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. What a waste of time.

    You’ve got as much chance of cleaning up the (often warranted) “negativity” in the posts as Google has of cleaning up Youtube comments.

    You can shove your stikers and fun. Just give us proper content.

  2. This is by far the best article I’ve seen here. There have been many many very good ones here, but this is by far the best.

    Thanks for what you do and thanks for making hackaday better.

  3. @NatureTM – also not their server. They have clearly demonstrated that they host this on some borrowed or supplied service by another. Thats why HAD are unable to create custom emails and instead create longhackadayemails@gmail.com instead. Also they have openly expressed frustrations and limitations to enabling new features on the current hosting platform in the past.

  4. Thank you.

    I never did ask you guys to take down something of mine that you posted, but I did think about it a few times.

    It’s not the trolly behavior or the insults that bother. (You don’t have a YouTube Chanel with a million+ views without getting a thick skin.) It’s mostly that I don’t want that kind of crap associated with one of my projects. I worked hard on it, I was kind enough to document it and, understandably, I want to present it in its best light. Constructive comments? Hell yes. Criticism? Sure! But trolls, misogyny, racism… No place for it.

    HaD was getting to the point where it was a badge of honor, if the HaD commentor’s hate on it it must be a good project.

    So here’s a hearty Thanks to the Hack a Day staff. It will be lots of hard work at first, but I couldn’t be happier to see it. I’m a lot more comfortable knowing that this isn’t a place that harbors drive-by insults.

  5. I don’t comment that often, mostly just browse for the cool stuff, but I have to agree. Weeding out the less than intelligent comments will help improve discussions and can, as you said, take projects further.

  6. Do not agree.

    Typical american mentality – “you are all winners, there are no losers, you tried your best, etc”. Its all bull. If something sucks then everyone should be allowed to comment and express their opinion.

  7. I like @jc’s idea, give certain users the power to screen comments. Not sure how you would do this, possibly by giving us the option to register (but letting us remain unregistered if we choose) and bestowing a few of the most frequent, helpful commentors with “mod” abilities.

  8. I may be alone in this (and to be honest I only read the first 20 or so comments on here…) but I never noticed too many extremely negative comments on HAD. I may also be slightly jaded from sites like pirate4x4, those guys are downright mean.

    On a more constructive note you may want to try a +1 -1 system like engadget used to have, save yourselves some work and let the community filter the trolls for you. The downside of this is that if most of your readers are trolls everything else will get filtered, but hey that’s democracy.

  9. I agree, there are a lot of haters on this site and it probably just stifles peoples’ progress when they see all the hate their project has received.

    I do like the idea of a comment rating system, that way the majority can weed out the trolls, also relieving some of the load off the moderators (start deleting negative comments first).

  10. Long time reader, occasional poster.

    One thing I haven’t seen much talk about is the inclusion of the point about grammar/spelling mistakes. I just want to point out that sometimes the articles are so poorly written that they are almost incomprehensible. We’re not talking about the occasional typo or mistake here, we’re talking serious difficulty forming complete sentences that make sense in context. And yet it’s the HAD readers’ fault for posting corrections? I agree we could be less rude about it, but to me, it’s disrespectful to the readers to post submissions that clearly haven’t been edited or even read over once. I’m not saying all the HAD writers have to be literary masterminds, but some basic proof reading skills can go a long way to make the site more presentable and less embarrassing to read. I completely understand why HAD gets upset at rude comments that pick apart the grammar, but try looking at it from the reader point of view…

  11. @staff : when you censor comments either mark them as deleted (replace them by “comment deleted”), or delete the posts that reply to them too, following the comments is difficult otherwise.

  12. Actually a good general tip for anyone who has to write professional emails/articles/anything. Read what you write out loud, even if its just under your breath. You’ll be amazed how much this helps your grammar and the readability of your work.

  13. Hack a Day, I respect and honor your sincere effort in this. I was going to say something warm and bubbly about this campaign, but then I read the comments. I’m sorry, Internet, about your overinflated sense of self entitlement. I’m sorry you feel cheated and angry and cynical when the founders of a community politely tell you that they are ashamed of what they have created.

    I’m taking a guess, but I think that Hack a Day was founded to share new and creative ideas and inventions with friends in a constructive, friendly environment. I dont think it is outside the right of HaD to regulate its (relatively) small posting community. Especially in the case where classical internet criticism turns to personal attack on people doing what they love.

    Im sorry if being told to be polite on the internet offends you.

  14. Not before time. I’ve been a long time reader, and have watched the rudeness reach new depths. I have posted comments before, but many times I have withheld comments (and more so questions) because of the inevitable comments that would follow (“you’re such a moron if you don’t even know that” type rubbish).

    I have a thick skin and I can suck it up, but why would I deliberately put myself in the firing line?

  15. The most useless kind of comment is a praise. It brings no new information, and people who do things expecting to recieve it are simply vain.

    The mode of operation, the “tone” here is an air of contrarianism. Having an opposite opinion is more interesting than having the same opinion, because it opens up new avenues by making ideas conflict.

    And when people can’t publicly voice their opinions about HAD here, it gives a sense that you’re trying to control and hide the bad rap, to stop people from hearing the complaints right where the issue is – because frankly, they aren’t going to come across it anywhere else.

    Demanding that people go elsewhere to complain is like saying that you can’t protest in front of the white house if you have something negative to say about the government. That’s exactly where you should be complaining about them because if you do it elsewhere, nobody’s going to hear you.

  16. im not going to read the other comments but…my thought is…what if this trolling is *inherent* to the field we are all interested in. like, we’re all a bunch of nerds who thinks their shit is better than the other…

    i feel like asshole/asstroll comments just comes with the territory. :)

  17. Of course, some mistake being contrarian to a lisence to be rude. Pointy remarks are the style, but not the substance in themselves, which is often forgotten when people simply want to be witty to appear intelligent or to feel powerful.

  18. @caleb kraft, could not a cry for help to hackers/’O’sources out there to code a opensource wordpress raiting system work? not to cencor @ecat, but blur a little, like a digital speed reader? or even reduces font color to background colour but still readable if you want to strain your eyes, lol.

    on the topic of arduino, i grew up calling vacum cleaners h00vers, dark brown suger drinks c-cola and running shoes n1kes, i use ‘arduino’ now to mean any ‘end user adjustable’ MCU, to me it’s a concept, not a individual product, and deep down most code is transferable with minimal work, so the brand of shoe has no meaning for the runner, just the other day i was given a ‘very costly’ oven, guess what, all done with a pic, oven owner said, bet it’s got a ‘arduino bit in it’, i now have a digital PID controller to play with, which is what i need, my school is in need of a perspex oven controller and when i entered the ‘latest arduino compatible ecu competition’ all i got after was spam :-( “NOT POSTED ON HaD”

  19. I just had a look through the last 6 or 7 posts to see if I could find some examples of these hateful racist comments but I couldn’t find any. Is this because they have all been deleted or because the problem really isn’t that bad?

  20. @HaD:
    Removing comments with no explanation is always a terrible idea. Please implement a rating system or simply mark “bad” comments as “bad” and hide them by default.

    This post ended up a little longer than intended so I’ve put little headings on my paragraphs.

    I’ve never seen any racism here- my bad for not noticing it, I guess.

    As for anti-noobism, people tend to forget that hacker culture has always been harsh on “noobs”. Maker culture, of course, is not.
    The difference is that hacker culture is filled with folks that usually know what they’re talking about and the Maker community is typically filled with people who *don’t* really know what they’re talking about. (I’d cite a number of examples, including a specific company that annoys me a great deal with their lack of any form of engineering at all in the design of the products that they *sell* to other Makers, but I wouldn’t want to be considered as being mean to them.)

    It’s a tough world:
    I think removing any but the absolutely most offensive comments will remove a great deal of learning value from this site since most of the comments from which new information can be gleaned are from Hackers, who tend to communicate a little more curtly than Makers (who I imagine make up the remainder of the community here).

    i7 blinking an LED:
    Excepting the absolutely most offensive comments, people need to grow a thicker skin. It’s a tough world out there and it doesn’t help anybody to be babied.
    It’s fantastic to see that somebody used their i7 machine to blink an LED. But really that’s been done 100,000 times before. People don’t need to be quite so nasty about it, but why exactly would we want to see something like that?

    HaD spelling and grammar:
    I’ve never called you out on it before (publicly or privately), but you really could focus on these issues before complaining about people commenting about them on posts:
    1) Spelling (looks like you just type too quickly?)
    2) Grammar (I frequently see mistakes that high school graduates just shouldn’t be making. I know it’s probably because you’re in a hurry, but sometimes it’s honestly embarrassing to be from the same country.)
    3) Inaccurate commentary. I did call you out on this, nicely, in the recent HaD post about Jeri Ellsworth’s amazing software defined radio project. I had a perfectly nice interaction with Jeri on the HaD post about signal processing, though my comments were correcting the inaccuracies in the HaD summary added by the HaD poster and not in Jeri’s actual presentation. Please don’t add comments about things you really don’t understand (in that case, digital sampling). It’s confusing.
    4) I trust if you’re going to be heavily monitoring comments now, you’ll stop bashing projects in your own posts to try to ward off negative comments? Personally I think it’s more irritating to see negative comments (albeit “nicely” written) in the HaD post itself than in the comments. (ex: “We know this isn’t the best way to do this, but…”)

    I personally appreciate all the effort you guys (and the individual project creators) go through in posting these things and providing a forum for discussion about them. Keep up the good work, just please don’t turn this site that I enjoy visiting into a place where people just pat each other on the back for doing projects poorly. Somewhere along the lines, the USA collectively decided that people should be congratulated for their mediocrity. I don’t know why we decided that was a good idea, and I don’t see how that should extend to the internet.

    – Long time reader, sometimes commenter,

  21. Have to admit i am reading these comments specifically to see who and what flames get through HADs new approach.. Seems it is actually in use, yet there where does the line get drawn?

    Critisms are a must to develop in this space, but negative and sometimes personal attacks are not warranted.

    I’ve recently noticed a lowering of the bar by some readers who decide to post, views mainly on what HAD are posting and the “Hack-ness” level of the project. Personally, I’m open to all but read only what I seems interesting. Simple solution for flamers is send in something you’ve done, or do it better.


  22. +1! I read this site more than any other. I think its great and love to see people being creative with tech. Shame on those who feel the need to hinder this. If a little censorship is needed to help encourage more good work, then I’m all for it.

  23. I disagree Phil. I think the comments missing the light so to speak are the ones stating “this isn’t about free speech, you can take the soap box to your momma.” Free speech is supposed to be exactly that, FREE. I can say what i want, where i want, how i want.

    I agree with the poster who said there should be a registered posting system. I’m sure it’s a lot of backend for HAD, but this way, rather than just willy nilly deleting offensive posts, you get to the core of the problem. Sure, banning individual users isn’t going to fix the problem outright, but similar to the way our justice system works, if you punish some, the others will keep their hind parts in line just to avoid the razor’s edge. Not all, mind you, but it’s a step in the right direction.

    I for one am not for “hey, if you say something mean, we’ll delete you.” I totally disagree with the graffiti metaphor because at the end of the day, that’s just now the internet works. Because some people post negative comments it will affect everyone? I disagree because it has not affected me and we still seem to have a strong community here. Nowhere else can I find the substance that I find here. Similar to a public school setting, yes we have some offensive people and yes they should be punished, so long as the punishment fits the crime, but you can’t just silence the words you don’t like. It’s ignorant.

  24. Thank you HaD.
    Hopefully this will increase the “information to noise” ratio.

    Too many times I have to wade through pages of “answers” that essentially says “You’re doing it wrong!” without saying *Why* it’s wrong or even providing some guidance.

    People do strange/weird things, but sometimes they *DO* have reasons for it, and to me a least, that’s part of the “spirit” of hacking.

    Pity the poor guy that has a legitimate need to find a PCI graphics card and gets bombarded with “PCIe is better” and “just get a new motherboard!”

  25. I say good job Hack-a-day leading the pack with a bastion of good sense. I saw someone whine, “freedom of speech is irrelevant here” if you’re going to be flooding their hosting space with nasty/rude/stupid talk then yes, yes it is. If you want to hate on hack-a-day go to blogger, make a blog, and whine where I don’t have to see you. I remember the earlier days where comments were more technically competent. While I do applaud the new entrants to the hacking community, for all I care you guys can clean up your act or get out.

  26. Thanks, I think the ad hoc moderation policy will be a good move. I’m sure someone(s) will put your endurance to the test: hang in there. My pardons for feeding the trolls, recently.

  27. Ps. Openness includes transparency.

    If you hide negative comments about HAD, how are people going to know if you are actually doing anything about the issues?

    The existence of the publicly visible complaints are a signal to the readership that issues are not getting solved, whether or not they are the reader’s personal issues, or would be issues should they continue to exist. That lets the readership monitor how the crew is conducting their business and instills trust that they continue to do so by staking their public reputation on it.

    Doing it hush hush behind curtains is simply a signal that you acknowledge you have issues, and are afraid of more people knowing about them.

  28. This is the wrong move.

    I liked the wild-west feel of HAD. Hackers are supposed to be gritty rebels, not prim and proper sycophants. I’ve had some projects listed, and always got more negative comments than positive. Never thought that was a problem, and certainly not one that warranted a paternalistic lecture to your readers…

    The trolls have won!

  29. I read HD every morning and think it is the best site I have ever found on the net. I have wanted to post a project for some time and was just about to, until i read this . I don’t read the comments and had no idea that this behaviour existed amoung hackers. I don’t think i will be showing the world my project now.
    (i thought bullies were only found in schoolyards)

  30. To all those wanting a comment voting system:
    What happens when, on some future Jeri Ellsworth article, someone posts the usual sexist shit and it gets upvoted by a bunch of other sexist assholes who agree with it?

    Please, don’t let Hackaday turn into a festering shitpile (aka Reddit)

  31. @Alan

    “. If you want to hate on hack-a-day go to blogger, make a blog, and whine where I don’t have to see you. ”

    And if you go to a public marketplace, you’ll surely kick the mimes out because YOU don’t want to see them?

  32. 1) This is a hack, as it is a quick fix to a problem.
    2) This is not called censorship, it is called editing. It is what editors do to make their publications better.
    3) This discussion shows that removing a comment without leaving a marker such as “comment deleted” makes future comments that reference that comment, or reference comments by “look at comment number x”, very confusing.
    4) I learn something from every Jerry Ellsworth video. Even when I think I know everything I need to about the subject, her videos are interesting and informative.
    5) This is a great policy.
    6) I’m going to start emailing HaD when ever I notice a typo or grammatical error.

  33. I hate this decision.

    I haven’t seen a lot of negative comments related to any real hacks. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember a single evil comment here. Likes, dislikes, some disagree with this or that, some are harsher than others, but that’s what comments are for. As a rule, negative stuff is directed to lame articles. Well, The Editors, this is criticism. If you don’t see how the public going “booo” at your work is constructive, you’re blind and not learning. You’re relaying your problems on public — boo on you.

    You’re afraid of seeing corrections in comments, so that everyone knows that you don’t know what you’re writing about? Or what? It’s been a way of correcting authors for ages, and good authors always post a thank you for the correction. Bah.. This is like the first time I got really angry reading a HaD article.

    Now we’re going to be all sweet and mark sarcasm with specially designed sarcasm markers out of fear of getting moderated. Great job of bringing a nice place to a ruin, couldn’t be better in fact.

  34. @RobZilla – no, you can’t say what you want where you want. You can’t say, for example, say whatever you want inside my house. It’s private property and I have the right to remove you from it if I don’t like the way you talk or the way you behave. Just because these comments are accessible to the public doesn’t mean they are publicly owned. If HaD want to impose some rules it is not a violation of your rights.

    And HaD is not saying you can’t say anything negative about projects. You CAN point out shortcomings, etc – just do it in a polite way rather than resorting to vile language, personal attacks, or in a generally obnoxious way.


    i know this hole “its the internet i can say whatever i want” and “its a free country” and crap but im tired of filtering threw useless comments and im tired of seeing pointless rudeness caused by anonymity

    add a spam button and hell even show the posters IP address to make them less anonymous

  36. Hi hackaday staff,
    I’m commenting for the first time here because I want to tell you that, despite the sad topic, I enjoyed reading this post. The tone is right on: a bit sad but even and reasonable; actually warm and encouraging. Thank you for taking the time to compose it.
    I’m sorry to hear that this problem is bad enough that it requires action, but I’m glad that you are going to do so in support of those who share their work so openly. I hope your filtering discourages inappropriate posting enough that doing so consumes little of your time and energy.
    This may even give me a nudge to be actively supportive of the work I’ve been enjoying.
    Thanks much — longtime regular and grateful reader.

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