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Ask HN: Non-technical readers of HN, why are you here?
307 points by romanhn 153 days ago | hide | past | web | 185 comments | favorite
HN's primary audience is "hackers", which generally extends to the engineering types. I however have gleaned a lot of insight from comments written by non-coders, particularly those without an engineering background.

If you're one of those, I'd love to hear how you found out about HN and what keeps you coming back.




While I am not a programmer, I gravitate to Hacker News the community seems to value smart, clear, concise, rational arguments, and sees through the BS. Because the community is intellectually curious, it is happy to discuss any interesting article that contains a smart new idea or perspective, which extends far beyond programming.

Link Quality: Articles that are low quality and don't provide any new or noteworthy information are not upvoted by HN and as a result I don't need to take time and energy to sift through them. Almost every mainstream news site on the internet is half full of fluff, and the FB newsfeed is even worse. HN avoids this be having a community of smart people who care enough to vote, and also by not being captive to advertisers

Comments Quality: Concise, rational, well backed up comments get upvoted. If I don't have a pre-formed opinion of a particular article I can turn to the comments to find the smart people who know what they're talking about, and then the best rebuttals right below. If I stay on WSJ I don't see that.

Diversity: Not only does HN cover an incredibly diverse range of topics, but also a diversity of opinion in the comments. Most news sites are siloed by topic, and my FB feed is an echo chamber.

Procrastination Value: Something about HN makes it the ultimate place to go when you don't want to do something else. Your brain gets a jolt from hunting through the list and finding something new and interesting to read. And it updates constantly at a similar pace to meet my procrastination needs. Plus the articles are good so I feel like I actually learned something compared with the Buzzfeed articles I might have clicked if I went to FB.


I am a technical person but probably (a good deal) older than average here on HN, and to be honest, I cannot fully agree to the statement "[...] seems to value smart, clear, concise, rational arguments, and sees through the BS" (unless the emphasis is on "seems").

Don't get me wrong, my point is certainly not that HN is the opposite of this description - I just don't find it very different here from other interactions I have. If anything, I sometimes get a bit of a "full-of-myself" vibe in some comments here, more than I'm used to.

That's just a personal opinion, though.


Getting your point. Maybe the "other interactions" you have are on par with those here on HN and that begs the question, where do those interaction happen?


I've been working in computer science / computational linguistics departments of various universities / research institutes for pretty much all of my career.


I guess the usability of HN depends a lot on your age and where you are physically located. When I used to live in the Bay Area, the significance reduced for me because I was able to have roughly the same coversations with people I would meet on a daily basis.

Coming back to Europe, the same conversations cannot be found. Most of my peers in college dont know where Silicon Valley is located and even if they would, they are more interested in drinking booze and planning on when to do it. The only way I can remotely keep up with the headlines of what matters in the Bay Area is to read HN.


I'm also not a programmer and this is pretty much my answer. Also, I'm in finance and this is sort of an "inside view" into the tech sector.


Is there anywhere I can get a similar "inside view" into your area? :)


Now wouldn't that be interesting? If the people who "aren't tech" in this thread posted the other places they get news we could get some really great stuff.

Most of the stuff I read is actually economic, not necessarily financial. For that: http://economistsview.typepad.com/ is about as good as it gets. Although I would recommend ignoring the frequent Krugman reposts. The comments are also usually dominated by 3 or 4 very opinionated posters. Also http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/ for general news/interesting headlines. https://www.statnews.com/ is great for healthcare.

One thing I see every once in a while on HN is people with the belief that they can spend a week or two knocking out an algorithmic trader and start raking it in. In order to break this illusion I would recommend: http://financial-math.org/ http://www.quantresearch.info/

And in terms of investing, Bogleheads is of course incredibly popular but still the best way to get investing safely and quickly.

EDIT: I'd also like to say that the Wall Street Journal is pretty invaluable but I have a subscription. The google loophole closing may make that a more difficult source for the layman.


> One thing I see every once in a while on HN is people with the belief that they can spend a week or two knocking out an algorithmic trader and start raking it in. In order to break this illusion I would recommend: http://financial-math.org/ http://www.quantresearch.info/

Also, the Wilmott quant finance forums are great: https://forum.wilmott.com


FT Alphaville blog?

There are various finance blogs, but discussion sites tend to be a disaster - actual information is worth money and not given away for free, so most people are just "talking their book".


Yes please


macro-man.blogspot.com

A very niche community though. Most prefer sticking to Bloomberg.


Agree with this. I'm not a programmer but still work in tech, so find the conversation valuable and at a minimum helps for awareness of issues and trends. Not to mention the non-technical content is pretty valuable and gets trending here before most other places, except maybe some sub-reddits


Agree with everything here. For us non-technical people, it's just a matter of skipping over the programming stuff. You just have a blindness for these articles - after a bit of practice they just disappear and all the other gems shine through.


Agree, well said. I'd add that it's very time efficient. I'm trying to be as informed as possible in as little time as possible.


I worked one year as a programmer years ago and now lurk on HN for the reasons Dave_TRS stated.


"My Facebook feed is an echo chamber."

This is one of my favorite quotes of the year so far!


I honestly have no memory of how I first stumbled across HackerNews, though it was sometime in 2014. At first glance, it didn't make much of an impression on me, because of the obfuscating jargon in article titles and the dated site design. But I saw a couple interesting articles, then came back a couple days later and found a couple more, and slowly it became part of my morning routine. Eventually I started reading the comments and realized that this is what Reddit was like 8 years ago. Smart people who know what they're talking about and are contributing frequently to lively discussions on serious topics in science, tech, business, law, and occasionally higher brow cultural topics. Even when someone posts something off base, you can rely on the comments to be edifying.

Nominally, I'm a lawyer, so most of the content here is not targeted at me. I also occasionally code small projects at my job when it isn't worth coordinating with our IT vendor, so I'm not entirely untechnical, but that's a skill set I developed on the side for fun and only relatively recently. I do however work in tax law at a large accounting firm and deal with the R&D credit a lot, which means it is helpful for me to maintain at least superficial fluency in technical fields ranging from computer science to automobile engineering to pharmaceutical research and everywhere in between. Reading the material posted here helps me do that.

Just as a small example, I frequently have to interpret the information from client documentation with pretty much no context because the clients just dump a bunch of documents to us and don't want us wasting their SMEs' time. Usually someone randomly picking out 100 emails from their inbox, downloading whatever happens to be on their shared drives, mass exporting JIRA tickets, or some similar method for pushing a bunch of undifferentiated crap at me. When we are in exam or appeal, I have to find the documentation in those dumps that supports the tax credit claim, which means I have to understand the technical content as well as its legal significance.

Just browsing through comments here and seeing what real enterprise programmers think and talk about has been extremely helpful in helping me contextualize these often jargon-laden and obscure documents. Imagine as a non-technical person receiving a Word document titled "Memory Heap Fragmentation," which just contains a stack trace and some commented C++ code. You don't even know what a stack trace is, or memory heap fragmentation, or how to distinguish C++ comments from C++ code. Hell, you probably barely know what memory is. Reading here immerses me in a sea of that jargon, but in an unusually accessible and interesting way. I can read the Wikipedia entry for memory heap and my eyes will just glaze over after three lines. But here, I'll read a fascinating story about how someone encountered a bizarre bug stemming from a weird quirk of a malloc() call. I still have to google some of the topics, but the context makes them interesting enough to slog through the reference material.

I've also become slowly more technical in my own skill set and career trajectory as I've been browsing HN, and I owe a lot of that to what I've learned here. I've become an internal product manager for a software tool we are developing for our practice and I am often consulted on firm-wide software projects, despite being relatively junior in rank (i.e. not a partner or director). In those meetings, I can speak somewhat intelligently about whether we want to pursue an Oracle or Azure platform for a product because of the articles I've read here. I can comfortably poopoo a partner's obsession with IBM's Watson because of what I've seen experts saying here. And I can do that while understanding the legal, accounting, and business domain, which makes me a more appealing resource than a purely technical consultant. So I guess I should say thanks to all you brilliant HackerNews contributors for advancing my career far beyond what my personal merit deserves!


This the most interesting response to date. Not because of the reason you're here, but I can see the parallels to what I used to do in reverse.

I spent over a decade writing software for a medical device manufacturer and was at a fairly senior position. On any given day I had to interact with biochemists, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, production floor technicians, technical support, or customer hotline people. Most of these had little or no interest in software, or the internal operation of a very complex instrument. But yet I had to find a way to translate the reason for some obscure fault or weird behavior into whatever their frame of reference was so they could either understand it and fix it, or explain to the "customer" (internal or external) what went wrong, why, and how to correct the problem.

Just had to say that because a lot of my support tasks seemed very similar to your remark about receiving a technical document and having to make sense of it to understand its applicability from a legal perspective.


I think what you and I are experiencing is the core trend of software development away from purely technical challenges toward domain-specific adaptation of existing technology. Not that there aren't cutting edge coders building innovative tech. There's just a massive amount of non-innovative tech work which is now easily achievable because the infrastructure and labor pool are up to the challenge at affordable prices. Building a website or an app isn't usually a technical feat anymore, but rather a routine activity. It's like construction, just nailing beams to other beams, with everything standardized.

The bulk of the work ends up being collecting and refining requirements to ensure that the tech serves the business needs. You don't need brilliant coders to achieve that. You need people who are moderately competent in understanding the tech and are extremely fluent in understanding the business challenge. That's why domain-driven development is kind of hot right now. It drives people from the tech end toward attaining fluency in the domain and people from the domain toward attaining fluency in the tech. You came from the opposite end as me, but we're driving toward the same middle, which is someplace where people understand how to take a set of business needs and translate them into functional code. It's nothing new, really, it's just spreading to encompass a much larger percentage of the workforce than ever before because tech is becoming so pervasive.


Hey there, is there some way for me to contact or reach you?


Non-coding marketing guy here. When I jumped into the "startup" world I did all the cliche things, joining HN being one of them. I also found myself surrounded by tech nerds and I needed to start understanding this foreign language they spoke. I skip over the technical articles on here, which actually makes the reading experience quite fulfilling. There's plenty here for non-techs, including relatively healthy conversations and debates. Also, I like to pick up tech jargon and randomly blurt words out during all-team meetings to give everyone a reason to laugh. "JSON" is my favorite term to use. Every now and then the devs will look over and ask me how I'd approach some problem and I'll string together something to the tune of: "Well, I'd first query the database to ensure we're stringing together the AngularJS properly, then I'd hardcode the server side to strengthen our architecture. Also, JSON."


A+ for effort... I wish any of our marketing folks had even heard of JSON


Then you'll love BSON :p ( Binary JSON)


Haha, you sound like a great co-worker!


LOL i love it


HN helps me converse with the contract developers I work with. I use it as a way to keep up with what is new in the development world to understand when/how to apply it to the projects I'm working on.

Admittedly, it is hard for me to keep up with the latest frameworks/tools/etc without the context of being a full-time developer, but I try. Some of the "hacker-oriented" articles on HN go over my head, but that's ok. I still enjoy learning about it.

I think it's important for non-technical founders to have a grasp of what is out there to be able to converse intelligently with developers. HN helps fill that gap for me (albeit imperfectly).


"Admittedly, it is hard for me to keep up with the latest frameworks/tools/etc without the context of being a full-time developer,"

It's impossible even if you are. It's probably best to understand this as an instance of the multi-armed bandit problem [1], and the mature full-time developer will eventually settle into an exploitation phase.

There's a lot of nuances beyond that we could get in to, but I think that captures the essence of the situation fairly well. Though I will mention that mature developers also develop the skill to successfully use the experiences of others to judge the payout probability of certain "arms" more correctly than a new person will, which the pure multi-arm bandit problem usually does not encompass.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-armed_bandit


Along those lines, here's a quick read about how "life is a bandit problem."

"When you have more information about what works and what doesn’t, you shift to spending the majority of your time pulling the best lever (exploitation), but you keep exploring the other options in case your current best option isn’t the very best that exists. Here’s the thing: the exploration phase never stops."

https://joshkaufman.net/explore-exploit/


Now I wanna study a multi-armed bandit where levers get added over time, perhaps even one where levers don't have a fixed distribution, but can have some drift.


(grad student here who had a year of his life robbed by multi-armed bandits) It's been tried, if you want to jump in the rabbit hole check out this paper: http://www.kdd.org/kdd2016/subtopic/view/online-context-awar...


It's true. When I first started programming, I was simultaneously learning PHP, Python, Java, SQL, ActionScript, Perl, and Javascript for different classes I was taking and projects I was involved in. When I look back at that time, I wonder how that was even possible mentally. I remember setting up my IDE (which was at that time TextPad) to represent different languages in different colors (I think Java was blue, Perl was brown, and Python was green IIRC).

I've been trying to settle into the exploitation phase now with Ruby, but circumstances are forcing me back into polyglot mode. It's pretty frustrating because it feels like a demotion. Alas, but that's just how the industry is.


Even as a technical person I have a hard time keeping up with HN and the shear quantity and diversity of frameworks and technologies. Thats one thing I like about HN though: when I see new languages/tools/frameworks pop up often and regularly it encourages me to check them out and learn something new that I haven't been exposed to otherwise. Professionally things like Rust have not been relevant for me, but personally I find it very interesting.


I'm a board-certified anesthesiologist/research scientist (https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=5DdrMc8AAAAJ&hl=en), author (https://www.amazon.com/Quantations-Joseph-Stirt-ebook/dp/B00...), and blogger (www.bookofjoe.com). I don't know how I happened on Hacker News sometime last year, though it may have been after seeing Y Combinator or one of its principals mentioned somewhere. Sources — and the past — are more often than not misremembered, so I'm hesitant to go beyond that.

What keeps me coming back daily are the links to stories I would never see anywhere else. I'm a TechnoDolt®© (I coined the word) and haven't a clue about coding and software et al, but headlines like "Robots Rule at Swiss Factories as Strong Franc and Wages Bite (bloomberg.com)," "What makes the perfect office? (timharford.com)," "Your personal Facebook Live videos can legally end up on TV (thememo.com)," "The Beauty of Nature Seen Through Creepy Webcams (wired.com)," "German parents told to destroy Cayla dolls over hacking fears (bbc.com)," and "Map showing the homeland of every character in Homer’s Iliad (kottke.org)" — 6 of the 30 links currently on the front page! — get me right where I live intellectually.


I'm also a physician (medicine). Technology and software are going to be everywhere and I'd like to know what's coming.


Personally, I'd consider you to be "technical", just with a different kind of computing machine. :)


Serious question -- is there such a thing as an anesthesiologist who is not "board-certified"? I shudder to think there are anesthesiologists out there who didn't have to pass any sort of certification process...


Yes, most are not certified because 'the board' is specific to each country and depending on country maybe each province/state or each city/municipality. To practice in a certain geographical area, you'd have to certified by the board in that area. Some countries have treaties that will recognize other boards as sufficient. In the end, it gets complicated and you only really need to worry about it if you are in the field.


Do you think there are non-technical and technical people, or do you think everyone has different levels of various skills?

What is a "non-technical" person? If you mean someone who literally doesn't code I would submit that the majority of the articles are not about programming.


That sounds just like the sort of comment a technical person would make. Nothing slips past the Turing test!

More seriously: There are a lot of people with no primary interest in science or technology. They might be really into art, music, sports, politics, entertainment, and probably a million other topics I can't think of that may intersect with technology but isn't about the technology.

That's also a possible answer to the question. There is likely an intersection with technology regardless of your interests, and some people might come here to learn more from the technical folks. Some might even contribute back from a nontechnical perspective.


An artsy music teacher once told me that music to her feels like math. That was both an epiphany and a disappointment.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that all of the arts involve learning a good deal of technical craft. In fact, obsessing over tools (whether you have the best trumpet, paint brushes, videocamera, etc.) is a special kind of bikeshedding, rampant in art forums.


Would you say there are chefs and non-chefs? Or just people who have different levels of various skills?

Musicians and non-musicians?

Ballerinas and non-ballerinas?

Of course there are. Yes where you draw the line is somewhat arbitrary and will vary from person to person but there is still a distinction to be made. You can be pedantic and say "Well everyone is a ballerina, they just might be a really unskilled one." But someone who is very unskilled really isn't a ballerina.


No, that is not the same thing at all.

The equivalent would be "are there programmers and non-programmers"

That is a specific job. "Technical person" is not a specific job.


I'll happily admit I am not an artistic person; that is not a specific job either.

While 'technical' more generally refers to the techniques and tooling of any trade, craft, or activity (arts included can have technical terminology, etc.) - we understand it here, or so I thought, to mean those concerned with our trade/craft/activity, y'know, computers or the internet, or whatever else non-technical family members describe us as 'doing'.


It's a classification of activities and knowledge.

Not everyone who calls themselves a ballerina or a chef has a job as one.


Haven't you ever seen people who are artistically-inclined and those who aren't?


I have.


Those people are probably a good group to start looking for your elusive non-technical person. I've met people who have zero inclination to engage in DIY, car maintenance or how to setup email on their iPad. There are very definitely non-technical people in the world, and thank goodness there are because they contribute to society in ways I could never dream of doing.


Artistic people? I majored in piano performance (full-tuition scholarship for it) and have been employed as a developer for almost ten years. I don't think my situation is all that unusual.


I didn't say that all artists are non-technical so you fit into the model I described. I don't even think I implied it, to be completely honest.


I would say that being a "technical" person, like any other human trait, is a gradient and foremost a matter of self-description in this context. While most articles on HN are not about programming, they're very prominently technology-oriented or topics that directly affect technology or the people working in it.


I thought that would be anyone who doesn't work in a "technology" field and/or doesn't have a strong interest in technology.


I'd say I was "partially technical" I guess.

I work in security so have technical expertise in that space - the traditional 'hacker' - but I don't primarily sell myself as technical in business.

I'm here because I like the technical detail, I want to stay up to date with the technical detail, and I want to improve my skills in this area as a generalist.

I quite often find that the technical discussion here ends up either over my head or beyond my interest, but I'm more likely to find something insightful, useful, or just straight up interesting when existing around here than when existing in other 'lower' level forums.

What I really like is finding a 'gem' of a comment that might quite incidentally make the penny drop on something I've sort-of understood for a while.

And beyond that, I find the moderation and general community around here to be the least toxic I've seen of basically any other place on the internet.


I've used to program professionally when i was younger (still do as a hobby) and use HN to keep up to date on tech topics. Been working for an investment firm until recently and it helps tremendously to understand underlying tech trends. HN can be skimmed quite quickly and the comments are usually insightful (although very biased).

Also curiosity; e.g. trying to understand how people can retroactively justify using that disgusting mess that is the Javascript syntax & ecosystem.

Graduated here from slashdot and digg back in the day as i became interested in startups.

Additionally; where else to potentially find that mythical rockstar developer with aligned interests as the now useless 'idea guy'. Sometimes makes me feel like a gold-digger hanging out in a banker-bar though...


> e.g. trying to understand how people can retroactively justify using that disgusting mess that is the Javascript syntax & ecosystem.

Plenty of us engineers are here for the same reason...


It seems most justify it by hiding the disgusting mess behind that horrible (but 'pretty') cursive (though I think monospace) font that seems suddenly so popular.


> trying to understand how people can retroactively justify using that disgusting mess that is the Javascript syntax & ecosystem.

Not your main point, but it's very simple: if you're building a web app (or interactivity on a web page), you don't have a choice as it's the only thing that runs on browsers. (Or did you mean "why wouldn't people use a better language that compiles down to javascript"? To which I'd reply: it's one more layer of abstraction, and depending on the scale of your project it might not be worth adding that extra layer.)


I was starting a business in 2011, and a friend sent me a link to a Hacker News discussion on some self-employment issue I had been thinking about.

I was deeply hooked.

I now run a web business: https://lsathacks.com

Not a programmer, though I learned enough scripting to generate some of the html on the site, and to know what sort of things I can and can't ask a programmer to do.

Hacker news is an incredible resource for web entrepreneurship. I learned an incredible amount about running a business here, and was able to apply it successfully to what I was building.

There are also wonderful discussions on a variety of interesting topics here. I scan the front page every day and am able to pick out things relevant to my work, or that seem interesting.

Further, when I want to research a technical topic, I'll use the search function here. I've found great discussion of SASS tools and of books.


Search function? Do you mean searching through Google with a filter for this site only?


There's a search at the bottom of the page.


Site is down :)


Hmm, are you sure it's not you? It's up for me. I doubt there was enough of a hacker news effect to bring it down. I was working on it when you posted too.


I am one of those. I came across HN a year & a half back to know happenings in tech world, esp tech startups. Now I am hooked to it for genuine news and the discussions that happen are a goldmine of information.


When slashdot died, I had nowhere else to turn for a long time and wandered aimlessly for intellectual stimulation.

Eventually, Boing Boing linked to an article here and I suddenly found the collective hive of wisdom I needed.

HN is like having a million smart people finding cool stuff that I know I will like.

I want a diversity of topics that are tech related, but not specifically tech focused. I've learned more about business management, philosophy, medicine, and human life than any other source.

And when there is a call to arms, people are willing to step up and make a difference. The comments aren't trollish.

I love this place.

Don't screw it up


Same here, after the Slashdot and Digg debacle, I joined HN.

A lot of very smart people here. I always get excited to read the first comment and its always something insightful.


Don't remember how found out about HN. But there are a number of reasons why I am here every day:

1) I may not be a Silicon Valley technocrat, but I do have a strong understanding of core computer science and programming. Part of why I'm here is to further that knowledge for use in both my personal and professional projects.

2) Links cover much more than just geeky technobabble. I enjoy reading a variety of topics from statistical discoveries from big data analysis to political thought pieces to websites designed purely for fun to links about new services. The range of topics is fairly robust and it excludes the stuff I don't care about (sports, celebrity gossip, etc.)

3) I care deeply about personal security and there are solid discussions here semi-regularly about that.

4) Opposing viewpoints. Many politically related comments here are on the liberal/democratic side of the fence. I'm more of a socially libertarian but fiscally conservative person. I like coming here to expose myself to different opinions and, more importantly, the thought processes behind them. I consistently evaluate those ideas to see if they have merit and whether or not they fit into my value system. In is my belief that if there is a well-reasoned argument that contradicts my own, this is one of the places I will find it. I also post my own thoughts here to see how they land with the crowd. More often than not, they resonate. If not, they at least don't get downvoted or piss anyone off. This tells me that when you are talking about intelligent, reasonable, normal people there is more common ground between the various ends of the political spectrum than I had imagined. Finding this common ground and gauging the reactions to politically related material is one of the most important functions of HN for me. It helps me grasp what's going on in other people's minds who aren't just blindly supporting a political party.

5) Comment quality is far above nearly all other sites. This is, almost without exception, the only place on the entire internet I post anything public. I don't use social media and almost never comment on any other forum or public article online.

6) The simplistic design. It's fast, straightforward, and bullshit free. No ads or third-party scripts.


> No ads

HN does have job ads for YC startups (described at https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html). The one on the front page now is https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13670103. You can tell it's a job ad because it has no vote arrow and no username. This "reserved slot on the front page for a YC-related ad" approach has been HN's way of giving something back to YC for years. I seem to recall a post by pg announcing it in the early days.

We're diversifying that front-page slot to sometimes show startup launches instead of job ads. Those stories begin with "Launch HN". We figured that would be better both for the YC startups (since just-launched ones aren't ready for job ads yet) and to the HN community (since launch posts are probably more interesting than job ads).


Does self promotion count as advertising? If it's YC promoting YC-backed startups, I wouldn't really consider it advertising as that requires a third party, at least in my opinion.


Strangely enough I don't think I've ever thought of that distinction before.


Those aren't the types of ads I was referring to. I was talking about in-page ads like AdSense.

But it's good to know they do that.


I agree that not having other kinds of ads is a big deal.


> I'm more of a socially libertarian but fiscally conservative person.

This is by far the place that contains the most commentary by folks of that persuasion that I'm aware of. Not just on the internet, but also in print, on TV, and in person. So I guess my question is, if you come here for opposing viewpoints, where do you go for agreement?


I found hackernews when I was a technical recruiter and realized browsing articles here would allow me to be more credible with clients and developers. Now I run the career management / job training department at a coding bootcamp and hackernews feels like the only quality source of discussion about technical news. I also share a lot of articles from here, using buffer, to my linkedin and twitter page.


Tl;DR To learn.

I'm someone with a social studies background but I've always been interested in technology and also its ramifications in society.

Also, comments on here are often more interesting than the article itself and go more in depth. I like to learn by myself so this helps a lot to understand the bigger picture on the technical side of things.


Yeah I click the comments first and then the actual link most of the time.


Although I'm a programmer, I visit HN regularly because (frankly) the mean IQ here is higher than for most social media sites.

I posted to Reddit for many years (https://www.reddit.com/user/lutusp/?sort=top) but IMHO Reddit is in the midst of a major meltdown with respect to content quality -- in my view it has attracted too many users of doubtful intellectual abilities.

I find that HN has consistent high quality content, conveniently accessible, with an easy-to-use interface.

> HN's primary audience is "hackers", which generally extends to the engineering types.

I think that was once true, but a quick read of a given day's front page posts suggests a much wider audience, both among those who post articles and those who read.


I find some of the programming subreddits such as Elm, Purescript and Haskell to be intelligent. It ain't all bad on /r


IANAE. I enjoy playing around around with databases and web design as a hobby, so I like the coverage there. I also like interesting articles about scientific discoveries, controversies, etc. Also, the commentariat on the whole is fairly civilized and actually enlightening sometimes. That's a rarity online, in my experience. Bonus points when people who created the project/product (sometimes a long time ago!) show up in the threads.


Well, the word "hacker" in this context really means "thinker." I mentally substitute it as "Thinker News" when I reflect on what the site is about as that better describes a site full of IT and non-IT people delivering deep insights. Like you, I've learned from the many non-technical or just non-IT people that are here. I say "or" because there's many technical fields other than computers. I'm also curious how they discovered the site as it might hint at how to get more of them on here. I've met many people in other fields who would make good commmenters but not sure what entices such people to discussion forums like this.


I'd say it goes beyond "thinker" - more like "thinker/maker/doer" - anyone can have an idea, but not many take it to the next step and execute on it (which ultimately leads to YC thing of startup investment/funding, if the idea has merit and was executed well).


That distinction of execution tied into the startup concepts is a good point. The site is for thinkers but owner values execution over good ideas. The work Maker in its modern connotations is closer to something embodying all that. Wonder what other single words embody a group mixed with people constantly thinking up or doing interesting things.


I definitely have an engineering background but I think I can understand people that come here without one. In the end HN is really a place to talk about also a lot about many other topics.

I mean, just glancing at the front page now:

- What makes the perfect office?

- Your personal Facebook Live videos can legally end up on TV

- Let’s not demonize driving, just stop subsidizing it

- Airbnb Acquires Luxury Retreats, Beating Out Expedia, Accor

- Humans evolved to tolerate smoke poisoning


Your list could be summarized in a tabloid article title:

"Who would have thought that even technical people are still people?"

:p


I'm also one of these people - I recently landed a job which required me to learn how to code. I work with the tech department at the startup, and so everyone around me reads HN. I've found that it's valuable for discussion (the articles and stories are often talked about over lunch or in meetings). Plus, I've been looking for a source for interesting news that I care about. While I don't read most of the techie articles about how to do stuff or the newest updates to software, I read all of the other stuff that pops up. I enjoy the community, asking and answering questions and I've found myself hooked on.


I am self-learning programming and find HN to be a good resource, even if a lot of it is over my head. There's also discussion here that doesn't exist on other websites about things I like, such as the BSDs and Lisps. It's also a good place to skim tech news because if it matters it's generally on the top page with a lot of comments.


For me, HN started off as an alternate news source to reddit; there's more signal to noise with every article on the front page. Even if it wasn't newsworthy per se, you could (and still can) count on a vast majority as free and surprisingly in-depth knowledge. An example - once their was an article on MIT's free online course; a specific lesson on Chinese Architecture was a godsend when I had been trying to expand my footprint in architecture theory.

I'm an illustrator / comic artist / graphic designer triad, if it counts. :)


Quite hilarious, since Reddit was one of YC's first investments


One of HN's origin stories is that pg finally got around to writing it when Steve and Alexis stopped accepting his feature requests.


Oh that's interesting. I remember being hooked to reddit when it launched. And then after a while it started slipping and was happy to find HN (quite possibly through reddit or maybe pg essays) which was a bit like the original reddit, but much better.


Precisely, and that was no accident, since the idea for both sites came from pg. Of course he knew it was in Reddit's interest to grow, but when it lost the property of being interesting for him personally to read, he created HN, a much smaller sibling, and kept it that way by design.


It's also one of the reasons I want to write something like HN.


You should. HN can't be all things, so if you'd rather have something else, create it and make a community with others who share your preferences. Several have spun off from HN over the years, much as HN did from Reddit.

There is room for a lot more internet communities. Plenty of permutations haven't been tried yet, or were tried and failed for extraneous reasons.


I wouldn't say I'm non-technical. I spent most of my childhood on computers in the 90s-early 200s. Jumped on AOL very early on, got into Warez, progs, all that fun stuff, then into early web development (MS Frontpage!), built a blog from scratch using ASP + text files (back when we called them eZines) in 2000, got into IRC, running piracy groups and scripting some pretty cool stuff in mIRC scripts, and then later on tinkering with building stuff in PHP and such. Unfortunately, IT and sofware were not considered good career paths around 2002-2003, at least to my immigrant parents, and I was steered the wrong way as far as picking a major. I'm still figuring out my career path, sadly, but I don't think I would have been a very good software engineer anyways. Nonetheless, I have a close affinity still to tech, software, startups and such so I've been coming here for a while. Actually, I feel nostalgic for the older days of the internet, when it was a lot less crowded, it was easier to get attention for something new, and there were less charlatans and hucksters trying to get funding for startups. Too much money flowed into the internet, and I don't think it's the "frontier" it used to be anymore. Not that you asked, but I think the full migration of "the press" onto the web has not necessarily been to the web's benefit either (take a look at Google results these days for anything that's not a product and you'll just find the same few online newspapers and blogs dominating).


I'm a digital marketing guy who is probably nerdier than most engineers I know (for example, I can claim to have spent a portion of my youth playing D&D with the Gygax family in Lake Geneva, WI every weekend).

As I've developed in my career, I've gotten more and more technical. I used to actually do some basic web design back when I was younger and things were super simple, but since then have gone on to refresh my HTML/CSS/JS skills and go from there. I wanted to learn how to make an actual web app with a database, so I started learning RoR, then backtracked and learned more foundational Ruby before continuing.

I love reading the technical articles here because it has done wonders to teach me new concepts, point me towards new resources and in general grow that part of my brain.

HN is also great because I'm pretty deep on the ad tech and analytics side of things, and I love talking shop with people who have similar experience when those articles come up. It is also good to continually immerse myself in opposing viewpoints. I'm not in favor of all advertising by any means, but there can be some pretty solid dialogue around that here beyond the typical "all advertising is bad" mantra you come to expect from many technical people.

The signal-to-noise ratio is also relatively high compared to some other forums I'm on, and I've actually had some great business contacts come from simply commenting on posts here.


> for example, I can claim to have spent a portion of my youth playing D&D with the Gygax family in Lake Geneva, WI every weekend

Now that is a classic example of what we mean by whimsical tangent—the very best kind of tangent. Please tell us about that sometime!


Oh man...so many stories to tell about that Dang!

I ended up at the Game Guild (game store in Lake Geneva) by chance on a school trip for a small group of people who had various social issues (I was in it because I had bad social anxiety in HS). Saw people playing D&D in the back room and as I started talking to them realized it was several of Gary's children and grandchildren and friends. So I would make the hour-long drive from the Chicago suburbs every weekend to play with them for a few years. It actually ended up being one of the biggest drivers for me getting past my social anxiety such that you'd never know I used to have it if you met me now. I ended up founding my own D&D group back home as a result and later in college. Both led to meeting lifelong friends and becoming confident in social situations, speaking, organization, etc. since I was DM most of the time.

A couple of my favorite stories...

- Bringing my best friend and watching him start arguing with Gary (without knowing who he was) about how Dwarven women don't have beards. Kicked him under the table and whispered "he made the f-ing game, if he says they have beards, they have beards!"

- Joking with some people about the various named spells like the spell lines for Bigby, Tenser and Mordenkainen and being confused why some of them seemed to be talking as if the spells were theirs. Turns out I'd been playing with the people who originally created and played Bigby, Tenser and Mordenkainen, so yes, they were their spells.

- Having Gary teach me a harsh lesson in physics and volume calculations when I cast a high-level fireball in a smallish space and incinerated half the party. He was not the most forgiving when it came to interpreting the rules.

- Being listed as an official playtester in the Lost City of Gaxmoor book.

Unfortunately, the Gygax family had a somewhat tragic history with businesses, and beyond what went down originally with TSR, the Game Guild itself (which his son Luke bought out at one point) seems to have fallen on hard times and is no more.

On a side note, I work at SmugMug right around the corner from you guys (we're near Evelyn and Pioneer right off the 85 exit), so if there's any interest in a HN D&D group, I might be convinced to dust off my dice bag!


I've yet to find higher quality discussions covering a broad range of topics on the internet.

Also the uncluttered U/I...no distractions.


I'm a high school teacher in San Francisco, and I have an obligation to prepare my students for the world they will live and work in. To do that, I need to stay aware of what that will look like and what skills they'll need. HN is just one of the ways I can keep abreast of what's going on outside my own discipline.


Computer came like this; can't find close button


I'm a "technical" reader, but I feel compelled to answer - I really wanted to get away from Reddit. Even on more serious sub-reddits, where you would expect some form of rational discussion, threads always devolved into puns or corny (and predictable and bad) jokes. That sort of stuff generally doesn't make it here, and it's all the better for it.


I'm a k12 educator. I come to HN primarily because of the quality and depth of discussions. I also enjoy considering the intersection of technological progress and our built world. Even if I don't dig into the technical details as most commenters here would, I believe participating adds a level of depth to my knowledge that I wouldn't gain otherwise.


I always click through to the HN comments about an article before clicking through to the article itself in the knowledge that I'll get a rigorous, open-minded perspective on the topic.

Many times the criticism and debate I've read here has been better than the original source material itself.


This. I am only an amateur programmer, bit i often prefer the discourse over the article, to the article itself.

Now I routinely check the comments first.


I'm a big fan of HN's moderation - stopping flamewars, rules against clickbait titles, ect


Because somewhere along the line, rather than going to the US and becoming some sort of dotcom millionaire back in the late nineties, I didn't.

Now I live vicariously through this site, dreaming of a nice office job with my own desk and a chair that isn't knackered...


Clever people. High quality content. Good signal-to-noise ratio (cringe). And another cringey phrase - thought leaders. I find that the thinking here is ahead of the curve in general not just tech.

Also, while I'm in finance I understand a lot of of the tech chatter. I've got some rudimentary coding ability. (I can code a functional genetic algo from scratch - it'll just take me 20x longer than one of you guys and be a very nasty solution).

Crucially that level of understanding is sufficient to scan the thread titles and work out which ones I care about. "upcoming LLVM 4.0 release" - it's something *nix related. Don't know what but I'm certain it's not for me. Next topic.


I'm an MBA student at the University of Michigan. I have a background in Engineering and software so I can appreciate the discussion topics that HN gravitates towards.

To me HN is a great source of 'frontier information' AND associated perspectives that are generally fair but probably biased towards techno-optimism (not necessarily a bad thing).

The comment quality is a huge plus point compared to other communities. I think i could probably get the same news from a variety of sources but the opinions and time taken to create quality comments is staggering and keeps me coming back almost daily as a lurker.


I am technical so some amount of bias may be involved here.

Comments in HN have depth that no other similar site reached. They are harsh but not too brutal, lengthy but not too much, detailed but not overkill, sometimes false but not in a way that can cause harm if taken too seriously. Authors are from all around the world but still there is a common language based on English (this sentence is nonsense if you don't get it but that's okay, i didn't harm you I hope). No edge is too sharp to hurt here. Aside from that, it really has a masturbatory side, almost like porn. Porn can be fun sometimes.


I'd say I'm pretty technical (I do frontend / full-stack work in my dayjob), but as startupdiscuss said below, it's a spectrum. There are plenty of people that are better coders than me, that work lower-level in the stack or are more mathematically inclined.

The tech articles aren't the only reason I come back - there are a lot of useful insights here around startups, business practices and culture, as well as war stories from entrepreneurs. The more places I work the more I observe that engineering skills are great, but not the main hurdle for product or company success.


I found this place when Fred Wilson mentioned HN on his blog many many years ago.

I come back partly because of the intermittent reinforcement of my comments being upvoted and trying to predict when they will be downvoted. Also obviously goes without saying that I learn things that I never knew and get turned onto companies that I never heard about. [1] And being exposed to to other points of view.

[1] For example when seeing the OP who posted this romanhn I wondered who he was, saw he worked at pagerduty and checked out that site. I had heard of it but didn't really remember what they did.


I'm a product manager working on enterprise software, but do not do code professionally (I do hobby projects). I keep up with new tech, frameworks and tools partly so when I get push back from development such as "we can't do that with our framework", I can point to an article or video or technology that might get them thinking outside the box.

Also, sometimes I wish had gone into a more technical role initially but now feel like I can't switch into an equivalent dev oriented role but at least I can still play around on the side.


How do they take it? Do they accept it or show resistance?


Usually a compromise due to a strong history of reinventing the wheel, although recently new technical management has been increasingly open to outside tools and technologies.


To become one.

Since I started reading HN a couple years ago (yes, reading. I don't feel confident enough to comment) I learned so many things. Now I use code almost everyday in my day job as a UX designer. I work in tech, so it only makes sense I understand as much of it as possible.

Also, it's a hobby of mine to build things. Since I joined HN it's been quite a journey : got myself a RPi and played around with it, build a couple dynamic websites on my own server, taught myself Ruby on Rails (that's what the hackers use at my startup) and so on.

thanks guys !


I work as a technical recruiter and have done tech related work since college (covering tech stocks, VC, working at a big data startup in ~6 different roles, and now). I think HN provides good and interesting articles about tech and the world beyond. I don't really ever muck about in the comments because I don't know enough to really make a contribution but I try to check it a few times a day, see if there is anything really stimulating.


Comments

Ease of selecting and reading "stuff" (and not reading)

Subject matter. I have a degree in math and CPS back in the Herman Hollerith days and enjoy the subject matter.


Hey. I'm not a coder, unless HTML, some CSS and a bit of PHP count for something. I'm here for all the extra stuff not related to code, unless the code stuff has some philosophical flair attached to it. I have no plan to get into the startup world, while I'm contemplating a few side project kind of ideas that I might never get into for lack of [put any reason here]. The hacking crowd has been an interest of me since I started to learn about SEO, roughly 15 years ago. One led me to the other. Besides HN, I read local medias from my country, as well as international news in English and French.

The big thing for me in HN world is the scientific bias of almost anything discussed here, coming from almost every science fields. I couldn't find that anywhere else, yet. And that, I understand.


I don't consider myself a non technical reader, just under educated reader but I would like to respond anyways. I found this site the same way most of my friends have, one of my friends (real friends not Fb friends) sent me a link regarding some cutting edge technology (I believe it was about biohacking) that we previously had a conversation about. There are a few reasons I keep coming back, I like the YC idea of supporting startups, the same reason I watch TV shows like the shark tank, dragons den etc., I like the fact I can sort the news by newest submissions and last and probably most importantly, with all the fake news and rumors, click bait and the like I value the moderated comments section just as you suggested in your question.


Wow! That's a pretty interesting..i actually never thought of it like that...that 'hacking' only extends to engineering type..examples: farming is hacking ecology..yoga is hacking breath..procreation is hacking mortality etc. to me..a hacker studies a secure well established and seemingly stable system for loop holes, enters it, breaks it down, creates chaos and redesigns it. As I understand it now..it is not necessarily about problem solving in technical parlance. But being a non technical person, I see 'hacking' as a diff way to solve problems as I understand it from a colloquial point of reference.


I alternate being a hacker and non-hacker.

When I'm in the hacker mode I read almost everything here. Then I go into non-hacker mode maybe for a few months or years when I come here to read non-programming related articles and discussions.

Whatever it is I just hang on to HN.


As a Content Creator and active US Citizen, what happens in the Tech fields is of paramount concern both to my Artistic and Ethical sensibilities.

I'm here to learn new things, see multiple angles on various subjects, and take a pulse on how a cohort like HN thinks or behaves. Then I contrast my findings with a decidedly Non-Technical site like The AV Club, among other places, to get more data points / opinions to consider.

Lastly it's been my way to keep pushing myself to continue to re-learn Software Development. Resources and examples help. There's no replacement for actually practicing though, so time here is, again, also subject to categorization as idleness.


I'd agree with previous commenters that there isn't really a technical / non-technical split - it's more of a continuum. I'm definitely on the technical side of that continuum with respect to the general population, but relative to a lot of people who browse this site I'm probably on the low end.

I started reading more HN while searching for a replacement for/supplement to Reddit (feel like average quality there has declined a good bit in recent years). I think the articles posted on HN are generally pretty interesting and informative, and in a lot of cases the comments and discussion here seems to be better in comparison to Reddit.


An interesting thing I noted recently: Lots of people around me read HN, but with a varying degree of depth. Some programmers skim over the coding articles, some take interest in SaaS / marketing articles, and some only read science-related articles. And of course, everyone enjoys reading comments.

Although, discussion here can get awful technical but HN can cater to everyone's interest. Everything from 'why lawyering is an unsound career option' to 'why pugs are anatomical disasters' gets discussed. One of the many things I enjoy here is digging up old threads about obscure topics and I rarely get disappointed.


Honestly it is the technicality of the comment section that keeps me. If I go somewhere like Reddit there isn't enough coherence between the subreddits and you deal with a wide range of expertise and skill level. There is also a lot of trolling. HN can serve as an echo chamber a little because it is more tech based but the skill level is above average and being aware of the echo chamber seems to be enough. So I'm often surprised at how many things I learn from the comments and the accuracy.

As a counter example I've commented on other sites about basic topics that I work with and was significantly downvoted because someone that played KSP thought they knew more than someone who works in the industry that provided sources. That kind of thing doesn't seem to happen nearly as often here and I love how people frequently provide sources. As a scientist this makes HN a far superior community.


I'm a marketer for a software company looking to stay up-date, while I don't read ever technical article (or even know what they refer to at times) I enjoy the curation and quality of what is offered.


wow, just jumped into google mail and found a personal reply from Alexis to an email i sent in 2006 about (now called?) downvoting ring behaviour. @#$@#$ i'm so old now. came to HN after being early user of Reddit. not a programmer, ex-scientist and to echo some of the other comments, I mentally delete 90% of the programming articles (i prefer mathematica although that is not a popular choice here) but even at 10% or less, i always find something of interest. i guess i'm a classic hacker definition kinda guy.


The commenters here are extremely intelligent--and often witty and unpretentious as well--which is an unusual combination. Who wouldn't want to hang out with such people as much as possible? :-)


> The commenters here are extremely intelligent--and often witty

That is largely what keeps me coming back as well

> and unpretentious as well

We must be on different websites


There's such a variety in comments that both of you could be right. And I think we unconsciously quickly skim to read the kind of comments we enjoy reading.


There always seems to be something cool going on here. Whenever I see that orange banner pop up on my newsblur, I know it's going to be something atleast 'huh' levels of interesting.


bartender here. studied biology in college, no formal CS/EE whatsoever. stumbled on paul graham's essays and that led me here. started reading slashdot back in 2003 and kinda gave up on it 3 or 4 years ago, to me HN is like slashdot 2.0 which is why I love it.

I'm not sure if I would consider myself a hacker, however I love seeing how things work and I do know just enough to be dangerous wrt all manner of topics that show up here


I'm a UI designer and I hang out here to learn how programmers think so that I can improve my craft and relationships with developers in my work life.


I started on Startup news (which is what we used to call Hacker News before it had a name) 9.55 years ago.

I was a Unix person who was good at 'scripting' type stuff but didn't know anything about making apps with a UI (in fact it kind scared me).

A few years in I swapped being a Unix guy who knew Python to being a Python guy who knew Unix. Then I became a node.js person. Now I'm a founder at CertSimple.


I just tried to look up what brought me here but unfortunately my history doesn't go back that far, wouldn't it be nice if HN had a section in the account management section so we could see the articles we have viewed? Granted this would not help in answering this question as most people don't sign up on their first visit but I would still be a nice feature.


There are two kinds of tech converging here actually, so HN communities should be three imho: software eng as a field (marginally interesting to me), software eng for other industries (what drives me here), non technicals (hit and miss to me). The glue keeping these together, however, is mostly the YCombinator / SV cash-promise attraction imho.


I don't know if I quite count as "non-technical", but I'm definitely not an "engineering type". I'm a self-taught web developer and work primarily with JavaScript. The only algorithm I know is sorting. I am not a "hacker".

I'm here to learn what I don't know about "engineering" so I can be better at my job!


You use JavaScript! You're a hacker. :)


... and not an engineering-type? :-)


i'm a tech lawyer and find intelligent discourse about tech/business/random related things interesting. it's also very helpful to get a 'how techie types view the world' perspective. i lurk and never comment b/c as you said, the audience is primarily for hackers and non-coder comments dont seem as welcome


Good question: I'm fascinated by startups and I came across HN and I've been reading this site since around 2010. I now work for Streak (YC S11) in support and I'm learning web dev on the side.

Also, even if a reader of HN isn't a hacker, there are tons of interesting articles about technology and other topics that are interesting as well.


Intellectual interest.


I heard about Hacker news on the Introduction to Recommender systems class on coursera where they talk about HN algo for ranking articles. I have a job as marketing guy but I am very interested in technology and analytics, trying to even learn programming so this is a great place


I'm halfway there...not an engineer and my academic background is social sciences; but with a technical background occupationally. I'm here because it is an exceptionally diverse news source for all kinds of topics, technical and non-technical both.


> HN's primary audience is "hackers"

Who told you that?? HN's primary audience is startup people, it was even called startup news in the beginning. It certainly has nothing to do with hackers (for any definition of hacker).

HN exists to support YC, that's all.


> Who told you that

The first of the site guidelines of course: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

If you want to understand what HN is you need to understand Paul Graham. pg is a hacker, programming language designer, startup founder/investor, and voracious polymath—so all the factors people are mentioning in this thread were there from the beginning. HN's function was to furnish pg (and anyone with similar tastes) with interesting things to read. This principle—intellectual curiosity, just like the guidelines say—has always been the main driver of HN.

HN is at its most valuable to YC simply by being as interesting as possible. That idea is counterintuitive to some, but to people like pg and the early HN community it's as obvious as water. Happily, YC is still run by people who know that the best way to optimize HN for business value is not to.


> It certainly has nothing to do with hackers

This seems a rather extreme assertion about a website named Hacker News.


http://web.archive.org/web/20070221033032/http://news.ycombi...

^ Per the parent you're replying to, it used to be called Startup News.


Right, and it's called hacker news now, so I don't understand how that is relevant?


...and where the first line of the guidelines says "On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting."


> It certainly has nothing to do with hackers (for any definition of hacker).

Please, tell me more about the true definition of a hacker and why this site would be of no interest to them.


I'm a self-taught programmer, I do programming only for fun and open source projects.


I stumbled here somehow, then for some reason made a new account when I moved overseas. I stay because there is interesting stuff here.

I'm not very technical and do artwork, but seriously am interested in general tech trends.


To become more technical. Even when you don't have a technical role (especially if you are in a tech biology company) it is valuable to be able speak the same language

And I find the more you are in a leadership role, the more it becomes important.


Maybe it's the posts about business, science, philosphy, economics and so on.


I don't write code for a living (beyond basic HTML/CSS/JS), but I work at tech startups and talk primarily with technical staff. My current startup is founded by some machine learning vets.

Intellectual curiosity, mainly.


I'm working on building my third company and although I'm not an engineer, I love all things tech. I come back here every week so I can stay up to date on the engineering community.


I am a bit geeky as well, so I enjoy the general discussions. HN is also an interesting place discover new interesting technologies.

Then I sort of like to cringe at the whole "start-up" culture. :)


I 'was' a technical person, so id gravitated here to learn. Ive since left that role but I still enjoy the higher level of commentary here. One can only Reddit so much.


I am an online marketing person. Plenty of growth related stuff here + otherwise intellectually interesting stuff. Only non applicable things is threads on python vs ruby, etc.


Also, huge articles (+ flame wars) on Python 2.x vs Python 3.x I never read those :)


I trawl HN like sites for links to info of fundamental importance in algorithms, math and whatever. What I am not looking for are the new languages, frameworks and such.


You're mistaken. HN is a community of entrepreneurs building predominantly software businesses.

There are also lots of engineer folk here, but they arrived much later.


I'm an ops/business guy trying to become a technical person, and this is a great place to learn and understand how technical people think.


Reddit front page hasn't refreshed yet


I like HN, but I still feel it was a mistake to call it that ("Hacker"). That's like calling yourself an expert, maestro, champion, etc. Sounds self-conceited and/or insecure.

And besides, it's more about figuring out how to make money than how things work. Nothing wrong with the former, it's just the name is a misnomer.


There is a book writen by Paul Graham, creator of HN: Hackers and Painters[1]

And there is one tradition to call a hacker to someone who hacks(with software and hardware)[2], doing clever and/or ugly things, and that is not exactly to be a programmer (and also not exactly a security breaker, the other tradition for the hacker name[3])

I think that following the first tradition, the name of the site is well deserved.

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/hackpaint.html

[2] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hack

[3] http://duartes.org/gustavo/blog/post/first-recorded-usage-of...


See also: http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/H/hacker.html

hacker: n.

[...]

6. An expert or enthusiast of any kind. One might be an astronomy hacker, for example.

[...]


See also this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacks_at_the_Massachusetts_Ins...

> Hacks at the MIT are practical jokes and pranks meant to prominently demonstrate technical aptitude and cleverness

Edit: And this...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacker_culture

> Therefore, the hacker culture originally emerged in academia in the 1960s around the MIT's Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) and MIT AI Laboratory.

> Richard Stallman explains about hackers who program:

> What they had in common was mainly love of excellence and programming. They wanted to make their programs that they used be as good as they could. They also wanted to make them do neat things. They wanted to be able to do something in a more exciting way than anyone believed possible and show "Look how wonderful this is. I bet you didn't believe this could be done."


Tangentially, abusing code blocks for quotes is ugly on desktop and basically unreadable on mobile (the latter because it prevents proper reflowing based on screen width.)


Fixed the code block. I used an 80 character line limit, but I forgot phones have far less than that. Thank you for the reminder.


There's also a tradition for peers to "bestow" that title on someone who they feel deserves it. You don't call yourself a hacker just like you don't call yourself a maestro.


Fair enough :)

Edit: But it's like Surgeon's Journal. No one is called a hacker only because they reads HN, right?


To learn


Non-tech industry person here. I'm here because I enjoy learning. My first science project strung standard DOS games to autorun via 5 1/4 floppy. I charted Lemonade Stand to maximize profits (and modified) to max everything. I've authored a very minor install manual for OpenEMR on Ubuntu Server on Windows 7. In an attempt to gain paid work, I voluntarily revised popular MS Access instructional manuals. (The author wondered why the editors he paid didn't catch these errors.) Well, I also studied communications and my funding requests have literally kept 100 people alive for seven years.

I enjoy creating presentations that others call "quality presentations. I taught Excel for adults for one semester. The students were rude. The administration worse.

I return to learn and seek employment to cure my unemployment. I'm an outsider looking in. I see the American tech community gripe about H1B, training your replacements, lack of jobs, low salaries, etc. I can see why you "techies" have these problems. The problem is you.

Former friends who called me "resourceful" and "intelligent" are employed by ACN, IBM, Bloomberg, and financial companies. I helped each in my own little way. Not once has any returned the favor or, even a call.

While at my first large financial institution (none of the above), my company computer was misbehaving. Call to first tech support said to call second. Call to second said to call third. Third said to call the first. I have docs that state it will take IT 20 hours to search emails. Why so long? Gmail does it in seconds.

I've spoken with a few tech recruiters. While you techies bemoan lack of opportunities, I bemoan lack of transparency, capability, and integrity. This is your system.

I've interviewed for BA and tech writer positions and seen managers' less-qualified friends receive the offer. Yes, in a few cases I have compared quals on paper. People don't leave jobs, they leave managers. Wasn't there a joke about "who's your manager" at Intel? This is your system. It's broken. Not only do you refuse this person who would LOVE the opp to PDCA all day, you treat me rudely while choosing the "more experienced" person yet you have no idea how well he or she succeeds.

"We can't possibly reply to all candidates..." Why can't you? Is your email broken? I receive your spam marketing every week...

I tried AutoCAD probably before most of you were born. It arrived on 12 5 1/4 floppies. No user manual. I maintained tech manuals for a dept. I've trained trainers on how to organize data and build a business plan on one sheet of paper - in one hour.

I checked in with the guard for a recent trainer interview. He said I was at the wrong building and I was sent 200 yards across the campus. That guard said I was at the wrong bldg. and sent me back to first bldg. My interviewer was now at the desk awaiting me, now late. She reminded the guard I was scheduled. I'm 20 min late and sweating in a suit.

The audience for my test presentation awaited me. Computers, monitors, keyboards, etc. were strewn across the presentation area. They scheduled this yet left these things where they intended I present in order to receive an offer from them.

Given three days to prepare my presentation, I impressed one so well she asked, "If you have no experience with our system, how do you know it so well?"

Oh, while working 70+ hours/week in temperatures that once hit 126F, I sought additional opportunity. I found it with a remote worker for IBM. He would travel to businesses and fix their POS, networks, etc. I was lucky to assist.

The mess in tech is your mess. You have no idea how to measure ability. You have no idea how to interview. You have no idea how to treat people decently. You drive away decent, capable, honest, people in favor of status quo. One day you'll get it but from what I see it won't be before you too are unemployed. I return to learn. It's a shame you are looking out for those who want to learn with you.


I just don't like porn.


I have no idea.


Is this a joke? Most articles on HN are not technical.


Ya there was a day tho...


Actually the mix has stayed fairly steady over the years. If anything the technical posts have upticked a bit. Sometimes when this comes up I pick a random date and look in the Internet Archive for the front page that day to see what sort of differences leap out. Maybe I'll do that again.

Edit: ok, I randomly went to http://web.archive.org/web/20120823000341/http://news.ycombi..., which makes the point clearly, maybe too clearly—it almost seems like too strong an example the other way.


Yeah this is what attracted me to the site as well - if you look in the wayback for "hackernews.com" you will find a site that was somewhat controversial when it first came out ~99-00. At the time it was, to my knowledge, one of the first public "hacker" WWW sites as compared to locations on underground networks. I also hated it because I had dialup at the time and it took forever to load all those fancy graphics.


http://www.waybackhn.com/ is much easier to browse through.


Nice! I didn't know about that.


Nice to be proven wrong


Two of my closest friends work in Silicon Valley.

One is moderately successful. The other...well...lets just say if I mentioned his name every single person on here will know who he is - but I don't name drop :)

I'm not really a technical guy at all but my brain is really creative so my friends appreciate my opinion and advice for their work. And I'm a non-technical nerd so I love reading about tech and science!


Because is the site for dreaming about becoming a programming and has interesting posts about biology, astrophysics , aircraft and spacecraft , and whatever you want, games , nutrition... Also, some people with knowledge writes comments on the topics often. I like the zoology posts most, But im not technical in anything near all those fields, just like to read. Its a terrible site for your your productivity, better stay away.




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