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Hacker News

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Hacker news is becoming weirder and weirder ...

In 2010 I discovered that if I reload the page my votes for comments get rolled back. My guess was that according to the HN’s algorithm there was something wrong with the way I had been voting. My feelings were at the time:

Secret laws + secret enforcement = very disturbing.

But I said OK and simply stopped voting. Until 8/22/11. I upvoted a “wrong” article (it was critical of the way HN is run I think). I quickly discovered that my karma dropped by 10 points, instantly. I don't even care about my karma but it was so strange that I decided to look it up. It was right there: my 10 most recent comments were downvoted (typically from 1 to 0). This was also hard to explain:

  • Google's cache of July 6, 2011: "karma: 370 avg: 1.64", and
  • August 21, 2011: "karma: 367 avg: 1".

Once the trust is gone, you start wondering what else is happening. If you don't care about your karma, how about "hell-banning", slowdown of page loads, did I miss anything? I am sure I did.

HN is still a great place to visit, even with the recent popularity of posts from torrentfreak.com, arstechnica.com, eff.org, techdirt.com, groklaw.com, etc, posts about politics, TV shows, pictures of kittens, Apple fanboys, Google groupies, "libertarians" that hate laws that inconvenience them (music downloads) but love to devise new ones for everybody else... hmm, maybe it's not.

Bottom line, unable to come up with reasonable rules that work, they end up doing weird stuff -- in secret.

Funny, this reminds me of how Google deals with its PageRank problems! To see it, just compare HN guidelines and Google Webmaster Guidelines. Both are short, smart, and very idealistic. I do believe that this is the way they really want things to be. Unfortunately, the only tool that have to enforce these rules is their algorithms. But to make the algorithms work they'd have to solve the Artificial Intelligence problem. They haven't.