An apology to giraffes and Hacker News

8 Nov, 2014

Dear Hacker News admins,

I have just noticed that my posts are not appearing on Hacker News. After a short investigation, I have surmised that this is to do with recent heavy downvoting on a recent post about giraffes. I am sad to say that in response to a post about society’s understanding of giraffes I replied:

Giraffes are heartless creatures.

This was based on this well-known image:


At the time I thought that this was an amusing response that was relevant to the topic. But I watched in horror as I was relentlessly downvoted, and in fact lost over 100 karma points in a matter of an hour. How could I have been so blind?

This error caused me serious distress because over the past few years, I had been writing many deeply insightful replies to Hacker News posts that did not concern giraffes at all. I had been curating karma points like a beggar collects old beer cans. When those cans were kicked away, years of work were destroyed in an instant, and worst of all, I knew it was my own fault. I had kicked away the cans myself!

I had totally failed to account for the deep love of giraffes on Hacker News. This reaction was quite a surprise to me, as, like most people, I had believed that nerds are not animal lovers, preferring the companionship of robots, virtual pets, and bacon. Who would have thought their love for giraffes was so deep?

I have to say at this point that I also love giraffes, and that I don’t actually believe that a mommy and daddy giraffe would fail to feed their offspring. What a cruel world that would be! I believe the humor in the image is because such a situation would be intolerable. In fact, giraffes are not heartless creatures at all.

Also, my wife says that I made a “big mistake” in criticizing giraffes. And she is never wrong. So here I must make my apology and ask for forgiveness.

I give you my solemn word that I will never again criticize giraffes on Hacker News and ask that the posting privileges be restored on my account.

I remain at your mercy,

Mark Devlin
Hacker News ID: sparkzilla


November 9, 2014


Your comments were getting killed because your account’s karma had plummeted. I restored it to the baseline and unkilled your last several comments.

There used to be restrictions to prevent karma slaughter by downvote avalanches, but we turned them off several months ago as an emergency measure to counteract the toxic comments that had been plaguing HN. Sort of like unleashing the white blood cells. That has been working on those; unfortunately, it also leads to collateral giraffe damage. We try to make amends when we see those, or when people email us. If you want to do the arithmetic of figuring out how many karma points you’d still have if your account had only lost -4 for each anti-giraffe slur, we’ll put it back.

I’d add some homily about making only substantive comments in the future but since the giraffes have already roughed you up pretty bad, that seems unnecessary.


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