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Hacker News Points Inflation (taimur.me)
117 points by refrigerator 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 72 comments



I can't help but be amused in the irony that this says it requires more points than prior to hit the front page, yet appeared on the front page with only 3 points.


The solution HN implemented for the problem of crowdsourcing front-page curation is to allow a short window of time for all submissions to be on the front page in order to gather points. Wouldn't work for Reddit, but works rather well for HN.

I have noticed that when I use a mobile app to browse HN, I'm far more willing to keep going past the front page, if only because it doesn't require clicks to do so.

I'd suggest an option for forever-scroll presentation for the article list.

EDIT: A quick Google search turned up this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4484616

EDIT2: Sadly broken, scrolls once then I get an error in the console. I may end up fixing it and forking.


> The solution HN implemented for the problem of crowdsourcing front-page curation is to allow a short window of time for all submissions to be on the front page in order to gather points.

I wasn't aware of that…

My own HN submissions never made it to the front page without gathering two upvotes first. Those are pretty hard to get without a voting ring (err, two friends). There's the "new" page all right, but new stories come so fast there that it never lasts more than an hour.

Once you get past the "front page" threshold however, points tend to flood in. The second vote is probably worth several dozen votes on average.

Reddit sub-forums however lets new submissions land in the front page directly. Unsurprisingly, this makes voting pattern much more predictable (at least on r/programming and r/crypto, which are basically the only forums I go to).


I think a hybrid approach would be to show the new submissions list after the front page list, after the fold (maybe having a delimiter separating them). That way new stories still get exposure to everyone by default (of course, this should also be a user option where they can turn this on or off, but default to on).


Make new into the front page then unlock access to the real HN by reading X articles for Y seconds and upvoting Z of them.

Then have 1000 euro/month pro accounts to bypass having to work for your precious.


> I'd suggest an option for forever-scroll presentation for the article list.

As long as it's optional - if I get to the bottom of the front page, that's my trigger to stop wasting time here and get back to work. :P


> The solution HN implemented for the problem of crowdsourcing front-page curation is to allow a short window of time for all submissions to be on the front page in order to gather points.

I have never seen anything on the homepage with < 3 points.


That's indeed the minimum.


Try http://hckrnews.com/, infinite scroll works nicely.


Definitely agree, hckrnews is my main method of browsing Hacker News. It's nice to get a chronological view that keeps track of when I last visited.


The mobile version doesn't have a color scheme picker. It's harsh going from HN to hckrnews because of the white background.


> I'd suggest an option for forever-scroll presentation for the article list

As long as it's off by default. Infinite scroll is a major time sink.


The role of time in ranking is not relevant to the concerns of the article but is very relevant to the submission.


I've noticed that at weekends articles require fewer points to hang around for longer on the homepage as well. I should probably stop reading HN on weekends really because the clear reason for this is that the people who aren't reading (and voting things up) have a life.


What's interesting is I feel like the diversity of front page posts seems higher on a typical saturday night. It also feels a lot more like HN felt a decade ago on a typical workday.


Probably opposite: browsing during the day means people are blowing off their jobs to use HN.


As of right now (5:20 EST) it has 47 points. And the suggested median is 150 (110-250+ in error). FAR from the median front page score.


There may be some flagging of the topic which will negate the upvotes.


3 is the minimum to get the front page. from there it either rises or falls.


"The median today, in 2018, is around 150 points -- double what it was when I joined the site in 2011. With a bit of hand-waving, we might be able to claim that "HN points are worth half as much in 2018 as they were in 2011"."

This is to be expected if HN has a larger userbase now than in the past.

More people voting means more points are given to popular posts.


It's harder to get on the home page than it used to be, but not because point inflation. It's because there are more submissions than ever before, but still the same number of stories on the home page.


That's one of the more interesting patterns in HN's history because it changed noticeably at the beginning of 2012. Before that it was growing rapidly, but then it declined and since then has been fluctuating. It's currently about where it was at the end of 2011: https://imgur.com/a/F7BC7TE. Meanwhile the number of comments is more than twice what it was then.


But the userbase grew a lot, didn't it? I guess that'd explain the effect pretty straightforwardly.


The userbase grew a lot since 2012. You'd expect that to lead to proportionally more submissions (as it did more comments), but the number of submissions has stayed about the same. Bit of a puzzle, no?

My theory is that it's because there's a limited supply of good-for-HN articles out there. But really we don't know. Also, those numbers are raw total submissions, with no attempt to control for dupes.


"early-adopters" are more active users than the users coming a bit later?


Why would a new user post anything? Correct or not, I don't think one would expect their submissions to be picked up. For those who do there is always?:

https://news.ycombinator.com/noobstories


Is that the christmas week dipping every year?


Yes.


This is why I went from just reading/commenting on the front page stories, to actually starting on the New tab and then working to the front page.

I also see a ton of upvoted stories on the front page with no comments. I always thought the focus of HN was the thoughtful conversations that took place around topics, not the accrual of fake internet points.


I feel like number of comments should carry more weight than upvotes. Then upvoted comments could weigh the entire story up further too, pushing quality discussion over a simple upvote click.


Even better: if you upvote a story you should share the subsequent karma points on a pro-rata basis, i.e.: everyone who upvotes a story gets karma points equal to the total upvotes divided by the number of upvotes the story had when they upvoted it (or something like that). You'd have to balance that out by having it cost some karma points to cast an upvote. That would encourage people to seek out quality content on the new page.


This indeed sounds good at a first glance. However, it might encourage people to vote for stories that they think other people will like, which are not necessarily the quality stories.


slashdot worked (works) a bit similar, though you didn't pay with your own karma points. Instead you were granted a few voting points now and then, which made them feel scarcer, which encouraged considerate use.


>starting on the New tab

Is this not normal? It seems to be the default for me. I was reading HN for a while before I even realized there was a different 'front' page. 'front' doesn't appear as an option in the menu.


> I always thought the focus of HN was the thoughtful conversations that took place around topics, not the accrual of fake internet points.

Apparently, ranking is only a function of the time since submittal and the # of points. From https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html:

> The basic algorithm divides points by a power of the time since a story was submitted.


> … ranking is only a function of …

If you read the very next paragraph, you'll see that it's based on other factors too:

> Other factors affecting rank include user flags, anti-abuse software, software which downweights overheated discussions, and moderator intervention.


A lot of new account with low reputations submitting stuff. I think a lot of it is automated


I turned on “see dead” for a day, and my impression is that s lot of spam is caught. I think it would be very hard to spam this site for long, automated or otherwise.


This seems like a straightforward consequence of a growing user base. Am I wrong?


As a submitter of original content, it's a little different. From the article:

> Sudden dramatic 50% increase from 2016 — 2017

I've felt that. I write a bunch of tech articles on HTTPS, nginx, HAProxy, CSP, EV verification, Brotli, TLS errors, and other HN-worthy topics (https://certsimple.com/blog/). In 2015-2016 I'd continually get on the front page simply by writing about something useful regarding these topics in a relatively straightforward way (maybe with some Sketch diagrams and other useful graphics). These days, while I still get a bunch of traffic from Reddit and Google, HN frontpage doesn't really seem to happen for my content.


I wonder how much of that is HN, and how much of that is DevOps "fashion" meaning fewer people configure their own server stack in the startup world now. Presumably the abundance of free AWS/GCE/Azure credit means people don't need to read about configuring their own load balancing proxy or SSL certificate as often now. For lots of services SSL is a button click. It seems possible that HN readers have greater access to free AWS stuff than Reddit readers.


> DevOps "fashion" meaning fewer people configure their own server stack in the startup world now.

Sure, to some extent (devops still means you need to design networks, it's just that individual server instances matter less) but that didn't change suddenly between 2016 to 2017.


> that didn't change suddenly between 2016 to 2017

How do you know? The availability of AWS didn't change much between 2016 and 2017, but maybe 2017 was when people started using it en masse.

In business school, they play the beer game ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer_distribution_game ) to emphasize that a change at one end of the supply chain has weird, lengthy effects on the whole thing. You don't just switch seamlessly from the old state of affairs to the new; there's a big, massively awkward transition period.


Basically because devops doesn't change much of the need for info on systems architecture - some (like using ELB or DO LBs) but not much. In the presence of proof of a change in HN, and the absense of evidence for a sudden adoption of AWS, I'll apply Occam's razor.


I think you're right, but I think psychology comes into play as well, which complicates things.

That is, if I see something with 800 points and read/enjoy the article, I'm less likely to upvote than if it has only 200 points. I have similar feelings about photos on FB, which I'm more likely to "like" if it has only a few reactions than if it has over 100 already.

I don't know if others have similar feelings about when to upvote things, but if my thought process is not uncommon then it could dampen the impact of a growing user base. It's sort of like the bystander effect, but for internet platforms.


There's a pretty noticeable effect in HN comment karma where the same comment is probably worth an upvote if it's at zero or negative ("this didn't deserve to be downvoted"), but not if it isn't ("didn't deserve to be upvoted, either").

Like the phenomenon you describe, this suggests that a lot of people are trying to use their vote to move the total vote towards what they think it should be, rather than purely expressing an up-or-down opinion independent of the existing vote.


I can’t help but think part of this, at least when it comes to downvoted comments, is that the downvoting is very obvious due to the progressive graying. You’re more likely to notice something and ask yourself “wtf? There’s nothing wrong with this comment. clicks up arrow” than if the low score was just a number.


> a lot of people are trying to use their vote to move the total vote towards what they think it should be, rather than purely expressing an up-or-down opinion independent of the existing vote

I definitely do this on reddit, and probably on HN too. I don't know if such a thing exists, but I would use a widget that gave me an 'upvote iff karma < 1' button.


With a constant user base where 51% of the people agrees with another they'll give each other +1 karma every now and then, and the median increases

Since there is no 'karma rent' or anything, of course the over all karma over time will increase


Reddit sucks now, I lurk here more


A lot of Reddit is about which subreddits you participate in and how the moderation works. I participate in some niche subreddits that are absolutely great and are good discussion grounds on those particular topics.

All the default subreddits suck.


Do you rather feel that Reddit has gotten worse or did you grow out of it?

I feel like me or the web has changed significantly over the past years. I'm just not sure if I'm different and have seen it all or if everything became more professional and commercial and at the same time less interesting to explore.


>With a bit of hand-waving, we might be able to claim that "HN points are worth half as much in 2018 as they were in 2011".

A lot of handwaving indeed. The value of a point is surely a function of clicks. If there's more visitors today than 2011, then you could reasonably argue a HN points are worth more.


I assume HN readership has grown, with readers probably giving out roughly on average the same number of up-votes they used to for story submissions per any time unit (maybe some variability). The number of points it takes for a story to beat out sibling stories should then also increase. There may be other effects such as a wider-variety-of-stories-being-submitted than from before that would perhaps squash per-story-votes-needed-to-stay-on-front-page.

One might say "but there are more stories being submitted too" -- but the unique number of these wouldn't go up linearly as the number of readers goes up, since they're pulling from roughly the same universe of possible stories-of-interest.

EDIT: paragraph about "more stories submitted"


I also think the moderators have the ability to increase or decrease gravity on submissions as they see fit. Makes sense but I do not think an algorithm controls 100% of submission placement.


The only submission I've ever had that got any traction was because of a "second chance" where the moderators intervened.


It does make sense that it's harder to get to the front-page now. There are more submissions than ever before and there's got to be some way to filter what matters and what doesn't. This also means that a lot of good articles get lost in new, but it's not as troublesome as it would be if a lot of bad articles ended up on the front-page. That's what curation means.


> Is it harder to get to the HN front page now than it used to be? This is a very difficult question to answer.

Could just be a phenomenon of: 1. lots more submissions 2. larger user base 3. user base with wider interests - and limited front-page slots to fill in


Given HN’s high traffic rate it could implement a simple genetic algorithm to randomly display a couple of new articles, selecting with clicks & comments. Could limit this kind of seeding to posters who have had previous posting success.


Using keywords as DNA?


that would get easily, easily gamed...


Our beloved HN is experiencing unrestrained inflation. Paul Graham, please insitute austerity measures immediately!!!


Austerity! Of course! That we can all just live here for free has to be the main flaw of the system. Few here earn their keep. Yes, I'm looking at you HN reader!

Lets set up a stock exchange for articles and with a stock exchange I mean a gambling platform. Have all the fun mechanics like hedging, shorting, double or nothing etc

That said we the association of comment manufacturers deserve better marketing and higher margins. Something for nothing is a terrible idea. Our time isn't free. Lets make opening a page cost micro points per comment posted and introduce cheap mega-downvotes.


If I am not willing to spend time on karma earning posts and comments, can I please have at least 10 karma delivered to my account weekly to compensate for the inflation?


I have a solution, inflate the size of the first page to correlate with number of active users.


Isolate usergroups by year of registration. i.e. If you sign up in 2018 by default you end up on the 2018 user HN. Then have next to the next button buttons to go to the next/previous year.

That way old people can finally talk about the zx spectrum, the commodore 64 and IBM mainframes without disrupting the more interesting hipster conversations.


sadly pg left some years back.


:( I did not know.


The trick to getting on the front page of Hacker News is to submit an article about Hacker News, isn't it?


Even better: submit an article about getting to the front page of Hacker News.


I don't know what's on the front page, ever. Because I use hckrnews.com and filter by all


Amazing analysis! I've wanted somebody to do this post for a while now (I even have a comment on it![0]).

[0]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16410684




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