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Tell HN: Please continue offering your services (goods, rooms etc)
461 points by jacquesm on Oct 27, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 31 comments
I've read and taken in swombats post to 'stop offering your services', and I think that he may have a point in the general sense, that some may abuse this format to gain a business advantage.

That said, I think it is much too early to make the call to stop doing this, let's fix problems if and when they appear.

The way to deal with that is to take any Offer HN at face value unless there is proof that it is not what it seems to be, and to indcate that if and when it appears.

From what I've seen so far all - or at the very least most - of the offers that have been made are both genuine and heartfelt, and at some personal expense in terms of time, effort or even goods to the person offering.

So please do keep them coming those 'Offer HN' postings and let's hope they will put HN on the map as a place where people do more than just talk.

For what it's worth, I've upvoted this too. I certainly didn't mean to kill the trend completely (which is what seems to have happened :-/). There is some obvious value to it.

I wouldn't want to see the Offer HN thing become a lasting trend at the current levels... that said, the odd "Offer HN" doesn't bother me, and I certainly wouldn't want to think that all offers stopped completely just because my post got upvoted.

That said, to elaborate on the point jacquesm singled out, many/most services-businesses (from tax consultancies to seo consultants and web developers) use free consultations as a way to generate leads. My suggestion to people who want to offer something to HN is, don't do it just to generate leads, and try to make it clear to the readers that it's not something you're doing to generate business for yourself. It'd be a shame to see some percentage of this site become basically a lead-generation site for the brazen few willing to take advantage of it like that.

PS: I'm not suggesting that any specific "offer HN" post was like that, despite mentioning examples above.

I created the HN Offer: Tax Help for Startup Entrepreneur thread and I wanted to reflect on how I went about it.

Maybe it would've been better if I didn't show my website. I wanted to show that I've been doing this for a while as a career and hoped that it would help lend credibility. I hope that it didn't come off as a gimmick.

I'm keeping my offer open and standing. I was thinking about posting an offer hn tax help for startup entreprenuiers thread once a month just to show that I would consistently help people and that I wasn't looking to be a scammer.

But maybe that was a bad idea. Let me know and I'll act accordingly. I was just hoping to interact with the hn crowd and maybe meet some cool people and discuss interesting tax subjects hopefully. I can say that I definitely got a lot out of it myself. I learned about a new tax strategy i didn't know about from RDL in ROBS 401ks. I'll be looking into that myself and sharing what I find with everyone else since it could be an awesome way for people invest in their own companies.

Let me know your thoughts and ill definitely take them into advisement.

I think it was an awesome thing, and I enjoyed reading your analysis in that thread.

Actually, I love this whole rash of "Offer HN" - I was going to write one up myself, but I'm transiting to Malaysia tomorrow from Saigon, and have a busy week ahead of me. I'll probably post one in a week if the community blesses the general idea.

As always, I've got contact info in my profile and anyone's welcome to drop a line for any reason, to ask for a hand, etc. People who read the comments here probably know what I'm good at by now. As for you camz - I think it's phenomenal what you're doing, and I hope more people do the same.

Well, I can tell you that your advice definitely helped me get over my small irrational fear of taking/holding money as an ad network. Everyone else I asked those questions just shrugged and said "You should ask an accountant".

I know it will seem odd to many of these grizzled veterans around here, but, just a few sentences from you, and I feel like I've overcome something significant. Thank you.

Thanks truman. I have that your business takes off

I really appreciate the turnout and how receptive the whole community has been to me. I know that I'm like the odd man out in the group haha. But, its awesome cause I've had a lot of people have reached out to me by email, phone and skype.

Like I said, I'll keep this offer standing and post an offer once a month to field all the questions people have. But, you dont have to wait. You can reach me at contact@thekenggroup.com. They'll all get forwarded to me directly so they're not going into some black hole =)

I created the SEO-thread.

I got a bunch of questions and emails (around 250 and they're still coming in) - all they ask for is tips and tricks, maybe some ideas on how to further expand their presence on the webz.

I don't ask for anything in return, I don't promote products, I don't promote services - just plain old "This is your site. These are the flaws - this is why it's called a flaw, and here's how to fix it".

I once wrote: "I'm really interested in your project. Here's my personal email. Email me and we can discuss a possible investment on my part."

Crappy SEO, but the product was incredible.

Back on track;

I created a special email address just to accept HN questions.

But I do see it from your POV. Many entrepreneurs I know have lost a lot of money via the "I do something free for you - but you have to buy something from me in return"-scheme.

I'm pretty sure that HN users would find a way to make their displeasure known about those that abuse the 'Offer HN' format.

I am the co-founder of http://skyara.com and we're actually building a marketplace for services like 'Teach RoR' or 'Learn SEO'. It'll be launching in a couple of weeks so stay tuned.

You'll be able to offer your services for free (we don't make any money from that) and it's exactly designed for what's currently going on with HN, so very excited about that.

sorry for the shameless plug, just thought it was very applicable.

The design, prototyping, and manufacturing guide is mine and I've gotten a dozen plus emails from people asking about product ideas. Instead of taking weeks to figure out if something is viable I can answer the question in a few minutes. Having designed apparel, medical products, mobile apps, AI, toys, etc. I can pretty much look at something at tell what it's going to cost, how long, and the difficulty.

I'm doing it sure to meet people but mostly because I wish there was someone to help me when I was learning product design. There would have been a lot less bumps and bruises.

2c - Please Bear with me, I am not the best at conveying ideas.

The Offer HN trend is of great value, its inspiring, collaborative, and genuine. I think it deserves to be encouraged because, well... its more like the world I think most of us would want to live in.

I was thinking about how this trend would play out though, and being a cynic, I am certain that at some point this will be abused. All systems can be bent, broken, or subverted and for a human system like the HN community, the inevitable abuse will damage the trust being built up on the site. I hate to be negative, but I have to point out that there are people who do NOT subscribe to the DNA of HN and assume that some other human beings are just marks. Offer HN is an ideal target for such individuals.

At the same time, for a successful community, Good faith needs to be assumed. The alternative is, well, suspicion of most offers, which I think would be corrosive to HN.

From here, it suggests to me that a separate system to ensure transparency and good faith would be required to support Offer HN requests. A simple way to identify affiliations, skill level and so on would perhaps be useful, and would also help address any further concerns that people may have. At the same time it could take away from the spontaneous nature of the help which would be a shame.

- Ok, complex rambling thoughts over! Hopefully someone finds something in this useful, it would be a shame to see Offer HN dissipate. -2c.

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 that needs addressing.

To me, there is less 'value/participation' to the HN community from the Offer HN posts to the Ask HN ones for that reason. Offer HN type posts are better serviced by other specialists sites of which there are no shortage. Yes - I understand 'value' is subjective, but this I think my point is reasonably objective from a 'whole community' point of view.

I'm going to add a design and manufacturing guide for consumer electronics. Stupid question but to add a thread do you use the submit or is there another way? I know stupid question but my connection is acting up and I want to make sure it's just me. I keep getting http://news.ycombinator.com/r.

I experienced that too a couple days ago. Strange. Came back after a couple hours and then it worked.

Use the Submit link, and you will be given the choice of submitting text or a URL.

I like the "anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity" maxim in the FAQ, but perhaps it needs to be rewritten or clarified. Maybe "anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity or gives one a nice warm feeling on the inside (and still gets upvotes)."

> That said, I think it is much too early to make the call to stop doing this, let's fix problems if and when they appear.

When I logged in for the first time and saw a home page full of these, I assumed HN had been gamed and went away without a second thought.

A few hours later, I tried again, and while by far the most upvoted topics are this one and the corresponding "please stop" thread, I can at least see some potentially interesting topics as well this time.

So I think a problem did appear, very obviously and immediately, and getting rid of anything to do with Offer HN is a very good thing. Much as I appreciate the sentiment, this just isn't a sensible forum for that kind of interaction, as even a few posts cluttering up the home page rapidly made obvious.

What about an "offers" link in the top nav to group these together, like "jobs" and "ask"?

It strikes me also that this could be a valuable part of the community here. I think the HN has an ethos of startups helping each other out (albeit with a good dose of skepticism).

Yep I was aware of the page being added. I'm just suggesting however that it gets added to the top nav bar of the site to encourage people to continue posting these items in an ongoing way (although hopefully at a more reasonable frequency than today). Someone downvoted the suggestion which seems a little harsh. :)

The real value isn't actually in the money, but in exchanging it. Money is made to exchange wealth. Even though there isn't any money in these free offers, there is wealth which is being made. At a large scale, I'm curious to know how this will result.

I can see some potential for awesome things to come out of all this. Where people meet and start exchanging ideas and simple services bonds are being forged and where bonds are being forged the seeds are planted for a higher level of collaboration in the future. So even if all of these are totally altruistic I do not doubt that there indeed will be some real world pay-off, if not for the individual than definitely in the aggregate.

I'll be watching this whole development with great interest, it is one of the most exciting things I've seen on HN in a long time.

On that note, I was contacted by a start up that is working in the field of tax in the NYC area. So I'm definitely meeting people from the hn community and hopefully I can help provide some insight or just make a new friend.

So I think that offers on hn is definitely having that effect of exchange ideas and helping forge (or at least create the opportunity to forge) bonds.

Let say you helped 25 startups a year. After 4 years, that 100 startups. Probably, 10 of those goes big and at least 3 or 4 will remember your work (it should persist in their code base if it's quality work). So you got a job offer or consulting work.

Dual benefit for short and longer term.

I think these Offer HN posts are a great way to see junior startup groups pitch their services to the community, and the passerby audience as they grow closer to (a) launch or (b) YCombinator! application process.

It gives them a real, tangible idea of how well their application/product/idea will do, and it's an excellent way to test the waters, get feedback and make even the most minute refinements to their services that could mean acceptance or rejection from prospective investors.

Good luck to you all!

I totally disagree with this. If someone is going to put up an "Offer HN" post, it should be because they kick ass at something and want to share their expertise. The last reason should be because people with limited experience want to get their feet wet and use HN as guinea pigs.

Why is this a separate post?

Because of a discussion in #startups.

I should have made that clear, thanks.

Where is #startups?

It's an IRC channel on irc.freenode.net.

See: http://jacquesmattheij.com/The+Unofficial+HN+FAQ#altuis

let's hope they will put HN on the map as a place where people do more than just talk

Really? I think HN was already a lot more than that. People are always helping each other on here in one way or another, from advise to reviews. I think the "Offer HN" is great, but it really is just an extension of what was already there.

Offering HN something relevant (e.g. design, programming, business advice) is really cool.

Offering something irrelevant (e.g. your apartment, your bike, your girlfriend for a night) isn't so cool.

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