Notorious Nodejitsu just got a big fat “get out of jail free” card from Paul Graham. The New York-based startup has been persona non grata on the influential geek forum Hacker News since . . . well, we first heard about the drama, oh, back in December?
Mr. Graham, who runs Y Combinator and Hacker News, says Nodejitsu was banned for spamming; Nodejitsu’s founders suspected it was because they compete with Y Combinator alum Heroku. But as of Sunday night, Nodejitsu’s back in the game.
Heroku and Nodejitsu both host apps for developers, although Nodejitsu does it only for apps written in node.js, while Heroku has a wider range of offerings, including Java and Ruby. Heroku launched “experimental support” for node.js in April 2010, as Nodejitsu was just getting started. The race was on.
Yesterday, a Hacker News user posted an alternative to the forum called Lamer News, inspired by all the kvetching and conspiracy theory surrounding the opaque moderator policies of Hacker News. Some users say the site is “a shill for Y Combinator companies;” “why did Hacker News remove my blog post,” and so on. Foursquare’s Eric Friedman’s personal domain, marketing.fm, was mysteriously banned after a post about VC breakfast etiquette; others have been mystified as to why their submissions did or didn’t show up.
The site provoked a discussion about Hacker News policies in general. “We don’t ban sites of competitors of companies we fund,” Mr. Graham said in the thread. “Even if we wanted to do something like that, how could we ever get away with it?” Then he leapt to a conclusion: “I’m guessing you’re referring to Nodejitsu.com. They’re banned because they created an army of sockpuppets to vote up their posts.”
The accusation brought a fiery rebuttal from Nodejitsu’s clear-eyed CEO Charlie Robbins, a coder who was recruited out of college to work at Microsoft, did his time coding in the finance sector, and also
serves served until recently as the CTO of General Assembly. “Your claim that Nodejitsu ‘created an army of sockpuppets to vote up their posts’ is outrageous. Let me enumerate the issue here,” he wrote, and proceeded to pick apart Mr. Graham’s statement and attack Hacker News for its lack of transparency in four arguments.
Mr. Robbins explained that banning Nodejitsu meant that not only was the company’s blog blocked, any developer using Nodejitsu would run into trouble if he or she tried to put an app on Hacker News–something that is commonly done to get users or feedback.
“The problem with that is you are also penalizing Nodejitsu customers (like myself) that host their projects on their platform,” Frank Denbow, a local founder and coder, wrote in the thread. “I support the Nodejitsu guys but I’m not an employee and don’t share all their viewpoints; I was just working on my first Nodejs project for NodeKnockout and wanted to get some feedback from the HN community, but my site was blocked also.”
“I didn’t realize users’ stuff was hosted on subdomains. Ok, I’ll unban nodejitsu.com,” Mr. Graham responded. “We don’t ban sites lightly. We only do it when people make repeated, deliberate efforts to bypass lighter weight protections … I’m happy to unban nodejitsu.com if you promise to stop trying to game HN. In your case I recommend the following standard for what counts as gaming HN: if you’re not sure, don’t.”