I frequently get asked about the changes we’ve made and are making to Hacker News, so I wanted to share some updates. A lot of people feel strongly about HN. It’s an important part of the startup community and we want it to be both the best source of news and discussion about technology and startups and also welcoming for everyone, especially groups that have historically been marginalized in the tech industry.
First, I want to thank the community for all the work people have done over the past six months to downvote, flag, and comment on content that doesn’t fit the site guidelines. It’s a lot of work, but it has a huge impact and we hope users will continue to do it. I’d also like to thank dang and sctb for all the work they’ve done as moderators and with software to increase story and comment quality.
Traffic is up about 30% over this period, and we’d like to think that the increase in quality and decrease in toxic comments is the main reason.
There is much more to do, of course, and there are still comments that have no place on HN, but we’re happy that we’ve heard from so many users that feel the quality has increased.
I’m sometimes asked how historically marginalized users can help shape the HN community when the karma threshold for down voting inappropriate comments is high. It’s a fair question, and we are experimenting with lowering the downvoting threshold. Also, the best way to deal with inappropriate comments is to flag them. To do so, click “link” next to the comment timestamp and then “flag”. The threshold for flagging is low (only 30 karma), so nearly everyone can help there.
To prevent abuse, moderators review flagged stories and comments and revoke flagging privileges from users who flag inappropriately.
We changed two things about flagging recently. First, we lowered the threshold for flags to kill inappropriate comments. We’re watching the data closely in order to unkill comments that have been flagged unfairly, but there are few such cases. Most of the time this only happens to comments none of us want on the site.
Second, we’ve started indicating in the UI which comments/stories have been killed by user flags.
A third experiment didn’t go so well: we briefly made the software kill comments that had been sufficiently downvoted. Many users objected, arguing that killing downvoted comments is too harsh a punishment for unpopular opinions, especially since downvoted comments get faded to begin with. We heard that and reversed the change.
In general, though, these experiments in community moderation seem to be succeeding, and we plan to do more of them.