9 Hacker News comments I'm tired of seeing

As a long-time reader of Hacker News, I keep seeing some comments they don't really contribute to the conversation. Since the discussions are one of the most interesting parts of the site I offer my suggestions for improving quality.
  • Correlation is not causation: the few readers who don't know this already won't benefit from mentioning it. If there's some specific reason you think a a study is wrong, describe it.
  • "If you're not paying for it, you're the product" - That was insightful the first time, but doesn't need to be posted about every free website.
  • Explaining a company's actions by "the legal duty to maximize shareholder value" - Since this can be used to explain any action by a company, it explains nothing. Not to mention the validity of the statement is controversial.
  • [citation needed] - This isn't Wikipedia, so skip the passive-aggressive comments. If you think something's wrong, explain why.
  • Premature optimization - labeling every optimization with this vaguely Freudian phrase doesn't make you the next Knuth. Calling every abstraction a leaky abstraction isn't useful either.
  • Dunning-Kruger effect - an overused explanation and criticism.
  • Betteridge's law of headlines - this comment doesn't need to appear every time a title ends in a question mark.
  • A link to a logical fallacy, such as ad hominem or more pretentiously tu quoque - this isn't a debate team and you don't score points for this.
  • "Cue the ...", "FTFY", "This.", "+1", "Sigh", "Meh", and other generic internet comments are just annoying.
My readers had a bunch of good suggestions. Here are a few:
  • The plural of anecdote is not data
  • Cargo cult
  • Comments starting with "No." "Wrong." or "False."
  • Just use bootstrap / heroku / nodejs / Haskell / Arduino.
  • "How [or Why] did this make the front page of HN?" followed by http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html
In general if a comment could fit on a bumper sticker or is simply a link to a Wikipedia page or is almost a Hacker News meme, it's probably not useful.

What comments bother you the most?

Check out the long discussion at Hacker News. Thanks for visiting, HN readers!

Amusing note: when I saw the comments below, I almost started deleting them thinking "These are the stupidest comments I've seen in a long time". Then I realized I'd asked for them :-)

Edit: since this is getting a lot of attention, I'll add my "big theory" of Internet discussions.

There are three basic types of online participants: "watercooler", "scientific conference", and "debate team". In "watercooler", the participants are having an entertaining conversation and sharing anecdotes. In "scientific conference", the participants are trying to increase knowledge and solve problems. In "debate team", the participants are trying to prove their point is right.

HN was originally largely in the "scientific conference" mode, with very smart people discussing areas in which they were experts. Now HN has much more "watercooler" flavor, with smart people chatting about random things they often know little about. And certain subjects (e.g. economics, Apple, sexism, piracy) bring out the "debate team" commenters. Any of the three types can carry on happily by themself. However, much of the problem comes when the types of conversation mix. The "watercooler" conversations will annoy the "scientific conference" readers, since half of what they say is wrong. Conversely, the "scientific conference" commenters come across as pedantic when they interrupt a fun conversation with facts and corrections. A conversation between "debate team" and one of the other groups obviously goes nowhere.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

why not use an arduino?

Hugh S. Myers said...

Cargo Cult---particularly since it's use is self-referential.

Anonymous said...

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these.

Tastes like chicken. Here comes the science.

my highest rated comment is about penises covered in vomit.. thanks HN

My girlfriend made $18,000 working from home.

Anonymous said...

Fundamentally I think about 3 of these boil down to a failure to differentiate labels from insights. Marking the type of error you believe is occurring doesn't equate to debunking the statement being made, which HN tends to ignore.

Edward said...

my gf's brother just got an almost new gold BMW 3 Series Coupe by part-time working online at home... check out the post right here big57.com

Anonymous said...

This. Times a 1000.

Actually - I never comment on anything mostly because I am annoyed by the sorts of responses you have listed here. Great work. Thanks. (Also I just ordered that book Electronics for Inventors 3rd ed so hope to be back here soon)

Anonymous said...

"Um Google can do no wrong, and if it does wrong, it is not for money or PR reasons, it is just an accident. I say this because I am a naive idiot beyond belief."

Oh wait they don't ever add that last sentence, do they.


Anonymous said...

Goodwin's law.

Maybe it's just lately with the whole NSA issue, but I seem to be reading way too many comments referring to Nazis.

Anonymous said...

"Goodwin's law. "

OMG you made a typo! You must be sooo stupid!

Anonymous said...

Sigh...

Martin said...

"CoffeeScript sucks" -- I'll never stop using this one though.

Anonymous said...

"+1"

Anonymous said...

This.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"Goodwin's law. "

Anonymous said...
"OMG you made a typo! You must be sooo stupid!"

Grammar Nazi!

Anonymous said...

I'm tired of people complaining about the quality of the comments when there is a lack of quality in the contribution ..

Anonymous said...

I'm tired of people whining on the internet.

Just turn it off and don't use it.

Anonymous said...

This place is turning into Reddit.

Anonymous Coward said...

What are you people smoking ??

Anonymous said...

"Have you tried angular?"

Sonny said...

OK I'll bite.

Nom!

Anonymous said...

That's *Ginnifer* Goodwin's Law. OMG don't you know it?
"Everything goes with short hair. It's bananas."

Anonymous said...

Aaron Swartz, PG, Elon Musk, Aaron Swartz, PG, Elon Musk, Aaron Swartz, PG, Elon Musk, Aaron Swartz, PG, Elon Musk, Aaron Swartz, PG, Elon Musk!

The hacker hero worship is so annoying.

Anonymous said...

"Straw man" has got to be mine.

Anonymous said...

I learned to program five times as fast thanks to one simple trick!

Anonymous said...

You are so boring!

Anonymous said...

Also I have a nicer universal comment. See something you don't really like, ask, 'And how it does in terms of CAP theorem?'

Anonymous said...

I baked a cake in Go

passerby said...

Citation needed

Carson said...

"meh" and its various (and more verbose) incarnations.

The tone is almost always one of intellectual superiority grandstanding.

Anonymous said...


I think you have forgotten one very important point about communities like Hacker News: Those who know teach those who do not.

I appreciate your annoyance. However, even gratuitous repetition of so-called catch phrases is useful in that it gives newcomers a view into how the community things about things and uses the language of this rarified niche.

Please be tolerant.

Anonymous said...

Funny that none of these gripes touch on the elephant in the corner of the HN room... The culture is a bunch of privileged 20-somethings who have no meaningful experience or understanding outside the artificial world silicon valley has created.

Anonymous said...


HN is a monoculture where critical thinking is banned, and anyone who engages in it will quickly be hellbanned.

Any time in the comments there is a complete waste of time. When thinking is banned, thinking will not occur.

Anonymous said...

I like your "big theory" text box at thw bottom. Nice concise set of ideas.

Anonymous said...

Never mind the comments. What about all the articles that are posted with titles like "... You're Doing it Wrong". "Why ... Sucks". And in fact any story that concentrates on what things the author doesn't like, rather than posting interesting things that they do like.

geekam said...

Although not entirely related, I also got annoyed with stories on the home page : https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/1362509/web/hn-parody/hn_home.html


I got inspired by an earlier post about HN commenting by Brad Conte
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5326511