I've been coming to Hacker News since 2005. Over that time it's grown by many orders of magnitude.
The quality of the links has fluctuated but on the whole have stayed strong and, if anything, improved over time. I don't know what the filtering process is but it works well - the articles feel pure and deeply interesting.
But the comments are trickier. As the size of the audience has grown, so have the number of comments. Which has the potential to be really interesting, except for the propensity of the UI to drive both readers and commenters deep into rabbitholes.
I used to love seeing the breadth of reactions to an article (or a new company). I could scan the comments to see what Hacker News thought. I quickly could get an idea of different perspectives and opinions. I could absorb the reaction of the Silicon Valley Coding Diaspora.
These days though it feels, at best, a deep, cloistered exploration of one POV, and at worst a triggered cascade of pedantry.
There are still amazing people and amazing observations in there. But they're not easy to get to. There's no easy way to scan the comments to get a sense of the breadth of reaction - it's just a case of wading through all of them.
Back when I was in my 20s and soaking up everything I possibly could, I would happily invest that time. These days it doesn't feel like such a good trade-off.
And I fear that in turn that penalises the potential breadth of reaction that this remarkable audience posesses. And reduces the participation of others who have less time - many of whom are more senior (decide for yourself whether you value that perspective).
If I could wave a wand, I'd love to see the threads collapsed by default. I feel like there are lot of potential UI wins that could further broaden engagement.
Would love to hear everyone else's thoughts...
(Also... and I'm sure I'm thousandth person to ask this... how on earth is it that there is no dark mode to this dev-mecca?!)
As a reader: I don't think there's only one POV, but maybe because if a topic interests me, I tend to read the whole thread, or at least the first page. And reading deeply enough inside threads, I almost always see multiple POVs, interesting responses and somewhat polite disagreements. Almost every week there's something someone says which is very interesting, resonates with me, or (more rarely) from which I learn something new and sometimes unexpected.
But you're right, wading through comments takes time. I don't do this if I'm very busy. So some weeks I have just a single comment page open on my browser (both mobile and desktop) and I read through it in between things, 5 minutes here, 5 minutes there, until it's finished. I don't read anything else except the front page's headlines.
As a writer of comments: Writing a good comment takes time. Several times I've written a long detailed comment and then didn't post it because I felt I didn't have time to polish it enough. But not always. And reading through other people's comments also takes time out of this, of course. This personally is what reduces my participation.
I don't think having the threads collapsed would help me much. For me it'd be much of the same, I'd still expand them all anyway and read through them, hoping to see those comments that make it worthwhile.
As for dark mode, I don't care about it much. Personally I almost never use it in applications. In my mobile web browser I use the built-in dark mode when I read something just before sleep, but that's it. I personally prefer "warm light" solutions like flux or in recent years built-in OS solutions.
As for your references to the "Silicon Valley Coding Diaspora", that might have been (and still is?) the core audience, but imo the readers / writers nowadays are much more varied and international than that. Which is very important for me. I think focusing solely on "Silicon Valley" would be a waste for this site.