Hackaday Comment Policy; We’re cleaning up.

Sit down for a moment commenters, we need to talk.
Yes, you all knew this post was coming one day. We’ve talked about this topic at length internally, and we have decided that we’re going to clean up our act. For some time, Hack a Day has been growing a reputation as the prime source of extremely negative, vulgar, rude, sexist, and inflammatory comments in the hacking community. We’ve had complaints from readers (yes there are readers that aren’t commenters, thousands of them) and fellow members of the hacking community about this problem for a long time. [Eliot] even mentioned it back in 2009 when a job applicant expressed concern. We’ve nicely tried to steer things to the positive in a variety of ways, from suggesting commenters to be more supportive, jokingly making a troll detector, and simply stating that the comments need to stay “on topic and nice”.

When we see things like these  tweets by [Jeri Ellsworth], we hang our heads in shame.

She’s not the only one. We actually get this quite regularly. As our readership grows, we see it more and more often. We get emails explaining that people have done a hack but don’t really want to post it because the commenters will just tear it apart in an unnecessarily aggressive and negative way. We have actually had people ask us to remove their projects and comments due to uncivil behavior. Constructive criticism is good, but insulting and angry deconstruction isn’t helpful to anyone.

We’re better than that aren’t we? We are fast, agile and fairly unrestricted in our content. We should be at the center of this community, not on the outer edges, reviled by many for the behavior of a few. Hackaday should be the teacher at the front of the classroom, not the kid in the back throwing wadded up paper at the kids in the front.

What we’re doing:
First off, as far as we can foresee, we will never close the comments section of our web site down. Hackaday should be a home for the entire hacking community and as such, you will always be able to settle in and have a reasonable discussion. We do not want to implement any sort of G+ integration or similar, nor do we want to require registration to leave a comment. We will if we absolutely have to, but lets try to avoid that.

Comment sections and forums have often been a place where negative comments can get out of hand. There are many theories for why this happens, but the result is usually the same: rules and moderation. Many sites have already laid down the law and are adhering to their goals of keeping things civil. We realize that we are to blame if our image is this poor, so we are doing something about it.

From this point moving forward, Hackaday comments will be civil. If you are posting an empty in-joke (“where’s the Arduino?”), a declaration of “not a hack”, a racist, sexist, completely off topic, platform-hating, or personally insulting comment, your post will be deleted. This will be at the discretion of whichever Hackaday staff member happens to see your comment first.

Can you criticize Hackaday?
You can’t walk into a business and start screaming about how much they suck without being escorted out immediately.  Same thing applies here.

We are always hard at work trying to find interesting hacks, makes, repairs, tweaks, videos, etc. that appeal to a wide spectrum of readers. We put this web site together for you, as well as 200,000 other individuals.  Not everything will appeal to everybody. That would be impossible. However, if you don’t like a post or project, just skip it – we’ll have another one ready in short order. We will feature projects that appeal to the seasoned EE as well as the complete beginner. We were all beginners at one time, and it would have been great to have something like Hack a Day around back then to show us hacks ranging from simple to advanced.

From time to time however, Hack a Day can be a less than desirable place to hang out, especially for those who are coming here for the first time. We don’t want to chase off young, creative minds. As a community, we should be helping those that are just starting to venture into hacking electronics.

If you have a problem, email us. You’ll probably actually get a response that way too.  My email is Caleb@ and you’re always welcome to email me personally. Again, please be civil (yep, I’ve had my share of death threats).

Grammar/spelling corrections and dead links:
No need to comment, just email us. A message to team@ will suffice, but you will probably get a quicker response by emailing the author directly. We know we have issues – we’re often so excited about a hack that some little goof slips by. Email us and we’ll fix it. Don’t write a 3 paragraph comment about how important the oxford comma is, or how we’re obviously incapable of functioning because we accidentally flubbed a word. We promise we will never intentionally screw up some grammar, spelling, or punctuation.

What you can will do to help:
Be constructive.

Every project here probably has an area that could be improved, or a part that was done inefficiently. Support your fellow hackers by offering your expertise. Explain why something isn’t working, or how you would improve it. Don’t slam them for their shortcomings. Also keep in mind that different people go about things different ways. Poster X didn’t build something the way you did?  Offer an alternative without being insulting. If someone chooses to use their brand new Core i7 monster system to drive a few LEDs, that’s their prerogative. Inside, we all know that it is not the most efficient use of money or technology, there’s no reason to beat that dead horse in public.

You know what else encourages hackers to do more projects? A pat on the back. I talk to people all the time who say that they just don’t have any constructive criticism for the projects, so they don’t comment. Well, that and they know they’ll bring the ire of the worst commenters if they happen to ask a silly question. Drop in and say what you like about a project. Those positive posts might just be enough to encourage that hacker to take it a step further. How many projects have you seen dropped simply because people thought there wasn’t any interest? Tons. If you like a project, let them know.

To encourage this, the writers are going to be keeping an eye on the comments. Randomly, when we see someone being exceptionally helpful, we’ll contact them and send them a prize. This will most likely be in the form of a hackaday sticker, but we’ll see if we can’t find some other fun things as well.

Help us make Hack a Day great. Please.

[Update: we’re working on a comment flagging system currently]

[Update: threading and comment reporting have been added]

563 thoughts on “Hackaday Comment Policy; We’re cleaning up.

  1. While this certainly falls under the category of not a hack it is a welcome post. Though I’m not sure it will solve much since the content off this site will still be trolled. Maybe just making HAD an unwelcome place for trolls will prevent it from being a jumping off point. I guess time will tell. While you’re changing things this might be time to consider a comment rating system where the user can choose to see a chronological or best rated listing of comments. There are certainly comments that are not really useful that wouldn’t be considered trollish. A well intentioned but incorrect post could be pushed down the page that way.

  2. LONG time reader, first time commenter and I just wanted to say that I am behind this 100%. Its unfortunate that it had to come to this and I am sure the decision was difficult, nobody like censoring people. I think this will go a long way in changing the attitude of this place and it should eventually/hopefully spill out in to the sites that Hackaday links to and the community as a whole.

    I think all of the trolls and 12 year olds really discouraged true feedback and discussion.

  3. Maybe it’s just me but I though the people who were part of this hobby had bigger stones. We void warranties and tell various service providers to shove it and we can’t take a bit of criticism? It’s the internet folks. I try to be constructive in my posts but I also understand that what we do here can bring out the worst (and the best) in people. Guess i just see it as a necessary evil, or, more appropriately, one we’d all adjusted to.

    Guess it’s just me.

  4. Glad to see this. Yes, the content on Hackaday is always worth checking out, but the comment section had turned into a kind of predictable (or, as mentioned by a previous poster, cringeworthy) joke. Outside of my browser I hear people ragging on ‘those Hackaday people’ pretty often, but hopefully this change will get people back to talking about the projects instead.

  5. I do understand why you think this is necessary. But since i dont like censorship in any way i can not support it.
    I also dont think that i will do much good. since there are quite a lot of “smart” people here they will not need to use offensive language to make something sound condescending or demeaning.

    Its somewhat like u.s. american television bleeping “bad” words. its ridiculous, everbody knows what they meant to say anyway and people find ways to circumnavigate using them while still expressing the same message.

  6. As a long time HaD reader I disapprove this, IMO useless comments should be simply ignored, but if the admins feel like this is getting way out of control and want to have some kind of moderation OK, it is their site after all. But simply deleting comments that staff finds offensive is the worse possible way of doing this. Here are a couple options that come to my mind (none ideal):

    1- Like someone else said do something like “Comment marked as spam” instead of just deleting it.

    2- Some sort of comment rating system, either simple like YouTube or complex like Slashdot (however if most of the community is part of the commenters you want to avoid this wont work).

    But if don’t like and want to change the current userbase this will not be easy and can result in loosing a massive amount of users, do it gently and don’t try to force you idea how users should behave upon all the community.

  7. It really is too bad that the commenting necessitates overt moderation such as this, but when a guy I work with (who has things featured here from time to time) goes on about the notorious HaD commenters, its bad. I’m glad something is going to be done about it, also, good luck with this.

  8. Thanks for making the change. Varying opinions are the fuel of invention, but good manners should span the gamut.

  9. C’mon guys, don’t just delete them outright. I’d HIGHLY prefer you hide them (with an option to view), though I’d accept the “Comment exploded into glittery magic” strategy as well…but flat-out deleting comments damages your reputation to me far more than the comments ever could. It makes you look downright hostile towards your community.

  10. People who do the projects are crucial. Without them, the site wouldn’t have a purpose.

    People who make the comments are less important. If they add to the conversation, great.

    People who make nasty comments don’t need to be provided a soapbox. They can talk to their mom.

  11. I’ve had some things featured here over the years. And I’ve left a few dozen comments. Frankly, I’m glad for this change. It’s not a free speech issue. There are many avenues for posting your own personal thoughts online if you really want to. Start your own bile-fueled blog and for the love of god stick to the topic on posts here. Response to “Not a hack” or “Gee that’s overly-complicated”: Well, apparently the staff of HaD already disagree with you because they posted said article you are trolling about. There are perfectly rationally reasonable and respectful ways to state constructive criticism that they will tolerate, but berating others’ is not a socially tolerable method so find a better one. Especially if you’ve never offered content up to be posted on the site, then you’re just being a turd. My first hack was greeted with a comment of “Gee, must be a slow news day”, and that’s always sat with me.

  12. @jc: agree regarding Slashdot. They had this problem licked years ago and probably had their approach all planned out since before they migrated from Usenet :) I think Stackoverflow has a superior model though. That site is a joy to use.

  13. Hackaday has a comments section?! OMG I just noticed it now! I’ve never read them before haha :D

    Good work guys. It’s always nice to have a clean and supportive environment :)

  14. Happy to see this. The comments on anything relating to Jeri always made me cringe. She does have a thick skin, shes been dealing with it for years. That is still no excuse for sexist comments.

    I think we can have fair, open, honest debates and comments about ideas and hacks without it having to involve someones sex and commenting on that, when it has nothing to do with the hack, is unhelpful.

  15. Great to hear something is been done.

    +1 for the keep the post but edit as ‘Comment transformed into pink fluffy unicorns for not following our [house rules]’.

    Deleting comments outright can cause discussions to make no sense whatsoever.

  16. Constructive criticism is welcome for sure. But the fucks, shits and “why would you make that fucking shit”s are not needed. You are my number 1 bookmark hackaday. I visit you at least 20 times a day (no joke) and your guides have increased my soldering and electronics knowledge 10 fold. Do what you need to do to remain reputable, I’ll still visit just as much!

  17. I’m of some mixed opinion about this change. The trolls are terrible and I completely agree with the HaD sentiment that a critique or feedback about a project is one thing, purely spiteful commentary is another. On the other hand, censorship is a pretty slippery slope. I’ve seen other websites slide right down it as the bar to what constitutes “offensive speech” falls lower and lower over time.

    In my online experience, the best antidote for excessive trolling is for the membership to police itself. And for people to realize what some unhappy person types at the end of an anonymous network connection does not reflect on them, just the author.

    Ultimately though, this is HaD’s website and they get to make the rules. I hope it encourages more interesting projects to be shared and more constructive dialogue to be had.

  18. i have been a avid everyday reader of HaD since 2007, since that time i have seen a unbelievable amount of negative, demeaning, & rude comments on the site. i have held back on posting my hacks on the forums section due to the fact of all the negative feedback that i have seen throughout my time on the site. this is a place to share, collaborate and further our knowledge. not to tear into a person because theirs skills may not be as good as yours. i am glad that something is being done. there are sites like 4chan for those who want to be obscene, rude and vulgare. not hackaday

  19. Good for you guys. I don’t see there being any practical loss here from a little more active comment moderation. I support this 100%. I think it’s pretty easy to breakdown between something that’s constructive and something that isn’t.

  20. Trolling and negative comments are a big problem but I’m not sure post deletion is the best way to attack it. Has anyone at HaD considered making a point system like reddit so that the community can self moderate and negative comments can be downvoted into not being displayed by default?

  21. - – I love this website and learned so much from it. The comments have helped me hack more things/get other ideas. I ignore people who talk shit on the internet, because in real life they have no gas in their cars to come beat my ass..lol

  22. I never noticed the comments here getting that far out of hand, certainly not worthy of a rantpost and shaking the banhammer. The worst ones were always deleted quickly, and anyone who has used the internet knows how to roll their eyes and skip to the next comment.

    For those who’ve had projects posted and didn’t like criticism: suck it up. I’ve had projects on here that were mocked, praised, and everything in between. I’ve posted comments on others’ projects within the same range. Most people realize that comments are fairly insignificant, some blogs are even removing them.

    One final point: moderating comments here will do crap-all to change the comments that people make on other sites, after being linked to them from here. Most of your readers are hardcore lurkers and if you happen to have an immature audience, what you do with comments here will have little effect on Jeri Ellsworth’s opinion of the site.

  23. I only read the comments here when I know the article in question is going to attract “controversial” comments.

    I don’t really mind a few “where’s the Arduino” jokes, I can gauge the current attitude of the community by these kind of comments. Not accurately, of course, but if they were completely missing, that would show a different landscape.

  24. @DanJ: I agree, no matter how hard you try to moderate comments you will almost certainly not change the community. The only effective way is encourage the community to policy itself, trying to force what you think is right will not result in what you want to.

  25. One major factor aiding the negative comments is that you don’t need to register to post, just provide an email address (real or not) and a username, leaving the only ‘traceable’ thing being the IP address used to post, but proxies & VPN services can hide that.

    I would like to see this site have registered posters so that if you do start being an arse you can expect your posts to be removed and possibly account banned, because I don’t know about anyone else but I love coming here to see new ideas and inventions and discuss them without some child walking in and shouting his mouth off and starting flame wars – this does not help.

    I’ve seen some great discussions in the comments that pick apart the finer points of circuits/ideas without resorting to name calling and come up with better alternatives & ideas, but I’ve also seen people call other people jerks (and worse) just because they posted their (non-inflamatory) opinion or experience with some product/component.

  26. The problem with this is that it becomes a slippery slope. Someone could be making a very valid and constructive point but it could come across harshly and get blocked.

    Why not implement a voting system ?. They’ve worked quite well on youtube and other sites that have the same issue. There should be a wordpress plugin for this.

    Let the community to the work for you !. i know I’d definitely downvote crappy “omg its an arduino” posts. Then the post gets hidden and its up to the users whether they want to read it or not.

  27. As someone who has posted a non inspirational comment (1 or 2 times) I feel I should apologize. It’s easy to forget that this is a place for all of us to get together and discuss our latest projects. They don’t have to be the best of the best or the most interesting. They just have to be fun projects that have inspired us.

    I know I have thought of HaD as a place for the most advanced type of hacks, forgetting that it has grown and blossomed into a true hacking and project site. That includes projects from expert level all the way down to beginner level.

    Thanks HaD, for everything!

  28. Come on guys, it’s the internet. It’s open and easily accessed by millions of idiots. Expect some idiotic comments. It doesn’t help that trolling (and it’s entire subculture) has become mainstream, but if you know anything about them then you’ll know that when you start to introduce rules they will work even harder to piss you off because they know that it’s working. And eventually your comments will become so restricted that no one wants to comment with the fear of banishment or the thought of “why bother?”.

  29. The sexism, anti-noobism, and sometimes even subtle racism has always been disturbing. I could absolutely do without that. Still, something about this bothers me. It certainly kills the feeling of openness. ie “If you say something bad about HaD, we will delete your comment.” I know it’s your server and you can do what you want, but it sure feels weird to see you say that, HaD. I’ll miss some of the occasionally hilarious off-color comments, and the feeling that I can say what I want. Most of us police ourselves pretty well anyway.

    I hope this fixes everyone’s hurt feelings. I also hope the writers get better at grammar, or there will be a lot of grammar police pulling their hair out.

  30. This policy is a good idea – stick with it. The bad commenters will go away, and the true community will surface. There are always many more readers than writers, and a vocal minority can give a false idea of what a site is about. This site is about hacking, and about learning, not about in-jokes or trolling.

  31. I thank the mods of this website for stepping up and positively adjusting they way they provide us information, education, entertainment(some delete’able comments) and most of all, a open source & free resource, this website alone can attest to five children having a interest in taking whats given to then and making a open source better world, you can double that for the adults alone
    My one suggestion is not to hackaday, to wordpress, can we make coments tagged negative blurred? the more negative they are tagged, the more burred they are, if you want to read the negative flagged comments click on the ‘i wanna read this this dont censor me button’ a couple of times.
    To the people who submit these tombed scrolls of work, Please don’t let the -ve touch the +ve, but wiki your Edison’s and graham bells, remember, Sinclair had it right in ’85, in 2000 we got the prius. we should have listened.

  32. Idea for Hack: WRT Powered Hackaday comment troll spamming robot with rocket boots.

    Just kidding. I for one am grateful for the free time I will be gaining now that I don’t have to sift through an onslaught of trolls to read some decent commentary.

  33. you guys are gonna me moderating a bunch of posts. Perhaps a “report” button and let us lend you a hand with the initial parse ? Or perhaps allow specific people you know to be quality posters who leave good comments the report option. Kind of like how the first time you comment with a name it requires an auth.

  34. The “grow some stones” crowd is missing an important point. This isn’t necessarily about the individual negative comments, but about setting the tone. It’s like having a neighborhood filled with litter and graffiti…sure, you can ignore it, you can look the other way, have a thick skin and say it doesn’t affect you…but it does. It lowers the tone of the entire neighborhood by reinforcing the expectation that this is a place to be littered. Litter begets more litter, graffiti begets more graffiti, and putting on blinders doesn’t make it go away.

    Honest criticism isn’t being banned. Nothing wrong with frank discourse. It’s the trash, the hate and talking-down, the flinging of poo. It wastes all the other readers’ time, provides absolutely nothing of value to the community, and makes contributors question whether they really want to be contributing to such a crowd. I’d rather see more and higher-quality content than bickering over some perceived God-given right to fling poo here.

  35. As a long time reader and first time poster I am definitely happy HackADay decided to clean this up. I would always expect idiotic comments from people, it’s going to happen, but due to a lot of the crude comments I was seeing I actually just stopped reading the comments altogether. It’s unfortunate to have to stop reading about people bashing the projects posted when for every 20 stupid posts someone would post something constructive. I think it will take some time to truly clean up but at least this is a set in the right direction.

  36. I’d certainly prefer to see a comment rating system.

    Outright censorship is ugly, misleading, open to abuse of both prejudice and ignorance, leaves the site open to claims of abuse, fails to highlight the trouble makers, runs contrary to the ideals of open usage by deliberately suppressing opinion… the list goes on and on and on.

  37. On your game, but it can’t be sustained. The resource effort put into policing the comments would be better spent introducing a +/- voting system. TBH you use wordpress so there should be tonnes of 3rd part plugins for such features.

  38. Hi, very long time reader, rare commenter.

    To all the people who are offended about the comments going on this site: Hi, welcome to the internet; you must be new here.

    The thing that annoys me is the people who always come on and lecture about the lack of PPE and other safety precautions the people in videos use. If they dont want to wear goggles when dealing with pressurised gasses, let them. If they don’t fancy adding emergency stop buttons and protective guards to their homemade tablesaws, let them. Don’t bitch about it. Please.

    1. That ‘bitching’ isn’t necessarily directed at the hackers, I think it tends to be directed at all of the little kiddies that don’t know what they’re doing and will do something stupid where the protective equipment might’ve saved them. Granted I am a firm believer in Darwinism, so if you decide to test the sharpness of a table saw with your wrist, be my guest.

  39. I read HaD every single day, its part of the thing that keeps me sane at work. I never comment though, and I usually don’t read the comments because I am just here for the article. However, I am glad to hear that since there were bad things going on, someone is doing something about it. If someone like Jeri Ellsworth does not like this place, then something needs to be done for sure.

  40. Thanks, its being getting harder and harder to sift through all the negative comments for that golden nugget thats often there.

    I hope this works

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