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Ask HN: Did reading HN bring anything valuable into your life?
105 points by mdoliwa 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 86 comments
I'm trying to figure out my motivations behind specific online habits. One of them is reading HN.

I'm curious if reading HN bring anything valuable into your life or is it just pure entertainment. Did you learn something valuable, found a job, meet your wife. :)

I was lying flat on my back for the third straight day. Lower back pain. There was a great amount of pain when I just rolled over, and standing up to go get water or to relieve myself was barely at the edge of possible.

This wasn't the first time I had gone through this, and it seemed to be happening more often. So I remember lying there and wondering if the politest way to commit suicide would be on a plastic tarp in my car in the parking lot of the coroner's office. If I could make it there.

There's a tablet mounted on an arm on my headboard that I can read on my back. I got to an Ask HN item asking what books had most changed your life. The top post at the time was about Dr. John Sarno's book, Healing Back Pain. I've read a lot of books in that genre, but I was desperate and figured, if it helped one guy it might help me. So I surfed over to Amazon.

The book ad pressed all my skeptic buttons. No drugs or exercise. Talk therapy for back pain. This isn't all in my head damn it! But I saw so many hundreds of positive reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, and the book was $6.99 on Kindle, so I bought it and downloaded it immediately.

Maybe an hour later I had finished the intro and chapter one. I slowly and painfully got up out of bed and started waddle/stomping around as best I could. Collapsed into bed a few minutes later. Got up again, rinse, repeat. A few hours later I was basically functional again. A week later I had to pay attention to notice the pain. Now a couple of months later I still get twinges, especially when doing heavy yard work. But the fear has subsided. I've been able to work through it.

That doesn't mean the pain won't come back. And I'm positive that this approach won't work for everyone. But I'm doing great. And my yard looks much better. That one HN post lifted me up and saved me, not quite literally, but almost.

Funny you should mention seeing a book recommendation on HN that changed your life. I have experienced the same thing, but with a different book.

A month ago I read a comment[0] about the book This Naked Mind and how it helped him/her with their alcohol consumption. Getting serious about my alcohol consumption has been on my todo list for a while, so after seeing it had 4.7 stars on audible I bought it. I listened to it in its entirety in 3 days during my commute and haven't had a drop of alcohol since.

To give you an impression of my level of drinking. I'm not a heavy drinker, but I am a habitual drinker. I drink either 2 or 3 high alcohol beers or a bottle of wine almost daily. I've always been worried about the sheer amount of empty calories I'm consuming and if just by cutting out alcohol I'd lose weight for free.

Today is day 25 since I've had any alcohol and I'm just so pleased with the outcome. Maybe the book can help you too!

[0] - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17834081

This is kind of crazy... I think I saw that same comment when it was posted. Added it to my to-read list and recently decided to get the audiobook and listen through it. About 90% through and I have to admit - it has given me a lot to think about.

My consumption is generally on the weekends, 4-5 drinks per outing with friends. I've gone out for drinks twice since then and couldn't bring myself to order more than one drink. There's a lot of reason behind her arguments against it and I never really realized just how much of the perceived "benefits" of it are simply placebo effects or misattributed to other factors entirely. I'm not sure what the extent of my behavioral change will be after but it's safe to say I'll never look at alcohol the same way.

For anyone else on the fence - read it! At the very least, entertain a different perspective on the pervasive drinking culture we find ourselves surrounded by.

Wow the very same thing happened to me too. 20+ years of back pain fixed in few weeks.

Now I always tell everyone about Dr. Sarno's as a means of helping others even if it sounds to good to be true. His books have given me my life back too.

I never thanked you for the mp3 recordings!! Thank you!

You're most welcome. Reading the comment about your recovery made me very happy.

Let's hope we can all help more people who are struggling with this issue :)

Oh man, my life changed a month ago and I’ve shared this with a close family member that already went through cirgury.

I will say, this works better if you’re on the edge and just want to try anything.

Keep it strong.

Had something similar this year with back pain.

Was having manageable lower back pain when my pack suddenly froze up. It feels like your body is just stuck, and moving it will cause your spine to rip out - all from just muscle spasm tightening it.

It causes this mortal fear to rise up inside you. wondering how long you'll be incapacitated, living in pain, and useless.

Fortunately it was about 3 days like yourself, but you don't know that when it starts.

Could you share a TL;DR of the tips? I don't have back pain but I am curious still

It's the difference between a broken bone and a charlie horse. If you try to walk off a broken tibia you can quickly cause serious permanent damage. If you try to walk off a cramping calf muscle you can infuse it with oxygen and return it to normal function.

Sarno's theory is that just like the brain can make the cheeks flush with embarrassment or go white with fear, via the autonomic nervous system it can constrict the capillaries and deprive various tissues of oxygen. He thinks this deprivation is minor and doesn't cause permanent damage, even though it can cause much pain. The solution, as for a charlie horse, is the opposite of immobilization, which is what I was doing. Mobilization heals via oxygenation.

He also believes that the ultimate source of the problem is the brain's reaction to sublimating emotions, that it deprives these tissues as a strategy to distract you from the sublimated feelings. That simply by raising this gambit to consciousness you can defeat it. I don't find this part of his theory as convincing, but I think the rest holds up without it.

There are lots of back problems that are more like a broken bone than a charlie horse, where mobilization is dangerous. I took the risk and got lucky. Even so it may have been a stupid move. It's a really good idea to get examined by a specialist first, which Sarno emphasizes.

> Sarno's theory is that [...]

What do scientists say about that? Is there any research regarding that? If it's so well working solution, why doctors seem to be not aware of that?

I don't have back pain, I'm just interested in topic.

I just like being here because I don't feel like I'm crazy for the thoughts I have. You guys make me want to be a better human by pursuing things that really matter and steering me away from the BS other people get dragged into.

Things of value added were

Deleting my FB when other people are flabbergasted by the thought and I feel so much better for doing so.

Always looking for constant ways to automate my job to free time up to think/rest.

Realizing that working 80 hours won't get me some amazing outcome at a company because pursuing that game(the rate race) is completely out of my control.

Learning about stoicism and really realizing no one cares about me and that's not a bad thing, but a good thing.

I love to lurk here because people hold each other to a high standard of information. If you say something that sounds false, someone will call you out on it and ask for your source. I don't know any of you, but you are some of the coolest f###ers I have never met.

I found a job -- and a new career.

I was working as an editor at a metro newspaper, doing editing half the day and programming the other half. I saw a startup's job ad in a "Who's Hiring" thread and figured I'd check them out. I got hired soon after, and I've been with them for the past seven years!

I've also gotten decent exposure, and some helpful feedback, for some of my side projects that I've posted over the years.

And every once in a while there's a good opportunity to plug one of my books in a comment thread. By the way, have I mentioned what's hitting bookstores this April ... ?

I received Experimenting with Babies as a gift and loved it. Looking forward to both Newlyweds and Preschoolers!

I signed up for HN eight years ago yesterday.

Back then, I was working at a mind-numbing job in private equity and hating every minute of it.

HN encouraged me to move to SF, learn new skills, join a startup (where I met my wife), which led to an acquisition, which led to joining a YC company as an employee, and eventually starting my own company.

For a bunch of strangers, this community was, and still is life-changing.

Wow that is a long time.

Congrat man.


Absolutely. I remember when I was just coming out of linear algebra, ready to make games armed with this new math skill that I knew could use to create collision detection. I was scouring the web, looking for this library I knew had to exist... I mean it's a fundamental element of almost all software in the modern era. No luck, nothing, just little tidbits here and there, no full blown library that said give me some polylines and I'll tell you if they cross/collide. Was depressed lurking the HN boards when someone posted and article on box2d, and it fucking dawned on me, physics engines are one big glorious collision detection library. I immediately dug into how I could strip away the physics simulation and use the polygons for pure detection. 5 months later of started my career as a software engineer due to winning a 3month grant to make an educational game, all powered by box2d and my exploration of math, physics, and game design.

7 years ago I joined HN and it's been extremely helpful at keeping my finger on the pulse of tech. I have learned about new tech/libraries/languages/etc here on HN and been able to take what I've learned and use it for work and personal projects. Can HN be a procrastinators dream of a time-sink? Absolutely, if I had a dollar for every time I closed an HN tab and then pressed "Command+T" then "n" then "Enter" to pull up HN again I'd be rich. I need to cut down on some of that time spent on HN but overall it's been a net positive.

But that's what noprocrast is for! It works great. I find HN very addictive too, but the hours spent are of decreasing value after the first, I guess. My settings - after 60 minutes on here, I can't come back for 6 hours. The first time I tried it, it felt very strange, but worked immediately - I didn't come back on for months actually. If only something like that was available for the other addictive things in life!

I feel like I'm gaining less and less from it every year. Maybe that's me getting older and more experienced, more having seen everything already, or I am oversaturating myself, or the quality is declining.

I think overall diversity (not just gender/race) is an issue. The same domains/voices keep on popping up.

Yes. I love reading the comments, there is so much wisdom in this community.

Also, HN has shown me that I seem to have a rhythm to my mental health. I have a few good weeks where I post good comments and get upvoted, then I have a few bad weeks where I post crappy, poorly thought-out stuff and get downvoted. I'm working on it and apologies for using the community to track my personal well being.

Hehe funny. I found I got upvoted in the morning and downvoted at night.

HN has been amazing for finding technical stuff, and often really knowledgeable people will explain things.

One thing that made my day recently was "Logic Programming and Compiler Writing" by David Warren, 1980; ( https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17674859 ) about using Prolog to implement compilers. I was in the middle of writing a compiler for Joy (PL) in Python and it opened my eyes to Prolog. It turns out I've been working too hard. After a quarter of a century I've pretty much given up imperative languages and my productivity has gone way up (more functionality from less code, with fewer bugs, written in less time.)

Ooo, and one time I got to interact with Alan Kay!

Every once in a while I get a new insight into something I want to learn, or a new book to read. It's also my primary news source. I'm sure I could find an alternative if HN shut down tomorrow, but it's pretty much how I know about what's going on in the world.

I learn a lot. I'm the one management goes to when people ask to use a new tool or process. 95% of the time I have already heard about it and have a basic understanding of it due to HN. I describe what it is, how it relates to other stuff we already use and if it has merit to try out. I look super smart when I can answer on the spot. HN is a good filter to focus me on tools and processes that people might actually use or want to use.

Yes. I was once young and naive. I wanted to work for a cool startup or a big tech company like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.

Thanks to HN I learned that silicon valley culture is toxic and all those companies and startups are full of scumbags and people who were as naive as I once was.

This saved me from making some very bad decisions.

This post is not sarcastic.

HN has helped me realize the staggering extent of the ethics problem facing software as an industry, and realize that most people are not inclined to do anything about it.

This post is not sarcastic either.

Alternatively, it helps one see to what extent the tech-industry is a culture battleground, given the ongoing clashes of different moral systems.

I'm not certain why you're getting downvoted, other than a difference of opinion which is a lame reason IMO.

agreed. I've seen a lot of sociopath style thinking here. it is good to be aware that this is so common but it does make me sad.

Don't be sad. Better you know what you're up against, than not know.

This seems bitter and certainly exaggerated. For one, the three companies that you listed have almost 1m employees and clearly not all of them are naive or scumbags.

Serious question: what did you decide to do instead of working at a startup or a big tech co, and why do you feel that your life now is better than it would have been otherwise?

I know that comes across a bit rude, but I'm genuinely curious.

I spent two years at one of those companies. It's bitter but I don't think it's exaggerated.

The folks there were about 10% scumbags, 30% jaded, and %60 naive. The scumbags cause the B.S, the jaded folk work around it, and the naive don't notice it.

The scumbags are a problem (at all levels... Project Dragonfly) but they tend to get weeded out if they make too much trouble, or too many mistakes.

The jaded folks don't really care about the B.S. around them, they just want that paycheck. The Stanley Hudson character on the American version of "The Office" is the archetype: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Hudson "This is a run-down-the-clock situation, just like upstairs." I worked next to that guy. His name was Deepak and he was slightly warmer, but otherwise he was pretty much the same guy.

The jaded people are useful if you don't let them waste their time. They do not care what they do, as long as they don't get in trouble, so they will happily spend weeks or months solving the wrong problem.

The naive folks seem innocent and sweet, and they are, but it's only their naivete that lets the whole thing keep running.

I don't think it's exaggerated. Here's someone's experience as an early employee at PagerDuty, and I can find these examples all day long, both on HackerNews and Quora.

"Right, but OP said he was fired before he had options vested. "So he took 2% options at a 50% pay cut, but then got fired and that screwed him out of the 2% options before he could vest. Welcome to the valley." -- bb88

If you're a founder, you'll either fail, do well, or succeed spectacularly. If you're a startup employee, you won't do better (except in the rarest of circumstances) than you would somewhere else. Be a founder or a tech worker somewhere established with market rate pay, but do not be a startup employee (unless you're desperate for experience and literally have no other options).

My opinion and advice would change if the value proposition to startup employees changed substantially, putting them on par with founders.


Yes, as a news feed it's been interesting, especially to get a pulse of the tech community. The discussions, not so much, sometimes there's a useful link or quote but the back and forth is a bit strained and there's a severe lack of a sense of humor. I don't want it to turn into reddit but there are too many narrow-minded commenters.

Two companies ago I posted in the “Who is Hiring” thread. I ended up only getting a couple responses (while other channels got much more activity) but I ended up hiring one of them. Though I’ve since left that company, my former employee has become a good friend and confidant, and ended up following me to every company I’ve jumped to.

Totally. I read HN and often get routed to interesting articles, technical discussions, and arguments I normally wouldn't see from my other sources of content (work conversation, FB, reddit). I like the highly technical nature of the posts here. I distinctly remember reading some article about B-Tree implementation in Rust that went mostly over my head, but gave me a great understanding of what developing a standard library looks like. I've never used rust nor have I built a standard library, but I got something out of that article & discussion.

I also make heavy use of the job threads, my company gets great candidates out of the WhoisHiring monthly post.

Also, HN introduced me to YCombinator. I eventually applied and got into the fellowship, which definitely brought something of value to my life... I found out about HN through a link someone sent me early on to a discussion.

Monetarily speaking, I bought TSLA when it was $35 a share and bought into Ethereum during the presale (~$0.35 USD per Ether). I rarely buy individual stocks or securities, and by now I've sold most of everything; the returns have been substantial.

I have been on HN for more than 10+ years. HN has given me lot of exposure/knowledge to newer tech stack (e.g Frameworks, Cloud, Cyber Security etc). Having this kind of exposure helps in broad thinking when you design application.

It also provides different perspective on startups, politics, health etc. Best part is "ASKHN" where people are willing to share their experiences.

Also recommended HN to lot of my friends :-)

Believe it or not, I found a very useful workout program in the comments on HN called Stronglifts 5X5. I kept seeing people talk about how great it was for beginners and I've failed to keep a regular weight lifting regime in the past due to feeling overwhelmed by having to memorize form for dozens of exercises. I've been doing Stonglifts for 2 months and I feel great.

The wiki and the app are super useful. I think the founder is a little bit of a salty dog, and his subscription model for the paid version of the app is just plain silly. That being said, he's given a lot away for free in terms of information and the free version of the app is still great, so for that I thank him and the people on HN for introducing it to me.

Long time ago somebody somewhere on HN recommended Starting Strength.

I started researching, read the book, and then one day a certified gym opened in my area. Healthiest I've felt in years.

I've been meaning to look into that program. I've heard a lot of good things about it here and various other places on the internet.

Also been doing this program for almost a year. Before that, I've never managed to do regular exercises

What I like about it is that it requires very little equipment to fully implement the program. A couple of months ago I bought a power rack, barbell and bumper plates, and have been lifting from home (usually when I take a break from work in the middle of day)

That sounds great! I wish I could also do that. Although, I do worry a lot about my form, so one advantage to going to a gym is asking the coaches to check mine and make sure it's good. How do you make sure you're lifting properly?

I watched a lot of videos and also read a lot. Stronglifts 5x5 is actually a rip-off from "Staring Strength" so I recommend reading the original book (there's also some videos from the book's author on YouTube).

At first it is very easy to do the exercises in bad form, but as you progress in weights, you will "feel" if you are doing it incorrectly (and probably won't be able to progress much).

For example, as I progressed in squat weights, I started feeling knee pain. This should NEVER happen, if you are feeling knee pain, you are not activating the proper muscles. In general, if you are feeling any pain besides sore muscles, you're probably doing something wrong.

I started doing this program in a normal gym, but the coaches were terrible and couldn't offer any advice besides things like "this exercise is very dangerous, I don't recommend it". Yes, free weight can be dangerous, but it is also the most effective form of workout.

My general advice is: be conscious about form and always visualize in your head what you're going to do before starting a set. Also do regular reviews of your form (ask someone to record you on smartphone).

This seems like great advice. Thank you. I ran into some resistance with doing free weights as well. Luckily there was a powerlifting gym in my area that had just opened up and free weights is about 90% of what they do there. Now I never have to wait for a squat rack!

When you say pain in your knees after squating, do you mean while doing the actual squat or afterwards? It’s funny you should mention that as an example as my knees have been feeling a little sore from Friday’s workout this weekend, which is a first for me.

Even with all its faults, it's pretty much the best predictor I can still find of what I find interesting at any point in time. The breadth of 'interesting' that I can find here is exceptional — I can probably say it made me a much more well rounded human being.

It's funny, when I first created an account 7 years ago, most of the discussion was way, way above my head, or so I felt. I don't feel that way any longer.

It might be life experience, or it might also be that all our filters and shields are up much higher than it used to be. Or we've all grown up together and became curmudgeonly together as well so that the glove still fits.

(But yes, the quality of discussion in HN has taken a sharp dive starting about 1-2 years ago, in my opinion.)

Quite sad to hear the number of people saying that quality has gone down; especially since I've only been getting active in the last year or so.

Hopefully there's a healthy dose of nostalgia tinging these opinions.

It's certainly been a great source of interesting information for me.

I learned about Docker and Ansible here, and we use them both in production every day.

I've used many comments and stories for material for presentations I've given.

I've learned so much I'm not sure I can list it all of the things!

I saw the Who's Hiring for GitLab in 2015, became an early employee, still here, not leaving. Best job ever.

I am curious about how to develop skills to get those jobs. The descriptions are far fetched

Since Fall 2013 I've been reading HN twice a day – over coffee in the morning and in the evening after dinner. I am a nomadic contractor who works in the blue-collar basement of the IT industry, with several years experience in Silicon Valley, Portland and Austin as a datacenter technician, service reliability engineer, and general-purpose nuts-&-bolts computer guy. For me, HN opened a window on an entirely new dimension of the industry: the world-view of the elite class in venture capital and entrepreneurship. It's fascinating to read the same articles they read, to see the world through their eyes. I don't always agree with the ultra-capitalist weltanschauung on HN, but I think I understand it better, to a certain extent.

Aside from the politics, I have learned a great deal from HN about my own technical domain: the hegemony of the Linux operating system, advantages/limitations of RESTful APIs, python as the (arguably) preferred scripting language, and much more. But the best aspect of HN is, in my opinion, the continuous stream of commentary and discussion about books on a variety of topics. It was here that I discovered Joseph Frank's magisterial biography of Fyodor Dostoevsky, which alone was worth the price of admission.

Overall, I consider HN to be an intellectual oasis in the chaotic desert known as the Internet. Many thanks to the women and men who develop and maintain this remarkable web site. Bon courage.

This post sticks out to me distinctly: [Life is Short](http://www.paulgraham.com/vb.html)

I re-read it every few months. Helps me to spend more time with my kid.

Aside, there are quite a few benefits and lots of distractions. But, it really depends on the day's schedule. I've noticed I don't visit HN for a few days when I'm in the flow of working on something exciting.

This is gold. Thanks so much for sharing!

I went to a university where many courses are years behind. HN exposed me to more new technology than I experienced during my entire time at school, and kept me up to date on modern programming.

On a more personal level, I have found much advice in various Ask HN threads that has really impacted me. Everything from career advice, to what's really important in life and how one should deal with the inevitable negative aspects of existence.

I'm sure plenty of people can also answer "yes" to the question "did quitting social media bring anything valuable into your life?"

Reading HN back in college in '08 is what exposed me to startups in the first place and convinced me that starting my own was actually something I could do. I owe my entire career to the world that HN and the early community showed me. Maybe some of that has gotten lost in years since but I'm still indebted to it.

The way I spend time and the quality of information I consume shapes my thinking and I owe it to HN.

Since HN is crowdsourced, it is my trusted go-to source for authentic and newsworthy news. Secondly, I always search my queries on HN before Google. I believe SEOs are over-rated when it comes to searching for your needs.

You may appreciate: https://hnprofile.com/

As it ranks content (articles) based on what "experts / insiders" feel about said content. AKA it's almost all very high quality news / information about a given topic.

Interesting! I see that you've decided experts based on sentiment analysis of their comments. How do you decide upon the high quality of information/ news on a topic?

You can review the search results themselves. It's somewhat subjective "what is good / bad" however, the stories all appear highly relevant and of fairly high quality as it relates to the topic (again subjectively).

Smarter, less-sensational form of news-entertainment. It's a good alternative to Fox News/ CNN, even better than NYT/WSJ. I also like the focus on tech/start ups, I feel like I'm being slightly more productive.

Mostly entertainment, but occasionally significant tech announcements or scuttlebutt.

Unfortunately, the moderation is mostly unhelpful, I read the raw "new" stream for the good stuff, even though it's noisy.

I found out about battlecode (https://battlecode.org/#/) which was lots of fun for many years.

Gave me massive analysis paralysis but also brought me a whole new level of bs detection. Now that I'm rolling out of paralysis I feel it'll take a lot more to distract me.

I found a great freelance client, and on the more mundane level, I often find nuanced responses to typically hyperbolic news stories.

I sometimes ask myself the same question. It certainly helps to remind me of how much I’m not making in the tech market, but also why it’s a good thing I don’t live near Silicon Valley.

Most of the tech stuff is good but everything else seems more and more disconnected from my personal experience, such that it’s becoming easier and easier to walk away.

I learned about S. Pinker's book "The blank slate" here on HN. It altered the way I think about humans.

Yes !

I got a job in London/UK and hired a person for my team in Vancouver/CA (one of the best hires I've ever made.)

2 years ago it helped me through a rough phase learning from other persons experiences.

Now I continue reading it on a very selfish way. It makes me feel, if not smart, at least cleaver. I love to read about stuff I never heard about, or progress in a field I like. And I love to understand what I read. Good for the ego !

HN brings me the best of what I'm interested in on the Web, so I appreciate that. The comments I find useful for filtering and previewing the linked articles as well for links to other related material that augments the linked article.

Here since July 2012. Nope - this site is just filler during slow days for me.

I have been reading HN for 8 years now. It is currently my number one source for news. I have learned many things, and I believe it is helping to prepare me for my next big adventure.

I often find interesting research and/or tech advances outside of my immediate field of study. Also, articles on startups here may have influenced my journey as a founder ;)

I mostly read the comments but its given me some good blogs that I like to read (stratechery & morning paper)

It lets me discover things I would have never discovered.

All in all I am finding myself spending a lot of times on Hacker News

I got my current job because I posted on here. So did the other senior person in engineering.

it gave me perspective and a broader visibility into other fields and in tech. 7 years later i still visit several times every day.

No not yet, but I hope it will soon :)

A job.



I learned details about undefined behaviour in C++ on hackernews. This was a great help when I looked for a job. I learned about Rust, tensors, Docker, GDPR, Angular, and many many more things. Generally my tech knowledge has become much more well-rounded and broader, but also deeper in several areas.

I also learned a lot about Silicon Valley and the prevailing culture there, much to my dismay. Ok just kidding but my jokes triggered some people and I got hellbanned. Where I come from, people are much more chill and love to share good sarcastic jokes.

You were banned not for "sarcastic jokes", but for taking HN threads into political flamewar—not what this site is for—and ignoring a large number of requests to stop. We told you we were banning you and why. But you forgot to include links (https://hn.algolia.com/?query=linkless%20martyr&sort=byDate&...), and HN readers like to decide for themselves:







I'm glad to see that your good comments are getting vouched for, though. That is the vouching system working as intended. If you decide you want to follow the guidelines and use HN fully as intended, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com.

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