Y Combinator is making a pretty major organizational change, and it has to do with its popular service called Hacker News. In a blog post, chief executive Sam Altman reveals that the site, commonly referred to by its initials “HN”, will be made into its own autonomous unit. It will be led by Daniel Gackle.
In addition, he also announced the launch of a new experiment called “Modnesty I” aimed at making HN more self-regulating.
Although HN had been functioning like it was separate from Y Combinator, it wasn’t officially. Now going forward, the organization will not associate HN with its investment branch. Altman wrote:
Everyone at YC knows that it’s vital for HN to have full editorial independence, and we have absolute trust in Dan’s decision-making in product, engineering, and moderation. Dan will report directly to me, though I don’t plan to be very involved — other than as an enthusiastic user (who would, however, prefer that it be easier to read on a phone) and someone who’s always happy to bounce around ideas. We’re also setting it up so that Dan will have the option of reporting directly to the YC Board of Overseers instead if he ever decides to.
Gackle joined Y Combinator full-time in March 2014, where he was tasked with helping grow the HN community. Previously he was the cofounder of a startup called Skysheet, which sought to build a new spreadsheet.
On a different note, Altman also announced a new effort to improve community moderation to make sure that HN was as self-regulating as possible without needing human intervention. The experiment, called Modnesty I, relies on the community to make the final call on decisions made by HN moderators and its software.
As Altman explained, “Currently, when an account is banned, a software filter trips, or enough users flag a post, the post goes [dead], meaning only users with ‘showdead’ turned on in their profile can see it.” At issue are posts that are incorrectly labeled as [dead] when they shouldn’t.
What Modnesty does is recall the [dead] posts on a case by case basis. Users who have at least 30 karma points will see a “vouch” link next to posts to revive them, but doing so will require support from the community. Just one vote won’t do anything. All vouched posts will be reviewed by the administrators before reviving to verify that they don’t violate HN guidelines.
Since Y Combinator is all about experimentation, Altman stressed that Modnesty is just another one of those tests. If it doesn’t work, he said that the community shouldn’t be surprised if it gets axed.