1. 9

    I did not write a single line of code for money all year. It was a good year.

    1. 1

      What did you do instead? Management, consulting, bartending?

    1. 1

      with the exception of the zero-width assertions, with only these features it’s possible to match any POSIX regular expression…

      I’m skeptical that zero-width assertions are an exception. What’s an example of a backreference-free POSIX regexp that does not specify a regular language?

      1. 1

        POSIX REs per se don’t have backreferences. The point I’m making in that sentence is that POSIX has zero-width assertions (as a feature, they are compatible with regular grammars) but since the toy regexp engine doesn’t have them, any POSIX regexp that depends on them is not replicable with it.

        1. 1

          POSIX REs per se don’t have backreferences

          Do you have a citation?

          According to http://pubs.opengroup.org/onlinepubs/009695399/basedefs/xbd_chap09.html :

          9.5.2 RE and Bracket Expression Grammar

          This section presents the grammar for basic regular expressions, including the bracket expression grammar that is common to both BREs and EREs. … %token BACKREF L_ANCHOR R_ANCHOR

          That, as well as other parts of the doc, seem to indicate that back references are part of POSIX regexps.

          1. 1

            Sorry, I meant POSIX extended REs. Only basic REs have backreferences. I’ll clear that up when I update the article.

            (Why does ‘extended’ mean ‘has fewer features’? That’s committee-think for you.)

          2. 1

            any POSIX regexp that depends on [zero-width assertions] is not replicable with [a regexp engine that lacks them].

            I believe this is false. Again, why do you think it isn’t “possible” to transform regexps with zero-width assertions into equivalent regexp without them? Note that your original sentence even specifies, “after applying the appropriate transformation.”

            1. 1

              Can you explain a method to transform arbitrary uses of zero-width assertions (^, $, and \b) into arbitrary regexps without them?

              1. 1

                A straightforward but inefficient method is to convert the source regexp to a DFA, then convert the DFA back to a regexp that uses only union, concatenation, and star.

        1. 4

          The current generation of standards makers and browser vendors, especially Google, do not care about forward or backward compatibility. Look what happened to <ISINDEX> support, for example. Still can’t use my favourite Latin–English dictionary website from the 1990s because that has now been removed from the spec and all browsers (on Google’s initiative).

          If you thought Google might be better than Microsoft as a >50% browser market share holder, changes like this should give you pause. If you use Chrome, consider switching to Firefox or Safari.

          1. 4

            To ‘incorrect’ I add straw men, cases where (deliberately or not, it’s hard to tell and is immaterial) a respondent incorrectly represents the argument made by a previous commenter or by the linked article.

            ‘Troll’ feels too harsh for this since it could be a genuine misunderstanding of the original author’s position due to a misreading (or whatever), and the word troll implies a deliberacy that may not be present.

            1. 4

              If someone is making a straw man argument, mark as incorrect, but also please explain to others why it is a straw man.

            1. 3

              The Parliament is asking the Commission …

              I wonder what Europe looks like in a universe where this sentence reads: “The Parliament is telling the Commission…”

              1. 2

                Better, probably. Brexit probably wouldn’t be happening, for one. But fortunately the commission seems to be accepting that, de facto, it should do whatever the parliament says.

                1. 0

                  The public impression of the Commission probably didn’t help for Brexit, but the UK government has also generally been against giving the EU Parliament more power, not wanting a EU-wide legislature that functions as a regular legislature (with power to initiate and pass laws, etc.), as that could be seen as a step towards a “United States of Europe”.

              1. 26

                “a (male) engineer from another team completely rewrote the blog post and published it without talking to me.”

                This author is obsessed with gender in cases where it makes no difference, It reeks of confirmation bias.

                1. 36

                  In the context of a feature designed to combat online harassment, a problem overwhelmingly experienced by more by women, it seems reasonable to mention that her own post was swapped out for one written by someone with presumably no personal experience of the problems this feature was designed to address.

                  1. 10

                    written by someone with presumably no personal experience of the problems this feature was designed to address.

                    But it seems like everyone else at the company wanted to keep the feature log about features, not personal stories regarding the origins of those features. From the article:

                    It was decided that the tone of what I had written was too personal and didn’t reflect the voice of the company. The reviewer insisted that any mention of the abuse vector that this feature was closing be removed.

                    I don’t see what would be so bad about writing objectively about the feature itself on GitHub and then posting about the personal experience somewhere else. There are a bajillion other things that this abuse vector could’ve been used for, so implying that it’s inextricably linked to this specific event when writing for the company’s official feature log is bound to generate some controversy.

                    1. 15

                      out for one written by someone with presumably no personal experience

                      So you are presuming he has no personal experience because he’s a male?

                      Meanwhile presuming you are incapable of whatever because you are women/trans/not-white-or-asian = an unforgivable sin?

                      How do you reconcile this cognitive dissonance?

                      1. 13

                        “presumably no personal experience” - how would you, she or anyone know? We can all presume whatever we want. It might be someone who was bullied his entire life, or we can presume writing a long post gives you credibility over anonymous evil editors.

                      2. 19

                        Her interview process involved marginalized people (“I was impressed … by the fact that the majority of people that I met with were women”), her team was largely comprised of marginalized people (“My team was 5 women and one man: two of us trans, three women of color”), and her team’s mission included “making GitHub more safe for marginalized people”. It is relevant, in that context, that the person who rewrote her post was 1- outside of her team, and 2- not part of a marginalized group.

                        1. 15

                          I’m not sure it is. We might be seeing a double standard in how such data is used as evidence here. In many stories, people point out that young, white males particularly are taking action in companies or running them since Silicon Valley is biased toward hiring them. The non-marginalized crowd is the default that reinforces itself. Then, you say a critic of this team was “non-marginalized.” The obvious explanation is that anyone who critiqued her was with high-probability going to be a non-marginalized group if they’re such a huge majority as people like her always point out. This time, though, it’s significant that one person in Silicon Valley who is non-marginalized took action against another person. Because politics.

                          I dismiss it based on double standard and my other post pointing out she’s an aggressive politician doing her thing in that company which person doing rewrite might have reacted to. That’s one reason to doubt it matters. If it does, another to think it was a reflexive reaction against a political extremist. Personally, I have no idea what their motivation was as I have limited data that looks bad on both sides (status quo and activist aiming to fix).

                          1. 5

                            Being a particular race or gender is not a qualification of competence or non-bias.

                            1. 13

                              I don’t think I implied it was. I think I stated that reporting the gender of the engineer who rewrote her post was relevant, given the context of the job she was being asked to do.

                              I’ll add, though, that rewriting somebody’s content without discussing it with the original author (and then publishing it under the original author’s name) does say something about their competence.

                              1. 6

                                I’ll definitely agree with your point about rewriting.

                                1. 3

                                  I’ll add, though, that rewriting somebody’s content without discussing it with the original author (and then publishing it under the original author’s name) does say something about their competence.

                                  That’s true. One could test both competence and bias by seeing how often that happens in the organization. I’d probably make a rule to ban it entirely far as leaving it under their name. Just say it was deleted.

                                  1. 2

                                    I’ll add, though, that rewriting somebody’s content without discussing it with the original author (and then publishing it under the original author’s name) does say something about their competence.

                                    But that’s judging based on a soundbyte. From my perspective, it seems like the kind of thing that could’ve simply been caused by a miscommunication or lack of understanding—not necessarily an act that showed intent to undercut anyone else’s voice.

                              2. 6

                                How about this: since the gender is given parenthetically (thus indicating it is additional or non-essential information), and the author is a transgender woman, meaning she has had lots of experience being treated both as a man and as a woman and how it changes, maybe we can give her the benefit of the doubt and just consider the possibility that. as we learn more about the situation.

                              1. 8

                                As a long time open source person, I’m increasingly frustrated by the partisan refrain that software which isn’t open source cannot be trusted to be non-malicious. This isn’t really true, there’s an entirely domain of expertise dedicated to reverse engineering what no-source-available code does, and folks who do this for a living are really good.

                                There’s plenty of good reasons to prefer open source, even related to trustworthiness, source availability facilitates easier reviews from people with different expertises (e.g. a cryptographer who is not an expert reverser), however the idea that closed source is just a total black box is a political argument, not a technical one.

                                1. 10

                                  there’s an entirely domain of expertise dedicated to reverse engineering what no-source-available code does

                                  OK, but the cost of determining whether something is malicious is incredibly high for closed-source software compared to open source. Prohibitively so, for the vast majority of users.

                                  Any technique you can use to audit closed source software, you can use to audit open source software, right? But you also have the source code, the commit history including who committed what, diffs between versions, code comments, etc.

                                  Plus there’s the social factor. If somebody at Microsoft adds a backdoor to Windows, outsiders might notice the unusual network traffic, but they have no chance to see the code. All the committers to Windows are under NDA and can be pressured to be quiet. Whereas adding a backdoor to Linux would mean sneaking it past a bunch of people whose only unifying motive is to produce a good OS, and keeping them all from noticing it indefinitely. It’s a much harder task.

                                  So open source makes it much harder to add back doors and much easier to find them. It’s not perfectly safe, but it sounds a heck of a lot safer.

                                  1. 8

                                    You are technically right in saying that there are domains of expertise dedicated to reverse engineering closed source, and these folk tend to be really good.

                                    Making this the argument towards trusting closed source is moot. There is plenty of closed source that isn’t actively reversed, and audited, which is used heavily. Tax software, Search engines, you name it …

                                    1. 3

                                      As Ken Thompson showed, this argument is also wrong in that even if you can see the source, the binary that’s actually running could have been diddled in some way. And it’s not even that hard to get backdoors into source without people noticing, as Heartbleed and the Underhanded C Contest and so on show.

                                      1. 3

                                        Still, you can’t really reverse engineer something as huge as Windows.

                                        EDIT: Even if you were able to reverse engineer it, you can’t really modify it, unless you break the EULA. Even then, it’s a play of cat and mouse - you hack Windows to change its behaviour and then Microsoft patches it, so you need to find another hack.

                                        1. 5

                                          Neither you can audit a huge open source project: the OpenSSL fiasco showed that “since it’s open, someone would have noticed” doesn’t work.

                                          1. 6

                                            Still, being open source, it allows anyone to fork it (see LibreSSL) and use it instead.

                                        2. 1

                                          I suggest mentioning 3rd party evaluations instead of RE. People or organizations you trust get the source, vet it, and sign its hash. That was how security evaluations at government have been done since 90’s. It can be pretty cheap if software isnt humongous.

                                          Interestingly, still necessary for FOSS since that gets so little review. Like in closed-source, most users just trust a 3rd party saying it’s good.

                                          1. 0

                                            This isn’t really true, there’s an entirely domain of expertise dedicated to reverse engineering what no-source-available code does, and folks who do this for a living are really good.

                                            This is like saying terrorism is okay because there’s an entire domain of expertise dedicated to stop people from blowing up a schoolbus with a martyr vest and these experts (at least some of them) are quite good at it.

                                            Open source and free software are superior to closed source proprietary software. All else being equal, there is no reason to use a closed software over an open one.

                                            Just because you can mitigate the awfulness does not make something good.

                                            1. 3

                                              This is like saying terrorism is okay because there’s an entire domain of expertise dedicated to stop people from blowing up a schoolbus

                                              That is ridiculous. The only point of terrorism is destruction to cause some reaction. Whereas, the point of proprietary software is to solve an actual or perceived problem for users in a way that works well enough. It usually does. Problems are usually recoverable. It almost never kills someone. Shady companies may optionally do a bunch of evil like lock-in on top of that. Don’t do business with shady companies & make sure you have an exit strategy if the supplier becomes one. Meanwhile, enjoy the software.

                                              “Open source and free software are superior to closed source proprietary software.”

                                              Like hell. You said all else being equal but it rarely is. In average case, it’s easily proven false in a lot of categories where at best open source has knockoffs of some proprietary app that suck in a lot of ways. In many other cases, there’s no open-source app available. Should be decided on a case by case basis which are better. Far as security, it was mostly proprietary in high-assurance sector steadily produced highly-robust solutions because they had money to put the necessary QA and security work into it. It’s basically unheard of in open-source unless paid pro’s or CompSci people are doing it with the open-sourcing being incidental. GEMSOS, VAX VMM, KeyKOS, Kesterel Institute’s stuff, OKL4, seL4, Caernarvon, MULTOS, CertiKOS, Eiffel SCOOP, SPARK Ada, CompCert, Astree Analyzer… all cathedral model by people who knew what they were doing being paid for it.

                                              Closest thing in FOSS w/ communal development is OpenBSD with a mix of root-cause fixes and probabilistic mitigations whose effectiveness is unknown since top talent don’t focus on small, market share unless paid to. That vs competition using some of their methods plus formal proof, static analysis, exhaustive testing, covert-channel analysis, ensuring object code maintains source’s properties, SCM security, and 3rd-party pentesting. Open-source security is a joke on the high-end in comparison. Although NSA pentesting failed to break a few above, they certainly have many of those FOSS apps and FOSS-using services in the Snowden leaks with full “SIGINT-enabling.” They strongly encourage many of these FOSS apps to be used while making it illegal for companies to sell me Type 1-certified crypto or TEMPEST-certified devices. Kind of weird if FOSS quality is so good. ;)

                                              Enough myths. Neither side is better by default. What matters are benefits for user at what cost. Sometimes it’s proprietary, sometimes not. Look for FOSS by default for many, good reasons. It’s not always the best, though. Just ask any hardware developer if we high-assurance people seem too fringe. Ask the hardware people to tell you which FOSS software is good enough to produce the chip you wrote that comment on. Which is “superior to closed-source proprietary software.”

                                          1. 1

                                            I’m fortunate enough to have had this realization (and others that have left me disillusioned with technology) at a young enough age that I’m switching careers, starting with enroling for a humanities degree. Others may not have that option.

                                            1. 3

                                              I don’t buy the inference they make from their experiment results. Language is of course always learned, and it’s equally observed that children build up from simple to advanced grammatical constructs over time, and tend to follow broadly similar patterns in terms of which aspects they learn in what order. That has been known for decades, if not centuries. If there is an innate language module in the brain, it could show the exact same patterns during language acquisition as observed here.

                                              1. 9

                                                You say that XML should only be used for documents, but with the exception of HTML it is primarily used as a data serialization format. Therefore it is useful to compare XML with other data serialization formats.

                                                I don’t think Erik Naggum’s quote is very insightful. The attributes have some meaning to the computer, and that meaning can be conveyed equally as well in JSON. XML doesn’t attach any sort of special semantics to attributes so there is no point in even making the “real meat” distinction in the first place, it’s a flimsy argument based on assigning overdue importance to syntactical details. If XML had some sort of guarantee that some invariant was preserved under stripping attributes then maybe, but I have no idea what that would look like, and I’m not sure it would be useful.

                                                The only sense I can think of that a “document” is different than other forms of data serialization is that sometimes documents are human readable/writeable. In that case I think XML doesn’t compare favorably to Markdown, reST, TeX, etc.

                                                1. 8

                                                  You say that XML should only be used for documents, but with the exception of HTML it is primarily used as a data serialization format.

                                                  Far from it. TEI is used throughout the digital humanities to store all sorts of texts — language corpora, transcriptions of old printed books and manuscripts, reference works, speech transcription, etc. And there’s also DocBook, xml2rfc, MathML, DITA, alongside word-processing formats like OOXML, OpenDocument, and IDML which save rich text to XML.

                                                  (Also, HTML itself is not an XML application, though there continues to be an XML serialization defined which hardly anyone uses.)

                                                  I don’t understand your second paragraph at all, I’m afraid. Naggum’s argument is that information like, say, a coded identifier for a particular section of a document (like HTML’s id attribute), the destination of a hyperlink (a@href, img@src), and other purely ‘internal’ info which is of interest only to the programmer processing the document and perhaps also the person authoring it, but not in its raw form to readers, is suitable for use in attributes. He doesn’t say that they’re meaningless, more that they’re only of ‘behind-the-scenes’ meaning which generally produces or enables some other behaviour which is meaningful to actual document readers.

                                                  The only sense I can think of that a “document” is different than other forms of data serialization is that sometimes documents are human readable/writeable. In that case I think XML doesn’t compare favorably to Markdown, reST, TeX, etc.

                                                  Indeed in many cases it does not — see my point on how I wish SGML had survived. Markdown and reST however are not good for highly structured documents with more than the mere ‘generic’ document semantics HTML provides, and TeX can really only be processed by TeX. (Because of that, DSSSL could process SGML into TeX like XSLT can process XML into HTML.)

                                                  1. 3

                                                    Markdown and reST however are not good for highly structured documents

                                                    You can see this by the mess of syntax they turn into when people try to extend them to handle the features they don’t originally support. The only two “new-generation” markup languages I can think of that have a reasonably complete range of document-markup features are Pandoc’s much-extended version of markdown, and the org-mode file format. And those have such an array of special-case syntax and magic sigils that they start to look like the ‘90s version of Perl. Now, org-mode is at least rarely read or written directly; it’s written through a special emacs mode that does most of the markup bookkeeping and hides it by default. But if you’re willing to build a special editor to read/write the document, XML is fine as a document format too, and a more stable format to store and parse (basically nothing can correctly parse the full range of Pandoc markdown except Pandoc, and likewise for parsing org-mode with anything other than org-mode).

                                                    1. 3

                                                      Your counterpoint was like the smallest conceivable example. “Digital humanities” is such a microscopic sliver of the usage of XML, keep in mind that AJAX, originally meant Asynchronous Javascript and XML. When someone says primarily, they don’t mean exclusively, they mean primarily.

                                                      1. 2

                                                        I’m not sure I buy Naggum’s argument in any case. If a person is reading the raw XML then they can see the attributes just as well as they can see the tag data, so it doesn’t matter if something is in an attribute or a tag. On the other hand, if they’re reading the document after it’s been processed into another format, then it doesn’t really matter if the processor got the data from an attribute or a tag element.

                                                        On top of that, there are thousands of formats where XML is used for things that aren’t documents, and in those cases the decision between using an attribute or using a tag pair is arbitrary. Take the popular GPX format as an example. Latitude and longitude are stored as attributes in the “trkpt” tag, while elevation and time are stored in “ele” and “time” tags inside of each “trkpt”.

                                                        1. 1

                                                          (Also, HTML itself is not an XML application, though there continues to be an XML serialization defined which hardly anyone uses.)

                                                          HTML5’s greatest mistake was not being XHTML. It’d make parsing much easier.

                                                          1. 3

                                                            More of HTML’s parsing hairiness came from the necessity to pick between implementing one of multiple different competing underdocumented parsing algorithms for it, than from the fact that the grammar itself is complicated. The fact that HTML5 specifies the parsing algorithm completely and unambiguously, including what to do on malformed input reduces the net difficulty of parsing, far more than the fact that the HTML5 parsing algorithm is big and complicated increases it.

                                                      1. 17

                                                        Should also understand the backstory to this email.

                                                        1. 13

                                                          You can balance your additions by dropping the explicit html, head, and body tags. They’re not required, even for spec-valid HTML, as the parser adds the elements automatically.

                                                          1. 4

                                                            From what I found it is best not to omit charset declaration. Additionally we could get rid of few quotes. Then it could look like this (this validates with W3C validator):

                                                            <!DOCTYPE html>
                                                            <meta name=viewport content="width=device-width,initial-scale=1">
                                                            <meta charset=utf-8>
                                                            <style type=text/css>body { max-width: 800px; margin: auto; }</style>
                                                            <title>Mark's Internet Presence</title>
                                                            <h1>Mark's Internet Presence</h1>
                                                            <p>
                                                            At Mark's Internet Presence, we leverage HTML5 technologies to...
                                                            <p>
                                                            Next paragraph.
                                                            

                                                            title could be the first element after DOCTYPE, but for me it looks good just before h1 element.

                                                            There could be <html lang=en> (without closing tag) added at front.

                                                            I like it! For some time I plan to do a rehash of my website and was thinking about writing html directly as it does not need any processing. I was also toying with use of a very simple SSG. It generates fully static pages, but with a bit more pleasant CSS (although certainly longer).

                                                            In a way writing fully static page directly reminds me of printing. Just as an old book or newspaper issue will look the same as it was when it was printed. Every article can have it’s own character and that is nice.

                                                            1. 3

                                                              title could be the first element after DOCTYPE, but for me it looks good just before h1 element.

                                                              You always want to put the title after the charset declaration, or else you won’t be able to use special characters in your title ;)

                                                              1. 2

                                                                That is false. Once the charset is sniffed from the document itself, the entire page up to that point is re-parsed with the new charset.

                                                                1. 7

                                                                  As a nitpick, the browser only has to reparse if it finds the charset early in the document, specifically:

                                                                  The element containing the character encoding declaration must be serialized completely within the first 1024 bytes of the document.

                                                                  Seems to occasionally come up in the wild, with people on StackOverflow confused about why their charset declaration isn’t working, who turned out to have had >1024 bytes of stuff before it (e.g. a big HTML comment at the top).

                                                            2. 2

                                                              Wow, apparently that’s been valid for a long time, but this is the first I’m hearing of it. Intriguing. Looks like the only case the explicit tags are really required is if you want certain elements (like a script) to be the first tag in the body, while they’d be put as the last tag in the head if you leave it implicit. But for everything else it’s unambiguous.

                                                              1. 5

                                                                It has been valid since before “valid HTML” was a thing — SGML allowed you (as a schema author) to specify arbitrary tags as optional so long as they could be inferred unambiguously.

                                                                Some day we will catch up to the markup technology of the 1980s.

                                                            1. 1

                                                              It’s strange that the article doesn’t mention that Bernstein himself has a replacement for su to solve this exact issue.

                                                              1. 5

                                                                I don’t think daemontoolssetuidgid was intended as a replacement for su. It isn’t even installed with the setuid bit set. So you can’t use it to gain privileges, only to drop them. In contrast, su is intended to gain, but not drop privileges and accordingly is installed with the setuid bit set. The author of nosh (belonging to the daemontools family) goes into detail about this: Don’t abuse su for dropping user privileges

                                                              1. 1

                                                                What does Erlang do about this internally? It must surely use getenv/setenv somewhere in library code.

                                                                1. 2

                                                                  I could very easily see Erlang simply having one process who’s job it is to manage access to getenv and setenv. I suspect they actually use some kind of locking scheme, but I don’t know enough BEAM to be certain.

                                                                  1. 1

                                                                    Does anyone know a good way to navigate the Erlang source code? I’m a little spoiled by all the code navigation support that golang.org has, and wonder if Erlang has anything similar

                                                                    1. 1

                                                                      The same question for Go. I use setenv() a lot in test code to do various things and have never encountered this behavior. I’m not interacting, though, with a library that uses libc when doing so, at least not in cases I can think of. Curious enough to look into this later.

                                                                      1. 1

                                                                        Also interesting is that environment variables are passed directly to calls to Exec. Does Exec in libc also take an env parameter?

                                                                        1. 2

                                                                          man 2 execve

                                                                        2. 1

                                                                          So, at least in Go, the first call to os.Getenv, or os.Setenv copies the environment into a map. For os.Setenv, there’s an additional call to setenv_c, which I didn’t successfully fund the definition of (just on my phone). Also, it appears that a setenv in another (external) library won’t actually show up in a subsequent os.Getenv call, if the environment was already copied.

                                                                          1. 1

                                                                            Setenv in golang uses a Read-Write mutex, which is how a lot of other racy go constructs (like their regular expressions) add thread safety. (Which is why I think Erlang does something similar). Interestingly enough, golang has its wrapper around setenv/getenv in it’s syscall package.

                                                                            https://golang.org/src/syscall/env_unix.go?s=1927:1963#L83

                                                                            1. 2

                                                                              I noticed that before, but missed this:

                                                                              // setenv_c and unsetenv_c are provided by the runtime but are no-ops
                                                                              // if cgo isn't loaded.
                                                                              func setenv_c(k, v string)
                                                                              func unsetenv_c(k string)
                                                                              

                                                                              So, they basically copy the environment on first interaction with it, use a Lock, and don’t try to do anything fancy unless you’re using cgo. With cgo, I bet you end up with the same problems as described in the blog post… something to test out in my “copious” amounts of free time.

                                                                        1. 10

                                                                          Great read! EGCs sound like a very useful concept, never heard of them before. Impressive to see that one language’s stdlib gets the abstraction right, but I wonder if the EGC is always unambiguous between languages that share a script.

                                                                          1. 5

                                                                            And the answer seems to be “yeah, no, it’s complicated”.

                                                                            https://www.reddit.com/r/rust/comments/5o13kk/comment/dcg1ul9

                                                                            1. 3

                                                                              Yes, it’s always unambiguous; EGC is defined independently of any particular locale.

                                                                            1. 6

                                                                              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.

                                                                              1. 8

                                                                                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.

                                                                                1. 5

                                                                                  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.

                                                                                  1. 1

                                                                                    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. :)

                                                                                    1. 7

                                                                                      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?

                                                                                      1. 6

                                                                                        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.

                                                                                        1. 2

                                                                                          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.

                                                                                          1. 4

                                                                                            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.

                                                                                    2. 2

                                                                                      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.

                                                                                    1. 3

                                                                                      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?

                                                                                      1. 6

                                                                                        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.

                                                                                      1. 22

                                                                                        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.

                                                                                          1. 24

                                                                                            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.

                                                                                            1. 9

                                                                                              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.

                                                                                              1. 5

                                                                                                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

                                                                                                1. 11

                                                                                                  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.

                                                                                                  1. 12

                                                                                                    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.

                                                                                                    1. 9

                                                                                                      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.

                                                                                                      1. 3

                                                                                                        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.

                                                                                                      2. 6

                                                                                                        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?

                                                                                                        1. 5

                                                                                                          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).

                                                                                                          1. 3

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

                                                                                                            1. 2

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

                                                                                                          2. 3

                                                                                                            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.

                                                                                                          3. [Comment removed by author]

                                                                                                            1. 12

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

                                                                                                          4. 2

                                                                                                            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.

                                                                                                            1. 16

                                                                                                              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

                                                                                                              1. 1

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

                                                                                                                1. 9

                                                                                                                  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.

                                                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                                                    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.

                                                                                                              2. 6

                                                                                                                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?

                                                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                                                  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.

                                                                                                                2. [Comment removed by author]

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                                                                                                                    That is a crazy story.

                                                                                                                    The operative word here is crazy.

                                                                                                                    1. 3

                                                                                                                      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?)

                                                                                                                      1. [Comment removed by author]

                                                                                                                        1. 2

                                                                                                                          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.

                                                                                                                    2. 10

                                                                                                                      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.

                                                                                                                      1. 10

                                                                                                                        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.

                                                                                                                        1. 9

                                                                                                                          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.

                                                                                                                          1. 3

                                                                                                                            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.

                                                                                                                            1. 8

                                                                                                                              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.

                                                                                                                          2. 9

                                                                                                                            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.

                                                                                                                            1. -2

                                                                                                                              “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.

                                                                                                                          3. -4

                                                                                                                            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.

                                                                                                                            1. 9

                                                                                                                              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?

                                                                                                                    3. 3

                                                                                                                      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.

                                                                                                                      1. 2

                                                                                                                        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.

                                                                                                                      2. 8

                                                                                                                        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.

                                                                                                                        1. 4

                                                                                                                          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.

                                                                                                                          1. 2

                                                                                                                            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

                                                                                                                            1. 3

                                                                                                                              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?

                                                                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                                                                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.

                                                                                                                            2. [Comment removed by author]

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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.

                                                                                                                                1. 9

                                                                                                                                  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.

                                                                                                                                  1. 4

                                                                                                                                    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.

                                                                                                                                  2. 5

                                                                                                                                    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.

                                                                                                                                  3. 3

                                                                                                                                    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.

                                                                                                                                    1. 0

                                                                                                                                      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.

                                                                                                                                1. 16

                                                                                                                                  This is my latest side project.

                                                                                                                                  The core is written in Go and is cross platform and open source: https://github.com/fogleman/primitive

                                                                                                                                  It got a lot of good feedback, so I thought I’d try putting a GUI on it and selling it in the app store. It only took me a couple weeks to do the GUI, website, etc. so it was worth the effort. It’s written in Objective-C and launches a Go binary to do the heavy lifting (communicating over stdin/stdout). A better approach might be to compile the Go code to a shared library and directly link it into the app, but I hadn’t considered that approach until someone mentioned it recently.

                                                                                                                                  Sales have been really good since launching, but that’s mainly due to being on the front page of HN. It remains to be seen how well it will do over time, but people seem to like it.

                                                                                                                                  Thanks for reading!

                                                                                                                                  1. 8

                                                                                                                                    Any particular reason for the lol TLD? I thought this was going to be a joke before I clicked.

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                                                                                                                                      It was available and I figured it’s memorable at least.

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                                                                                                                                        HK?

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                                                                                                                                          Hacker Knews, I assume.

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                                                                                                                                            And HG, Hacker GNUs.

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                                                                                                                                      1. Anonymity is not included in the list of criteria when it is probably the most important of all. This scheme leaks who voted for whom to the government.

                                                                                                                                      2. Ability to verify that your own vote was counted and recorded as you wanted is equivalent to ability to verify that someone else’s vote was counted and recorded as you wanted. It enables bribery and abuse.

                                                                                                                                      3. Publishing the results as you go along is a bad idea. In the UK (but not the US or Canada) it’s illegal to start revealing results until every polling station has closed, because elections should be run under scientific conditions to as great a degree as possible. If voters can change their vote based on the votes of people who arrived before them, it greatly increases the potential for tactical voting.

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                                                                                                                                          1. Agreed. Although revealing who voted at all is already public record, and arguably a good thing.

                                                                                                                                          Yes, revealing who voted is altogether different from revealing how they voted — at least as long as there is more than one sincere candidate on the ballot.

                                                                                                                                          1. False. You can have zero knowledge proofs that your vote was counted without revealing who you voted for

                                                                                                                                          Okay, you can prove your vote was counted, but not that it was counted correctly.

                                                                                                                                          1. Possibly? Surely you can reveal encrypted results that let people audit the process without revealing what any of the votes are.

                                                                                                                                          If you only reveal the number of votes and not the pattern, it should be fine.