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The Hacker News Habit (hackernewslater.com)
315 points by burritofanatic 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 109 comments

There's no doubt that I spent a lot of time on HN, but there have been at least a few times that I've learned of things that directly impact my work first here. Off the top of my head, I knew that Sentry had rolled out hosted instance that were HIPAA-compliant when my team was about to install it and host it internally. That knowledge let us outsource it to them and ultimately save a good deal of time and money.

More often, I'll come across a problem and remember something that I've read that's applicable well enough to at least find it later when I need it.

I consider my time on HN and similar outlets at least partially "professional development."

Agreed. I haven't quantified it but I would ballpark I come across 25+ things per year that directly save me significant hours of work, lead me to much better solutions to a problem, provide a lead that would help me with investing/employment/helping a friend/etc. That in addition to the intellectual stimulation and enjoyment from the other articles is why I don't feel bad about spending ~30 minutes a day here everyday. Warren Buffett supposedly has read the WSJ for decades every morning. I think to many of us here this is our WSJ.

Finally, for years I've used HN as the fastest way to check my internet connection. :)

I’m glad I’m not the only one who tests internet connectivity via HN!

It even works through the GreatFirewall! A great tool :)

Used to be ping yahoo.com in the 90s :-)

me too, and just today! like right now. ha!

And more:

>"I still probably spend five or six hours a day reading," Buffett says ...

>Buffett typically reads six newspapers each day: The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The New York Times, The USA Today, The Omaha World-Herald and American Banker.

I use this as my default connectivity check as well!

Same. I would be ashamed to browse FB of Twitter at work. But HN? I browse it full-screen without any guilt.


That being said, I use this bookmarklet to shift through content faster and waste less time. https://smmry.com/bookmark

I also "Pocket" everything that is too long to read right now.

I'm on Hacker News since eight years. My life would not be the same without it.

A lot of what I know I know through Hacker News. HN has shaped my world view. Over the years I learned about starting a business, databases, programming languages, meditation, web development, interpersonal relationships and many things more. Writing HN comments and getting immediate feedback through comment score has improved my writing skills. Even more significantly, I found my previous job which was amazing through Hacker News. I moved halfway across the globe to California for it.

But over the years, I feel like HN becoming less and less valuable for me. I feel like I am wasting a lot of time here these days. Maybe HN has changed. Maybe I have changed. Maybe I just know a lot more about startups and webdev so there are diminishing returns. It's becoming more and more like addiction.

I'm wondering what the solution is. I tried blocking HN in my host file, but I found worse ways to waste my time on the internet. Maybe a reading later app is it, but I doubt it.

> But over the years, I feel like HN becoming less and less valuable for me. I feel like I am wasting a lot of time here these days. Maybe HN has changed. Maybe I have changed. Maybe I just know a lot more about startups and webdev so there are diminishing returns. It's becoming more and more like addiction.

A good rule of thumb -- if you feel like you might be addicted, you probably are.

> I'm wondering what the solution is. I tried blocking HN in my host file, but I found worse ways to waste my time on the internet. Maybe a reading later app is it, but I doubt it.

I've struggled with this an extreme amount over the years (on Reddit and here and so on). The most successful strategy so far is to partition my hard drive and install several different Linux distributions, each with different purposes (currently NixOS: work, Deepin: casual browsing, OpenELEC: watching stuff). I've different emails, firefox signins and so on. It can be irritating, but sometimes you just want that. Getting pissed off - I mean really, really pissed off - about being influenced by websites which optimise for stealing neurons can be very useful.

Me too. Now that I'm in an corporate embedded architect role, HN is less relevant to me. I'm looking for other communities but have not found anything yet.

I consider it professional development too. Something I like about HN is that the comments are typically fact based or coming from a constructive place. Very little have I received the Reddit or Twitter discussion responses of expletives followed by insults (though I’ve probably called one or two people some bad things).

This place has gotten me interested in so much more than the tech ecosystem I live in.

Agreed, the things I've learned on HN have helped me professionally in numerous ways.

One thing I find concerning about HN is I think there is an increasing prevalence of political and social commentary on the front-page. Those kinds of posts are worse than useless, because they displace potentially really good content.

It isn't an increasing prevalence; it just seems that way (and always has). I wrote a thing about this a few months ago, with the intent of reusing it the next time this concern came up. Take a look if interested:


A workaround is to hide the posts you don't care about and reload.

Right, but thats a manual process.

The thing is, I care about a lot of the issues that come up here, and sometimes they end up really distracting me.

I wish there was a feature to auto-hide everything from certain domains. That would go a really long way to make the site better (for me, anyway).

Then check out lobste.rs, I use it as much more concise, more smaller scale version of HN.

Hadn't heard of it but it looks interesting. Send me an invite?

HN is likely the only outlet I could even remotely consider falling under that category of "professional development", aseven time spent on TechCrunch, ProductHunt, Gizmodo, Motherboard etc. is usually just more of the same stuff I look at on Reddit but without the guilt of actually _being_ on Reddit. Consequently, those are the sites I've caught myself spending way too much time on without noticing that most of my intake of articles and videos is just fluff.

Any chance you could share some of those outlets you personally consider similar to HN?

Yes, though I do wish there was a better way to read HN in a focused manner.

Here's a little experiment: Set aside a scheduled chunk of time each day to specifically read HN. You'll find it's a lot harder to do this in a focused manner.

Impressive that you went "Android first" even though you were already familiar with iOS development! Kudos for that.

I often click to read the HN comments first, because they are often full of insight and interesting links. (This is also why I read HN from a custom #newsyc channel in our work Slack that posts links once they hit 20 points: it allows time for initial comments to accumulate, and Slack helpfully keeps track of "new" posts.)

Simply bookmarking the article itself to read later would not be as useful to me personally, but I bet there are lots of people who would find your approach helpful.

I read the comments first as well. It's often a good indicator of whether or not the article is worth reading. And more often than not there are better references in the comments than the original source.

Would be really interested in that Slack bot if you have the source handy.

I read the comments because HN is a lightweight and quick site and I don’t know how slow the target page might be.

I up voted all of the ancestors of this comment because I agree with all of them. Pretty much hit the nail on the head there. To add to the slow page load bit, I often read the comments to get an intelligent discourse as well as find out of the article is pay walled.

> Simply bookmarking the article itself to read later [...]

I actually send the HN discussion itself to my Reading List. So when I find some time I start with the comments here and then decide whether or not I should read the article. And tbf most of the times I get enough information here and never follow the link to the main reading.

I scrolled some paragraphs without reading and read "Unfocused Reading is a Terrible Thing to Do". Oops.

Hahaha, how meta. Scrolled through the comments and read this. Ok I'll read more than the article title now

quite often I read the comments before reading the article. Often in the comments there are insightful things on parts of the article and then when you read the article you can pay attention to the right spots.

I too had this issue of spending too much time on HN till I built a Chrome extension that inserts random items from my todo list at the bottom of each page, and by the time I click on "More," the incomplete todo starts bugging me.

Do you have source for that available? I'm assuming it's pretty specific to your list, but it sounds like it'd be easy to adapt.

I open sourced an old version of this for reddit a few years ago here, if it helps: https://github.com/hackpert/dooly.

The one I use currently picks things from my org-mode agenda and inserts them across various places, but that should be fairly easy to change and integrate with any other todo list app with an API. I'll try and clean up personal information from the code sometime this week and update the project.

I find a lot of 'productivity' hacks kinda clumsy, but that's actually really clever. I love the idea of nagging/guilting you into making better choices, rather than having hard limits on your time, etc. And if you already keep a to-do list, it's entirely automatic.

I kicked my habit by installing a host block script in my Tomato router. Just added reddit and HN to blacklisted hosts (I know I can undo it but it's too much work and it disables ad blocking too).

Now anytime I want to visit HN i have to switch to slow 4G and it makes me concious of my decision and slow internet also makes it less fun.

I haven't visited reddit in almost 6 months now (used to refresh it every hour). HN too is 10% compared to what it was before. As other users have commented the reason I still check it 3 4 times a day is because there is often news that relates directly to my business (launch of Google wavenet for example) and benefits me.

I also keep them blocked on my computer and only check them on my phone. I keep my phone in grayscale mode so it's much less engaging.

Another thing that worked for me was writing a custom js script to filter out posts I hid without loading other content to replace it. That way I could filter things down so that there's only 1 or 2 threads left that I'm interested in and there's no need to keep scanning the same headlines over and over.

Who is engaged with their phone for colors rather than content? If anything, text seems MORE engaging in greyscale.

This entire concept seems to allow phone providers to not implement real controls over eg actually providing access to a host file or concerted network blocking software.

> slow 4G

That wouldn't work in Australia, 4G is considered fast for most of us :)

4G is quicker then fttp for me it's getting ridiculous.

I believe Chrome's auto-complete has a lot to do with how many times I check HN and other websites. It's automatic... I open a new tab and three key strokes and I'm here.

Does anyone know of an existing way to disable auto-complete just for some websites? I still need it for work related stuff, but I bet that if I had to type everything all the time it would be easier to prevent constant checks.

Does Chrome auto-complete rely on history? If so, periodically scripting a purge on the history file [1] may selectively gimp your autocomplete as required. Downside, you lose your history - won't find that great tip/info you found but didn't bother to bookmark.

Personally, I like tools that prevent me from resolving HN/reddit/etc during "vulnerable" (afternoon) hours.

[1] https://superuser.com/questions/480646/how-can-i-delete-all-...

Not really, no. The heuristic is very carefully designed to minimize mistakes and glitches. Practically guaranteed no configuration bits would be added in that area since the code has to work for a few hundred million people hundreds to thousands of times a day (yeah...).

However, you can delete autocomplete entries by highlighting them with arrow keys and then using Shift+Delete. (Contrary to intuition, this will not put them in your clipboard.) I'm not sure where this started but I remember using it in Firefox about 10 years ago as well.

On Firefox, I disable autocompletion from browser history, but keep it enabled for bookmarks. So much easier to avoid unwanted side-tracks.

But Firefox's 'awesome bar' autocomplete is how I find things in my history.

"I went to a web page sometime in... February? Or November? It was something about widgets... types in 'wid' Oh there it is."

Firefox is smart enough by now to manage it in almost 1 keystroke on average.

Even more fun, when I type "you", Firefox not only suggests youtube but also the github page for a small script that extracts the rss feed link from youtube channels and playlists. I use that maybe once every few months. It's amazing really.

Firefox awesome bar took a lot of (unfair IMO) criticism back a few years back.

I have the same experience as you guys, and on one occasion I think it saved me days of work by helping me recover a certain almost ungooglable resource I knew I had seen at some point.

It would require discipline, but you could only read HN in incognito/private mode. Delete your history for a fresh start. I do this on my phone - it's not as helpful as I thought it would be.

Don't delete your entire history. When the site appears during autocomplete simply press the [delete /[del] key.

I just disabled it for everything, also there's a way to delete specific autocomplete suggestions from the results.

What? Three keystrokes?!

You say you open a new tab and then three keystrokes you're there. Well, My _four_ keystrokes include opening the new tab.

Depress CTRL; T; release CTRL; N; Return.

Or I could say it's three "keyboard phrases" by saying it's ^T N Return, but that feels like cheating.

TL;DR, "n" fully autocompletes to HN.

At one point adding a "/" at the end of the URL (autocomplete just filled in the domain with no trailing "/") would complete to "/best", but I seem to have to do "/b" now.

> While on the site, within a span of five minutes, I typically attempt to skim everything I’ve marked with interest. Afterward, I return to my work not feeling like I’ve read anything substantive, and by the end of the day, I forget about the links I’ve opened up, including the ones I meant to revisit.

This is so on-the-mark for me it’s unreal! :) I feel I’m in a sizeable segment of the HN population in that I spend more time in the comments than on articles, so something that helps provide wholesome access to more article content is a great initiative.

Thanks for creating something that attempts to solve this ‘problem’. Kudos to you for shipping an Android build!

I fixed my addiction by simply signing up at https://www.hndigest.com/ and setting to only send 5 links daily. I usually end up just reading 1 or 2 of those if they interest me.

PS: no affiliation with that website. Just a happy user.

Hey, developer of hndigest here, thanks for being a happy user, and great to hear that it's helping you :)

Anything I can do to make it even better?

Not sure. I Haven’t given it much thought. I guess it’s work well enough :)

Hehe, good news I guess! Just hit reply on the digest if/when anything comes to mind :)

Interesting idea, and I think I suffer from the same thing. I just save stories to Pocket and read them later, I'm not sure if this email based delivery has many advantages over that?

I'm in the same boat and I don't think it's a waste, I learned quite a bit in the last couple of months from HN. And it's the comments that make it hard to close a tab for a few days, there is a lot of wisdom here. I want to thank all for your contribution.

I made 'lesshn' to filter out the feeds containing certain words that I am not interested in. You can create your own filters(via REST API) and bookmark it. https://lesshn.microapps.xyz

Great idea! I guess I'll throw out a shameless plug for my side-project, https://hackernewsletter.com, which is a weekly newsletter filled with the posts I thought were worth a read.

I learn a lot from HN, and I believe every profession should have its own HN.

I totally agree. All I know is datatau.com for data science but nowhere near as active as HN. I guess other professions may not be sitting in front of their computers all day (e.g. doctors).

I personally use two Chrome extensions for this;

1- Reading List[1]: Allows you to save current tab to your reading list, later from which you can search and mark as read. A nice bonus is you keep your article history at the same time.

2- Tab Snooze[2]: This extension closes current tab and prompts you with options on when to pop it back in the future.

[1]: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/reading-list/llocc...


I think this is more the author's remaining twitter habit dying hard than a hacker news related habit. I like hacker news because it gives decent posts for focused reading rather than the twitter no-focus skimming or the reddit meme fest.

I'd love an alternative frontpage view with different time weight. Something that you could visit weekly without losing any big news.

Consider http://www.daemonology.net/hn-daily/ - I've been keeping up using this for years.

Same here, for years. It was the best way I could find to consume HN. It does not require a newsletter subscription and one can consult it whenever he/she wishes. I normally consult it once or twice per day, and make a conscious effort to focus my attention on that task for a continuous time amount.

Have you tried https://hckrnews.com?

I never use the true HN site other than for comments now, the hckrnews.com interface is just so good!


I love your mechanism to fund your app (or at least how I understood it), by letting people by credits to let them break rules.

You could tweak it so that every user can set their own amount per credit (so that the app plays fair to all income groups) and this way the user is satisfied and understands that the payment is both a donation to your app and a penalty for their instant gratification.

More apps should try this model. The key is to also let the user set their own penalty otherwise it will not work.

just for peoples FYI, there are multiple ways to consume HN, quite a few people have built various tools for getting the best out of HN, I've been tryin to keep track of various ones here https://github.com/keithn/HackerNewsCommunity ( also updated with ones linked to in the comments here )

you could add the Android app Materialistic

> To note, I did use coroutines, which as of Kotlin 1.1 is still an experimental feature.

Mostly unrelated to the post at large, but coming up in 1.3 they are no longer experimental: https://blog.jetbrains.com/kotlin/2018/07/see-whats-coming-i...

I've been working on an Addiction Blocker for this site and many others. It's not ready for primetime yet but I offer it as a preview to the addicted participants of this thread


It's kind of super interesting how people are trying to "self-condition trough code", the socio-psychological aspects of this, especially in the context of the "attention economy" are also kinda scary.

A bit like biological weapon researchers trying to immunize themselves against their own weapons.

Sorry for the crass example, it's not meant as negative as it sounds, but overall it's a pretty good comparison.

Really cool that Kenney designed the logo. I've been learning game development lately and have found his asset packs very useful. Small world!

It wasn't designed for the plugin I just used to do a lot of game jams and used his art packs so they're my goto for placeholder art. Before I officially launch the plugin I'll get something more customized

Sounds interesting!

I would recommend you to add some examples of what your extention actually does. The code of ethics only gives me a vague idea.

I'll do that next. Some screenshots of before and after

To cure your HN problem on a macbook, open a terminal:

$ sudo su;

$ echo " news.ycombinator.com" >> /etc/hosts

I've tried this. The problem is I also know

$ sudo vim /etc/hosts



Saves a few keystrokes!

yep, I took this a step further and made a little bash script to automate it


supports multiple domains stored in ~/.selfcontrol

I handle it by saving all the articles into pocket then never actually reading them. One Day.

It's a good idea, being more mindful of the content we consume is the key.

Last year I made a little website to control how much time I want to spend on HN. For instance I have one page where the 10 most upvoted items for the week are listed, and I hide them as I read them. When the list is empty it means I'm done for now.


(open sourced here: https://github.com/vinc/news.vinc.cc)

Also work for Reddit.

> At the moment, a user can’t read the items on the app unless they penalize themselves by buying credits. Although the app is about breaking the bad habit of reading the items immediately..

I think there can also be an issue with always saving things to read later. I often end up saving more articles to pocket than I actually end up reading. It may be a good idea to reduce overall "unfocused" browse-and-click time too...

You can like a story, and then look at your upvoted submissions from your admin page.

You can write an app if you want though, but I like simple.

Similarly, I star things in my rss reader when I’m skimming, and then consume them when I have time to properly digest. Then unstar so they drop out the queue.

Works well, works simple, and works for many more sources besides hn.

There's also the 'favourite' link under the post title. That's good for keeping a list of stuff you want to revisit later.

I follow @HNTweets on Twitter (pretty much only thing I follow) and I scroll through it every time I have a free moment that would be wasted otherwise (bus rides or long queues come to mind). I find it easier to follow because every post that hit front page goes there but posts are added only once and are ordered by time.

I use Materialistic, an Android app on my phone. When i skim the headlines 1-30 i just swipe to save em. Has several themes, a black one which saves energy on amoleds and solarized too. Found it via F-Droid but i am pretty sure it is in the play store. Working and reading hn are separated that way.

If you're already familiar with iOS, you might enjoy using Kotlin Native. KotlinConf has a demo app for iOS written in Kotlin Native: https://github.com/JetBrains/kotlinconf-app

Man, how did I miss this? I'll check this out! Thanks!

The way I've done it is schedule an IFTTT that will search for a post with X points. This then will be served to my Pocket account so that I can read it later.

By the end of the day, or while commuting, the Pocket app has links with X points that I can then consume.

Like most of you, I come here regularly and I go to the comments first (most of the time), but I add most of the articles that I'd like to read to Pocket (a read-it-later tool) so that I prioritize what I want to read at a later time when I have more time.

I too have the same habit of browsing HN on a daily basis. Normally I browse through the list of articles that I might be interested in and add them as favorite so I can revisit them later.

Anyway, good job on coming up with a solution to fix the addiction.

After trying several approaches what I found more useful is to have thumbnails[0] to skim HN faster..

[0] https://hnews.xyz/

Shouldn't this be prefaced with "Show HN"?

Anyone else here use the noprocrast setting built in to HN? Surprise not to see it mentioned

I have my HN set up so that I need 3 hours between each 20m visit.

But it's still so easy to just clear cookies or open it in an incognito tab...

Cool, I use hnrss to generate an rss feed of stories with more than 30 comments. Works well on every device.

I spend a lot of time here as well, but I find the things I gain from hackernews to be worth it

I use an RSS aggregator, Feedly, for hackernews and many other sites. Works like a charm.

hehe. I always read every single link on the front page every morning. check this out: https://github.com/Bunchhieng/hnreader

Interesting monitization strategy. The app asks for $5 to read an article now.

There are certainly worse things you could be doing with your time.

Here I am on hacker news, reading about my hacker news habit...

I definitely have this.

It is a tremendous time sink, but I generally enjoy it. I don't spend a lot of time shooting up on Facebook, Instagram, etc. so I think on balance I'm largely okay.

I don't think you can really code or tool your way out of a discipline problem, you just need to work on the discipline directly. That being said, I am terrible with will power/discipline/etc

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