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Why Paul? Why Did You Change It? (About Hacker News) (centernetworks.com)
37 points by transburgh 3568 days ago | hide | past | web | 45 comments | favorite

Because we ourselves were bored with reading about nothing but startups. If our site was boring to us, it was probably boring to the audience we intended it for.

This is hard for business guys to understand, but the people who make the best startup founders often don't care about business very much. Some of the most successful companies started next year will be started by people who do not currently plan to start companies.

I don't like this idea. There are already many places on the net to find out about hacking. But this is the only place I've found for good stories about startups (of course, I stopped looking after I found this place). From what I can see, there is much more to a startup than hacking. And there are more kinds of people involved with startups than hackers. It is a disservice to the startup community to change the focus here.

Besides, this site already has somewhat of a hacker focus anyway. Look at these items from the top-ten at this moment: #3 Coding Horror: Discipline Makes Strong Developers #5 Blueprint is a CSS framework #6 How to be a Programmer: A Short, Comprehensive, and Personal Summary #9 We are living in someone else's computer simulation

Not exactly business ideas.

And while you may be bored with reading this site, I don't see you as the typical audience here. I see this site as being for people who are in startups or thinking about doing a startup and who want to learn as much as they can. Not for people who've already been through it and already know all this stuff, like yourself. Even if Startup News began as your baby, I think you have to let it go.

In short I think your initial premise is wrong. Just because you're bored, doesn't mean everyone else is bored too.

> Just because you're bored, doesn't mean everyone else is bored too.

We use ourselves as a proxy for the audience we want to visit this site. This is reasonable, because we were the type of founder we like to invest in.

It may sound presumptuous to use yourself as a proxy for the audience, but this is how a lot of good things came about: the Porsche 356, the Apple II, Google.

And just to put a name to the audience, I'm very happy to see this change. I was getting bored of the links, and really this site is about hackers making things in startups. More than academia or open source projects, I think the natural home of the hacker is the startup.

Why does any of that matter? This is PG's free site, which he has invested his time in and has asked nothing back for. Who are you to call anything associated with this site a "disservice"? That is patently absurd.

If you are not happy with this site anymore, you are free to go start your own. You should not be free, however, to sit idly by and condemn the decisions of those who are aiming to make progress.

No, users do have a right to complain. Any site purporting to offer a service ought to try to make users happy. And this site isn't just a personal project. It's part of YC. So I ought to be able to claim that this change will benefit the people our site is for. And I do think that. YC specifically targets more hackerly founders, and I think they want to read about more than just startups.

And I totally agree (that hackerly founders want to read about more than just startups); that's why I'm still here. I just took exception to the strong language of calling anything that you decide to do with your site a "disservice".

I don't know, maybe a big part of it is that I've been reading Atlas Shrugged lately (in my opinion, the most important work of modern fiction), and seeing several parallels between the characters in the book and people in our society today. So many people feel a righteous entitlement to things that they did not build, and calling this site a disservice just rubbed me the wrong way.

I think that users have a right to express their opinion, but not to denounce a choice that is made. The beauty of freedom and capitalism is that if you don't like something, you're not forced to endure it. To try to make someone feel guilty (or obligated in some way) for something they have built, rather than just ignoring it, is quite possibly one of the worst infractions that one can commit against an individual.

I'm curious to know why you think Atlas Shrugged is "the most important work of modern fiction". Rand's ideas weren't original and if someone needed to read her book to emulate Hank Rearden they will never be like Hank.

At the time that I read it I thought it was the greatest fiction book I've ever read but that's because I'm technical and don't care much for good literature. But after time it has faded and I noticed her philosphy was nothing new. Maybe if she wrote it before the 16th Century I would say it was great but the 1950s?

I still agree with most of her writings, but they are irrelevant. I thought those things before I read the book and so did the philosophers before her.

What other fictional book from the 1900s forward would you recommend? Personally, I considered myself quite liberal until I began reading this book. I just kept finding the themes resonating with me, and I realized that she was really describing my philosophy and half the reasons behind the messes in society today. It hasn't changed my morals so much as realigned my politics to agree with them. The book has been singlehandedly responsible for converting me from a liberal to a libertarian. Perhaps if more people read it, they would be less inclined to "ride the system" and would do some good for society. Or maybe that's just wishful thinking....

The Giver by Lois Lowry. Seriously, it has everything you need to know about entrepreneurship, namely:

1.) People lie to you, and most of the time, you will never know that they're lying to you.

2.) There are 5 qualities necessary to be a successful entrepreneur: intelligence, integrity, courage, wisdom, and the capacity to see beyond. When you start, you should have intelligence, integrity, and courage. Wisdom can only come from experience, but you should have the ability to acquire wisdom. Finally, entrepreneurs need the ability to "see beyond", and only time will tell if they truly have that ability.

3.) Precision of language is important.

4.) Safe and comfortable is more dangerous than painful and real.

5.) Making wise decisions is perhaps the hardest task that someone can take on, so difficult that people will try to concentrate the burden in one individual. It shouldn't be concentrated, though. For the community to thrive, everybody needs to bear the burden.

6.) To accomplish anything, you need passion. Don't try to suppress it with a pill.

7.) The way things are is not always the way things should be.

8.) Sometimes, the greatest weight is the knowledge of what others have done before you.

9.) Find people like you, and pass them your memories. They're often the only ones who will understand them.

10.) There's more than one way to interpret the ending.

All this in a book that is shorter than John Galt's speech.

I thought Atlas Shrugged was a good book, but it wasn't a great book. The ideas are very seductive, but then you start trying to apply them, find you're being a jackass, and then realize there are subtleties to life that Ayn Rand didn't understand. Atlas Shrugged had a lot about how you should live your life, but very little about why. That's why I think that The Giver - and much children's literature, in general - is better and more mature.

The Giver is a good choice. I would also say that it is better written than Atlas Shrugged as well. All the characters are one-dimensional characters and Rand keeps beating us over the head with her ideas and doesn't allow us to make our own conclusions when all her "good guys" do no wrong and everyone else is a parasite. I read The Giver in the 8th grade and put it in my list of books that have influenced me.

>All this in a book that is shorter than John Galt's speech.

This is what happens when you don't have editors.

I would like to add 1984 and Animal Farm. I think the time that Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead capitalism was already (or soon to become) the de facto economic system of the world. I think that it is a good book for the time it was written when communism was still popular in some parts of the world. 1984 and Animal Farm were true when George Orwell wrote them and they still are today and in the foreseeable future.

I don't think it is a good idea to choose a fictional book as the greatest book on economics. The book in its greatest potential can persuade people to follow or accept the ideas expressed in the book but it is a means to an end. The end is the actual theory.

Wow. In my original post I edited out the last line, which was "I just hope the libertarians don't show up and fill up the site with Ayn Rand conversations, like every other social news site." Amazing!


1. This site hasn't stopped being about startups.

2. Lots of people are bored with just reading about startups. Because beyond a point you need new material to spark interesting thoughts. Like many others here I am an entrepreneur for over 3 years and am now working on a web startup idea myself. I find stories such as #3, #5 and #6 useful - they contribute directly to my goals. Remember what stays on top is still decided by the people. And we won't go down the 'digg' path unless the audience that submits and votes changes - which is a problem I am certain PG is aware of and he has made references to some solutions that he is trying to put in place for keeping the stories interesting.

3. I have found that I find stories that PG submits interesting. As long as that is true he is a good measure for the typical audience.

4. Finally between stimulus and response I have freedom of choice. I will up vote only stories I like and I think that might be a great way to participate in the content.


Keios, I hope you're right about your first point. But my fear is that this site will become just another hacker site. There is nothing wrong with that per se, but we may end up losing a valuable resource on startups in the process.

It may be true that lots of people are bored reading about startups, but when I become bored with a site, I stop visiting, I don't ask them to change their content to something I find more interesting. (I don't think anyone actually asked for this change, but you see my point.)

I also agree with you that stories such as #3, #5 and #6 are useful, and I fully expect and appreciate to see stories like that here. They are part of what's needed for a startup, they're just not the only part, and should not be emphasized over other equally important startup-related stories. I'm not an entrepreneur (at least not yet), but I know that entrepreneurs wear many hats, and I want to learn about all those hats.

Regarding your freedom of choice, remember that one of the changes proposed is giving un-equal weight to votes. You can vote up stories you like, but if the new system thinks those choices are "dumb stories", then your participation may not be having the effect you think it is.

In the end I think a startup that focuses only on technology can produce a cool product, but no one may need it, or even hear about it. I think such a focus fosters the attitude of "If you build it, they will come". Which doesn't seem to work.

Dean, I agree with your on the un-equal votes and I can appreciate your point about losing startup related content. But I think that it may not come to pass. Only time will tell... :)

Second what Dean said. Lots of good hacker news places. Very few good early stage startup stuff. Too conflate what YC was with TC is silly. TC is a profile site. YC.news gathers helpful articles on how make your startup better.

I'll miss YC news if it becomes just another programmer site.

I think this will still be about making startups better, except in the sense that "better" doesn't always mean short-term present-day details.

When I was working at an engineering job at a research lab, I was told what had to be accomplished. Of course, the degree of freedom, amount of creativity, and problem solving you can do varies from project to project, but in the end, I went to bed happy knowing in the back of my mind that someone, somewhere asked for whatever you're working on--that's why you're getting paid. When you're a startup founder, however, you aren't even sure of that, mostly because of the nature of startups and the markets they decide to persue.

A startup can be successful in an already crowded and proven market--especially if the market sucks (online dating comes to mind). But often times, where startups shine is where others fear to tread, and that's in potential markets, unproven markets, and useless markets (until you prove that it isn't).

But how do you figure that out? And given that you see a potential, how do you find a creative solution to build a business from it?

I don't think anyone can tell the future when it comes to these things. But you can certainly learn to get a good intuition for it. One of the ways to do that is to constantly read broadly about interesting things that are going on in the fringes of any number of industries. By interesting, I mean, things that you didn't know that stretchs your understanding of the world and perhaps your imagination a little bit more. When you start to get your finger on the pulse of possibility, you're able to see blooming solutions where others only see wilting dead-ends.

In addition, when you dig deep enough into any topic, it gets quite interesting. You'll start to find that all subjects are intertwined in one way or another. The way all subjects are compartmentalized in school is just so students don't get confused. But really, all subjects are inter-related. Sociology's studies on coordination and biology's study on social insects actually relates to optimization. Weather phenomenon actually relates to crytography. This inter-relatedness works to your advantage in finding creative solutions to make a business out of your new market, because creative things are usually a combination of old things put together in new ways.

Contrary to popular believe, creativity isn't often completely out of nowhere, just as masterpieces don't just materialize in front of masters. For every masterpiece you see hanging in the galleries, there are hundreds of sketches and throwaway paintings that you don't see the master artist practicing on. By the same token, a creative solution for a startup isn't just a stroke of inspiration from nowhere. It's a culmination of a slow absorbing of interesting tidbits that you've gathered and processed in the back of your mind until you've put the relevant pieces together.

So as far as I can tell, Paul Graham views hackers that are startup founders not as just really really good programmers. He believes what makes these people good startup founders is their innate curiosity in the world around them, and the willingness and drive to keep on learning about it to produce and create solutions--which lead to profit if attacked in a business way. That not only drives their strengths as programmers, but as thinkers and builders that change the world and will make money doing so. Not trying to put words in his mouth, but that's my best summary thus far.

Therefore, if you buy into that, then I think the direction into the new YC news as Hacker news is a good change. It will allow people to keep seeing and learning interesting things so they have a better gut for potential and emerging markets, as well as helping them along in their creativity for novel solutions. That is, at least my take on it.

Of course, we'll see how it actually all plays out, but I for one, am looking forward to the change.

I'll posit that the "startup" theme was what was responsible for all the self-help-SEO type posts.

I'll gladly put up with arcane posts about how to configure your emacs environment to write haskell if it means I don't have to see anymore inane posts about improving my credit score by "track suit CEO."

Thus part of its appeal - by not having too much stuff, we didn't spend too much time here, and went back to working on more productive pursuits.

I'll give it a week or two before any hand wringing. Let's see how it works out.

What if some people want to read only about start up news, but don't want to sift through items that are hacker news, and vice versa?

Maybe we could have a "sort by category" feature?

Couldn't people who only want to read about startup news just read TechCrunch?

I prefer YC News to Techcrunch. YC Startup News does a better job of covering all startup news where Techcrunch is valley focused.

At techcrunch you miss 90 % of startups. You only get to read about companies the editors believe are different. HERE, we are all the same. My karma could be 2 and still my story or startup could be on top of the listing.

TC is awful and they're not an aggregator :( They're just posting PR stuff that companies send them. GigaOM is so much better... at least he looks at stuff more critically and says what he thinks.

TC doesn't have the great hacker-in-the-trenches commenters that news.yc has. It was always so useful to see what my peers have to say about the nitty gritty stuff of startup building, share experiences/advice/etc...

I would hope you like CenterNetworks as well and all of the other sites that provide the same as TC.

Agreed but does this apply also to guys who just care about building a great product? and don't really much care about making money from it?

As long as you can block out "xbox 360 halo level 3 mods/secret code" type posts I welcome the delta.

I posted this in another thread: why not start a NEW website hackernews.org or something and leave this site alone? Why mess with success?

This site is, after all, a subdomain of the YC site which is an early stage investment firm. n.yc.com made sense since it dealt with YC company news stories, VC investment, angel investment etc. stories. If you wanted to get funding from YC or wanted to learn how VC investment procedure works, this was a perfect complement to the main YC site. Now n.yc will become another reddit and will get flooded with all kinds of nonsense and will get a lot of "how do I haxor my ex's myspace account" since "hacker" really means cracker to like 99% of the internet population. Instead of spending 10 min to get an idea what the latest trends in investment community are, you'll have to spend 20+ minutes while. As for being bored and you're a startup founder, you're in trouble! And if you're really bored and need to read something, there's plenty of reddit & digg subdomains that are interesting.

This new site will lose focus and will degrade into another digg or reddit. Second law of (thermodynamics) Internet almost guarantees it. Paul, if you want this site to become bigger and grow and become a better reddit and all that, why not get a new domain and start it there? Why destroy what works?

I guess the existing user mass is a big reason why changing focus instead of starting again is preferrable.

Personally, I don't care about startup news, so I didn't bother to register until now; obviously I think it's a good idea. Perhaps my opinion doesn't count?

Presumably existing users are smart enough to track another site.

It has some downsides too, such as overlapping content, but it might not have been a bad idea.

It doesn't take much intelligence to follow two websites, but it does take some more effort.

Also, it's perhaps that the site now caters more to the target audience than to the thing that unites them (Y combinator/startups).

>"Personally, I don't care about startup news..." This begs an obvious question. Why visit a site on a topic you have no interest in?

Or, you could realize that this is the perfect opportunity to start your own site called "nickb's aggregation site covering exclusively startup news"

That's ridiculous. It's just making clear what should have been clear from the start, which is that news.yc is news for Y Combinator people, not just about their startups.

Hacker News is also much less bland. And for those hackers who don't think they're interested in startups, it's more tempting! (Muhahaha! Come, hackers, and catch the chronic startup syndrome!)

I don't agree. I think this Hacker News idea is fantastic. Some time ago I proposed a "classic.reddit.com", the idea being the same: having a place where we could have the good old reddit, or rather, where we could have intelligent news back again.

I don't know Paul but having followed here for a while and having read most of his work I'll offer you two reasons:

1) The site was losing its usefulness for him so he made it more useful for himself and chances are others will find it useful as well.

2) Because He Can

Perhaps if you don't agree with the changes, then write your own news app and compete. Its how the world works after all.

I agree with the change. After a while, all the startup articles sound exactly the same. 10 tips for starting a startup...10 tips for dealing with VCs...what it takes to succeed...

Change is good but I think you mainly just stated what the site was becoming anyways based on the content as of lately. Hopefully, everyone can keep their politics in their basements and the hacker theme stays. That's why I stopped reading reddit daily. Now there's a politics sub-reddit but it took less then a week for it to junk up their homepage again...

I think the new algorithm is going to make the site less adaptable to new concepts and ideas in the future, if a just few of the big users vote them down. The type of stories voted up high will get stuck at a local maxima in story space.

Bad idea. What distinguished this site was the news on startups. If you want tech news there are hundreds of good sites out there. This becomes one more. Look at dzone, slashdot, and many more.

I like the change.

What would be really interesting would be some sort of hidden A/B testing...

Another long-term factor to consider: startup enthusiasm ebbs with business cycles, while hacking endures.

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