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I’ve noticed a real decline in the quality of comments over the last few months and weeks. Bad jokes, unsubstantiated statements of opinion (especially when only tangentially related to the topic of the post), and outright trolling seem to be getting more common. I’ve been a little guilty of this myself so I know there are pot–kettle–black accusations to be made, but I’ll try and keep that stuff down from now on since I’ve spotted it.

Has anyone else noticed this, and does anyone have a solution to propose?

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    You really need to provide some examples of those comments, because it can be really hard to tell the difference between comment quality actually dropping and people just wanting to say “back in my day this was awesome and now it sucks”.

    Especially accusations of trolling need to be substantiated better because the word tends to be grossly overused.

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        It seems just about every comment you linked was received with polite, but firm criticism/sensible answers, and didn’t end up spoiling the thread or the community’s view. Now while it’d be great to not have these comments at all, I think those examples actually show the bigger picture - the high maturity level of the people in community.

        Perhaps the lobsters software should be able to track repeated troll attempts from a single user and raise an alert for moderators to step in. One thing I’ve experienced from moderation of a few communities is that it is generally better to accept more users cheaply, and have stricter rules to kick them out if/when they misbehave.

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          It seems just about every comment you linked was received with polite, but firm criticism/sensible answers, and didn’t end up spoiling the thread or the community’s view. Now while it’d be great to not have these comments at all, I think those examples actually show the bigger picture - the high maturity level of the people in community.

          Amen. I agree, and this is why I don’t think censorship is needed.

          Hacker News is heavily modded and it’s still a cesspool.

          The best way to handle the problem of bad users is not to attract them in the first place. I think that we’re doing a good job of keeping the forum in a state that doesn’t attract the YC type.

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            You are such a prolific commentator here, that one of the explicit benefits of HN (compared to lobsters) is that you aren’t there.

            [EDIT] I stand by what I said above, but @angersock is right, I probably could have expressed it better. Some clarification: https://lobste.rs/c/01bj1d

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              This is the sort of feedback that is best left to private messages, or that really requires further elaboration and generalization of principle in order to raise the level of discourse. Please consider either of those options in the future.

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                IMO, michaelochurch’s comments are a non-trivial portion of the low quality comments I’ve seen on lobsters. Virtually every single comment by him either insults entire classes of programmers with absurd generalizations or participates in revisionist history.

                This is the sort of feedback that is best left to private messages

                I generally agree. I’ve mostly stopped interacting with michaelochurch because all previous interactions have been remarkably negative. But if we’re going to participate in a meta discussion about the comment quality on lobsters, then it seems more than appropriate to air grievances.

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                  While I don’t always agree with michaelochurch’s comments, and sometimes they’re only vaguely related to the parent post (which can be disruptive), I think he’s a valuable member of the community. He holds a minority opinion on a number of issues, but argues them in a thought-provoking way. I’d hate to see lobste.rs as a community push people out because of contrarian viewpoints.

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                    I’d hate to see lobste.rs as a community push people out because of contrarian viewpoints.

                    I wonder if you’d actually walk the walk too.

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                    Hm, I actually liked the “two types” of programmers comment made by michaelochurch and remember thinking “this guy can really write well”. It made me check out his blog and add it to my feed.

                    But maybe that’s because what he wrote down agrees with my opinion?

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                      Virtually every single comment by him either insults entire classes of programmers with absurd generalizations or participates in revisionist history.

                      While we’re on the topic of quality content and all, it would be great if you could back up your claims by quoting something Michael said and telling us why he’s wrong (or why it’s reasonable to get “offended” or upset by it).

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                        I provided links and have otherwise said enough. At this point, it’s up to folks to come to their own conclusions.

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                          I didn’t see anything wrong with what Michael said in the comments you linked to, so you definitely haven’t said enough.

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                        IMO, michaelochurch’s comments are a non-trivial portion of the low quality comments I’ve seen on lobsters.

                        Generally, I think this sort of stat-waving is in poor taste, but I have a higher average karma-per-comment than you do.

                        all previous interactions have been remarkably negative.

                        You made the first personal attack, not me.

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                          This thread is bringing out some of the worst in our posters I’ve seen in a while–let’s not exacerbate things further.

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                        You are such a prolific commentator here, that one of the explicit benefits of HN (compared to lobsters) is that you aren’t there.

                        Banning me from HN was part of a larger effort. They forced Quora (which YC bought) to ban me. On Reddit, they used to attack me heavily with sock puppets and brigades. Then I started getting the death threats, including harassment from homeless on the street (presumably paid off by YCs; it is a common tactic) when I was in the Bay Area. On one occasion, those assholes tried to get me fired.

                        I suppose you’re a fan of all that, too?

                        If you wonder what I did to piss them off, I wrote a blog post in 2013 where I used the term “chickenhawk” to describe VC’s attraction to inexperience founders. I never mentioned Paul Graham once in that context, and did not have him in mind, but he took the post to be about him, and the rest is history.

                        I’m sure, though, that you think you dislike me because you think for yourself and not because you’ve been told what to think by Paul Graham and his menagerie of boypets. Carry on, then.

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                          If you wonder what I did to piss them off

                          You’ve conveniently left out some important details that might color one’s perspective. For an example of such a detail, see: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10017538

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                            I have no idea what point you’re trying to make.

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                              I’d imagine the point was that you were warned by a mod to stop doing something and then banned after you kept doing it.

                              Either those posts were not in fact written by you (which would be consistent with your accusation that they are trying to get rid of you by any means necessary), or you broke the rules of their private space and got kicked out for it.

                              I’m not going to tell you they aren’t out to get you - I have every reason to believe PG would act like that - but the HN ban sure looks like more like regular old moderation than some kind of conspiracy.

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                                Either those posts were not in fact written by you (which would be consistent with your accusation that they are trying to get rid of you by any means necessary), or you broke the rules of their private space and got kicked out for it.

                                The rules, to the extent that they can be argued to exist, are inconsistently enforced. People who point out that Silicon Valley has devolved into a pyramid scheme, and that Y Combinator is morally culpable to a large degree, are treated differently from people who aren’t perceived to represent a threat to Paul Graham’s economic or cultural interests.

                                I’m not going to tell you they aren’t out to get you - I have every reason to believe PG would act like that - but the HN ban sure looks like more like regular old moderation than some kind of conspiracy.

                                They definitely know who I am. I have a couple sources inside Y Combinator (they’re not all bad people).

                                [ETA.] Oddly enough, Paul Graham isn’t as bad as he’s made out to be, and he’s been pretty much retired for close to 2 years. I wouldn’t call him a good person, but he’s not Hitler either. PG can be childish and vindictive, but the evil that YC is known for comes mostly from people under him.

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                            They forced Quora (which YC bought) to ban me. On Reddit, they used to attack me heavily with sock puppets and brigades. Then I started getting the death threats, including harassment from homeless on the street (presumably paid off by YCs; it is a common tactic) when I was in the Bay Area. On one occasion, those assholes tried to get me fired.

                            What do you think would cause a diverse group of people across a number of sites to all attack you like that? They can’t handle the truth?

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                              It wasn’t a diverse group of people. It was a small number of people (maybe five). Y Combinator owns Quora, which explains the ban.

                              The death threats could have come from anywhere, and although the Reddit brigade detected last April consisted of 45-70 accounts, it’s overwhelmingly likely in my mind that it was fewer than five people, working together and possibly in the same physical space (YC headquarters).

                              Of course, I don’t know for sure, but I know how these people fight. It’s more likely that a small number of people are doing bad things than that there is a large conspiracy.

                              What motivated them? It’s not that they “can’t handle the truth”. They know the truth. What they don’t want getting out there is how much of this current “startup” bubble is outright fraudulent, not only against employees and customers, but also against the institutional investors who provide the capital.

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                                That is a crazy story.

                                The operative word here is crazy.

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                                  As if a blog post could do something like that.

                                  At my peak, I got about 2,500 uniques per day. I had a low four-digit Alexa rank in the SF Bay Area.

                                  I’ve pulled out of that game. I don’t care about this industry. I enjoy programming, but the tech industry can go to hell (who would know the difference?)

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                                      I certainly poked the bear, although I didn’t intend to provoke the specific response I got.

                                      In July 2012, I wrote an essay called “Don’t waste your time in crappy startup jobs”. It got about 200,000 hits. That put me on Paul Graham’s radar and soon afterward he put me on “rank ban”, a Hacker News “feature” that would cause my comments to fall to the bottom no matter how many upvotes they got. It wasn’t until 2015 that Gack (the current moderator) admitted to this, but most people in-the-know were aware of it, and I wasn’t the only person affected by it.

                                      It wasn’t a personal grudge, on Paul Graham’s end, until about a year later when I wrote this blog post. He thought “chickenhawk” was intended to refer to him. It wasn’t. I didn’t even have him in mind, to be honest. This is probably an exaggeration, coming from one of my sources inside YC, but I was told that after reading that essay, PG couldn’t even get out of bed for three days. At that point, the grudge was personal. Even though is essentially retired these days, he encouraged his puppies, Gack and Paul Buchheit, to attack me at every opportunity.

                                      I was very active as a technology writer. I’ll admit that it took some effort to get the Paul Grahams of the world as pissed off as I did. It’s not something that you just fall into. What I didn’t expect is that these people would take a difference in economic and cultural interests and then try to spin it into something personal and vicious.

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                                  You’re omitting a few details. You were banned from Wikipedia for sockpuppeting, you were banned from Hacker News for calling Marissa Mayer the C-word, and you were banned from Quora for repeated sockpuppeting.

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                                    You’re omitting a few details. [.. snip ..]

                                    Uh.. I totally understand why you posted that, and won’t call it out for being entirely unreasonable given the way this thread (unfortunately) went. So don’t take this personally.

                                    But as a plea for the future, could we all please not dig up dirt on our community members? I really think it is one of the saddest things one can do here. And if we really have to judge somebody, then it should be based on their contribution here on lobsters. Not elsewhere, and definitely not over ten years ago elsewhere.

                                    There are multiple reasons for this. Through such external sources, we catch a glimpse of community drama and claims without context, with no way to verify these claims, with no way to understand the background. No way to know who’s lying and who’s saying the truth. That community might be toxic, and toxicity often breeds toxicity. I admit, I can be quite toxic on the trollfest that slashdot is. And the past is past, people can change. I no longer participate on slashdot.

                                    Along these lines, I can ascertain that when we have a nice friendly community here, then the people here are naturally encouraged to play along and be nice regardless of how they do elsewhere. That is what matters.

                                    But when people come in and bring personal grudges and vendettas and dig up dirt, they bring in the toxin from these other communities. It evokes negative feelings and it hurts, and when it hurts, it is easy to forget what a nice community we have here. And so the poison spreads.

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                                      But as a plea for the future, could we all please not dig up dirt on our community members?

                                      If you peruse this particular community member’s comments, you will note that he speaks frequently of his past interaction with various folks. It at least seems clear to me from his comments that he’s quite willing to discuss the past and his interaction with communities he’s been banned from. He may very well be telling the truth about many things (as you say, there’s no way to know), but one thing is very very clear: he omits critical details that are terribly inconvenient to his narrative. If he’s willing to talk about it, then adding additional context to what he’s saying seems absolutely fair to me.

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                                        one thing is very very clear: he omits critical details that are terribly inconvenient to his narrative.

                                        I omit details that are irrelevant, regardless of whether they are favorable or not. It’s not like I post, “I’ve received death threats from YC partners” at every opportunity, because who cares? What would I gain from that? I come here to read and talk about technology, not this sort of shit.

                                        I don’t talk about this stuff except when asked or provoked. The record shows that you, not me, are the one who turned this thread into a personal-attack-driven shitshow. And you owe an apology to the Lobsters community for doing it.

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                                          And you owe an apology to the Lobsters community for doing it.

                                          As I said, I could have expressed myself better. I never intended for anything I said to be a personal attack, but I can absolutely see how I came across that way. For that, I apologize to you. My intent was to express how unfavorably I view your contributions to this web site. Intent doesn’t count for much, but there it is.

                                          In any case, I’ve learned from my mistake. This will be the last time I respond to you on this web site.

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                                        In general I agree with you, but in this case I was responding to a comment in which Church claims he was banned from HN and Quora as part of a larger conspiracy against him (that includes YC paying the homeless to harass him). When someone makes a claim like that, I feel like I need to point out there were several clear reasons for why he was banned.

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                                          “Point[ing] out” things that aren’t actually true isn’t a public service. It’s annoying and, frankly, you aren’t very convincing or talented at it.

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                                        You were banned from Wikipedia for sockpuppeting,

                                        That user’s hate page was debunked a long time ago. Most of those accounts don’t even exist. Granted, I did some stupid shit on Wikipedia back in 2004. Just not that.

                                        you were banned from Hacker News for calling Marissa Mayer the C-word

                                        Not true. I used a different word, “queynte”, specifically because some people consider “cunt” to be a gender slur when applied to a woman. The best translation of “queynte” would be “ornament”, not “crude term for vagina”.

                                        you were banned from Quora for repeated sockpuppeting.

                                        I am aware of that being their stated reason. However, those sock puppet accounts didn’t exist.

                                        Back when I had an active blog, Marc Bodnick posted a comment putting the blame on Paul Buchheit who demanded it. Paul Buchheit denied it. I don’t know who’s responsible for that. What I do know is that Marc Bodnick got fired a few months later, because Adam D'Angelo specifically blamed his moderation for the collapse in user engagement and comment quality.

                                        Please find a way either to become more intelligent, or to become more graceful in apologizing for what you currently are.

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                                          Please find a way either to become more intelligent, or to become more graceful in apologizing for what you currently are.

                                          What does that mean?

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                                  I’d agree that the number of bad comments has gone up, but I’m not sure that the S:N has gotten worse.

                                  polite, but firm criticism/sensible answers, and didn’t end up spoiling the thread

                                  We have quite a low quantity of BS, so it’s relatively low-effort to refute (which keeps the place nice). There’s a threshold beyond which people stop being willing to invest time doing that.

                                  accept more users cheaply, and have stricter rules to kick them out if/when they misbehave

                                  My only concern with this approach (which works well in genereal) is that the failure mode is collapse (when e.g. a key moderator is absent for a few months and there isn’t suitable handover).

                                  If that were our approach, I think it would become important to recruit a larger pool of moderators to reduce this risk.

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                                    Disclaimer: I’m one of the word-criminals listed above.

                                    I pointed out what I consider to be an obvious fact - that Common Lisp itself is not very practical, but didn’t want to go through the effort of trying to convince people of it. For example because if it’s not obvious to someone, he probably wouldn’t be amenable to convincing either.

                                    Someone who’s never considered CL impractical but does have an open mind, might benefit from seeing the idea, in case it led to him investigating and reaching the same conclusion himself.

                                    It seems just about every comment you linked was received with polite, but firm criticism/sensible answers, and didn’t end up spoiling the thread or the community’s view.

                                    Yes, someone asked the reasonable question: “Why?”, and someone else provided a great answer.

                                    All in all, which would you say caused a greater disturbance to Lobste.rs’s peace & harmony: my comment, or this thread? It could be argued that whoever started this thread is sowing discord!

                                    The thing is, we all interpret quality content and whether an article “belongs here” in different ways. Lobste.rs itself can reasonably be found highly lacking in greatness, even if it is better than HN in some ways.

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                                    So, to summarize those examples for people that don’t want to follow links:

                                    1. Throwaway comment saying Clojure is more practical than Common Lisp.
                                    2. Comment asking why news about a suicide of a non-notable person is being posted to Lobsters.
                                    3. Comment expressing skepticism about EU competence on regulating crypto based on linked material.
                                    4. Comment (mine) tersely pointing out misuse of math tag and panning article source.
                                    5. Comment wondering why so many Julia Evans drawings (simple diagrams) keep showing up lately.

                                    With the possible exception of the first comment, those all seem like reasonable comments to me and are not particularly trollish (compared with, say, this or some of yui’s stuff.

                                    I think something worth considering is the content of articles all of those comments were in reply to: we need to all remember that a bad submission (like somebody deciding to kill themselves, or spamming pretty drawings, or public policy news) will usually breed bad comments, either asking “why is this here on lobsters?” or failing to have useful content for discussion.

                                    In short, if you submit garbage, don’t be surprised if you attract flies.

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                                      bad submission (like somebody deciding to kill themselves, or spamming pretty drawings, or public policy news)

                                      I wouldn’t call any of those submissions bad. News about tech industry’s culture affecting people’s mental state, public policy related to tech and other “meta” articles are relevant to lobste.rs, in my opinion. The pretty drawings in question were educational and about tech. Although I didn’t necessarily like some of those submissions, they’re still on-topic.

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                                        those all seem like reasonable comments to me and are not particularly trollish

                                        IMO, not all low quality comments are trolls. I agree with the OP that comments like the ones linked are nearly content free, and I find it disappointing that they’re appearing on lobsters with increasing frequency. I don’t have any good solutions, unfortunately. Ideally, we as a group would discourage those sorts of comments from existing in the first place. Perhaps @nickpsecurity is right in that the only other choice is heavier moderation, but I don’t really like that choice either. sigh

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                                          Three of them aren’t content free though–they are meta comments on the submission. There is a place for such comments and unfortunately they are necessary if we want the community to self regulate properly.

                                          Perhaps the increase in bad comments you are seeing is due to an increase in bad submissions?

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                                            Im pushing two: careful who you invite to point you audit prior comments or behavior (approximates friend-to-friend model); heavier moderation if discouraging specific behaviors that persist. I think the invites arent usually handled like in the first. Many were casting a wide net.

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                                            I personally put sub-par comments that spark good discussions into a different category

                                            I think this is important. There are so many ways a sub-par comment that on its own contributes nothing can lead to very fruitful or informative discussion that is worth having, and quite likely would not be had if it were not for that comment. Sometimes, these little comments can even seem a little trollish or otherwise inflammatory. That is one way to spark discussion; perhaps it is not perceived to be a good way, but it can be very effective. Of course there is no way to know in advance what such a thread will turn into.

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                                              I disagree, given that the brevity of such comments is usually more likely to produce misunderstandings and hostility than creative discussion. Additionally, the brevity of such comments increases the odds that any subsequent discussion is likely to be less topical because of lost context.

                                              Sure, we get occasional gems, but the aggregate effect is always going to be junk commentary and poor decorum.

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                                                The negative effect of lack of context is important. I overlooked that in my response. It does usually result in people talking past each other until the “real” point comes out. Happened to me here a few times.

                                                Therefore best to write at least enough of a comment that claim and context are clear. This might be worth becoming a guideline at some point.

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                                                This seems to happen most when the comment represents a common misconception that many other readers might have. On HN, I often give a detailed counter with evidence and upvote the comment so corrected information reaches that commenter and others reading along. I also upvote the correct ones past it. Can’t recall how much I do it on Lobsters.

                                                The idea being that just filtering out very different views doesnt make them go away. In absence of correcting feedback, misinformation remains with self-reinforcement and more gets built on it. Im still undecided on best strategy here but think it’s worthwhile keeping and countering low-value comments reflectinh misconceptions if person’s other comments were decent.

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                                                OK, I’m a newcomer here

                                                Are you also this “hga”? https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=hga who was recently banned?

                                                Jews are to be “excluded if not eliminated from society”, as in all societies that are not Israel. You’ve got your own homeland now, which we of the Alt West fully support, relocate yourself there.

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                                                  is also correct, and prompted a discussion I at least think is worthwhile,

                                                  I vehemently disagree with that characterization. The OP posted a useless comment. Of what use to others is to state conclusion without an argument or observation so the we can reach our conclusions? Then ssl appears to have attempted to use the maieutic approach to teach the OP about the importance of backing up your conclusions. At which point you derailed the discussion posting a bunch of incorrect statements that because they take more time and effort to refute normally go unchallenged.

                                                  Furthermore I see no good discussion that sparked from it.

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                                              I’ve actually noticed the opposite. The signal to noise ratio is still very strong. As volumes increase, so does the number of bad posts, but the increase in good posts is still larger. I’ve noticed some new arrivals that are particularly insightful, to the point that I’ve thought “nice, the community is improving”.

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                                                Has anyone else noticed this

                                                I for one, really haven’t. I have only been on V.v.V for a year or so – but the comment quality has remained consistently decent. From my perspective, maybe even a marginal improvement (less bold promotion of personal products / blogs / books in comments). The few one line quips that get rated up often don’t bother me, and are even entertaining.

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                                                  I know it goes against all the Internet holds dear, but could we consider limiting the number of comments one can make in a day, perhaps making it proportional to karma? (I don’t like this idea per se, but I’m hoping it can spawn some better ideas.)

                                                  If I had a choice, I’d prefer to read comments by people who pop on every now and then to comment on things they know about, rather than professional Internet commenters who feel the need to post on every story. That doesn’t happen here…yet. I’m trying to attach some sort of ‘cost’ to commenting.

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                                                    I like this! In the end economic principles win. Moderating can only go so far. If you can only make 5 comments a day, you are bound to try and make things work. For myself, looking at all the technical articles here, the best I could do is one useful comment a day - I do like to ask for more information, though, and this could be done through private messages, for example.

                                                    1. 3

                                                      Another idea: making comments cost karma.

                                                      Every comment posted takes a small amount of time away from those that read it. It shouldn’t be free to do that, but it shouldn’t cost very much. New users could start with 25 karma or so and then build up. Just spit-balling here.

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                                                      Against the concept of a hard limit. It lends itself to abuse and gives power to sock puppeteers.

                                                      We’re far from having HN’s problem of professional commenters and shill brigades.

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                                                      Quality comments come from quality people reading quality content. I think there is work to be done all around. I say let this post stand as evidence or a policy and let constructive criticism continue to flow.

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                                                        We’re up to 6300 users now. There was a thread on HN this week about HN alternatives that prominently featured discussion of lobsters. I don’t think there’s much to be done about it as the community gets larger, this always happens to online communities.

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                                                            Not everyone who got into What uploaded music though. In fact, a tiny minority do. A large part of What users got banned because of poor ratio, never used it, or only used it once. Therefore, the people you do see uploading and making collages are those who care enough to do a good job.

                                                            I will admit What had a large number of people who cared though, and sometimes random people with one upload would be the ones who had uploaded that rare album you were searching for.

                                                            The interview definitely helped, though I personally don’t know anyone who didn’t get an invite to the site.

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                                                              There is a purpose to the what.cd interview though – largely it is training new users and making sure everyone on the site agrees to certain technical nomenclature. I don’t think there is an equivalent for lobste.rs.

                                                              Also different about what.cd was the fact that it was blocked from people until they joined, there was no anonymous usage. I wonder if lobste.rs would improve if we blocked anonymous users, as then the invites would be more purposeful and directed, rather than asked for.

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                                                              That was probably my thread that led to hga being here. Growing will bring more in more difficulties. However, Im trying to do my part in limiting damage by just inviting people with good tech/business knowledge but minimal aggravation. Ive only brought 2 since Im quite busy but I plan to bring in a bunch later after vetting them on what they’ll bring to community.

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                                                                  It’s all good. I saw you got several invites in 30 min so it didnt matter. I was gonna email you again about other topic to see where you were at. We’ll just keep that in email for now till topic comes up here again. :)

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                                                              Are threads like this indicative of a trend

                                                              1. 3

                                                                I have no evidence but Id intuitively say yes. Many commenters indicate Lobsters is changing at least in terms of people involved and what they might say. Any significant change in a community from a status quo people are comfortable with will result in negative comments about perceived differences. From there, one has to assess if anything is objectively correct.

                                                                There’s at least some examples in this thread of comment types that themselves added little to no value to discussions.

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                                                                  This thread certainly exploded. I have not yet spent a significant amount of time reading comment threads on lobsters (I find most value from just the feed of headlines), but I guess many commenters here are refugees from reddit and/or hn, neither of which I have ever posted on. I’ve already spent too much non-refundable time reading this thread.

                                                                  Not sure where I’m going with this really.

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                                                                    The community occasionally has meta discussions like these. They often explode. Most threads with high comments arent like this since they’re usually technical articles. Most threads dont get comments at all since people simply read them but dont write.

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                                                                I have also noticed a general decline in the average quality of lobste.rs, and have reduced my participation as a result. The fundamental issue is that we are a site built on links and commentary; we don’t produce our own content, but instead find and discuss content that already exists. There is a finite set of historical content, and an ever-growing firehose of new content. Unfortunately for us and other meta-content sites, the ratio of good to bad in the new content goes down over time, so even though more and more gets generated, it becomes less and less worthwhile to filter the firehose.

                                                                In addition, as the site gains new members, the average level declines. This isn’t the new members' fault, it’s just reality: if you start out with a few highly interested and motivated individuals, they’ll probably be at the top end of the curve for insight and analysis. As more people join, statistically that likelihood goes down; and as they invite their friends, they pull people more like them. The ratio won’t get better.

                                                                People used to bemoan lobste.rs' lack of discussion; I never did. I found a highly curated but lightly commented site more helpful than a constant churn of links with many comments and arguments. pushcx, jcs, qbit, kyle, dwc, etc. saying “I thought this was interesting” by posting it is a stronger endorsement and carries more value than 50 comments arguing back and forth about whether michaelochurch is Satan or whether Common Lisp is a dinosaur.

                                                                I’d like to see a system in which karma decays over time, posting comments costs karma, votes cost karma, and so on, plus a true imposition of the “nuclear option” where bad behavior gets you and your entire tree banned, but these are unlikely to happen, so I’ll continue to use the site mainly as a fancy RSS feed.

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                                                                  I’ve spoken before about how I am not fond of technical solutions that feel like game mechanics, because it tempts people to treat the site as a game. I think the recently-added karma requirement to downvote is reasonable, because there was a proximate problem and because the change really does seem to be fixing it, but I will continue to be skeptical of any proposed additional features gated on karma.

                                                                  I find your perspective interesting in other ways, and I’d be upvoting you for insightful commentary, except I don’t want it to be taken as endorsement of the karma features. :)

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                                                                  I have a related question, I tried to defuse a commenter on the “I don’t belong in tech” article here (expand the thread at the bottom): https://lobste.rs/s/jvrsll/i_don_t_belong_tech/comments/48m8gc#c_48m8gc

                                                                  I felt he was essentially saying, “author is stupid” but in many more words, which didn’t seem appropriate/facilitate discussion. Should I just downvote and let these comments slide, or is asking people to stop OK? I was accused of trying to control the discourse (what) by two people, which wasn’t my intent, but it sounds like a good idea to undertake now that they mention it. :P

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                                                                    I’m in favor of trying to respectfully defuse things that you interpret as hostile. If you see a pattern in site culture… the change you walk past is the change you accept.

                                                                    I’m not sure how I feel about the particular comment you responded to; I’d have to read more context. But you’re asking about the general principle anyway.

                                                                    I don’t think your approach was ideal; I would emphasize a “blameless postmortem” philosophy in that sort of thing, and I wouldn’t have called for a comment to be deleted - I would have said, please at least consider these points before doing that again. It may seem like a weaker approach but I’ve found it more likely to get through, since ultimately the goal is to change people’s minds about how they want to behave, not to enforce rules on them.

                                                                    As a site moderator, I feel somewhat constrained in being able to say that sort of thing, because the possibility that it could be taken as a threat makes it harder to discuss things as peers. I knew that trade-off would happen; so I hope others will fill in for me.

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                                                                      Exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!

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                                                                      Downvote and move on.

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                                                                      Two solutions: (a) ban bad jokes, opinions provided without academic-grade references, and specific versions of trolling on this forum; (b) encourage the opposite while using voting and moderation to keep the bad stuff at a minimum. They’ve been doing (b). Despite claims like yours, I fine (b) is working well enough that I can apply tactic © ignore the fluff that remains. I mean, it’s almost no mental effort on this forum.

                                                                      Expecting some policy or technology to eliminate all that you perceive as bad from your view while simultaneously brining in all or most of the good you would want to see is… like the social equivalent of the Halting Problem. It’s impossible. So, we can only reduce and ignore for stuff we don’t like.

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                                                                        I don’t think ‘academic-grade’ references are needed. Some viewpoints are uncontroversial; others are just people’s own impressions of how things are, and ripe to be challenged, and lobste.rs should be a forum for that too. I guess the most troublesome is the blanket dismissal of something. Negativity in general is far more of a problem than positivity — relatively content-free ‘This is great!’ posts help to re-inforce the reason for an upvote, but a similarly ungrounded ‘I hate this/you!’ is obviously a bad comment.

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                                                                          Expecting some policy or technology to eliminate all that you perceive as bad

                                                                          Honest question: do you think the OP is asking for this? If not, why are you using it to dismiss the OP’s concerns?

                                                                          If the OP is in fact demanding perfection, then sure, I would agree that is unreasonable. But I don’t think anyone has that expectation.

                                                                          I absolutely agree with the OP that comment quality has degraded in the last several months. There’s a much higher concentration of what I like to call “content free” comments.

                                                                          I also disagree with your dichotomy. A comment doesn’t need academic citations to be insightful. A comment doesn’t even need to be correct. It can just be an opinion. My point of comparison is my experience being a member here for a couple years now. Another thing that has changed is the volume of comments. Perhaps that is related.

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                                                                            I may have overstated the dichotomy in a quick comment. The follow-up of the OP added specific stuff that’s reasonable. Yet, if you read all the gripes in various metas, you get to many people having such reasonable criticisms plus wanting it to focus on commenting styles/topics they prefer. The latter lead to the dichotomy since some here apparently have irreconciliable differences on what they want to be present at all. The use of filters shows that even more albeit being much better approach to problem.

                                                                            Like in my original comment, the solution would require listing these specific behaviors, discussing them, determining if a large consensus exists against any, and then officially banning them with flags following when they turn up.

                                                                            Or just scroll past them barely noticing like I do. Look, quick assessment, worthless, and move on. If in thread, skip whole thread maybe. Another benefit of beginning online discussions in the dark ages of the Internet where good comments came in between volumes of IRC comments and web sites. :)

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                                                                              Or just scroll past them barely noticing like I do. Look, quick assessment, worthless, and move on.

                                                                              This strategy is heavily dependent on the signal to noise ratio. The promise of lobsters is its high quality content and discussion. If we’re okay to just “ignore” the bad comments, then what makes lobsters any different than HN or Reddit?

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                                                                                I don’t think Lobsters has better discussion than HN, at least if you stick to the upvoted comments. I only prefer this site because it has less pop-sci and startups posts.

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                                                                                  You just answered it yourself. The site’s approach is high signal so far. That makes noise easy to ignore. If it becomes a real problem, the site’s constraints on behavior can increase to reduce the problem.

                                                                                  I read tons of comment sections and forums over the years although relatively new to this one. Comparatively, this one is doing great for a diverse, loosely-moderated group of people.

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                                                                                    The whole point of this thread is that some people think the signal is decreasing. Lobsters is getting more and more reddit-like comments. As someone who came here for a reprieve from that sort of nonsense, I am disappointed in the quality decrease.

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                                                                              I think that something along the lines of (a) would be useful. Setting up some ground rules for comments. Something along the lines of backup your statements but no need to reference everything or making jokes is fine, but not posting a comment just to make one. However another key ingredient would be the enforcement of that policy, which takes time and effort from a moderating staff and also requires the implementing the code for a punishment system, which again takes effort from someone. It would be ineffective for the only sanction to be only banning the offender. It would be to harsh for a first of transgression people. Something more gradual is needed, like removing the post and posting privileges for a period of time, say a week. Because lobste.rs is run as a free (as in gratis) I don’t see that approach being taken.

                                                                              The point should never be to remove ‘wrong’ views, but encourage a culture for effective discussions, regardless of the views of the participants.

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                                                                              I think the more definitive answer to this would come from a metric only jcs is privy to: At what rate are regular/daily users being driven from the site? (And secondarily, it it worth addressing that at the risk to current rate of growth?) I know a couple people personally who have left due to the elements brought up elsewhere in this discussion, but I wouldn’t feel right singling them out without their permission.

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                                                                                I propose that jcs implements the plotting of comments on a graph where the X axis represents date and Y represents comment quality. Then we could find out if these unsubstantiated claims about the degradation of comment quality over time could be backed by statistics. That would take the vague personal feels out of the discussion.

                                                                                That said, yes I do feel like there’s been a fair number of poor comments recently. At the same time, high quality comments haven’t gone anywhere. If anything, there seems to be more discussion, both good and bad. Maybe the bad just stands out for you?

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                                                                                  If anything, there seems to be more discussion, both good and bad. Maybe the bad just stands out for you?

                                                                                  That’s also true. My concern is that the noise will eventually drown out the signal. Though I note that thus far, at least in the examples I found and linked above, comments I consider ‘bad’ don’t tend to get upvoted.