Hacker News Re-Imagined

Ask HN: Is it true that any community that grows big enough, gets ruined?

Have you ever seen an example where anything became better than before when it grew big. There is almost a law that a company, a group, a community, a game or anything once it grows past its core audience it just gets ruined.

I have seen a game with millions of players become crappy once they became mainstream and started to attract very young and very old. Suddenly all jokes were inappropriate and game themes were too family friendly.

I have seen fb go from a place of being basically school wide chat to family announcements forum.

I have seen restaurants go from personalized/affordable service, to multi-store chain food that is barely edible and more expensive.

I have seen small startup where everyone enjoyed working and build dreams to become required corporate happy hours.

Take YC, I have heard from many founders it's not what it used to be...

On that note, I am glad that HN is still a niche community and hope stays that way, and UI becomes even more crappy so people from other cultures and walks of life don't start joining in. There are negatives to this, but not huge because there are other platforms for general population. (Imagine a forum for doctors to discuss new treatments and everyone can join in, soon it'd be r/AskDoc and of almost no value to actual doctors).

  • 251 points
  • 4 days ago

  • @techsin101
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Ask HN: Is it true that any community that grows big enough, gets ruined?


@polalavik 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I see this over and over again. I think people see the money and the monetization inevitably degrades the quality.

I'm attempting a web 1.0 business experiment with a website targeted towards finding unique stuff in the city I live in. I've decided, as a philosophy, that there will be no comment section with people bickering to moderate, no email signup, no real database, no login, no data collection on my users (besides whatever google analytics tracks) - but I personally don't want to handle your data. I guess this is all to say, I'm going to see if I can avoid falling down this rabbit hole as the community grows - can I avoid ruining the website? I guess I'll see.

I think if you do it right you can monetize tastefully, but that formula is still a work in progress. I just have a sense its possible. I think most people just chase the money into oblivion trying to scale into huge companies mostly for ego? However, it's entirely possible to create little lifestyle businesses on the internet that bring in a decent salary, but don't scale to tens/hundreds of millions of dollars. I think it would be fun to see the web return to a less chaotic place.

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@nso95 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Once the community becomes too big to enforce it's rules it will be ruined, imo it's that simple

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@onion2k 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Take YC, I have heard from many founders it's not what it used to be...

Different doesn't automatically mean worse.

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@grahamlee 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

At time of writing, five other comments in this thread link to Wikipedia articles. Wikipedia is an example of a large community that has not become ruined, through social and technical counter measures. There may well be people who think that it "is not what it once was" and that's probably true for Wikipedia and for many communities, but that's different from the changes being ruinous.

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@bsenftner 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

This situation is a manifestation of how anonymous others are treated in society. Until our species, our entire global society, matures to the degree that an "anonymous other" is not automatically treated as one of an ignorable population that can be abused without recourse, such scale situations will continue to exist. I use this reasoning to say "humans do not scale". This issue is present everywhere, any place where the group is large enough to form sub-groups, those outside a sub-group become "others" and are treated as a collective, analyzed as a "dumb crowd", and intellectually discredited because they are close enough to an "anonymous other" the treatments of anonymous others bleeds into even these small collectives. It is a real problem, and is barely identified formally.

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@lbriner 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

One of the forgotten aspects of this is how a growing community fights the normal distribution of people's ability.

If I am a small company, it is relatively easy to employ, say, 2 very talented engineers/marketers/sales people.

As the org grows, it becomes harder to recruit the best, we have to accept slightly less than the best if we want to increase headcount. As we grow, we push our talent pool to the average and even possibly below that. Everyone who is not "the best" is, at best, a distraction or deadweight but at worst is causing negative productivity/creating tech debt/making the system less efficient.

Once you add that to the inefficiency of bureaucracy at size, it is a recipe for a lack of performance. Not necessarily rubbish but certainly not as high performing as it felt like in the beginning.

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@seydor 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

yes, central limit theorem

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@boringg 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Yes this happens to all things. It is always disappointing yet almost always seems like an inevitable cycle.

The alternative though is that said community doesn't grow or change in which case it becomes stale and people don't participate.

For example a rock band that plays the same music and doesn't change at all gets staid.

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@corobo 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Definitely seen it in the specific subreddits for tools, services and products. You’ll subscribe because there’s a community of your peers, you found them! They’re all doing cool things with the thing you’re using

Then 2 years later the subreddit is basically just another support channel for the most boring entry level questions imaginable on loop

Bonus points if the moderators decide to allow image posts and memes (eg if it was just text before) or some other massive change that resonates only with the newer folks and everyone else leaves.

Now the repeating loop of basic questions are answered by people who themselves came for assistance, who repeat whatever they’ve already read, with no proof or knowledge if it actually works

The example I’m thinking of is /r/Twitch in this case. Had a moment of thinking I’d be a streamer superstar, happens to us all right? Was being told* how to build my audience by people who themselves had no audience. Boshed a quick script together and found the average contributing user had less than 10 concurrent viewers when they go live. Useful.

* Indirectly. I’m aware of the irony/hypocrisy that I was also looking for said basic questions - I was searching for answers not asking :P

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@Borrible 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

> Have you ever seen an example where anything became better than before when it grew big.

Human societies?

Just not for everyone.

But I'm pretty sure that as a rule of thumb and in the long run, the bigger they get, the better they get at promoting the survival of their core audience...

Need just a bit of cunning, discipline, structure and communication.

With just a drop of ruthlessness of course.

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@eternityforest 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I have only seen this effect with artistic products and true communities(As in, places where you know most of the people, and your relationships with others there are at least as important as the official goal of the group).

Technology does not have that effect, because machines aren't people. There's essentially nothing about Linux that I don't like way better now than when I started.

Lightweight tech may lose it's lightweight status, but it still runs extremely fast because of the optimization that "bloatware" usually has.

If people think it's gone downhill, then it was probably always as much of an artistic work as a technical one.

Hacker News isn't a specific tech project, and is closer to a real community, so in this case I would expect that it would go directly toiletwards if it got big.

I think the main factors are content overload and a small group of users that quickly ruin anything.

That group often isn't there at the beginning, because they don't start stuff(Making an effort is uncool), but they do like to show up and shitpost.

It doesn't take many people who really don't care, to turn a place into 4chan. Moderation can't even fix it, you just get kidz bop 4chan lite.

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@satisfice 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

All you have to do is find something large that you think is good. Agriculture? Buddhism? Science? Disney?

All large human organizations are broken masses, muddling along.

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@marginalia_nu 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

My hunch is that it's not so much about size, but the rate of growth. What large communities I've seen that have managed to maintain their identity have either been so esoteric as to not have a lot of growth (their numbers having accumulated over a large amount of time), or some aggressively maintained expectation that newcomers should lurk before they post.

I do think it makes some sense, if you have a sufficient influx of new members, a large proportion of those you interact with will be strangers, and that's fundamentally different from a group where most people you interact with are familiar faces.

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@jkingsbery 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

As a community grows in size, necessarily the dynamic changes. A company where everyone knows every other individual and what they're working on will necessarily have different dynamics than a thousand-person company.

Whether this counts as being "ruined" will certainly depend. Having worked both at early stage startups and large tech companies, there are definitely trade-offs that come with size, and I can imagine some being attracted to one environment and not the other, but I think a lot of that is a matter of taste.

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@rchaud 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Communities grow over time. Yes, there is an eternal September effect where popular communities attract newbs that don't yet understand or respect the culture and communication etiquette. But this has become a two-way street in recent years with the platforms themselves adding likes and upvotes, incentivizing people to communicate primarily to get likes and 'engagement'. You can see what that's done to the level of discourse on Twitter and Reddit.

But over time, you yourself do not stay the same person, interested in the same things. And if your personal commitment to the community fades, I'd wager that you yourself will begin to find reasons to leave. And a strong reason could simply be telling yourself "It sucks now, it used to be good".

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@btbuildem 3 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

What about thinking about this in terms of phase transition and emergence?

Just like water remains liquid above 0 degrees and below 100, but turns into steam at 100 or above -- let's imagine there's some threshold of (say) community size where the old structure fails and a new structure emerges.

The only example I can think of right now is Reddit with the various subreddits. The ones that are more topic-focused, below a certain number of users -- these tend to be informative, interesting and civilized. The ones with millions of users, or ones that are quite generic -- they seem to be reliable cesspools of poor manners and mundane content.

So perhaps some properties of communities are emergent, and their manifestation depends on the scale of a community?

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@oneoff786 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

> I have seen a game with millions of players become crappy once they became mainstream and started to attract very young and very old.

> On that note, I am glad that HN is still a niche community and hope stays that way, and UI becomes even more crappy so people from other cultures and walks of life don't start joining in

So age 25-40ish mostly white upper middle class men. Got it.

Complaining that things aren’t exclusively for you and your background, when maybe they used to, is not novel at all. It is amusing when anti-conservative folks do it and fail to see the hypocrisy.

Mass market mainstream content tending to be low quality and unoriginal is a very different concept.

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@fuzzfactor 2 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

To quote Yogi Berra:

“Nobody comes here anymore, its too crowded”

"It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much."

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@actually_a_dog 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

There are other significant negatives to HN, too. You have to have the "right" political opinions if you want to avoid massive downvotes, for example. Oh, and don't bother to criticize capitalism one tiny little bit, either.

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@taylorportman 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

A social network is like a mirror - we run to the next one apalled at ourselves figuring it out in every stage of life all at once. It's ok, soon it will be normal

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@Barrin92 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I think a lot of countries that went through eras of ethnic strife or balkanization have positive associations with bigness. Yugoslavia being a prominent example. The US itself may be a pretty good example of a place that benefits from its bigness, openness and ease of movement and sheer scale. A lot of large scale industry which underpins much of the modern world is really located in places that have the capacity and population to pursue big projects.

Within online communities that are dying there is often new life injected if they consolidate. I think the success of Linux is largely owed to big organizations that made it commercially viable. In decentralized form in something like Debian, which aims to reach as broad a base as possible, or corporate in the form of Redhat, but in each case with a growing population, real resources and unified goals.

A company like Amazon during the pandemic is I think also a good example. The logistics that their size enables and the ability to absorb sudden shocks just does not exist at any small company, and it was the big companies that kept the lights on and the goods going around. I was strongly persuaded by Tyler Cowen's book on the topic a few years ago[1].

[1]https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250110541/bigbusiness

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@wiseowise 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙



@brailsafe 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

It depends how you define community. If the game's growth discourages the people you actually play with from playing, then sure, it kills your community. If your neighborhood becomes too expensive to live in, your community will be crushed. Pretty much anything involving scaling a factory of any kind will necessarily favour broad applicability, but whether that means your community within that stops being fun depends largely on what those changes are and over how long of a timespan they occur. In WoW, people like to cling to the classic version of the game that they played when they were a kid and have since changed. Those changes were obviously good in a lot of ways, but also negative in others. Those people could argue that changes since then killed their community, but really what happened is that tradition is inherently stagnating in some ways.

The hilarious corporate mantra of buying out a startup and keeping it a "startup with much better funding that runs independently but within the company" is a joke tho seriously

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@TulliusCicero 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Depends on what your metric is. Large communities can be very useful for video games, because the matchmaking pool becomes larger, which means faster and more skill-accurate matches.

I play Starcraft 2, and while the pool for players in 1v1 and 2v2 is still fine, 4v4 has few enough players to where it can be a pain to match up with another team. Just takes a really long time, and you sometimes get repeats even if they're much better or worse than you, etc.

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@katzgrau 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Generally yes, for a few reasons related to the pursuit of growth itself:

* Growth is always a core pursuit, and what is required for growth is not always to the benefit of the core audience/user/customer

* With growth, more humans get involved. Harder to manage many people and keep everyone on the same page, so systems and processes are developed to standardize and remove human error and reduce costs. A lot of babies go out with the bathwater in the process, and it's tough to avoid.

* The bigger the org gets, the more it has to hire just to fill positions instead of hiring people who are truly the right fit. This has a compounding negative effect and further spreads decay.

I think there's a sweet spot in size that varies for every org, but it's hard to know what that is: there are problems at every stage of company growth and tomorrow always seems like it's going to be better than today. In the early days it is. Eventually, without warning, it isn't.

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@0dayz 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I would throw in a a spanner here, with snap chat, it technically did become more mainstream, but it has always tried to be a "niche" platform.

Today it barely has the same relevance.

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@demygale 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Some thoughtful comments in this thread so I would like to add something pithy and under-appreciated: once you reach a certain number of users, content moderation is the only thing that matters; everything else is ui chrome.

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@ericfrazier 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

It's true for countries so I would guess it's true for all organizations.

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@Veen 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Perhaps it's worth thinking about why we want communities to grow big at all. I think things go wrong when two different sets of incentives are muddled. The first are those that lead to a great community. The second are those that lead to a successful business built on providing a platform for a community. The business wants the community to grow because larger communities mean more revenue. But larger doesn't mean better from the community's perspective; it often means completely changing the community's character. There are probably tens of thousands of small self-organized, self-policing communities on the web that are doing fine because they don't have the business incentive to scale.

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@ahonhn 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Clay Shirky posted an interesting talk quite a while back that gets into some of this - "A group is its own worst enemy". https://web.archive.org/web/20030713130936/http://shirky.com...

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@wruza 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Some (few) humans are just bad. They either are intentionally destructive, or can’t into a healthy discussion, which includes ignoring bad actors. The key feature that HN community has managed to retain somehow, as far as I see, is its ability to avoid being provoked too much. Old school mailing lists I was subscribed to sometimes had people who were apparently mentally ill, and still no ban was required to deal with their messages. You see it, you move on.

Screwed communities are screwed not by few bad actors (which live everywhere), but by the attention that users gift to them for free. By normal people you live or work with. Forum literacy is the key, and it’s not built into everyone by default.

Imagine a forum for doctors to discuss new treatments and everyone can join in, soon it'd be r/AskDoc and of almost no value to actual doctors

It wouldn’t, if every doctor there knows that they have to react with “Sorry, this forum is not for this kind of advice. But you can try these reputable sites: … to ask this question”. And similarly to attempts of other users to answer right there. Or, if not sure, to just stay silent.

Iow, community gets ruined when it effectively stops being a community and turns into a no-one-concerned bazaar.

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@ergonaught 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Humans don't know how to scale, and parasitic extraction forces are always looking for a new host body, but the core problem IMO is that there is no shared and agreed upon "point", "vision", "ideal", "value", regarding the "purpose" of any "community" (whether that is a forum or a company or a product or ...), so no one can tell what's actually good about it, ensure that newcomers perpetuate and/or magnify that, and recognize when we're drifting off course.

It's a qualitative difference, but unless one can articulate and recognize and enforce and etc the core quality/qualities, it breaks down over time. People who don't understand or care why a thing was "good" are simply not going to perpetuate or magnify that "goodness" over time.

And, of course, even the "core who were there when it mattered" are highly unlikely to agree on what made it worthwhile. Ask me why "Metallica before they sold out" is better than "Metallica after they sold out", and you'll almost certainly get a different answer from 100 other people who feel that very same way. Etc.

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@dmje 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I've thought about this a lot. The totally unscientific conclusive I've come to is that it isn't about scale per- se but about the money and greed that tends to come with that scale.

As Acton once said[1], "absolute power corrupts absolutely".

There's something to be said for small, and there's something to be said for niche too.

[1] https://oll.libertyfund.org/quote/lord-acton-writes-to-bisho...

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@nonrandomstring 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

This is a great thread with many insights about group dynamics.

One analogy/model I like is the gravitational effect of groups. This doesn't say much about their quality, but affects size.

People talk about the "value" of a network, but it can also be seen as power. A large network exerts a power, not only on those inside it, but also on those outside.

"Gravitational" large groups suck-in individuals, and other smaller groups, in a runaway agglomerative process, like stars. Once commercialised this happens by acquisitions and mergers.

Groups start out with control over their boundaries and size. You can take or leave them. Past some point they lose that. Other groups die because of them, and we get a "Monopoly" problem.

Facebook and Google were both harmless until it got to where you constantly heard about them from everyone you met. Then comes pressure from others to join. Eventually the cool, or individually empowering thing to do is to not be in that group. That can induce loyal stalwarts to leave too.

To press the "star lifecycle" analogy (perhaps too far), I think the jury is out on the end-life. Some may become Red Giants, just growing, diffusing into space but growing cold. To me, Google has become that, "ubiquitous yet amorphous" offering an extremely low value prospect but permeating too much. Some, perhaps like Twitter, will go White Dwarf, pulling-in to a smaller, super intense thing that goes bang! Although it has millions of participants, people outside it's small gravitational range are barely aware it exists.

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@nano9 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Have you never turned HN back 10 years and stared in awe at how much better the community was back then? Even in relatively "niche" communities like these, it happens.

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@iknownothow 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

The underlying causes of the problem are both mathematical and human. While the mathematical causes are reasonably well understood by experts, I think the book Sapiens covers the human factors quite well.

A tidbit from the book is that humans works well in a tribe size of ~150 and anything larger requires a cohesive belief system that ties tribes together. According to the author, examples of such belief systems are religions and corporations. The author goes much deeper and no part of the book was boring. I highly recommend reading the book, it's a much more distilled version of the comment section.

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@howenterprisey 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

the only online reference you'll ever need on communities (well, plus all the other ones): https://mastodon.social/@ifixcoinops/105778289798706182

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@CM30 2 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I don't think this necessarily true. A community still seems like it can stay somewhat decent in terms of quality if the the guidelines are clear, they're enforced equally, useless content isn't tolerated at all, etc. Seen a few forums do quite well in that sense, and quite a few fandom/hobby specific wikis do well too.

But the odds are severely against it. Usually the rules aren't enforced enough, or equally, either because of an obsession with metrics over community quality (read, every corporate owned community ever) or because it's simply too difficult to do. And once low quality content (and the people who post it) gain a foothold there, it's probably game over. See every webmaster forum in existence. Or almost every subreddit about the same too. Things like DigitalPoint, Web Hosting Talk, etc are garbage now, since spam and fluff posts were basically left to run rampant, driving away those who'd post thoughtful, interesting discussions.

So technically no, there are communities that stayed good with more people. But usually yes.

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@bayesian_horse 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

To "ruin" a good community takes time. To grow a community takes time. Maybe correlation isn't causation in that case.

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@rich_sasha 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

My take is, if a community is constrained by quality (eg moderation, self-selecting invite-only etc) then the only way it grows is by lowering the threshold. Inevitably that means lower quality content.

To some extent, more people can make up for it. Eg if I go from 10 excellent artists to 1000 good ones, chances are that the top 10% artwork created actually gets better.

But eventually if you grow by lowering quality, then, well, quality drops.

I suppose for very small societies, they may be limited by discoverability/cliquiness and not quality, so their growth doesn’t mesh with quality and so they could also get better with size.

Note, “quality” doesn’t have to mean good/bad but also just “property”. When Facebook started, it was for kids from elite schools. It then gradually diluted that by lowering that particular bar. Then it was for kids from all schools. Then young people. Then their parents too. Clearly, it’s far from dying in absolute terms, but it’s certainly no longer what it initially was. To many initial users, it’s as good as dead though.

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@manicdee 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Dunbar’s number is basically the rule that when the population exceeds about 150 or so it rapidly fragments, based on observations of prehistoric villages.

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@Kim_Bruning 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

The current world deadlift record is over 500 kg [1]. However, for mere mortals, guidelines recommend not lifting more than 25 kg unaided. If you want to lift more, it would be wise to get a friend or colleague to help, or to use tools, or to apply powered machines.

Similarly, in exceptional circumstances, a person can retain something like up to 150 relationships unaided [2]. In practice in day-to-day where people are members of multiple organizations and social circles, don't expect someone to maintain anywhere near that amount of relationships within your community. If you want them to interact with more people, they will need help of friends, organization, tools, and/or powered communications equipment.

If you allow a community to grow unchecked, unmanaged, unplanned; then yes, your community will likely collapse under its own weight.

However, with a good study of modern equipment and organization methods, and a lot of work and dedication it is possible to grow a community to almost any arbitrary size. But if you grow a community, you need to add more organisation and mechanisms to keep it working; as a result the nature of the community will almost inevitably change to some degree. Keeping a community quite as fresh and wonderful as when it started is most definitely an art form that -to my knowledge- no one has quite yet mastered.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deadlift#World_Records

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number

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@natmaka 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I think so. For each and every attribute (of anything) there is an "interval" of proper values. Too few/too much is dangerous.

A recent pertinent thinker was: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopold_Kohr

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@dustymcp 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Too small or too big it does not matter humans will human, im afraid..

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@tresqotheq 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Hey this is happening to the whole world, thanks to the Internet.

Before that, competence and excellence could exist in small pockets of humanity, but now, internet has wiped them out of existence by injecting the dumbness of the majority into them....

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@epistasis 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I used to think this was inevitable, but as I've aged I have come to view the process differently.

When you join that group, you change the group. So it's a small shift whenever somebody joins. And even without a change in group membership, people change and their interests and time commitments change.

There have been many online groups that I have been a part of, that have not grown, and still gotten worse. Usually because somebody I liked became less active.

So the constant is really change. And most of us don't like change much. Sometimes change is better, that's why we stuck with the group when we joined it.

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@marban 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙



@adverbly 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I'd say no, but usually yes. In any competitive environment, usually an entity is incentivized to maximize total value, not value per user.

It matters not that a new user is better than the average existing user. It only matters that they are better than nothing. Good things grow, and they get worse per user over time if they can. The book unsong is an interesting read if you find this concept interesting and you like scifi.

But there may be some interesting counter examples where group ownership is distributed per user, or with equal voting per user. I imagine in such scenarios, it is possible for quality to increase monotonically.

But this would require all existing members to make good decisions about growth - which might not be that easy as it sounds. I wouldn't be able to think of examples off the top of my head... one interesting one to consider might be the group of all humans...

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@verisimi 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I think it is inevitable that a big community is ruined eventually, yes.

I have a rule that I think applies to groups - if a group is going to be effective, it has to come together with a very clear goal. Once that goal is achieved, the group disbands - it is over. If you keep to that rule - disband once you achieve success or failure on your very narrow goal - groups can be effective.

What actually happens, is that some individuals in a group find they have alignments within the group. They then seek to convert the group to their interests. That might be fully or partially successful, but hierarchies start to form, there are overt and covert discussions. At this point, there is an attempt to subvert the 'group will' as it were, for the benefit of the individuals now running or attempting to run it.

The background issue to this, is that individuals who are not fully individuated seek completion by membership to 'something bigger' - a group of some sort. Then, the desire to belong is weaponised against their individual will - the dynamic is that an individual's power is harnessed by another. Those doing the harnessing are satisfied by the harnessing, but the majority are unsatisfied.

The answer then - for the individual at least - is to be very clear why they are joining a group, why they will leave, what is acceptable or not.

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@VLM 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

"Communities" don't actually exist beyond the beliefs of their current membership. Its like a philosophical discussion of mind-body dualism. Arguably, for example, Twitter quite literally has no soul, its belief system is merely the sum of its current participants. The concept of twitter having a soul is perfectly analogous to the concept of a human being having a soul in the biblical sense.

A small group can have values divergent from the mainstream. By definition if a group scales up to mainstream, the group's values at mainstream scale will be mainstream because its members ARE the mainstream, or optionally some kind of cabal will have to spend infinitely increasing effort on mass censorship and intense propaganda (see contemporary issues in legacy social media).

Now if your entire economic system depends on growth for the sake of growth, all small groups will eventually tend toward mainstream beliefs or they will shut down.

Not all orgs are "successful" like the "forum for doctors" example. The OP considers "Dr Phil" and "Dr Oz" but WRT influence almost no doctors out there are Dr Phil or Dr Oz and most people are not fans of their TV shows. Consider dying legacy media like newspapers and TV and "Hollywood" in general. Fewer people pay attention to their antics every year. Eventually those orgs WILL collapse and disappear, like newspapers have been slowly doing, but for now, a lot of money can be made off really bad, non-influential movies, for example. Shrinking organizations can aggressively gatekeep their belief systems until the org shuts down completely. For example, you can make a lot of money off publishing a book almost no one reads, but don't confuse that pile of money with influence.

Ironically the people gatekeeping an organization via censorship, propaganda, etc, truly THINK they are saving the org by being devout believers in the Current Thing, but they're actually destroying the org. If you have no traction, the harder you push the further you get away from the mainstream, no matter how much those whom are pushing would like to think they're moving the mainstream.

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@jen729w 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

"Good online communities die primarily by refusing to defend themselves.

Somewhere in the vastness of the Internet, it is happening even now. It was once a well-kept garden of intelligent discussion, where knowledgeable and interested folk came, attracted by the high quality of speech they saw ongoing. But into this garden comes a fool, and the level of discussion drops a little—or more than a little, if the fool is very prolific in their posting. (It is worse if the fool is just articulate enough that the former inhabitants of the garden feel obliged to respond, and correct misapprehensions—for then the fool dominates conversations.)"

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/tscc3e5eujrsEeFN4/well-kept-...

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@kkfx 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

An ancient Italian proverb state "poca brigata, viata beata" (small brigades makes wonderful life's), more prosaically in societies of any sizes we have various kind of individuals, most are "good" some are not. As the society grow the slice of "bad" Citizens cohort can grow enough to unite against the others.

That's happen with organized crimes as well as élites (witch tend to evolve toward dictatorship witch actually is organized crime), meanwhile "interprocess communications" start to exhibit more and more issues, hyper-subdivision of labors, made possible by the bigger size, remove large slices of generic knowledge so makes people fragile, for instance just look at those who live "in nature", they mostly know what to do if a tree fell on the road during winter, how to fix some plumbing, change a tire etc, nothing special, just generic knowledge. Those in big cities tend to know far less, so you can tell them that a broken plumbing joints means a 300€ complex work or that there is or not an immediate emergency of some agricultural productions etc. On scale that means it's easier to make people believe what some PR what they believe AND peoples are far less "adults" because not having a large slice of generic knowledge they can't much stand on their own feet depending more and more on third parties who tend economically to concentrate in oligopolies.

So yes, there are size limits, I can't really tell where is the threshold but there are different many thresholds...

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@bikenaga 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

A little tangentially, something like this was (on a larger scale) recently proposed as an explanation for the Fermi paradox.

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsif.2022.002...

I think their explanation has more to do with physical constraints (like energy) than social structures:

"Previous studies show that city metrics having to do with growth, productivity and overall energy consumption scale superlinearly, attributing this to the social nature of cities. Superlinear scaling results in crises called ‘singularities’, where population and energy demand tend to infinity in a finite amount of time, which must be avoided by ever more frequent ‘resets’ or innovations that postpone the system's collapse. Here, we place the emergence of cities and planetary civilizations in the context of major evolutionary transitions. With this perspective, we hypothesize that once a planetary civilization transitions into a state that can be described as one virtually connected global city, it will face an ‘asymptotic burnout’, an ultimate crisis where the singularity-interval time scale becomes smaller than the time scale of innovation. If a civilization develops the capability to understand its own trajectory, it will have a window of time to affect a fundamental change to prioritize long-term homeostasis and well-being over unyielding growth—a consciously induced trajectory change or ‘homeostatic awakening’. We propose a new resolution to the Fermi paradox: civilizations either collapse from burnout or redirect themselves to prioritizing homeostasis, a state where cosmic expansion is no longer a goal, making them difficult to detect remotely."

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@langsoul-com 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

"Bad money drives out the good".

Dota 2 subreddit used to be great, but eventually the toxic people came in. Those who were neutral either left or became toxic. Those who were good left.

You really do need intense moderation to keep a community good and that's not easy.

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@laurex 3 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Part of the challenge here is that “community” is a term with extremely broad usage. People speak of a “community” when it’s “people in a place” or “people with some common identity aspects” or “people who all are interested in some topic” or ‘people who have “joined” a group online.’

My perspective is that there’s an aspect of community that sometimes exists in the above situations but often does not, one where by considering others to be in your community, you have some sense of who they are, feel some kind of common purpose, and ideally care about them to some extent. As humans, we simply don’t have this feeling for more than a Dunbar-ish number of people.

And so, we “join communities” but the actuality is that things like norms and belonging that comes from interaction with those norms and having interchange with some emotional impact are not relevant when it’s called a “community” but doesn’t reflect any of our human processes for belonging and cohesion.

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@lamontcg 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

What good online communities are out there now?

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@dredmorbius 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Facebook was once Literally Harvard. It's a great many things now, but one thing it is not any more is "Literally Harvard". It's now 3 billion+ people, few of whom attended said institution or anything comperable.

Suppose, as a thought experiment, you could create the ideal, perfect, social network or discussion board. Say, with 40 of the smartest, most creative, quirkiest, considerate people you knew. Hell: the 40 top exemplars of this on the whole planet. It would be a pretty awesome network.

(I know this because I accidentally created something like this, just by creating a small group with smart and interesting people in it. It really was surprisingly good.)

It can only get worse.

Because if you've already got the best, then anyone else you can add will be less smart, less creative, less quirky, less considerate, than who's already in the group.

And at some point you'll notice. Maybe at 50 people, or 500, or 5,000, or 50k, or 500k, or 5m, or ....

For a few reasons.

- Gradation of capabilities. These are ordinalities, not cardinalities.

- Limits to common experience and interest.

- Differences of opinion. Or morals. Or philosophy.

- Just plain scale.

https://mastodon.cloud/@dredmorbius/1058991

And many new communities don't start out as highly-selective. There's something of a double-downward-wedge at play:

- If a community starts out selective and grows, it can only dilute the original cohort.

- If a community starts out antisocial, even slightly, it has a profound tendency to drive off the more pro-social members with time, what's been called "the evaporative cooling effect", or the Nazi at the Bar problem.

https://web.archive.org/web/20101012105003/https://blog.bumb...

https://web.archive.org/web/20101126001133/http://lesswrong....

https://old.reddit.com/r/TalesFromYourServer/comments/hsiisw...

The situation also appears with specific channels or publications. TLC was once the PBS-affiliated, NASA-sponsored The Learning Channel. H.L. Mencken's American Mercury was once a highly respected literary magazine. Both transformed tremendously. You're likely aware of TLC, the Mercury's story is probably less known today:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_American_Mercury

There are communities that do remain reasonably coherent over time. Most of them are size-constrained, many cycle through members. Universities and colleges are classic examples of these. Most of their members, the undergraduates, remain with the institution for only a few years --- graduating in 4 or 5 typically, though many don't graduate (drop-out rates may approach 50%). Staff and faculty tend to remain longer, and provide institutional memory, though the institutions themselves provide some of that robustness as well.

There's much made of the failure of planned utopian communities, though it seems to me that the archetypal college town often strongly resembles one, and many of these have persisted for a century or more, which is longer than most other planned communes. (There are some exceptions in the latter case.)

Admissions standards, a highly-encouraged stay-a-while-then-move-on dynamic, a clearly articulable goal, viable economic support (in the case of higher-ed, a fair bit of that being direct or indirect governmental aid), and attention to the underlying needs of a community and institution, all seem to help.

As David Weinberger's noted, conversation doesn't scale very well.

And intimacy doesn't scale at all. Yet it seems to be what many social networks are trying to promise. Intimacy is virtually by definition the inverse of scale, and any attempt to try to scale it will end in tears.

https://www.etymonline.com/word/intimate

Yes, you can share a moment with a stranger. But if both of you move on, then it's just that one moment. And even in live performance, the relationship of audience to performer, no matter how strong, is parasocial, it's not a reciprocal relation (something both fans and stars eventually come to grapple with).

https://diaspora.glasswings.com/posts/4bdf7470aa0301394c7000...

So, no. You can have a small, selective, intimate, and focused community. Or you can have something else.

The question comes down to: which do you prefer?

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@carbonguy 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

> Is it true that any community that grows big enough, gets ruined?

Well, you know what they say - nothing lasts forever. But, glibness aside:

I think the answer is yes, ultimately. But I don't think that it is bigness per se that dooms a community. This depends on how you define community, of course - is "all of Facebook" a community? Does everybody have to know each other for it to be a community? In my opinion, no; what defines a community is what it unites around - what it believes to be worth defending, specifically.

So the real killers are whatever influences force the community to sacrifice exclusionary principles - the places where the members of the community will draw a line and fight for a side, so to speak. A growth imperative is such an influence, since less exclusion = bigger TAM, hypothetically, and as other commenters have pointed out, people change the communities they join.

Interestingly, I don't think monetization as such kills a community; after all, there are plenty of communities that rally around monetization in itself as something valuable and worth defending, and many others might tolerate it as one of the exclusionary principles that keeps out the trolls.

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@Slighted 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I think communities should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

A larger community does typically have more potential to shift in itself. Whether this is "good" or "bad" lies in the eyes of the beholder.

I think, however, that people that are insistent on keeping a community locked-down and small and who self-appoint as gatekeepers are often more destructive to a community than actual outsiders. They're usually fragile people who require a sense of value and elitism/superiority to feel good about themselves, and they exist everywhere.

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@nescioquid 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

While I've only encountered his ideas in secondary sources, my understanding is that part of Max Weber's work was interested in how organizations form around a mission or a set of values, how bureaucracies emerge and how they change the mission or values of the organization.

I think the main idea was that you start with a mission, add people, add organization to coordinate the efforts, and pretty soon you have specialized roles and people's individual objectives become disembodied from the organization's original mission. This can have the cumulative effect of changing an organization's priorities and values over time.

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@silisili 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Personally, I think it's true. For the simple fact that the vast majority of people are pretty boring to other people for one reason or another. And that the common person feels compelled to help or advise, for no ill purpose, despite often being unequipped to do so.

When you create a niche community, for that moment in time people are interesting to each other in the sense of having something in common, exciting even. As less serious folks inevitably filter in by word of mouth, linking, or curiosity, the SNR drops pretty considerably.

At one point in life I was a truck enthusiast and mechanical expert and joined a pretty nice community around it. It didn't take long for the laypeople to join, start sharing typical urban myths and terrible advice, and getting -upvoted- for doing so by other newcomers. It went from a community of highly technical folks to a community of commons, and lost all interest.

I'm no different. This was a Silicon Valley, startup, VC based forum initially. I found the community really interesting and loved the topics discussed. But I'm just some weirdo in the desert mainly sharing anecdotes anymore. That's not to say I exist to annoy anyone, but I could see some of the original folks being annoyed by people like me.

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@baronblackmore 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Part of a part of one of the cases you have there is to do with barrier to entry. If a community has no barrier to entry, it can be vandalized for free.

The barrier could be the understanding it takes to navigate, a literal price, or knowledge of its existence.

Smaller communities speak in ways and on topics that outsiders don't understand, and so outsiders are deterred. As the community becomes larger, it becomes more general, and so outsiders have an easier time integrating. When a community takes a price, vandalism has a cost, which is often not worth paying. (it could be something as trivial as be in a place at a time, or buy roller blades).

Plus, there's definitely a tipping point beyond which it'll spiral outwards.

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@oxplot 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I'd wager that those communities that so called "get ruined" didn't grow as their size grew. What I mean is that the rules, norms and the culture that allowed X number of people to thrive in a niche, most often does not translate to much larger Y size. If a community decides to allow growth, it must also be flexible to adapt to that growth. And let's be crystal clear on one thing: communities grow because they want to grow. There exist sites online that have very strict sign-up policies that ensures they are kept small and/or limited to a certain type of users. Some even show long questionnaire on their sign-up forms and you have to wait for sometime to contribute and have to stay active to keep your membership, etc.

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@AnimalMuppet 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Specifically with respect to forums, I'm going to repost something I wrote before:

Metcalfe's Law says that the value of a network is proportional to the number of nodes (or people) in the network. That is, V = k * n^2, for some constant k.

But we now know that there's more to the story. That valuable network attracts users, but it also attracts abusers - spammers, propagandists, trolls. They don't add to the value of the network; they detract from it.

Here's where the handwaving starts. It is my perception that the proportion of abusers rises as the size of the network rises. That means that the total number of abusers rises faster than the number of users - perhaps as the square of the number of users.

Worse, those abusers do more damage than their numbers would indicate. It's not just that you have messages that should be ignored. It's also that you have to increase the level of mistrust for every message. I'm going to guess that the abusers do damage about in proportion to the square of their number (which is itself in proportion to the square of the number of users).

That leaves us with V = k * n^2 - c * n^4, to account for the damage from abuse.

It follows that one essential of larger networks is keeping c as low as possible. Otherwise abuse destroys a network.

Also note that, for any given k and c, there is a number of users beyond which the value of the network is negative.

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@henriquez 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Any community that gets big enough for Tencent to invest in gets ruined.

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@metalrain 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I think it happens even with out the growth in community size. Many companies perish, many groups of friends disband, rare bands last for decades.

People change and situation changes.

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@thomasfromcdnjs 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I like to wake up and be cynical all the time.

That being said, I've been reading Hacker News for for ~15 years. (Pretty much from inception)

I've noticed that some meta-eras don't appeal to me that much, and have bickered about it in passing comments, but never properly thought that it had ever gone down hill.

That's not really related to the original question.

Just doing an obligatory hats off to the staff and community.

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@eloisius 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I look this post up and re-read it every now and then. Not it 100% fits my real-world experience, but has definitely fit some cases to a T.

https://meaningness.com/geeks-mops-sociopaths

> Creators and fanatics are both geeks. They totally love the New Thing, they’re fascinated with all its esoteric ins and outs, and they spend all available time either doing it or talking about it.

> Mops also dilute the culture. The New Thing, although attractive, is more intense and weird and complicated than mops would prefer. Their favorite songs are the ones that are least the New Thing

> The sociopaths quickly become best friends with selected creators. They dress just like the creators—only better. They talk just like the creators—only smoother.

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@gloosx 3 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Can we say a country is a community? Then many such communities are working really well today still. The biggest problem when a community grows is the partitioning of this community, a successful big community is the one which found a way to union many smaller communities around one idea and make the whole system work together. Your examples are touching only commercial businesses for some reason. Community there is just a hoax to _engage_ you, utilising your prime urges to connect and communicate with people. Commercial business only goal is to get more coverage and cash flow really, so they choose growth strategies to get their service more drug-alike but they can't (and probably don't want to) build a great community pursuing these.

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@bowsamic 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

HN doesn’t seem like a very niche community to me, it’s far bigger than it used to be

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@dgeiser13 3 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Metafilter is still a good community but they have moderators.

https://www.metafilter.com/

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@bradlys 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Idk - dota is still incredibly toxic regardless of it being WC3 era when it was just a custom map or now where it’s a full fledged game with huge competitions.

So, I think communities that start toxic at least won’t ever have this issue! ;)

This reminds me of a short talk/interview by Robert Putnam about immigration and the challenges of it. https://youtu.be/grAAOjdvcrI It’s good and I think covers some of the more holistic ways to view these issues. As communities grow and people immigrate - they bring their own culture and part of growing a community means accepting them and accepting their ways to some extent. Later - all of these things that weren’t there are now part of the community identity. So, yeah, identities change over time as you adopt more people and varied outlooks.

In some sense - this means that communities on the internet probably start to look somewhat homogenous as they grow but that’s probably more of a reflection of humanity than a reflection of anything else. If you want to retain the character of your community - it often means not accepting new members or growing at all. It’s a tricky issue if you really value certain aspects of communities. Moderation and purpose might help steer the community - but it might mean limiting your access and growth and then enforcing some forms of discrimination.

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@philipov 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

When people join a community, they don't just adopt the values of the community, but they also come with pre-existing values. As a community grows, it will adapt to the people who are joining it, and this may alienate the early-adopters who joined for a different reason than the people joining during the exponential or diminishing returns phases of logistic growth. This doesn't mean the community is "ruined" but from the perspective of early adopters, they might describe it that way.

This can be seen readily in the history of Islam and Christianity. As those faith communities grew, they became very different from what their early adopters experienced, because they absorbed traditions and social structures of the people joining them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIpW5w_Ua20&list=PLQ7Ydow-dB...

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@alexb_ 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I think this is a really good video. It might not apply to everything you are thinking about, and is mainly centered around the fighting game community. But I think it can say a lot about the behaviors that we all do to try and keep a community - and how limiting who is considered a part of it is a vital part in a community. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8055HIDm1A

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@this_is_not_you 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

What happened to the Ask HN "tag"? Do people just not use it anymore to highlight it's not a link to another website?

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@dzink 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

It’s tragedy of the commons. The smaller the group the more likely members are to care for one another and the community. The bigger it gets, the less likely a new member is to behave with the culture of the community without moderation, the more the average behavior goes down. It helps if you have an on boarding process that educates on the culture and norms or attaches new members to existing so they can be introduced into the culture instead of just thrown into it.

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@incomingpain 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

The word community is your hangup. It's really generic and missing what you're getting at.

In economics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socially_optimal_firm_size

Civil: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/003801...

Believe it or not but the ideal "community" size is somewhere around 150 people.

So if you are a city of 100,000. Figuring out how to build neighbourhoods the size of about 150 people with max of 500 is your goal. Or highrises are supposed to be about this size. But fail because a highrise isn't about community at all.

If you're a business with 1000 employees. You probably want 5-6 divisions.

If you're in the military, we're talking about your 'company'. Platoons are often a bit smaller and meant to make the soldiers more tight.

If you're in the vidya games, you want to divide players up so that they are in ~150 people groups.

>On that note, I am glad that HN is still a niche community and hope stays that way, and UI becomes even more crappy so people from other cultures and walks of life don't start joining in.

HN surpassed this long ago. HN is no longer a 'community' and I've seen the influence waves sweep through HN multiple times now.

>There are negatives to this, but not huge because there are other platforms for general population. (Imagine a forum for doctors to discuss new treatments and everyone can join in, soon it'd be r/AskDoc and of almost no value to actual doctors).

What you are literally asking for is an echo chamber. You want to filter out non-doctors. Or in HN's case? Filter out X? That's totally not what you want to do.

My grandpa had a radio and 1 newspaper to keep up to date. He lived in an echo chamber of epic proportions, he had to believe whatever they told him. What social media did is that you can literally go to the source. You can literally see what your politicians are saying without anything in between. We live in the least echo chamber period ever.

Yet echo chambers are such a huge issue today. January 6 insurrection is one of the best examples because it's such a huge factor.

Obama's own words: "Right here, in the United States of America, we just saw a sitting president deny the clear results of an election and help incite a violent insurrection at the nation’s capital."

So in Obama's mind he sees January 6, a group of unarmed hooligans in costumes ransacking some offices for a few hours, as an insurrection. This doesn't meet the definition of insurrection. That would be the dumbest insurrection in the history of insurrections.

Insurrection noun: an organized attempt by a group of people to defeat their government and take control of their country, usually by violence:

"We're going to go unarmed into the capitol building and overthrow the most powerful government in history by ransacking nancy pelosi's office." lol what?

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@errantmind 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

The mean is attracted to quality, but doesn't 'get it', and drags it down. So you end up with regression to the mean. It happens to everything 'cool' everywhere, all the time.

When a community is young and niche, it only attracts those who seek it. These seekers get it, but they have that 'je ne sais quois' that is often envied by people whose motives have no resemblance to the theirs. Once the second wave hits, it is downhill from there.

tldr hipsterism.

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@slothtrop 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I think community is being conflated with enterprise, in your examples. Appealing to larger audiences is of course different than filling a small niche. Communities proper aren't necessarily navigated at the helm to draw in more people, though some do (particularly if they aren't strictly communities).

Easy anecdote: internet forums. Many have since shriveled away. I can recall some from the past that were clearly at their most vibrant when the membership was high and new people were constantly joining. This all changed since the broader shift over to large social media sites. In most cases a group of cliquey seniors remain with low engagement.

One thing I noticed as these places shrink is that the conspiracy nut voices who spam the place get louder. Their activity level stays more or less the same. Once everyone else leaves it's just unbearable.

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@neonsunset 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Thank you for posting this question! I've just recently been thinking about this effect in terms of how computer games were degraded as a medium by an outgroup who has no interest in games and wants to push its own agenda. What is more scary though is to observe the same process in scientific communities today, which I think may have long lasting negative consequences for all of us tomorrow and the days after that.

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@stefs 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

it's not just the community, it's also you. easily observable if you acquire a new hobby and join the respective subreddits. at first everything is new and exciting, hard to understand, foreign lingo and full of cryptic references. you'll learn a ton of new things in a very short amount of time and soon start understand some of the lingo and those cryptic references, probably inside jokes, memes, abbreviations, known brands or names of people of note. after a while you'll find yourself in a position where you can answer questions of other newcomers - you've seen the same question several times and maybe asked it yourself at the beginning. you might become a productive member of that group, but at some point you'll see all too many patterns: the same questions asked, the same mistakes made, the same fallacies argued, the same arguments given for the hundredth time. interesting content gets rare - because the content you found exciting at the beginning now bores you to death. the jokes you found so funny when you heard them the first time get stale, the same meme is reposted again and again, the mysterious, edgy user going against the conventional wisdom turned out to be a troll. all the while a new user joins and experiences all the same excitement you did when you were new to the topic.

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@mattlondon 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

What is "ruined" for you, might be just right for others. People's perceptions of value and usefulness vary.

E.g. I work for a huge corporation and am very happy, but it started small. I am working at a "ruined" workplace? Perhaps if you personally value a small start up you'd consider it so, but I value the stability of an established company that I can rely on getting my salary from.

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@Karawebnetwork 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

The only way I managed to grow communities without diluting the existing culture is to artificially slow the growth and to encourage existing users to become "power users"/"mentors". This is hard to do since it's tempting to open the valves and let all the new users flood at once. Sometimes you allow a bulk of users and go past the threshold, which destroys part of the existing culture. It's very hard to balance it.

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@alophawen 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Yes it is true and it seems to be the result of our tribalistic history.

We are well adapted for social groups of 50-200 people but have a hard time to "belong" in too big groups. One could argue the subcultures/counter cultures of the young is a modern form of tribalism.

This shows especially in larger social networks online, where people stop treating each other in friendly manner.

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@Havoc 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

That sound like eternal September to me [0]. I don't think its necessary a case of the thing getting ruined, but rather that it evolves and no longer matches the what the original gang pictures in their head.

A bit like you can't infuse startup vibes into a big company no matter how many foosball tables you add.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternal_September

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@LeicaLatte 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Death is the road to awe

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@bena 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Social interaction doesn't scale. I don't think it can.

When a community is small, you can moderate it effectively with only a small amount of effort. Back in the early 00s, I moderated a couple of development forums on an amateur console development site. I would hop on for an hour or two, read some posts, reply to some, and that was mostly it. Moderation was mostly saying, "Hey Bob, cool it. We all know your feelings on tabs vs spaces, but that's not a topic we discuss here and it's irrelevant to Frank's post."

And we all knew Frank, and we all knew Bob. And we all knew me.

Eventually, if you get big enough, there are people posting all the time. No single person can monitor the board all the time. You'd need a group. You need time. And for people with things to do, they have better things to do than to remind people of the rules yet again.

So what happens in really large discussion forums, those with the most time begin to make the de facto rules. And those are exactly the people you don't want making the rules. Because those with the most spare time on their hands aren't going to be experts. They're not going to be skilled. The only skill they'll have is the ability to spend time on a forum.

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@perryizgr8 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I don't know why this happens. But I'm sad about Slashdot.

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@renewiltord 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Mop Geek Sociopath

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@citizenkeen 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Can we’re get the title changed to Ask HN, please?

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@armchairhacker 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I believe that if a community grows big enough it gets ruined, but “enough” may be bigger than you think.

> Have you ever seen an example where anything became better than before when it grew big.

Yes, many times.

When your community is too small it’s boring, there isn’t enough user-generated content. As the community grows bigger users produce more content. Popularity encourages creative people to join and existing members to put more effort into their work (motivated by a larger audience and more competition), creating better content.

I think Geometry Dash and Trackmania are examples of communities which seem to be doing better than ever despite growing a lot the past couple years.

The issue is, when a community grows it creates disagreement: some users like different content than other users, users start to fight over which rules / goals / overall direction the community should go. Usually the overall community ends up in the middle ground, where everyone is only partially satisfied.

Case in point: Hacker News with informative / political articles. Some people only like learning, some people like tech drama and even general politics. The result is half informative, half opinionated pieces on the front page.

But it helps when the community focuses on a niche topic, and sticks to that topic even if it grows. Because that means everyone just talks about the niche, and people who aren’t and don’t get interested in it won’t join. It also helps when said topic is non-controversial and non-political, so there’s not much to disagree on and get mad about.

Trackmania’s community is still close because it is a very specific game: racing on a custom track to get the best time possible. There’s not really much else to do in Trackmania, so if you don’t like making custom tracks, trying to get the best time on one of them, or watching people do those things, you won’t like Trackmania. It’s also clearly not provocative.

Hacker News is kind of a niche because it focuses on tech from the perspective of professional software engineers. Nowadays Hacker News does get controversial, but I know it has systems and moderators in place to limit flame wars and politics as much as possible.

Large subreddits, Discord communities, Facebook groups don’t really feel like “communities” because the users’ interests are too diverse: many of the posts are uninteresting to many of the users, because it’s hard to imagine a post which can interest a majority of the users at once. They also get a lot of drama because people post about politics and those posts get encouraged and upvoted and reposted.

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@bawolff 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

The present is never what it used to be. We remember the good and forget the bad.

Its why, make X great again is such an effective propaganda slogan (its been used by many groups, not just the current one)

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@plaguepilled 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I think the determining factor is what the community's ultimate goal is. I would say that scale improves communities where cohesion or 'quality' can be relaxed in favour of expanding the base of people helping in that goal.

An example that comes to mind is the physics community. I hear a lot of criticisms in recent times about physics around the shortcomings of string theory, particle physics, and even some criticism towards newer areas like quantum computing and topological materials. In this instance, criticism actually improves the community because it necessitates the community to review and defend its beliefs. For most physicists, the rigor and empiricism of the community is extremely desirable, and so the extra conflict is accepted.

In short, I am sort of asking you to be more precise. What does it mean, to you, for a community to 'decline'?

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@peterburkimsher 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

"Almost a law" - Moore's Law? Technology gets better?

Or birth? 9 women can't deliver a baby in 1 month. Is there a glitch in the machine? Of course there is!

Do you know where it is? Me neither! Pray to God and Jesus about IT! Try something else. Keep going, until you're stuck, then keep going until you all agree it's fun and happy.

Now? Raise the average life expectancy, or die trying and meet God that way. I'm an idiot hacker who wants to try. Who's coming?

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@plantain 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Having been here 11 years now, IMHO HN is 90% as good as it was in 2011.

Reddit has lasted pretty well too because of it's ability to shard out bigger communities into ever smaller communities, but the larger subreddits are a bit creaky.

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@ThrowITout4321 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Apple, the community has gotten better as it's gotten bigger.

But generally speaking it's hard for a community to get better as it grows. As the community grows it begins to split because there are so many needs to satisfy so an overall feeling of dissatisfaction dominates and people become unhappy with what the community has become. We see it all the time. In extreme examples members are willing to destroy the community with out knowing how to make it better. They are just upset that what they have is not what they want. In a way they unite on the idea that they are dissatisfied. It's extremely hard to satisfy everyone all the time. And as a community grows that becomes even harder.

One way to keep unity is to have a set core of believes and unite around them by making sure everyone adheres to them. So the community focuses on the believes rather than the reduction of satisfaction.

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@SMAAART 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Well, yes, and the answer is in your own question.

Here's the thing: there are certain characteristics that are necessary for something to go from Zero to critical mass; then - if that "something" crosses cha chasm, it becomes popular.

Now, the people who are instrumental in taking that "something" from Zero to critical mass are the early adopters (aka the weirdos, the foolish, the hungry) while the later-stage adopters are the boring "average" people, and - of course - spammer and influencers-wanna-bes.

Therefore communities later-stage are qite different environments than early-stage.

You can see that when working in start-ups (garage days vs post IPO days), you can see in using disruptive products, and, very publicly, in Reddit's subs too.

The good old days are indeed the good old days.

A few related resources:

* Crossing the Chasm

* The Innovator's Dilemma

* How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

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@mro_name 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Sure they do.

"Good ideas don't often scale", Robert S. Barton, cited by Alan Kay found via https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=31337452

Or a rhethorical argument – if grown 'too big', failure is inevitable. It may take a while, however. :-)

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@thatjoeoverthr 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I should expect it. It’s not really a “community” any more past a certain point, and more like a telecom system; communities may exist within it but it’s not a community.

An obvious factor others have mentioned is you can keep everyone in your head, build some kind of consensus around community standard and a few volunteer moderators can actually monitor it.

But another is stakes. If you ban Trump from Twitter, there’s a tremendous fan base and political effects. We don’t need to discuss it here, the only thing that matters is that it matters. So the stakes are high, and it’s not obvious and non-controversial that Twitter should even try to curate a community.

Conversely, if you get permabanned from Stormfront because you’re too left wing, nobody minds. There are no stakes. Nobody will try to buy Stormfront to stop them from banning progressives.

So it’s very easy and comfortable for small communities to police aggressively.

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@dredmorbius 1 day

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Given enough eyeballs, all content is shallow.

https://toot.cat/@dredmorbius/108306495904866093

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@hooby 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

I've seen dozens of examples of this, but I'm still hesitant to brand this to be causality. There seems to be some degree of correlation though.

Smaller communities tend to be more familiar - people recognize each others names, and people have each other's backs, when someone is trolling or something. When things grow beyond a certain size - maybe related to Dunbar's number - the group dynamics change.

In some cases this can lead to the community to loosing coherence or even becoming toxic - but I don't think that's inevitable. I believe it IS possible to grow a community to a larger size and have it stay nice. I think though, that in order to keep a community nice when growing beyond a certain point, some effort is required - effort which wasn't necessary while the group was smaller and kinda self-organized.

Also, growing slowly rather than quickly might help - as newcomers have some time to acclimatize and internalize those unspoken social rules that govern a group's dynamic - and will be able to pass on the knowledge to those coming after. People who join a group will eventually adapt to the group - but that process needs a bit of time. But when growth is too fast, a newcomer might have more interactions with other newcomers rather than long-standing community members, and thus will adapt to something quite different.

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@hnthrowaway0328 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

"Gets ruined" is subjective. It is true that when a community grows it naturally "dilutes" the original attendees so they may feel that the good old days are gone, but for new comers it's different.

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@informal007 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

We can't have both speciality and generality.

let's choose speciality.

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@_Nat_ 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Yeah, it's generally called ["scalability"](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scalability ).

For example, you can't generally scale-up a machine by just multiplying all of its dimensions by, say, 2, and expect it to still work the same way. Ditto for organizations.

Scalability would generally be a problem even if you could ensure that the sorts of people involved wouldn't change. But, if you're considering a scenario where the the types of folks involved also change, then that'd probably tend to amplify the effect.

That said, systems can often be scaled-up with due consideration to how they work and ensuring that the fundamentals are kept.

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@drdunce 4 days

Replying to @techsin101 🎙

Gamification of contribution overjustifies agreement in relation to correctness. This creates a fascinatingly robust echo chamber of, in some cases, pure nonsense.

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