Lobsters (website)

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Lobsters logo.png
Lobsters 2019-01-21.png
Type of site
News aggregator[1]
Available inEnglish
Created byJoshua Stein
Launched1 July 2012; 7 years ago (2012-07-01)
Current statusOnline
Written inRuby and JavaScript

Lobsters or Lobste.rs is a social news[1] website mainly focused on computer engineering articles. It is based broadly on the threaded "upvote/downvote" functionality of other sites such as Reddit and Hacker News, with a number of features which were intended to prevent the site from becoming similar to other large existing social news aggregators: the site is invite-only, makes use of content tags, and requires that downvotes be explained by the downvoter.[1]

Notable Features[edit]

Invite Tree[edit]

A feature distinguishing Lobsters from many other news aggregator sites is that Lobsters is invite-only. It makes use of an invitation tree,[4] where each new user is invited by an existing user, becoming a branch off of the existing user in the tree. The full invitation tree can be viewed on the Lobsters site.[5] The goal of using an invitation system is both to prevent spam and to slow the rate of new users beneath the acculturation rate, preventing an Eternal September[4].


Hats are a feature where users who belong to an company, project, or organization may choose to wear a "hat", indicating that they are speaking on behalf of the organization. This allows users to fluidly move between talking in an official capacity to talking as themselves without changing accounts. Specially colored red hats are worn by members of the Lobsters community that upkeep the site, marked as "Sysop".[6]

Downvote Explanations[edit]

Downvote explanations are a way of ensuring that all downvotes are accompanied by feedback which is then shown to the original commenter.[7] They are intended to discourage users from complaining about downvotes or editing their posts to ask why they were downvoted.

There are several possible justifications that can be given in a downvote explanation: "Off-topic", "Incorrect", "Me-too", "Troll", "Spam".[8]

"Off-topic" downvotes may be given to any post or comment that is viewed by the downvoter as irrelevant to the topic at hand. "Incorrect" downvotes are given for stating information that is incorrect, and cannot be given out for matters of opinion. "Me-too" downvotes are used "when a comment signals agreement to a parent comment or submission without adding significantly to the conversation".[8] "Troll" downvotes are used when the downvoter believed that the downvoted commenter is failing to engage in an honest dialogue, particularly when the comment is intended to provoke or aggravate another user. "Spam" downvotes are used whenever a post or comment is obvious spam.

Moderation Log[edit]

Lobsters keeps a moderation log, which reports all moderation actions taken by the community or by specific moderators.[9] The log keeps a record of any user actions which change the features of an account, such as a username change, any actions made by moderators, such as post title changes or bans, and changes made by community vote.

Category Tags[edit]

Lobsters has a number of category tags, which are applied to any post that they are relevant to.[1] This allows users to quickly sort out topics which they are especially interested in, or don't want to see, without fragmenting the community between different boards.


In 2012, Hacker News user Joshua Stein was shadow banned by administrator Paul Graham.[10] Stein decided to build an alternative version focused on moderation transparency.[11] Lobsters has an official transparency policy concerning moderator actions, which makes all moderator actions public and prohibits shadow banning.[12]

In 2017, Stein retired from administrating the site. Ownership was transferred to Peter Bhat Harkins, known as pushcx.[13]

In February 2018, Lobsters helped to sponsor the lobster emoji (ūü¶ě) with the Unicode Consortium.[14][15]


It is hosted on a custom, open-source software stack built on Ruby On Rails running on OpenBSD.[16][17] The code is hosted on GitHub and is licensed with a permissive license.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d "About Lobsters". lobste.rs. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  2. ^ "Users".
  3. ^ "Usage statistics".
  4. ^ a b "About Lobsters". lobste.rs. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  5. ^ "Users". lobste.rs. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  6. ^ "Hats". lobste.rs. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  7. ^ "About Lobsters". lobste.rs. Retrieved 22 January 2019.
  8. ^ a b "DownvoteGuidelines". github.com. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Moderation log".
  10. ^ "Hellbanned from Hacker News".
  11. ^ "Moderation log".
  12. ^ "Transparency Policy".
  13. ^ "Passing the torch".
  14. ^ "Lobster emoji adoption".
  15. ^ "Sponsors of Adopted Characters".
  16. ^ "GitHub repository".
  17. ^ "What kind of hardware/cloud does lobste.rs run on?". Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  18. ^ "Lobsters License". Retrieved 23 January 2019.