Principles and priorities | Hacker News
I see that someone dropped one of my grenades into the toilet bowl of Hacker News.
I see that someone dropped one of my grenades into the toilet bowl of Hacker News.
Hacker News is an echo chamber focusing on computer posturing and self-aggrandizement. It is run by Paul Graham’s investment fund and sociopath incubator, Y Combinator.
There’s never been any reason to visit Hacker News, but now you really don’t need to ever go there. This site posts a weekly roundup, complete with commentary that’s even more snarky than Hacker News.
Here’s a fairly typical summary of a fairly typical thread:
Oh, and I love the “about” page.
Of all the sites to pick to demo progressive web apps, we get the cesspit that is Hacker News …I guess it is possible to polish a turd.
Anyway, here are some examples of using frameworks to create alternative Hacker News readers. So the challenge here is to display some text to read..
In the Hall of Shame we have React, Preact, Angular, and Polymer.
In the Hall of Fame, we have the ones doing it right: React, Vue, and Viper.
That’s right: React appears in both. See, it’s not about the tools; it’s about how you use ‘em.
You just know that this will end up being made into a film one day. It’s like a downmarket Mr. Robot.
When I wrote about Reddit and Hacker News, criticising their lack of moderation, civility, and basic decency, many people (invariably men) responded in defence of Reddit. Nobody defended Hacker News. Nobody.
Oh, and all of you people (men) defending Reddit? Here’s your party line …I find it abhorrent.
Here in the UK, there’s a “newspaper”—and I use the term advisedly—called The Sun. In longstanding tradition, page 3 of The Sun always features a photograph of a topless woman.
To anyone outside the UK, this is absolutely bizarre. Frankly, it’s pretty bizarre to most people in the UK as well. Hence the No More Page 3 campaign which seeks to put pressure on the editor of The Sun to ditch their vestigal ’70s sexism and get with the 21st Century.
Note that the campaign is not attempting to make the publication of topless models in a daily newspaper illegal. Note that the campaign is not calling for top-down censorship from press regulators. Instead the campaign asks only that the people responsible reassess their thinking and recognise the effects of having topless women displayed in what is supposedly a family newspaper.
Laura Bates of the Everyday Sexism project has gathered together just some examples of the destructive effects of The Sun’s page 3. And sure, in this age of instant access to porn via the internet, an image of a pair of breasts might seem harmless and innocuous, but it’s the setting for that image that wreaks the damage:
Being in a national newspaper lends these images public presence and, more harmfully for young people, the perception of mainstream cultural approval. Our society, through Page 3, tells both girls and boys ‘that’s what women are’.
Simply put, having this kind of objectification in a freely-available national newspaper normalises it. When it’s socially acceptable to have a publication like The Sun in a workplace, then it’s socially acceptable for that same workplace to have the accompanying air of sexism.
That same kind of normalisation happens in online communities. When bad behaviour is tolerated, bad behaviour is normalised.
There are obvious examples of online communities where bad behaviour is tolerated, or even encouraged: 4Chan, Something Awful. But as long as I can remember, there have also been online communites that normalise abhorrent attitudes, and yet still get a free pass (usually because the site in question would deliver bucketloads of traffic …as though that were the only metric that mattered).
It used to be Slashdot. Then it was Digg. Now it’s Reddit and Hacker News.
Thx to Reddit & HN, “hacker" has moved away from its clever nerd (Wozniak) & rogue agent (Mitnick) connotations towards “misogynist asshole”— Jason Kottke (@jkottke) March 25, 2013
Some days Hacker News and Reddit are nothing more than the Westboro Baptist Church of the Internet.— Faruk Ateş (@KuraFire) March 21, 2013
I’m terrified every time I blog about anything even slightly controversial that someone will post it on Reddit or HN. That says something.— CultureOfFear & BEES (@juliepagano) March 19, 2013
In each case, the defence of the bad behaviour was always explained by the sheer size of the community. “Hey, that’s just the way it is. There’s nothing can be done about it.” To put it another way …it’s normal.
But normality isn’t an external phenomenon that exists in isolation. Normality is created. If something is perceived as normal—whether that’s topless women in a national newspaper or threatening remarks in an online forum—that perception is fueled by what we collectively accept to be “normal”.
Last year, Relly wrote about her experience at a conference:
Then there was the one comment I saw in a live irc style backchannel at an event, just after I came off stage. I wish I’d had the forethought to screenshot it or something but I was so shocked, I dropped my laptop on the table and immediately went and called home, to check on my kids.
Because the comment said (paraphrasing) “This talk was so pointless. After she mentioned her kids at the beginning I started thinking of ways to hunt them down and punish her for wasting my time here.”
That’s a horrible thing for anyone to say. But I can understand how someone would think nothing of making a remark like that …if they began their day by reading Reddit or Hacker News. If you make a remark like that there, nobody bats an eyelid. It’s normal.
So what do we do about that? Do we simply accept it? Do we shrug our shoulders and say “Oh, well”? Do we treat it like some kind of unchangeable immovable force of nature; that once you have a large online community, bad behaviour should be accepted as the default mode of discourse?
It’s hard work. I get that. Heck, I run an online community myself and I know just how hard it is to maintain civility (and I’ve done a pretty terrible job of it in the past). But it’s not impossible. Metafilter is a testament to that.
The other defence of sites like Reddit and Hacker News is that it’s unfair to judge the whole entity based purely on their worst episodes. I don’t buy that. The economic well-being of a country shouldn’t be based on the wealth of its richest citizens—or even the wealth of its average citizens—but its poorest.
@adactio if Reddit does something “good" it’s one community, it does something bad it’s “not all reddit”. It’s such a dull argument.— David Singleton (@dsingleton) June 10, 2014
That was precisely how Rebecca Watson was shouted down when she tried to address Reddit’s problems when she was on a panel at South by Southwest last year:
Does the good, no matter if it’s a fundraiser for a kid with cancer or a Secret Santa gift exchange, negate the bigotry?
Like I said, running an online community is hard—Derek’s book was waaaay ahead of its time—but it’s not impossible. If we treat awful behaviour as some kind of unstoppable force that can’t be dealt with, then what’s the point in trying to have any kind of community at all?
Just as with the No More Page 3 campaign, I’m not advocating legal action or legislative control. Instead, I just want some awareness that what we think of as normal is what we collectively decide is normal.
I try not to be a judgemental person. But if I see someone in public with a copy of The Sun, I’m going to judge them. And no, it’s not a class thing: I just don’t consider misogyny to be socially acceptable. And if you participate in Reddit or Hacker News …well, I’m afraid I’m going to judge you too. I don’t consider it socially acceptable.
Of course my judgemental opinion of someone doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to anybody. But if enough of us made our feelings clear, then maybe slowly but surely, there might be a shift in feeling. There might just be a small movement of the needle that calibrates what we think of normal in our online communities.
Did you see Keren at dConstruct 2012? Well, here she is at this year’s TED conference delivering a barnstorming talk on hacker culture.
A profile of the Indie Web movement in Wired.
Go! Fight! Win!
If this sounds like your kind of hackery, be sure to come along to Indie Web Camp UK in Brighton right after dConstruct.
A nice feature on Seb in the latest issue of Make magazine.
An in-depth look at the portrayal of hackers on film.
Watch the video to see Jonty’s rather good tour of EMF.
While I was compering dConstruct, I interspersed the between-talk banter with information about some of the events taking place under the banner of the Brighton Digital Festival. It’s a busy month, to put it mildly.
The day after dConstruct, Brighton played host to a Mini Maker Faire in the foyer of the Brighton Dome. I went along in the morning to check it out and MY HEAD ASPLODE!
It was splendid. So much creativity, so much fun and so many lovingly-crafted gadgets, all under one roof. It was immensely popular too. The crowds didn’t let up all day. I hope that the next time there’s a Maker Faire in Brighton—‘cause it should definitely happen again—that it can take place in a bigger venue (like the Corn Exchange) so that we call all geek out in comfort together.
I commend Emily and all of the other organisers. Top job, hardware hackers, top job.
Tim Bray calmly explains why hash-bang URLs are a very bad idea.
This is what we call “tight coupling” and I thought that anyone with a Computer Science degree ought to have been taught to avoid it.
I wrote a little while back about my feelings on hash-bang URLs:
I feel so disappointed and sad when I see previously-robust URLs swapped out for the fragile #! fragment identifiers. I find it hard to articulate my sadness…
Fortunately, Mike Davies is more articulate than I. He’s written a detailed account of breaking the web with hash-bangs.
It would appear that hash-bang usage is on the rise, despite the fact that it was never intended as a long-term solution. Instead, the pattern (or anti-pattern) was intended as a last resort for crawling Ajax-obfuscated content:
So the #! URL syntax was especially geared for sites that got the fundamental web development best practices horribly wrong, and gave them a lifeline to getting their content seen by Googlebot.
I’m always surprised when I come across as site that deliberately chooses to make its content harder to access.
This is no accident. The web stack is rooted in Postel’s law. If you serve an HTML document to a browser, and that document contains some tags or attributes that the browser doesn’t understand, the browser will simply ignore them and render the document as best it can. If you supply a style sheet that contains a selector or rule that the browser doesn’t recognise, it will simply pass it over and continue rendering.
That’s why I’m so surprised that any front-end engineer would knowingly choose to swap out a solid declarative foundation like HTML for a more brittle scripting language. Or, as Simon put it:
Gizmodo launches redesign, is no longer a website (try visiting with JS disabled): http://gizmodo.com/
Read Mike’s article, re-read this article on URL design and listen to what John Resig has to say in this interview .
So why use a hash-bang if it’s an artificial URL, and a URL that needs to be reformatted before it points to a proper URL that actually returns content?
Out of all the reasons, the strongest one is “Because it’s cool”. I said strongest not strong.
Bruce Sterling on Wikileaks, Julian Assange, and the unintended consequences of cypherpunk.
Pwn3d! "Undercover reporter Michelle Madigan (Associate Producer of NBC Dateline) got a little more than she bargained for when she tried to sneak in to DEFCON 2007 with hidden cameras to get someone to confess to a felony."
The BBC talk to the hacker/conspiracy theorist awaiting extradition to the US. He's a bit of a loony but he's harmless.
Great paintings, for example, get you laid in a way that great computer programs never do.