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Ask HN: HN Alternatives?
210 points by jaytee_clone on May 20, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 88 comments
I love HN.

But HN is so news oriented it doesn't give me the kind of hacker/entrepreneur community that I'm envisioning.

What are some other sites where hackers/entrepreneur go to just to ...

- discuss early stage startup ideas

- brainstorm implementations and solutions

- give each other feedback on prototypes

... as suppose to commenting on news? I guess like a forum?

Reading news gets old after a while and makes me feel like I'm just a follower not a leader.

I'm planning to start a web community if there isn't one. I did a survey to see if people would be interested here:


But that post quickly got drown out by the noon news flood, which is part of the problem that I'm talking about.

(P.S. I do go to real-life meetups of hackers/founders. Those are great but scarce. The only good one I have been to so far in the Bay Area is "hackers and founders". And they don't even meet that often in San Francisco.)

I love browsing through a tons of different subreddits that have now matured and grown very interesting. In decreasing order of interest to me:














Not all of these subreddits are busy but it doesn't matter. I have over 50 hand-selected subreddits and even though I removed all of the popular subreddits (reddit.com, politics, pics etc.), I always see very interesting articles. And the number of comments in each article is usually between 10-50, kinda like HN.

If any of the subreddit starts to get too popular and mainstream, usually 2-3 new subreddits popup that are more specific and interesting. Once a week I spend a few minutes looking for new interesting subreddits. http://www.reddit.com/r/newreddits/ helps with that too.

If you really want to start a web-community, just ask for mod permissions on a few subreddits that interest you. I'd much rather click once to join a subreddit and view its articles during my regular reddit browsing than go to whole another site. I wish HN was available as a subreddit. I would never have to go to another news site.


This will aggregate all of those subreddits in to a single view.

wow this looks surprisingly like hacker news, good choice, chime!

If any of the subreddit starts to get too popular and mainstream, usually 2-3 new subreddits popup that are more specific and interesting.

Bingo! I think this is the solution to the eternal September effect on communities.

You get a super nice place like reddit when it was new and shiny and over time it gets taken over by trolls. So you move on to startup news, then hacker news, but soon that is filled with generic crap and shallow discussions as well.

So you move on to an individually selected group of sub-reddits and then just keep moving, like a nomad always moving away form the trolls. (Or not even necessarily trolls, just too much popularity which brings shallowness if no actual trolling.)

I strongly encourage everyone to try this. Keep in mind the default reddit includes subreddits like pics and WTF which basically equals 4chan, so quickly edit your settings.

A subreddit's moderators can make all the difference in stopping trolls and keeping content on-topic.

Indeed, that could be known as the Slashdot approach.

My reddit experience improved dramatically once I started to discover the smaller subreddits that relate to my interests and unsubscribed from the most popular default ones that have low signal:noise (/r/pics, /r/politics and /r/reddit.com come to mind).

Here are some more that might be of interest to the HN crowd:

http://www.reddit.com/r/haskell/ (replace haskell with your language of choice, it's bound to exist)



http://www.reddit.com/r/coding/ (a replacement for /r/programming, which has suffered due to its popularity)

I just started a subreddit for solo founders:


I'm going to start posting my "Not quite formal enough for HN" stuff there, since I tend to be self conscious when posting stupid questions related to working on my startup alone to the general HN audience. It's not Hacker News' fault, I'm just to shy to put myself out in front of such a large audience most of the time.

Please consider posting on aysabtu. I'm also a single founder and I'd really like to get more self posts going.

We also have a semi-active Single Founders Braintrust going. Let me know if you want to join. Great place to discuss and get feedback on early stuff.

Email? If so, count me in.

Yeah, count me in too.

Me too

Along those lines, I've started a new subreddit exclusively for posts that help you learn important things.


I've found the most useful time I spend online is reading good introductions to concepts/subjects I wish I knew more about, and I want to do more of it. Hence the subreddit.

"Once a week I spend a few minutes looking for new interesting subreddits. http://www.reddit.com/r/newreddits/ helps with that too."

It seems pointless to subscribe to new subreddits since you don't know whether they'll have traction. How can you find 'trending' subreddits?

Or am I thinking about this all wrong?

No negatives in adding subreddits that might not gain traction. Sometimes subreddits take a while to attract submitters.

I'm going to try that, thanks.

Or if you know exactly what you are looking for you can search subreddits with.


I've started going back to reddit, the subreddits seem to do a pretty good job of staying on-topic these days.

Other than that, http://allyourstartuparebelongto.us/ looks like it might be a promising alternative (although I hate the domain name with a passion).

If you like the ISV space, The Business of Software forums are good: http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/default.asp?biz

I would like something close to HN from 2 or 3 years ago if anyone happens to find it:


If you want the HN of 3 years ago, http://allyourstartuparebelongto.us/ is for you. I'm looking for a better domain name. Suggestions are welcome. I've been trying to get startup.co and techstartu.ps, but so far no luck.

The submission/banning criteria is actionable startup advice for tech startup founders. Relevant tech is OK as long as it directly relates to or is obviously useful to startups. No news. And no politics, economics, science, etc. unless it meets the startup criteria.

The site is running open source reddit, so there is ample opportunity to hack it as well. I've done a few minor things, and I plan to add email notifications as well. Feel free to fork reddit on github and play around.

These are all available:

  hackerbusiness.com (or hackerbiz.com)
(As an aside, I'm always impressed at how quickly you respond to criticism, even minor nits like domain names)

I like the foundernews.com suggestion.

And it's gone...

It would be a shame if someone grabbed it just because the parent comment posted them. My first instinct is "Cool, I want those" but my second instinct kicks in quickly as says "don't be a dick."

Well... the person who grabbed it wasn't the person it was intended for. The whois tells the story.

Thx. I'm still working on fully responding to the ddg thread from yesterday :)

I'm not sure if I'm the only one that websites with black backgrounds bother...

You're not the only one. I appreciate the appearance from an aesthetic standpoint but it only takes 30 seconds or so for the "burn-in" effect to happen, and I start seeing horizontal stripes everywhere.

When stuck working on Windows my consoles get switched to black-on-white.

Otherwise I'm a perfectly normal person who enjoys cilantro.

It's really easy on the eyes late at night and early in the morning.

Not for people over a certain age.. I'm never getting those nights and mornings back. :) It's really just retina-searing, sorry.

Other color options would be most welcome.

I don't know if I'm just used to it, but I really like HN's background color.

tartups.com is available, so you can do what delicious did and have s.tartups.com

I want to both punch you and give you a medal for that suggestion.

Though without the s, tartups.com has some pretty bad connotations.

And "Hacker News" doesn't?

Not to its target audience, no =).

Taken! (not be me). For one second I was thinking of installing an hacker news like forum for startups.

About the box at the top for new and upcoming links: If you click "what's this?" and then "close help" it doesn't actually close the help. It just removes the close help link. Saw that you're busy in one of the later comments, but I thought I would mention it.

Thx--I've noticed that too.

AYSABTU.com is free, and so is allyourstartups.com

Thanks. What does ISV stands for?

Independent software vendor. Usually one or two man shops that write software and sell it.

As a (almost)first-time, solo entrepreneur who is bootstrapping (yes I have almost everything going against me!), I would really value a community/forum like this.

There are times when I'd like to discuss things, seek support, and learn from what others are doing in a more casual setting. HN is great for learning but as a community for informal discussion, it seems just a tad heavyweight.

We have exactly the same problem. (I'm a solo bootstrapper too).

It sounds like I should just go ahead and start this entrepreneur forum that I'm envisioning.

no don't do that. if you are solo, you need to be focussed on what you are building. Creating something of HN scale would consume you and if you just want a community for few people, just add them to a mailing list or something.

This particular line of discussion prompted me to create a subreddit for us solo founders. Check it out at http://www.reddit.com/r/solostartups/ if you'd like to join in. I may be the only person posting there, but maybe others in the same boat I'm in will join in as well and we can all support each other through running a startup (or side project) all alone.

I agree with you.

However, I don't want to stay solo. I have been solo for two years. It's too much work and not as fun as a partnership.

Building a community is a long-term investment. It will give me a wider range of resources and opportunities.

Plus, I have often found that I become more creative, focused, and generally better at things when I interact with other people periodically, even with regular non-hacker-founders (alone time is important too of course). I imagine having a social circle of smart entrepreneurs will be exponentially more beneficial to each individual. Y-Combinator is so sought after because of that social aspect.

Great products are nice, but great friends are even better.

We have a Solo-Founders Braintrust going, just email me if you want to get invited in.

Weird, I've never thought of HN as heavyweight or formal. People here are pretty relaxed...

This is a little off topic. But I was browsing this thread (and enjoying it per usual), and then I realized that the voting system doesn't have to be one-dimensional. Imagine voting on a 2- or 3-dimensional axis. In this case, one might want to 'vote' towards an idea. Like say:

    [Good idea]


 [Disagree with idea]
It would be more difficult to represent the frontpage, etc. Basically, things would cluster based on 'goals' or axes or what have you. But it might make reading things even more easy. It would be sort of tagging meets voting (but not really 'subject tagging' a la blogs or news websites, but 'response tagging').

The cool (and time-saving) thing would be that you could drift towards response tags that interest you as a reader. Per HN topic. And per HN globally.

Anyway, just an idea if anyone is thinking of experimenting with a new HN....

Ideally, I think you'd make the system as bottom-up as possible. There wouldn't be a set list of 'response tags' or 'vote tags', but there would be commonly-used ones that were readily accessible. Anyway, semantic-voting-ish.

After almost four years here, I've definitely felt recently that HN has jumped the shark. I'm also looking for alternatives. allyourstartuparebelongto.us looks promising.

I agree that HN has jumped the shark. As an example case, I dare you to try to express an opinion on HN which does not toe the party line.

And for those of you about to down-vote this comment: where are the articles pointing out the problems with HN, where are the articles showing the flaws in Lisp, where are the articles which denounce venture-capital-funded startups as the snake-oil of the modern age?

"But those positions are wrong!", the puppeteers cry. Really? Last time I checked, questioning conventional wisdom is what made the modern western world possible.

...where are the articles showing the flaws in Lisp...

I've been reading about Lisp since I first learned of its existence in the early 90s. In all that time I can't think of a really good critical article that I've read about Lisp (there is some decent stuff about the various drawbacks of Common Lisp, or Scheme, or Lisp-1 vs Lisp-2, etc. And then there's some really bad stuff that's just old recycled FUD), but nothing good that really attacks Lisp as a whole critically.

I bet if such an article was written, it would actually get very far on Hacker News indeed. I'd certainly be interested to read it!

"where are the articles pointing out the problems with HN"

This one's on the front page.

"where are the articles which denounce venture-capital-funded startups as the snake-oil of the modern age"

Anything and everything from 37signals usually hits the front page.

I get upmodded when I criticize Lisp or useless startups. I think people are generally receptive to things that are contrary to the party line. Most of my Apple-hate comments don't even get downmodded anymore.

I don't think HN has jumped any sharks in this respect. But we do get a lot more "popular" articles now, and these lead to a lot of controversial-but-substanceless comments, which are annoying. (And I'm not saying I'm not guilty of writing comments like that, BTW.)

>Where are the articles showing the flaws in lisp?

Easy. Worse is better:


The source:


I was at the OOPSLA (+- a few years of 2002) where Gabriel denounced being a programmer and claimed to be a "code poet"... Looking at dreamsongs it looks like he's mostly followed through on that statement.

where are the articles pointing out the problems with HN

like this one?

> where are the articles pointing out the problems with HN

There's guidelines telling you what to do with this feedback. Better to contact them directly with feedback than post an article.

> where are the articles showing the flaws in Lisp

Heresy. Lisp has no flaws. But I'd read a well written article on the subject.

> where are the articles which denounce venture-capital-funded startups as the snake-oil of the modern age

I remember reading plenty of those. There is a lot of information/articles around about bootstrapping and running without VC funding. It does help to browse around rather than just reading the homepage. Some good articles unfortunately don't get the upvotes they deserve. C'est la vie.

Are you going to the "new" posts and upvoting the topics you feel deserve to be on the front page?

Yes. I don't really see how this solves my problem though.

The design of HN is news oriented, not discussion or community oriented. And because it doesn't have categories, when the amount of submission reaches a certain size, up-voting "new" posts has marginal effect compares to random floods of submissions.

A year and half ago, I was reading every "new" post, because I wanted to be fair, but it's just not feasible right now.

A phpBB-like forum would be great. I think you should just go ahead and start it. I'd use it.

Maybe part of the problem is a quick trigger finger on upvoting? There are three different threads on the front page about Google TV. Is that really necessary?

If people were more selective with their upvotes the front page wouldn't be filled with <topic of the day> articles.

I have a hard time upvoting articles; Although I may have found an article interesting, I'm not sure if it deserves to be on the front page. I find it easier to say this shouldn't be on the front page (Lately I've found myself saying that about many of the articles that are).

Maybe flagging/downvoting articles should be promoted to keep things off of the front page instead. (don't think you can downvote articles)

If you don't plan to monetize and brand that forum, I think subreddit is the way to go.

A Stackexchange site might be too. It seems the main difference b/t the two is that the Reddit/HN format is oriented submitting links for discussion and pithy comments, whereas SE is oriented around submitting questions for specific answers and collective problem-solving. The latter might be more what the OP is looking for.

I prefer the subreddit approach, mostly because I subscribe to the subreddit and see new stuff there in addition to all my other reddits, without having to hit an extra site. Mixergy's community (FoundersMix) is great, but I don't care so much for the StackOverflow engine for general discussion.

iirc, they're changing the StackExchange model so that it has to be blessed or approved before you can create one. Additionally, SE isn't really a great platform for fostering discussion as much as it is a platform for Q&A.

Start a Stackexchange site with like-minded HN folks?


And don't forget good ol' Slashdot. Alot of the old trolls moved on the new hotness social media sites.

There's already startups.com (but it doesn't cater to the same HN group). The problem with SE sites is they are geared more to solving problems and less about having a dialog.

Interesting that this article got so many upvotes. It seems to have struck a chord.

Ever since my last two submissions(interesting technical articles which should appeal to hackers imho) sank without a trace, I have been looking for an alternative myself. I wonder if (and this maybe blasphemy) whether three distinct sub-yc s for hacking/startups/other-intellectually-interesting-stuff may not solve the problem.

Simplest solution: add down-voting to submissions as well as comments. Then people can downvote the super off-topic and repeats.

This would solve the problem when a submission will get 20 or 30 upvotes just because of an interesting title, then most of the next 100 people looking at it would not agree but it's already got enough votes to sit on the front page for quiet a few hours.

It does not solve the community-drift problem.

Unless you keep raising karma thresholds for moderation and posting to keep the where-is-the-next-Digg crowd out.

How about a mailinglist automatically filters out posts based on relevancy? Using ardvark-like NLP?

A small niche mailinglist is probably the closest thing to a real online community, for two reasons:

- relevant emails always get read by everyone in the mailing list - people read emails anyway, so there's less step involved as suppose to going to a website to read posts.

But a conventional mailinglist is not scalable - some of the lists I'm in get so many posts everyday that I become de-sensitzed to them.

There's a solution however.

The way to keep the posts relevant is to sub-categorize them much like subreddit, but that's also work and it's manual. That's where NLP and machine learning comes in so that the system can learn your preference and only email you the relevant posts. Of course, you also get an option to receive less-relevant posts too.

(I should probably make this into a post as suppose to a comment.)

The lean startup circle Google group is pretty active, with decent SNR.

To save some googling: http://groups.google.com/group/lean-startup-circle

Great find, by the way.

There is a related wiki with a list of case studies and Meetups around the world that is also worth perusing: http://leanstartup.pbworks.com/

Hackers and Founders & Meetups in Hacker Dojo are great places for physical meetups in the bay area.

We also launched a product called HelpaStartupOut.com where startups and founders can post feedback, post educational articles, jobs etc. It's a simplified classified service for startups.

@jaytee_clone check it out and would love to hear feedback, the project is still very new chris [at] thestartupdigest.com

This may be good for feedback/discussion: http://answers.onstartups.com/

What's your favorite & least favorite thing about HN? subreddits? other startupy sites you follow?

forrst.com — I'll give invites to anyone who wants one. Email kyle AT forrst.com with the subject "Ask HN: HN Alternatives?"

answers.onstartups.com is a pretty good resource, though I sometimes get the feeling that it's overrun with "idea guys."

It's called Ask HN.


Try http://friendfeed.com/ and follow the right people.

I think it's a big loss for HN when these questions and discussions get posted on Reddit on another platform. A lot of the people here are young, but I feel they feel a need to be brainy or wide when posting here. Who says HN should be buttoned up?

But for people who feel that way, maybe we should have a "HN-unplugged" or "bleeding edge HN" forum.

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