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How Product Hunt really works (medium.com)
695 points by brw12 on Dec 15, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 222 comments

Nothing can hurt a well-meaning first-time founder of some useful side-project business then to learn that a non-entity like Product Hunt is a rigged game where the inner circle are simply gaming the system for their friends and people whom they benefit from and will benefit.

From "top 3% of coders" to "your product will get 1st spot if you scratch our back with a small slice of the pie or counter-promote our product with yours" to "we will only invest in you if you get referred through an acquittance of ours", the game surely does feel more rigged each day.

The upper echelons of tech sure does share more similarities with high-finance then they would like to admit...

> "The upper echelons of tech"

Product Hunt is not the upper echolons of tech. It's a spam site who's founders have in the past have engaged in plenty of questionable behavior, including spamming founders of yc companies with "someone's left a comment on your product, you should respond!" emails when it was a Product Hunt employee leaving those comments in the first place.

Product Hunt is just an online catalog. I've never found it to be useful. It's basically where hackers and founders go to circle jerk each other and hope to get noticed, self declared early adopters can feel important about themselves, and more established goons get prominent placement.

It's rare, but there are some pretty shady types that get through YC. They usually focus more on "growth hacking" than actually building a useful product. Product Hunt fits right in there.

>It's rare, but there are some pretty shady types that get through YC.

I agree, but I wouldn't say Ryan Hoover is one of them.

Having paid extremely close attention to him and his company over the last couple years, I'm in complete agreement with this[0] comment. Whatever Product Hunt has become, it didn't get there out of malice. I suggest reading an excellent explanation[1] of how that's possible.

Being a near complete tech scene outsider myself, my honest read is that Ryan is a decent person. If he were the evil mastermind everyone is claiming, he'd have already raised a triple-digit series B on a unicorn trajectory.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10740770

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10740947

I agree.

what's a valid site that's like ph, but doesn't suck?

https://www.openhunt.co just launched!

Here are the key differences between them and ProductHunt - https://www.openhunt.co/differences

Does it feel more rigged because it is becoming more rigged or because the level of rigging that already exists in the ecosystem is becoming more visible?

It's pure deception. PH presents as egalitarian and meritocratic, but that's clearly horseshit. We need the right person to build a more transparent and credible alternative. They've straight-up lost me as a daily visitor.

> PH presents as egalitarian and meritocratic, but that's clearly horseshit.

From my experiences, Product Hunt is largely a byproduct of a greater scene in which this is very often the case. It is one of the things I dislike most about Silicon Valley, and is something I have tried hard to make sure I can avoid in some way or another. I have been better or worse at it at different times.

There appears to be a strong component of success-by-networking in the tech industry that I have tried to opt out of, largely because I am afraid that if I get too deep into the networking games, I will begin to lose an objective sense of what I can accomplish technically, and no longer be able to personally calibrate for myself whether or not my work can stand successfully on its own. I bought into a lot of the rhetoric of the endless meritocracy early on, and found the wizard behind the curtain is still often based upon the ol' boys club. Deciding to take this approach has probably hurt my career as a developer in many ways.

This type of stuff is why I have been afraid for years to contribute to sites like Hacker News, even though I have been lurking on this site for five or six years. It's a weird situation for an introvert, to want to be able to contribute to a community I have extracted so much value from, in hopes of adding some back to it in whatever way I can, but also being somewhat terrified of getting absorbed into the echo chamber.

Isn't PH just another example of the typical business cycle? Found a startup, get big, get bought out/go public, turn into crap, then another startup is founded to attempt to dethrone you, repeat ad infinitum.

Wow are you me?

Your fear of the PH approach is described over 8 lines of comment. For the first point. Maybe condensing things?

If I was a betting man, I'd bet their daily visitors have shrunk a fair bit the past few months. Who is the type of people who would even visit daily to discover random products that share no theme? Most of them probably are just checking for competitors or journalists looking for a story. Not real actual users. This their downfall.

I don't think this is true at all, and I would bet the opposite. They are bringing in live chats/podcasts/etc and going outside of their normal demographics. If anything it is similar how reddit used AMAs (by Obama, etc) to expand the reach of the platform to a wider audience.

This post makes sense to me in a way that I half understood earlier. What I mean is, I would see the front page apps/services and they would be mediocre a lot of times and then I would compare these front page listings to what I used to see earlier and I would find that the trend is changing. Also, not always the top listing was mediocre, sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn't. There are other such venues and many a times I would find same products listed there too and the their relative rankings would be very different. I never paid too much attention though.

Then they have this - very few people can vote or comment, others can just visit their sites even though they are willing to login via Twitter and in fact do login via Twitter. It is like a walled garden, or a house where you can take a peek but can't choose the window, or the perspective. It felt like they feed information to the visitors (their audience I mean - me, us) and the visitors are supposed to take everything at a face value.

It will be worse (kind of it already is) when PH becomes a very mainstream player of product launches.

Honestly for weekend projects, Show HN fulfills that need for me.

I was a very heavy Product Hunt user at one time, but eventually I found it addicting. There's just too much cool novelty.

A JavaScript library that will radically simplify my life.

A new digital nomad ebook to save thousands of dollars.

A new service that will save me from writing generic web scraper code every again.

It became too much of a time sink. I really would like a 10-minute per day audio digest version.

(Not the original commenter, and I can only speak from my perspective, having started working in Bay Area tech in the pre-Netscape 90s.)

I don't know that it has become more corrupt than it was ca. 1998-99, but I would say that the sleaze is shocking to people I tell stories to in other industries. Sleazy people are everywhere, but fast money and the apparent lack of a functioning institutional memory makes for easy marks.

I don't know if it is as bad as finance, as I've never worked in finance. I would guess not quite, for two reasons: (1) not as much money, even though the amounts have certainly grown, and (2) the environment changes more in startupland, which upsets some classes of comfy arrangements. But that's intuition-driven guesswork, with some residual loathing for ibankers for seasoning.

These are excellent points. Having worked in both worlds, I agree wholeheartedly with (2). One is also true, but I would add the proviso that SV's influence is far greater than its pure monetary firepower.

Consider: -Recruiting-wise, tech is clearly in the ascendancy, from the kids who genuinely want to code to the MBA types who eschew Wall Street for SOMA.

-Media-wise, tech captures a huge share of mind. Consider the hagiography of Steve Jobs.

-Policy-wise, privacy and the Overton Window. Allegations like PRISM. Censorship. Social media's role in political upheavals from the Arab Spring to ISIS recruitment.

For all these reasons it's not only shocking when people find out about tech's corruption. That corruption also matters immensely to the direction in which the world moves.

One thing that makes it feel more like a slap in the face is the current perception of openness.

Folks like Fred Wilson and PG are doing their part to give the impression that everything is open and kinda-sorta known, which wasn't true 15 years ago.

The fact that it's still about equally sleazy then comes as kind of a shock.

Fred Wilson and especially PG have created a dangerous cult of personality around the narrative of the ethical hacker.

Young folks in their 20s and 30s have unfortunately fallen for this narrative hook, line, and sink.

It's very sad when you think of all the wasted man hours, much of it during one's prime, spent pursuing this startup game—inspired in large part by writings from VCs like PG and FW.

PG and Sama present this picture of YC and SV being a place of meritocracy, that aspires to be free of racial or gender bias, where everyone is working on ethical world/life-changing projects.

Old-timers know this is a lie. New-comers are starting to uncover the truth themselves. Those of you who live in SV... just ask yourself how important it is these days where you went to school, what places you worked at, who you know, etc. I was at a hip SF bar the other day. Reminded me totally of DC. Everyone you meet, the same questions:

So what do you do? Where do you goto school? Where do you work?

> PG and Sama present this picture of YC and SV being a place of meritocracy, that aspires to be free of racial or gender bias,

I think the bias here goes way beyond race and gender, it's more about your connections and living in SV, so basically people who have worked at big companies in SV and been in contact with VCs or people able to introduce them to VCs. For the rest of us, we're just left out of the game. SV is just the place to be if you want to get a better chance at the startup game, something I'm personally not willing to do. Moving to SV isn't needed though to be successful as a startup but it definitely helps, case in point here being producthunt. I totally agree though that producthunt (and others) should be more transparent, this really makes them look bad and frustrates the community.

>It's very sad when you think of all the wasted man hours, much of it during one's prime, spent pursuing this startup game—

Speaking from first hand experience: after a while you kind of realize that even if you succeed, you'd have ended up far more wealthy in any true sense of the word had you instead lived those years to their fullest rather than having followed the startup path.

PG may be a bit over optimistic about good triumphing but personality cult seems a bit inaccurate, certainly if you look at the Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult_of_personality

I'm not saying that PG has built a cult of personality around himself, but rather around the narrative of the ethical, hard-working, pull your own bootstraps, outsider hacker hero.

Think Steve Jobs, Zuck, etc.

> I'm not saying that PG has built a cult of personality around himself

Heh. Are you kidding? Paul Graham could post a fart on Hacker News and it'd get 1200 upvotes in 10 minutes.

That's a non sequitur. Not only did pg not build a cult of personality around himself, he has a complete horror of it.

PG's reputation, including on HN, is because of his essays and what he did with YC.

The point is not whether PG actively set out to build a cult of personality. The point is that it exists today. I tend to agree with the GP comment about PG's gaseous emissions.

Exists != built.

That's exactly the point I was making (that is, not agreeing with the "built a cult of personality" part someone said at the top of this thread but pointing out that it exists anyway and the consequences are the same either way)

AFAICT it's been rigged since the beginning. I'm just glad someone took the time to finally understand / document what's actually happening.

It's always been rigged and it always will be, so long as there is a significant amount of money involved and people act as they have for millenia. The problem is that we keep letting them make us forget this, and when we don't remember this we can't act to mitigate the problem in whatever ways we can.

Silicon Valley has definitely become more of an insider's game. Just look at the recent crop of VCs whose primary credential is membership in the Lucky Sperm Club. Pretty soon, 'society' bs will pick winners as much as talent and hard work.

> The upper echelons of tech sure does share more similarities with high-finance then they would like to admit...

Where do you think they all came from?

I was under the impression that today's VC guys were tech startup founders themselves 15 years ago. Is that incorrect?

This is somewhat true. There are far more former founders in the VC ranks than 15-20-30 years ago when it was dominated by old-crust finance, old money types.

That said, the vast majority of the new incoming class of VCs (think associates, VPs, etc.) are mostly freshly minted MBAs with 2-3 years of post college experience, typically spent at a management consultancy, investment bank (or related prestigious front-office work at PEs, HFs, etc.), or in corporate strategy for a F500.

These people are definitely smart, with great pedigrees from the best schools. I'm just not sure they know a damn thing about the nitty gritty work of building a company. These are people who sat in boardrooms hunched over excel models and used to scheduling a million meetings to discuss strategy. Not rolling up their sleeves and executing.

I say all of this as someone with this background and with many peers who fit this mold.

Thank you for your honesty.

Speaking of "PH is rigged by insiders," it's worth noting that a "top user" is selling a book on how to best pander to the PH userbase: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00TP3MFHE/ref=mp_s_a_1_5?qid=...

This is an odd racket, to say the least.

Re/code wrote a relevant article a few months back (http://recode.net/2015/06/18/product-hunt-the-startup-kingma...) about Product Hunt elitism, which I was interviewed for and the response from the PH team to the article was essentially "haters gonna hate." It's disappointing that nothing has changed since then, and arguably, things have gotten worse.

I don't go to PH anymore, too many cookie cutter prototypes, often with some annoying self-importance. I do think there are neat collections which are fun to browse, but it's not a platform for launching, or discovering the next thing in tech or anything quite like that. Mostly entertainment... I might have felt differently almost a year ago. Not sure what exactly changed.

And yeah, the elitism is a thing too, but now it's pretty much open to everyone... pretty trivial to get an invite.

Seriously. My first introduction to PH was when Tuft & Needle was linked to it a few years ago. For several months after that I was hooked daily to the site. I couldn't believe all these innovative companies existed that I could have never found on HN. But once they started to get popular the quality of the products just went down the drain. The number of apps that make it to not just the front page but often on of the top ranked that "help you meditate" or "help you break life habits" is unreal. Also the "elitism" is shown through the fact that most of the products are now products used by startups whereas in the beginning it used to be mostly products the general public can use. I rarely use PH anymore. I'll take a look at it here and then, but definitely not a main source of discovery anymore.

What is a shame about it is that they had a rare opportunity in that they actually had traction and buzz around PH.

If they had taken a different attitude and truly tried to make it THE launch platform, they could have done amazing things. They could have democratized a big chunk of it, and still had promoted positions that could generate revenue for them.

PH can feel a lot like a popularity contest and a SV insider's club, not like a democratization of launch.

Doesn't it just mean that the launch platform space is ripe fo disruption?

Send me fifty bucks for my book, "how to get people to send you $50 for your book"

Wow. I'd be fascinated to know how well this book sells.

Seems like a 8 dollar add for their promotional services, really.

PH Is the ultimate bubble startup. A literal circlejerk wrapped in some clean CSS and nice JS.

Get used to shit like this as increasingly more MBAs flock to the valley...

For those older in the community, the archetype of the honorable hacker - does it still exist?

Hard to find the Wozs of the world in the sea of douchetastic MBAs and former consultant/bankers. My personal favorite is the wave of MBA VC Associates every summer and fall.

Recently had dinner with a founder who kept on going about his "personal brand" and leveraging that to waste other peoples' money until he struck it big!

Hacker News is a long-running, open, inclusive startup community that is subsidized by a related business, doesn't sell anything, and has proven time and again to do things good for the entire startup community.

Product Hunt is a new, closed, exclusive startup community run by a for-profit company that will eventually have to start selling you something.

Not sure why people complain about PH so much... just don't use it. There already is a perfectly good community of startup people out there that has much more incentive to stay "pure" than a for-profit one. Sure, HN isn't perfect, but fundamentally it is always going to be better than any for-profit communities.

(And also this obligatory comment: If you want to build a successful company, stop wasting your time browsing startup communities and spend your time talking with users and building your product)

Stripe insiders have been leaking sales numbers and fraud numbers of stripe merchants to the press lately. (Without permission from the merchants).

None of those articles have been successful on Hacker News, despite the fact that they are materially important to many of our businesses. (When and why are businesses metrics and Stripe support emails leaked to the press? Was that against company policy? Has the issue that caused it been addressed?)


(Stripe's CEO here.) It is ​emphatically​ against our policy. The employee involved was identified before the article was published and they no longer work at Stripe.

Why did an employee feel motivated to leak that data? What processes have you put in place to prevent a repeat of the event?

Those are the sort of questions that should be addressed in public, not in a side discussion on an unrelated comment thread.

But the actual point of my comment was that HN may have a bit of the PH filtering effect going on.

Why do we not know who he is? Is it not a crime in the US to leak/steal data and leak it to third parties?

You've released this scumbag back into the pool to continue his shenanigans elsewhere.

You've covered your ass, and now he's someone else's problem, right?

My guess would be they are covering their bases legally.

I have heard several stories from small business owners who fire an employee who was stealing or committing some other crime, but they don't actively tell anyone who calls for a reference because they don't want to open themselves up to legal issues.

Even if Stripe can prove that the person did this, potential lawsuits could be incredibly distracting and expensive.

Actually that article made it into our second-chance pool (see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10705926 and earlier posts linked from there), which placed it on the front page, where it stayed for about 90 minutes. Its problem was that it got few upvotes.

It was also penalized by the flamewar detector (because there was a super active discussion relative to the upvotes). Had we seen that we would have taken the penalty off, but it wouldn't have made much difference because that wasn't why it fell off the front page to begin with.

Because it's a BuzzFeed story. BuzzFeed still isn't taken seriously as a real source of news even if that isn't fair any longer.

There already is a perfectly good community of startup people out there that has much more incentive to stay "pure" than a for-profit one.

Until you finally launch, submit a Show HN to have your perceived turn in the sun and it completely bombs. I can see why people look to alternatives for a chance to get feedback or traction for their product, whether it's dominated by insiders or not.

I don't visit Product Hunt but have had a product top their daily list on launch and it was helpful. The equivalent Show HN didn't really go anywhere.

> Until you finally launch, submit a Show HN to have your perceived turn in the sun and it completely bombs

We sometimes invite people to repost those or (if not too much time has gone by) we give them a second shot at the front page. There's one on the front page now: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10730695.

Helping the best content to surface is hard. Anyone who knows of a good post that deserves a second chance should email us (hn@ycombinator.com). Eventually we may build support for this into the software.

I can attest. I had two submissions that were inexplicably removed from the front page (both Show HN's). I emailed to ask why and in both instances dang reinstated my submissions.

Were you told why they were removed from the front page? That's more interesting to me/the community than the fact he reinstated.

As dang said, 1st time was due to false positive on the ring detector. He just asked me honor system style. That was cool, but even cooler, when it was reinstated kevin, YC partner, commented with some practical/usable feedback. This was a thing kevin and dang coordinated on a couple Fridays, and I hope they continue or even expand that effort for the community.

The 2nd time I think it was a flagging, maybe people didn't agree it should have been a Show HN.

We always tell people. False positives by the voting ring detector in that case, IIRC.

Appreciate your work Dan, just saying that I can see why people stray from the "perfectly good" community: because when it comes time to finally have your launch moment, it's so tough on HN. And I bet it feels like a kick in the guts for people who've slaved over their app and finally talked themselves into showing people what they've been working on.

And it's tougher again without asking friends to give you a boost and if you're outside the main active timezones.

If there was a top bracket or sidebar that helped bring Show/Ask topics to the attention of all users, that would help IMO. There's also no incentive to upvote topics, no explicit messaging "Should this make HN front page for a bit?" or "Was this good?", so I bet many don't hit the arrow.

There could be a lot of different reasons why your "Show HN" wasn't successful. Applying that to every "Show HN" is not correct.

My experience was very different from yours. Stayed on the front page 16 hours, spot #5 for 5 hours (iirc). Similar to you, I had to work myself up to even submit it. I procrastinated 2 hours before posting. Only told 1 friend I had posted. However, I'd consider mine very successful. I did not expect it to be, because if I had, I would have increased the Digital Ocean droplet and my server would not have crashed. Of the ~5 hours I was at spot #5, my server was down almost 3 hours between 3 different crashes.

I say this on reddit often, between Show HN and PH, people give PH way too much credit. Show HN is a great launching platform, just remember who the audience is.

There are countless Show HNs that never make the front page. I'd guess far more don't make it than do. And I think the average Show HN is far better than the average HN submission.

But that can happen anywhere. The question is did you post succeed or fail because of the random luck, the merit of the post, or because of some built in bias within the system.

For example, if I tried to post my new product on Product Hunt it wouldn't do very well because I'm not allowed to post there. This blog post is arguing even if I could post there it wouldn't do well if an insider didn't promote it heavily.

On HN, anybody can post a "Show HN" and have it appear under the "Show HN" section. It is unlikely to gain any significant traffic or traction on the main site, but that is because there is a crap load of content being submitted all the time and readers have very limited attention.

I think there are a lot of smart ideas HN could do to make the front page better, and it isn't perfect. But HN wants your "Show HN" to go well, and then have you go form a company and apply to YC. A for profit community wants your post to do badly so you have to pay to get it to do well.

I had the opposite experience (illustrating that our stories are just anecdotal), but I don't blame Product Hunt at all -- I was grateful for the chance to be featured on their main page. My Show HN brought ~6K visitors in the first two days where my PH post brought <1K. I didn't know anyone, just emailed their team and... added PH to the extension (no one asked me to, just thought it'd be cool).

[1] Show HN: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9992735 [2] PH: https://www.producthunt.com/tech/kiwi-conversations

Admittedly, it was a bit humbling to see a cat "meow" soundboard quickly surpass my project on PH -- but like I said, no regrets.

Not trying to draw a comparison between traffic levels, but saying that it's very easy to submit and bomb on HN, and so drive users to an alternative as their next hope. Obviously some people submit anywhere and everywhere.

But if HN is a home to many of us, it'd be nice if it was also a viable testing ground for our new projects, feedback, etc.

It wasn't just traffic: it was the feedback. I got over 50 comments on HN on about 55 votes. on PH, I got 3 comments on about 35 votes. If HN is known as being too negative, I find PH comments come from almost forced optimism -- people are too cautious with what they say at the expense of constructive feedback.

FWIW, HN is implicitly biased towards YC companies, because posts by YC founders show up in a different color to other YC founders, which is an implicit voting ring of sorts.

This may no longer be the case; it was the case a few years ago to my knowledge.

YC alumni see each other's usernames in orange. That plus the job post on the front page are the two YC-specific things that HN has. Both have been in place for a long time, and moderators try to be meticulous about not giving special treatment beyond that. (I say "try to be" because no one is the best judge of their own biases. But we do try hard, sometimes to the point of overcompensating.)

I don't think the colored usernames affect voting ring activity much. YC alumni and startups certainly are not exempt from the penalties we put on such activity, and frequently get hit by them. The first thing we always tell YC founders is not to solicit upvotes for posts because that backfires.

Even if there is no upvote requesting, this does bias YC founders to upvote other founders' posts, when they organically check the front page.

Maybe, but I'm pretty sure the effect is small. For example, there aren't any posts by YC founders on the front page right now. And votes by YC founders mostly wouldn't be enough to move a story in ways that would escape the ring detector.

I'm pretty sure that the only privileged positions YC holds on HN today are the top-left link and the job posts that are not eligible for votes or comments.

And writing the algorithms. And setting policies. And employing the moderator. And ...

Whether this privileged position leads to different treatment for YC companies is a different question -- as Dan says, they try not to be biased and potentially even overcompensate. Still, the privileged position is certainly there.

You're exactly right—it's a privileged position, and a delicate one. Without the trust and the interest of the community, HN wouldn't be worth much, so those are the two things we care about most.

The author handles show up in a different color to other YC founders. That's another benefit.

Reminds me: Check the "show" (hacker news) link on the main menu more often.

HN is equally rigged. The mods regularly change headlines, remove posts, and allow YC companies to post on the front page.

1. Headlines are changed to match the article verbatim, or if the article is linkbait, the title is changed to nonlinkbait (the latter might be more frequent case from your submission history)

2. Again, users flag. Rarely moderators remove posts other than that.

3. Those are job ads, which have a set decay time and always start at #6.

I think you're off on 2 and 3 - although I only have anecdata to make me believe so.

On point 2: I've often found posts which are gaining traction on the homepage which do not subscribe to the 'scale fast'-centric belief system of YC are pulled. Most recently this one by DHH:


3. They're not all job ads. Stripe updates their API and it goes straight to #1? Come on...

2. Er, the Medium version of that article got 906 points: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10506422

3. Stripe is a rather large company that happens to be a YC company. Keep in mind that Product Hunt is YC too and you're commenting on a negative article about it currently ranked at #4 on the front page.

I didn't see either version of the article and I visit HN several times throughout the day. You'd think an article with such a high vote count and low comment count would stick around much longer than it did - there's even mention of its amazing disappearing act in the comments.

2. I don't see what its performance on Medium has to do with it. My point is that it was a perfectly good article pulled from the front page.

3. There are plenty of rather large companies that don't get as much attention here as Stripe does (I don't have anything against Stripe btw, just using them as an example in this case).

If HN pulled this article it would be pretty damning on the part of YC. The placement of this article in question does not disprove my previous points.

FWIW, I've enjoyed relatively decent success from my own product launches on HN.

EDIT: re: medium - I mistook you the first time. Apologies. My point still stands re: posts being pulled.

> 2. I don't see what its performance on Medium has to do with it. My point is that it was a perfectly good article pulled from the front page.

Oh come on now, you've been here long enough to know that HN attempts to avoid duplicates within days of each other. Of course that one was pulled when the other post of the same content had a huge upvote count and lively discussion.

If you look at the submission history for signalvnoise.com you'll see that this article was submitted many times and most of them were marked as duplicates by users (including me, probably, at least I remember noticing how often it was submitted), often with a link to the highly-voted post.

If you want a response to this and you don't see one here in the next few hours (I'll try, but can't right now), you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com. The short version is that you're partly right on #2 but probably less than you think, and definitely not on #3.

Edit: ok, here you go. Long, but hard to make shorter.

Here are all the things that can make a post fall in rank: user flags, software penalties (for voting rings, flamewars, etc.), and moderator downweights. All try to optimize HN for the core value of the site—intellectual curiosity—and all are mechanisms to countervail the upvoting system in some way. Why? Because pure upvoting optimizes for other things than intellectual curiosity, such as outrage, gossip, and gaming the system.

Think of HN like a flower garden. The flowers are stories that gratify intellectual curiosity, and to have these we must protect the garden against weeds, rabbits, motor vehicles, and other things that otherwise would soon take over.

User flags and software take care of much, but not all, so moderation is needed. (We'd love to make it not be needed, but that's a hard problem.) Our criteria for downweighting come from a general sense of what attracts upvotes for reasons other than intellectual interest. It's not about what we personally believe, or have a vested interest in, or even what we happen to be interested in ourselves, with the possible exception of APL.

When we downweight, we try to use a light touch. When you see a story plummet off the front page, it probably wasn't moderators who did that (or there was a clear-cut reason, such as a duplicate). In judgment call cases, we're more likely to make a story go from #1 to #4. It's all about balance.

You may reply that "a general sense" is hopelessly subjective, and I'd have to agree, yet it's not as subjective as you might think. For example, we wouldn't downweight a substantive article about startups just because it disagreed with YC's philosophy. We might do so if it included a lot of tricks to stir up controversy. Do you see the difference? The latter is procedural; not much different than editing linkbait out of titles. If you do this job across tens of thousands of stories, and you're conscious of the obvious biases, you can mostly guard against them, especially since the same patterns come up over and over.

Not sure if I've succeeded here in getting across the gist of what we do, but I hope it helps a bit.

As for #3, that's an easy one. We don't give YC startups extra favor when it comes to boosting stories. If a Stripe API went to #1, that was because the community heavily upvoted it. We also are less likely, not more, to downweight stories when they are critical about a YC startup, such as the thread we're currently commenting in.

Can you comment on how much influence #hnwatch has on flagging things off the first page?


For those who don't know, they're a group on Twitter who organize brigades against what they perceive to be tech bro culture on HN.

Hmm, no idea. But we don't see a lot of flag brigading on HN, and there aren't that many posts in that list, so I guess the effect is minimal?

A surprising thing about HN is that the flagging system works remarkably well compared to the voting system. You'd think (well, I'd have thought) that they wouldn't be so different, but they are.

Interesting, thanks for the reply!

If you look at HN ranking trackers then you'll see there are definitely artificial adjustments to the rankings of articles. Mostly that is downwards but sometimes upwards too.

HN is mostly fair, but don't trick yourself into believing it is completely fair.

There are factors beyond naive weightings, as well. I remember reading somewhere that if a thread becomes too heated or turns into a flamewar, the mods have the ability to suppress it in the rankings artificially to let it cool off. That functionality makes sense, but wouldn't be easily identified in a third-party tracker.

A lot of comments here seem to be assigning moderation as bias.

Ya - I think #1 is crap. If it gets upvoted then let it stay. Let the people decide what they want - not one person. IF that's the case, just get rid of upvoting completely and make this all about the mods.

I understand the logic there, but it would mean the end of HN, because intellectual curiosity is not the most powerful curiosity, even among intellectually-oriented people.

> Let the people decide what they want

That isn't valid when the linkbait nature of titles entices uses to upvote content they otherwise would not have.

This shouldn't be downvoted. HN is far from a meritocracy. Gamey as f*ck.

  Sure, HN isn't perfect
One of the biases that affects HN is the demographics. A lot of the HNers I would assume are working at big tech firms and their stories gets (unintentionally) upvoted to the front page as normalizing this feature would be quite difficult.

"eventually have to start selling you something"

I'm pretty sure they already are. See any ads on Product Hunt? Turns out the entire site is an ad. I wouldn't at all be surprised if companies like Microsoft paid PH to get on the front page.

Interesting... isn't ProductHunt a YC company?

Below is a mail I sent in response to a Recode article in June about Product Hunt. Summary : horribly elitist and what the Valley should avoid becoming.

I'm almost never harsh to a fellow founder but I thank God Ryan Hoover doesn't weild much influence. Wrong hands to expect equity or fairness.


Hi Carmel,

I'm following up with you about your post on PH.


There is insane bias towards outsiders of the club. Here is my case in point.

I submitted my startup https://callbase.co up to FIVE times and it was never approved. However aircall.io a competitor has made the front page TWICE in that period.

Of course having a handle @OoTheNigerian does not help :D

As at the time my second submission was being rejected, Mattermark's Newsletter was making the front-page as a product (1 of 5 http://www.producthunt.com/tech/mattermark-4#!/s/posts/matte...). Yup, ridiculous. (i have absolutely nothing against the great work Danielle is doing).

This is one of several.

I sent Ryan (copied) a stongly worded email after several ignored ones and he "offered" to allow mine through on a weekend. Lol.

This is just a case in point how hard outsiders (I live in Lagos, Nigeria) find it in the quest for success. Silicon Valley is a meritocracy but you have to be seen first to be considered. No?

Of course, it is his platform and can do whatever he wants with it. However, it should be clear to him what he is doing. Perpetuating the cycle of the powerful being more powerful.

It would be nice to see the demographic representation of his all powerful voting clique.

After reading this Ryan may (or not after seeing this) now go posting about us when we may be asleep or not ready.

Great write up BTW!

Interested in your thoughts, HN. I tried to write from a place of compassion and not be all haterating.

Matter-of-fact writing and great images. Very well done.

And I think you've just made Product Hunt insiders a lot more popular...

Fair enough but https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/800/1*reUE0OYzV119seobZY... really feels like the only real takeaway I have from that post.

I thought you struck a good tone while pointing out the insider advantage and how everybody seems to take its existence for granted in their descriptions of how to succeed. It certainly didn't come across to me as haterating.

Surely if your app's sole source of success is a spending a short amount of time on some website's front page, you have bigger issues with your business strategy?

Go back a few years and everyone used to talk about their struggles getting featured on TechCrunch; I didn't believe it was make-or-break back then either.

He is just pointing that game is rigged and a lot of articles promote how egalitarian everything is, how it is meritocracy. As someone also pointed out, there is somewhat similar thing here as well, just, I feel it is more clear what is happening.

Yes, it is like TechCrunch :).

A big challenge super early companies/products have is getting eyeballs on the product. PH can get you thousands of users with little to no effort. So it's not about your product living or dying from PH, but it can take startups months to get that kind of feedback from users using the product. It won't determine success, but can certainly put you on that path.

We ended up being featured on PH's front page after one of these "insiders" found us on twitter, and posted us. Had no affiliation to us. Got hundreds of upvotes, and thousands of users to try our product out. Over time we lost all our PH users, but the feedback from them was awesome, and is likely what has kept us around 6 months later.

So not the sole reason, but definitely a significant one.

The way I look at is as an opportunity cost for both producers and consumers.

In place of a valuable app/product, what the consumers would get is a lemon.

The only time I ever hear about Product Hunt is in the once- in- a- blue- moon posts like this I see about it on HN.

Do people take PH seriously?

It reminds me of TechCrunch some years back. A Silicon Valley echo chamber perceived as a gateway to success, with a heavy emphasis on an initial "launch" bump. Maybe helpful for getting investor attention and media coverage within that techie bubble, but not so much for building a sustainable customer base. Product Hunt is the same but with a thicker veneer of openness.

It's taken very seriously by the tech-savvy but non-engineering business crowd. Especially with their implementation of AMAs with VCs/founders. (But very few with actual technical discussion)

At the end of the day, it's basically a link aggregator, how serious of a tone should we even take with it?

Just as a consumer, in my mind PH is just a place with some links to newly launched "stuff".

People seem to want to hit the top of PH and HN but at the end of the day both are probably as valuable as a medium-popularity subreddit if you're just looking for advertising. One difference being that HN comments have always seemed more (for lack of a better word) worthwhile.

I don't know about seriously but I used to like it a lot more when it was just a list of new apps and sites. Now there is a bunch of big pictures I ignore and a narrow band of 4-5 apps and a bunch of other stuff I don't go to producthunt for.

I am so happy to read this article and I commend Ben Wheeler on bringing it to light. I had written a similar article in July but did not publish it as I was promoting a new version of my site. I was afraid to speak out because I believed it would hurt my chances of getting funded. I should have gone with my convictions. I have now published it. [1]

Ryan Hoover has not only outsourced VC product discovery, he has outsourced its class system too. It's incredibly disheartening to be outside the loop, trying to get your product noticed, and submitting it to what you think is a free system only to have other products by well-connected insiders block it out.

When I saw Hoover and Jason Calacanis congratulating each other on Twitter I knew immediately what was going on. Despite multiple emails, Hoover wouldn't even give me access so I could comment on competing products. I'm glad this is coming back to bite him and his investors too -- they went along with it.

I don't expect anything to change because sites are a reflection of the personality of the people who run them and Hoover has already shown he is completely corrupt. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.


None of these people are bosses or gatekeepers!

Even if I gave you a magical power where anytime you wanted your site would simultaneously be posted on Techcrunch, #1 on HN and #1 on Product Hunt, it probably would make no difference in your success or failure. The bosses and gatekeepers are the people that try your product once, and decide if it is better than the 500 things they are already doing in their lives.

You can spend your whole life getting caught up in the perceived unfairness of it all, but that isn't going to help your company become any more successful. The tech press (and quite a few startup communities) are sirens that call you in and try to sabotage you in every way possible. Just ignore them, or at least minimize how much they are affecting your mental state.

The tech press affects primarily two things:

(1) Your ability to raise early-stage funding

(2) Your ability to hire engineering & product talent

Getting these two things won't guarantee success, nor will not getting these things preclude it. But there is a pretty strong correlation when you try to scale.

> I don't expect anything to change because sites are a reflection of the personality of the people who run them and Hoover has already shown he is completely corrupt.

I'm sorry but that view is cynical and overdramatic. Have you ever tweeted @rrhoover? He's actually a pretty cool guy and very in touch with the community.

AFAIK no one got comment access by asking... (at least in the early days) you got it for being a creator or being granted comment access by another commenter. Doesn't everyone have comment access now?

I don't care how nice he is. I don't care how mean Steve Jobs was. I judge leaders by the products they make.

I was initially really excited to learn about Product Hunt and what it meant to the existing ecosystem: Diversity.

An independent contender in the war for eyeballs/voice in the hacking/tech/entrepreneurship community -- how exciting! I would imagine while their motivations might be similar to what YC wants with HN (distribution, influence), they could possibly open up and serve new members in the ecosystem that aren't, can't, or don't want to be a part of the HN/YC pipeline.

Building a working group of heterogenous independent sources to serve new and exciting topics is important to breaking out of the echo chamber we so often create for ourselves within tech. I was hoping Product Hunt could bootstrap the entire venture, stay clean, and true to the spirit of a meritocracy.

Then they went through YC, and now I see the same "influencers" there as I do here, with the same system in place to promote their own vested interests. It just makes me slightly sad that the pressures of succeeding create collusion among players in this market, thereby perhaps obscuring the potential for new/interesting/different emergent technologies/startups to thrive.

Among my peers, over time PH has become less of a community set out to serve the good of the people, and instead has become more of a pipeline for quick sales or testing new ideas, leaving a feeling of what can only be described previously as the "Tech Crunch of Initiation".

Product Hunt has essentially supplanted Tech Crunch in the YC/TC relationship of yesteryear, albeit to an even more perilous extent. Products are no longer vetted by working professional journalists, whose obligation should be to the consumer and not the producer, but rather by the very product's investors, advisors, and "insiders".

We therefore must ask what is the value-add here? Is it truly a wonder that it proves marginal, and perhaps even detrimental, to the long term success of the startup community as a whole?

I don't visit Product Hunt much, but I do follow their founder on Twitter.

He seems like a super well-intentioned person, so I'm surprised to read all of the commentary here on HN. Am I being duped by some Product Hunt scam that I'm completely oblivious to?

No one starts out intending to build a corrupt ecosystem. But when money and it's proxies ( attention, publicity, buzz, etc. ) are flowing around the incentives shift.

The people Product Hunt tapped with editorial control were given that power because PH thought they would best serve the needs of their audience that way.

And like most such networks it starts off as a relatively egalitarian deal, but rapidly accrues winners and barriers to later entrants.

The lesson here is that if the existing networks are closed to you, then you should go ahead and build your own.

And then someday you too can be accused of being an evil mastermind ;-)

Startup founders care way too much about getting featured on HN, PH, TechCrunch etc. If you look at the successful startups of that last few years (http://techcrunch.com/unicorn-leaderboard/) many of them were successful before they were even noticed by the technorati. Unless your product is specifically targeted to these people, you are wasting your time.

I had a similar experience and I guess I am naive because I did let it bother me.

Someone submitted my site to PH a couple months ago, it got up-voted 20+ times in that "upcoming" area but never was moved to the front page. I believe it ended that first day with more up-votes than some of the products that were featured.

I reached out to the PH guys on twitter and they told me to get more people to vote for it or something to that effect. I noticed a few of products jumping straight to the front page without the upcoming purgatory.

I have read a number of comments writing these issues off to the fact that PH is a "for profit" company. I think that is a bit too jaded an opinion to have no expectations for this to ever be different. My understanding is that Reddit does not suffer these same issues. I think a for-profit venture could actually benefit greatly by being transparent. I think it would take founders that are looking further down the road than the PH guys appear to be and not getting caught up in the immediate gratification of glad-handing and being part of an 'inner elite.'

Full disclosure, I still look at PH pretty regularly. :-p

It always surprises me when people get bent out of shape when they learn that blogs and forums are rigged to favor a certain group of people. There's A LOT of money to be had and if you think places like Product Hunt, Reddit, HN, etc. aren't all being rigged in some way, you're naive.

There are ways to optimize submissions to Reddit/Hacker News for upvotes, yes. (and I've done a lot of research on both services.) However, I would say that neither is rigged; that is, moderators don't control what is seen on the front page. (Although in the case of HN, moderators have bumped up good posts which have not been upvoted, which is a positive intervention)

Product Hunt, as noticed in the article, requires shennanigans to be successful. The real problem here is that PH presents itself as a meritocracy when it really isn't, and it has mislead naive entrepreneurs into thinking a given product is "good" when it truly isn't.

Correction: HN mods often flag posts down. Almost on a very regular basis. They do this for the larger good.

No, those are mostly by users. And in the case where an article is falsely flagged to death, the new vouch system corrects that.

I thought the "vouch" system only applied to dead things. Is that not correct?

You can only vouch once something has become flagged, but then it works against the flags. (and if only a few users have flagged a post, it is likely to become unflagged by that)

Works for both dead and flagged.

As far as I know that's not mods, that's regular users.

minimaxir is talking about the small repost-bump that some posts get.

The rigging that goes on in Reddit isn't done by the Reddit staff and their friends is the major difference.

Reddit is reasonably resistant to that sort of thing by its userbase as well. Reddit is not resistant to marketers with budgets who can produce quality content masquerading as users. And tbh, such content creation/curation by such people is beneficial to the community precisely because it contains a certain level of quality.

The only place I've found that not to be true is in smaller subreddits where a single digit number of votes is enough to push content up.

Hacker News does function similar to PH tho but [unlike PH] its both open and obvious. [i.e. Everyone knows who the list of YC companies are]

> Hacker News does function similar to PH tho but [unlike PH] its both open and obvious. [i.e. Everyone knows who the list of YC companies are]

Exactly. YC doesn't even attempt to hide their favoritism of their own companies on HN (an obvious example is only letting YC companies post job ads). My comment was more about understanding that favoritism and rigged systems are real, not that they are right or wrong.

HN does favor YC startups by letting them post job ads, and YC alums by coloring their usernames. It's important to realize, though, that those two things are all the special treatment YC companies get on HN.

Some other things people sometimes think we do, like promote or penalize stories because they're YC-related, we consciously err on the side of not doing. That's the #1 rule of HN moderation and was literally the first thing pg taught me about it.

YC is transparent.

ProductHunt is not.

Transparency in the favoritism allows one to operate with full knowledge of which parties benefit.

I guess the way the world works is that there's a certain amount of meritocracy in any given system, but it only accounts for like 20% of success.

in other words, somebody's agenda is always being turned into 'reality'.

Apparently I'm not cynical enough, because I was surprised by this. Does Reddit's front page work the same way?

No. Reddit's front page ranking has no hidden metagaming from the mods. (The most they can do is hide it)

I believe you can check the ones that were dropped in the "Undelete" sub.


Which is probably why certain topics get swiftly disappeared from the front page. Although I'm sure there is/was work underway on tools to automate this.

Most large subreddits run AutoModerator to pre-filter submissions.

In terms of submissions getting to the front page and disappearing, that's a different issue entirely than insider privilege (namely, highly selective rule enforcement). The subreddit /r/undelete captures these incidents.

AutoModerator, by far the most popular reddit moderation automation solution, was integrated with reddit about 8 months ago[0], making it "official". It has lots of options, i haven't played with it that heavily

[0]: https://www.reddit.com/r/changelog/comments/30z70k/reddit_ch...

PH is more like a collaboratively edited magazine where the founders have selected a large group of friends to act as a top level filtration system for "products".

Mostly what they're selecting for is "is this of interest to our audience" - of which said audience is currently mostly free tech / designery / social type things (even as they start to add more categories).

While it's nice to be featured, it's quite unlikely to bring you a large amount of traffic and/or signups. A submission to a decent sized sub-reddit will likely drive 2x the traffic that ProductHunt will, a submission to BetaList more signups and a front page HN post 10x.

If there's a reason to get featured it's to try and get some feedback from the community (if they're your audience) as they tend to be quite helpful.

While HN certainly drives a decent amount of traffic (usually), I doubt that it will drive 10x the number of sign-ups as a PH submission, particularly if it's more to the design/social bent.

very helpful, thanks.

I think Product Hunt merely reflects the way things work in SV. SV is not a "meritocracy". Really shitty ideas get funded and acqui-hired all the time based on insider connections. You think Marissa bought Polyvore for $230 million because it was a rocket ship?

yes - Polyvore had massive fanbase north of 25m monthly users

And how much revenue were those users generating? Of what strategic importance was it to Yahoo? How are they getting a return on $230 million?

Probably way more than something like Mailbox bought by Dropbox, but no one here would say that's a bad idea because most HN users understand mail clients but not a fashion social network

The solution to this is easy. Don't visit Product Hunt or treat it as having so much value. It won't make or break a product.

I had never heard of Product Hunt. If I had heard of it, in the absence of information to the contrary, I would have assumed it was corrupt.

It appears in this instance my general cynicism of all-things-Marketed is confirmed.

But what would an alternative world look like? Is the industry trapped in some product placement local minimum?

What if we could trust online reviews by default? Would the same industry make more money or less, or would it just go to different people?

Often, defenders of invasive advertising say "it informs people of products which are relevant to their interests". Shouldn't then advertisers promote integrity in their other Marketing venues as well?

I've had three products I wanted to push on PH and since I'm not in anyone's inner-circle / e-friend I was promptly told I had to find someone who was in order to gain access.

It's like a boy's club where they pass around the neighborhood bike for everyone to ride, only to find another one after they're all done riding it.

Even more so, I've seen more "here's a landing page, we haven't even a git repo yet, just trying to validate the idea, so give us your email" shit on PH than I would on Reddit.

In my experience, the OP is correct about one thing, it's waste of time to post on upcoming on PH. However this is nothing compared to how opaque Hacker News is. If your product is novel enough and reach out to these "insiders" beforehand (or even afterhand), I don't think you have trouble getting to the front page on PH, whereas on HN I see tons of people reaching front page by asking for upvotes from friends. The only difference is PH is--ironically--transparent about its opaqueness, whereas HN is opaque about its transparentness. To elaborate, on hacker news everything looks transparent, and to certain degree it is (you can find the raw stream under "new" tab), but the ones that reach the front page are not always there because 100% of the community decided so, there are many hidden things going on in the background that most people don't even know. Whereas all you need to do to get featured on PH is to reach out to these "insiders", to guarantee you reach front page on HN you need to get people to upvote you. I feel that PH is much more democratic than HN since everyone gets same chance whereas on HN the people with already existing audience wins.

Asking for upvotes does not work on HN, and using shennanigans like mass voting from /newest doesn't work either. (the points register but they will not be used for ranking)

Product Hunt, in fairness, has the same do-not-ask-for-upvotes clause in their FAQ, but given the amount of people blatantly asking for upvotes on Twitter (https://twitter.com/search?q=product%20hunt%20upvote&s=typd) I am doubtful that policy is actually enforced. It's free publicity, after all.

Yes theoretically it shouldn't work, but I see it work everyday, you just need to email your friends and tell them not to visit the direct link but go to the front page and find your post and upvote. But anyway my point was exactly this, most people aren't even aware of this "black magic" going on in the background, which is worse than the process being opaque. Because at least on product hunt people know how to hack their way into being featured whereas on hacker news most people don't even realize it's possible. Also my point was not just about asking for upvotes. I was trying to point out how on hackernews if you already have an audience--say your email newsletter subscribers or blog readers--it is likely that your post will go up to the front page. Therefore newbies regardless of how great content they have don't get to play on level field as already famous people. What I found great about PH was you are judged by what you build, not your existing reputation. I'm not saying HN is more corrupt or anything than PH. PH is better at this since HN is more general purpose whereas PH is just about products.

> Yes theoretically it shouldn't work, but I see it work everyday

I'm pretty sure this is not true (certainly the method you mention doesn't work), but if you think you know counterexamples, please send them to hn@ycombinator.com. We have put a ton of work into counteracting promotional voting a.k.a. voting rings, and genuine counterexamples (i.e. voting rings that defeated our software) are super valuable to us.

Can you give a transparent answer to this scenario?: Let's say I posted a "Show HN". I would email my friends who are HN users, telling them "hey guys i posted something on hacker news, please go to the front page, find a post titled * and upvote!" I just can't think of a robust way to detect this.

I'm pretty sure that doesn't work. But obviously I can't tell you why, or people would soon start getting around it.

Again, eager for counterexamples if anyone knows of any.

I remember reading a while ago that YC founders' posts appear in a different color to other YC founders. Is this still true? If so, that's sort of an in-built voting ring.

Still true. But AFAICT such voting-ring impact as it has is canceled by HN's anti-voting-ring software, which treats everyone the same.

By the way, when pg added that feature years ago, he actually added two features: the colored usernames, plus a page for stories submitted by YC founders. The latter really did have a voting ring effect, and when we figured that out we got rid of it.

PH's algorithm tries to discount upvotes that seem to be stuffed... eg by counting votes that come from front page more highly. community managers sometimes scold people on twitter for begging upvotes.

One of my products was featured on product hunt in it's early days (no idea who submitted it). I remember thinking then - "well, cool, but people looking for new products are not really my target market."

Has anyone seen any value come from PH?

Same experience as you, someone I don't know posted my app to product hunt. I have no idea what would motivate them to do this (I'm not a product hunt user.) The reason I noticed was because I was searching for the reason that app sales spiked.

Real value? Sales increased a few thousand percent for one day.

I've gotten great value out of the PH postings that went well (quality users / feedback). For me PH is more democratic than, say, a PR outlet where it is completely up to the discretion of the person I'm pitching to feature me or not.

I've had some submissions tank and not make it out of upcoming and had others make it to the top. The goal with PH seems to be to make sure quality stuff is making it to the top and they seem to do a decent job of that (not all the top submissions are some VC backed product with advisors pimping them, mine is bootstrapped and I posted them myself).

You're never going to make everyone happy but I'm sure they will continue to do more to give people a voice without destroying the community.

The only thing that bothers me about PH is one of my products was one of the most upvoted products of all time there in the early days, but I didn't submit it. It would likely get that status again (it's quite popular among the PH type crowd) if posted now when they have 100x the audience, but it can't be posted again. I find that unfortunate, HN lets you repost links after some period of time I believe for 2.0 releases, etc.

I am pretty sure you can resubmit to PH when you have a new version, especially if you had a great run with your first version.

We've put https://segment.com/academy on PH (an email course on growth and analytics) and has seen some great traction amongst that community. It certainly is a specific audience, but the traffic is pretty good.

I imagine it's mostly for companies looking to attract investors, not customers.

Maybe it has replaced TechCrunch in this role.

What someone should do is create a ProductHunt competitor, and geo-block California. Nothing like faux-exclusivity to encourage adoption ;)

One thing this article fails to mention is that YC startups automatically get featured on Product Hunt. This probably has to do with the fact that YC invested in Product Hunt.


Not to mention that Product Hunt violates their own rules all the time: I see plenty of posts for big companies like Microsoft announcing products that aren’t available yet (e.g. Hololens, Windows 10 before it came out, etc), even though their FAQ explicitly states that the product has to be available to the public at the time of posting.

Really what should tip people off even more is the inability to comment. If the viewers of the site can’t actually interact, since commenting is only allowed for “approved" users, they should realize that the whole thing is just a scam.

See any ads on Product Hunt? See any monetization strategies? Oh wait, the whole website is an ad, and only those in the know or those who pay will get featured.

It's interesting to read all these comments about PH over a year after previous posts (0,1) about PH's transparency. @rrhoover's comments are especially interesting as they indicate that PH is interested in moving to a more open and democratic (and diverse) promotion platform. Over two years later, it seems its still moving in the wrong direction.

0 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7980403

1 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8047647

This really feeds into my cynical attitude and sentiment that we are part of a rigged system. I've been trying to stay positive about technology and startups, but honestly it is everywhere. Tech news, advertising, fundraising, hiring.

Finance and the stock market is rigged the same way. A select few (the rich) get inside info, reporters and analyst write and give positive/negative spin on companies and profit, traders screw their customers, it is everywhere. Different market, same behavior.

Pay into honest systems then. Why feed something you know is rigged?

Hoover et al can build their product however they want, just be honest and consistent.

Looking through old threads I found this cracker of a post in reply to Ryan about their "anti voter ring policy" - which his tweet seems to counteract. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9932641

Ryan has asked me about voting ring detection more than once, so I know that he cares about this stuff. It's also the sort of problem that changes a great deal as a community grows, so older statements may no longer apply.

Startup advisors regularly take stakes in the full %'s? Since when? We have tons of advisors none of them have ever asked for a stake.

This assertion in the article is where it became clear to me the author just didn't do any research into the marketing channel they were hoping to gain value out of. Most 'straight to the frontpage' hunts come from a product geek submitting a product they found on their own, or via email/tweet etc from the makers. And yeah, pre-launch advisors don't take any equity.

This was an odd assertion in the article. Advisors (excluding those who are also investors) often get some shares, but several percent is ludicrously high for just advice. The expected number is probably closer to 0.1%.

I can imagine a point for a highly active advisors pre-launch who has certain deliverables, but only then and definitely not more than a point.

I've been visiting HN daily for 4 years. I've never heard of Product Hunt. Is it actually that big of a deal? I'm sure it's been on the front page here and I've missed it. But apparently not all that often?

Or maybe this is a case where now that I know the name I'll see it everywhere. Funny how that works sometimes...

I feel like its a mistake to hide content behind "see all" and arrow right buttons. I feel like people look at what is shown to them and they are willing to scroll down but far fewer people are likely to go to the trouble of pressing a right arrow or "see all" button.

So in other words, the same way everything in the "startup" world works: It's who you know.

Hate everywhere, for a change...

I don't get why people think PH owes them in any way. Yes, it's all about curation. But yes, anyone could post there, provided they have a good product and they socialize a bit.

And this is what this is about. To me, PH is a social network for founders. They show off their project, discuss it and get feedback.

To all the people blaming how it's not egalitarian: would you create a twitter account, avoid engaging with anyone, then complain nobody is following you?

The same applies than in any social network: if you want people to get interested in what you're doing, start with being interested in what they're doing, and chat, a lot.

This is how I think Shark Tank and Dragon's Den work too. The "sharks" all parade their new products on TV under the guise of entertainment, and throw in a couple silly/heartwarming ideas and people.

Incorrect, at least with Shark Tank. Can't speak to Dragon's Den. I worked for one of the Sharks on their ST accounts. Nothing is staged, it's all regular people who submit their ideas and are selected based on who the network thinks will make for good entertainment (personality, "wow factor" with the product, etc). During filming, the sharks are given an overview of who the person presenting is and what their product is/does. Everything else is organic. The Sharks have no advance knowledge of the products and the deals get made or shut down after due diligence is done after filming.

That's not to say that the sharks don't do a huge dog and pony show of promotion around their products, though.

What type of due diligence must a shark or their team do during the show? I imagine these funding offers are just term sheets pending a legit financial review?

The due diligence comes after filming. The deals you see on TV are a handshake deal and in my estimation only about 30-40% of them actually end up going through because a lot of founders lie about things like being litigated against, having tax liens on their company, etc. The sharks all have people on staff who sniff these problems out and make sure everything the founders say about their numbers are true.

You can find a lot of testimonials from people who have appeared on Shark Tank, and all the ones I've seen say "I was surprised by how real the show is". The only major change is that there's an hour-long pitch/discussion that gets edited down to 5 or 10 minutes of interesting TV. Nothing is scripted, the sharks don't know what's coming, the negotiation is real, etc.

I guess it's possible that these people were paid to lie about the show, but it seems like Shark Tank is one of the most realistic reality shows.

The ideas aren't mutually exclusive; There can be real people and planted advertisements...

The "products" that appear in the top placements of Product hunt these days are laughable. They're mostly features, not products.

> That first submission is it ... it will end up on an internal list of products ineligible for future consideration.

This can't be entirely true. I see featured posts on PH that are nothing more than "Version 2" of some previously featured "products". But the links go to the same place.

The worst thing about Product Hunt is that I just don't find many of the products very interesting.

Oops having read the article - wow - Payola Hunt! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payola

Yeah, Product Hunt is a curated platform. I think it's always been pretty transparent about this?

Follow-up: Open letter by the fictional "Liam Cooper", or how @ProductHunt might respond to recent criticism.


I've always imagined sites like these are run by a small circle of insiders, who essentially sponsor or promote specific products. I find it hard to believe the promotional buzz and hierarchy of an entry into a site like this completely natural.

Does anybody know how to delete a product hunt account?

PS: Apparently you have to email hello@producthunt.com

How effective is posting something to product hunt really though? I mean, you are basically sharing it to the same silicon valley tech community who live a life very divorced from the majority of people.

PH strikes me as a vanity metric. Does it really get you noticed that much?

PH is a tautology: in order to get noticed on PH, you need to be noticed by an insider beforehand, which therefore makes the benefit minimal.

The benefit of Reddit/HN is that there's a much higher probability of content that would otherwise not be noticed become viral.

the community discussions and support might be a bigger deal than the signups. like HN.

The fact that not many readers will “Recommend” this article on Medium but has 146 upvotes on HN speaks of the circle that Ryan has and pros of the anonymity that HN provides.

TL;DR: it's mostly rigged by some users with privileges.

And now there's https://www.openhunt.co/

A lot of anger here for PH, but why not the people that back it? The Angel investors are listed on their site [0].

Are some of these folks so powerful that if you tweeted at them that they're backing a corrupt bro-club you'd lose any chance of funding?

0 - https://www.producthunt.com/about

Product hunt is native advertising.

So it's not perfect and helps to know someone. Welcome to the real world!

The parallels with the whole Digg v4 debacle seem quite pronounced.

How Meta is this?

I got to be #2 in product hunt featured list few weeks ago. a random dude saw my post here at HN about launching a beta and published it there. no inside connections, no promotions, and unfortunately - no preparations. we got ~5000 visits in a day and didn't really used the spike for anything special. we lost most of the momentum the next few days and when we were ready to better UI/Flow it was too late.

I feel the point of PH is not to create a real business in the sense of earning money by selling you a product or service, but rather to establish personal brand equity and influencing power of the management team.

This can be useful for future projects (such as finding funding), to increase their standing in the SV community, and to establish themselves as marquee valley power brokers.

In this sense, it doesn't make much sense to add more transparency and voting control to ordinary users.

This is pure speculation and assumes the worst. So take this with a grain of salt.

This crosses the line into personal attack, which breaks the HN guidelines. You couldn't possibly know such things.

Fair critique is fair game. The OP, for example, made an effort to be fair. But comments like this one, that assume the worst about someone and try to paint them in an ugly light, say more about the commenter.

We've detached it from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10740521 and marked it off-topic.

I've edited my post so that it appears less of a personal attack.

I think my critique is fair, though the delivery could use improvement (hence my edits).

PH is a for-profit company that helps users discover new products, yet controls and hides the process for how voting, submission, etc., work. It's a fair critique to question if the point of PH is to derive value for themselves from establishing themselves as gatekeepers rather than generating value in a more "normal" sense.

Meritocracy, transparency, and fairness are values that are particularly held in high esteem in the valley and here on HN. So I think those who run contrary to this, should be exposed to the harshest of scrutiny.

We need to keep each other honest. RH might construe this as "hating" but I think it's fair game.

I appreciate the edit and your polite response, but (if I may say so personally, as opposed to qua moderator) the thrust of what you're saying still feels uncharitable.

I've met Ryan, and my impression was that he's a true enthusiast—he just loves this stuff. And there's strong objective evidence for it too: someone who was primarily interested in building a rigged system for insider gain would never have been able to get a community going in the first place. Real online communities are rare. It takes a believer to start one.

As for PH now, I don't know any details, but from other experience I can guarantee you that the challenges in getting it right are (a) harder and (b) different than one would imagine. Reading a thread like this about one's baby (which it's possible Ryan may) is a hard experience, but at least if the criticisms are substantive, you can feed them into your efforts to improve. When someone just seems to be saying mean or generically cynical things, though, that sucks.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and view. I appreciate the feedback and your even-handed moderation.

I don't know Ryan, but I've been observing PH for some time now. My opinions and thoughts are from these observations and those of others in the community.

I'm sure Ryan is a good person, with good intentions. Those good intentions stands in stark contrast to how PH works today. There have been other PH critics and from what I've seen RH has not been super open to those criticisms, and in fact, even going so far as to dismiss any critics as "haters" (which I think is a bit of a mislabel since many of his critics are in fact fans that are just opposed to the lack of transparency).

So I think given, its fair to address these failings. Perhaps I can use nicer language, but I trust that Ryan is a mature adult and can take it.

I do see your point about people saying mean things and how that can hurt, but c'mon, life is not fair or kind or nice. And we're not delicate butterflies.

Putting ourselves out there (to be celebrated and vilified) is part of the very nature of entrepreneurship / creation. I see the problems of suicides and mental health in our community (and I've definitely experienced and am still experiencing it first hand), but being overly cautious in our words to not-offend is not a solution to this problem. Somewhat off-topic but related, South Park this season did a great job of making fun of this.

Nothing the parent says comes off as a personal attack. It seems like a perfectly valid opinion to me and I've seen worse written here on HN.

"I've edited my post so that it appears less of a personal attack."

Could we have a little feature to indicate edited posts please? Invisible edits make for very confusing cause and effect, such as in this case.

I don't think it comes up often, does it? This case seems pretty unusual.

And since not I nor anybody that I know has ever heard of or used Product Hunt - why do I care?

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