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Show HN: The users behind Hacker News (hnwho.com)
193 points by DanielRibeiro on Oct 16, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 95 comments

These meta posts -- users sliced and diced by karma, what makes a good rating system, the role of humor (or lack of it) in a successful social site -- always appeal to my inner data nerd. It's got a bit of everything: programming, stats, html5, and, well, me. As a startup junkie, I'm all for anything that brings attention for my various efforts, like http://hn-books.com or http://caption-of-the-day.com

I'd like to see a live twitter feed of the top HNers, but not just their comments here, also their public posts on FB, G+, and Twitter. To bring the volume down to size, I'd filter out the bottom 90% by karma, then maybe filter again by average. If you really wanted to nerd out, you could even allow the user to have some sliders to set their own thresholds. Seems like it would be an easy project to put together (hint, hint)

I'm concerned about privacy in a big way. I know some would find my idea pretty uncomfortable, but I've long since decided that what I put on the net is my public life. I worry a lot more about my insurance company asking me to install tracking GPS devices or my local police force being able to check my ISP logs without judicial review. I'm okay with the things I made public being correlated. It's access to the stuff I feel is private without notice that concerns me a lot.

I'm a fairly private guy, and I find this a bit creepy. I've never been more glad that I don't have a Twitter profile.

(Which is not to say that I think that the developer is doing something wrong, or even unethical: if you have a Twitter profile with your picture on it, one could fairly argue that you've made a contract with the world that the information is public. But all the same, stuff like this makes me want disconnect my internet connection and line my windows with tinfoil. If someone can make a site like this, someone can just as easily make a site that reads "Top Internet Pedophiles".)

The trick is to either hide everything, or flood the internet with so much stuff that it's just a pain in the neck to really stalk you much beyond what you post in very obvious places such as profiles.

Or, have a gloriously common combination of first + last name that the internet is already pre-flooded with stuff about people with your name.

You could use a pseudonym. ;)

Pseudonyms are not to be relied upon too heavily as a means of safeguarding your identity, particularly if you want to use them now and then in real life (which is why I don't bother to keep my pen name a secret) but they still have their uses. Overtly playing a character is an age-old trick for getting over one's stage fright. And it's helpful if you find that more than one of your public personae would like to use the internet now and then. (Yes, people have more than one public persona. Even those of us who aren't teachers or psychologists.)

Obviously, though, HN and Twitter are mass media and if you actually want your writing to remain a secret you have to avoid putting it up on here. There's nothing wrong with that. Private diaries are still legal and everything.

Wait until someone gets the bright idea to mine all your past comments for factoids and pieces together your unauthorized biography.

How is actually the comment "ownership" on Hackernews? Do I still hold the rights on my own words or are they already owned by ycombinator or gone down the creative commons?

I am really glad the community worries about these things.

We had a great discussion[1] about it a few months ago when Ronnie launched the database[1] of all comments/posts of hacker news, as a subproduct of the unnofficial API[3] he created.

Don't think we had reached a conclusion though...

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1881543

[2] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1881262 (long thread, more than one page)

[3] http://api.ihackernews.com

I'm curious about this as well. I know slashdot's position is that "Comments owned by the poster".

This is, of course, the legal default (at least in any country that subscribes to the Berne Convention). Unless there is some alternate policy somewhere that I don't remember signing, that would be the policy here as well. (IANAL, TINLA)

There have been a couple instances of "interviews" or profiles done of celebrities based on their Twitter feed.

Here is one Slate did of Kanye West:


And then robo sells it on Amazon. (in reference to the guys selling Wikipedia entries as books.)

Use a pseudonym. I have four of them. Setup names, profiles etc. for all of them on all the usual sites.

I have used all four of them at some point on HN.

Funny story: one of my pseudonyms got a job offer on Quora last week. Not the first time it has happen.

Did the offer come from one of the other pseudonyms? That's when things get real messy....

One workable approach, which I use, is to not be notable.

Do the users get to submit updates to the descriptions? Do they get to delete their descriptions if they would rather not be listed? Is there are a particular reason why some users on the current Hacker News leaderboard


appear not to be on your interesting and informative site?

After edit: I see at the bottom of the display it says "powered by HNSearch API," which makes me wonder why the listing wouldn't be exhaustive and perfectly ordered by karma. Please let us know what technical (and social) trade-offs you are encountering in this interesting project.

Hi. Thanks for noticing. The reason is that standard Hacker News profiles don't have photos or real names. Therefore I focused on the 1000 Hacker News profiles that have such data (by stating their twitter profiles).

Notice that HNSearch API limits the amount of responses to 1000, but this has nothing to do with the current limit (you can hack this limit by sorting ascending and descending). But the limit was not reached, so I did not need to cheat.

Twitter profiles were focused as not many people mention their github/facebook/stackoverflow profiles.

The reason why the list is similar to the leaderboard is because data is sorted by who has the most karma.

Interesting... it seems you must have some other criteria because my (admittedly woefully outdated) profile lists my (admittedly neglected) Twitter account, but I don't see myself on there. ~5000 karma should put me only a couple pages in.

Hi Andy. I am sorry, but not everybody had a clear twitter username on their profile. You are right, the list was complemented with the data from this one: http://talkfast.org/2010/07/28/twitter-users-most-followed-b...

I've added you to the direct list.

Note that the inference algorithm is quite forgiving, so "twitter @Locke1689", or "@Locke1689 on twitter", or even "twitter: Locke1689" would all have worked out.

About 50 people (from a pool of 1000) with twitter accounts on their profile were left out due to this not so optimal inference.

I'm not on there even though I have a direct link to my twitter account. If I was left out on purpose then that's fine, just letting you know in case it's a bug though.

Edit: Thanks for reporting Alex! I was missing 3 other users from the leadersboard. Should be all good now.

Hi Alex. I am sorry you were not listed. My first user sources were hnsearch[1][2] and on Twitter Users Most Followed by Readers of Hacker News[3].

I am adding the leader's list to the user discovery, and this should be solved shortly.

[1] http://www.hnsearch.com/search#request/users&q=twitter&#...

[2] http://www.hnsearch.com/search#request/users&q=twitter.c...

[3] http://talkfast.org/2010/07/28/twitter-users-most-followed-b...

I think you could have easily assumed any word starting with @ is a twitter profile, especially if it does in fact correspond to an existing twitter profile.

Also, I feel left out. :P

Yeah, I've tried a lot of these things. Unfortunately emails get caught up as well. And then you get users like yahoo, gmail, and so on.

As it gets out, people who are interested into being listed can just put "twitter: " before their @twitterusername.

Not being very thorough also allows people to self-exlude from the listing. Which seems be in the interest of some.

Not being very thorough also allows people to self-exlude from the listing. Which seems be in the interest of some.

That's a great point. Can you post info on the site on how to be included or self exclude for those who have a twitter account? (I don't but have considered getting one. I would kind of like to know how to self exclude should I get one. I've had lots of issues over the years with unwanted, negative attention. One of my primary concerns these days is having some control over how much exposure I am getting.)

Thanks so much.

Sure thing.

For now, I just make clear that things like "myname on twitter" and "twitter is myname" will never be considered.



How often does the list get refreshed? Or is it live? (if it's live, how are you handling the attention without melting servers)

It is schedule every few hours. The biggest issue now is twitter limit request, which is what I'm solving right now.

Also the attention is not that bad (8775 visits so far). Also, heroku's varnish cache on static assets, html page and on Ajax requests is pretty great.

And mixpanel is handling the metrics, so I'm pretty covered.

Indeed, I've reduced mine to '@barrkel'. But I'm not hungry for fame or followers.

No problem, just curious. Thanks for the hard work!

No its because he's using HN search. I would venture to guess that most of your karma is driven by comments, for which HNS records as 1 karma (comment karma is hidden, so HNS can't get that info and assumes 1 )

This might argue for making comment karma viewable after a thread has existed for, say, a month: at that point, the absolute scores probably don't matter much for fresh readers, but the raw data could still be useful for efforts like this one.

I have just the twitter handle on a new line, if someone has 1 word on a new line starting with @ it's probably pretty safe to assume its a twitter.

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll look into it.

However, the biggest problem is finding such users. HNSearchAPI is not complete (for instance, fogus is not listed when you search for "twitter"[1], but is when you search for "twitter.com"[2]).

Which requires quite a lot of crawling (the unnofficial api helps sometimes[3], and sometimes it doesn't[4]). And HN robots is quite restrictive[5]

[1] http://www.hnsearch.com/search#request/users&q=twitter&#...

[2] http://www.hnsearch.com/search#request/users&q=twitter.c...

[3] http://api.ihackernews.com/page

[4] http://api.ihackernews.com/post/3118358

[5] http://news.ycombinator.com/robots.txt

It jumps from 6284 to 5914. I'm 6258 and am on Twitter too.

I didn't have twitter in my profile. Can you add me?

Sure. You are on.

It is updated automatically with time, so people don't need to worry about particular requests.

I've just updated my HN profile with a Google+ profile link at the VERY end of the profile.

Thanks for the interest Karl. I am sorry, but it doesn't yet support google+ profiles. Also, you should probably link to: https://plus.google.com/u/0/101556315529391051445 , as your original link[1] gives me a blank page.

Edit: In the mean time, I'll probably add support for the entire leaderboard, focusing only the standard HN profile. No photos though...

[1] https://plus.google.com/u/0/101556315529391051445/posts//p/p...

How often updated?

About once every hour.

Thanks! Awesome job.

For me, leader board needs to be sorted by average karma per post, with a minimum karma required to be eligible to be on the list (like 10K points).

The list would look very different with such sorting. Maybe pg or someone working on the site can change column titles to clickable headers that sort by that column. Not that it's particularly difficult to just copy paste as a table to Excel.

The trouble with average karma is that it penalizes people for carrying on conversations. I often post something that has 10, 20, or even 50 points. Then someone replies, and I reply to that. This deeper reply will almost always get only half the karma of the original. Possibly because it is less interesting, possibly because it is posted later in the life-cyle of a submission.

If average karma was a goal of mine, I would never follow up to my own posts, I don’t think that I’ve ever had as much karma for a follow-up comment as for an original.

For me, leader board needs to be sorted by average karma per post, with a minimum karma required to be eligible to be on the list (like 10K points).

Agreed. I was surprised to find myself on that list; I've over 10K karma, but my average comment score is hardly impressive.

It's important to have interesting posts submitted but the comments are what really make HN.

I only see the leaders link on the top bar when I am in the leaders page. There are other magic pages like new poll. Is there some comprehensive list?

Yes - on the bottom of the page you have a link to Lists - http://news.ycombinator.com/lists

heh... I was wondering why I started getting a bunch of beta signups + twitter followers today.

I like the highlight effect you have on mouseover, although it kind of feels like something should happen when you click on someone's profile. Perhaps redirect the user to the person's HN profile?

Yea I think that would be helpful. Usually if people have a high amount of karma, they have put some time into their profile.

Also, minor quibble: if you mouse over and away very quickly 10 times, the highlight effects get queued and the profiles blink.

Looks like a rather nice page linking top-karma users to said users' Twitter profiles.

So that's cool, though from the title I was expecting/hoping to learn more about actual people behind (in control of) HN... ie. YCombinator people that actively work and/or moderate and the "About 30 YC alumni" who can "kill stories and edit the titles, and in extreme cases ... ban users."

Wow, that's a big list of guys. You have to go down many pages to get to 'bane' before you can find a female.

It's really interesting to see the people and their associated projects, companies, and institutions that contribute to the hn commentary. For a lot of the power users, I recognized their usernames and always sort of connected that to who they were professionally, but this really makes it clear.

I'm not sure if this is planned, but I'd guess some of the users wouldn't want the information collected and displayed like that, you might want to add the ability to remove yourself from that listing (so users aren't forced to censor or even delete their profiles).

On a side-note, I was having trouble with the gray on gray text, so I made up a quick alternate design for the site here, if anyone is interested: http://stylebot.me/styles/752

This is pretty cool. But seeing myself show up so high is really embarassing. Definitely don't deserve to be among those people.

Same here!

Very nice, I like the clean design. One suggestion: auto-loading when you hit the bottom of the page.

But then you'd have to move all the bottom navigation to the top (or side) or you'd never be able to see them :)

How do so many websites break the zoom feature on iPhone?

So frustrating. Patio's massive face drowns out all the content. =)

It is a viewport meta tag. Sorry that the page doesn't work great on iphone. I am working on making the layout scale, and the page leaner for iphone. My nexus S views it just fine, but even it could use a better page.

No no.. We don't need a "lean" iPhone layout.

The iPhone is designed to view webpages. So make it a standard webpage. No special casing. =)

But... Really, just strip out the meta stuff for now. It's unusable on iPhone at the moment.

Ok. I've uploaded a new verion without viewport and without the overlay for mobile phones. Let me know how it works out for you.

It works!! It worksitworksitworks.

The layout in fact could not be more perfect on an iPhone.

Tell us whatever you did, so that we can refer other people to do the same, please!

I am glad it worked for you!

I simply removed the viewport metatag, and removed the overlay

The overlay doesn't work on mobile phone perfectly (it has to have its size computed on runtime, as I let the user bios grow as needed).

Also it is useless on mobile phones, as its only removed on mouseover (it gives the glow effect on the desktop browsers), and put back on mouseout.

As a good side effect, with less javascript floating around, the page renders faster.

Just wanted to point out that the page is almost entirely unusable on iPhone 4, it freezes for 5-10 seconds at a time.

The images are scaled based on HN popularity.

Same experience here. Totally unusable on iPhone.

Thanks for doing this. Its great to put a face behind some of the people whose comments I have loved.

I’m not sure why I don’t show up here, even after clicking “more” enough times. I’m seeing users ordered by karma, but I’m not in the list of users with karma ≥ 3881. My karma has been higher than that for … maybe half a year.

Edit: I see, I have to list my Twitter username in my HN bio…

This has taught me something.

"Holy cow, I am almost on the leader board. I spend too much time here."

I like the idea, but there is a lot of scrolling and [More] clicking going on. Would love to see an easier navigation option.

Also just out of curiosity: What is the current minimum kama level required to get into the top 1000?

Need more females. :)

I'm female and fairly openly so (and people still sometimes refer to me as "he/him" because they assume I am male, presumably just because it's HN and for no other apparent reason). A lot of the women here seem to intentionally downplay their gender a good deal. On at least one occasion a female member created a throwaway account to explain in part why she hides her gender while posting here.

So a) I wonder why you are saying that and b) I wonder how accurate perceptions are in that regard. (FWIW: I am assuming I did not make it onto this list because I don't have a twitter account and I have no idea if I have enough karma for it, which seems to be a factor.)

It was just an glaring observation. I do remember the post about anonymous female members, but I didn't think it was something that was wide spread. Nevertheless, it would be brilliant if we could have more females on here[diversity].

Yea, I was looking for your account too[there is a more button on the bottom of the page]. So, I think maybe it is for people with twitter handles. I appeared twice, maybe trice[didn't reach that far down] with less Karma.

What are your suggestions for increasing our female population?

What are your suggestions for increasing our female population?

If you are male and want to encourage women to show up and post as openly female, then engage the women in intelligent conversation. Don't gush at them about how great it is to, gee golly whiz, see A GIRL here. Please don't publicly try to hit on any of the women here. You are highly unlikely to get what you are looking for and all it does is make the girls go into hiding because it promotes a predatory atmosphere.

I'm sure that could be expanded upon. I'm also sure I'm too tired to do so without getting myself into hot water at the moment (my 24 year old son has vetoed one of my illustrative remarks as a very bad idea <insert halo>). Hopefully, it's a place to start.

EDIT: I did see your reply to my reply before you deleted it. If you seriously want more feedback, email me and I will tell you privately what I left out of this post. And thank you for deleting it.

Interesting. I've noticed that I don't show up on there (not that I mind). Wonder why that might be.

At the moment you have to list your twitter name in your profile. Things like twitter: @name or even direct link like http://twitter.com/#!/name are all fine.


When you get a chance to develop this out, would be great to have:

embedded twitter follow buttons autoload further users when scrolling reaches close to the bottom look-through AJAX box for their recent posts/comments

Thanks and great job

Rayhan http://rayhano.com

Great job, but how do you plan to monetize?


Shouldn't you filter the ones that don't have a real photo? Seeing the photo of the person makes them seem real and personable...those pure avatar ones to me feels like one is just looking at the HN username.

Looks like it's mostly just based on a Twitter account in the profile, so I would assume that those are Twitter proflie icons.

You are right pyre. I am considering adding people with gihub/stackoverflow/facebook profiles as well.

I see fallentimes (now deceased, if I remember correctly) is on the list.

The list is becoming more of a reflect of HNSearch outputs[1][2].

The idea is that there are many cool stuff hacker news members did that we are not generally aware of (but hidden on the user's bios), and we can showcase them.

This is not 1000memories[3], but I find it nice that we can live forever through our creations.

On the other hand, this is a reflect of community, and if it decides it is no longer appropriate to list the members who left us, I'll respect it.

[1] http://www.hnsearch.com/search#request/users&q=twitter&#...

[2] http://www.hnsearch.com/search#request/users&q=twitter.c...

[3] http://1000memories.com/

The list doesn't seem exhaustive. For example, where am I? :)

Holy crap, 100k karma? I knew Paul Graham was cool (I've even told other people to read his essays), but I didn't know he was 100k karma cool.

It is a reflex to upvote any post from pg.

Selection bias. This is his site.

He knows all the cheat codes.

so, what are the criteria for the list? doesn't quite correlate with the leaders list. is it based on comment only score?

Look above for more info on how the list was crafted: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3117846

Paul Graham: 100K! I now believe in Rebirths

I get a blank page for some reason, even after enabling everything with NoScript.

Sorry, but it reaquires Javascript. On mobile phones it can take a while to render.

1473 karma in 396 days but no Twitter profile


I don't like this.

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