To make submitting for themselves easier, Steve made a special submit page that would also create an account at the same time, and then make the submission from that account.
After a while they noticed people they didn't know were submitting, and then PG mentioned them in an essay and things started taking off.
They knew they had something the first day they didn't have to submit anything.
Just the other day on HN on an article about Netflix, someone posted a conversation with someone who works at Netflix from planetmoney. https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2017/09/13/550793717/epis...
I need to delve into npr.
I was 17, my forum eventually took off, but I don't think I'll ever have the energy for that again.
now I find it's much harder to do because of reddit and large dominating websites
* They post all the content themselves under their own name, until other people start joining. It's not elegant and may not look great at first, but it's worked before.
* Fake accounts are used, with the founder(s) pretending to be a number of individuals. Said fake accounts usually get retired as the site gets more popular (for real).
* Previous friends or contacts are involved. Perhaps they run a company and everyone employed is told to post, maybe they're a celebrity with a fanbase, you know the drill.
* Influencer marketing is used. In other words, they try and incentivise celebrities and popular figures to use the site, assuming their fanbase will follow.
* Promotion sites or services are another option, with a few admins doing 'exchanges' for a bit of extra activity. So you go up to someone else running a similar site, and say that if they post on your site, you'll post on theirs for a while.
* They could also just pay people to post. You can hire random freelancers to post content if you're desperate, or use a paid service where people earn money for signing up and posting X amount of content on so many sites.
* If they're really interested in morally dubious tactics, they can also use tools that imports content from third party sites en masse. Seen a few do this with Yahoo Answers, and I wouldn't be surprised if this stuff existed for other services too.
* They could also buy another site (or twenty) and merge them in to get the appearance of a large community. Seen that happen a lot with tech and gaming sites.
* Finally, they could always just directly incentivise people to join by say, offering money to whoever posts X amount of content or refers lots of new users.
Really, it depends on the site in question. Reddit was initially built on fake accounts, but that's only one of about a million ways such sites could take off.
In particular, it seems like two big factors were:
- Having influencers (e.g., Paul Graham) onboard, which gets their followers
- Auto-populating content (fake users) and generating the illusion of activity so that it doesn't feel like one is entering an empty forum
Getting friends to use a service also makes a lot of sense for social networks that incubate in small communities (e.g., Facebook), but are a bit harder to pull off for these diffuse communities like Hacker News.
The other owner of a project of ours once suggested doing this. I rejected that because of ethical reasons. I also told that could mean legal trouble. Was I completely naive/wrong?
I wouldn't really consider it unethical in the reddit case either, but I could imagine opinions vary.
I’ve growth hacked an app to 600k users across 200 communities (colleges). What worked for us was seeding each new community with enough fake content for the first few days. After that the real users took over. The most interesting aspect of that growth hack was that users would post content similar to what we seeded it with. So we could create the “vibe” of the community with fake posts, and soon it turned very real.
Misrepresenting the nature of the content would certainly fail Kant's deontological tests.
If you can’t think of one, or there’s few examples, then there’s also the ethical consideration to your stakeholders (eg investors). Is it ethical to forego a legal opportunity to grow your user base? Do you have an obligation to your investors to do all you can to build a successful product?
My personal ethics revolve around the question of “am I hurting anyone?” I really can’t imagine how posting fake content to your own forum is hurting anyone. By I can see how neglecting to take steps to grow your user base could hurt people (yourself included, if the business fails).
Would you rather that Reddit had never faked content? More likely than not, if they hadn’t done that, Reddit would not exist today. So isn’t that a net positive from an ethical perspective?
Not dealing harm is itself a rather weak ethical stance. Ethics doesn't test whether you do no harm, it tests whether you maximized the good -- and not the good for you or your investors, but rather the good across all of society.
If anyone holds you to an obligation that entails that you take an unethical action then such a license itself become immediately void. We can see this historically expressed by St. Augustine in the 3rd century and more recently by Martin Luther King Jr. (an unjust law is no law).
Hence, the law itself is not a measure of ethical act. That you _can_ do something is not itself a justification of ethical action. Only that you _should_ do something is itself a measure of ethics. In which case you must provide proof that you _should_ misrepresent yourself and your content. Returning to Kant. If you cannot universalize the action -- that is to say, if you cannot show that to create fake content is always a good act (and with all the rufus about "Fake news," I think we certainly cannot show that fake content has been universally good).
Jumping into the question of net good we skip from deontology to utilitarianism. Yet, utilitarianism recognizes that net good is not a measure of money, or pleasure but can be an abstract measurement. Success of the business is only a local consideration, you must expand the ethical question to all of society. That which is good for you or your investors is not itself a net good for society (nor from a deontological perspective a good unto itself).
Was the success of Reddit a net positive for society? Had there been no Reddit would our net quality of life have been improved as a whole society. In this, I would say Reddit was not a net positive for society. It consolidated a distributed system of smaller social forums across the internet into a single hegemonic gated community and consolidating social power into a smaller sum of hands. And I would argue that consolidation of power into smaller groups (whether hard or soft power and in this case we are discussing the soft power of cultural norms) is itself unethical.
If you’re really interested, shoot me an email. I’m happy to talk one on one.
I would've certainly asked for a clear explanation of this as it's hard for me to believe it's remotely true.
It essentially started as a small place to share links for the early YC attendees and slowly grew from there.
I also just realised my account is a little older than jacquesm's O_o that.. was unexpected.
I started http://www.confessionsoftheprofessions.com about 5 years ago... I must've written about 10 articles before I even began the website. I was the only one submitting content to the website for the first few weeks, but eventually I ran out of ideas, and started soliciting on Craigslist, and even paid a bunch of people on Fiverr to write articles. I moved to MyBlogGuest and MyBlogU which were free sources of people looking for a home for even more articles, and had been publishing up to 3 articles per day.
After about a year or two, I began receiving at least a half dozen emails a week from individuals, freelancers, marketers, and universities, including lawyers, doctors, construction workers, police officers, teachers, and people from all different professions wanting to submit their confessions (articles). Emails have only increased, but I've got a good handle on everything.
It has become a daily routine in my life and I've spoken to people from all over the world, including India, Philippines, Australia, South Africa, Tunisia, Europe, Canada, etc.
I still write my own articles as I've always got ideas, but I've always got new people discovering the website or repeat contributors who have been submitting articles to the website for years.
Even those times where I feel like quitting and no longer keeping up, I can't let my contributors down, so they keep me motivated to keep it going.
On sites that require a social aspect rather than just link sharing, I imagine you really need to have a core group of people commit to engaging with each other before others are attracted towards it. I recall early HN being like that at least.
By doing things that do not scale, you are able to develop a strategy faster since you are in the trenches seeing what is most likely to fail.
E.g. Back in 1997 I built a chess website for playing correspondence chess. There were lots of other sites for playing correspondence chess, but none with actual enforced time controls, and even the weakly/non-enforced time controls were very slow (like 1 move every 7 days). Mine was the first where users could choose their time controls, and the time controls were automatically strictly enforced. The only advertising I ever did was when it initially launched was to post in a couple of USENET groups and forums, and it took off from there. Within a few years sites with deep pockets started popping up with the same idea,and the sheer number of sites that do the same thing today make it impossible for a site with no revenue like mine to get any attention. But even with my almost no advertising, it still got to about 15,000 active users at its peak, and still has several thousand today.
Good things come to those who wait (and work hard).
 : https://www.journalduhacker.net
Essentially, it's fake it til you make it.
It's an HN/Reddit-like front end to essentially an RSS aggregator. Granted, traffic is still pretty low and I haven't had time to hack on this a bit, but it does technically solve the chicken and egg problem of needing content for a community that is meant to produce content.
I've always thought you could set something up like this to make it easier to find links to post to more "pure" content sites like Reddit from the onset of the community until traction is found.
Create some long tail words and through those into the comments and auto summary on the page.
That should rank you a bit for some words in your group. Right now, Google is thinking you are just providing duplicate content.
Yeah that's the problem, I don't want to spend my time doing that.
I actually designed some of my communities to have sock puppet accounts. I never had to use it, because people just clicked and used it.
So if you're going to build a fitness community app, you should probably be in several fitness WhatsApp groups or Facebook/Reddit groups and so on.
But yeah, audio and video hosting sites tend to get popular or start out on the greyer side of the law before trying to go legit.