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Ask HN: Would you be interested in a “cyberpunk” inspired news site?
158 points by zabana on April 30, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 76 comments
Hi HN,

I've been thinking about starting a blog / news site covering topics like privacy, cryptography, robotics, software etc, with a critical view on their evolution and potential effects on society at large.

Ideally it would be made of long form, researched, in depth articles and interviews with experts in those fields.

I'd also like to feature regular "hackers" doing cool stuff (like the guy who traveled to shenzhen to build his own iPhone)

What do you think of this idea ? Would you be interested in reading such a site if it existed ?

Everything I have read and heard about successful blogs is that people write regularly for a year or two or more and eventually people care enough to pay attention. There are probably several reasons:

1. Writing and publishing everyday or so over a sustained period of time improves a person's skill at writing in general and writing for an audience in particular.

2. One of the ways popular blogs capture first time readers is with a back catalog of other interesting posts that suggest the site is worth book-marking/revisiting.

In terms of news sites, pick a topic to start because I can go just about anywhere for a random mix of subjects. Making one is probably harder than a blog because a news site is competing with Tom's Hardware, Hacker News Reddit, Google News, Facebook, and so on. Without staff, that will be really hard.

Good luck.

>I can go just about anywhere for a random mix of subject

You're not wrong that this is short-term easier to establish an audience, but your long-term goal is to get to a point where a hypothetical reader of your blog will say "Well, yeah, you could find that topic anywhere, but personally I'm more interested in $NAME's opinion on the topic".

The best way to establish that is put out really good content until you've built up enough blogger 'cred' that you can tell me about other parts of you and I'll just wanna know.

The quoted phrase was made in regard to creating a news site. I interpreted the original question as considering a news site to be an alternative to a blog. My apologies for the confusion.

I think that of course most people here would be generally interested in reading such content, and if you can make a compelling case that there is a niche or intersection of interests that isn't well represented at a level of depth/complexity, then you have an interesting proposal.

However, you are describing two very different things. With a blog, one simply begins to write blog posts. There is no other approach to take, as you must before anything else establish your credibility as a writer within a domain of knowledge.

A news site is a far different proposal. Before you put a lot of effort into it, you need to figure out what might be crassly termed a 'business model', which in more general terms is simply, "here is my vision: what work is required to make it a reality; how will that work be done; who will do that work; why will they chose to do that work; how do I expect to benefit from this; do I still like what I am envisioning."

I think there's still lots to be dissatisfied with in the current landscape of content providers and aggregators.

For instance, a lot of nominal 'content providers' bulk up their content flow with hasty recapitulations of content elsewhere; that this activity avails them at all is, I believe, in particular, indicative of an unfilled niche in content aggregation. One frequently sees, out in the boonies of the not-directly-for-profit internet, knowledgable and useful summaries and introductions of content hosted elsewhere. Fleshed out more thoroughly with a contextualization of what something means, how and why it matters, and what it should lead the reader to anticipate, such material could facilitate reader access to expert opinion and information that would otherwise be beyond them.

As another example, editorial oversight, in particular, is in a state of near-crisis, everywhere. This is crucial, as it is the lynchpin of journalism. A different model of quality assurance would be transformative.

A blog can be the first step to something bigger. "Just start" would be the blog version.

Awesome summation of "business model" questions. I'll be referring to these questions for my current projects. Thanks!

Thank you very much for your valuable insight !

I think the market might be saturated. There are 2 cyberpunk news sites that I know of and they mostly report the same events.

Sites: https://www.neondystopia.com https://n-o-d-e.net

Looks like https://n-o-d-e.net is written using org-mode. Also who is the author, i am not able to find any about link.

His name is Chris, he's a friendly guy if you shoot him an email.

I've followed n-o-d-e's content for a couple of years. They've consistently made interesting and inspiring content. I'm not as familiar with neondystopia although I have seen their clothing article before. I think OP's idea would work better as a blog perhaps a community blog ala Popehat. There's more demand for content in the cyberpunk scene than people expect.

these are great, thanks

That sounds really great. I think that the day-to-day "breaking news" style reporting on this subject is common, but longer more visual pieces that get into the nitty-gritty are rare.

I'm a designer and journalist very interested in similar areas. I just started releasing a podcast focusing on similar subject matter: http://metaverse.audio

If you end up moving forward I'd love to chat. ejfox@ejfox.com

Absolutely ! Btw I love the podcast, totally worth a listen. Production quality is top notch. Definitely on par with Motherboard.

I feel like lainchan.org is related, you can often find these kinds of discussions there. Site was recently reset so it looks a bit empty.

The community publishes a magazine (lainzine), but I have personally not read it yet. If you want to do this kind of stuff just for fun and don't mind a smaller audience, you could look into that.

I was about to post this same thing. I would say I look at lainchan more than I look at HN. It is my favorite Chan board, if you are a fan of chans and functional programming it is definitely worth checking out. The functional programming threads have very distinct and regular communities that are really great to participate in. A lot of beginners and people with expertise intermixing.

The zine itself is ok, there is really not much editing of content, just whatever people submit for the most part gets placed into it to fill the space. The quality varies wildly from page to page, but recent issues have been getting better.

don't forget lainchan.jp ;)

hmm the .jp international clique really does spread far and wide...

This is good, thank you.

It's already available at http://rekall.me/

Oh God, this is brilliant. Thanks for the bookmark !

If you like that, this might sideline you for weeks:


This site made me feel strange

I find HN (and most of modern life in general) pretty cyberpunk as it is.

Exactly. We are only already often blind to that fact, think about how many years have passed since "Snowden" alone..

2013 has been a pretty seminal point in time imho – ubiquitous mobile computing/internet, Google basically buying a DARPA owned Boston Dynamics, etc, etc.

It has only been accelerating since then (artificial wombs anyone?). We are fully living in "hardcore" cyperpunk times already for sure..

They probably meant cyberpunk, since they mentioned the combination of techology and social impact.


Cyberpunk is an aesthetic, Cypherpunk is sociopolitical.

Thematically there is very little different between cyberpunk and steampunk.

You might enjoy this essay I wrote about cyberpunk politics: https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2016/10/27/the-cyberpunk-sensibil...

Also a greying bearded software developer.....

Exactly. I was getting frustrated when searching for cyberpunk content and then realized it's mostly fashion and which night club has the best atmosphere.

So basically a longer version of https://twitter.com/thegrugq + hackaday ? what technical level you would target for your audience ?

If you create solid, original content that is interesting, people will respond. Focus on how to market the content if you are confident you can create something people want to read.

For anyone interested in cyberpunk and electronic music http://www.legowelt.org/cyberzine.htm. An outstanding magazine by Danny Wolfers. We need more in depth stuff like this and less thumbnail blogs and tweets.

Hi, I've written for n-o-d-e.net, exolymph.news, and 2600 (all gratis, hopefully neondystopia.com soon). I'd be very interested in your site and to do some writing if you'd have me. Hit me up at Famicoman@gmail.com or @Famicoman if you'd like to chat.

<zabana>: The threshold question is: do you want to make money on a "cyberpunk-inspired" news site operated as a business, or is your "cyberpunk-inspired" hobby site expected to lose money--as hobbies typically do?

I've started both and worked as a journalist for both. Hobby sites are more fun. News sites are more work.

If you can make a decent income from this site, then you might be encouraged to write for it when you might otherwise be uninterested or unwilling (and you also might be able to hire freelancers or a staff). On the other hand, as anyone following the digital media business knows, making a decent income from an online news site is a non-trivial task.

Sort of an above ground version of the barely underground 2600? Sure. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2600:_The_Hacker_Quarterly

Can you say more about what definition of cyberpunk you'd be using for determining if content was relevant for that topic? If you mean "topics like privacy, cryptography, robotics, software etc, with a critical view on their evolution and potential effects on society at large", I'd be interested if there was well- curated content in these areas.

If I can make one suggestion, it would be to honestly ask yourself if you are able to get and curate this content in a way that'd be compelling for others and not just yourself. If it seems like that may not be the case, perhaps get others involved in helping to curate? Not sure if that's the answer.

Cyberpunk is "high tech" + "low life". In a sense, the app-driven gig economy is to me the embodiment of that combination, but that's still boring and not really news at this point.

Now if you want more drama, you could talk about more sensational stuff such as how drones are making their way into organized crime, for example how the Japanese police and the Yakuza are starting some sort of evolutionary arms race around drones that transport illegal goods. Also how 3d printing is making into lockpicking and weapon manufacturing... stuff like that.

Who is making the critical views? That would make 90% of my decision with the remaining 10% being writing style/ability.

I already know of a handful of people that comment on those topics that others may describe as wearing a tinfoil hat - If that's the style of criticism then no, absolutely not. Not interested. If it's more positive but pointing out where it's possible to go wrong I might give it a go.

Personally speaking too, I'd much more likely subscribe to a podcast than consistently read articles - My downtime is mostly only during commutes.

I'd be interested in helping out. Please get in touch! https://apeace.github.io/contact.html

Yes. This isn't even a question. The answer is yes. The ubiquitous 'clean, modern, "Tech is neat! :D Business and advertising! :D Everything is safe! :D" aesthetic' is wrong. It's a monolithic lie, and we all know it.

The biggest contributing factor to the decline of the cyberpunk aesthetic in the 80's-90's was how quickly it became realism. If you read a William Gibson novel now, it would be like reading William Faulkner in the 1800's.

(I know Faulkner didn't publish in the 1800's. don't go there, this is my reply and that means I decide how time works here.)

The implications of the use of the advanced tools we build on the individual, and the species as a whole, is rarely considered with the gravity it deserves, at least by the vast majority of end users, I believe, in large part, because capitalism is predatory, and subsequently the tools it uses to accomplish it's end must be uniformly masked, behind a layer of safe aesthetics. A revival of the cyberpunk aesthetic in general, which paints technology as dangerous, empowering, and hints that the deeper into the technical details you get, the more empowered you become, would be a welcome return to realism from the magazine glossy, UI/UX of modern services. I mean seriously, this "Mumblecore" jargon and friendly faces on services which, let's be frank here, are simply the injections of profit and information siphoning mechanisms (the successful ones anyway) into monetary transactions for goods and services, and exchanges of information, between people, which already existed, in exchange for a razor-thin layer of convenience, and a gross distortion to their psychological faculties for perceiving value, to the end of contributing to the centralization of money, thus access to resources, and data, thus the ability to derive information, into the hands of a few, and creating (I'm trying my best to tone down the hyperbole here) impermeable veil of branding, that obfuscates as completely as possible, what anything actually is, or does.

(Don't go there. It's my reply, that means I can nest as many clauses in a statement as I want.)

If your blog even piques someone's curiosity, or contributes peripherally to a compulsion to dig deeper into how the layers of complex systems underlying the mechanisms we use to interact with the world now work, it was worth every minute you spent on it up to that point. Seriously, do it.

Speaking from personal experience, if you had shown me an ad for a "coding bootcamp" when I was 10, I would have chosen.. literally anything else to get into. Fortunately, I got my hands on a copies "Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller", and "Shadowrun" instead. The sentiment of that art, the feeling of those ideas, with regards to technology, has kept my interest alive through day after day of questioning whether or not this specific impending bout of 'meeting business requirements' in which I am about to engage means I am a terrible person.

Just do it dude. You know you want to.

...covering topics like privacy, cryptography, robotics, software etc, with a critical view on their evolution and potential effects on society at large. Ideally it would be made of long form, researched, in depth articles and interviews with experts in those fields. I'd also like to feature regular "hackers" doing cool stuff (like the guy who traveled to shenzhen to build his own iPhone)

That's Wired magazine.

Wired is a shell of what it once was. I've got issues going back to 1998 and it is sad. Today it's mostly fluffy pieces with maybe one longhorn, and 75% sponsored content or advertising.

Ars Technica then? That said, Cyberpunk to me would be more deep dives on brain-computer interfaces, signs of the robot apocalypse or not (probably mostly not), and weird but not quite fringe science like DIY Life Extension.

But like another posted said, just go do it and see if it attracts an audience IMO.

But from twenty years ago, maybe ?

Good point. Today, it seems to be a gadget catalog.

oh "cyberpunk" ! so long time I didnt' hear this term. How many lost illusions. Amazon and Facebook is what we have instead, and billions of consumers..

do it

That idea sounds fantastic! I would definitely be interested. I'm sure I would end up spending a significant amount of time on the site.

Only if it meets the following criteria:

1) Apolitical. No editorializing. No political opinions what so ever. Just the absolutely facts.

That's it. There is enough out there already that you're way behind the curve. However, IMHO, if you produce something that is apolitical, and stays on the facts without allowing your personal political ideology to bleed through, it would be really wonderful.

Privacy, cryptography, and even the uses of software in general are almost by definition political. By claiming "cyberpunk," it sounds like OP is proposing something exactly opposite of what you're suggesting.

Not that there's anything wrong with what you're suggesting, but it sounds like you're at the city counsel meeting for the new zoo, and you're saying "OK, but no animals."

> No political opinions what so ever.

What this actually means in my experience is "Don't challenge my politics". It's quite impossible to report facts while not considering the political implications. I've seen articles try to do this, and they wind up spending half their wordcount talking around some mysterious, unspeakable "thing".

Try this at home! Write a "just the facts" story about say, Facebook's mind interface and show it to someone who profoundly disagrees with you politically, and not just on the meaningless tribal hot-button issues like flag burning or something.

I'm on the Left, but I personally would rather read a good piece from National Review or Reason where they don't pussyfoot around their politics and give the facts in full context (though I find Reason unbearably smug).

Absolutely would - if you're talking about original content.

However if what you're suggesting is 'lets be the 50,000th site to cover the guy who built his own iPhone' - then little point, already follow too many sites that regurgitate the same content.

I also make one of these (I don't write the articles but I aggregate them): www.glitchet.com

So basically something like Boing Boing?

If your execution is equally good, sure, I'd read that.

You might want to take a look at http://neuromaencer.com/visualise/ to get your fix of Cyberpunk aesthetics

From the technical angle, we're well-covered.

From the cyberpunk angle, there was a Facebook page I used to follow doing this sort of coverage; but ended up being too high-level.

I personally don't think I would read it.

Yes; my life isn't as exciting as I let on though so you might be disappointed..

TBH most of the content on theintercept feels pretty cyberpunk to me though...

Seems as good a place as any to mention: http://archillect.com/

All things that I love. I'd read that.

Please do it. You could crowd source some writing and act as editor.

Stop thinking and do it, the worst thing that could happen is that you just learn something new. =]

"...but the street finds its own uses for things."

Is surely the epitome of the hacker mindset.

Please do, I will read.

Cyberpunk in the William Gibson sense?

Or Cypherpunk?

Yes, probably so. Sign me up.

Write it and they will come!

Sure! That sounds great.

Sounds like Slashdot.

I would read it.

Very much so!

+1 from me.


yes please

No. Go figure out how to cure cancer. Or dig us out of this bat-shit crazy populist-nationalist insanity sweeping the planet. Or bring jobs to the millions of unemployed young Arab men who are apparently hot, bored, and unemployed enough to wage jihad. Or install solar panels in the desert. But for the love of all that's holy, please, don't waste your precious life on producing another niche news site.

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