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Ask HN: How do you track comment threads in HN?
46 points by xcambar 7 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 53 comments
Hello, every time I post a comment here on HN, I see myself keeping a tab open to my latest submitted comments and refreshing frantically to see if any new reply has been posted. Or upvote given, let's be honest.

Surely the HN crowd, with its always so clever folks, has better ways of handling such primitive workflows.

Please share your tips to follow up on your own activity.

I don't. I say my piece, and let it lie. Sometimes it is taken well, other times it invokes healthy discussions, sometimes it is ignored, taken poorly, or I am corrected and downvoted. None of those reactions require me to keep constant tabs on it. I do check my history on occasion to see what gets positive vs. negative responses, and try to use that as critique to become a better member of the community.

I think it's actually a "feature" that there's no notifications so I don't get sucked into arguments. Sometimes it's best to pretend that I didn't see the response.

Just guessing here, but I don't think HN was designed for engaged prolonged discussion. If it were, they probably would have implemented such features as can be found in other platforms. That could transform it into something never intended.

Personally, I think people put too much focus on comments. Many are trying to persuade others of a view (and hence are impervious to true discussion). Comments are useful to the extent they provide new information or links directing people to other similar content. I think the limitations on HN comments put the emphasis on the latter purpose and away from the former.

I look at it this way: it's designed for engaged, prolonged discussion if and only if people continue to be interested enough in it to remember. If they aren't, activation energy falls below a certain threshold and attention naturally moves on to something else. That seems healthy for curious conversation, which fits the prime directive of HN (https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&sor...).

What we don't do is resort to technical tricks to keep that energy buzzed up. We're optimizing for curiosity, not engagement.

Which is precisely why this is my favorite message board on the Internet. I love that I never have to collapse comments in HN threads because they're witty or off-topic.

The high level on insight I have gained from HN comments is the reason that I spend 90% of my internet time on HN. There's plenty I don't agree with, but I think it's healthy to be exposed to all points of view. For me, HN hits the sweet-spot with it's commenting system, and I hope it never changes.

Thing is , I respect, like, and read HN for the exceptional comments. The links themselves I might find on Reddit, but I don't read those comments. The value add of HN is the comments and I want to stay Informed of those, especially if I comment to the discussion, or awaiting answer/feedback.

I do too. I'm just more turned off when there's too much back and forth argument that is not useful to anyone else. It's not to hard to scroll away, but with too much of it, it becomes an annoying distraction.

Leaving a comment is a commitment to a conversation, it's rude to just shout something and then leave.

I disagree. Make your point and then let others enjoy the show and share their own opinions.

One of the most obnoxious HNisms is when someone makes a comment and then monopolizes every downstream response to defend their position and ego. If you have a good point, then give others a chance to defend the point for you.

Frankly I wouldn’t mind a feature that only lets you post one comment downstream of your other comment.

I've slowly been realizing that it's best to let someone else defend a position, but only comment to clear up mis-understandings.

Of course, you have to be tracking the threads to do that.

It's possible to provide insight into a subject without having to 'school' everyone.

Leaving comments that thousands of people have to scroll past so you can have a warm feeling that you are being friendly is not beneficial to the group. Please re-think your approach to commenting.

>Leaving a comment is a commitment to a conversation

This depends on the content of the comment. Some are more obviously asking for a back-and-forth and some are not. Just because you replied to a comment of the latter type doesn't mean the author is obligated to notice and take the time to give an opinion on what you wrote.

>it's rude to just shout something and then leave

Sure, but how do you define "shout something" and "leave" in this context? Most comments are not tantamount to just "shouting something", and surely there is some threshold of time passing and/or the quality of content where neglecting a reply no longer counts as "leaving".

It is rude, but it's necessary. Despite its pretensions of civility, Hacker News is not a truly civil place. It has it's fair share of trolls, cranks and sociopaths who will gladly spend hours stonewalling, derailing and sea-lioning you, just to piss you off, or score an endorphine hit from you. Many people aren't here to talk to you, so much as talk at you.

You have to learn when you're talking to one of the rare people who are interested in anyone but themselves or anything but their own point of view. As soon as you realize the other party is acting in bad faith, or you feel like there's little chance of further conversation not becoming hostile or just going in pointless circles, just leave.

That is the only way to stay sane here and avoid futile attempts at conversation degenerating into flamewars.

There are as many drive by helpers as there are trolls.

I use a service called HN Notify to get email notifications when one of my comments has been replied to. It seems to work quite well. https://hnnotify.xyz

(To the author of HN Notify: if you're reading this, thank you!)

Thank you! I'm not that keen of replies, but sometimes they are a good read.

HN Replies is another similar service (http://www.hnreplies.com/), which I’ve been using for a few years now (not affiliated).

I mostly use the "threads" link at the top to keep track of any replies to my own comments. As far as tracking other people's comments, if you know the user's ID you can also use their link. For example mine is: https://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=freedomben

There's a neat RSS feed service that I sometimes use also, although my power just went out so I can't dig it up right now. Will try to report back.

Oh nice. I usually just click my profile name but this is better.

For pull, click on threads.

For push, set up https://hnreplies.com/ or a similar site. Will only give you replies and not updated karma counts. (edit: and be aware of linking your email and hacker news username if relevant for you)

Consider HNRSS instead.


There's no privacy policy on hnreplies.com. (The site owner gets the mapping from username to email.)

They also had a data leak recently [1]. Use an anonymous email address when using this service.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26968908

I have a custom tool for this: https://datasette.io/tools/hacker-news-to-sqlite

It provides me with a command-line utility for fetching all of the comments in a particular thread into a SQLite database, for example:

    hacker-news-to-sqlite trees hacker-news.db 27897211
For threads that I'm actively involved in (probably no more than a few times a year) I will run this script about once an hour - then I can use "select * from items order by time desc" (usually in Datasette) to see the most recent comments.

(The initial goal of the tool was to archive my own comments, which can be done with "hacker-news-to-sqlite user hacker-news.db your-username" - I run that on a cron)

Emacs users are familiar with nnhackernews (https://github.com/dickmao/nnhackernews) which picks up comments on stories you've read (and hides comments for stories you didn't).

The ‘Hacker News Enhancement Suite’ browser extension highlights new replies on the comment pages, including the ‘threads’/‘your comments’ page. Still a ‘polling’ workflow, but better than nothing. Also adds a few useful links in the header, and makes the front page a bit better-looking.


(There's a downside that it breaks the ‘more’ links on paginated comment pages.)

Weirdly it seems that third-party Android apps for HN haven't bothered with doing anything similar, checking for replies in the background and popping up notifications. That would be pretty much perfect, and isn't really too complicated.

I go to my own page and click on "comments" which shows a list of my recent comments.

This is the same as clicking threads but is one more click?

Only if you saved each thread on your bookmarks bar or something.

Edit: My bad - you're referring to the "threads" link at the top, not "clicking (individual) threads", right?

I get there from a link on my profile page but threads goes to the same place.

Yes threads menu bar option at top

I only recognized this when I read this thread. Usually I went to my profile page and clicked comments.

To see new replies in existing threads highlighted, hckr news: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/hckr-news/mnlaodle...

To track replies to my own comments, already mentioned https://hnreplies.com/

I pay people less than they're worth to do that for me and then bask in all the karma. When they get demotivated I hint there might be a new position opening up soon or say something nice about one of their comments.

Seriously though, you get karma by posting stories, balancing what really interests you with what HN looks for in a good story. The more interesting stories you post, the more likely people are to engage with you in comments. Surprising news sometimes makes for a good story, but the most engagement comes from those that either provide an unusually clear illustration of a problem, or would have significant long-term implications if the technology or issue described were to become a norm.

As for keeping track, I just use the Threads link or look at my submissions manually. There is little correlation between how passionately I feel about something at the time of posting and how HN will value it.

If I've asked something I'm hoping for an answer to, I will check the threads link at the top when visiting HN. Else I only look at that link when it looks like my karma has increased.

Sometimes karma increases due to an old comment, and I'm not sure if someone replied.

Subscribe to the RSS feed at:


For more options see: https://hnrss.github.io/

I built https://hnstream.com/ which provides a realtime feed of comments. It can be used as a building block for fancier things. For example, our company (and others) use it for monitoring keywords.

For keeping up with replies to my own comments, I still just refresh the page, which is a little sad. :P

I made a little bookmarklet a while back for keeping up with new comments in real-ish time: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25424560

I mostly use it when I share one of my own blog posts and there are many sprawling replies/conversations that I want to engage with

You can use a chrome extension to tag people; this helps you to track people you care about. It is called Social Cat https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/social-cat/hhiomok...

I use a plugin that shows new comment counts since my last visit and that highlights new comments[0].

HN is beta testing a similar feature. I'd encourage them to add the new comment count as well if they haven't.


> I see myself keeping a tab open to my latest submitted comments and refreshing frantically to see if any new reply has been posted.

IMHO that's not a good thing. I bet you've got more important things to keep tabs on.

Try the "Refined HackerNews" extension. It might help.


I just manually go to my comments in my profile and look for any new comments on them.

I use https://hnreplies.com/ and also the /threads link at the top.

I read it on my iphone using the Hack app. Before they had this feature I’d always forget to reply, even in my own Ask threads

I specifically use Materialistic on Android as a reader, so points for each comment aren't shown.

Top menu bar, threads?

Is this a question or a suggestion?

Both: what you’re looking for is on the top of the page, or am I misunderstanding the question?

I subscribe to the RSS feed of replies to my comments.

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