launching! I know you been working on this for a while now.

I am not the target audience, but I hope you get good feedback :)

5 points by bradhe 2 hours ago 0 replies      
2 points by bradhe 2 hours ago 1 reply      
"and even when a buddy is riding near you"

Holy crap that sounds scary! Is it safe to receive push notifications while you're riding a motorcycle? I would assume it's more dangerous than driving a car so...

"Income will be generated through marketing tools businesses can use to reach riders in their area"

Sounds like a pretty solid idea! Do you have a particular in with these companies or something? The chicken/egg problem could be rough if you don't have a short runway.

2 points by rgarris 40 minutes ago 1 reply      
I agree with the comments about more content. Overall the idea is great and I'd use the site often. Currently the way the route is provided it feels like a "push" to take the route, there's nothing "pulling me down the road". It would be fantastic if the route results would offer categories of information such as:
- Bike friendly stops
- Sites to see
- Grub (ie - unusual places to eat)
- Things to find (a little geocaching anyone?)
- Join (or start) a group ride for this route

and so on.

Looking forward to using this tool frequently!


2 points by Mamady 1 hour ago 1 reply      
As an avid biker I can tell you this is an awesome idea!

There are already a lot of ride-outs happening, most of them are organized through forums - this makes things difficult and not 'realtime'. An site/app like this would really hit the spot.

If you ever need feedback from a biker, I would be happy to lend a hand.

One thought - you should allow users to give their email to get an update when their city is supported (Im in London, UK).

1 point by bretthopper 1 hour ago 0 replies      
#enter_location form is causing a horizontal scrollbar since the width isn't set on it. Try width: 600px;
2 points by reustle 52 minutes ago 1 reply      
Hurry up and complete PA, I worked at a dealer for 2 years and can try to get you worked into the system there.
3 points by diginux 2 hours ago 2 replies      
It'd be cool to do the same thing, but for bicycle routes!
1 point by tocomment 2 hours ago 1 reply      
Cool beans. What's an MVP?
Must Read CS Books For Self Self-Taught Programmers
192 points by stefanve 16 hours ago   59 comments top 29
13 points by nikcub 14 hours ago 3 replies      
I am also self-taught, although I dropped out of University two years into a CompSci/Engineering double major, so I will recommend some resources to you that helped me immensely. Each of these books has an associated MIT course with lecture video, notes, etc. available online.

First is Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs[1], which you can read online, and the associated course at MIT, which is 6.001[2]

Second is the famous 'Dragon Book', Compilers: Principals, Techniques and Tools[3] and the associated course which is 6.035[4]

Extras would be the Python book 'How to think like a Computer Scientist'[5]. MIT course 6.00[6] uses the book as a reference, and the courseware is again available online.

Other than that - the usual suspects on learning C (K&R), UNIX (TAOUP[7]), the bash shell along with grep, sed, awk, more algorithms(CLRS[8]), functional programming and machine learning. Take your time, it takes years to build the relevant experience and knowledge and you are never done.

I love the MIT courses. Work and learn at your own rate. I feel that it is important to implement all the code yourself even if it looks easy in a lecture - there are little things you pick up as you write algorithms out.

Even though I had worked through SICP I still watched all the lectures again and implemented all the examples with benchmarks and unit tests. I usually set aside one day on the weekend to work on study, and usually an extra evening or two mid-week to read papers and books. Once you get into the routine it is great.

It might be the best approach to set yourself a timetable and weekly schedule, just like in UNI (ie. every Saturday plus Tuesday and Thursday nights) and work through the MIT courseware and associated books in order (6.00, 6.001, 6.035). The more advanced MIT courseware is an excellent bonus.

[1] http://xrl.us/sicp

[2] http://xrl.us/6001

[3] http://xrl.us/dragonbook

[4] http://xrl.us/6035

[5] http://xrl.us/thinkcs

[6] http://xrl.us/6000

[7] http://xrl.us/artunix

[8] http://xrl.us/clrs

9 points by T-R 15 hours ago 5 replies      
It really depends on what you feel you're missing and what you're hoping to do (definitions of "daily work" vary widely). If you're looking to get up on theory by doing your own program of sorts, you could do worse than start with these (in roughly this order):

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs - Abelson, Sussman, and Sussman

Introduction to Algorithms - Cormen, Leiserson, Rivest, and Stein

The Art of Assembly Language - Hyde

a digital logic book (not sure which is most recommended), and an architecture book (see reply by tftfmacedo)

Modern Operating Systems - Tanenbaum

Introduction to the Theory of Computation - Sipser

Compilers: Principles, Techniques, and Tools - Aho, Lam, Sethi, and Ullman (a.k.a. "Dragon Book")

Programming Language Pragmatics - Scott

A database design book (one that covers Relational Algebra, not just a book on SQL), and maybe a book on Networks. Also, Roy Fielding's paper on REST is both academic and applicable (and more approachable than you'd expect of a Ph.D paper). If you want to go all the way, an undergraduate program usually also has Calculus, Discrete Math, Linear Algebra, and Statistics. Some schools would also require Physics and Differential Equations. I'm sure I'm missing some topics, too, particularly electives.

If you can get through those and the associated problem sets, you'll have a better foundation than most.

6 points by stevelosh 11 hours ago 1 reply      
My vote goes for The Little Schemer. It's short (but don't read it all in one sitting), entertaining, and will teach you some important concepts.


5 points by dragonquest 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Over the years I've found the following CS books helpful, but only a minority in my day-to-day work. Your mileage may vary, as would the utility of these to you.

Algorithms -> Algorithms + Data Structures = Programs by Wirth (worth its weight in gold if you can get past the Pascal syntax)

OS -> Operating System Concepts by Silberschatz et al (The dinosaur book)

CS Theory -> Introduction to Automata Theory, Languages, and Computation by Hopcroft, Ullman

Programming Languages Theory -> Programming languages: design and implementation by Pratt et al

Database Theory -> Database Design by Wiederhold

Architecture -> Structured Computer Organization by Andrew S Tanenbaum

5 points by metra 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Along with the usual classics, I highly recommend Computer Systems: A Programmer's Perspective by Randal E. Bryant and David R. O'Hallaron of Carnegie Mellon. The authors wrote it after teaching a class on the subject. It's extremely readable and gives you an excellent introduction of machine level code, processor architecture and memory as well as a solid foundation of higher level concepts including networking and concurrency. If you're considering programming as a career, I'd say this book (or something similar, probably spread across multiple books) is a must-read. It's used by CMU, Stanford, Caltech, UIUC, Harvard and dozens of other schools.


9 points by samdalton 15 hours ago 1 reply      
While not strictly a CS book, "Godel, Escher, Bach" by Douglas Hofstadter definitely has strong roots in the area. It's not a text book, nor anything even close, however, there is a reasonable amount of mathematics and programming language design which make it educational as well as inspirational (particularly formal logic systems, around which the premise of the book is built).

The book is somewhat life changing, in the questions that it asks. You might find yourself thinking about things differently, such as what it is to be conscious, can we ever achieve artificial intelligence, is there such a thing as fate, how was J.S. Bach able to produce such stunning compositions, etc.

It's quite heavy going however, but there's a slightly more succinct, terse version which he wrote a few years ago, called "I Am a Strange Loop". This book takes the point he was trying to make in the first book, and expands on it while adding clarification. It does lack a lot of story that the original contained, so it's not a complete replacement however.

While I think of it, there's also Operating System Concepts by Silberschatz, Gagne and Galvin - http://www.amazon.com/Operating-System-Concepts-Windows-Upda....
It's an extremely detailed look at how operating systems work, down to the lowest level, and it explains a large number of things that we interact with on a daily basis.

4 points by kamechan 15 hours ago 4 replies      
functional stuff is making a comeback. haskell can be daunting in its pure-ness sometimes, requiring monads for seemingly anything useful. but it's a wonderful language/lifestyle choice. this online book broaches the subject pretty well: http://learnyouahaskell.com/chapters
2 points by dlo 6 hours ago 0 replies      
What I often find to be the case is that a course in college only loosely follows the assigned book. Professors like to navigate through the subject material in a very personal way, which will often not be the way that it is covered in the book... if it is covered in the book at all!
For this experience, I would suggest going through lecture notes and, when necessary, supplementing them with a book.

While books are certainly valuable in someone's education, I think we are forgetting about the projects. It is very instructive, not to mention very satisfying, to implement an operating system, a compiler, or a transport layer (that interoperates with real TCP!). Moreso than reading the books of a college course, I recommend doing its projects.

To get started, I recommend the Pintos operating system, designed for Stanford's operating systems course, CS 140, traditionally thought to one of the more difficult programming courses in their undergraduate curriculum.

Some links.


6 points by wicknicks 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Programming is more about thinking in a certain way than algorithms or data structures (those are the tools). You should check out the book Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs -- I found it "enlightening"
2 points by danieldk 14 hours ago 1 reply      
The standard for computational grammars and parsers in natural language processing is:

Prolog and Natural-Language Analysis - Fernando C. N. Pereira and Stuart M. Shieber

The PDF is available from the publisher:

It also serves as a great introduction to Prolog and logics programming.

2 points by jollyjerry 8 hours ago 0 replies      
3 books that I helped me tie my daily work back to more abstract computer science concepts are:

- Ruby Best Practices
- Javascript, the Good Parts
- Higher Order Perl

I recommend picking these up after you've done work in the languages they're about. They assume that you're already comfortable with the language, but then go back to show how that language uses CS concepts. They highlight how functional programming, and other classic introductory CS concepts, but stays practical. None of them are long reads, and there are clear take aways that make you better at programming.

2 points by saurabhsharan 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Two suggestions:

Elements of Programming (by Alexander Stepanov and Paul McJones) takes a mathematical approach to programming. Since its only prerequisite is a basic understanding of high school algebra, the book is very accessible and easy to follow.

Digital Design and Computer Architecture (by David Harris and Sarah Harris) is a great book on computer architecture that starts with digital logic design (i.e. gates and transistors) and ends with a subset of the MIPS instruction set. Though, it probably won't help you much in 'daily work'.

2 points by svag 14 hours ago 0 replies      
You can find some resources in a similar discussion here http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=297289

You can find some resources, mostly books, in the following links



1 point by rshepherd 3 hours ago 0 replies      
This response is late that I doubt will even be read by the poster, but I will throw this out there anyway.

I was (am?) a self-taught programmer, I guess I am transitioning away of that label. I am a bit less than halfway through the MSCS program at the moment. I really cannot recommend it enough.

I think I was a pretty good software engineer prior to getting some formal education, but I cannot tell you how often in class the light from heaven just shines right down.. "oh so that's why x is y". If you enjoy the work, its a real pleasure (albeit a painful amount of work at times).

So finally I get to the point. I can see that you have already received a lot of good recommendations. I think most of them are quite good. However, I have a couple of observations about specific books.

Intro to Algorithms - Cormen etc.
If you feel you need a discrete math course, then this book is probably not a good place to start with algorithms. It is a rigorous treatment of the subject. However, if you lack mathematical sophistication, this book can be tough. I aced my discrete course prior to taking an algorithms course taught with this book, and I struggled mightily to get an A-. I found the proofs in the book difficult to understand on many occasions.

Modern Operating Systems - Tannenbaum
This book is very easy to understand and provided me with so many "A HA!" moments. A real pleasure. I am not sure what your current work is, but the only pre-req on this book is a modest amount of C/C++ programming. The reason I say this is because I found that having that, this book allowed me to finally understand what is happening from compile time down to the CPU at runtime. A really rewarding journey.

4 points by dytrivedi 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Godel, Escher, Bach


Art of Computer Programming

C Programming Language

Introduction to Algorithms

Land of Lisp

-- Extracted from my wishlist - http://flipkart.com/wishlist/dhavaltrivedi

2 points by mbesto 13 hours ago 0 replies      
How to Think Like a Computer Scientist - Python Version


2 points by jdj 14 hours ago 1 reply      
One book that I would suggest to anyone is Introduction to Automata Theory, Languages, and Computation - HMU. It is very approachable and presents some very interesting topics (so you won't write a regex for matching HTML and will learn what P vs NP means). On a more practical side, I think that a must read for machine learning is Tom Mitchell - Machine Learning . Another book that from what I've heard is easier to digest is Data Mining: Practical Machine Learning Tools and Techniques.
1 point by iqster 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Peopleware - This isn't a programming book, but I feel that every professional programmer (and certainly every manager) should have read it. It is about the human aspect of programming. Programmers are people too!
3 points by rohitarondekar 10 hours ago 1 reply      
Can anybody recommend a good book or resource for learning discreet mathematics?
3 points by stefanve 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Updated list: (still unsorted)


2 points by Tinned_Tuna 12 hours ago 1 reply      
I can't remember who said it, but

"If you can write a compiler, you can write any program."

Hence, I'd get compiler books. Modern Compiler Implementation in Standard ML, SICP has a couple of sections on compilation, there's a computational theory book that I don't have on hand which would be useful to this end too.

1 point by mynegation 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Previous HN thread on a similar topic: http://news.ycombinator.org/item?id=2262527
1 point by thekevan 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I'd like to hear HN's opinion on the quality of this list:


1 point by netaustin 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture by Martin Fowler helped me make the jump from small systems built for myself to large, sophisticated systems built for others.

The Mythical Man Month by Fred Brooks really helped me learn to think about large projects from a personnel and planning perspective. There are some ideas there that have become part of the CS canon; "no silver bullet" and the slightly sexist but accurate metaphor for throwing more people at an overdue project, "nine women can't make a baby in one month." The Mythical Man Month was written in 1975, but it holds up remarkably well.

1 point by gharbad 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Knuth's Art of Computer Programming

Aside from that, there are typically only 1-2 extremely well regarded books in any given area. If you're going to be doing something specific, grab the appropriate book.


Compilers - Dragon Book

AI - Russel/Norvig's Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach

Oh.. everyone needs a whiteboard, as well - they're quite useful

0 points by cema 11 hours ago 0 replies      
FYI, you have listed several books twice (SICP, Intro to Algorithms).
2 points by tmachinecharmer 14 hours ago 0 replies      
The Annotated Turing by Charles Petzold
2 points by garethdown44 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Programming Paradigms - stanford course, available on iTunesU.
1 point by known 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Ask HN: Should we raise money from people who aren't accredited investors?
6 points by ncash 2 hours ago   5 comments top 3
1 point by bdclimber14 18 minutes ago 1 reply      
I have a friend who raised a small amount from an unaccredited investor. The investor was a trusted family friend. The startup went nowhere, and the investor lost all her money. She was irate and demanded all her money back. No matter how much explanation you give of the risk, some unaccredited investors will still not understand.
2 points by mryall 2 hours ago 0 replies      
You definitely want to have a proper shareholder agreement and make sure any amateur investors understand the terms of it before going ahead.

Some potential problems: investors not understanding what kind of shares they have (probably non-voting) and expecting a say in where the company goes, investors expecting to be able to pull their money out or sell the shares when they feel like it, investors expecting dividends from your company when you want to retain all the profits. It's mostly about expectations, which can be managed if you're prepared up front.

1 point by staunch 2 hours ago 0 replies      
IANAL. Try to avoid it. If you really want to do it anyway make sure your lawyer is really familiar with the proper procedures.

There's more potential that a non-accredited investor will try to cause trouble or be a pain in the ass later. Make sure it's someone you know well and can trust.

Ask HN: Review our project Zorter - Redefining rankings
17 points by wengzilla 5 hours ago   7 comments top 3
1 point by ffumarola 5 hours ago 1 reply      
Clickable http://www.zorter.com

I just checked it out for best neighborhoods in NYC, seems like a really cool idea! Nice work. One thing, though, is I don't understand how it ranks the attributes as best or worst.

Example: Transit options. What if I want a car heavy transportation system versus a mass transit option (not the case)? And what if I DON'T want bars/nightlife around, as in I actively want to be away from them (again, not the case)? Just a few what-if's... not sure how you would expose the attribute for user manipulation.

1 point by metri 2 hours ago 1 reply      
Wow, cool project. My team is actually looking for a neat new application to work on -- I think perhaps we'll take a stab at something like this. Thanks for the idea!
1 point by rokkrulec 4 hours ago 1 reply      
Make API to cover web and mobile app market.
Ask HN: How to make tech friends?
9 points by plainOldText 5 hours ago   5 comments top 3
3 points by dstein 2 hours ago 0 replies      
http://www.meetup.com is a great place to meet developers in your area. There might be more around than you think.
6 points by hanifvirani 5 hours ago 2 replies      
Here are a few ways that come to mind:

1) Attend local tech meetups, hackathons, conferences.

2) Contribute to open source projects.

3) Be active in an online tech community, like HN.

4) Start a blog and write about technically intriguing stuff.

5) Build something cool and share it with everyone.

1 point by athesyn 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Ask HN: Looking for collaborator/partner
3 points by imechura 2 hours ago   1 comment top
1 point by mikelbring 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I have had this same idea on my plate but did not get around to building it. Would love to speak with you, email is in my profile (I live in Arkansas).
Ask HN: What are you working on?
39 points by stevenj 7 hours ago   73 comments top 49
1 point by bdclimber14 17 minutes ago 0 replies      
http://getrunrate.com. Better double-entry bookkeeping software for small businesses. Collecting beta invites and validating features.
2 points by ascendant 6 hours ago 2 replies      
I'm in the preliminary research stages of building a series of stock tools that allow users to do arbitrary searches on the intarwebs and then correlate the data with historical price data on equities. I registered tinystocktools.com but nothing is up there yet as I'm just tinkering with what sort of free API's I have available to me at the moment before I start seriously building it.

There will be social aspects to it but I'm so tired of "social" being the main focus so it's definitely going to be more of a research/monitoring tool that begrudgingly lets you tap into your FB and twitter networks as part of it.

There will be a consumer-facing interface but I'd also like to create a nice streamlined API so people can leverage my platform as well.

1 point by petervandijck 27 minutes ago 0 replies      
http://gethirely.com, getting ready to open up soon.
2 points by david927 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Making tablet computers the ultimate device for a kid:

Kongoroo (http://www.kongoroo.com)

This is the mvp but we will have a much nicer beta version in the coming weeks.

1 point by samps 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Just released a new version of beets, an open-source CLI music management tool for nerds:

It's supposed to be an extensible and fast alternative to iTunes, MusicBrainz Picard, and other tools. It's getting there.

3 points by lovskogen 6 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm a product designer that does graphic and interface design and HTML/CSS. But lately I've really wanted to build something that works, not just static stuff. So..

Installed node.js, the Express framework, and are now messing around in Jade templates. Also installed the mongodb driver via npm (node package manager), but have zero clue how to make a database and hooking it into my node app. Next step is to follow along a blog engine tutorial to learn some more.

1 point by imechura 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I am working on an MVP for a staff scheduling application to help small-to-medium businesses schedule and communicate with their employees and I am looking for a collaborator or cofounder

See: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2417022

1 point by defdac 5 hours ago 0 replies      
A physically based renderer that will be able to calculate photosynthetically active radiation and usable radiation in aquariums. I'm into planted tanks. Currently I'm mostly programming the render part and decided that a stochastically progressive photon mapper is good enough and will make it easy to calculate the intensity and reflector efficiency and also get a photo realistic render of the tank. I'm using Java3D to grab/create the geometry and parts of pbrt in my own sppm-implementation. Here is the latest result: http://www.flickr.com/photos/defdac/5513265646/

Don't know if it is startup material though? It's a hobby but I would really love working with light calculations or combine my knowledge about plant physiology, electro magnetic radiation and graphics programming.

1 point by zarprey 55 minutes ago 0 replies      
I'm working on an iphone/ipad app for kids. It's a silly thing just a coloring book but we're trying to make it better than anything else out there interface-wise and we're experimenting with in-app purchases and a bunch of other ios features. It's my first app that i've worked on from concept to execution so its pretty exciting to me.
1 point by snikolov 3 hours ago 0 replies      
* A robot that does gymnastics. http://fairlypre.posterous.com/robot-gymnastics
It's a final project for a class on computational control of nonlinear underactuated dynamical systems.

* A system that automatically finds features in fly embryos and spatially aligns them. Once they are spatially aligned, one can build a model of how they develop, and map those dynamics back to the properties of the genome that caused them.

3 points by lefstathiou 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Groupie (www.groupie.mobi), social network that connects people who share interests. Currently on the iPhone, building out the web portal over the coming weeks.50k+ users, 15k+ groups
2 points by marcomonteiro 6 hours ago 2 replies      
Putting the real Multiple Listing Service back in the hands (literally) of real estate professionals and combining it with tools that helps them make sense of the real estate market. It's part listing syndication, analytics and social networking.
1 point by abyssknight 4 hours ago 1 reply      
Working with FAMiLab on creating a low cost sensor battery for classrooms as part of the Element-14 Great Global Hackerspace Challenge.

Otherwise, trying desperately to get out of a recent spout of burnout, loss of motivation, and chronic perfectionism. I have, arguably, one of the best job situations in the world right now but I'm not enjoying it. The work I do is just not profoundly satisfying, despite being able to do weeks of it in a couple hours with minimal error and rework. Taking suggestions on that if anyone has any.

1 point by civilian 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Work: Making www.iegallery.com more functional.

Personal project: Tinkering with the Emotiv headset & emokit's hack. ( https://github.com/daeken/Emokit )
(If there are any other emotiv hobbyists here, email me!)

1 point by jrussbowman 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Unscatter.com http://www.unscatter.com - A search site (not engine) still in major product development. My TODO list includes simple things like fixing a bug for blekko searches that return 0 results throwing an error page, all the way to build a realtime engine using zeromq and multiple tornado parsing engines to dump into mongodb for the tornado front ends.

What it will likely be is a process of fix the bug, make a new logo (got a great idea for one), add more apis for the raw search, then get to real time processing.

I'm also considering trying to write a caching reverse proxy using tornado and zeromq ( or maybe make it an opportunity to teach myself erlang ) while on vacation to replace nginx. Mainly to keep my mind busy as I'll be in location where I don't think I'll have internet access. Seems like a good time to write a proxy and possibly learn a new language.

1 point by genbattle 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Dell Stage:

It's very much a consumer-facing product, built on technology somewhere between a game engine and Flash.

edit: Also working on learning Google Go and OpenCL in my spare time, as well as recovering from a burnout phase and trying to get my programming mojo back.

1 point by lux 5 hours ago 0 replies      
We're building a new music discovery/sharing service for iOS and web (eventually Android too :). Features new songs in an HN-style ranking for each genre, with recommendations based on your saved favorites, and the ability to browse/share favorites between friends.

Our basic website is up, but we're still a couple months from launch and working with artists and labels now to get some initial content in place.


1 point by sayemm 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm learning Ruby and I'm working on an app that gives you email alerts on CrunchBase updates, my first taste of Rails. And I'm also working through SICP, albeit slowly.

I'm also waiting to get my Firefox add-on fully reviewed by Mozilla, which I built a while ago. Check it out, the Web Startup Toolbar - https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/web-startup-t...

1 point by kovar 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm building a SaaS offering to develop test data and validation tools for the ediscovery market. There are no mechanisms in place at present to show that an ediscovery process worked as expected. Courts require testing of all sorts of other processes that produce evidence, but not so ediscovery. We think we've got this solved.
1 point by chc 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm making a program that can take any common kind of file and convert it into any other kind. I find this is a fairly common need for people I know, but there isn't any good simple answer right now.
1 point by epochwolf 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm working on a literature community, I have an alpha copy deployed at http://beta.singleforest.com/ Not sure if I'm going to bother trying to make money off it. (It doesn't have ssl yet, so careful with your passwords)
1 point by nicksergeant 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm working on a new-car research site that's intended to make researching new-model-year vehicles suck less. Right now, it sucks. Sifting through MFR sites looking for info / styles / colors that set vehicles apart is time consuming and boring.

The site is http://autoswatch.com

1 point by k4st 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm working on an open-source framework, and a series of command line tools built on top of the framework, for symbolically manipulating context-free grammars, non-deterministic pushdown automata, and non-deterministic finite automata. All of it is implemented in C++. I have done some neat things like implement CFG production pattern matching using an EDSL that lets me express foreach loops in C++. I'm currently looking for people interested in contributing / using the code.

The project page is http://www.grailplus.org.

1 point by dhess 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Reading Bruner's "Toward a Theory of Instruction" and Piaget's "The Child's Conception of Number." Sawyer's "Vision in Elementary Mathematics" is next.

Trying to get over my distaste for Objective-C so I can translate some of these ideas to the iPad.

Teaching Scratch in Oakland.

1 point by splatcollision 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Edit Room: http://editroom.splatcollision.com

Visual CSS Animation Design Web App, with pre-launch access to my development prototype. It's going to be the best way to build CSS animated websites! No more building keyframes by hand in a text editor, and no more web layout and design using desktop photo manipulation applications. Design and animate directly in the browser*

*requires CSS3 Animation support, for now...

1 point by danieldk 5 hours ago 0 replies      
A collection of core machine learning and natural language processing modules. I still have a gig for nearly two years, and am using spare time to gear up for my first startup ;).
1 point by markkat 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Hubski, a thoughtful content forum built on the HN code. Much more to do, but you can follow people and topics, and a bunch of other things. http://hubski.com
1 point by horofox 4 hours ago 1 reply      
A real-time chan/anonymous community. We want to explore the potential in the privacy aspect that it does have. Chans are known to be hard to break-even(server cost wise) and they look... bad/ugly.

So using node/socket.io and with a nice execution, in that "adventure" we want to create one that can scale cost-wise and basically own the market. We are developing a lot of cool features(and useful) and it's looking good now. Beta in july/august.

We want to change that narcissist/egocentric facebook culture that the web is built upon. Contributing to something and not getting credit for it is good. Altruism is awesome. We want to change the "crazy/sick" reputation that chans do have today.

1 point by valjavec 5 hours ago 0 replies      

Tiny side project to get Hacker News over Twitter with comments. Click on a link in any tweet to see.

1 point by bmelton 6 hours ago 2 replies      
My next idea is one I'm going to work on for StartupWeekend.

It's killing me NOT working on it, but I don't want to 'cheat' by showing up with a previously-worked-on product.

3 points by rschildmeijer 7 hours ago 0 replies      
http://deftserver.org/ tornado clone running on the JVM using raw java nio
1 point by HerraBRE 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I am working on my start-up: http://pagekite.net/

PageKite aims to make it super-easy for people to self-host websites or other servers by solving all the problems caused by IP address shortages and unfriendly firewalls.

At the current early stage it's mostly useful for making prototype web apps or web designs visible to coworkers or customers without having to go through a deployment step, but there are numerous ways this could develop into a consumer product as it matures.

1 point by dsgraham 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I am working on my first RoR's page. We have 2 admins that post weather related questions, and users vote on which will option will be correct. monthly totals and question voter break downs, etc. I work for a weather company so this is a small, very niche website. But a fun way to get my hands dirty in Rails.
1 point by kertap 5 hours ago 2 replies      
Recently I've found twitter to be a drag because I'm following way too many people.

I want to start following less people so I'm writing a web app that will tell you who tweets the most out of the people you follow.

I'd have it finished but I was going around in circles trying to solve a problem that I just realized I don't really need to solve yet.

I keep thinking of other features I could add, such as who retweets the most and who talks to other people I follow the most which doesn't help.

2 points by tcgore 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Working on a domain management tool for entrepreneurs, especially the domains that you own but are not using for a startup (yet). http://ParkedAvenue.com
1 point by plamb 5 hours ago 0 replies      
We are building web iPhone & Android apps that consume and filter the social media content bars/restaurants are pushing. Ultimately we'll be combining this with a bunch of location based services, recommendations and group communications. --> http://www.barbird.com also free on iPhone/Android
1 point by combiclickwise 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I am working on http://www.updatesitenow.com/
Updatesitenow helps you update your website using your phone.
1 point by triviatise 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Trying to figure out if a metagame is more important or transparency to increase competition and sharing.

Also trying to find vendors to sign up and create triviatisements (have 5 in the works).

Also adding stats for admins so we can see what people are actually doing

1 point by adambard 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I posted it up here a few weeks back, but my current project is http://resumatic.net/

It's a(nother) online resume-hosting app influenced by about.me and such, with an emphasis on presentation and individuality. I hope. Basically, it's a pretty frontend for LinkedIn.

1 point by techtalsky 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm helping build a new search interface and implementation for a casual game company based on Apache Lucene/Solr. I always wanted to participate in a Solr implementation, and I was really gratified to work on this project. I think marketing had given up on improving search, so this was a grassroots engineering effort that releases officially later this month.
1 point by udfalkso 6 hours ago 0 replies      
SaleLocator (http://salelocator.com) - A local retail sales aggregator and search engine.
2 points by sim0n 5 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm currently working on my startup's first product, Interstate (www.interstateapp.com) :)
1 point by ryanburke 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Emulsion ( http://emulsion.me ), which will allow photographers to create beautiful, simple portfolios in about 15 minutes.

We felt someone needed to kill the slow, Flash slideshows everyone was using.

1 point by hamner 5 hours ago 0 replies      
A platform to address some of the most challenging problems in machine learning & artificial intelligence. Just started prototyping and don't want to be more specific at this point.
1 point by Muchi 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm trying to learn more about RoR and it's ecosystem by modifying the twitter example to be a neighborhood social network using GMaps, etc. It's a WIP with no effort put into the front-end yet ( http://neckowoods.heroku.com )

It seems that a lot of folks have attempted to capture this space without anyone being dominant. If you'd like to help out with whatever, let me know :)

1 point by mikelbring 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Fllix : http://fllix.com - Browse, build and share the movies you have watched and want to watch.
1 point by dkeskar 5 hours ago 0 replies      
http://mavenn.com - collectively monitor, share and discover information.
1 point by fondue 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm making a game for Android that's Tamagatchi meets the Sims meets Civilization. I'm using libgdx as the foundation and building off of there.

Initially the game will be available in two modes, "Challenge" and "Freebuild"; the challenge mode will be time-limited or resource-limited challenges to take your tribe through. The Freebuild mode will just let you grow your tribe in a set environment like a tamagotchi/sims game - get them foraging/hunting for food, building shelter, etc,.

Ultimately I want to add a third mode, "PvP" where you will play in a large world populated with other players and you'll need to cooperate and coexist or crush them depending upon your play style.

1 point by The_Igor 5 hours ago 0 replies      
We are working on Ad Serving and advanced metrics tracking.
Ask HN: Has Facebook licensed CPC bidding patent 6,269,361 from Yahoo?
4 points by d2 4 hours ago   discuss
Instagram is hiring extraordinary engineers and designers
4 points by shaynesweeney 5 hours ago   1 comment top
1 point by bmelton 1 hour ago 0 replies      
It's off-topic, I know, and feel free to downvote me into oblivion both for being offtopic and getting meta in this post... but, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention:


If you were to make an HN/Reddit/etc clone (for a niche)...
8 points by Andrenid 19 hours ago   13 comments top 10
4 points by imp 7 hours ago 1 reply      
> I've been stuck in this "Where do I start, what should I learn, what should I use?" rut for 6 months now.

Well, do anything else besides nothing. You could have learned Django, Rails, or anything else in the last 6 months. Just pick some web based technology and build something with it. There is no "best" solution.

> I just need a direction

You don't need a direction, you need decisiveness.

3 points by travisglines 17 hours ago 0 replies      
We actually did exactly what you're asking here a few weeks ago and applied to YC this round with it.


We built it in node.js and MongoDB. While node and mongo are young projects we have found them very stable and extremely fast. (we noticed a lot of problems reddit had with scaling and we were interested in the stack)

Our decision to build Exipe in node/mongo has been a bit controversial but we've found no problems thus far with it ... ~2 weeks out with slowly growing traffic. Check out a few of my latest blog posts here about the experience:


2 points by Sapient 18 hours ago 0 replies      
It sounds like you actually want to learn instead of just implement, so just telling you that HN and Reddit are both Opensource probably isn't what you want to hear.

My suggestion is Ruby On Rails (simply because its what I use and like), it has a very large, helpful community and tons of resources.

The steps I would take (in hindsight), are:

1. Grab the Pickaxe book for Ruby 1.9 and start reading. http://pragprog.com/titles/ruby3/programming-ruby-1-9

2. Do the Ruby Koans - http://rubykoans.com/

3. To get your foot in the Rails door, check out the Rails Tutorial - http://ruby.railstutorial.org/

4. Once you have those basics, check out http://railscasts.com, Ryan has covered just about every problem you are likely to face, and his casts are top-notch!

5. Build something

6. Iterate.

Of course there are other languages and frameworks which would all work just as well, but since it sounds like you don't really have a solid programming background, I think Ruby is really a great language for you to start learning as if there is any language which will keep you interested, its Ruby.

2 points by tbgvi 19 hours ago 0 replies      
3 points by perivamsi 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Short answer: Use anything, it doesn't matter. All the major languages have good web frameworks these days.

Long answer: You will find comparisons between Rails, Django, ASP.NET MVC and a hundred other web frameworks all over the net. While some of the web frameworks are more elegant and mature compared to others, all of them are constantly evolving and growing. Your choice should depend on your core language skills. Which language are you comfortable in? Which language do you want to be coding in for a long time and possibly make a career in?

My suggestion would be to pick Python. There are plenty of hosting options for Python and Django. Have a look at http://code.google.com/appengine/

2 points by e1ven 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I wrote a fairly in-depth version a few months ago, that implemented users, voting, images, and ran in Python over Postgres on an Linode. If you're interested, you could check it out at https://github.com/e1ven/Lonava
1 point by jk215 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Im basically in the same boat as you "jack of all trades master of none" and decided I want to go further into back-end programming. I started working on a HN "clone" using Codeigniter (with freely available online tutorials). I opted to stick with PHP for now because I am already familiar with it to a degree and its ease of implementation. I really just wanted to get down to work and be able to test it using my local dev environment and my simple shared hosting account. I decided to stay away from RoR / Python/Django for now just because it would mean learning new syntax on top of learning how to use MVC. Once Im finished with this I plan on venturing out from PHP.
1 point by rch 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Django with PostgreSQL and Apache would be the most practical.

More fun? try Go and Redis.

1 point by awin 16 hours ago 0 replies      
If you want to move things fast - you can spawn off a new social news site in slinkset.com and you get a basic social voting site similar to http://help.slinkset.com

But if your intention is to learn how such a site work, I would recommend you to write one from scratch, and there are many open source reddit clones floating around, that can help you

1 point by wsxiaoys 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Maybe you would like to take a look at the source code of HN: http://ycombinator.com/arc/arc3.tar
Tell PG: I think NYC can now be a place to do a startup.
5 points by martinshen 3 hours ago   4 comments top 4
3 points by zmitri 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Why do you need him to change it? Just show him.
3 points by tmugavero 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I fully agree. The startup community is exploding here. We have serious companies coming out of the city, a seriously diverse culture (Tech, Business, Fashion, Art, Music), leaders and mentors speaking at meetups, co-working spaces, conferences and colleges daily, and tons of VCs and Angels. So glad I moved to NYC.
1 point by humj 1 hour ago 0 replies      
NYC is becoming a great place to do a startup, but is NYC the next silicon valley? I'd say no (I'm a New Yorker). Silicon Valley has always been the place to run a techonology company. New York has always been about commerce, finance, fashion, art, media. NY and SV are good at 2 different things. What's happening now is not that New York is becoming good at what silicon valley is good at. Its that the things New York is good at are now becoming technology enhanced, so depending on what kind of company you're building, SV could be better than NY and in some cases, NY could be better than SV.

(I'm making wide sweeping generalizations of course and they may not be valid months from now.)
edit: yes that last statement was just to cover my ass. ;P

1 point by rgbrgb 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm in.

But, I think the culture is fundamentally different and must be treated as such. I wish I had more to say on the matter but I'd have to think about it some more. All I'm thinking is that we can't just move the valley to the city because the city is already very established.

Ask HN: Anyone have a really smart way to organize css?
191 points by katieben 9 days ago   118 comments top 54
23 points by simonw 9 days ago 4 replies      
Natalie Downe, my co-founder, has a very neat technique for organising CSS which she calls a CSS System. She described it in this talk:


She splits everything in to general styles (basic HTML elements), helper styles (things like forms, notifications, icons), page structure (header, footer, layout columns etc), page components (reusable composable classes for components that occur on different pages in different combinations, such as a news teaser) and over-rides (special cases for individual pages, rarely used).

She hardly ever uses IDs, preferring classes for almost everything - because CSS written against classes can be used more than once on a page.

She uses CSSEdit's groups feature to make the CSS easier to navigate - it's all in one file. http://macrabbit.com/cssedit/

View the stylesheets on http://lanyrd.com/ and follow the link at the top to the unminified version to see annotated examples.

16 points by zefhous 9 days ago 1 reply      
Ideally, I use Sass with Compass (http://compass-style.org/). This alone is a great start to keeping things organized. One of the things I love about Sass is that it allows partials and variable declarations, which both help immensely with code organization.

Then, my code is usually organized as follows. Each section can be extracted to a partial if it gets long enough or if more separation is desired.

  Framework includes and resets
Variable declarations " colors, possibly specific widths
Universal method declarations
Standard global tags " headings, p, a, ul, li, etc...
Generic form styling, usually in a dedicated partial
Layout " container, header, content, footer
Then to specific section styling

Since Sass uses indentation, I indent everything in each section within a top level tag. This really helps visually distinguish each section and gives a much less uniform look to the stylesheet which makes it a lot more scannable. If a section uses methods exclusively I'll declare them just above the top-level section tag.

I'm pretty happy with this approach. It was formed fairly organically but become more defined as I use it for more projects. It also seems to work well for both large and small projects, since partials can be used when the code starts getting long.

17 points by storborg 9 days ago 2 replies      
I have four core files:

    reset.css    - I use eric meyer's
elements.css - Global defaults for things like body,
h1, h2, h3, p, a, input, strong. All
or almost all selectors in here are
just tag names.
layout.css - Just sets up the global layout with
containers: e.g. header, footer, left
column, right column.
blocks.css - Reusable chunks.

In addition to that, I use a separate file for each "page type". For example, 'article.css', 'index.css', stuff like that. Some larger sites merit additional files like splitting off 'forms.css', 'tabular.css', etc.

All files get concatenated and minified before serving, obviously.

7 points by karl11 9 days ago 2 replies      
I'm hoping for some good answers here, because I'd love a better way.

I always put universal elements first (body, img, @font-face, etc.), then I just organize it top to bottom by page location (i.e. header, content, sidebar, footer, etc.). I also tab-indent so that elements within another are indented and "contained" underneath, making it easy for me to move from one section to the next. I also write the CSS horizontally, only making a new line for a new element.

I should also note that I'm a n00b :-), so this could be a horrible way to do it.

8 points by peng 9 days ago 1 reply      
At some point, the amount of CSS complexity becomes best handled by a preprocessor.

Stylus is great: http://learnboost.github.com/stylus/

I made a post about it, and personally prefer it to Sass and Less: http://nylira.com/stylus-the-revolutionary-successor-to-css/ The hardcore abbreviation mixins in my post seem to offend some coders. When you work in CSS and HTML hours every day though, every character saved adds up to a huge productivity boost.

My current project has 30 directories with 73 partial Sass files, which compile down to one 320kb file.

As to your question, I organize my partials based on controller and url structure.

7 points by tomfakes 9 days ago 3 replies      
Slightly related, but mainly a formatting issue, I format my css files as such:

  .foo    { x: y; a: b }
.bar { m: n }
.baz { background: blah blah url(xyz.png) top left;
x: y; i: j; }

instead of the more commonly seen:

  .foo {
x: y;
a: b;

.bar {
m: n

.baz {
background: blah blah url(xyz.png) top left;
x: y;
i: j;

My format takes up less vertical space in the editor. Sometimes, I can get my entire CSS file into a single page on the screen, reducing the amount of time I spend scrolling and searching. I do split lines when they go off the edge of the space, as seen in the .baz example.

5 points by techiferous 9 days ago 0 replies      
I once tried breaking my css into files according to function (typography.css, color.css, layout.css). It ended up being a royal pain because when I added a new HTML element and I went to style it, I ended up having to duplicate the css selector for that element in three files. I also was constantly switching among the three files to work with one element's styles. So whatever you do, don't organize by function. :)
5 points by bitsm 9 days ago 1 reply      
I can't recommend Compass/Sass highly enough. A CSS pre-processor will completely free you to organize your CSS however you want, and more importantly, it lets you build up a library of common components (forms, buttons, etc.) that you can easily reuse and adapt for new projects.

Generally, these library files will simply contain mixins (reusable chunks of code), so they don't output anything directly into your CSS, but allow you to include the mixins in certain styles. Very useful for adding effects, rounded corners, etc. on different elements.

Keep in mind however, that mixins can be overused, adding bloat to your code. CSS does cascade, after all. You should always look to see if you can separate reusable css rules to include in markup (commonly seen with grid systems). How you balance out the convenience of keeping your css flexible vs. not littering your markup with lots of styles really depends on the project, but it's something to think about.

I have developed one very useful trick while using Sass for managing colors. Instead of assigning colors directly to an element (very hard to track down later if a change is necessary), I create color variables named after the element and attribute in question. Then in my colors.scss file, I build up my color palette, and after, list all the color variables I created in my stylesheets, setting their values to the appropriate color from the palette (with tweaks, if necessary).

  // in colors.scss ---

// color palette
$red: #ff0000;

// assign colors to elements
$body-background-color: $red;

// in layout.css, for example ---

body {
background-color: $body-background-color;

Since Sass lends itself to lots of files, keeping all my colors and the elements they are assigned to together in one file makes them much easier to manage down the road.

6 points by duopixel 9 days ago 0 replies      
After many years doing CSS my best workflow has come to this:

    reset.css //for resetting browsers
grid.css //if I'm using a css framework
global.css //styles that are shared across the site
section.css //styles that pertain a specific section. The name of the file varies, i.e. "about.css".

You need a good code editor that allows you to open files without tabbing or reaching for the mouse, I use Textmate's Command T to switch fast among my files.

reset.css There's a bunch around, I use the one from htmlboilerplate.com, but there's many good ones available. (Eric Meyer's). You will almost never touch this file.

grid.css I only use this occasionally, when I'm working on sites where the grid is very clear and I take out all the stuff I'm not going to use. I usually go for a three col version of 960.gs and trim it to about 12 lines of css. Never touch this.

global.css Here you put your nav, your footer, you body styles, etc. I think that separating by colors and typography doesn't make sense, because you usually change a widget's appearance.

section.css I count on the body tag having a classname, so I can have body class="about" and then do...

    .about section.photo {...}

This way you never override your styles accidentally.

Miscellaneous I avoid the one declaration per line convention when I have similar styles and I want to be able to read them in a table format, i.e.

    .available {background-color: #0f0;}
.taken {background-color: #00f;}
.deleted {background-color: #f00;}

I usually start from the most generic to the more specific, but I don't worry too much about code order because in the end I just do a search and reach it in no time.

3 points by mixu 9 days ago 0 replies      
my rules:

1) Layout and widgets only.

I start with a reset, then layout (block positioning), then widgets. Everything other than layout is a widget. There are no global styles. If there is one of it, it's an ID. If more, it's a class.

2) No (global) element styles! Ever!

No, not even a p { margin: xyz } or a ul { list-style-type }. Every element that cannot be referred to by class / id must look exactly like it would after the reset.

This avoids complex dependency chains where coincidence influences look. Widgets can be moved from one site to another and you actually have to think new widgets through rather than relying on the default values.

3) Avoid classes and id's as much as you can.

Have single base element with a simple but descriptive class name, and then specify the sub-elements.

For example: Instead of “div.content-title” use “#content h1″ (e.g. div#content with a h1 tag inside it).

Basically, design widgets which consist of one base element, and refer to sub-elements via longer expressions. Use indentation to separate sub-elements.

My strong preference is to maximize for human readability (=short dependency chains, descriptive widgets rather than single elements) rather than short CSS. Cascading within widget-scope is fine, but cascading with global styles should be avoided. I find that when I follow these rules, I like my CSS a lot more.

2 points by carbon8 9 days ago 0 replies      
I also use Sass and Compass. I generally organize the directory roughly like this for projects without a separate designer:

- ie.sass
- master.sass
- _base.sass
- _forms.sass
- _custom_mixins.sass
- _facebox.scss

The files with leading underscores are partials which are included in the master.sass. Note that facebox is an scss file. I just dump the CSS in it and include the partial in master.

The nice thing about sass is that it you can change output format, so you can just include all the external CSS files as partials and automatically output a single compressed files with your entire CSS.

When I work with a designer who uses CSS I use a structure like this:

- master.sass
- _style.scss
- _facebox.sass

In this case, the designer's CSS is dumped in the _style.scss partial, then included in master.sass. Then in master.sass I include my modifications to the designer stylesheets. That way I can leave the designer-provided CSS largely untouched and still have all the flexibility and power of Sass.

3 points by dfischer 9 days ago 0 replies      
I leverage SASS and Compass for Ruby heavily.

I utilize mixins heavily so I can modulize all my styling and make sure it's included in areas that are appropriate. I've learned this is the only way to handle CSS without styles getting too complicated and accidentally changing something where you didn't mean to.

Example (create a mixin that has certain styles for forms and then include it in a body.wizard page) this way I keep my CSS very dry.

General coding guidelines are horizontal. I recently switched to this. I used to do vertical and indentation but it's very hard to read with big files. I've found that it's a lot easier to read horizontal CSS.

I alpha all my styles from a-z.

3 points by utunga 9 days ago 1 reply      
Suprised no-one has mentioned Nicole Sullivan's (amongst others) Object Oriented CSS (OOCSS) project: https://github.com/stubbornella/oocss/wiki

She used this approach at Facebook (and Yahoo, I think?) to successfully tidy up a huge code base of thousands of CSS files down to a more manageable few.

I attended her workshop at Webstock and since then had a chance to put it into practice on a 'get it up quick' green fields project (http://chchneeds.org.nz). I must say I was really pleasantly surprised at the way this approach just avoids a lot of the pain points, as a web developer/coder (ie not an html/css guru) I so often face when just getting the simplest things to 'work'.

I guess the hardest thing for me to get my head around to was that to make things more modular you had to let go (a tiny bit) of being so religious about 'semantic html' as a requirement for the HTML, but I think its worth it to get your CSS a whole lot more modular and 'pluggable' together.

Still a bit more work to do, IMHO, but I'm definitely going to be monitoring this project closely.

Nicole Sullivan's site: http://www.stubbornella.org/content/

2 points by bmelton 9 days ago 1 reply      
I haven't used it, as there just hasn't been a project with enough lead time to experiment with something lately, but I'm fond of the idea of code generators for CSS, like CleverCSS for Python and Sass for Ruby.

Other than that, the best advice I can offer that I DO follow is that I group all HTML elements together, all IDs together, and then all classes together. Within each of those groupings, everything is in alphabetical order.

  body { foo: bar; }
form { foo: bar; }
h1, h2, h3 { foo: bar; }
input { foo: bar; }
p { foo: bar; }

#container {}
#footer {}
#nav {}

.etc {}
.even {}
.odd {}

and so forth.

1 point by kj12345 9 days ago 1 reply      
For me the biggest goal is fewer lines to organize in the first place rather than any particular scheme for grouping. What I do is:

1) Use as few separate stylesheets site-wide as possible so any contradicting or repetitive rules will be obvious.

2) Use one line per rule so I can scan the selectors quickly, then scroll horizontally if necessary

3) I prefer complex comma-separated selectors which set one or two properties to simple selectors which set many properties. Grouping in this way gets me closer to having constants, e.g. a specific hex color won't be rewritten again and again, it will just follow a complex selector list.

4) Once a selector works, I try to make it more general, e.g. "div.info { font-size: 12px }" can probably just be ".info { font-size: 12px }". More general rules will apply in more cases, so fewer overall rules will be necessary.

2 points by fleitz 9 days ago 0 replies      
Start by using sass
In default @include reset and 960gs (sass compiles it all into one css file)

Then use a per page sass file that references default.sass

If you want something pre-built that does all this use compass.

1 point by dools 8 days ago 0 replies      
My colleague @camslizzle just put out http://stacklayout.com/ - it's pretty new but it has a lot of promise I think and has received some favourable comments around twitter and here on reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/web_design/comments/g3p9d/introducin...
2 points by OstiaAntica 9 days ago 0 replies      
LESS CSS seems worth a look: http://lesscss.org/
1 point by trevelyan 9 days ago 1 reply      
On an MVC site, I organize by controller. There's one general file for generic cross-site stuff (header/footer, etc.), supplemented by another CSS file that shares the markup for all controller-specific pages.

This gives a max of two css files per page. For the landing page I compress the generic file along with the controller-specific css file for the default page into a single file. This speeds up the loading process while preventing too much bloat. Since the other pages are usually hit after the landing page they require only a single extra download. Any reset code can be included in there as well, although maintained as a separate file.

I doubt this approach is ideal when it comes to organizing things, but it's fairly fast when it comes to development. I design by including css in style="" and then refactoring the markup into classes once the design is complete. Saves a lot of back and forth while getting things lined up.

2 points by csbartus 9 days ago 1 reply      
Sorry guys,

After reading all comments it seems there is no (universal) solution to write good HTML/CSS code. Not like in Ruby or Python or other programming languages.

Since this year I'm struggling to create a post / best practices how to code front-end but the problem is too complex (for me).

The biggest issue is how to mark up HTML to have a DRY (minimal) CSS.
And how to remember easily these mark up rules to be able to maintain anytime in the future your CSS/HTML.

If you would elaborate your naming / marking up best practices instead of suggesting frameworks/tools maybe that would help better.

2 points by TorbjornLunde 9 days ago 3 replies      
Don't overcomplicate things:

- Have only one CSS-file, unless your project is huge.

- Never use IDs

- Avoid reset CSS (espescially if you can ignore IE6/7

- If you think you need variables (like in SASS), you are probably thinking about it the wrong way

- Give classes functional names, not presentational

- Linebreaks after declaration. (Makes your CSS-file easier to navigate)

- Remember that you can use you media queries inside your CSS-file

Web designer Jens Meiert has some good articles:





1 point by marcuswestin 9 days ago 0 replies      
I tend to build all my DOM in object oriented javascript, and always give the root element of a UI component the same class name as the name of the JavaScript class. See eg https://github.com/marcuswestin/Focus/blob/master/js/ui/pane.... The CSS selectors then mirror the structure of thr JavaScript files as well as the hierarchy of the resulting UI.
2 points by evanrmurphy 9 days ago 1 reply      
Use tables for layout instead of CSS. Then your CSS will be more concise (essentially reduced to a theme) and less confusing (because CSS layout properties like float and position tend to cause the most confusion).

Edit: Rephrased to try and better express the idea.

2 points by codejoust 9 days ago 0 replies      
I've really enjoyed SASS/SCSS optionally with Compass.
It lets you compile the stylesheets while still keeping the source files separate and organized.
I've also seen the approach with one big file for the application with commented sections, however, the drawback to that approach is using a version control system with multiple editors on a large file (merge conflicts, etc).
2 points by mikecomstock 9 days ago 0 replies      
Here's what I do:

- Almost all CSS goes in 1 big file. One line per selector to keep thinks clean and easy to find. Styles from external sources (like jQuery UI) go in separate files.

- Reset lines go at the top, if you use them, in a / RESET / section.

- Styles for individual HTML tags are next in the / HTML TAGS / section.

- Then a / UTILITY CLASSES / section for clearing floats, etc.

- Next comes site layout. Headers, footers, page width, etc. all go here. Just the layout though - think the grid. No real content styling yet.

- Now sections for each piece in the layout. Content styles go here. First a section for the / HEADER CONTENT /, then a big section for the / PAGE CONTENT / (vast majority of styles go here), then the / FOOTER CONTENT / styles.

5 points by PelCasandra 9 days ago 1 reply      
Use SASS with partials and mixins and sort them as it's more convenient for you (probably following the natural flow of descending order of your page).
3 points by ricardobeat 9 days ago 0 replies      
Use less (http://lesscss.org/) - the JS version. Makes your code beautiful: no repetition, hierarchies, concise. Where I work we've used it for about 9 months now and there is no looking back.
1 point by chaffneue 9 days ago 0 replies      
I lay my styles out in 1 file and I don't often comment them. Stylesheets cascade to much to pin them to a specific area of use - it's easier to debug them by clever naming still - sigh. IE specific files loaded after and only contain 1 or two tricky IE tweaks. Javascript /Jquery plugins sometimes come with their own stylesheets, and in those cases I'll leave them where I found them. For some of the bigger sites with very different looks and feels, I'll often have a boilerplate (reset to skeleton level) and each page or section will load in their own stylesheet. Just depends how big the site is.

Order is:
* Reset (only for early IE )-http://developer.yahoo.com/yui/reset/ I find myself using it less and less

* Global Styles - HTML tags - global font faces

* Clearfix - http://www.webtoolkit.info/css-clearfix.html

* Skeleton/Structural Styles - grids/divs/columns

* Headers/footers/persistent styles

* Page specific styles and IDs

* Conditionally load IE Styles if they're required

* load javascript plugin css with the plugin's preferred dir if possible

As for pipelining them, I usually just use a gzipped connection and still serve them individually, since internal image paths for backgrounds rely on the CSS path. CSS caches very nicely, so take advantage of it on the HTTP side.

example: http://code.google.com/p/streeme/source/browse/trunk/web/css...

2 points by STHayden 9 days ago 1 reply      
To be honest. With firebug's ability to tell me what line and css files the style on an element is coming from I don't find spending a lot of time on organization to have a ton of benefit.
1 point by andyford 9 days ago 0 replies      
Like many of the other commenters, I break the code into reset, global elements, layout, modules/blocks, and then special overrides if any.

I'll admit it's a personal preference, but as a team consideration I don't recommend the 'all properties on one line' approach. It's discouraged in other languages so why do it in CSS?

Definitely check out OOCSS as well as the Natalie Downe talk both posted by in the comments already.

I can't overstate how highly I recommend Sass/SCSS. It's been mentioned already as "for Ruby". Yes, you need Ruby installed to use Sass/SCSS but you do not need to be working on a Ruby project to use it. You can run "sass --watch (directory name)" from the command line and sass will automatically compile your .scss (or .sass) files to .css files upon save. Even if you're scared of the command line I assure you, it's easy! If you're a TextMate user, there's also a great SCSS bundle here: https://github.com/kuroir/SCSS.tmbundle it was enough for me to abandon CSSEdit for good)

One thing that hasn't been discussed in this thread yet is the organization of properties within a declaration block. It's a good idea to have an approach and stick with it. Alphabetizing the properties is one approach. I wrote about my preferred approach a couple years ago here: http://fordinteractive.com/2009/02/order-of-the-day-css-prop... also check out the SitePoint discussion linked in the "Further Reading" section of the post)

1 point by findm 9 days ago 0 replies      
I think alot of it depends what it is that you are building. My approach to would be different if it were building a large scale web app vs a website and it also depends on the team thats helping to maintain it (ie. if it were to be maintained by engineers who don't really know or care for css or a team of web devs)

I always start off with a base which consists of the misc. browser fixes and hacks + basic typography elements, rough blocking. My philosophy on formatting really follows what everyone here is saying. I really prefer horizontal lines and proper tabbing of all the sub elements because its really hard to read otherwise.

While commenting is really good and I like it, finding the proper balance is the key. When you're doing fast iteration it gets really tedious and cumbersome to go back and make sure your comments are in sync.

This is how i arrange my css:

For bigger project I like to break things down by specific functions & models.
(ie. tables, buttons, sorting controls, etc.)

i really like the way jquery ui themes are done.

3 points by nvictor 9 days ago 1 reply      
i saw one guy's css once it it looks like:

  .wrapper { ... }
.sidebar { ... }
.content { ... }

the indentation was well done.

1 point by evanrmurphy 9 days ago 0 replies      
Sometimes it's better to inline a style than to put it in a separate file.

I think when you find yourself writing nested selectors that are heavily dependent on the HTML structure, it's an indication that your code could be less fragile if you just used the HTML style attribute instead.

1 point by stalemath 9 days ago 0 replies      
I usually include comments where necessary before a section, so in a file named global.css, I may have:

/* header /
.header {
margin: 0 auto;
padding: 0;
width: 800px;

/ body /
.body {
margin: 0 auto;
padding: 10px;
width: 800px;
background-color: #fff;

/ footer */
.footer {
margin: 0 auto;
padding: 10px;
background-color: #EEE;
border-top: 1px solid #BBB;

(this is just an example, assume the classes are for div's)

If I have multiple CSS files, I may just call one (style.css) in the <head> of HTML document. Then within the style.css, I can just make a list of the documents using @import.

((by the way, this didn't come out the way I expected on here))

1 point by Andaith 9 days ago 0 replies      
The system I came up with is A table of contents that makes it easy to jump to specific styles.

First the global styles, then different things like Header, Navigation, Main Content, Right-hand-side-doodad, Widgets, Footer, etc.

Then create a Table of contents at the top and give each section a unique identifier, FEDCBA-Head, FEDCBA-Nav, etc. Go down to each group and put in a comment saying "Start of Navigation CSS <FEDCBA-Nav>".

Now you can look in the table of contents and do a quick file search on the unique identifier, and be taken right to the CSS you're looking for.

I generally make the table of contents a lot more detailed, and it has an upkeep cost, but it's well worth it when the CSS file gets big.

1 point by bdclimber14 9 days ago 0 replies      
The best suggestion I can give is to break up your CSS into multiple files. If you have a "projects" page, make a "projects" CSS file for style definitions specific to that page. I keep the overall layout elements together. I typically also have a "forms" CSS file just for buttons, form layouts, and inputs.

Then @import everything in screen.css.

1 point by mattberg 9 days ago 0 replies      
Ever since using Drupal's Zen theme I have preferred their basic setup for grouping CSS files. Here is a rough example:


Drupal's CSS optimization, once turned on, will roll all of these up for you automatically, so if you aren't using Drupal you will need some sort of build system to combine and minimize everything. But I think this is a good start.

On a side note, I really like the method the Zen theme uses for CSS columns. Worth checking that out as well.

1 point by pippy 9 days ago 1 reply      
ySlow recommends at most 3 stylesheets, and with good reason: the HTML headers and request times can drastically slow a site down.

By simply organizing the structure of the file well, you can have a easy to navigate css file. Of course there may be a few extra style sheets; ie.css, section specific.css, print.css and mobile.css.

Here's my CSS file structure:


-html tags h1,p,q etc





-misc (popups, forms, buttons)


1 point by 0p9 9 days ago 0 replies      
A good example of some super organized CSS is in the HTML5 Boilerplate by Paul Irish.
Found here:
I sometimes use multiple instances of the same selector, especially if a project starts getting very big. I like to separate each function of the site into it's own block after the footer declarations. It lets me stay organized during development and ensures that I can keep track of what I'm working on while I'm working on it.
Here's the order I'm currently using, which was inspired by the above:

body { foo: bar; }
h1 { foo: bar; }
a { foo: bar; }
/* Image Replacement & Hacks */
.ir { foo: bar; }
/* Container Styles */
#header { foo: bar; }
#main { foo: bar; }
#footer { foo: bar; }
.column { foo: bar; }
.sidebar { foo: bar; }
.img-cotainer { foo: bar; }
/* Everything inside of #header */
.navigation { foo: bar; }
#header li.nav { foo: bar; }
/* Everything inside of #main */
.content { foo: bar; }
/* Everything inside of #footer */
.social { foo: bar; }
#footer li.nav { foo: bar; }
/* Everything in specific view inside of a container from above */
.profile { foo: bar; }
.comments { foo: bar; }
/* Media Queries */
@media all and (orientation:portrait {
* { foo: bar; }
/* Print Styles using Media Query */
@media print {
* { foo: bar; }

1 point by joelanman 9 days ago 0 replies      
I try to code CSS starting with generic, going down to specific

Eg. Files would be something like:

* reset
* global (eg header/footer)
* common (stuff used most places but not all, eg. forms)
* specific to section of the site
* specific to the page

2 points by ww520 9 days ago 0 replies      
I just use Blueprint.
1 point by dillon 9 days ago 0 replies      
Lots of comments really help, especially when you look at it months after.
1 point by Flam 9 days ago 0 replies      
How I do it: 1 File. Single line styling. Order: Reset, html/body, header, container, footer, misc (h1, p, span, input). Indent (ie: #header { } -newline+tab- #header p {}
1 point by phenomenia 9 days ago 0 replies      
I write general styles like definitions for *, a, p, ul etc first and after that I put everithing in DOM order when possible. Starting at the startpage of the website/project.

Within the selectordefinitions I write general definitions like width, heigt, displaytype and position (top/left.. margin, padding) first. Then contentspecific definitions like fontdefinitions. At the end I write border and background definitions.

That way it's an ease to see if an element hast a specific definitions, because I know if I'm looking for the width and the first definition is not the with then there is no width set for this element.

1 point by phenomenia 9 days ago 0 replies      
I write general styles like definitions for *, a, p, ul etc first and after that I put everything in DOM order if possible. Starting at the startpage of the website/project.

Within the selectordefinitions I write general definitions like width, heigt, display-type and position (top/left.. margin, padding) first. Then contentspecific definitions like font definitions. At the end I write border and background definitions.

That way it's an ease to see if an element hast a specific definitions, because I know if I'm looking for the width and the first definition is not the with then there is no width set for this element.

1 point by supervillain 9 days ago 0 replies      
Here's an example of a super organized CSS, with table-of-contents, https://www.mint.com/css/rd/mint.css
1 point by halles 9 days ago 0 replies      
I use 4 stylesheets:

- reset (duh)
- layout (structural stuff)
- typography (general typegraphic styles)
- styles (stuff gets prettier than the already are).

As for the grouping o selectors, i try not to reuse much code so cascading will not mess stuff up, i'd rather make big css than fragile css. I also try to group code on a per section basis… just remember i do have a typography stylesheet which makes most of the stuff readable and pretty before the glitz rolls in.

1 point by andraganescu 8 days ago 0 replies      

I use this system for about 4 years and am still delighted on how easy it comes to me. In brief:

- Split up your style sheet according to rule types.

- There are three main rule types that help when split: grid, decorations and fonts.

2 points by selvakarthi 9 days ago 0 replies      
Organizing the CSS is not a big matter, giving the correct name to the class and id will lead smart way to organize
1 point by weallneedheroes 9 days ago 0 replies      
not really sure every way suits all but if it's kept as clean as possible & organised it's always best.

Personaly i keep everything to do with each area to gether ie. Header, footer, I wouldn't seperate out the <h> &

tags & place all the

's together.

if i'm working on a large site i tend to seperate out the css by section home, Base template (about for example), contact, blog, news, shop...

1 point by monisninja 9 days ago 0 replies      
here's a simple way I organizate my CSS:

1. reset.css
2. global.css - reusable classes and styles for common selectors (html, body, a, etc)
3. css named per page (or type of a page) - ex. home.css / about.css / results.css / static.css

* I usually add a class / id to the body and use that as my first selector on the page-level css. This allows me to combine all + minify for production

1 point by weixiyen 9 days ago 0 replies      
I do it by widget and layout.
1 point by 7oot 9 days ago 0 replies      
I use a single file for each type of media (screen, print ...).
Each file has general styles first (HTML tags), IDs of layout boxes, classes to fine-tune formatting, and overrides at the bottom (if needed).
I like to keep spacing for readability (maybe minify the files when I'm finished).
1 point by Nimb0z 9 days ago 1 reply      
Just run it through ProCSSor (http://procssor.com or http://css.tl). Lots of options.
Ask HN: How to give submission a second chance?
46 points by rpsubhub 13 hours ago   18 comments top 10
18 points by bensummers 12 hours ago 2 replies      
I don't bother submitting stuff any more because:

1) There's too much noise on the new page.

2) It matters which at what time of day you submit an article.

3) There's too much chance about whether it'll been seen or not.

4) Someone else will post it with a slightly different URL (see above), and that's the one which will be noticed.

I am, of course, very grateful for everyone else who posts stuff. There's usually a good article or two on the front page.

I suppose the question we should ask is if it matters if decent articles are missed? There's lots of text out there on the internet.

[edit: Removed three trivial ways to defeat the dup detector.]

2 points by erikstarck 12 hours ago 0 replies      
There will always be great articles that no one reads. That's just the way it. The internet is too big for it to be any other way.

The question is rather: how do make sure the average quality of the articles on the front page is as high as possible?

Probably we're quite close to as good as it gets.

One option would be to have a "runner ups"-page ("bubblers"?) which lists the newly submitted articles that are _almost_ on the front page. So instead of two pages (front and new) we would have three (front, bubblers, new).

The algorithm would be simple: the 30 latest articles with more than 1 point that are not yet on the front page.

Hm. This actually sounds like quite a fun little weekend project. Anyone up for it? Is almosthn.com available? :)

3 points by jawns 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Not too long ago, I was thinking about a "second chance lottery" for Hacker News submissions that never gained the traction they deserved.

Wouldn't it be kinda neat to have a webapp that locates all of the HN submissions with just 1 lonely point from the past day, and picks one at random to feature prominently?

Along similar lines, last week I whipped up a little tool called Momentum that lets you "pre-promote" links that you plan to submit to HN, so that people who think a link is interesting can plan to up-vote it when it's actually submitted:


Ironically, I submitted Momentum to HN ... and it never gained traction.

1 point by petercooper 5 hours ago 0 replies      
And even when things are noticed and voted up, flagging seems to have a significant effect. There are plenty of examples of items with 10-20 votes that are mysteriously several pages deep just an hour after submission despite those with fewer votes and longer times coming sooner.
1 point by stevenj 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Perhaps people could put a list of submissions (links) they thought were good, but went largely unnoticed by HN, in their profiles.

For example, it could look like this:

My overlooked submissions list, from newest to oldest (last updated: xx.xx.xxxx):

1. Article Name (http://domain.com)





2 points by psg 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I think utilizing another method besides "votes" could help increase traction for more submissions. For example, if I could easily discover users who share my interests, I'd love to receive an update (RSS) whenever that user submitted, voted, commented, etc. on an article. Instead of receiving a stream of content that may not interest me (I therefore only scan the page), I would know the content I'm seeing is somehow pre-vetted (at a minimum, by the submitter).

Ironically, I've felt this way for a while and created a website to test this theory.

3 points by kevinburke 12 hours ago 1 reply      
Maybe you can submit twice, but it costs you 10 karma or something the second time you submit...
1 point by impendia 9 hours ago 0 replies      
As a newbie, I wouldn't mind if submissions from high-karma users dropped off the new page a wee bit more slowly.
1 point by triviatise 10 hours ago 0 replies      
dailykos has a similar problem, huge number of posts so some good ones never get traction. Someone respected (maybe markos) will post an article each day that will list a few particularly good articles that may have never gotten traction.

I think that you can give trusted members in the community more weight when voting. Determination shouldnt be done in an automated way.

2 points by swah 12 hours ago 2 replies      
Does the ranking algorithm considers the amount of discussion on each submission?
Ask HN: Recommended resources for Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs?
3 points by kaisdavis 4 hours ago   discuss
Ask HN: Dress for interview with an Incubator/VC firm?
9 points by ffumarola 7 hours ago   9 comments top 4
8 points by pg 6 hours ago 2 replies      
At YC there are certainly none. We tell people to dress like they do ordinarily. We do. Which in my case means shorts and Birkenstocks.
2 points by curt 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Dress how you want to present yourself and your company. Are you planning on being a casual, fun workplace, then dress like that. Are you targeting a financial area, then you need to show you can do the suit and tie.

Personally, I never wear a suit and tie or a white shirt. My standard is a pair of slacks and button down. A lot of that has to do with my extreme height and trying to break it up with color. Everyone's different, you need to find your own personal style. How you want to present yourself to the world.

1 point by jasonlynes 4 hours ago 0 replies      
i agree with the no suit sentiment. but i work in a place where plenty of people look like crap in a suit. it's all about how you take care of yourself. you can look put together in shorts and flip flops. ultimately you're asking someone to give you hundreds of thousands of dollars. your ability to get dressed in the morning will say a lot about your ability to build a company.
2 points by erik_p 6 hours ago 1 reply      
I've wondered about this as well.

I'd guess it would depend on the investor and the type of perception you are trying to convey about yourself and your product. (I'm hip, I'm smart, I'm successful, I'm trustworthy for investment, etc).

Hopefully your funding doesn't depend on your fashion sense, but perhaps there's something to that first impression thing and other intangibles.

Tell HN: Thanks for telling me which idea to choose, I built it.
13 points by petervandijck 8 hours ago   10 comments top 4
2 points by JoachimSchipper 8 hours ago 0 replies      
From the first link: "App to make hiring easier. Enter your jobs, submit, and we auto-submit to all the relevant jobboards that you check. When candidates apply, easily define your screening process and move them through it with your team. Pay X$/month."
1 point by bricestacey 47 minutes ago 0 replies      
Allow me to click forward and backward through the slideshow.
4 points by wewyor 8 hours ago 3 replies      
It looks like you stole your design from gmail, any reason for that?
2 points by geuis 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Ask HN: How to find a co-founder?
3 points by horofox 5 hours ago   1 comment top
1 point by mindcrime 5 hours ago 0 replies      


are two thoughts that come to mind...

And my response to somebody asking specifically about how I've been going about my search for (a) co-founder(s):


Tell HN: Khan Academy is hiring full-time devs
155 points by kamens 1 day ago   30 comments top 12
12 points by jchoong 1 day ago 0 replies      
There are few other world changing endeavors that can match the scalability of impact of the Khan Academy.

Haven't encountered it, but would be great to see translations done on a larger scale to touch the wider world.

Additionally, perhaps at a later date, would be interesting to see the same topics covered by additional instructors (and rated) available on the site to provide variation in teaching styles.

Nevertheless, even today, this is the best thing going on in the education field. Kudos to Sal.

10 points by phreeza 1 day ago 0 replies      
Says a lot about HN that you are only posting it here for now.
7 points by melvinram 1 day ago 1 reply      
So tempting, this idea of changing the world of education is. If I wasn't neck deep in my own ventures, I'd definitely be applying.
4 points by lyaunzbe 1 day ago 2 replies      
Man, I'd love to contribute to Khan Academy, especially since they've given me so much already. I can't count the number of times Sal's videos have helped me in my AP Physics and Calculus classes this year. It's too bad I'm still in high school.

I actually had an idea, a couple of weeks ago, that it would be really cool to implement some kind of functionality that brought together real time chat and a "blackboard" capabilities (Canvas and node.js?) to the site, so people could discuss certain topics and simultaneously draw out diagrams/problems/etc. I feel like Q.A. for homework/learning could be done a lot better then what we have currently right now (WikiAnswers, Yahoo Answers, etc). Good luck, I'm sure tons of awesome developers will jump at this opportunity.

5 points by invalidOrTaken 1 day ago 1 reply      
Oh man. If I weren't in school I'd jump on this so fast. KA has helped tremendously in my self-study. Part of the reason I chose Python as my current learning language instead of Ruby was so I can contribute exercises to their stats lectures. Could you use a (non-remote) intern this spring/summer?
2 points by ph0rque 23 hours ago 0 replies      
A humble, semi-off-topic suggestion: develop the knowledge maps for all the (planned in the near future) courses first, then let anyone submit both video lectures and evaluation questions and answers.
4 points by kenjackson 1 day ago 2 replies      
Why don't you need to be a Lisp expert?
3 points by jbermudes 1 day ago 2 replies      
Where are you guys located?
2 points by semerda 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Love your work guys! Keep up the awesome job!!
Found your videos on "Valuation and Investing" priceless and so easy to comprehend.
1 point by nathanbarry 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Do you have plans to hire any UI designers in the near future?
-4 points by pixcavator 1 day ago 1 reply      
Compare: "Khan Academy is hiring full-time profs". Who needs those? Everybody can teach, apparently.
Ask HN: must read books for startup founders
6 points by triviatise 10 hours ago   6 comments top 5
1 point by stevenj 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I haven't read it yet, but I've heard good things about "Do More Faster": http://www.amazon.com/Do-More-Faster-TechStars-Accelerate/dp...
1 point by kirpekar 2 hours ago 0 replies      
When you're slugging it out at your startup, it's important to read something fun at night:

Catcher in the Rye

Three Men in a Boat

Cold Comfort Farm

In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash

And my personal favorite: English August

1 point by mindcrime 8 hours ago 0 replies      
The Four Steps to the Epiphany - @sgblank

Built To Last - Jim Collins

The Purple Cow - Seth Godin

The Art of the Start - Guy Kawasaki

2 points by start123 6 hours ago 1 reply      
"Founders At Work" and
"So You Want To Be An Entrepreneur"
1 point by kruegerb 6 hours ago 0 replies      
"REWORK" by 37Signals is a good, quick read.

It is also useful to refer back to some of the bite-size chunks of advice in the book as reminders.

Ask HN: How do you successfully work at home with a family?
13 points by tnorthcutt 9 hours ago   18 comments top 9
4 points by michael_dorfman 9 hours ago 1 reply      
I went with the "outside office space" solution. Even after I cashed out of my first start-up, and was in between things, I still maintained an office in town rather than working at home.

I can't speak for anyone else, but for my family, it's much clearer for everybody this way. When I'm at the office, I'm working. When I'm at home, I'm home. My wife doesn't mind my working long hours at the office, but when I'm home, she and the children get my complete attention.

2 points by bendmorris 8 hours ago 1 reply      
Our son was born exactly three weeks ago, and I work from home. (I'm assuming you're the dad in this scenario.)

For the initial recovery period I found that being in the same room or nearby out of a desire to be helpful was a bad idea. (I don't want to seem like a jerk here, but I have things that I absolutely have to get done. No paternity leave for me.) Simply because my wife knew I was there, she would ask me to do more and more small things for her, i.e. walk across the room and get that blanket for me. Frequent little distractions are a productivity killer. If I was downstairs with a baby monitor, the requests would be a little less frequent. The optimal solution (if I wanted to actually get anything done) was to work outside the home but within about 10 minutes. This way, if she really needs something, I'm a phone call and a short drive away, but generally she has to remember to ask for things she needs when I'm home and non-essential tasks can wait.

So, I'd recommend finding a place close by where you can work on your own, and take breaks every couple hours to come home and help with anything.

3 points by tom_b 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I have two pre-K children. My wife and I both work FT. After each baby got to around 7 or 8 months, we used an outside-the-home daycare provider. We both work some from home.

This was critical at the time, as neither of us was in a position to provide primary care to the babies during the day. We were really happy with this and our kids have done well with daycare.

4 points by garrickvanburen 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Biggest recommendation - have a home office with a door that close...and some noise-canceling headphones.

I've 3 pre-K kids and have worked at home since before all of them arrived. The kids know that when my office door is closed - I'm at work.

Overall - I find working at home with family to be less interruptive and distracting than an outside office.

1 point by justinchen 8 hours ago 0 replies      
First, I had to make it clear to my family that when I'm working, I'm working. I have a separate work space so they try not to bother me when I'm there. You could also try other indicators when you're not in your workspace...where a "work hat"? :)

Second, I head out to a co-working space or cafe a few days a week. Getting out of the house for the change of scenery is a huge energy boost and it helps to interact with other working people.

A couple of notes of taking care of the baby while working: (1) The newborns are on short cycles but if they're mild babies, you actually do end up with lots of time on your hands. You just need to be focused and get to your task right away since you'll likely be interrupted in an hour or so. Break things up into 30min-1hour chunks. (2) I tried taking care of our 6 months old full time while working at the same time -- doesn't work. I got maybe an hour of work done a day. If this is your scenario, hire a nanny!

3 points by andymo 9 hours ago 0 replies      
The hardest part working from home is telling your kids work is why you can give them attention they need. My kids are in HS now so are out of the house most of the day which makes it easier. Its still a challenge to maintain the separation between working time and not working time (though even when i went to an office, i was always working). Its important to get some time out of the home even just to maintain your own sanity. As long as you don't have to be on the phone, working at a local libraries or starbucks can be a good change of pace.
1 point by rkneufeld 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I've been working at home for about six months now, three of which I've taken care of our daughter from 9am-1pm. I start working at 7am until my wife leaves for her part-time job (while she is on maternity from her teaching position). During daddy-daughter time our daughter takes at least one 1-2 hour nap and depending on her mood she sometimes watches a cartoon and eats on her own while I work on less "hard" development tasks.

When my wife is home I find the "door closed == serious work time" method and noise cancelling headphones do the trick. The most important thing is that your partner/children know and understand that your work space is a place where you work. My wife knows that I wouldn't be able to do X if I was in an office elsewhere, so I probably can't do X either while I am working at home.

On a side note:
A very nice benefit of working home w/ family is the ability to take breathers whenever you so chose -- completely remove yourself from your work environment for a few minutes and (hopefully) change your perspective/attitude to a more beneficial one.

1 point by raphaelb 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I tried a home office with a door that closes but found it just easier to get an out of house office. I did fine with just my wife but with a baby it was really hard to not go help when I heard him crying for an hour, etc.

Also my wife found it much more empowering to just have to deal with the baby on her own instead of having me as a 'last resort' option just a knock away.

-4 points by haploid 9 hours ago 2 replies      
Um. Why did you elect to have a child before considering the impact it would have on your livelihood?
Ask HN: where can i hack if i came to SF for a bit?
3 points by cityofashes 6 hours ago   3 comments top 3
2 points by aristus 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I host the "open hacker house" out of Sugarlump cafe on 24th st & Bryant, every Wednesday. Usually it's me plus a few folks from facebook, yahoo, and random startups.

Come by anytime, my email is in my profile.

1 point by jhowell 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Hacker Dojo in Mountain View. Definitely worth a visit. Probably find a lot more ideas while there.
1 point by herdrick 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Noisebridge is pretty open to this, I think. Email me if you want.
Will successful Self-Taught Programmers please stand up?
16 points by loboman 12 hours ago   12 comments top 11
2 points by dantheta 1 hour ago 0 replies      
I'm self-taught, starting with C on MS-DOS at age 9 (I'm now 32). I moved onto Visual Basic (ugh) at 12 because my C compiler wouldn't do windows programs, and later moved to Borland C++ on Windows. I did later do a BTEC course in computer studies, but that was just to hedge my bets.

I Switched to Linux in 1995/96, and have spent the last 15 years alternating between systems administration and development roles. I've worked for large online retailers, government departments, multinational manufacturers as well as smaller content portal websites, and I'm currently at a search startup in Cambridge, UK. I can program in C, Perl, and PHP, but the language I love most is Python. I also love relational databases (PostGreSQL in particular), and have quite a strong DBA-streak.

I've never really noticed much tension between the CS-taught and self-taught programmers that I've known. I've often considered that a team is stronger for having both types represented. The self-taught programmers, if they started early, often have an additional 5-6 years commercial experience over the degree-holders (for their age), but it all balances out in the end.

In terms of success, I'm gainfully employed, I'm well regarded by my peers (it's one of the things that motivates me), I can still learn things, I can still teach things and I'm not in management. Win.

I hope that's a useful response for someone!

2 points by dwc 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm self-taught, without a single credit hour of college. In high school a friend took a programming class and showed me a bit on a demo machine at radio shack, and that hooked me completely.

I've worked mostly for smallish companies, and did consulting for a while. A couple of years ago I had quit my job to work on my own project (a way too ambitious startup idea), but almost immediately I got an interview for my current job, which was too cool to pass up (space exploration). There's more than one way to make a difference in the world. Now I head up the dev team here.

Over the years I have spent a lot of time and money on books, and continue to do so. There's always something to learn, and many people way smarter than me continually creating/discovering new things to learn. If I had earned my degree in the normal time frame that would have graduated in the late 80s, and my education would now be woefully out of date, so I'd still have to continually learn.

Am I recommending not going to college? No. It's probably better to go. But certainly you can have a career without it. But either way, get used to learning and pushing yourself.

4 points by kingofspain 9 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm a self-taught programmer without a degree of any kind. I also code PHP on a Windows box. As far as fellow developers are concerned, I'm lower than scum :)

I'm successful in the way that I'm now earning a good living working for myself, have happy clients and get lots of referrals. Let's just say it moved me... to a bigger house.

3 points by haploid 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I am primarily self taught( with some minor help from my father, when I was a child ). I don't work for any of the "cool" places you mentioned, but I do have a reasonably successful ecommerce business.

I did go to school, but I began programming tiny asm programs at ~8 years old out of my dad's 8086 book and my obsession with software expanded from there.

1 point by jhowell 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Primarily self taught. Started in sales. Since becoming a programmer I have received training from various companies that I've work for. I am working on my own projects and have been employed as a developer for just over a decade. So far, I've survived a few layoffs and the "all software will be developed off-short" panic. If I had to do it over again though, I'd probably be a CS major just to have had the earlier exposure to my peer group that has since gone on to do some pretty cool stuff. I live in the Bay Area, so I'm spoiled in that I have proximity exposure to some of the most active minds in software is often readily available through meetups and other venues.
1 point by geebee 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Self taught is a little difficult to define. I was a math major and took a few CS courses: intro, data structures and algorithms, and then math classes with a programming component (that often counted for elective credit toward CS): graph theory, numerical analysis, linear programming.

That said, I pretty much consider myself a "self taught" programmer, because I didn't take most of what I would consider the core of CS.

Can we define "self taught" as someone who didn't take a formal course in:

algorithms and data structures
operating systems ()

() must include a low enough level language that you are manipulating memory

By that standard, I'm self taught, as I'm missing the second two. I promise myself I'll get the book and read them carefully, but I still haven't done it.

That said, I suspect that someone who did take the entire full "core" would be pretty much as "self taught" where it comes to most professional programming. However, I still think they'd be better prepared than I was for a programming career, as compilers and operating systems is more relevant to professional programming than real analysis and abstract algebra.

1 point by clueless123 10 hours ago 0 replies      
1. Define self-taught. By the time I got to college I had already been programing for five+ years. With respect to coding in general, college was mostly a waste of time, but it did forced me to look at things I would had never look at otherwise. (I got a Math/Comp Sci degree)

2. Define successful. If it is about money, most IT workers in the US are already on the top 90% money earners in the planet, plus (in my experience) the more boring and un-challenging the job, the most it paid.

Maybe you mean famous? Lots of open source rock stars are not to rich in money terms.. are they successful?

1 point by aptsurdist 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I took one java class in college, but that was about it when I started learning javascript 3 years ago (along with html, and css). I carried around the OReilly javascript book for the summer - read it on the bus, on the beach, wherever.

For the last couple years, I have worked as a freelance web designer and front-end developer. Now I'm pleased to have just gotten a job with the title webmaster (for a section of a major news organization.)

I wouldn't call myself a JS ninja, but I'd say I can make a browser do some cool stuff with some pretty clean code. And I'm getting paid pretty well for it. And 3 years ago, I didn't know HTML.
So, for anyone who wants to learn to code from scratch, Go for it! Go to your library's programming section, checkout something that looks 'elegant, yet friendly', and take it to the beach. Or if you want something right now, this should probably do nicely: http://jqfundamentals.com/book/index.html

Along the way: Listened to a couple podcast lectures, read a couple books, read hacker news every day (thank you!), fell in love with jQuery, picked up a little python, real a little about lisp, and found some start-up partners in New York to start hacking on some fun stuff.

1 point by portentint 9 hours ago 0 replies      
If 'successful' means 'can code an application more secure than Windows', I guess I'm in there. Self-taught ColdFusion (go ahead, laugh), PHP and Python (my favorite). My staff uses the tools I've written to do their jobs. And we're still in business. Woo hoo!
1 point by abosit 10 hours ago 0 replies      
I started playing around with programming around the age of 13, but never anything too serious.
After getting a degree in mechanical engineering, I applied for jobs in booth mechanical engineering and software development.

The software development jobs just seem like more fun and I went that direction.

I have been a software developer for 9 years now, the last 2 years as a successful freelancer and at the moment partial owner of a software consulting firm (couple of employees, but growing fast)

The lack of a CS degree never has been a problem. All the developers I work with value a person by knowledge and skill, degree is not that important.

1 point by ScottWhigham 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Does "successful" mean that you passed an interview and got a job as a programmer? Or something else? I guess I don't quite understand what you mean.
Ask HN: What's the relationship between App Store Top Grossing Rank and Revenue?
50 points by webwright 20 hours ago   16 comments top 4
15 points by bignoggins 19 hours ago 1 reply      

1. All these data points are for the US APP STORE. When you see big numbers from taptaptap, etc, they are referring to worldwide numbers, which do not really help with rankings since rankings are different in each market. That said, USA is by far the biggest market, so most developers brag about US Store rankings.

2. Rankings vary quite a bit depending on the season. For example, Christmas day sales are generally 3x normal, and it stays at about 1.5-2x for a few weeks afterwards. When new devices hit the market, there is also a surge in sales.

Data points from my own apps:


#66 Top Paid Overall iPhone = ~ 1200 sales/day

#60 Top Grossing Overall iPhone: ~$2500/day

Sports Top Paid iPhone(Varies a TON depending on what sports season it is):

#25 = ~ 50 sales/day

#10 = ~ 100 sales / day

#5 = ~ 250 sales / day

#2 = ~ 500 sales / day

Sports Top Paid iPad:

#5 = ~ 150 sales / day

Data points from other developers apps who have shared their data with me:

#7 Overall Paid iPhone = ~ 16,000 sales / day

#10 Overall Paid iPhone = ~ 7,000 sales / day

#1 Overall Free iPad = ~ 40,000 downloads / day

#15 Overall Paid iPad = ~ 1,000 sales / day

4 points by sahillavingia 20 hours ago 1 reply      
A top 30 application in Paid Utilities nets around $500/day in my experience. It doesn't even show up in the Top 200 Paid All.

[edit] - the app is $1.99.

2 points by busterbenson 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Totally random data point that is way out of date now. On March 17th, 2009, it took about 1,750 sales per day (at $2.99 price point = $5,232 that one day) to reach #64 in the paid store. This post shows a bit more about the trajectory and the above information can help you understand where the peak was.


Hope that helps!

1 point by whyleym 15 hours ago 0 replies      
My data points for a UK centric app in the sports section of the app store (iPhone & iPad combined) :

#25 = ~ 20 sales/day

#15 = ~ 30 sales/day

#5 = ~ 50 sales/day

#3 = ~ 75 sales/day

So wildly different to US in terms of numbers - which is probably in itself unsurprising but great to see some actual numbers.

One thing I have noticed is that sales in general in the UK have gone up quite dramatically since Christmas - before Christmas we were in the top 10 of the Sports section of the UK app store and seeing around 20 - 25 sales a day - now you would be likely to see around 40 sales a day.

Ask HN: There is a 1:1 manager to developer ratio where I work. Is this normal?
5 points by mannylee1 9 hours ago   11 comments top 7
4 points by tom_b 9 hours ago 1 reply      
WTF? They don't have a 1:1 ratio in max security prisons.

I simply cannot imagine how a fortune 500 company would let a division or org get this out of whack.

Do these managers do anything but "manage?" E.g., are they also customer contact/support leads or working with sales somehow?

1 point by dstein 2 hours ago 0 replies      
During one of the biggest entrepreneurial booms in history, what exactly is going on in your mind during such meetings??

Get out while you can. Join a startup, start a startup, anything, just get out.

1 point by iamdave 9 hours ago 2 replies      
-Other than leaving the company, what else would you suggest that I do to make upper level management see the insanity of having 1:1 manager to developer ratio?

Become an expert in your department in change management. This sounds like the biggest thing holding your teams back, just from what you've described. Mind your p's and q's with change management, adopt it at the core level and push for it as hard as you can without stepping on toes and I think you'll see that ratio start to widen.

1 point by rdouble 2 hours ago 0 replies      
This is pretty typical. Even at dysfunctional startups this happens. I've been stuck on projects that had daily meetings with 4 managers and one programmer.
2 points by bxr 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Is it normal? No. Ask yourself this: Is managing a single developer a full time job?

Talking to one manager about why the process needs to change isn't going to get you that far because you have too many damn managers. At least start bringing it up in your daily meetings, you'll have 5x as much management to hear it, and 5x as many developers supporting that the problem is a problem.

If you haven't yet, get prepared to leave or lose that job. If they can't run a software development shop better than that, I wouldn't bank on its continued survival and you probably don't want to be there anyway.

1 point by petervandijck 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Please tell the CSS story in detail, it won't put us to sleep, it'll make us feel better about our job :
1 point by triviatise 8 hours ago 0 replies      
fortune 500 companies will eat your soul.
Show HN: Dripi.com - A little web app that won a Google I/O ticket
9 points by MatthewRayfield 22 hours ago   5 comments top 4
1 point by nickconfer 17 minutes ago 0 replies      
really awesome idea... I think your underestimating yourself a little in thinking they didn't get many submissions. This is honestly a good idea executed well.

Congrats on winning.

1 point by wcarss 21 hours ago 1 reply      
Have you considered trying to hack some sort of 'double buffered' style approach to transitions? You could conceivably open a hidden player that's loading in the background while the visible one is playing, and flip between them, dumping the previously visible player's video and always buffering the next chunk in the hidden bit.

This idea has been something my friends and I discussed a lot at one time or another, it's really cool to see it in action.

1 point by revorad 9 hours ago 0 replies      
This is awesome! Is there anyway to mix more than one video in one mashup? That would be really useful to me right now.
3 points by MatthewRayfield 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Clickable: http://dripi.com
Ask HN: How to stave off decline of HN?
416 points by pg 3 days ago   660 comments top 235
77 points by mixmax 3 days 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.

59 points by coffeemug 3 days 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.

64 points by strlen 3 days 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]

45 points by idoh 3 days 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.

122 points by tptacek 3 days ago replies      
A hard ban on politics and current events, instead of the wiggly one we have in the site guidelines now.
54 points by tptacek 3 days 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.
42 points by tptacek 3 days 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.

8 points by jedsmith 3 days 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.

66 points by pkaler 3 days 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.

38 points by gleb 3 days 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

21 points by jjcm 3 days 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.

14 points by solipsist 3 days 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

37 points by tptacek 3 days ago 1 reply      
Stop showing people other people's comment scores. They stimulate argumentative comments.
17 points by chaosmachine 3 days 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 3 days 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 3 days 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 andywood 3 days 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 3 days ago 3 replies      
Have comments start at -1.

(Or, better yet, -thread_depth).

8 points by ChuckMcM 3 days 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.

33 points by geuis 3 days 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.
17 points by user24 3 days 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.

13 points by psawaya 3 days 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.

8 points by goodside 3 days 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.

9 points by tptacek 3 days ago 0 replies      
Add "Assume Good Faith" to the guidelines; this is one of the few Wikipedia rules that I think really helps.


5 points by raganwald 2 days 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 3 days 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 3 days 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.

12 points by sunir 3 days 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.

5 points by Locke 2 days 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.

11 points by tptacek 3 days ago 3 replies      
The comment flag button could be changed to really mean something; for instance: sufficiently flagged comments can stop collecting upvotes.
14 points by RiderOfGiraffes 3 days 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.

5 points by michael_nielsen 3 days 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 JesseAldridge 2 days 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...

6 points by silentbicycle 3 days 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.)

19 points by euroclydon 3 days 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.

4 points by btilly 2 days 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.

7 points by tptacek 3 days 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 3 days 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.

5 points by rlpb 3 days 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.

3 points by harshpotatoes 2 days 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."

3 points by crasshopper 2 days 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).

4 points by jcl 2 days 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.

6 points by Mz 3 days 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.

4 points by colinsidoti 3 days 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.

8 points by diego 3 days 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.

5 points by webwright 3 days 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.

5 points by nhangen 2 days 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.

18 points by noblethrasher 3 days 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.
7 points by petervandijck 3 days 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!

4 points by Tycho 3 days 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 3 days 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 2 days 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.

5 points by kulkarnic 3 days 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 sunir 2 days 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.


3 points by anurag 3 days 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 3 days 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.

4 points by bdclimber14 2 days 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.

3 points by socksy 3 days 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 " 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 " 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 " 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 3 days 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 dman 2 days 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.

11 points by ComputerGuru 3 days ago 2 replies      
A hard limit on the maximum upvotes a comment can get. Say, 25.
3 points by dkokelley 3 days 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 3 days 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.

5 points by crasshopper 2 days 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.

4 points by bvi 3 days 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.

4 points by pbiggar 3 days 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).

2 points by bootload 2 days 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.

9 points by ChrisNorstrom 3 days 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.

2 points by GHFigs 2 days 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.

1 point by JoachimSchipper 2 days 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.]

4 points by mbesto 3 days 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).

7 points by mikek 3 days ago 0 replies      
How about notifying people when their comments have been flagged and pointing them to the site guidelines?
1 point by macrael 2 days 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.

5 points by scott_s 3 days ago 0 replies      
An explicit voting protocol may help. Personally, I would like to see "No downvotes for disagreement" made official.
1 point by davidmathers 2 days 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.

3 points by rexreed 3 days 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.

4 points by Groxx 3 days 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.

3 points by hanifvirani 3 days 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.

5 points by ig1 3 days 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 3 days 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 revorad 3 days 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.

3 points by randall 3 days 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.

7 points by Sargis 3 days ago 3 replies      
Make it invite-only to post threads/comments and quietly associate the inviter with the invited person.
1 point by knowtheory 2 days 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 benologist 3 days 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.
3 points by Jarred 3 days 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 3 days 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.

2 points by planckscnst 3 days 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.

3 points by znt 3 days 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.

3 points by thorax 2 days 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.
2 points by duck 2 days 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.

2 points by teyc 2 days 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 tlrobinson 3 days 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 3 days 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.

1 point by gruseom 2 days 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.

3 points by rexreed 3 days 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 danielford 3 days 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.

2 points by rlpb 3 days 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 3 days 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 donohoe 2 days 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?

3 points by eof 2 days 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.

2 points by crasshopper 2 days 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 Devilboy 3 days 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

2 points by jacques_chester 3 days 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.

5 points by dchs 3 days 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 mindcrime 3 days 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?

4 points by ericflo 3 days ago 0 replies      
Reddit solved this problem by splintering into different communities, and let them self-select.
2 points by ajju 3 days 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?

3 points by noblethrasher 3 days 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 j_baker 3 days 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 jp 3 days 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 Skywing 3 days 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.

2 points by dreish 3 days 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.

2 points by jmtame 3 days 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?

7 points by eggoa 3 days ago 2 replies      
Institute a one-time $5 fee to participate.
2 points by dangoldin 2 days 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?

3 points by YuriNiyazov 3 days 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 jerhinesmith 3 days 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 CrazedGeek 3 days 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.

1 point by davi 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Delete humorous one-liners vigorously, especially ones that get lots of upvotes.

Lots of other good suggestions in this thread but I don't see
this one.

I hope you can turn it around, I've gotten a lot of value from this site.

3 points by bmelton 3 days 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
2 points by baguasquirrel 2 days 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.

2 points by apollo 3 days 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.

2 points by brm 3 days 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:


2 points by eli_s 3 days 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.

2 points by dustingetz 3 days 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 SeanLuke 2 days 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.

1 point by presidentender 3 days 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.

1 point by jackfoxy 2 days 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 mrb 3 days 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 crasshopper 2 days 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.

5 points by SoftwarePatent 3 days 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.
1 point by gokhan 3 days 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.

2 points by GBKS 2 days 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.

2 points by ssp 3 days 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.

2 points by PStamatiou 3 days 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.

3 points by pumpmylemma 2 days 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.

2 points by bbulkow 3 days 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.

1 point by Sandman 3 days 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.

3 points by rbarooah 2 days 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.
1 point by joelburget 3 days 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 gasull 2 days 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 FirstHopSystems 3 days 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).......

2 points by dpcan 2 days 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.
1 point by kgo 3 days 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.

6 points by julius 3 days 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).

4 points by th0ma5 3 days 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 Tycho 2 days 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 zyfo 3 days 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 sage_joch 3 days 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.
2 points by planckscnst 3 days 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 crasshopper 2 days 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.

1 point by siculars 2 days 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.

2 points by moblivu 3 days 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 Goladus 2 days 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.

1 point by zbanks 3 days 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 JeffJenkins 3 days 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 bootload 3 days 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.

1 point by ohyes 2 days 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.

2 points by nickolai 3 days 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.
1 point by asdf333 3 days 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 3dFlatLander 1 day 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.

1 point by bigwally 2 days 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 sunir 3 days 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.

1 point by hollerith 2 days 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 niels_olson 2 days 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.

2 points by scythe 3 days 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 noahl 2 days 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.

1 point by rokhayakebe 3 days 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.

2 points by invertedlambda 3 days 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.

1 point by sushrutbidwai 2 days 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 mkramlich 3 days 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.

1 point by crasshopper 2 days 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 jmatt 3 days 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.

2 points by steve19 3 days ago 0 replies      
Explicitly ban bots.

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

1 point by pama 3 days 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 DrJokepu 3 days 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)?
1 point by bbq 2 days 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.

3 points by gte910h 3 days 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 physcab 3 days ago 0 replies      
There needs to be a better system of moderation. Perhaps highlighting moderators and/or allowing people to apply to become one.
2 points by pvandehaar 2 days 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?

2 points by Panoramix 3 days 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?
7 points by akkartik 3 days ago 1 reply      
Make votes public.
2 points by rooshdi 2 days 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.
6 points by jawartak 3 days ago 0 replies      
Make commenting cost 2 karma.
1 point by projectileboy 2 days 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 roadnottaken 3 days ago 0 replies      
Limit comments and/or submissions and/or votes to a few per day.
2 points by nathanhammond 3 days 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 ig1 2 days 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 xccx 2 days 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.

2 points by zecg 3 days 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.
1 point by gersh 2 days 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.

2 points by soamv 3 days 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 crasshopper 2 days 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.
2 points by maxer 2 days 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...
1 point by anthonyb 3 days 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 bergie 2 days 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

1 point by gasull 2 days ago 0 replies      
Paul, what about using StupidFilter to filter out trolls?


1 point by ctl 3 days 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 edanm 3 days 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.

1 point by weaksauce 3 days 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.
2 points by Locke1689 3 days ago 0 replies      
Add a story downvote at a very high karma threshold.
1 point by flipside 3 days 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 rexreed 3 days 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 sabat 3 days 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 rafaelc 2 days 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 BrainScraps 3 days 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 3 days 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 jrspruitt 3 days 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 3 days ago 0 replies      
Karma threshold for upvotes. Higher for topics than comments.
1 point by pitdesi 2 days 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 dglassan 3 days 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 malbs 3 days 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 invertedlambda 2 days 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 rosenjon 2 days 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.

1 point by Yana_Convelife 3 days 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 jarin 3 days ago 0 replies      
Isn't that what downvotes are supposed to be for?
1 point by MrMan 2 days 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 Dnguyen 2 days 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.
2 points by ronnier 3 days ago 0 replies      
Stop accepting new members for awhile.
1 point by jamesrcole 2 days 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.

6 points by allending 3 days ago 0 replies      
Get rid of karma.
1 point by sc00ter 2 days 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 da5e 2 days 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 paolomaffei 3 days ago 0 replies      
1 point by Naomi 3 days 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 2 days 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 3 days 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 dispenser 1 day 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 hi_from_cuba 2 days 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.

1 point by aaw 3 days 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?
0 points by derrida 3 days 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 karlzt 2 days 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.

1 point by newguy889 2 days 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 2 days ago 0 replies      
Simple, tie board participation more closely with YC application scores. What were you thinking?
Social Networks What's missing?
7 points by piyushyadav 9 hours ago   7 comments top 5
1 point by stevenj 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Honestly, I don't think there's much to improve with online social networks. If there is, then Facebook will build it.

Instead, I think people should think about how to improve people's offline social lives, perhaps via online means.

You could say online social networks are doing that by enabling people to communicate more, but I think online social networks would love it if you spent more time on them, not less.

Which is interesting, because I think most would agree that your offline social interactions, however frequent, are much more fulfilling.

1 point by qntm 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Privacy. Friend of mine travels all over the world. He wants to keep track of where he's been, which photographs he took in which locations, what he did there. He doesn't want to have to share all of that with everybody. It's just for him, so that he can remember and reminisce.

There are wonderful, powerful web apps for this purpose, and many others. But they make him share it all. Social functions are primary. Private apps where you can do what you want are becoming niche.

1 point by triviatise 8 hours ago 1 reply      
these are not revolutionary:
would like a much better way to give fine grained access to my network based on who I want to see what. Today it is clumsy and very error prone it might as well not be there. From management of my friends (terrible) to publishing and the types of things I publish

would like the ability to create a family tree with special propagation of family members and include dead people. Would like one person to be able to manage the accounts for their family since not all family members will participate, but they are still in the tree. Would like a visual interface to manage family connections that way. As people marry into the family I would like to see the extended tree

1 point by ethank 6 hours ago 0 replies      
For me the "socializing" is loosing relevancy as the number of types of media I can create increases.

I'd love to see social networks function as pathways for my media in a better way than Facebook currently does it.

1 point by mgh2 7 hours ago 0 replies      
The trend is moving towards mobile networks. In the future, mobile interfaces are going to be a bridge to meet real people and serve as an 'ice breaker' in the real world. The world needs relationships, and the right ones. Social networking is just beginning to meet that need.
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