1. 2

    I didn’t read the full article. The title suggested something else to me: Software designed for people living below the poverty level who often are using older tech. You would think (free) OSS is aimed at such people, but it often isn’t.

    If you do OSS and are trying to improve your monetization, I like this idea: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10863939

    1. 40

      May Terry rest in peace. Hopefully he found the peace he could not find in his life.

      1. 18

        That could easily have been me. In fact, at one point during the years I spent expecting never to get enough control over my disabilities to escape financial abuse, I had started planning what project I wanted to leave to the world (it would have been a programming language with some novel ideas).

        I’m really impressed by how much of it he got done. I very much hope that this work brought him relief, and that he’s at peace now.

        1. 4

          Thank you for saying this. It’s lovely and it means something to me.

        2. 11

          His story reminds me a lot of the folk artist Daniel Johnston, who I got to see preform years ago in Atlanta. Having know others close to me who’ve had to deal with serious mental illness, it’s really neat to see what these people put together and accomplished, as well as how difficult it was for them to live in this world and the world inside their heads. It’s a reminder of how dependent we are on our senses and our perception of reality.

          1. 1

            It’s a reminder of how dependent we are on our senses and our perception of reality.

            Wise words

          2. 0

            Amen.

          1. 2

            That’s not a lot of information! It’s 50 words :). So to do this effectively you need to distill your project down to 50 words in a way that’s still useful. It’s not easy!

            Small quibble: The above is a contradiction.

            “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” This is why graphics are so popular. When done well, they are an easily digestible, information-dense format.

            So the above advice is to distill the information down to 50 words that carry a lot of information. It’s not just any 50 words. It’s kind of the equivalent of an elevator speech, where you convey critical information succinctly.

            Being succinct doesn’t mean that you aren’t conveying a lot of information. It means you are conveying a lot of information in relatively few words. There is a difference and the difference is huge.

            1. 3

              “Garbage in, Garbage out” is a great rule of thumb to keep in mind. The kinds of questions you ask have a tremendous impact on the kinds of solutions you find. If the best question is “How big is it?”, asking “What does it weigh?” may seem like a good question, yet may utterly fail you in the end.

              The article is kind of a so-so treatment of the topic, but this line was a good takeaway for me:

              “I would take a B student who has fresh questions as a Ph.D. student over a typical overeager A+ student who frets about getting everything right. It is a poorly held secret that some of the very best researchers and innovators were average students.”

              Part of the reason that A+ students aren’t great innovators is you get those As by giving “the right answers” according to our current understanding of the topic. B students are more likely to be people saying “But, that doesn’t sound right to me. I have trouble agreeing with that. I think something else is going on.” and thereby failing to regurgitate the “correct” answer. One of my sons likes to call those answers “guessing the teacher’s password” (in other words, knowing what the teacher expects you to say, never mind inconvenient facts that may make that answer suspect).

              Einstein perhaps gave the best TLDR of this idea:

              No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

              1. 1

                I can’t find it to reply directly to it, but in one of these two discussions, someone noted you could read Lobsters without having an account. It’s occurred to me that I actually didn’t know that until after I got an account. I’ve always heard it was invitation only. My impression was there were no ads. This seems to be true.

                Based on those details, I had assumed it was actually private. I was a little surprised that it’s not.

                That might be “just me.” Or I might not be the only one leaping to that conclusion.

                1. 4

                  Trying to find a path forward on learning a programming language. I asked around and a programmer suggested Python as a good choice, given my goals and my familiarity with HTML and CSS. My recollection is some other programmer was wanting me to learn Python as well because that’s what his project is written in.

                  I spend a lot of time online on my phone. I’ve been trying to read stuff here and I briefly checked for videos.

                  1. 3

                    Python is a great choice of language to learn! The community is super welcoming and helpful, and there are a TON of resources out there to help you get started.

                    1. 2

                      Thanks. I have all the challenges typical of someone 2e when it comes to learning something new. The right material makes a big difference, but to some extent, I just need to stumble my way forward, as usual.

                      1. 2

                        What material are you learning with if you don’t mind my asking?

                        And what tools are you using? Have you looked at Mu ?

                        1. 1

                          As stated above, at the moment I’m just trying to read articles on Lobsters that are coding related in some way and I poked around briefly on youtube the other day. I’m just trying to get my toes wet.

                          I am often online on my phone, not a laptop or PC, and I’m visually impaired and yadda. I have a lot of barriers to just jumping in with both feet like a “normal” person.

                          1. 3

                            Normal is overrated :) I’m blind in one eye, low vision in the other. Good luck!

                            1. 1

                              Thanks!

                              I’m one of the admins on a google group called Blind Dev Works. You are welcome to join, if interested. Just private message me and I can point you to it so you can submit a “join” request or I can simply add your email if you prefer. (It’s really low traffic so far. Not something that’s going to flood your inbox.)

                    2. 2

                      From purely a tutorial standpoint I really like https://automatetheboringstuff.com to learn python. But it’s not a “learn computer science with python” type of book. The practicality of that book is unmatched in my experience though.

                      1. 2

                        Thanks. I’ll look it over.

                    1. 3

                      Since this is the internet, your reference section really should have clickable links for anything that’s online.

                      It seems choppy, like it was either written by a non-native speaker or was not grammar checked. I do freelance writing. I typically run stuff through a grammar checker.

                      I’m not intending to shoot you down. I’m hoping to be helpful. I’m not really a programmer. I would like to learn to code. So that’s my interest in reading the piece.

                      1. 2

                        What grammar checker do you use?

                        1. 2

                          Paperrater.com

                      1. 7

                        Nothing! Nothing at all.

                        1. 5

                          Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time

                          1. 9

                            Yes. I would push back against the entire idea of “wasted time”, actually. Being the dad of two toddlers means that weekends with no plans are the very best weekends of all. I get to spend time with my daughters doing what they like to do.

                            1. 3

                              Recharge is important.

                          1. 11

                            (I think this is about the political threads. Disregard all this if not.)

                            I don’t think we’re experiencing growing pains. New members run into flags or apathy. People use comments and private messages to help them out. I usually just encourage thoughtful, tech-focused submissions after just watching the site for a while to get a feel for it. They get into the flow of things.

                            What you’re seeing yesterday and today is a battle between people that do or don’t want political activism and enforcement. It goes back at least to the Community Standards discussion. There were a huge number of people for and against these positions. The beliefs of new and old members, plus changes in participation on political threads, led to changes in what people are doing here day-to-day. We also have new admin and mods whose own decisions feed into these things.

                            In short, folks who want it one way are butting heads with those that want it another way during a period of change. This is natural, social evolution of forums that bring in all kinds of people. We’re already talking it out. Stopping invites won’t change the need for that. Just add to whatever onboarding you’re doing for new people that they should stay clear of tags marked meta, esp if political, until they’ve been on the site a while. That they’re really for users that really understand our community’s norms. Then, tell them to just focus on interesting stuff that helps people out, preferably with depth.

                            That’s what I’m doing now.

                            1. 7

                              Oh, is this about the Palantir thread, then?

                              Personally I was disappointed in the non-technical direction that conversation took, and in the totalizing, non-negotiable conception of ethics assumed by some commenters. I’m not convinced limiting invitations would significantly improve the quality of discourse on such threads, however.

                              1. 4

                                I was disappointed in the non-technical direction that conversation took

                                I think what I really wish is that a thread that gets overtly political under an interesting story could be marked by the community as political. Not as a downvote, not as an upvote, but as a categorization. Allow users to filter conversation threads the same way they filter out stories.

                                1. 6

                                  The political people voted against it when we tried. They want no compromises except on the other side. I speculate they believe it would let people ignore their political outreach easily. Whereas, their goal is to force us to look at their side’s political claims, whether we want to or not, in an attempt to try to change our views to match theirs.

                                  1. 4

                                    Seeing ethics, politics, and tech as inseparable is not the same thing as thinking the response to the Palintir thread was okay. That dumpster fire combined digressions, virtue signalling, and passive-agressiveness in a way that should not be allowed here.

                                    Personally, I’d rather reclaim politics, to be able to have threads about it on here without the team sports dynamics. We have to be able to discuss politics without the team sports dynamics, considering we already have a culture tag, which is pretty much a more innocuous word for politics. Adding a politics tag would just create a ghetto, instead of actually solving anything.

                                    1. 2

                                      I agree about Palantir thread. I was saying they wanted the ability to do stuff like that per their votes and comments. It’s them you gotta convince, not me.

                                      Re team sports, it’s not gonna change. They see people not complying with their politics as harm remaining or going up in the world. They’ll weigh that against aggressive comments in some kind of cost-benefit analysis the target probably didnt agree with. While some are highly civil, many of the active ones prefer insults added to many on one rebukes (aka mobbing on folks). They also get lots of upvotes by onlookers.

                                      So, what you see is what we’ll keep getting in any political thread where they see a dissenter that replies to them. Limiting politics to specific threads at least lets Lobsters choose to filter it. If I can, I dont care if it’s a dumpster in that comment section cuz Ill be posting and reading technical stuff.

                                      1. 3

                                        Quarantining doesn’t work; Reddit’s experience with its hate subreddits proves that. Hardcore activists use the ghetto to collaborate and fire each other up, then they go out and brigade the more frequently-read areas because that’s what being a hardcore activist means.

                                        But what really annoys me about this discussion is that lobsters already extensively discusses politics, it’s just almost always office politics, OSS project management, and economics. When someone makes a culture tag topic about spreading tribal knowledge through pair programming, that’s usually based on a collectivist political view of the company. The distributed tag is pretty much synonymous with the anarchist/libertarian side of the political compass, and not only is that perfectly acceptable, but I’m able to post an opinion piece against it, and in both cases, the comments were user-centric and substantive instead of ideological and shrill.

                                        All of that is fine, because while this is all political, none of it falls into party politics. It seems like everything that political parties touch turns to shit, and by trying to bury it all in a politics tag ghetto, you are ceding that territory to them. We already have a politics tag; we call it culture.

                                        1. 1

                                          You’re talking as if there would be no moderation. People ignoring the tag would have comments deleted, possibly a suspension for repeat violations, and so on. The political part can be moderated, too, in the way we’ve been doing it or with stronger practices.

                                          Far as the rest, theirs is party politics, it’s the majority vote right now, only a tiny handful of us counterpoint them in most threads, and it happens on every thread they want. This is already their territory. Pushing their political evangelism into purpose-made, filterable threads would be gaining territory since more threads would be technical like my side wants. That’s also exactly why they resisted politics tag: they can’t occupy more threads that way.

                                          1. 2

                                            The fight to keep party politics in the correct tags is going to be just as ongoing and messy as the fight to get it off lobsters entirely. It’s not always obvious; the activists are always going to push the edges of acceptability as much as possible, especially since the division between politics and culture, as I’ve been saying the whole time, is actually kind of arbitrary.

                                            Party politics gobbles up anything it can. Net neutrality didn’t use to be a partisan talking point; now it’s a part of everyone’s political platform, either in the affirmative or the negative. The same thing is in the process of happening to social media; eventually, you’re going to wind up banning all discussion of the algorithms involved in ranking posts on Lobsters itself, because they’ll be too politically charged to have a reasonable discussion about, unless we draw the line now rather than later.

                                            Have you actually watched /pol/ eat a subreddit alive? They’re famous for spammy comment brigades, but those are mostly there to strengthen the existing base. What they did to /r/conspiracy was centered around posts that carry political connotations, but perfectly on-topic (think of posts on Lobsters that are about unionizing, or censorship-resistance, or small-business vs big-business), and upvoting the ones with a connotation they agree with and downvoting the ones they disagree with. In other words, frog boiling. Getting a sympathetic moderator in was just the final nail in the coffin: by the time /r/conspiracy started removing posts about “Russia-gate” instead of just downvoting them into oblivion (which, being a conspiracy theory, is clearly on-topic but anti-Trump) they already had an unstated right-wing voting bias that “everyone knew about”.

                                            You can see other subreddits in various stages of the same takeover, too. /r/politics will heavily downvote anything that contradicts the overarching left-wing bias, but, like /r/conspiracy used to, will not actually delete your post or ban you. They will probably eventually get a moderator who starts doing so, at which point very few active commenters will complain (because, after all, those posts were already disappearing into the hole at the bottom of the page anyway). I’m not sure if Lobsters is as far along as /r/politics is, but I can tell you right now, because subreddit takeovers are less about what gets posted and more about what gets upvoted, putting in place an area where political activists can openly-secretly decide what to upvote and what to downvote is not at all a good idea.

                                            1. 3

                                              I should probably just say outright, now that I realize I never said it explicitly and have just been assuming everyone already knew:

                                              Lobsters should be more worried about vote brigading than comment brigading. The latter is easy for a moderator to do something about. The former is much harder, because a post being upvoted because it’s being brigaded looks the same as a post being upvoted because it’s interesting.

                                              1. 2

                                                “the activists are always going to push the edges of acceptability as much as possible”

                                                I don’t follow Reddit much since it’s comment quality sucks compared to HN and Lobsters. I have no doubt people are using those tactics since they go way back. I agree with you that people will try stuff here. We’ll have to evolve with them. Might need to replace the culture tag, too, for reasons you outline. Turn it into culture/politics or politics just includes it. The fact that people will try to abuse the rules doesn’t mean we go lawless.

                                                “You can see other subreddits in various stages of the same takeover, too. /r/politics will heavily downvote anything that contradicts the overarching left-wing bias, but, like /r/conspiracy used to, will not actually delete your post or ban you.”

                                                That’s what the leftist activists do to their opponents currently on Lobsters. Especially to me. Sometimes they go further with a brigade of downvotes which I’ve avoided by investing tons of energy into being more civil than many of them in how I word things. Their strategy works since there’s little action by people on the other side, either votes or comments. There’s definitely a ton of resistance in what our side prefers. Just little to no action. That apathy toward the problem sends a signal to onlookers, old and new (esp new), that what the leftist activists are doing represents the site’s consensus. Again, you’re talking about a hypothetical future which is actually the present of Lobsters working best for leftist, activists’ goals.

                                                “putting in place an area where political activists can openly-secretly decide what to upvote and what to downvote is not at all a good idea.”

                                                They’re already doing it here. Since we can’t see their names, it’s not clear how organized they are, who always downvotes on what points, etc. All I know is one group is actively policing the comment sections while the others are much, much, much more apathetic. The result is the one group wins by default. Your future is my present along with anyone else that’s resisted.

                                                Maybe I missed it, but you still haven’t told me what your solution is if the other side is 100% into party politics allowed, even encouraged, in any thread they can with current rules allowing that and active resistance to any changes. What do you think will let those of us wanting peaceful Lobsters to see no politics at all in technical threads without tagging or rule changes about politics in technical threads? They already got no tagging and politics is allowed with key members maybe quitting if second one changes. So, start with that and work your way up to a solution. I have my own, too, which I may do after holiday months are over.

                                                1. 2

                                                  Maybe I missed it, but you still haven’t told me what your solution is

                                                  The type of comments that you would have put into the politics tag (that is, partisan politics) should be banned outright.

                                                  We should probably continue to allow non-partisan politics, and continue using culture as the preferred euphemism.

                                                  I have no idea what to do about vote brigading. I assume @pushcx can see who votes on what?

                                                  1. 4

                                                    The site shows moderators the reasons + usernames of story flags and comment downvotes. It looks like “+6, -3 incorrect (alice, bob, carol), -1 troll (dave)”. This breakdown doesn’t appear for a mod’s own comments; I haven’t checked if this is intentional or a bug because I figure it helps keep mod blood pressure down. User profiles show an admin (so, only me) the last 10 votes on stories/comments the user has made. I look at this to more-quickly figure out where the battle lines are being drawn when I step into a heated thread, or when I’m trying to figure out if an account is active or not. So there’s not really any way to look at or click on a comment and see who upvoted it.

                                                    Off-site, of course, there’s direct database access. (@alynpost also potentially has this because he has root on the server, but I doubt he’s used it.) I’ve used it five or six times to look at who’s voting on what in response to specific allegations by users. I’ve poked around for patterns of people upvoting or downvoting stories, comments, or users. I’ve haven’t found it. Even the couple times I’ve had to en-masse message stern warnings or disable invites for the tree of employees of a spammy company they weren’t particularly organized about upvoting their own stuff, and that spammer who tried three times to establish with a dozen sockpuppets wasn’t very good at it. I think the invitation system unintentionally helps a lot here.

                                                    If someone thinks brigading is happening, I’d appreciate if they’d start writing the queries they think would prove or disprove it, in part because it’d force them to explicitly define what they mean by brigading and how they’d differentiate it from users who happen to share opinions tending to vote in similar ways.

                                                    I’d especially like to see folks writing queries to produce evidence for beliefs regarding us sinking into an eternal september or otherwise failing to acculturate new users, because it seems to be growing in popularity as an explanation despite nobody presenting reasons for it and the query I’ve thought to run) looking like weak evidence against it being a problem. It’s a plausible explanation, but I’d like to see it supported before I believe it.

                                                    1. 4

                                                      Off-site, of course, there’s direct database access. (@alynpost also potentially has this because he has root on the server, but I doubt he’s used it.)

                                                      I do have root access to the server, and therefor direct database access. I do not use that access to exceed my lobste.rs account authority, which would include ad-hoc queries to see who upvoted a comment.

                                                      The Systems Administrators’ Code articulates the duty of service a systems administrator has in dealing with private, confidential, sensitive, or secret information. I was given it orally, early in my career, as an oath, when being instructed on my responsibility to my users attendant to my level of system access.

                                                      It appears in written form on usenix.org: System Administrators’ Code of Ethics, where it is also signed by LISA and LOPSA.

                                                    2. 1

                                                      Oh, OK, well banning politics was one of my preferences. IIRC, @Irene said she’d leave if that happened. I figured that meant it wouldn’t happen. From there, an ability to filter was my next option. I prefer your solution. I’m fine with other as compromise to see what happens. Non-partisan politics probably won’t happen since majority of votes on any political thread is already partisan.

                                                      Far as vote brigading, it will be harder to assess or deal with since many are probably voting in good conscience about stuff that represents their political beliefs. Some might work together or consistently hit specific opponents. We do have some activists here that were involved in coordinated or just pile-of-folks-show up hits outside of Lobsters. Otherwise, it appears to be a natural consequence of so many people having similar beliefs. Also, as I said, people on our side being far less active and/or leaving. Which I know they are since many told me.

                                                      @pushcx has said stuff that’s closer leftist activists than to our position. He seems to be doing what he sees as good for community based on our feedback. Other side is majority, though. So, the voting patterns are democracy in action from people participating the most who he won’t and probably shouldn’t punish. If anything, I expected him to read and deliberate on comments before rewarding some of them with his personal vote and no action as Sysop past sharing his opinions so long as folks behaved well. He did the second (idk about votes).

                                                      I don’t know positions of @alynpost and @kyle on these rules. Of the two, alynpost seems to be more active recently. I will restate there’s two positions that a significant subset of leftist-activist opposition might agree with:

                                                      1. No politics on Lobsters period. Just the deeply-technical stuff like in @friendlysock’s What Lobsters Is. I have little confidence this will happen.

                                                      2. For this site (not all), a politics tag or other rule that forces it into threads that are specifically inviting such discussions. This lets unwilling participants filter that stuff to have at least one place with high-signal, low-noise ratio for technical stuff. And more peaceful. Again, from an activist guy that risks his job on a daily basis to help consumers, minorities, etc. who sees value in a focused, peaceful site dedicated to tech discussion without political fights and judgment.

                                                      EDIT: I just looked at recent comments. I see two from pushcx interesting for this discussion. One is he wants it to be tech-focused but not miss out ethical issues/opportunities. That’s not surprising at all based on previous discussions. Having dedicated threads for politics gets closer to that. The other comment is here where he confirms my intuition with actual numbers that a vocal minority, about “5-9” people, do most of the downvotes. I still can’t say how good, bad, or biased that is. Just that it’s far from the overall vote count in metas regardless of political position showing most folks aren’t that active. It’s less than two hands worth of people dictating the perception on that most of the time with an auditorium’s worth debating the big metas with most wanting politics here in any thread.

                                                      1. 6

                                                        The big problem with wanting to entirely eliminate discussion on “politics and ethics” (I’m using this shorthand to try to encapsulate the debate) is that deciding what is political is itself political.

                                                        An example – the discussion on whether women are biologically less predisposed to be good at computer science is, in my opinion, a stalking horse for people who prefer that women have a segregated or unequal position in society. Now, holding that opinion openly does not give you much traction in debating in most liberal democratic countries, at least not on a policy level. But shifting the window of the debate does help advance the position.

                                                        So, people who have these opinions talk up, or sponsor, or perform, or find research that supports their position. If someone challenges their motives, they will respond “oh, we’re just raising questions, expanding research, doing science. Why are you bringing politics into this?” And if someone tries to challenge the results by pointing to external factors (such as structural practical discrimination against women or other minorities) they will respond “that’s actually not interesting in this case, we’re only looking at a sample group, conditions in country A and entirely different from country B”, etc.

                                                        In this case, the argument is made, and objections will be countered with the reason they are not addressing the argument, they are “political”.

                                                        Therein lies the danger in defining what’s political in nature, and banning it. The people who hold deeply unpopular beliefs are experts at skirting to “rules” of normal discourse, and we should not make their lives easier.

                                                        Does this mean that Lobsters should be a free-for-all? No! We still have tags, and rules for what is on-topic or not, and it’s up to us as a community to police ourselves. People who try to hijack or troll a thread with political rhetoric should be censored, but politics should be allowed to be expressed on the site when it’s appropriate.

                                                        1. 2

                                                          You’re taking a guess at my positions, so, in the interests of not being coy and misinterpreted: I don’t generally talk about my politics online, I never have, and I’m very unlikely to start. I think “You Just Don’t Do That” is one of those family beliefs I absorbed growing up without ever thinking about. When I worked as a journalist I was in a culture that valued “no cheering from the press box”, as my boss put it, and that reinforced my reluctance. This attitude has turned out useful as a mod: if my opinion is private, there’s a better chance I can be perceived as the impartial arbitrator I try hard to be. I guess that also shows that I don’t feel so confident and righteous in my political positions that I’m seriously tempted to try to enforce them (though very little of politics is close enough to on-topic here to come up).

                                                          To expand on the other comment you linked, here’s a raw tally of how many users have given how many downvotes in the last 90 days:

                                                          MariaDB [lobsters]> select count(*) as n_users, n_votes from (select count(*) as n_votes from votes where vote < 0 and updated_at >= (now() - interval 90 day) group by user_id) totals group by n_votes order by n_votes desc;
                                                          +---------+---------+
                                                          | n_users | n_votes |
                                                          +---------+---------+
                                                          |       1 |     471 |
                                                          |       1 |     207 |
                                                          |       1 |     112 |
                                                          |       1 |     102 |
                                                          |       1 |      92 |
                                                          |       1 |      77 |
                                                          |       1 |      73 |
                                                          |       1 |      57 |
                                                          |       1 |      49 |
                                                          |       1 |      46 |
                                                          |       1 |      45 |
                                                          |       1 |      43 |
                                                          |       1 |      41 |
                                                          |       1 |      40 |
                                                          |       2 |      37 |
                                                          |       1 |      36 |
                                                          |       1 |      35 |
                                                          |       1 |      34 |
                                                          |       2 |      31 |
                                                          |       1 |      30 |
                                                          |       4 |      29 |
                                                          |       1 |      26 |
                                                          |       4 |      24 |
                                                          |       3 |      23 |
                                                          |       1 |      20 |
                                                          |       4 |      19 |
                                                          |       2 |      18 |
                                                          |       3 |      17 |
                                                          |       4 |      16 |
                                                          |       3 |      15 |
                                                          |       3 |      14 |
                                                          |       3 |      13 |
                                                          |       2 |      12 |
                                                          |      10 |      11 |
                                                          |       8 |      10 |
                                                          |       9 |       9 |
                                                          |      11 |       8 |
                                                          |      13 |       7 |
                                                          |      17 |       6 |
                                                          |      16 |       5 |
                                                          |      20 |       4 |
                                                          |      46 |       3 |
                                                          |      80 |       2 |
                                                          |     130 |       1 |
                                                          +---------+---------+
                                                          44 rows in set (10.46 sec)
                                                          

                                                          As I mentioned there’s a judgment call as to whether some of the folks at the top of the chart vote this often because they’re trying to punish perceived foes, or because they’re reading nearly every comment, or because they just set the bar a lot lower than the typical user. Though now that I think about it, maybe the first situation could be differentiated from the latter two by counting how many distinct stories and authors they’ve downvoted.

                                          2. 1

                                            when we tried

                                            A similar idea was pitched? I couldn’t find it, any more information on it / links?

                                            their goal is to force us to look at their side’s political claims

                                            I think it is fair and reasonable at this point to crave apolitical spaces. As politics starts to get crammed into every little corner of our lives, I think the value of being able to have (or create via filters) an apolitical space is growing in importance. Also, I sincerely believe it doesn’t take anything away from those who still want to engage in political discussions, even interwoven with existing stories.

                                            1. 2

                                              I dont have a link. They say it in different ways in every meta on this. Look at the last one to find several people saying they want tech/politics to be inseparsble, want it in any thread, etc.

                                              I voted for Lobsters to be tech-focused with politics on other sites or tagged for filtering. We lost every time. Plus, several people kept threatening to quit if Lobsters was apolitical. My side lost over time.

                                      2. 6

                                        I agree wholeheartedly with this. As a relatively new user, it took me a while to get the hang of participating constructively on this site, and it was you and a few others who helped me to get onboard with this site’s culture and ettiquette. One thing I’d note is that during registration, a new user is encouraged to invite other users. Maybe delaying that privilege (and others) until a user has accrued a certain amount of reputation would help to moderate the growth of the site and give new users some time to acclimate - more like the StackOverflow model.

                                        1. 10

                                          One thing I’d note is that during registration, a new user is encouraged to invite other users

                                          Yeah, that weirded me out. I don’t know that the privilege needs to be delayed per se, but being immediately prompted with a form telling me to run right out and invite new people seemed off. “Invitation only” (to control quality here) and “Please promptly spread the word, promote the site, grow the site, We Need You To Grow It!!!” just seems at odds on the face of it.

                                          The second is the purview of cheesy, growth-at-all-costs projects. It just seems like immediately taking me to an invite form full of boosterism language doesn’t at all fit with an ethos of “Invite only” combined with holding people accountable for the behavior of the people they invite. That is the opposite of encouraging people to first get to know the culture themselves and second do some vetting before sending invitations.

                                          I just joined yesterday, so that impression is fresh. Seems like there’s some value in sharing it, though I’m self conscious about doing so having said yesterday that there’s no intent on my part to try to shape lobsters immediately upon joining.

                                          Edit: I will add this is probably a case of “victim of your own success”. It probably was done at the start when it actually made sense and then no one ever thought about again particularly, in part because it only happens when you join, which helps make it an invisible thing. Now that there are 10k members, it would make sense to revisit it.

                                          Having gone to brunch and had time to think about it, I’ve concluded a delay in receiving the privilege probably makes sense.

                                          1. 6

                                            That is probably an accurate characterization of how and why it appeared and lingers. It was added ~6 months after I signed up, so I think the only time I’ve noticed it was when merging this PR in March for the sister sites and it slipped out of my head.

                                            I see how this is kind of dissonant, maybe there’s some better text to put on that page. I ran a query to see if we’re seeing an influx of users who are invited off that form, and it doesn’t appear to be the case, so I don’t think removing or postponing it is likely to be a significant step. (For context below, it was added in 2013-02.)

                                            MariaDB [lobsters]> select extract(year from new.created_at) as y, extract(month from new.created_at) as m, sum(timestampdiff(day, exist.created_at, new.created_at) < 1) from users exist join users new on exist.id = new.invited_by_user_id group by y, m;
                                            +------+------+---------------------------------------------------------------+
                                            | y    | m    | sum(timestampdiff(day, exist.created_at, new.created_at) < 1) |
                                            +------+------+---------------------------------------------------------------+
                                            | 2012 |    7 |                                                             8 |
                                            | 2012 |    8 |                                                            39 |
                                            | 2012 |    9 |                                                            92 |
                                            | 2012 |   10 |                                                             3 |
                                            | 2012 |   11 |                                                             5 |
                                            | 2012 |   12 |                                                            10 |
                                            | 2013 |    1 |                                                             3 |
                                            | 2013 |    2 |                                                             1 |
                                            | 2013 |    3 |                                                            10 |
                                            | 2013 |    4 |                                                             3 |
                                            | 2013 |    5 |                                                            10 |
                                            | 2013 |    6 |                                                            14 |
                                            | 2013 |    7 |                                                            11 |
                                            | 2013 |    8 |                                                             5 |
                                            | 2013 |    9 |                                                             3 |
                                            | 2013 |   10 |                                                             7 |
                                            | 2013 |   11 |                                                             8 |
                                            | 2013 |   12 |                                                             9 |
                                            | 2014 |    1 |                                                           137 |
                                            | 2014 |    2 |                                                            57 |
                                            | 2014 |    3 |                                                            27 |
                                            | 2014 |    4 |                                                            44 |
                                            | 2014 |    5 |                                                            26 |
                                            | 2014 |    6 |                                                            13 |
                                            | 2014 |    7 |                                                            18 |
                                            | 2014 |    8 |                                                            22 |
                                            | 2014 |    9 |                                                            11 |
                                            | 2014 |   10 |                                                            16 |
                                            | 2014 |   11 |                                                            14 |
                                            | 2014 |   12 |                                                            13 |
                                            | 2015 |    1 |                                                            35 |
                                            | 2015 |    2 |                                                            16 |
                                            | 2015 |    3 |                                                             8 |
                                            | 2015 |    4 |                                                            27 |
                                            | 2015 |    5 |                                                            18 |
                                            | 2015 |    6 |                                                             8 |
                                            | 2015 |    7 |                                                            32 |
                                            | 2015 |    8 |                                                            15 |
                                            | 2015 |    9 |                                                            11 |
                                            | 2015 |   10 |                                                             8 |
                                            | 2015 |   11 |                                                             6 |
                                            | 2015 |   12 |                                                             8 |
                                            | 2016 |    1 |                                                            10 |
                                            | 2016 |    2 |                                                            16 |
                                            | 2016 |    3 |                                                            10 |
                                            | 2016 |    4 |                                                             7 |
                                            | 2016 |    5 |                                                            16 |
                                            | 2016 |    6 |                                                             6 |
                                            | 2016 |    7 |                                                             7 |
                                            | 2016 |    8 |                                                            13 |
                                            | 2016 |    9 |                                                             3 |
                                            | 2016 |   10 |                                                            13 |
                                            | 2016 |   11 |                                                            20 |
                                            | 2016 |   12 |                                                            10 |
                                            | 2017 |    1 |                                                            58 |
                                            | 2017 |    2 |                                                            16 |
                                            | 2017 |    3 |                                                            10 |
                                            | 2017 |    4 |                                                            12 |
                                            | 2017 |    5 |                                                            13 |
                                            | 2017 |    6 |                                                            28 |
                                            | 2017 |    7 |                                                            26 |
                                            | 2017 |    8 |                                                            17 |
                                            | 2017 |    9 |                                                            11 |
                                            | 2017 |   10 |                                                             7 |
                                            | 2017 |   11 |                                                            14 |
                                            | 2017 |   12 |                                                             7 |
                                            | 2018 |    1 |                                                            18 |
                                            | 2018 |    2 |                                                            13 |
                                            | 2018 |    3 |                                                            13 |
                                            | 2018 |    4 |                                                            22 |
                                            | 2018 |    5 |                                                             5 |
                                            | 2018 |    6 |                                                             5 |
                                            | 2018 |    7 |                                                            14 |
                                            | 2018 |    8 |                                                            12 |
                                            | 2018 |    9 |                                                             6 |
                                            | 2018 |   10 |                                                             8 |
                                            | 2018 |   11 |                                                             3 |
                                            +------+------+---------------------------------------------------------------+
                                            77 rows in set (0.04 sec)
                                            
                                            1. 5

                                              I don’t remember the exact details of the form. I’m not surprised you aren’t seeing significant numbers related to the use of the form per se.

                                              But I’m not really a tech person. I’m more of a social creature. If it were my forum, and it’s not, my reasons for changing it would be related to the psychosocial impact.

                                              My first thought was that I simply wouldn’t take people to that form when they first join, but I wouldn’t change the privilege. They could still invite people if they desired, but the messaging would be different.

                                              I’m kind of on the fence at the moment whether delaying the privilege is a good idea or not. Seemed like a good idea after brunch. Seems less clear and unambiguous now.

                                              But the messaging has a psychosocial impact and that’s the sort of debugging I get into.

                                              Which isn’t an attempt to convince you to do anything whatsoever. It’s just an attempt to communicate my thoughts on the subject as clearly as I know how.

                                              And thank you for replying.

                                              1. 4

                                                I should’ve thought to link the source for the page you’re talking about, and the users/invitationform it includes.

                                                And it case it wasn’t clear, I ran that query because I read your comment because you might have recognized an important factor we’re not considering. I posted the query because maybe I made an error or someone will suggest a better way to express that or another similar question, and I posted the full stats because it’s the foundation of a productive discussion.

                                                I think we’re on the same page about the importance of good messaging. If you poke around the “app/views” folder there you can read almost all of the site’s messaging. (“Almost” because the about page lives in another repo for historical reasons.)

                                                1. 4

                                                  “This community can only grow when members invite new users, just as <%= @user.invited_by_user.try(:username) %> invited you. Take a moment and invite someone you know.”

                                                  At a minimum, I would update the wording to something more neutral. I would not literally ask someone seconds after they joined to “Take a moment and invite someone you know.” I might be inclined to frame it as “Now that you are a member, you also have the ability to invite new members that you think would be a good fit for the forum by filling out this form.”

                                                  One reason I am hesitant to say there should be a delay in receiving the privilege is because some people will be a better fit and just “get it” much more quickly than others. If someone is an actual programmer, spends a lot of time in other online forums that are similar, already knows multiple members here, etc they may not need much time to readily fit in. So I would be inclined to generally let members decide for themselves when they feel acclimated.

                                                  But the boosterism language seconds after joining a forum I’ve been curious about for years but didn’t feel I had the right connections to get into really rubbed me wrong.

                                                  And that’s perhaps a can of worms that would be socially problematic to try to open here wrt getting into my personal situation as an example of a thing. But most likely your early members had fairly strong connections to each other and joining a small forum is fundamentally different socially from joining a large one. And my suspicion is that those things are highly pertinent to the outbreak of concerns I happened to step into on day one here.

                                                  1. 4

                                                    Thanks, I’ve deployed new language for this page.

                                                    Invites, yeah, another topic. Feel free to message about personal stuff The very short version is that experiments with removing/weakening it have resulted in immediate, significant spam attacks so it’s unlikely to leave, but the biggest downside to it is that it’s a significant barrier to newbies and people who otherwise don’t have a low Erdős_number to the site’s founder.

                                                    1. 1

                                                      Looks good.

                                                      I think Erdős number adequately sums up what I was trying to get at and my personal stuff isn’t pertinent to your needs as admin at this time. But, thanks.

                                          2. 7

                                            “One thing I’d note is that during registration, a new user is encouraged to invite other users. Maybe delaying that privilege (and others) until a user has accrued a certain amount of reputation would help to moderate the growth of the site and give new users some time to acclimate - more like the StackOverflow model.”

                                            @pushcx that sounds like a must have idea. Maybe three to six months delay. I say that based on my own experience where the slow movement and low comments led to me taking about that long to start understanding the community. Maybe being in IRC would’ve sped that up. Seems like there’s sort of a parallel community over there, too.

                                            Anyway, a delay makes a ton of sense given people might send invites to different kinds of people if they only invite after grokking what the site is about.

                                        1. 3

                                          performance would be a good addition to this great submission.

                                          1. 2

                                            I assume you mean adding a “performance” tag?

                                            1. 2

                                              Yep!

                                          1. 2

                                            Deleted my original rant response because, as @sgreben rightfully pointed out, my rant was exactly the kind of thing i ranted about.

                                            But, yes, I’d like to see a freeze in new users for a while, to avoid lobste.rs from collapsing under its own weight.

                                            I’d also suggest:

                                            1. Culling users who have been new members for X months and never posted (but once you post/comment once, you’re in for forever?)
                                            2. Requiring more than one invitation for joining?
                                            3. Moving to a subscription model. I get enough enjoyment out of this site that I’d be happy to pay for it.

                                            But, that’s just my USD$0.02.

                                            1. 15

                                              Culling users who have been new members for X months and never posted (but once you post/comment once, you’re in for forever?)

                                              I will note that there are people who primarily lurk in any online community. This site has a private message system and possibly other features of value to members who never post publicly.

                                              Original research I was privy to in my first moderating position suggested that about 20 percent of users were active participants who posted regularly or semi regularly, another 10 percent posted only once or very rarely and the rest lurked. Anecdotal observation suggests that these figures probably are fairly representative of other communities I have engaged in.

                                              1. 8

                                                Lurkers are harmful to communities like this, because they have influence in shaping the site but also don’t bother to engage beyond being a silent majority that can be pandered to (purposefully or not) they amplify any democratic issues the site might have.

                                                Better to purge them and leave control of the site (what little there is) in the hands of the people who bother participating.

                                                Edit: lurkers here being those who have accounts but don’t post.

                                                1. 7

                                                  Hi friendlysock, I’m malxau and I’m a lurker.

                                                  The reason I ended up like this is because the technology landscape is very broad today (and getting broader), and I have firsthand knowledge or experience with a tiny fraction of topics that get discussed. So the best way I can see to keep the signal-to-noise ratio high is to read about things that I don’t know, including comments from people more familiar with them, and avoid contributing to or moderating those posts.

                                                  Occasionally there will be something I know, but something I deeply know and have firsthand knowledge of is still rather rare. (In my case, I’ve spent the last 14 years working in Windows kernel mode; I’m an active practitioner, but looking at submissions you’ll see why I don’t feel like I know the breadth of topics being discussed, including things like the Palantir thread.)

                                                  Do you still think I’m a problem? Do you think the site would work better if I commented or moderated more?

                                                  1. 4

                                                    I can’t see your upvotes or flags, so I can’t comment on that front. That said, I think the site would definitely be improved by your participation and submissions of things relating to your background with Windows arcane programming!

                                                    Thank you for giving your perspective here.

                                                    1. 1

                                                      Your site was refreshingly different since it covered stuff I don’t usually see on Lobsters. Doing low-level kernel stuff, I bet you ran into both content and lessons learned that Lobsters might have found interesting regardless of you writing on Windows. There’s also Lobsters on Windows. There’s also a lot of Lobsters that hate Windows.

                                                      I have no idea how well your stuff would’ve been received. There’s a chance people might have found it interesting, though. If it’s Windows-like as someone said, an easy example is Minoca OS getting lots of appreciation. Another thread on its documentation had 10 votes. So, there’s potential.

                                                    2. 6

                                                      Hey there. That seems like a fairly strong opinion. Any research or data you can point me to? I’m not aware of evidence that lurkers are somehow harmful in most cases.

                                                      1. 5

                                                        Have you seen HN or Reddit? I’m serious. It’s called hivemind for a reason.

                                                        People that care enough about a site to post content, or even comment, are, by definition, more involved in the site than users who maintain accounts but don’t do anything but vote up and down.

                                                        Lurkers who just vote and flag look an awful lot like slacktivists. They’re freeloaders, contributing no content of their own and no discussion, but they can still screw up conversations by voting with a knee-jerk reaction.

                                                        One of the things that sets Lobsters apart is that is made up quite largely of people that actually write code frequently (instead of, say, being growth hackers, or bloggers, or marketers, or bankers, or whatever else) and that those people are given transparency and tools for interacting with the running of the community. Lurkers run counter to at least the latter of those key characteristics.

                                                        1. 11

                                                          Yes, I’ve seen both HN and Reddit.

                                                          I don’t think I’ve ever seen a forum that didn’t have a lot of lurkers. Do you know of any forums where “post or leave” is actual policy? Do you know of any research on this angle?

                                                          I’m not making any recommendations here. I’m just seeing people saying “I think we should do X!” and the things I’m seeing don’t fit with my understanding of best practices. But I certainly don’t know everything, so I’m trying to share what I know concerning actual (pertinent) data and asking if anyone knows of any supporting research for their positions.

                                                          To be clear, I’m absolutely not trying to tell anyone how lobsters should be run. I was given an invitation by a coder who wants to start a discussion board and he asked if I would consider taking on the role of lead moderator. I tentatively agreed.

                                                          So I’m not actually a programmer, though I have some technical training and so on. I’m genuinely interested in learning if there is good data and research supporting the various proposals in this discussion because I’m looking for, among other things, stuff pertinent to the project I’m trying to collaborate on.

                                                          I’m genuinely curious and open to seeing good information on such things. I’m aware these questions may be unwelcome here, both because I’m new and because people will tend to interpret my comments as intent to shape policy on lobsters the very day I joined.

                                                          A best case outcome is that my comments and questions serve to be helpful and thought provoking for people here who are trying to shape lobsters while I get useful resources to support my project. But a less nice and more likely outcome is that people decide my questions are somehow bad behavior and I get told to gtfo of the discussion or something.

                                                          1. 7

                                                            I’ve never thought about how lurkers skew voting until this thread, but it seems commonsensical now. You end up with the posters performing for a silent audience, instead of interacting with each other.

                                                            Maybe a half-measure we could try is giving people a pool of votes that’s replenished when you post, and you spend from that pool when you up or down a story or comment; one post (submission or comment) could earn you 10 votes or something. That way votes come from the people who are actually engaging with the site, but we’re not kicking anyone off for not being chatty.

                                                            1. 10

                                                              Maybe a half-measure we could try is giving people a pool of votes that’s replenished when you post

                                                              No no no no no no no. That would result in users creating a large number of low-effort comments in order to refuel. It’s bad enough that internet users will do almost anything to make a number go up. It’s even worse when you attach actual incentives to that number.

                                                              1. 3

                                                                We could do something like requiring a comment/post have at least +3 or something before it counts towards your vote pool; that might be enough to frustrate a lot of the system-gaming, no?

                                                                1. 1

                                                                  The low-effort posts on popular topics get lots of votes. Probably won’t work.

                                                              2. 2

                                                                I’ve never thought about how lurkers skew voting until this thread, but it seems commonsensical now. You end up with the posters performing for a silent audience, instead of interacting with each other.

                                                                This is an empirical question worth empirically validating before believing. There is also a plausible just-so story that older users feel more confident voting strategically to enforce their political opinions, etc. Form your hypothesis, write a query, decide how to interpret possible results, and then send it to me to run.

                                                                1. 1

                                                                  That’s a neat idea and I’d be in favor of trying it. I don’t know to what extent that would affect the upvote/downvote dynamics of the site, but I’m interested in finding out, and I don’t think it’s an onerous requirement on people.

                                                                  1. 1

                                                                    a pool of votes that’s replenished when you post, and you spend from that pool when you up or down a story or comment; one post (submission or comment) could earn you 10 votes or something.

                                                                    I think that this is great idea. Personally I would go with 1-2 votes per submission but whatever the number I think we should try it.

                                                                    1. 1

                                                                      Yeah; I originally said 10 because voting serves a real purpose, and I’d worry that only getting one vote per comment could reduce the quality of the front page, because people would hoard their precious votes. I’m no expert on this stuff, though.

                                                                    2. 1

                                                                      This idea sounds great. I’m not sure what the dynamics would look like, but it’s be interested in trying it out.

                                                                    3. 6

                                                                      but they can still screw up conversations by voting with a knee-jerk reaction

                                                                      Yes, voting does screw up conversations. If I had my way, lobsters wouldn’t have votes on comments, exactly because I don’t think that meaningful conversations should be democratized like that. Lobsters isn’t a very good system for conversations in my very humble opinion (I keep linking to Discourse.org as the model to live up to for a reason). But I don’t think lurkers are necessarily any worse at knee-jerk voting than active commenters.

                                                                      Lobsters is, however, pretty much the gold standard for link aggregation, for surfacing content from elsewhere. Voting, flagging, and submitting articles without ever commenting is something I think we should be encouraging, because that’s what the Lobsters software is actually good at. Less conversations, more stories.

                                                                  2. 5

                                                                    voting satisfies the “me too” impulse. absent that, I suspect you’d see a lot more actual me too comments.

                                                                    1. 4

                                                                      If you change the rules to ‘post or get out!’, I suspect you will see:

                                                                      1. People who are slow to integrate into the community but will eventually post good stuff lose their connection to lobsters and go elsewhere instead of slowly ramping up from just looking to joining to voting to commenting/submitting.
                                                                      2. Lots of comments along the lines of “I have nothing to say right now, I’m just trying to say something so I don’t get purged”
                                                                      1. 4

                                                                        Voting lurkers could indeed be problematic. Perhaps adding a min-karma-threshold for upvoting (similar to flagging), could be a useful experiment.

                                                                        1. 1

                                                                          Is the problem with vote lurking the up or down votes?

                                                                        2. 3

                                                                          Downvotes are inaccessible until a user reaches a certain karma threshold. Would it make sense to do the same thing for upvotes too, reducing the pool of users that can vote?

                                                                          I don’t think outright purging users is very helpful, since reading for a while before posting is a common practice (and probably not something that should be discoraged). I agree having a silent voting majority is potentially quite harmful to a forum.

                                                                          1. 1

                                                                            reading for a while before posting is a common practice (and probably not something that should be discoraged)

                                                                            You don’t need an account to read.

                                                                            1. 2

                                                                              You don’t, but there are features that are useful for people who are only reading (tag filtering, hiding stories).

                                                                            2. 1

                                                                              That inversion is worth thinking on more. The political folks currently do more upvoting of political stuff than submissions or comments. It isn’t limited to them. We see the same thing in the technical threads for some people or types of comments.

                                                                              1. 1

                                                                                I was under the impression votes were anonymous, is this not correct?

                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                  The site won’t tell other users what your votes are, but it needs to know, both to prevent multiple votes and to show you what you’ve voted on. Obviously the site administrators, who have direct database access, can query that information.

                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                    This is accurate, and I’ve written elsewhere in this thread about that access and the practices around it.

                                                                                  2. 1

                                                                                    They usually vote and comment together. So, you know who some of the likely voters are.

                                                                              2. 2

                                                                                how about limiting the votes one has? dota2 does that for reports to keep the reporting system valuable. one of:

                                                                                • fixed number of votes per time-unit (easiest, but limited impact i think)
                                                                                • votes per time-unit limited by karma, eg. votes * karma / maxKarma (could become a lobsters ingame currency)
                                                                                • votes per time-unit limited by submission count (facilitates spamming)
                                                                                • votes per time-unit limited by combined submission count and karma (i don’t have an idea for a good function to do that ;)

                                                                                this should at least limit the lurker influence. i for one wouldn’t care if i’d have to manage my votes a bit.

                                                                                edit: haldean had posted this idea before me, i should have read this thread more thoroughly :)

                                                                                1. 3

                                                                                  If the intent is to limit the effect of upvotes, and avoid knee-jerk voting, one could also make it mirror the current downvote choices and simply make a user think about why they are up-voting a comment. So an upvote arrow should offer choices such as [technical|meta|..].

                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                    Or “MAS” for “mutual appreciation society” ;)

                                                                                2. 2

                                                                                  Wouldn’t that just cause stupid posts like “not lurker” or “first” to trigger account “lock in” – possibly even on very old threads.

                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                    My concern with a negative eye towards people like myself who don’t post much is that it suggests posting is mandatory regardless of quality or relevance. I am a lurker, but only because I don’t want to clutter up threads with poorly informed or nontechnical content. I wish I had the depth of experience that some more frequent posters have; should I be excluded for being more of a generalist?

                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                I joined Lobsters today. I was given an invitation by someone who would like to remotely collaborate with me on a project.

                                                                                I guess my most current project is trying to figure out Lobsters.

                                                                                1. 0

                                                                                  Hi. I’m a total and complete n00b. I just signed up. I know nothing about etiquette… er, the official etiquette and typical expectations here. Just thought I would pop in and wave at the other folks here while skimming the About page.

                                                                                  /well meaning and friendly but probably bad behavior

                                                                                  1. 7

                                                                                    As much as I sincerely admire and respect your posts on HN, that was a really unlucky thread to choose as an entry point to this venue :) please don’t take the reactions badly, it’s kinda like somewhat blindly stepping into a heated parents quarrel and saying “I want to go play!” - you may experience a bit of over the top “Geez kid, not now!!!” :D

                                                                                    1. 2

                                                                                      This is not a meet-and-greet thread.

                                                                                      1. 5

                                                                                        Sorry. Are there any meet-and-greet threads?

                                                                                        1. 4

                                                                                          Usually #lobsters on freenode is the closest you’ll get, though the weekly “What are you working on” threads serve a semi-related function.

                                                                                          1. 5

                                                                                            Thank you.

                                                                                          2. 2

                                                                                            Probably in here somewhere: https://lobste.rs/t/meta

                                                                                      1. 1

                                                                                        Love the title. Good titles are hard. The first couple of paragraphs are solid.

                                                                                        Good design is important. It’s where the product interacts with real people.