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Tell HN: Please stop offering your services
406 points by swombat on Oct 27, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 106 comments
This is not a sustainable model.

There are thousands of HN users, each with their own areas of expertise.

Often, a good test of whether something is worth doing is "what if everyone did the same?" If everyone was more polite, the world would be a better place. If everyone treated others better, the world would be a better place.

But if everyone posted "Offer HN" posts, even if they all did it just once and with a genuine desire to help, rather than a secret need to build their public profile and/or get some interesting serendipitous contacts, HN would become much less valuable.

To those who believe that this new "Offer HN" craze is something worth encouraging, if that's the case, please create a site that's better tailored to making those offers. Maybe you can even get pg to link to it if it's good. You'll certainly get feedback, and so on.

But please don't post any more "Offer HN". Despite the generous impulse behind them, they are basically just spam that's pushing out other more interesting stuff, at the moment.

Related: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1840143

I actually think it is fascinating to see this, and I don't think they're spam at all and suggesting they are really not nice at all.

HN is many things to many people don't let your particular view of what HN should be dictate the status quo.

> But if everyone posted "Offer HN" posts, even if they all did it just once and with a genuine desire to help, rather than a secret need to build their public profile and/or get some interesting serendipitous contacts, HN would become much less valuable.

That says more about you than it does about the people offering their help. How could you possibly suggest that those doing this are doing it out of a secret need to build their public profile. That's a pretty cynical worldview.

> To those who believe that this new "Offer HN" craze is something worth encouraging, if that's the case, please create a site that's better tailored to making those offers. Maybe you can even get pg to link to it if it's good. You'll certainly get feedback, and so on.

Do you feel the same about Ask HN threads ? What about rate my startup ? Aren't those people 'cynically using the business, design and cumulative knowledge of HN' for their own betterment or the building of their public profiles ?

> But please don't post any more "Offer HN". Despite the generous impulse behind them

Please do !

> they are basically just spam that's pushing out other more interesting stuff, at the moment.

Such as ?

Angelgate ? Blocks of Ice ? Parachutes ?

edit: I've posted the opposite of this article here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1840143

Hey, you're part of the Secret Cabalistic Society of HN Worship now, you're not allowed to disagree anymore! Get in line!

More seriously - call me a cynic if you will, but when I see people offering help with the Twitter API or with SEO or tax advice or even help with RoR, well, I don't know, something smells fishy to me. That help is freely available on numerous forums to anyone who's looking for it, and it is a pretty standard model for those industries to offer free consultations before reeling you in.

Of course, I'm not saying that's specifically the case with these specific offers, but I'm sure we can all see where this is going.

> Hey, you're part of the Secret Cabalistic Society of HN Worship now, you're not allowed to disagree anymore!

Man, I submitted my application to the Secret Cabal a while ago, and I keep getting held in probationary/review period. I really gotta knock off yelling at people to make more money and advocating imperialism as a good foreign policy, I'd like my SCSHNW card.

> More seriously - call me a cynic if you will, but when I see people offering help with the Twitter API or with SEO or tax advice or even help with RoR, well, I don't know, something smells fishy to me.

Alright, seriously on my end - maybe some people have mixed intentions, but that's fine with me if they're doing good deeds. Like, is part of why Bill Gates is doing his anti-malaria work to better his legacy? My answer to that is "Who cares? Not me" - if someone's doing a good thing and also benefiting in reputation, contacts, etc, that's great. Now if someone doesn't deliver the goods and then tries to pitch people who email them, that'd be really lame. But if they're legitimately good deeds, I don't really care about their intentions.

Also - to shed some light on it, I tend to write all over the place, "Drop me a line if I can give you a hand" - pretty much anywhere. My reasoning? Out of 100 people, 90 will be ungrateful after you do something for hem, 9 will say thanks and nothing more will come of it, and 1 out of 100 you'll become great friends with, or become colleagues, or otherwise do amazing stuff together. I try to spend a lot of my entertainment time connecting with strangers, figuring for every 100 times I do it, I'm going to make 1 pretty amazing connection. Also I figure, what else am I going to do with my entertainment time? Watch TV? I like solving problems. Heck, I don't have anything to sell. I just try to do right by people when they ask for someone, cause why not? I always find it cool when I drop someone a line and they get back to me, so I try to do the same.

I'm digging the Offer HN trend and hope it continues - I wouldn't even mind if a quarter of the entries on the front page at any time were Offer HN. I figure I'd read the interesting ones, skip the boring ones, and I could always click "Next Page" to see other entries if I want more general stories.

I think you're addressing a problem before it's arrived, and I don't think that's a bad thing. I agree that this isn't sustainable, and at some point, the offers are going to become less genuine and less valuable. However, after looking at the bloggergirl copy deck suggestions, I want to clearly state that she (and other offers) don't fall into this group. Great work.

I'd encourage users to ask for help. We're already doing it in the form of "review my ..." Good posts with time invested in describing the problem and asking for very specific help will bubble up from newest, and those that are looking to get out of doing work won't hit the front page.

On the contrary "Offer HN" posts are hard not to upvote...for now.

Thanks, malbiniak! I agree that, as interesting as Offer HN could be, the real opportunities to help others will be in continuing to read Ask HN posts and offering your services there, where there's a good match.

As someone mentioned already, you can give your services away to a lot of people, and possibly only 1 will really need it, be grateful, and pay it forward. So why not save your free services for that 1 'special' HNer who asks for help? Just a thought...

My only concern is really that in the short/medium term, this could lead to a large influx of freeloaders from other communities, who may have no interest in "paying it forward", but mostly in dropping by for a quick freebie, while not contributing anything.

It would be pretty awesome if I was wrong though, and that a new spirit of collaboration across multiple communities was the end-result, but I remain skeptical.

For me, my offer of help in the RoR Offer thread was motivated out of two things. First, just because I like helping where I can. Second, I might get the opportunity to work on something cool, or meet someone new, that I might not otherwise have.

Volunteer on http://railsmentors.org - we'd love to have you.

> Hey, you're part of the Secret Cabalistic Society of HN Worship now, you're not allowed to disagree anymore! Get in line!

If there's any secret cabal activity happening here, it's a conspiracy to maintain top-ten leaderboard positions by means of random sensationalistic debates.

I can't agree with you more. Maybe there is a compromise somewhere.

In http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1839394 I suggested that the offering person summarize advice and findings and puts it back in the thread. Effectively, the thread becomes a reverse Ask HN and can be incredibly useful. The information persists, and it is available to future HN users. You're getting tips/advice/reviews specifically applicable or tailored to someone like you, a member of Hacker News.

In the ideal case, a reverse Ask HN has participants post a link to their content, and the user (hopefully an expert user) would reply in that comment's thread with content instead of in private. If some privacy is preferred, then a summary can be posted to wrap up all the advice they gave to HN users.

I summarized all of them in a blog post, and I'll keep it up to date. If someone wants to 'retract' their offer due to being swamped or for some other reason let me know and I'll unlink the link.


I am not talking about supporting the admin or listing those services, I am talking about opening the content of individual consulting sessions. Summarize the content of the advice of one or all the sessions, and put it back in the thread to make it worth something to people that didn't participate. It will be worth a ton because it is advice tailored specifically to your demographic, a user of Hacker News.

A compromise also could be a hn irc channel, people ask for help there and people qualified (or otherwise) can help them out.

  How could you possibly suggest that those doing this are doing it out of a secret 
  need to build their public profile. That's a pretty cynical worldview.
I think it is a valid concern. I don't say for all of the 'Offer HN' threads but some of the them just don't sound right. (I would be the first one to admit, I am not the best when it comes accurately judging intentions from just a couple of written lines.)

Case in example - http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1839507

Sorry if I misunderstood this poster, but from a genuine offer to help in one thread, it quickly went to offering of services here. (I hope the person corrects me if that really isn't the case.)

The title of the site is "Hacker News." That is to say, it's a news site, as stated in the title. A random individual offering their services for sale is not, and probably never will be, news. These posts are just topic drift, and they belong somewhere else - maybe reddit.

Disclaimer: I also spend lots of time on reddit

So what's your take on Ask HN: posts and Rate my startup ?

Such as ? Angelgate ? Blocks of Ice ? Parachutes ?

So your solution to the spam problem is "Let's add more spam, since we've already got lots?"

No, I would not qualify the Offer HN threads as spam, rather the opposite, ham of the finest variety.

Some spam may eventually occur, but we already have a pretty good way of dealing with that, I'm sure the 'flag' option works just fine on Offer HN type posts that are not above board.

>That's a pretty cynical worldview.

Cynical or skeptical? Or both? Does the fact that his worldview is either of these remove the possibility that it's true, at least in some cases? Does the risk of a drop in overall quality of HN as a result of promoting 'offers' outweigh it's potential benefit? Who knows, but I'm with swombat and can't help be a little skeptical. Personally I'd like to hear some ideas for how one might minimize disingenuous posts before plunging into this thing.

It's possible, but I think such criticism should be leveled at those specific cases where it is applicable, preferably clear cut cases.

To take a general stance like this against a whole class of submissions many of which were clearly done from an altruistic point of view is just not very friendly at all.

Whether they're all 100% altruistically motivated or not, if they are providing legitimately useful help for free as offered, I don't see a problem with it. As a possibly familiar example, speakers come to users groups/meetups to talk about things -- there are obvious benefits to the speaker, but we certainly don't vilify them for that.

Don't worry, these things always run their course. At least this is driven by generosity. Plus you have to admit it's sort of interesting to watch new forms of internet behavior evolve.

Something I suggested elsewhere in an Offer HN-related thread that appears to have died a death was the idea of creating an offer section next to the jobs section at the top, where people can offer their services.

It would be good then if a condition of accepting a service is that you should (not that it'd be enforced, it'd just be good etiquette) post your own offer.

That seems to allow the front page to get back to lumps of ice, Angelgate and other important stuff, encourage the philanthropic behaviour and gives people a place to put it.

I appreciate this could be perceived as a step towards a 'multi-section reddit-style thingummajig' but I think this is a reasonable exception. Certainly offers with sufficient gravity could make the front page by setting a threshold.

It sounds like a bit of work, but what do you think?

This isn't new internet behavior. It happens on Reddit, the Something Awful forums, basically any online community.

For sure. Do they run their course because posts like this one encourage them to run their course, or would they fade away by themselves anyway? :-)

My worry is, this one is a good idea in the wrong place. This is basically a strong variation on reddit's AMA, which has taken a solid hold there and isn't going anywhere. Since HN doesn't support sub-forums, there is a risk that we could be "stuck with" this for a while, if it has the durability of AMA but no sub-forum/site to hide in.

Another possible danger is that the community will lash back against it because of the noise, even though it's a good idea, and so we'll lose a good idea. I really do think that if someone made a special site for this (which wouldn't take that long to code up), it might be something of lasting value.

They die on their own. The only thing posts like this do are discourage helpful people. It causes them to see the community as hostile, and they take their helpfulness elsewhere.

These people aren't -just- posting these offers. They also contribute to the site in other ways. Their loss -is- a loss to the community.

Gently nudging them into something more helpful is great, but flat telling them to go away is very bad.

I don't think another website would work. There have been several efforts to make off-shoot niche websites based on one aspect of HN, and I think it's precisely because they focus on a single niche that they are so quickly forgotten.

The fact that HN offers so many different things is what makes it so compelling (addictive, even): new knowledge, interesting discussion, a sense of community, a place to find people for real life meetups. And now a means to find and offer free services.

It's that combination of things that compels people to come back day after day. You can't just slice off a minor aspect of HN and expect people to pay attention.

Maybe it's interesting to you since HN is your baby and it's fun to watch people use your creation in unexpected ways, but for us, it's lowering the value/utility.

Repl to the rescue: http://news.ycombinator.com/offerless

    (defop offerless req
      (offerlesspage (get-user req)))

    (newscache offerlesspage user 90
      (listpage user (msec)
                [and (>= (realscore _) front-threshold*)
                     (cansee user _)
                     (no (begins _!title "Offer "))
                nil nil "offerless"))

Could we also have http://news.ycombinator.com/offers ? It would be nice if we could see all the Offer HN threads in one page.

Ok, works now.

It will be great if you could add them here too: http://news.ycombinator.com/lists

On a similar note, I wonder if there are other filters which are not listed there?

For now they'll only last this server invocation, because I merely pasted the code into the repl. Let's see if we still need them in a week.

Fair enough. Thanks Paul :)

One thing that I've found entertaining in my short time on this site is the surprising number of semi-hidden features. It's almost like the In-N-Out of tech sites. And now I know where to find the secret menu :). Thanks!

Wait, In-n-Out has a secret menu? What have I been missing!?

Animal style fries, for starters.

I think this could be a shorter course to the problem described by loginx above

>>My only concern is really that in the short/medium term, this could lead to a large influx of freeloaders from other communities, who may have no interest in "paying it forward", but mostly in dropping by for a quick freebie, while not contributing anything.<<

Hehe. Super.

Now that's what I call applied technology :)

I think this is technically an 'Offer HN: Less Offers'

that's pretty cool. I know it would be a little crazy to implement but having the ability to build some special pages like this would be cool on a user level. Unless it's already there and I haven't seen it (Maybe something as simple as filters?).

Nice. Is this something you'd like to simply run its course? Given the nature of it, it would seem the better thing to do would be to split Ask and Offer into distinct pages, and offer both up on the header.

This kind of social programming interests me.

Have you written about interacting with the community on that level?

Gizmodo does something like this but with all content. Every post has tags and you can filter the stream by excluding certain tags (or only looking at certain tags). It's very nice. Maybe that could be done as a long term solution for all future problems like this.


That's software arc.hitecture

I think that's the first time in the history of HN that arc praising comment is down voted

I find it interesting that you are saying its lowering the value/utility of the community here, but in one of these "Offer HN" threads you requested help not too long ago


I think all in all thats pretty disingenuous .

Why do you get to decide what this site does? Who are you to tell people to go post that stuff on another site?

If it's pushing out 'more interesting stuff', it's because people have upvoted it because THEY find it worthwhile.

I'll admit, I find them mildly annoying, but much less annoying than the total crap that occasionally gets posted, like videos of dancing bears and such.

I watch the rss feed and I see -all- of that crap. And I ignore the stuff I don't care about, and upvote the stuff I do.

On the other hand, as of this writing this complaint post has 131 points. That seems to suggest that more people are against the offer posts than for them. Curiously, the only post on the frontpage now with more posts is "Things Paul Graham is Wrong About", another post with a flamebait title. Not surprisingly, flamebait attracts the upvotes!

That would only be a reasonable deduction if HN had < 262 users. As it stands, it's impossible to judge based on a score that cannot be downvoted, and that's without considering selection bias.

To me, it suggests that this is just a more controversial post than all-but-one other frontpage post; not necessarily more agreed with. The majority of posts that I've read, and certainly the more up-voted, seem to be those disagreeing (at least in part) with the OP.

Edit: it's entirely possible I misread "points" for "posts", so ignore this entirely.

What do you mean, it suggests that? I'm against the offer threads, and I flagged this post!

A vote up doesn't mean "I agree." I don't want to see a webpage full of things I agree with.

It's a new trend that might explode and take up the entire HN aggregate. If you don't like the kinds of threads, I'd voice my dissent to nip it in the bud, too.

I appreciate the expressed dissent, but I happen to disagree and find it to be a lovely phenomenon. I don't expect it to last forever, though.

I respectfully disagree that they are "basically just spam" but yet I agree with a few other points you make. No, it isn't sustainable but yes it makes HN a more interesting place. I'd far rather see those types of posts than some of the things that I'm sure you think are "more interesting". And I don't say that in a mean-spirited way; what I mean is that we all have different interests and just b/c you (or 400 others like you) don't like it isn't a sufficient reason to kill it/them.

http://news.ycombinator.com/offerless (as pg posted a couple of posts up)

Often, "what if everyone did the same" is a very bad test. For example because not everybody will do the same.

I'm not sure whether that's the case here.

Indeed. It could argue against almost anything, because the real problem indicated is a lack of balance, not an inherent harmfulness of the thing in question. For example: "If everyone became a DBA, society would come crashing down, so I should not become a DBA."

DBAs are good and helpful — they just aren't the be-all end-all of human existence. I don't think anybody should be held up to that standard.

The community as a whole seems to appreciate them, based on the upvotes.

That's not a fair assumption since there are no downvotes. If 20% of people really like something, and 80% hate it, it could still very easily own the front page.

The hypothetical 80% who hate it are free to vote up the items they'd rather see (higher) on the front page instead.

What if they only like 1 in 10?

Regardless you're focusing too much on the numbers I threw out there solely for example. The point is that without down votes its entirely possible for a number of similar items to hit the front page even though a majority of people dislike them, thus invalidating the idea that a number of similar items on the front page means a majority of people find them useful.

That's ridiculous, of course there are downvotes. In fact all it takes is a very small minority to flag something and it goes off the site. This happens all the time.

A flag and a downvote are two very different things. If there were downvotes I'd use them all the time. There are flags and yet I only use them rarely, for spam, or something off topic, or with an editorialized headline, etc.

Flags aren't meant to express dislike, they're meant to express something being inappropriate. Lots of stuff I dislike is appropriate here.

This post has a lot of upvotes, too.

The dynamics of post upvotes are quite different, they are not always sign of agreement.

I saw a lot of time people saying they disagree, but they upvote the post to make it more visible and involve more people in the discussion. I even do it myself from time to time.

That's rather my point: you can't use upvotes alone to gauge if the majority of this community approves of a submission. I admit I was doing it sideways, but I was trying to point out that if you used his metric for both this and the other posts, you'd arrive at a contradiction.

Tell swombat: What/who gives you the right to say that?

Swombat, you are one of the greatest contributors, but you are wrong here. Let them offer, it does not hurt anyone. I think the community is quick to identify the honest folks from those who aren't.

Some people love to help just as much as you love to comment. Saying stop offering services is not so different than saying stop giving feedback on ask HN.

Maybe we just structure the way people Offer HN. They could just probably share the feedbacks here so a lot more companies can benefit from it.

At any rate, keep offering if you want to offer. If you do not care for offers just skip them.

Once the community gets tired of it, they'll stop upvoting them, or maybe even flag them. That's the beautiful thing about HN.

Offer HN: A cane to shake at people.

I'll start worrying about this once it becomes a problem. So far, it's been 2 days. For now, my asumption is that it will go away soon, and it's fun to watch for a while.

> Often, a good test of whether something is worth doing is "what if everyone did the same?"

Nice try, Kant!

That's why I didn't become a doctor. I thought, if everyone else became a doctor, there'd be no-one left to fix my car or grow food for us to eat.

That's why I'm not going to comment on this. If everyone did it, then it would overwhelm the servers.

Of all the types of posts to complain about, this type seems odd. Do you really think this trend will continue for more then a week? A month, tops?

If it was undesireable, there would be no option to use it. If people offer their help, its up to the people that take them up on it to determine whether its a bait for service sales tactics. Asking people to stop volunteering their help for free is not a good idea in general. It mean's you're probably reading HN too much, and possibly on a screen that's too small. Just get used to clicking on the "More" button, it works! :P

> But please don't post any more "Offer HN". Despite the generous impulse behind them, they are basically just spam that's pushing out other more interesting stuff, at the moment.

I disagree. I think they are interesting stuff. In any case, HN has a voting system so what goes on the front page will be whatever the community finds interesting.

I think Offer HN is appropriate in some situations where the offer is something particularly unique you wouldn't be able to find elsewhere on the Internet such as the Ivy League UG Application reviewer. The rest of it is offering info you could probably learn through Googling.

I enjoy having access to "thousands of HN users, each with their own expertise" and the gall and cojones to offer their wisdom (and fragile reputations) up to the community.

In this age of "what's in it for me", the minimal networking benefit offered is the very LEAST the community can give to support the model. We should only be so lucky.

I'm curious as to your background, since it sounds like by your post, your entrepreneurial pursuits have resulted in great wealth which allows for access to unlimited operations, creative and technical knowledge in all areas of business by responsible, domain-expert, timely and proactive professionals.

You, my friend have struck CEO paydirt, can you offer us your secret?

Why worry about sustainability ?! If someone wants to do good for the community by offering their skills, let them. "Sustainable model" - Sounds like throwing words around.

I'm going ahead and blaming global warming for this post ;)

If it gets really bad, won't the community just respond by having a monthly "Who's Offering" thread, much like we now have the monthly "Who's Hiring" thread?

If people didn't think these offers were interesting/worthwhile, they wouldn't get sufficiently up-voted to stay on the front page.

I don't think we should be worried about these. As PG said, it's fascinating to see how Internet evolves. My only worry is that for some "Offer HN" posts I'm not yet prepared to ask for their help, however, I certainly see myself looking for these "services" in future and I'm not sure how it will pan out then ;)

What is great about HN is that the community can decide on how useful they are and it will run its course. If there is other content that is "worth" more to users, it will rise to the top. I am going to add a section to the Hacker Newsletter for these since they appear useful at the moment.

I haven't read a lot of HN over the last two days, but I saw that we had one "Offer HN", and then a slew of them.

I think it's a great idea -- pay it forward! But I wonder if I would want to visit a board full of "Offer HN" posts. "Ask HN"? Sure. "Rate my startup"? Sure. But not so much "Offer HN"

Perhaps that means I'm selfish but geesh, this thing could go on forever.

It's the same problem as job offers/requests. It's such a common thing -- it could easily pollute the board.

Not happening yet, sure, and I'm enjoying watching them so far. But this could turn out to be a worse meme than Erlang Innards.

I don't know. I'll let you secret HN leader cabal-types figure it out. I just know that after about 20 "Offer HN" posts, I'm burnt out. And I don't feel that way about the other types of posts. Beats me why.

Let's not address this problem prematurely.

This will likely simply fizzle out after awhile. If it doesn't, then we can discuss it and see what solutions are out there. But for now, no damage has been done and the "Offer HN" threads have been rather substantive in quality.

I think there is a big difference in an 'Ask HN' post and a 'Offer HN' post.

In general terms, an 'Ask HN' post is the HN crowd helping an individual. Everyone can participate to help that individual. An 'Offer HN' post is one person helping one other person (or maybe a small handful). I enjoy seeing the occasional Ask HN post because I can participate/contribute in some way to most of the requests. For Offer HN posts, I can't participate unless I have that specific need.

To me, there is less 'value' to the HN community from the Offer HN posts to the Ask HN ones for that reason. Yes - I understand 'value' is subjective, but this I think my point is reasonably objective from a 'whole community' point of view.

Startup concept:

Think about this tiny trend in light of the unemployment situation in the USA. I imagine that most if not all of these offers are from people who are employed. What about the 20M (or whatever it is) who are not?

If there was a site where they could volunteer to work for a startups, think of the army of available talent. And these don't need to be tech startups only. If it could be set up so those volunteering could be compensated later that might be good, but even without any promised compensation I bet people would do it.

Does anyone know if such sites exist, sites that easily let startups hook up with volunteers/remote interns?

As long as it is genuine, uncorrupted generosity, I don't see the harm. There are not that many offers and it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling that there are people willing to spend time and effort on this sort of stuff :)

I think it's nice, but that OP has a valid point about sustainability. There's a lot of this in the arts sector, and while it's awesome in some ways it also exerts a downward effect on prices at the lower end of the market. Arty types like helping each other out for cheap; they genuinely love what they do, helping out advances everyone's skills, and the whole is often greater than the sum of the parts. But the fact that many of them are not in it for the money is often misread to mean 'not interested in money.'

A common problem for freelancers in film and graphic design is getting callbacks (or even referrals) where clients propose paying peanuts or even that the creative should do this bit of work for free - the client is sure of success and it will either be great for the portfolio, or there'll be a lot more work coming down the pipe, or they have a great rolodex. They think [whatever job you do] is extremely important, but most of their budget has gone on [something else important]. So they frame it as a sort of partnership situation, only most of the benefits end up flowing towards them. Sometimes this is straight-out greed, more often it's well-meaning incompetence or an inflated sense of entitlement without any deliberate intent to rip anyone off. But it often looks like a good prospect, and the more people that are involved, the more they reinforce each other's belief in the project...Titanic syndrome, if you will.

Unfortunately for every one of these low-budget projects that scores big and gives everyone involved a big career boost, there's about 99 others which don't. Half pay for themselves in other ways - making new contacts, or building new skills, or by a decent product. A third or so suck but are over quickly, and easy to screen out in the future. The remaining sixth are jobs from hell, where it's apparent within 24 or 48 hours of starting that something is terribly wrong but you're going to have to see it through to the bitter end.

I'm not suggesting such people are lurking on HN, but to the extent that a reputation for karma-based mutual aid builds up around the community, it will start to attract people on the lookout for freebies. Have a look at the gigs section on Craigslist, under the creative, writing or crew headings rather than computers. Generosity is great, but sometimes it ends up as the 'tragedy of the commons' - so don't undersell yourself either.

OP's post is the one time I wish front-page items could be down-voted

While I do not think that they are spam, I think that the trend will eventually have a negative impact on the community. If you eat too much chocolate you will get sick of chocolate.

> Often, a good test of whether something is worth doing is "what if everyone did the same?"

I don't buy this logic; it implies, for instance, that no one in the world should be a professional programmer, because if everyone was, no other jobs would get done.

In this specific instance, I think the Offer HN submissions go against the "News" part of Hacker News, but a few here and there are not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps allowing anyone to downvote self-referential posts would help stem the tide?

Altruism doesn't exist, and this is not a bad thing. To 'provide help', even anonymously, is to help yourself by bettering the environment in which you live ("Karma" sans magic).

I don't think anyone has posted any sort of story or comment to HN (or read HN for that matter) without some hope for personal betterment as a result.

As far as chilling trends in the future, I see HN as 'the new Slashdot', and I'd be more afraid of it following similar patterns over the long term.

I offer things by putting them on my blog. For example, I wrote a long piece about getting press the other day: http://blog.jgc.org/2010/10/how-to-hack-media.html

I prefer that approach and anyone who wants to ask for PR advice can contact me.

I'm sure glad Hanna Montana Linux Distro[0] still made it to the front page.

[0] http://hannahmontana.sourceforge.net/Site/Home.html

Wherein the top post is a meta-discussion about css.

Personally I just don't click offers for now, as it just don't worth the time to go over all the offers in the current form.

What if someone wanted to offer a physical product to HN community as a thank you? Would that be appropriate?

That's already happened, someone offered a whole pile of books, including some pretty valuable ones.

Not to be overly melodramatic, but I think this is my last comment here on HN for better or worse, simply because this is exactly the microcosmic ideal I've hoped for HN from my beginning involvement--if it dies, there's no need to drag things out and I am grateful for all of HN's relentless resourcefulness I've encountered. And if not, I'll probably be helping HN continue to develop this idea further through action.

I think I can safely assume the majority of active members representative of YC here have startups that are in need of traction, but of a different kind not yet fully explored; but nevertheless, in need of resources. I hope I'm also not mistaken in the feeling most of us feel "not ready" or not in the right stage for official seed funding and don't necessarily fit into traditional crowd funding landscape, or simply don't want that much of a burden to worry about while developing.

Yes, money is a burden because it's an anchor you must tie yourself to in most cases, and is hard to come by. I've read it many times here before, as it should be, since this is the YC news. However, there could be something faster...

So, this new or new-old, dare I say model, is a natural progression--or in pg's adapted words, evolution (hopefully I am not putting words in your mouth). To where? Call it Crowd Ramen Funding (CRF), where the angels are the untold majority.

All that's needed is a standalone site to register your startup with the community, associate needed resources to your startup/project, and have others with those available resources either give or lend them to you while you're still getting off the ground. It doesn't have to be big; maybe some food, a sheltered corner to hack under, language manuals, maybe some light consulting, or other things of this nature. And like other crowd funding platforms, you make sure there are enough hands to help you down the edge so you don't have to take the dive by yourself. In return, the angels may receive the startup's product if it was something they personally wanted, or maybe simply the joy of having helped a hacker or two that is adding more value to the world than he or she is taking out, or maybe it's a kind of symbiosis not easily definable.

In short, I feel I'm not alone when I say this has much more potential than just being slash or pipe "Offer", and being so, it really is out of place in the header. HN community participation shouldn't be a function narrowed in scope by its site header, nor should the header sacrifice its functionality of directing users contributing and reading news. I think at heart it's really a classical inheritance problem, in which case, it's best to just extend rather than subtype the current functionality. May the entire community see this thing through to either a bitter end or choosing to forward it on into the future. That is all.

Please don't leave.

But if everyone posted "Offer HN" posts

That's a false proposition, isn't it? Everyone is not going to offer his services. It's going to happen on occasion, and it's usually useful when it does happen.

If it ever did rise to the level of spam, then HN already has a mechanism for dealing with it. But it's nowhere near there.

Offering services (e.g. SEO) gives occasion for interesting discussions on topics as well. This is certainly useful for the community.

Premature Optimization - You are solving a problem that may not need to be solved, or to put it another way

Worry is interest paid in advance on a debt that may never come due.

Thank. God. This was getting unbearable. Understood the generous nature behind all these offers but c'mon. Not the venue.

I don't think there's any interesting phenomena going on here, and to me the "Offer HN" posts look quintessentially like spam. I don't read HN in order to see a lot of folks touting for business - no matter how talented or fast on the keyboard they may be. I know business is thin on the ground right now, but please post that stuff elsewhere.

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