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Lobsters is an interesting community, whose growth is regulated by a publicly visible invite list. I think this is a wonderful & wise feature, but it brings up the question of, “How to keep the community thriving with high quality new members?”

There are two ways to invite people:

  1. Active invitations: simple reach out to someone you know and ask if they’d like to join.
  2. Passive invitations: someone finds out that you’re a member and asks to be invited.

It’s the latter that I find interesting and I’d like to share an experiment I’ve done.

If you visit my profile on HN, you’ll see the following text:

I’ve got https://lobste.rs invites (HackerNews alternative, “like the good ol' days”)! Happy to invite folks I feel will contribute positively to the community.

On Lobsters: moderation is public info, and so is who invited who. Shoot me an email (itistoday at gmail) with your HN profile and temporarily place your email info in your HN profile so that I can verify you.

I’m an infrequent commenter on HN, so it’s rare for someone to click on my profile and see that text, but I’m pleased to say that so far this method has yielded one catch, @mjn, who has in short order already contributed comments that the community decided to upvote.

The advantage of this method is that because your HN handle can be (pseudo)anonymous, you are free to review the posts of HN members and decide for yourself whether you think they’ll contribute positively here, and the pseudo-anonymity of it all means nobody’s feelings are hurt if you decide to not invite them.

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    We had a public invitation request system here where non-users could just submit their e-mail and name and get on a list, and then it showed “Pending Requests” or something at the bottom of every page where anyone logged in could just approve each request and send out an invitation.

    The problem is that pretty much all of the spammers we’ve had came in that way. When there is no actual connection between the person sending the invitation and the recipient, it’s sort of defeating the purpose of having the invitation system. It’s the reason I don’t give invitations out to people that randomly e-mail me, even though I want this site to grow.

    Verifying Hacker News contributions would probably net less spammy people than it being more or less anonymous, though even someone with a bunch of posts on HN can be an asshole or a “marketing person” that just wants to post their SEO-optimized links. So I guess my point is just: exercise caution in giving out invitations to strangers.

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      Indeed, that’s how I arrived here. But I’m not a spammer, I promise! :-)

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        Verifying Hacker News contributions would probably net less spammy people than it being more or less anonymous, though even someone with a bunch of posts on HN can be an asshole or a “marketing person” that just wants to post their SEO-optimized links. So I guess my point is just: exercise caution in giving out invitations to strangers.

        Totally, and that’s the reason why I look through their contributions on HN prior to sending an invite.

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          I also arrived here through the public invitation system - which worked well for me :~)

          But the quality of submissions, and the general tone of the site is excellent, so I’m happy that the system is invite only.