The Lonely Work of Moderating Hacker News | The New Yorker
The site’s now characteristic tone of performative erudition—hyperrational, dispassionate, contrarian, authoritative—often masks a deeper recklessness. Ill-advised citations proliferate; thought experiments abound; humane arguments are dismissed as emotional or irrational. Logic, applied narrowly, is used to justify broad moral positions. The most admired arguments are made with data, but the origins, veracity, and malleability of those data tend to be ancillary concerns. The message-board intellectualism that might once have impressed V.C. observers like Graham has developed into an intellectual style all its own. Hacker News readers who visit the site to learn how engineers and entrepreneurs talk, and what they talk about, can find themselves immersed in conversations that resemble the output of duelling Markov bots trained on libertarian economics blogs, “The Tim Ferriss Show,” and the work of Yuval Noah Harari.
People have been trying to outsmart one another on Internet forums for as long as there have been Internet forums. Still, Hacker News has an unusually wide influence. Landing a blog post or personal project on the front page is a badge of honor for many technologists, and the site has become a regional export: ninety per cent of its traffic comes from outside the Bay Area, and a third of its users are in Europe. The site is now a portal to tech culture for millions of people. At the same time, it has become a punch line and a punching bag for tech workers and engineers who see it as a locus of hubris, myopia, and exclusivity. A word that comes up frequently among its critics is “toxic.”
Un exemple de travail de modération surnun site plutôt difficile à gérer.
“It’s allowed in the sense that people are allowed to be wrong and/or ignorant because that’s what most of us are on most topics,” Gackle replied. “We can’t stop that any more than King Canute”—the ancient king of the North Sea who demonstrated the limits of his power by trying, in an ironic spirit, to command the sea—“could stop the waves. The important question is, what’s the best way to handle it if we want to have an internet forum that doesn’t suck? Experience teaches that the answer is: the patient supply of correct information by people who do know about a topic.”
I thought about the relentless patience and good faith that this style of moderation work required. I pictured Bell and Gackle as swimmers in a resistance pool, doing slow crawls against the currents of online discourse. I hoped the project of Hacker News was worth the effort. I wondered if their work might show that tech really does need humanism—that better online communities can be built one relationship at a time. Then my eyes moved down the thread, where a third user had left a new comment. It read: “King Canute was supposed to stop the tide, you couch alluder.”