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Hacker News Needs Honeypots

There has been a lot of recent debate regarding how to improve quality control on HackerNews (HN), and to his credit, Paul Graham (pg) has tried a lot of tactics. There is a very clear set of HN guidelines, which very few members these days probably read. For a while, pg tried playing around with the karma formula and, even if I disagree about the way karma should be measured, at least he gave it an effort. He also hid comment karma from everyone but the author, to help slow the demonstrable deterioration of the discussion section; apparently this has been successful in pg's observations. Nevertheless, I do believe that we are seeing a continuing trend downward in overall article quality on the front page1.

In this post, I present a honeypot approach to combating group-think and quality deterioration in article selection on social news sites.

  1. For instance, see this front-page article from 10/23/11.

How Karma Should Be Measured

Measuring karma was a heavily-debated topic for a while on HackerNews. The goal is to provide some measurement that both accurately measures overall contribution to the community and encourages consistent engagement. Several solutions were discussed and a few were even tried. For example, pg tried to replace the overall karma score with an average score. All three combinations (total only, average only, and both) were juggled around in the top right corner, until eventually the simple total was used.

While all these attempts were good ideas, I think there is an even better metric that should be used here: the Sharpe ratio.