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]

565 thoughts on “Hackaday Comment Policy; We’re Cleaning Up.

  1. @kyle – your “free speech” will get deleted, so go ahead, post away :)

    I think it’s about time HaD did this. I’ve had a few projects featured and at least 90% of wha tI got was “that sucks, yous hould have done it like this” or something to that effect. It’s time to get rid of the trolls once and for all.

  2. And if anyone needs an example of the idiocy that is being referred to here, take a look at the first comment! Useless? That’s right! (Unless it gets removed)

    Actually, I’ve seen enough good, useful, interesting comments around here that the stupid, idiotic ones don’t bug me that much. But yeah, an overhaul would be nice.

  3. I am glad to see that something has been said about this. The comments were really getting out of hand for some time now. I hope that everyone takes this seriously. If the vulgarities recede, I will seriously think about submitting some of my hacks.

  4. kyle : Everyone is entitled to free speech. You are not entitled to force someone else to publish your speech. Go make your own website/blog. They are free to publish or not publish what they want, without any standards whatsoever. However they should be wary, as by moderating the discussion, they do lose some common carrier protection, and can be held more responsible for what they choose to leave up. Also, good job on posting one aboslutely worthless post like they JUST COMMENTED ABOUT, and one two word post, within minutes of each other.

  5. This is simply a challenge for trolls to be more effective. I’ve always thought trolling should be more elegant. The target should never feel like they are getting trolled. They should wake up in the middle of the night, pained over what that one apparently serious comment said.

  6. I’m not sure if I miss something, but altough I’m in favour of deleting trollish comments it won’t prevent trolls from finding the projects of people linked on your website. Which is what seems to be the core of the problem here.

    The only way I can think of that prevents this is to prevent this site from being a portal for those people in the first place. Essentially, you’d have to outright ban those people like it works on (of all places) 4chan.

    Just a thought.

  7. What the hell ?!
    This is the first I have read about this.
    I lurk here about 3 -4 years now I guess but this is the first time I heard about this.
    I even never noticed it but I don’t read the comments.
    I’m a bit dissapointed as this might hold back some articles.
    And against Jeri Ellsworth ???
    I’m a bit ashamed to be called a “hackaday reader” now.
    I thought this was a community where the stupidity was atleast low.

  8. Long time reader…first time poster… I appreciate your reaction to the need to moderate. I’ve been surprised in the past when I read negative comments… to the point of not reading them as a general rule. Thanks for sharing that I’m not the only one that gets put off.

    1. Sounds good. No one is MAKING you stay.
      Censorship is a bad thing..BUT to a certain point. People that take the freedom of speech to the point of harassing or just being complete idiots for the sake of it are destroying and taking advantage of what that really means.
      But I suppose your not reading this since you are already gone.

  9. As someone who has posted many times trying to be encouraging and getting people to understand that saying what you want to say but phrasing it in a tactful (if not positive) way will get you a lot further than being negative, and has had it seemingly fall on deaf ears, I support your efforts here.

    It would be great if people could say whatever they want, I’m not a fan of censoring anything, but I’m a bigger fan of encouraging a positive community that attracts a diverse membership, and people acting like jerks goes counter to that.

    It’s been talked about a lot. Things haven’t changed on their own, so the people running the site are taking action. I think this is probably the best that could be done of a situation that people made for themselves.

    There is a huge amount of value to this site and a little bit of comment moderation when other efforts has failed won’t diminish that. I trust the HaD folks to handle that responsibility better than a lot of people out there.

    Keep up the good work guys.

  10. *like*

    @kyle: freedom of the press belongs to those who have a press. You’re certainly free to speak your mind, but from where you are, I can’t really hear your voice without something like hack-a-day in the middle. And if you’re going to use hack-a-day as your voice-transport-mechanism, I guess you have to suck it up now and abide by their rules.

    Go Hack-A-Day!

  11. Avid reader, first time poster. I love reading HaD and seeing all of the projects from the most basic to the advanced. The creativeness mixed with the hacker spirit is why I continue to read. I am glad to see HaD attempt to clear out the uneeded/unwanted static and re-focus the discussions to the projects themselves. This is a good move! Thanks HaD Team!

    PS. Hope to see you at DC19!

  12. As a daily reader of HaD, I’m happy you’ve decided to do this. HaD is my favorite place on the internet (in addition to Wikipedia), and I think you’re doing the right thing.

    Thank you for all the things you’re doing.

  13. HAD could implement something like youtube. Comments marked as spam are showed as small line “spam” with button and if someone wants to see why it was marked as spam, he can just click a button to show full content. It’s just small simple js script.

    1. Excelent excelent idea. Let the userbase determine what is or isn’t trolling…its much more efficient than HaD self moderating. I think the trolls will quickly be pushed to the frindges when they find the HaD community won’t take it anymore…

  14. For those who are complaining about censorship : THIS IS NOT CENSORSHIP. You are free to say whatever the hell you want. Somewhere else. Nobody is prohibiting or preventing you from doing anything, except using HAD’s reputation, and google-juice to spew your drivel.

    1. Maybe trolls can create their own web site “Flame-a-Day” or FAD. And load it up with stupid comments.

      Alkso, those that flee due to the new policy will not be missed. In fact, too bad HAD did not think of this sooner, if that all it takes to get rid of them!

  15. it’s your site baws, but i have to say… when I see a comment I don’t like. I skip it. In much the same way I do with the articles. Teh intartubes has become full of this cya sort of stuff for the last few years and honestly, just like in real life you have a choice to make. Feed in or ignore it. I guess the thin masks we wear are getting too close to our thin skins..

    Reminds me of a comic I was running a few years back. I think i had around 1000 readers, one of which took the time to create a “flame site” about it after I switched their forum ID to hide every post they made after a few mins. (they were just trying to make money off banner ads in their sig. and I wasn’t the only forum they were doing it in.)

    I linked it, and thanked them for the traffic.

  16. Unfortunately this new policy will not address Jeri’s issue, as the trolls can still go over to her site and troll away, and I am sure she is getting hammered even now, as the designated whipping girl for HAD’s new policy.

  17. I would like to start by saying: Thank you Hack a Day. I used to avoid the comments section because of the rude, ungrateful few quickly turning my enjoyment of an interesting hack into anger. Sure, some things can always be improved, but those improvements can be pointed out in a civilized manner (as demonstrated by this article). Maybe now i will be able to enjoy Hack a Day in its entirety.

  18. Just for everyone’s information:
    My comment (saying “free speech”) and someone else’s (saying “not a hack”) have been deleted. HAD’s sense of humour has officially flatlined.
    I think this post is relevant to the discussion (seriously am I going to have to end every post with that now?).

  19. Cool, but where’s the ardui-… I’ll stop right there. While I understand that comments can get carried away with being overly aggressive, I think that there is plenty of room on a hacker site for posting criticism. Hopefully comments critical of the post aren’t just torn down for slamming the project as long as they’re constructive in some way. The world doesn’t need another Gizmodo.

  20. Who in the world could ever find a reason to troll Jeri? I’ve had my share of arguments, especially over hacks that have some military – and hence political – impact, but trolling Jeri? Why?

    And where is all the sexism and racism coming in from, in comments regarding technological hacks? I must have a habit of not reading them. How does that happen? Someone jailbreaks a cell phone and sexist/racist stuff shows up?

    I don’t get it.

    From a private property perspective, the owners have a right to do with their forums anything they way, as much as they claim responsibility for it. Therefore even if it could be called censorship, they still have the right. If someone thinks their opinion has the right to be on the internet, they have to pay for the bandwidth. Hackaday pays for the bandwidth, so they can do whatever they want with it.

  21. I have been viewing HaD at least once a day for at least the past 6 months. Never have I had a desire to ask a single question (being new to hacking and starting a BS in EE) about anything due to the horribly negative comments I read daily. I also had no desire to perpetuate the negativity by demeaning the demeanor. I thank you HaD staff for doing right by the community and cleaning house. I will now probably feel comfortable contributing comments to some of the amazing projects that are featured. This is my first comment here ever; hopefully not my last. Thanks again.

  22. Hey! Where is the Arduino? :) (KIDDING!) I have to agree with Caleb. I posted in the past a few projects and I was fortunate that it wasn’t killed by mean words and comments, however, I have seen nasty stuff here. I also have to admit that I have posted “lame” or “that’s not a hack” probably twice or 3 times. It may have been out of frustration when HAD has posted something, actually, anything, looking to me as if HAD didn’t have anything else to post “but we need to post”. Not trying to blame it on you guys, but you may have to admit some guilt in the quality of some postings.

    I will continue checking and loving HAD and also promise to contribute with positive feedback (or no feedback). I like this site and the job that Caleb and others do. Go HAD!!! And thanks for bringing this up! :)

  23. Some of the hacks are very dangerous or…unwise, and we rightfully call people on it. For example, all the pneumatic “devices” that involve PVC.

    Many of us feel that hacks posted here should be novel (either in concept, execution, etc) and complain when editors fail there. I agree, because there’s always Instructables and Lifehacker for the inane. Don’t post for the sake of content; you devalue the site, something that good bloggers have known for years.

    Another long-standing pet peeve of the HaD community is using Arduinos for stuff that could have been done with basic discrete circuitry. It’s not the fault of the audience, but exposure to so. many. uC. based. projects.

    Re: Jerri’s comment, it’s not so much that HaD brings more trolls than any other site; it brings a huge audience, period, and with that comes more trolls.

  24. Thank you HAD.

    I was nervous once when one of my projects made it on your site.


    And today, after reading your article, I think I have been guilty of posting not possitive comments. I will rethink the way I post something, sometimes just rewording it can make it possitive. ie: why did you not do this vs that? or thats interesting, here is another way as well.

    And your right, people do things differently, this is how we inspire, hacking is not allways creating something new, but experimenting for the purpose of learning.

    Lets look at the first transistor. NOT A HACK, where it the TRIODE TUBE? why do that, just stick a triode in it and call it a day. lol

  25. One thing that I’ve noticed being a human being on this planet for as long as I have is that, people who tend to be rude, spiteful, and deconstructive on the internet tend to also be the same in reality, but are just lying to them selfs about being a committed cynic. This wave of cynicism that has infected the internet is to of no one’s best interest and only leads to counter productivity.

    And to those of you who are waving the “Free Speech” flag, I highly encourage you to live in a country like China or Yemen for a month, and then we’ll have a dialoge on the true “restrictions” of civil rights.

  26. Honestly I didn’t mind the ‘where’s the arduino’-jokes. It’s just a fact that HaD features a lot of arduino projects. And imho, there is nothing wrong with that.

    I also agree with [slinky] about the comment rating system.. It’s better than removing a comment entirely. (talking about projects you’d like to be open and free while censoring might pull of some people)

    Nevertheless, I agree that something should happen. I’ve seen a lot of decent projects here. And although some didn’t gave me an epiphany or didn’t made it on my ##want##-list, I still enjoyed them. The people who put their time and effort in them deserve some words of encouragement!

  27. Most of the hacks that show up here are way over my head, but I still enjoy seeing creative people stretch out – it is a sad commentary on our society that the rude trolls are driving good people away – I hope your new policy helps to encourage more people to share their projects with the world.

    Sadly anyone with an online presence needs to develop a bit of a thick skin.

    Good luck

  28. I always thought the tone of the place was quite condecending…. because there’s a bunch of geniouses and linux programmers who spend alot of time getting their facts straight. I don’t believe anything will change.

    However, I will start commenting that I like things more.

  29. Long time reader, first time commenter, and I wholeheartedly approve! While you’re at it, could you also delete/block the inevitable whining from the safety patrol when a project isn’t completely idiot-proof? Keep up the great site! ;-)

    1. If I suddenly got the idea to grind a bit of aluminum with a bench grinder, with tons of built up iron oxide all over (of course).. I would thank the guy who took the time to explain the potential injuries of a flash thermite reaction.

      Wait, that’s what I do with every single new guy in the shop.. I still smoke when jumping the car tho’. ;-)

  30. Maybe Jeri should take a cue from Becky Stern.
    From the Make blog yesterday http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2011/07/5-4-3-2-1-things-about-becky-stern.html

    “2: Letting YouTube comments get to me: MAKE has a quarter million subscribers on YouTube, and they sure are chatty. Something about YouTube attracts the lowest of the trolls, and the hurtful comments used to get to me. Not anymore! My skin has grown thick and now all I see are Halloween costume suggestions like La Roux or Ron Weasley.”

    Deal with it.

  31. 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.

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