Dear Paul

The abusiveness of Hacker News being permanent.

By Zed A. Shaw

Dear Paul

Dear Paul,

I've actually always admired you. You saved the business of technology from the useless MBAs who did nothing but drive businesses into the ground on the backs of programmers like me. You handed money to the builders and hackers instead of handing money to guys with nice teeth and fancy hair. You totally rock for proving to the world of finance that the money is where the skill is, not where the pretty is. I quite literally fucking love you for that, and will always have respect for you.

I even think we might be similar in a lot of ways. I'm an old school hacker just like you. I recently started painting like you. I'm a way better public speaker but that's besides the point. We have similar interests and could possibly bond over many things. Who knows, you might have been a potential good friend of mine if it hadn't been for one thing you did:

Hacker News

I hadn't really paid attention to HN much until about 2008. Someone showed me how your site posted a talk by Thomas Ptacek where he outright slanders me. Slander which he has taken back and publicly apologized for. He had a video where he makes wildly false accusations about me and my fitness to work, as well as Dan J. Bernstein and several other noted cryptographers. At the time I didn't really care because I was out of the startup world. I was working for a bank and I mean, c'mon, banks don't fail. Yep, sure enough banks do fail, and the one I worked for--Bear Stearns--did that same year.

I would notice that about once every 6 months this video would get posted, and then the HN crowd would call me the worst shit ever. Things they would never say to my face were tossed into comments like I had punched their toddlers in the face. But, I still didn't care because after Bear Stearns collapsed I took my severance and went to study Jazz guitar, something I've always wanted to do. I hear you did something similar. You went to study painting? Well I'm sure you know when you finally get to study something you love it's easy to simply ignore the world.

It wasn't until 2010 that I started to care about this video being posted every 6 months. After guitar school I decided to move to San Francisco and work for a company there. I wanted to change my life around again and start a family, see if I could get back into building something. Sure enough, first week on the job and there's that video full of slander posted to HN filled with comments from abusive anonymous weak fucking assholes. Nobody from YCombinator did anything about it, and I had to take it into my own hands.

I threatened to sue Thomas and because of that he retracted what he said and apologized publicly. Mysteriously the video also disappeared off the internet and stopped showing up on HN. What an odd coincidence, but that's not the point of this letter to you Paul.

The point is, seven years later and your site is still used to abuse people and YCombinator the corporation continues to support it. Currently the most popular way to slander someone on HN is to create a "throwaway" or "anon" account, say what you want, then slink off into the shadows like a weak limp dicked little loser. Do you do anything about it? Nope. Right now there's a blog post critical of my book that's been posted to HN 4 times so far. Apparently you will allow links to be posted repeatedly even after they've been voted down if it's "gratuitously negative" of me, but take anything about one of your shitty startups down immediately.

Your news site is nothing more than a slander factory Paul, and you allow YC to back it which makes you responsible. Sure you get Sam to pay lip service to civility but you don't mean it at all. You have no problem posting "gratuitously negative" blog posts, articles, FUD, and all through the most easily detected anonymous accounts. You have no problem with people shitting all over me, even to the point of threatening me. You let anyone post any bullshit slander they want...oh except about a YC company. That would be "gratuitously negative" for sure.

I mostly ignored it, but after 7 fucking years of YCombinator secretly backing and manipulating HN for its own gain it's time to do something about it. I'm just one guy, but you know what, I have one thing that you don't have Paul:


You see Paul, I learned a long time ago that you never fight an ugly man because he's got nothing to lose. In the world of startups I'm one ugly motherfucker. I don't make millions, I make rent and food money. Why? Because I'm trying to help lots of people out by giving my books away for free. I'm never going to get funding from a venture capitalist because most of my ideas are infrastructure like the web server that powered most of your shitty fucking startups. If I lost everything tomorrow I'd sell off my guitar collection and move to some tiny town to be a school teacher or go back to school and get a Ph.D. in art history or some shit like that. I literally have nothing to lose.

I don't play the game at all and that means I'm unclean by VC standards. I like to say "fuck" and stand up for the little guy so that means, no matter how good of a person I am, I will never get respect from people with money. Ever. It also means I have no reason at all to be nice to your startups. If your company is going to let a bunch of fucking assholes rip into me and many of my friends then I'm in a perfect position to start stomping on some undescended nerd testicles in revenge.

So Mature, Right?

The thing is, I don't get why you keep running HN? It is about the most immature dumbass thing for a professional venture capital company to run. When I read the comments on HN and the constant disgusting abuse you let those weak losers write I think, "Fuck me man I'm never doing business with this company. Ever." I even go out of my way to avoid as many YC startups as I can. In fact, I had job offers from a YC startup and a non-YC startup and am looking at the non-YC startup, just because of HN.

The best analogy I can give about the YC/HN relationship is an abortion clinic. You see Paul, YCombinator is a fine up standing abortion clinic that's providing a useful service, but you have these disgusting protestors out front who are harassing your patrons. They throw things at them and scream and threaten but you do nothing about it. You wring your hands and plead, "Ohh I can't stop them because of free speech. What will I ever do?!" Then when nobody's looking you walk out front and feed all the protestors and secretly hope they stay around.

The question is why? Why the fuck do you bother keeping these idiots around? Why do you keep feeding them? Surely you make more than enough money just doing the VC thing that you can change HN to a curated news feed with no comments or heavily moderated comments? The cost of running HN and the bad name it probably gives you in many circles can't possibly be worth the money it brings in. I mean fuck man we all know HN "hackers" flat refuse to buy anything except porn, lube, and prosthetic dildos to compensate for their teeny tiny weenies. You can't be making any money on them compared to not running HN.

So what the hell do you gain by running one of the main cesspools of the technology world? Is it that your balls are so incredibly dirty that you periodically need to have a bunch of grown men come slob away at your scrotum every demo day? I honestly don't know, but you keep backing them so there must be a reason I'm not aware of and it's important to you.

It sort of doesn't matter because I'm fed up with it. I'm just writing you this letter to sort of warn you that I'm seriously thinking hard about fighting back. You may be chuckling now, but I'd like to point out that one of the reasons most of your moronic baby penis followers hate me is because I wiped out epic amounts of Ruby on Rails with one blog post full of truth. I also have two books that bring in more traffic in a month than probably all the traffic your bottom 80% startups bring in during a whole year. I also have pretty damn good credibility with many people as a straight shooter and generally honest good guy.

What would happen if I decided to pay you back for HN Paul? What would happen if I started honestly reviewing your startups' products? If I just picked the worst ones, and then started tearing them in half? What would happen if I went on every HN hiring post and started posting dirt about the various shit HR practices your companies have? What if I took all this writing and got my friends you've fucked over to help me broadcast it? What if I started posting this writing as replies to many of your comments? What if I started offering to advise new coders, the millions I teach a year (yes, millions Paul) to avoid all of your company's startups? What would happen if I just started putting anti-YC ads on my properties? What if I started telling everyone how you take 7% and don't give startups any real guidance? What would happen if I started talking about the crazy bullshit I know has happened at YC startups I've worked for and others have told me about?

What would happen Paul, if I decided to just cost you a little money? What if I cost you a little more? How much would I have to cost you before you, your investors and your startups declared HN too costly to be worth it? Would I have to cost you millions before you decided it wasn't worth it to run a shitty 1990s forum site just to listen to a bunch of grown men complain about another grown man's choice of hobby while they jerk their tiny puds at fake tits MILF porn?

Now, I'm notorious for getting mad, cooling down, and then deciding against something. Other people say this makes me a "pussy", and I'm sure there's going to be enough comments saying that. What those comments won't tell you Paul is all the people I have stood up against and took down. I hate abusive fucks, and right now HN is so abusive and out of control that someone has to do something about it. I figure HN has been trying to destroy me and rip me down for 7 years and hasn't done it yet, so maybe that's a sign I have the strength to fight back.

Why would I bother though? As some folks say, it's best to just leave them alone? Because after 7 years of abuse I've had to adjust my life around the raving fucking idiots on HN and the rampant abusive shit they say. I'm not physically afraid of the idiots there. I bet most of them start breathing hard when their fingers break 100WPM on their fancy "hacker" sticker coated MacBooks. I am afraid for my loved ones though. Because of HN I never mention when I'm out with a loved one. I tell anyone who's friends with me to stay away from my twitter account. Never follow me or mention that you're dating me. I warn people I might go work for that people hate me on HN and I might not be good for them. I keep a low profile professionally, and personally because of HN.

Nobody should have to live like that, and while I don't mind too much, I wonder if there's people out there who have had their lives destroyed by HN commenters and have to hide. Are there people who wrote one comment negative of a YC company and now can't find work? Are there people who replied to an HN favorite "super poster" and are now silenced on there? Are there people who have been harassed in real life like me because of HN? What if there's people who made something, and then HN commenters destroyed it and ruined them?

I'm sure you're a reasonable guy Paul, so I'm hoping maybe you read this and realize that your HN experiment has run its course. It's now causing more damage than good, and a simple curated news site without comments or with only YC companies commenting is a better option. Otherwise all your news site ends up being is a place for men with tiny little mosquito penises to come and pretend they have huge dicks the size of their HN karma count.



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