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Let's Create a Better Product Hunt (docs.google.com)
223 points by BetterLaunch on Dec 16, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 98 comments

As the person who started the Product Hunt beatdown last thread, and would like nothing more than to see a good PH competitor, I regrettably have a few issues with this.

1. The hypothetical example you give about the Financial Times writing favorable stories for investors is an example of conflict of interest, which is a different issue than the elitist exclusivity discussed last thread. (And much more gray)

2. As noted in the previous thread, both Reddit and Hacker News are transparent in terms of submission moderation, which is what is being proposed here. (Albeit less modern)

3. Having an anonymous account post this Google Doc does not build trust in that you could build a competitor. There is more to building a link aggregator ranking system than following a Rails tutorial.

4. Having random people come together to build an idea just because they can doesn't work well. That's why Idea Sundays stopped on HN.

My dream startup would be an optimized link aggregator; the use of upvotes as a statistic for quality is why I spent so much time doing data analysis on Reddit and HN data. But this isn't the way to build a competitor.

Thank you for the feedback. As a respected community-member here at HN (you), this is exactly the type of feedback and open discussion that I aim to have with the community, which PH does not offer.

1) I understand that the issues compared are different, but I posed a hypothetical scenario of how the issues at PH can go beyond just having a tightly-controlled growth engine for companies PH likes. PH has no ethics-policy (that we know of) and nothing stops A16Z from telling the mods that any product related to A16Z-funded-firms should get top spot at PH.

2) Fair point, but that does not mean we should not try something new :) Afterall, HN is/was an experiment to address the issue of community-decline due to growth. Also, the decline in "Show HN" (almost like second-class-citizen-status) and the fact that PH exists, indicates to some measure that a "launch platform for startups" is relevant.

3) I have added some more details about myself as well as a disclaimer of affiliations (none).

4) I intend to build this alternative with community feedback and as a Proof-of-Concept. I will not dictate "how things go", which is why I value community-feedback so much.

Ah, while I was writing my response you said the same thing a lot better. I think any alternative to ProductHunt still needs an editorial team of some sort. But the fix could be as simple as changing PH to include 'staff/influencer picks' and 'community picks', while requiring staff/influencers to disclose their relationship to the product.

Obviously, any link aggregator would need full-time moderators, which is another consideration for this mysterious PH competitor.

The notion that human curation is intrinsically better than algorithmic ranking is a Silicon Valley trend I don't feel is accurate, but that's a topic for another rant thread. (In general, I think the new semimanual approach Hacker News has been doing is an interesting idea)


It's not semi. That's the core reason why Lamer News had no chance of success, even if their broken software had worked.

It's odd that it's a controversial idea. The best Reddit communities are those that are heavily moderated.

To admit this is to admit that some people have better taste than others. Maybe that's the controversial bit. But it's the cornerstone of any new successful community. You see it pervasively everywhere you look, from SO to Reddit to HN.

To clarify, I'm referring to the "second chance" mechanics implemented a few months ago, where an article which got few upvotes may hours later get a spot on the front page and maybe get some upvotes, or when you get an email asking for an invitation to repost. Both processes require a human to determine what is "good" and what is "not good."

Ah. Are you sure it's semimanual? It seems plausible that it could be a mechanical turk.

The only automatic part seems to be the shape of a post's falloff curve. But the falloff shape is probably selected from a list of shapes by a person.

What we've been doing is sort of a software sandwich with a human filling. Software does a first pass through all the stories to guess which ones might be good candidates (otherwise there are too many for humans to review). Then humans pick some candidates. Those go into a pool from which software randomly picks one every so often and randomly places it low on the front page. After that it's up to the community which ones are interesting. The ones that aren't fall off the front page relatively quickly. I've been meaning to write some code to collect data on how much frontpage time they get.

That's the current state. We do still send repost invites occasionally, but mostly not, because users made it clear they don't like the duplicates.

I don't think the human phase can be automated. Instead, our plan is to open it to the community, so it isn't just us and selected users picking stories. The challenge is to design a mechanism for that which doesn't just reduce to an upvoting system (since as the knight in Monty Python says about the grail, we've already got one it's very nice).

We'll also probably publish the list of stories selected in this way, whether or not they end up getting traction, because if nothing else it's alternate reading material.

HN submission moderation isn't transparent though? Threads can be disappeared on a moderator's whim.

As someone who has had some small disagreements with dang and I don't always see eye to eye with him;

* the moderators, I believe, really do what they think is best for the community,

* they work hard at a pretty thankless job

* they are pretty transparent and manage their potential conflicts of interest well, which is saying a lot, since action in virtually any thread could presimably be related.

So sure, threads can be disappered by moderators, it is what they are supposed to do. Keep the discussion in a few centralized threads and not 20 blogspam articles. Also, we should be thankful for what we don't see.

So while I thinm you have a relavent point, and they can't be perfect all the time, on balance their pretty sharp people and am thankful for their contribution,

I'm sure the moderators think they're doing their best. But there is no transparency ( e.g. there's nothing like lobste.rs' moderator actions log ), and as a result I'm not at all sure that they are managing conflicts of interest well. The only discussion I was lucky enough to spot in the process of being disappeared was http://readwrite.com/2012/12/03/lets-all-shed-tears-for-the-... which, while not exactly the kindest writing I've ever seen, contained some real insight and was generating a productive discussion - and the conflict of interest is pretty clear. And neither of us have any idea how many other discussions get killed like that.

> both Reddit and Hacker News are transparent in terms of submission moderation

I disagree vehemently. Reddit has tools like AutoModerator which censor content secretly. No user knows what's going on. Subreddit moderators only have some insight and it is on their discretion if they want to share it. Reddit is highly intransparent.

Agree strongly with #2. The challenge is not in building the tech or having an unbiased ranking system -- it's all in building the community.

The problem with these criticism is that they seem to be coming from people who have no idea how Product Hunt works. If you have ever actually had your product featured on PH you would know better than this. Here's how Product Hunt works: 1. There are many of those so called "Insider" users. 2. Then there is a 2nd tier group of users who can comment. 3. Then there's the rest.

The tier 1 group is not as small as you think, and they are pretty diverse group of people from all around the world. When they post something, it goes up straight to the featured page. There is no censoring. They are definitely not paid by producthunt the company to submit these new products, they're merely users sharing what they discover. Their main incentive for posting on product hunt is to be the "first one" to discover a cool new app and share it with others. Now if you understood this, think about how ridiculous all your speculations are.

Then perhaps PH should be more forthcoming about this hidden "process" and educate the "people who have no idea how Product Hunt works"?

Just a simple google search will show you tons of articles and blog posts giving you more than enough tips really. People complaining about this just shows that they didn't do their homework before submitting.

Ideally you shouldn't have to do homework before using the basic functions of a website. (aside from reading Terms and Conditions, of course)

Would you say that about angel list too? I'm as much annoyed as you about their opaqueness and it would be nice if they were more transparent but it is what it is. It's your responsibility as an entrepreneur to make sure you don't mess up the launch of something you've invested so much in.

It's not a "website". It's a market. Would you say the same thing before buying stocks through eTrade?

I think that people here are way overestimating the importance of Product Hunt.

Having never heard of it before, I place even odds this is all a guerrilla marketing stunt by PH to make itself seem somehow relevant.

I never heard of it either. What else am I missing? Honestly?

In the big picture of all the things you need to do to successfully launch a product Product Hunt isn't hugely important. You can definitely launch something without featuring on there. But as a self-selected group of users who're interested in startups and new products, and who are willing to try things before they're finished, PH is certainly the best thing out there. And it's inner circle of users know that, and (maybe) abuse their position as gatekeepers to help their friends over outsiders.

Whether or not it's a 'scam' is endlessly debatable but regardless of that it could definitely use some competition.

It reminds me of the DMOZ dramas a few years back.

Not for small startup that cries for early adopters...

But I don't think PH is good for early adopters at all... Unless your product is directly aimed at startup founders or angels and VCs. For anything else, you'll get the ultimate cross section of tire kickers - people trying out hundreds of products for 5 minutes with the question "what can I copy here" or "can I invest in this".

If you're after loyal users chances are PH does nothing for you.

Unless your product is directly aimed at ... angels and VCs

If you want a "rocketship" then you pretty much have to be to compete.

Are other startup founders and startup folk genuinely worthwhile users?

Depend on your startup niche, some startups offer tools for business owners, startups, marketers, finance etc.

This seems like an unnecessarily negative way to pitch a positive service:

* anyone who missed the story on HN today would have no idea what this was about,

* leading with accusations that PH is an "elitist/bro community" is needless antagonism, but most of all,

* you're pitching a non-conflict of interest alternative to PH without revealing anything about yourself.

I don't think this is going to work. First, ProductHunt and HN are both basically fine as is. Second, the root cause of any issues that both have is basically the same -- almost no one reads or votes on stories from the new page, and the handful that do have all sorts of biases. The reason these communities are able to function despite this is that they have a combination of paid staff and trusted volunteers.

Third, the only way to significantly improve upon these sorts of communities would be to build them on the block chain. But the technology to do that doesn't yet exist.

> Third, the only way to significantly improve upon these sorts of communities would be to build them on the block chain

Genuinely interested, if you have the time, what do you mean by this? What problems could be solved by building a community website on top of a blockchain, instead of the current typical votes/comments in a database -> feed sorted by ranking algorithm method, and how?

A lot of the killer algorithms that the blockchain enables probably haven't even been discovered yet, so it's a bit difficult to say. But obviously there are lots of things you can do with reputation, identity, transparency, group decision making, etc., that just aren't really possible today.

I'm working on a Product Hunt competitor at the moment and I'm looking for a technical co-founder. If anyone is interested, please email or DM me on twitter.

Are you an idea guy, or actually working on the code as well?

...I'm learning to code...(sound of pitchforks rustling)

For anything early enough such as an MVP, you will be utterly useless. You need a programmer. However a programmer really doesn't need you.

Yeah, I guess there's no way for non-programmers and programmers to work together to create a startup.

You don't have to be a programmer but you do need to contribute more than just an idea (e.g. domain expertise, business knowledge, sales experience).

Of course.

Then make the case for that. Give us some credentials, or experience, or... just some reason why a technically skilled person would want to pick you rather than anyone else as a cofounder. You're presumably going to want to see the same thing from their end.

I had planned to give additional details via email. I just thought I might bump into someone in these comments that was also interested in working on something related to PH. However, that doesn't seem to be what I've found here...

This may or may not be true, but we should be more accepting of people who want to start companies rather than simply telling them they are not necessary.

To be completely honest, idea is just 10% of business. Any one man startup creator will confirm imo. Idea is good, but idea will not get you 50% shares of a project.

Obviously people should open businesses - but hey, there are so many ways to do it. If you have ONLY idea, then do this two steps:

-learn basics of languages needed to start it on Codecademy so you can also help in testing, double checking code and writing some small things - like initial code for the website so the developer can focus on important things

-learn some marketing and business. Those are not that hard actually and best resources are forums imo. Start with Fastlane forum, BHW forum and BuilderSociety. All information you need for making successful startup are on this forums. Then read a bit about other startups on Medium and especially focus on startup postmortem - VERY important to learn from their mistakes.

All of this will take you 2-3 months to learn assuming you spend ~4 hours every day on them. While doing it all socialize like crazy liking and interacting with people from your startups niche on Twitter and Facebook.

Once you are done you have skills necessary to be very good idea co-funder that will bring enough to the table to want 50%.

GP comment said they were learning to code (the same as you suggested). Reply was "you will be utterly useless".

My point was that we should avoid such negativity, and instead be supportive of people who are learning to code so that they can build their idea.

Testing if you are actually solving the right problem for the right people usually requires no programming knowledge. It's mostly about talking to people. This step is of course often skipped by programmers because we like to build something and go from there.

A good customer development person is worth their weight in gold (as are designers). Most programmers (including me) really do need such a person.

The typical "idea guy" however...is just annoying and unfortunately that's the people that usually randomly ask me "oh i think you can program i have this great idea...". Since parent poster learns to program he/she's way ahead of the curve though and I doubt he/she's just an idea guy.

Ryan Hoover didn't know how to code. Product Hunt literally started as an e-mail list because of that, and the rest is history.

If anyone is actually making this and needs a co-founder I can help when I have free time. Not interested in money etc, just to kill free time so I am not in to monetizing it fast. I would prefer to team up with programmer, I am programmer myself, but to busy to do most of it at the moment. I can do testing and helping out though. I have extensive 9 years of IM, marketing and business management experience (all three are on my strong sides). I am working at the moment on a startup, but in few days my work code-wise is done, so I might have some free time here and there.

I'm guessing you've looked into http://www.telescopeapp.org/ ?

If not, I'd really recommend you do so and also learn some Meteor.js. It's great for beginners.

I really dislike when sites / products claim 'The easiest way...' or 'The best way...'. Its a statement that immediately makes me question the product, if something really is 'the best' as in 'the be all and end all' of something, I don't think it'll ever claim to be such.

Yep. I totally agree with you on that. But going past that marketing talk, sometimes the products do turn out to be pretty good.

I say this with experience having worked with Meteor for the past year and also some playing around with Telescope. It is worth checking out especially since it caters to a person like parent of my comment.

Setting up a customizable ProductHunt style website without much effort/coding can be a good start till you get more proficient with code or find a technical co-founder.

I just read it as an attempt to make the case for why anyone should care about them.

Just a slightly less ambivalent formulation of "a pretty good way to do X".

I actually created a site using telescopeapp.org in the past! When reddit's AMA section went on strike, I created Skhool.me Telescope won't work for my current project, unfortunately.

I have no idea whether this is satire or you're being serious.


"I'm always serious." - Dr. Egon Spengler

I've got an awesome idea for a cool song! Any musicians out there to play it for me?

You mean, like a band?

The web app behind PH is trivial. You still need a human to curate and build hype around the thing, and therein lies the problem. PH is rigged because Silicon Valley is rigged.

I don't know the politics of Silicon Valley well enough to say whether or not PH is rigged, but I agree the challenge is cultivating the community, not developing the software.

I would be interested in developing the app, but it's putting the cart before the horse.

Really? I think the Reddit model works pretty well. It's based on (as far we know) organic upvotes from users. It's also engineered so it makes it very difficult to game with upvote brigades and such.

Reddit model works due to the size of Reddit's user base, and mostly on the larger subs. If you look at smaller subs, you can find examples of astroturfing and vote brigading.

But in those cases, looking at the poster's history and then reporting them to mods is a pretty good (albeit manual) solution.

I think Reddit-PH would still stand a better chance since it discourages anonymity and participation for non-established users.

> It's also engineered so it makes it very difficult to game with upvote brigades and such.

Besides shadow banning, do you know what exactly Reddit does to make it difficult to game? I'd like to understand this better.

Vote brigading detection, and the presence of submission downvotes which will correct any submission that really does not deserve to be at the top.

That's a decent argument for just building a subreddit.

Have you seen r/startups?

I haven't (until just now - startup culture really isn't my thing) but it doesn't surprise me at all that it exists.

But there's practically zero popular reddit's that are ok with people promoting their own products.

What about /r/startup and /r/startups?

I keep seeing these references to money raised in the < $10 million range as if it were a big deal. $6 million dollars is a lot of money for an individual, but for a business it's not, especially not in the San Francisco area.

At $6 million you can hire and pay for about 10 to 15 people for a few years at a competitive salary and work from a not completely terrible office.

I'd like it if these posts weren't spreading "$N Millions of dollars!" fud so much as if it were some terrible wasteful thing. This is not someone's personal spending money that they're buying maseratis with, the founders do not get to use this money to buy themselves nice cars. It's not a life changing event, it's simply an opportunity to build a business.

10 to 15 people for a few years seems like quite a lot for a 'business' like PH.

Not if you consider they probably want mobile apps for both ios and android as well as a web page and sales. It's hardly anything.

My number one problem with producthunt, keeping in mind that I still love producthunt for the amount of traffic and customers it got us, is that you can't say anything negative in the comments.

Even if it relates to bad science, bad product, etc....

It's all very 'kumbaya' positive, which is fine.

That being said, I think ProductHunt will be sufficiently difficult to replicate.

Agreed. For example, there are too many kickstarter products using unproven science being posted onto PH. Like the laser razer for example. I was shocked when I read the comments in the PH post for that and found people praising and backing the product but not questioning it. Would expect more from a community that claims to be from the smartest hub in the world and is made up of engineers, designers, etc. People need to be saved from themselves sometimes.

Why is Product hunt such a big deal? Is it bigger than Techcrunch or some of these tech sites? Honestly, have not heard of it till now. This whole trip is just giving it more publicity.

I seriously want to know why someone should care about Product Hunt and what its impact and/or place is in the tech world.

    helps startups get their 15 minutes and puts them onto the path of success.
Has there ever been a startup whose success was because of a PH/HN/Reddit submission?

Dropbox got into YC because of their Show HN submission, and they got a lot of their early users from Digg.

Not really. Dropbox got into YC for the same reason they beat all ~11 established competitors: They executed very well on a good idea.

Yes. We grew massively because of ProductHunt.

Venture: LinkTexting.com

We already have one: Hacker News

How to build a better PH?

Revert to the old PH design. I hadn't checked the site for > 1 month. There is an incredible amount of noise and bloat in the new interface. And it needlessly looks too much like Kickstarter, which arguably has discoverability problems of its own.

OK here is the business model for an "alternate PH": Organic listings, everything gets listed as long as it is not already seen, non-biased voting moves things to the top on a given day. Voting accounts must come from LinkedIn to at least have a chance of being authentic. Founders may choose to embargo their launch so their company isn't listed until they are ready. Revenue comes from paid listings where startups can pay more to have their startups listed on the right of the page, unconstrained by all the rules above that apply to organic listing.

This is like the "we can't get into the cool club" kids starting their own "even cooler cool club". Life isn't fair, deal with it.

If it attracts the same audience that upvoted a link shortner to the top post of the day - that adds your own branded image on links - please call it quits. Also can you ghost ban posts that have 20 people saying how awesome the app is? or maybe just call the site astroturfing.com.

I tried building something similar on https://techendo.com I'm working on a refactor right now that serves a very cool experience. You can still sign up and give me some feedback.

Hell, I'll even open source the entire thing so we can build it as a community.

I like that the intention behind this, but it seems so naive to me. What's preventing it from going down the path of product hunt... which I'm sure had a similar mission early on.

I just put up http://productvote.co

Just a Meteor Telescope app on Heroku at the moment. Any thoughts?

The technology it's built on is irrelevant. What makes Product Hunt is the community and the way Ryan and his team curate products. They surface the "best" products (based on their curated opinion) and that's what generates the following. Your site looks good, but are you willing to put 2 years of manually curating and scraping for products until you're successful?

There is that question... I'm not sure to be honest. I guess sites like HN work because of the community and PGs hard work setting it up. I thought I'd see if people are interested.

Could make it non profit or community owned or open source/ open admin decisions or something?

Your brain + Google search = best Product Hunt

This is awesome that you're stepping up to this chalkenge. Stuff like this is what I truly love about the internet.

I'm working on something, but I have troubles naming it. If someone has an idea just shout. It will be on Github

Let's do it. Let's change the blue button from "GET IT" to "HAVE A LOOK"!

Why was this `[Dead]`, preventing people from commenting? High level of irony on that.

Not sure. A thread with many comments should basically never be [dead].

I think it was a bug squeezed out of the woodwork by unprecedented pressure from flags doing battle with vouches. We've overridden it.

Am I right that flagging this post is misuse of flagging?

I don't think I'd go that far. It mostly overlapped with the other Product Hunt thread, so some people probably flagged it as a quasi-duplicate.

Great initiative. I signed up. Producthunt is now forever flawed. Hopefully we can build a more open community together.

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