Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

The "defaults" on TikTok are fairly terrible. However, after spending maybe one hour at most scrolling and liking/disliking things to tune the algorithm, and search tags, it works fairly well. I have

- Learned several cooking recipes and some tricks

- Cleaning advice I've actually put to use

- How to use some woodworking tools. Also, general woodworking ideas

- Cat behavioral advice

In my experience, it's far better than Reddit (mostly because there's far more niche content, and it isn't limited to "recently posted") and the discovery is far easier than on YouTube.

> In my experience, it's far better than Reddit (mostly because there's far more niche content, and it isn't limited to "recently posted")

I find that very hard to believe (despite how god awful Reddit has gotten by now). Reddit is pretty much the last place on the internet where real people post long-form content that is not a single-issue niche forum. I can't imagine that the mode of TikTok with its short videos, algorithm-driven discovery and lack of community (commenting) encourages quality.

It isn't.

What they mean is a continuous churn of surface level stuff.

E.g. for woodworking, there's only so many times you can show how the basics of "10 Things you're doing wrong", or why the tape measure moves at the end.

You're not going to have that on the top of the subreddit that many times - maybe once a year.

On tiktok, that stuff will occasionally pop in, mixed with a bunch of other crap so the repetitiveness doesn't stick out in the short term. You also don't engage with it. There's almost no point to leaving a comment, it's all about mindlessly scrolling from video to video. This leads to lots of really easy to film but superficial stuff in large quantities.

> E.g. for woodworking, there's only so many times you can show how the basics of "10 Things you're doing wrong", or why the tape measure moves at the end.

It's playing out exactly like elsewhere on the Internet: beginner content is best to produce because they are the biggest audience, and the algorithm snowballs that advantage further because it only sees engagement, not quality.

In my experience, subreddits end up being, at best, a "look at what I did" without any actual way I can learn, and usually it's just a photo or something. At worst they are a mess of memes, repeated beginner questions and unmoderated content. Content on Reddit is also very short-lived, and information can get hidden in comments and become invisible.

On the other hand, TikTok works fairly well. Videos can be up to 3 minutes long now, most of the time it's enough to at least explain the basics and tell you where to get more detail if you want. Also, the "algorithm-driven discovery" means that creators usually need to focus on the content of the videos. The "video reply to a comment" mechanic is very helpful too, as it encourages making additional first-level content from people's questions instead of burying things in comments.

yeah reddit has huge issues. it’s difficult to find a popular image-based subreddit that hasn’t descended into repetitive memes. and as you say the fast decay of content means that “progress” is only in the minds of the current users. as soon as they decay, the meta resets.

there’s also a shocking amount of astroturfing going on. it used to be useful to search “[product] reddit” - and in some cases still can be - but many companies have cottoned onto this and they can extremely cheaply manipulate a reddit post for very high fidelity advertising. this is especially true for online-centric companies like VPNs and crypto exchanges. the VPN subreddit might as well be an advertising platform

I once saw a reddit post asking about VR headsets where the poster specifically stated that they do not want anything Meta/Facebook because they don’t trust them. the top 3 replies? “I recommend the metaquest 2 because it’s the best value for money” as if they’d said nothing at all

Reddit probably has the best moderation system out there from the big subreddits I have moderated. But even reddit is slowly starting to get gamed a bit and it takes a lot of investigative work from the moderators themselves to find out if certain individuals or entities are bad actors or harmful to the subreddit or wider community.

There are some hilarious stories, and I haven't encountered such an individual yet. But I have heard one story where one individual has managed to evade a certain subreddit over 62 times. Enough for the moderators of that subreddit to send a public complaint that other moderators like me probably picked up on.

But they are working on improving their ban evasion tooling so who knows if that will do anything against that one dude that managed to evade over 62 times. Where there is a will..there is a way...and that's what frustrates me about Tiktok. I couldn't imagine moderating a video based platform mainly, just takes too much of your time. Imagine having to deal with ban evaders on top of that and related.

Interesting, I think moderation of big subreddits is one of the worst things about reddit - its unpaid labor, so the only people willing to invest the time tend to be petty tyrants.

Ex. there is a moderator of major sub who likes to leave derisive comments to 'explain' moderation decisions and made a subreddit so other mods can join in on mocking users.

There's a phenomena where someone posts something like "I want to join two pieces of board to a pole with a nail, but I don't want to use a hammer, what should I do?" and gets back two recommendations to use a screw and screwdriver, three to use a hammer, one to use a nailgun, and one longer answer that explains the question is bad but begrudgingly accepts a nailgun.

I think in that situation, the people who suggest a hammer or a screw silently perform some mental arithmetic, assume the person asking the question doesn't understand the problem because they're asking for a very costly tradeoff, and give the best answer that solves the basic problem.

Don't forget the "person comes along with situation for which the typical dogma and rules of thumb fall short and anyone with sufficient expertise in the subject to identify that winds up downvoted to oblivion by the hordes of dolts who don't" problem.

This existed/exists on stackoverflow as well. Simple solutions to code questions are often met with explanations involving completely changing the stack/redoing everything in the way the person answering is familiar with (maybe just to signal they know how to do something) while completely ignoring any meaningful answer in the context of the question.

That happened to me right here in HN in a Linux story, when I mentioned and linked to an issue of not being able to use the Nvidia card along with the integrated intel card to connect 2 monitors. Answer was: Why are you trying to do such fringe configurations (plugging two monitors is fringe in Linux?)

“just use x instead”

I suspect pico is doing it with its new pico 4 vr headset..

I've watched a few 5+ minute TikToks about various things (cars, video games, plants, politics) in the past month

I don't think these are hugely popular but they reach some audience. A big video will have 500k to Millions of likes.

These longer videos usually cap out at a couple thousand.

They're out there but it's not searchable.

TikTok has an incredible breadth of content but takes a few days to weeks to get the algorithm to show you what you want.

When I use it the algorithm is something I'm actively trying to manipulate. "Up vote" stuff you to see by liking and saving. "Down vote" by quickly scrolling away from a video.

Any engagement is a signal to show you more of that -- if you're tired of seeing one type of video, you should immediately scroll as soon as you know you don't want to watch it.

You realize you are training their datasets (its not really an 'AI' in any meaningful sense) to get a very precise picture of your personality and emotions, which will be later used for ads targeting, and character profiling if you become somebody interesting in later years.

'Training the alghoritm' is just carrot on proverbial curated-content stick (you could also select 10 categories of content you like and refine it yourself further down the road, this is just less obvious for the same).

People were bashing Facebook/Instagram for this for a decade and many have stopped/rollbacked and just give few likes here and there for personal events of friends. I guess history even in digital world likes to repeat itself...

I was one of the people that didn’t care Facebook was doing that. I am one of the people who still doesn’t care that TikTok is doing it. I stopped using Facebook because my feed became garbage not because of any kind of privacy concerns. TikTok’s feed has been amazing and consistently feeds me content that I like. History probably repeats itself because a massive body of people don’t care about the things that you care about and are being delivered value that they do care about.

"History probably repeats itself because a massive body of people don’t care about the things that you care about and are being delivered value that they do care about"

Yes, it is known that most people do not care about deep stuff, but about food in their belly and beeing good entertained. Panem et circenses.

Btw. about the romans, in italy the prime minister is now a person who said she thinks Mussolini was a good politician. So yes, history repeats itself, if too many people do not care.

Democracy is actually a quite fragile thing. Many things we take for granted only exist, because people care. And it will erode if people stop caring.

So you are still free to submit to FB and TikTok as much as you like and hope this does not change.

Because, you know, companies knowing all about you, but you nothing about them and their motives is just a receipe for long term empowerment of them and not you.

And in the case of TikTok, there is an actual government behind it and de facto in control, which is not famous for democracy, nor human rights.

People signed up for Facebook/Instagram/Twitter with the expectation that they'd get a reverse-chronological feed of posts from the people they follow. People were bothered by the algorithmic feed because it wasn't what they signed up for (and those sites' feeds are often quite bad at showing quality content). TikTok never promised that kind of feed, and by most accounts does a pretty good job at surfacing videos people will find interesting. It's an important difference.

From my perspective FB/Instagram's algorithm (I'll throw in YouTube too) never really worked. They overemphasized showing me the exact same type of thing until the feed became boring. You liked this post about a chair -- here's nothing but chairs.

I also joined FB to keep in touch with people I met in real life. It changed to push me to engage with groups and people I had nothing in common with.

I didn't join TikTok to keep up with friends that way. The TikTok algorithm does a great job of showing me new stuff that I might be interested in, but is still related. It's remarkably good.

FWIW -- It also seems to forget everything about me if I log off for a months.


Sure, I'm training data sets. Everything I do online is monitored and analyzed by someone at some point.

I spent a year of my life trying to "get off Google." IMO it's pretty close to impossible if you want to function in society.

I'm skeptical that the TikTok algorithm knows anything about me that my search history doesn't show.

I don't think TikTok is a "good thing" but I don't understand why it is sometimes painted as this unique evil.

The worst part of TikTok in my opinion is how much time I've wasted using it, but that's nothing new for social networks.

> You realize you are training their datasets (its not really an 'AI' in any meaningful sense)

Since you claim it’s not an AÍ in any meaningful sense, could you clarify what “training their datasets” means?

I don't work for Tiktok so no clue about their actual implementation, but if they have what everybody else +-has, its a sophisticated statistical data model.

Some people put moniker AI on this, just like some people in marketing are putting AI into our TVs, toothbrushes, cars and god knows what else. Its got nothing with Artificial Intelligence per se, just a shortcut for 'something complicated I don't grok so its 23rd century magic'.

One can define "AI" in many ways. It certainly is not a conscious being "thinking" about what you would love to see next (much like AlphaGo isn't carefully "focusing" on the board and the possible moves), but a recommender system certainly displays some "intelligent" behavior in a restricted sense.

What Tiktok is definitely not doing, is "training their datasets".

> the last place on the internet where real people post long-form content that is not a single-issue niche forum

youtube is the biggest counter-example to this. yes there’s a lot of short-form content, but there’s also a huge amount of long-form, not that the algorithm will tell you that

Yes, but long form videos can only be consumed in long linear form.

Long form text can be skimmed, organized, and referenced. The signal to noise ratio can be a little lower without being an issue, because it's trivial to sift through a certain amount of noise when you are reading text. And you can have conversational content that doesn't spiral out of time constraints.

youtube shorts are making this reverse. What used to be a long form platform now has many creators who post tons of 30 second clips that aren't interesting or informative. The shorts are all skippable because if you can hear it in 30 seconds you can read a sentence about it in 5.

So I'm generally not using any social media, but sometimes try to use it for a week or two to at least understand what is going on in the world. Recently I specifically consumed a bunch of YouTube shorts, and Google should have a pretty good idea at who I am after using there services for 15 years, but even with pressing "do not recommend" on every single Andrew Tate/Jordan Peterson video, it will just incessantly recommend that content to me. The platform is literally unusable for me in that sense, I felt like I was in a social experiment trying to turn me into an Incel or something... In comparison, tiktoks algorithm works far better at recommending me things I actually like to watch.

shrug youtube is really good at adding content similar to what you've already watched to your recommendations. If you're getting jordan peterson and andrew tate videos its probably related to what you've been watching.

I suspect as well that simply watching shorts over long form content makes the recommendation algorithms assume things about your ability to concentrate on long form content.

Even still youtube has a function where you click the dots near a video and say 'not interested' to get rid of channels and topics from recommendations that works fairly well, so if its recommending something you dislike, you have the ability to remove those recommendations and tune future ones.


As stated above, I do not usually consume that content, I did try to tell the algorithm that I'm not enjoying the content, it didn't care. Youtube Shorts is just substantially worse than tiktok at recommending me stuff that I am interested in.

I'm not sure how to phrase this politely, but your comment comes off as deeply arrogant and unpleasant. That acronym especially just sounds like it is coming straight from an unflattering caricature of a nerd from the 90s/early 00s.

> If you're getting jordan peterson and andrew tate videos its probably related to what you've been watching.

Well, or their model isn't very good.

To take an example, let's say I watch "Race Highlights | 2022 United States Grand Prix" on the official F1 channel

Then the algorithm recommends "The Internet's Best Reactions To The 2022 United States Grand Prix: THAT WAS EPIC" with a thumbnail of gurning man.

If the model had accurately captured my viewing habits, the model would say: Formula 1, yes; Reaction videos, no; Things that call themselves epic, no; Gurning thumbnail, no. And it would not have recommended that video.

One possibility is that Youtube knows me better than I know myself, and though I think I don't like reaction videos and gurning they've determined I secretly love them. Another possibility is that their algorithm merely knows that people who watch F1 videos watch F1 videos, and because I watched an F1 video they're showing me an F1 video.

I know which I think is more likely :)

potentially there’s some subset of videos that you watch that are also often seen by viewers of Andrew Tate/Jordan Peterson nonsense. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is in fact some form of sports

not that this makes a good algorithm, but it’s a potential explanation

I was thinking more about text, but youtube indeed still has a surprising amount of good content if you know where to look, though even the hobbyists cater heavily to the algorithm.

"However, after spending maybe one hour at most scrolling and liking/disliking things to tune the algorithm, and search tags, it works fairly well."

Can someone support that from Germany? I suspect that's highly locale-dependent.

I have given TikTok several tries, spent hours searching for interesting stuff and liking things.

I always get generic (and really bad) cooking videos and drunken people doing stupid things.

Do you mean for content in German? There might just not be enough of it to be anything but low-effort junk - I never got anything useful in German and gave up after about 20 minutes.

I'm based in Germany but view English content and I can at least echo your sentiments about the lack of good content. I've read multiple times about how amazing the TikTok algorithm is meant to be and how quickly it learns about what to show you, and yet that has not been my experience at all.

Twice now I've spent an hour attempting to train the algorithm but it's just endless streams of trash. The worst part for me was coming across an interesting video, for example some industrial machine process, only to be subjected to the exact same video hosted by another user. Most times they have just overlaid some music, but sometimes they crop the original or add some useless text overlays.

The part that also annoyed me was it felt like the algorithm gave up every 20-25 videos and tried to show me something sexual, even though I was not interested. I always found the subject transitions extremely jarring and annoying - I already have my porn channels sorted thank you very much, I'm looking for a different type of wood-working

Indeed, the best metric is some sort of cpa media buying experience.

I have the following channels:

- twitch, good roi, short lived - affiliate forums, long lived, breakeven roi - youtube, fb, ig, cant ever recover investment, only good for content creation - ad networks and tik tok , totally 0 conversion rate even at what appears to be tremendous amount of traffic.

So yeah, if you arebin my niche a and a million views does not convert, then that algo and the platform are useless.

I don't expect much from German content. ;-)

I meant English language content, but with my phone being in Germany.

Thanks for telling your experience!

make sure you set your languages of choice in the settings of the app.

Fun part is its deduction of locale by looking at your number/sim card. I usually get an eSIM while travelling, and the company seems to be based in Netherlands. Was in Mexico last time, and was getting a constant stream of content from Amsterdam. Took me a while to understand why.

Pretty sure it uses regular geo information as well because we travelled to France and immediately saw a bunch of French tiktok even though the SIM card was Canadian.

It's actually a fun quirk, you visit a country and you get to see their tiktok videos.

My comment doesn’t apply if you’re asking about videos for which the language is German. I assume you meant geographically based content regions for English videos.

Just checking that you are using a mobile (android or iOS) version of the app. I may be totally wrong (I’m basically making this up based on intuition), but I wouldn’t be surprised if the internet site version of TikTok doesn’t support the same level of input to the algorithm. There is fine tuning to your interaction data that the mobile app supports (I’m sure that it bases decisions on how long you watch videos (regardless of whether you like or follow), and I think it might even base decisions of what sections of videos make you stop watching)).

I hit it off right away with the mobile version. Off the bat: there were lots of half-nude women, gym rat videos, and other generic social content for my region. Within the hour, I was getting mostly finely curated comedy clips from standup comedians I liked (and not from others I didn’t like). It’s really amazing how well the algorithm works.

I'm an English speaker, who is learning Japanese as a second language. I've found it difficult to get tiktok to recommend japanese-language videos to me - will usually only do so if I follow an account.

I think there is a language switch somewhere high up in their algorithm that is hard to compete against with watch metrics.

Yes, working for me well, too in Germany. First boring content, then frighteningly well adjusted context. As I dislike most German content, it updated itself to mostly showing English/expat stuff. But also some German content that I like.

>I have given TikTok several tries, spent hours

Why would you do that lol? Do you really have FOMO for the next garbage social media dopamine machine that simply wants to hijack your attention to sell ads and get you addicted to zombie scrolling like every other instance before it? Why does it have to work for you? I think you have your answer at this point.

It's just another garbage lowest common denominator mass content farm and memes. It doesn't have to be nor isn't something more profound than that, and in fact with it's short content length and more sophisticated AI it's just like everything before but worse.

You can certainly just dismiss it and occupy your limited time doing something else more productive or fulfilling.

If you need to know: last time I was stuck in a regional train with several hours still to go.

Stop patronizing me.

FWIW, I've tried doing the same thing with Twitter. People hold that site in the highest regards, and whenever I read/post I'm always having the most miserable time. The longer I spent, the less sense it made to me and eventually I had to just leave it alone once and for all. I get where they're coming from when they want to enjoy something but don't know where to start

It seems we (well at least some) have come full circle re passivity when consuming content.

TV is like this and was much worse. Back where I grew up, during forced socialism/communism there were 2 official TV channels and that was it. Then came computers and internet, me and many others and we greatly enjoyed that one felt in complete power what to do, what to see read etc.

What you mention (maybe I don't get it since I never used tiktok and probably never will due to apparent addictiveness) sounds again like passive random consuming of whatever the other side decides is appropriate. You can tune it, and maybe it works a bit, hey its 2022. Surreal to me (and not in positive way), but to each their own.

This matches what happened with advertising. We went from cable TV and broadcast radio with 12+ minutes of ads per hour to being able to choose what we watch/listen to "on demand" with few - if any - ads. And now we're heading back to increasing, unskippable ad load in popular audio and video formats.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact