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Poll: Ask or Leaders in Top Bar?
23 points by pg on Mar 12, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 30 comments
Recently I replaced the "leaders" link in the top bar with an "ask" link leading to a page with just the "Ask HN" (or more precisely, url-less) posts.

Do you prefer to have "ask" in the top bar, as the site is now, or was it better to have "leaders?" Assume whatever isn't in the top bar will continue to work, and be linked to from "lists."

I prefer ask in the top bar
243 points
I prefer leaders in the top bar
7 points

A/B test and see which one gets clicked more.

No, really, I voted for "Ask". I think it is vastly more useful for most people (people who ask, people who answer, and people who like reading answers from smart people), and the number who strongly care about who the leaders are (which is probably a number even smaller than the number of leaders).

Never used "leaders", but "ask" sounds like something that I would actually click on when the front page is lacking readable content.

(edit) Oh, and while you are reading this, pg - what happened to the idea of anonymizing all posts? I visit HN fairly infrequently and the voting favouritism seems to be on a steady climb. Many comments are clearly voted up because they are written by someone and not because they are actually interesting.

I never seriously thought of anonymizing posts. In a lot of situations that would be like anonymizing the lines in a play. But I am considering not displaying points on posts, which would address the same problem.

> ...which would address the same problem.

I don't think it would. Points determine the rank, so people would still be inclined to upvote their favourite users' comments if they see them engaged in a debate with someone else.

Anonymizing can be implemented by simply randomizing usernames, but in a way that keeps users uniquely identified in a scope of a single discussion.

For example (a) randomly generate discussion key (b) hash(key + username) (c) use the hash to pick a word from the dictionary and (d) use this word as a username substitute. For extra fun use the list of registered HN usernames as a dictionary :)

Anonymizing can be implemented by simply randomizing usernames, but in a way that keeps users uniquely identified in a scope of a single discussion.

I think you underestimate the ability of people to identify others based on what English teachers call their "voice". I mean, here's a test you can do in forty-five seconds in Ruby or your language of choice: grab the RSS feeds from searchyc.com for pg and any other user you want to play the game with, have your script randomly spit out a recent post from one of the two lists, see if you can guess who said it. This turns out to be really, really easy, particularly for good writers who one spends a lot of time reading. (You can do this with Bayesian classification, too. In the "Pick who wrote this out of two possibilities for which there are many samples" case it's like taking candy from a baby in terms of classification tasks.)

Also, do you think you or anyone else is going to have much trouble telling who baby_rutabega_spoon is when he talks about his bingo business or ruthless_carrot_fork when he gets exasperated about password hashing?

Also, do you think you or anyone else is going to have much trouble telling who baby_rutabega_spoon is when he talks about his bingo business or ruthless_carrot_fork when he gets exasperated about password hashing?

These are exceptions. I can bet that a vast majority of people here would not be able to tell even pg apart from other posters if it were not for his username.

Besides these exceptions are fine, the anonymization is not meant to target them, but rather generic blabber-mouths whose comments are floating up only because of the group upvoting.

My carrot fork is anything but ruthless, Patrick!

Here I was thinking he meant Colin :)

Colin talks about things besides password hashing. That's how you can tell us apart.

Did you know 'ptacek' means 'little bird' in Polish ?

It implies something worse than that in Polish, but not in Slovakia.

That would ruin the site IMO.

For example comments by patrick are always worth looking out for (he's generally insightful) or you can identify tpatek on security stories (domain expertise)

without that value comments just become shouting into the ether :-)

What about "lists" itself?

A link to Lists is already at the bottom of the page

Nobody notices the links on the bottom of the page though. I've seen comments asking about RSS and guidelines for the site even though they're in the links at the bottom.

Quick fix for the RSS problem, add this to <head>:

    <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Hacker News" href="/rss" />
Here's the (untested) patch that I sent to pg:

    diff -r 4befad01873a -r d3157a15433d news.arc
    --- a/news.arc
    +++ b/news.arc
    @@ -401,6 +401,7 @@
          (tag head 
            (prn "<link rel=\"shortcut icon\" href=\"" favicon-url* "\">")
    +       (prn "<link rel=\"alternate\" type=\"application/rss+xml\" title=\"" this-site* "\" href=\"/rss\">")
            (tag script (pr votejs*))
            (tag title (pr ,title)))
          (tag body

I like the leaders list, but I can always go there directly (as I can with, say, Best when I've been away a few days).

I will visit the Ask page more often than Leaders, and importantly so too will other (including new) visitors. It's one of the best features of the HN community because it depends on the quality of the HN community, so anything that supports it is a great idea.

I think I have said this previously but, at the risk of sounding like an idiot, will repeat my anecdote:

It took me several months to figure out where "the front page" was linked in the top bar. It just somehow wasn't intuitive for me, though it seems stupidly obvious now. There were several occasions where someone would refer to "the leader board" (meaning the front page) and I would promptly click on "leaders", then go "Doh! I've already checked that a dozen other times. I know that's not what they are talking about. Where is the blankety-blank mythical leaderboard?"

I grew up in a bilingual home. Maybe some of the foreigners can relate to my "dumb" behavior. (Yes, I am one of the 233 people who upvoted "I prefer ask in the top bar".)

out of curiosity, why not both?

regardless, ask is much more useful on a regular basis. my usage of leaders was almost 100% vanity.

"... why not both? ..."

Simplicity: >6 items introduces "Paradox of choice", Swartz (ted, vid, 19:40 min) ~ http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_par...

I know I would get confused and give up using this site were there to be more than 6 links at the top of the page...

I don't think the leaders link is useful though, it's best to dispose of it.

I stopped looking at leaders because it just seemed impossible to join them. They're too far ahead. If you do put leaders back maybe you could add some entropy to our points.

We're not. I mean, I guess it's hard if you're obsessed with scoring, but if you make good comments and posts you'll show up there. My sex life has drastically improved since I hit the leaderboard, possibly because I spend less time crafting HN posts.

God I hope you're joking...

Ask, definitely. That's where people can give back to the community. If it weren't for that ask button on top, I would have probably missed this poll.

If there is an "ask" section, hopefully it will cut down on the ShowHN, TellHN, etc. which have no parallel to MetaFilter and drive me crazy.

Ask, or maybe Lists.. There are many hidden treasures on this site, and "ask" might be a small step to help us discover some of them.

I click on "Ask" all the time. I think I may have accidentally clicked on "Leaders" once or twice in the past year and a half.

"... I prefer ask in the top bar ..."

The alternative is less specific.

Wow, well that was decisive.

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