Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
HN Not so much “Hacker News” anymore
79 points by nergal on Dec 9, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 34 comments
I've read HN for several years and thought it was a good source for news regarding programming/developing/upstarts and general new technical stuff. I had a hard time to read all interesting articles that was linked to.

But now, most high rated articles are none of those areas. Usually there are one or two articles worth reading.

Top today for example are: Being homeless a struggle, even with a $100k job offer (seattletimes.com)

How cash is carried across Congo (economist.com)

The Human Hemisphere (radicalcartography.net)

China's Gold Army (bullionstar.com)

Guide to the Largest Ocean Carriers in the World (flexport.com)


Sure these articles could be fun to read. But then I rather find them in some other forum such as reddit. But these articles has fairly little to do with "Hacker News" to me.

Just saying...

I disagree with you. Look at this list of HN stories that are categorized as "best". Notice the date/timestamps of these. Many programming/tech related stuff posted recently


also, hacker news is not intended to be only about tech or startups. It is about anything that good hackers find interesting.

I am very happy with how HN works overall. Can it improve ? Sure. But I wouldn't ditch it today for anything else. Just my 2 cents.

Doesn't "best" mostly mean the highest voted content? Just because there are more people voting today, doesn't mean the content is better.

If "programming/etc" stories (that OP is saying used to be more prevalent here) are on the "best" list, that means they are very popular here. It does not, though, mean that there are more/fewer of the other stories. Correlation != causation and all that. The best list has nothing to do with distribution of stories. We could have fewer programming-related stories, for example, but find that the ones that are submitted have a disproportionally higher upvote rate because the community likes those so much more.

I forgot what the guidelines were so looked them up:


"What to Submit

On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity.

Off-Topic: Most stories about politics, or crime, or sports, unless they're evidence of some interesting new phenomenon. Videos of pratfalls or disasters, or cute animal pictures. If they'd cover it on TV news, it's probably off-topic."

IMHO, because of these articles, HackerNews becomes a community of smart, well-adjusted human beings - not just a bunch of geeks trying to consume the latest tech news - and this is the primary reason I stick around.

I agree. With many stories posted on hacker news, in particular economical ones, I first read the headline, then have a look at the comments, then the actual article. Usually the top commenters easily outsmart the original idea of the article and get fast to the bottom of the topic. It's very helpful context.

There's a site somewhere that shows the front page of HN when you joined. You should try it.

HN has never been limited to tech news; that thing in the guidelines has been there for at least 7 years.

The political stuff is annoying, and I've started to flag it and I'm making more effort to not post in those threads.

But if anything HN doesn't need every single post from techcrunch / techradar / venturebeat / pando / etc, which tend to poorly duplicate each others content.

Your point would have been much stronger if the examples of articles you think don't belong here were bad, but those are all interesting.

A link to that service:


The day I joined (a while ago now) has a few stories about bees, home ownership, chili peppers, the Chinese central bank calling for a new reserve currency and how markets aren't failing.... 2008 I think.

I just used that tool, the date I joined (October 8, 2014) there was only one non-programming/tech related article which was at 22.

I tend to agree (though I appreciate divergence from time to time).

The real value (for me) in HN (and Reddit) is the discussion (as opposed to the articles themselves).

HN is somewhat unique in having a diverse and (usually highly) technologically literate user base, often generating interesting and thoughtful discussion on a range of tech related subjects.

The discussion on these OT posts is limited by comparison. Experiences and insights are replaced by speculation and conjecture.

I'm being a bit hyperbolic here, but hopefully I'm getting my point across. I enjoy technology and business discussion from all skill/experience levels, including JavaScript noobs and emerging businesses. I can't really say the same for amateur discussion of general topics.

HN has all kinds of stories, you just need a nice filter to use it. May be you need to use a different interface to HN. HN has APIs for some time. Even when it not had them, people have hacked up nice stuff like http://hckrnews.com/, which I use regularly, for at least last one year if I remember right.

I find that on different days, I want to read different kind of stuff. And when you use a trend preserving interface like hckrnews, you can review everything, since your last visit, and read the stuff you like - tech or non-tech.

Can you or anyone give links to posts about tech or startups that you feel should have had a discussion on HN, but didn't?

We definitely don't want any of HN's classic themes to become under-represented. But (a) people have been posting complaints like this for many years (which doesn't mean that they're wrong, just that it's hard to tell) and (b) they often appear in response to a few days' fluctuation in content, which happens naturally from time to time. If we get a surge in good general-interest submissions and that coincides with a dearth of major tech news, the front page is going to look different—but not because HN has changed.

Sometimes when people say that tech stories are less represented on HN than they used to be, I look at other sites (e.g. Techmeme) to see if they're covering anything notable that HN has missed. The answer is typically no. If anyone has an idea for how we can answer this question more systematically I'd love to hear it.

A quote from the Jargon file:

"Contrary to stereotype, hackers are not usually intellectually narrow; they tend to be interested in any subject that can provide mental stimulation, and can often discourse knowledgeably and even interestingly on any number of obscure subjects -- if you can get them to talk at all, as opposed to, say, going back to their hacking.

It is noticeable (and contrary to many outsiders' expectations) that the better a hacker is at hacking, the more likely he or she is to have outside interests at which he or she is more than merely competent."

While I agree that technology should remain the major focus of HN, I also find it important to keep up some diversity in the discussions. The most prominent character trait of a hacker is probably curiosity, and what kind of curiosity digs down into its little cubby hole and refuses to contemplate the world outside?

I would prefer that stories which hit the mainstream news ( e.g. NYT and Washington Post) didn't appear. HN has most value for me when submitters dig-up interesting stories, on any topic, that Big News ignores or just doesn't see.

Yes, and HN is so much better because of it.

This is not "Startup News" anymore. I wouldn't read that.

It's not so much "Startup News" but new technology coverage and technical articles. "Startup News" sounds more like stuff you'd read at Tech Crunch which are more trendy and fruitless IMO compared with articles often found here on HN.

I had missed the homeless one, just opened to read! That looks really interesting.

I am really happy with the balance between tech and interesting stuff in HN. That's why I read it daily.

There are guidelines for HN - the guiding light is "satisfies ones intellectual curiosity"

The link is at the bottom of the page.

The problem is ... Whose intellect?

> Top today for example are: Being homeless a struggle, even with a $100k job offer

Seems pretty on-topic for me.

> How cash is carried across Congo

Start-up ideas.

The other maybe not quite on topic, but interesting. Startups are not only about the tech-stack. The social side is very important too.

I would say: HN is about technology startups. Technology startups use technology to change human context. To understand new developments there, you need reports about three things: Startups, technology and human context.

As long as the political stuff stays out, especially the indirect stuff, I am fine with whats on the page provided it makes me think or gets me up to date in what is happening business wise.

Complaints like this were quite regular on the good old "Hacker News" so I conclude that HN is still "Hacker News"

I started reading HN because I thought I was joining a community of hackers -- technical people who were using their skills to make their way in the world. I came here specifically because of startups. At the time (HN was new), people who participated were supposed to be better-known by the YC folks and have a better chance of getting into YC.

Not only did I not get into YC, the conversation quickly became "stuff that hackers like". Folks got tired of marketing, business models, coding, and other detailed startup stuff. Startup stuff became less about "Hey, I'm doing X, how does Y work?" and more about celebrity bloggers. Then MSM posts, then the rags, and so forth.

Now it's like a reddit-lite. I'm not complaining, just pointing out that yes, there has been a big drift from where it started to where it is today.

And if anybody knows where the new HN is, please email me. Sure would be nice to hang out someplace like that.

Make it. Seriously, you could start with a private invite only sub-Reddit until you get enough users to move to your own site. Have you and a couple of trusted friends as mods and you can shape the culture. Seed it with stories and posts that you want to see.

Search HN for people who think there's not enough start up stuff here and invite them.

nergal, I totally understand your concerns... The question is that the meaning of a "hacker" in this community has changed. Now it is more of a positive than a negative word. As a person who reads "Hacker News" everyday, here I'm looking for everything that would be interesting for me as a human being, that will be original and out of the box. Here I read news about life hacking and that break the usual concepts, about discoveries in science, etc... Technical progress is changing everything so fast that now it is really easy for a normal guy like me to get into science and make some applications related to brain waves for example.

Despite from straying away from the literal meaning of the words "Hacker News" I think now this website is serving far higher goals. This also gives it great power and heavier responsibilities.

It's the evolution of the community. When Reddit first started, it was mostly tech related; however, now it's filled with every conceivable topic you can imagine. I find HN to have much better comments than what you would find in Reddit.

Yet HN totally feels like Reddit recently (mostly the Ask HN topics)

What? Currently there's an announcement that an immigration lawyer is going to provide advice; this meta thread; a question about safety of contributing to privacy tools like tor; a question about stock options when leaving a company; a question about solving binary challenges in Capture the Flags; a question about recruitment tools used by start ups.

There is a question about books - there are enough questions about books that someone could generate small amounts of passive income by scraping all the threads and listing the books on a nice clean site with affiliate links.

Which questions on AskHN do you think should not be there? Which do you think are poor quality?

If those stories reach front page, that means the hackers of hacker news find the interesting and on topic. It's only like that because people up vote them. It's not hacker news you have a problem with, it's the "hackers"

I'm fine with reading non-tech news. the problem is that hackernews doesn't have a category feature. so you see everything mixed together. but if it had a category/tag feature, it would be another reddit.

Software is transforming so much of the world that a modern discussion about "hacking" almost has to include these items. Maybe there could be some kind of tagging / category feature

The balance of people on HK shifted from entrepreneurs to wageslaves, so the content shifted accordingly. No offense to anybody, currently a wageslave myself.

If you decide to resubscribe in the next 10 days, HN will take 40% off your subscription price! Just use coupon code "UNICORN" at checkout.

This was never "Hacker News", but rather "Bay Area Nerds Drinking Too Much Startup Kool Aid".

The only thing that has decreased over time is the number of Lisp related submissions.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact