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How Hacker News Completely Changed My Life (stoicjesterstudios.com)
290 points by thestoicjester on Aug 23, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 91 comments



As long as we're on the love boat: I've met at least three good friends here. Y'all have collectively pushed my career in a quite different direction than it was probably on when I started. I think I'd probably have ended up quitting ye olde day job and putting the BCC phase of my life in the "That was fun and I learned a lot, but time to get serious, what is next?" bucket. Then I would have done what everyone other than the Internet always suggested I do: get a job at a megacorp. I think I literally know the exact office I'd be working at in Tokyo. It is a nice office, and a nice megacorp, but it is still a megacorp.

I'd probably be a lot less happy doing that, because my current gig is pretty much everything I could ask for in a job. More importantly, the most consequential thing to ever happen to me was meeting my future wife. It is likely that I would have been in a soul-deadening crunch in Tokyo rather than at the BBQ where that happened.

So, thanks.


I feel like we're past due for somebody to come in here and complain about there being too much meta-discussion of HN these days.


I think you just did. Careful, don't look directly at the aperture!


Funny how that works. There are no shortage of people who would like to talk to you. Heck, if you're ever in the Los Angeles area, drop me a line. I'm btilly@gmail.com.

For me the best moment was when I met pg at SXSW in 2010, said my name, and he knew who I was. I've been reading his stuff since before Hacker News existed, so that was a thrill.


Grubwithus is hosting a dinner/meetup later this month in LA for HN'ers to get together offline- you should come! https://www.grubwithus.com/meals/hacker-news-956e459396fe

(disclosure: I work @ GWU)


It depends on my wife's schedule. I'm responsible for children, and so generally can't commit to anything in the evening. (As a medical resident, her life is crazy.)


It would be interesting then to do a Hacker News meetup, at least in Toronto, and we can reminisce on the recent HN front page articles. How great would that be? Thanks for the inspiration patio11. +1. Any one here from Toronto?


The Tokyo meetups -- which take me about 3 hours to get to -- generally are some of the most fun I have all month. I strongly recommend starting something like that for your area if there isn't anything -- meeting people in the flesh is very worthwhile, too.


I was visiting Tokyo last February and ended up coming to the meetup, was a ton of fun! Really interesting mix of people


Actually, there's Hackernest: http://www.meetup.com/hackernest/ in Toronto on Monday, August 27, 2012 (8 pm EST). I'll be there promoting my book: Ice Cream Startups http://sellfy.com/p/9j2z The event's free, and if there's anyone in Toronto in the startup scene, esp. if you tried applying to YC S12 like I did this summer: (http://startupframework.tumblr.com/post/29634915106/what-i-l...) I'd be interested in hooking up.


I run the monthly Seattle Meetups. If you want to chat about what I've learned in the past year running them, shoot me an email (in my profile).


Thanks Zach, will email you this afternoon, or in case I forget aaron [at] brownieinmotion [dot] ca. We def should connect.


Nope, nobody from Toronto.

(Written at Coxwell & Queen) ;-)


Toronto as well. Couple of blocks north!


I'd be down, once my work permit comes through.


Seems like a massive mis-attribution error and I worry people will learn the wrong lesson here.

The OP's story is:

1. learned to program iOS (hard, completely under OP's control)

2. wrote and published iOS app (hard, under OP's control)

3. the app failed so wrote a blog post about his experience (easy although often neglected by programmers, under OP's control)

4. HN picked up the story which led to interview (total crapshot, not under OP's control)

5. a round of of interviews which led to job offer and "completely changed life" (hard, under OP's control)

I understand why claiming step 4 ("HN picking up the story") was responsible for "changed life" plays well on HN, but it's irrational.

The hard things that OP did and were under his control were: learning iOS programming, publishing iOS app, writing a blog post about it and doing well during an interview. Steps 1-3, 5 were necessary and responsible for his getting a better job.

Step 4 is the only one that wasn't under OP's control, involved pure luck and is not even necessary.

As an example, I get several interview inquiries every month but not because I post on HN (I do) or because occasionally what I wrote ended up on HN (it did) but because I have a website, github account and a portfolio of non-trivial projects.

Step 4 is not necessary because in this market a competent iOS programmer can pick and choose. The OP would be better off if he pro-actively applied for several iOS positions in Silicon Valley (of which there are plenty) and picked the best offer, instead of passively waiting and accepting the first offer.

I'm not saying that good things don't happen because of HN but in this particular case the lesson shouldn't be "write a blog post, hope it ends up on HN and then further hope someone will contact you with a job offer" but "learn a marketable skill (like iOS programming), produce a proof of your skill (write iOS application), market it a little bit (write a blog post about it) and then go on a job shopping spree (by applying for iOS jobs)".


I think the largest point the OP makes is that he wasn't intended to find a new job, but the HN community (mentality & philosophy) brought that opportunity to him. That's the key piece in #4, and the linchpin for the whole experience.


Yes. Not even "mentality & philosophy", he explains distinctly that his problem was communication and HN gave him auditory. Auditory that interested about his findings and problems. And even auditory that can solve part of his problems

(Excuse my runglish, I don't remember what I must write: "who" or "that" or "which")


I have the best job I've ever had in my life because a website I built on a whim a year and a half ago happened to end up at the top of Hacker News for an entire day in April 2011.

By the same token, learning Rails, building the website, and making it interesting were all under my control, but there's absolutely no chance I'd be where I'm at right now had it not been for the existence of this message board.

> pro-actively

Sometimes you don't know what's out there, or what you really want until it's handed to you on a silver platter.


At least the irony of him noting the discourse had turned negative is not lost on you...


I came here to say exactly that. I stopped reading HN as often because it seems like every time I read a Show HN post, or, well, practically anything, someone is trying to crap on someone else's effort. Here's a guy who has a nice story to tell, and we get:

Seems like a massive mis-attribution error


Without HN, the cofounder of a mobile startup doesn't know of any hobbyist iOS developers in Minnesota who might be a good addition to his team, because the hobbyist developer never sees stories about failed iOS apps as something worth writing about and even if he thought it was worth writing about without HN his story would never get in front of the right audience.

To put it another way, a startup in San Francisco doesn't need to go to the Midwest to find iOS developers. Just to find the right one.


Fortune favors the prepared. If he hadn't done the other stuff he wouldn't have been able to make this fortunate event happen, that doesn't mean it wasn't fortunate.


This post really spoke to me - all my life, I'd lived in the Midwest - first in Minnesota (coincidentally enough) then in Illinois for college. In October last year (the beginning of my senior year in college) I received a nice, safe offer as a Software Engineer at Google and that was my plan: do the 'Google thing' and see how I felt two, three, or four years down the road.

Fast forward to May of this year, I saw a job posting here on HN for a YCS12 company that was looking for a summer intern. I sent them a short email, not knowing really what was going to happen - one thing led to another, and before I know it I'm flying out to San Francisco the day after I graduate to begin my internship!

I can honestly say that this summer has been the best summer of my life - I've learned more than I thought possible, worked more than I thought possible, and had more fun than I thought possible.

And that safe job offer from Google? Well, I'm not doing that anymore - I'm the first hire at a very promising YC startup that I'm in love with.


Great to read things like this and gives us a reminder that there is a person behind everyone of these "Show HN" posts and every comment written (at least besides the few bots and spammers on HN). Love the advice on how if you "actually finish your side projects", you'll be well ahead of the pack - very true.


Another good take-away, though not directly mentioned in the post, is befriend HN users both in the real world and online.


Following this advice... If any other Minneapolis/St Paul based HN users are lurking out there and are interested in meeting up (or know of any similar events) then please reply here or email.


Between me, you, aaronbrethorst and azylman that's a pretty good MN expat in CA contingency already represented in this thread.


I wish! I meant people IN the Twin Cities.


I'm in Minneapolis and would love to meet up.


I'm in Mpls and would love to meet up.


One user emailed - so there is at least 3 of us out there. If you're still interested, whats the best way to get in contact and organize a meetup?


Ditto to HNers in South Carolina, particularly the Midlands. I'd love to have an HN meetup in Columbia, but would make the trek to Greenville or Charleston for one.


I'm from Greenville, there's a huge tech crowd here. I'm in an accelerator and we have a huge office space I'm sure we could use.


We need an HNers meetup.

Anyone in SF who may be interested in the next month or so?


I'll jump on this too; thanks a lot for this post because one line really changed my outlook on something that I am working on:

"Everyone knows that the last 20% takes 80% of the effort."

I guess I'm outside of "everyone" because that line is really going to make a difference for me. :)

Reading HN has changed my life as well - college student in the Appalachians and I get so little exposure to startup culture in my business education. I can sit in class all day and feel uninspired about corporate strategy, but seeing so many bootstrapped ventures and learning about how to make it all work is what is driving me these days.

As cliche as it may be, I'm developing a real passion for the startup culture and some of the companies I spend all day reading about. Between the app on my iPhone and browsing online, reading HN articles (and perhaps more importantly, the comments) is contributing to the best hours of learning I get all day.

Six months ago, I didn't know the first thing about entrepreneurship, startups, or bootstrapping a venture. Now, I'll be Show HN'ing my first project within a few weeks' time. Thanks so much to everyone here.


I'd also say that the last 20% provides 80% of the learning. If you're always leaving projects unfinished then you don't really learn what works and what doesn't.

There's also a real learning experience when you make something public. Other peoples reactions are often (normally?) quite different to your own. That kind of feedback is really valuable, both good and bad. The bad because it provides an impartial view, and the good because it validates your views and encourages you to continue.


thestoicjester, this is one of the funniest blog posts I've ever read. This line is especially good:

"A 'co-founder of a mobile development startup in SF' was a humorous creature I’d read all about on the internet — I may as well have been replying to a hobbit."

What's the name of the company you're working at now?



Just a note on the site, for an app website it doesn't look great on an iPhone currently.


So now you working for the devil :-)


This sounds like it could be me, a year from now. I'm literally in the middle of an interview* with a SF startup that came about because they read my blog post (via Hacker News) about failing at my own startup.

HN is undeniably awesome.

(*One interviewer was pushed forward an hour, the others are in 15 minutes...)


This resonates with me. HN has definitely altered how I see the startup culture.

I started out in Michigan writing 3D games (by hand, no hardware acceleration!), and after my wife and I took a vacation out to northern California I just had to live there. This was during the dotcom days of 1999, and it took less than a week to get multiple job offers. So we packed up our stuff and did a cross country move. It was awesome, and exciting, and the future was wide open.

However, like the author of this piece, I wasn't really prepared with how lonely it felt. Sure, there was a lot of innovative tech happening, but sometimes at the end of the day I just wanted to have a few beers with some good friends. So, I moved away from the SF Bay area up to Portland, Oregon, where I knew several friends from college, and have been here ever since.

Lately I've got the itch to return to California. Partly for the opportunities, partly for the sunshine (it's freakin' dark and depressing during Portland winters), and partly due to HN rekindling my love of startups. Now that I'm a bit older I think I'd have a better go of it. Anyone have a cool project that needs a iOS/Python/C++ tech director?


moving across the country to a state I’d never been to and a city in which I knew nobody

As someone who did just this, but in kinda the opposite direction: from the East Coast to Minneapolis, I hope it works out for you as well as it has for me. I basically rebuilt myself here. I love MN!


Me too! CT to Boston, admittedly not as big a move but where I lived was practically Nowhere, USA. There's so much energy here and Boston has exceeded all my expectations. I'm now working at my third startup here.

Since January. Laid off from the first along with most people there, and the second one shut down literally the week I started working. But hey, technology moves fast and so do startups. They have to. I'm actually grateful since it's given me three entirely different viewpoints into how startups work.


Related to how Hacker News changes lives: How a simple comment on Hacker News motivated me to resign from my comfortable well paying job and launch my own startup http://blog.freshdesk.com/the-freshdesk-story-how-a-simple-c...

The rest of our discussion on Hacker News/startup lessons here: http://hackerne.ws/item?id=4426093 (An interesting take on addressing the pain points of customers).


>"In addition to my daytime job, programming had also crept into my nights and weekends as I took up the hobby of iOS development. The interesting thing about this hobby is that not only did it help use up my spare time, it also helped use up my spare dreams. I didn’t have to aspire to a bigger job in a bigger city, because at any moment one of my apps was going to hit it big and then everyone would be working for me."

This passage really resonates with me. The concept of dreams as a resource is a useful one and I'd never thought of it. When I joined HN, I was in a similar kind of situation. Running an EFL supplementary school in Taiwan, I had a sense of accomplishment, some prestige and likely a solidly growing income for as long as I chose to stick with it. But not only did it consume 60-70 hours a week of my time, it also consumed my dreams. It would have been really easy to stay there and not think much about doing anything more.

What changed my direction was PG essays, some of which I read on reddit and some of which I read here. Since I was so heavily invested in my business in Taiwan and nearly all of my best friends were there, it took me time to finally take the plunge, end that chapter of my life and move into the tech world. It hasn't been very easy, as some of you may have seen me post on here before, but it is invigorating. The three tasks of hunting for work, working and upgrading my work skills are using up my time, but not my dreams.


HN hasn't changed my life -- yet? -- but it has taught me that a lot of my assumptions about new technology startups were wrong. I'd always assumed "networking" was only something a specific type of person could do, that if you wanted to do anything you'd have to be really great at selling yourself or get lots of media attention.

Through my usage of HN I've learned that this really isn't the case, sure being able to sell yourself is a useful skill but if you can build great things and put your work out there you can achieve a lot without needing to focus on people. A good example I think is Gumroad founder Sahil (http://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=sahillavingia), he's very talented, he made cool stuff and people took notice and now he's doing really cool things.

HN has made me confident that if I ever build anything great that I won't need to spend 12 hours a day cold calling every Techcrunch writer hoping that they post nice words about me, I can let my work speak for me.

Now I just need to build something cool :)


Congratulations on getting a job, I really wish you all the best.

It's finally good to see someone who writes something positive about HN. Yes, there might be a lot of negativity around and the community might have lost the quality that many of you complain about. However, it's good to know there are still elements of this community that provide positive outcomes to those associated to it.


If not for an HN "Who's hiring" post I'd probably still have my safe job writing internal apps for an insurance company in Albuquerque; instead I'm back living in beautiful San Diego (my favorite city) and I get to see the ocean every day on my drive to my current awesome job. So add me to the list of people for whom HN changed their life. :)


I guess you're not the only person to take a wrong turn at "Albuqoike"

Sorry. Look at my handle; I couldn't resist :-)


Glad you changed your life and are happy with it... What was special about post that captured your attention?


It was that it was in San Diego doing Java at a company doing cutting edge wireless stuff with their own hardware. San Diego + Java + doing something new == whoohoo! :)


HN changed my life too! I went from soul-crushing job writing patents for Amazon to ruby hacker in NYC. [1] I'm a self-taught coder hacking RoR for Pivotal Labs. I used to hate my job, now I can't wait to go to work!

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3754917


I quit my job as a biologist, became a freelancer, working for clients found on HN, and was eventually hired full-time by one of those clients, who I had previously interviewed for a side project that I was working on so I could show Hacker News.

So basically, Hacker News is pretty awesome, regardless of whatever people say.


This article gives me hope. I've been at a megacorp soul sucking job (I realize not all are soul crushing) for the past three years after my comp. sci. degree.

I'm going to make the jump as soon as possible. HN has really been both an inspiration and a great place for sage advice.


Great post and great story. I've lived in the Twin Cities for 10 years now and we got a pretty good set of tech companies running around this area. I'm glad you were able to find a good home out in San Francisco man.


Yeah, absolutely there is a great tech scene in the TC area. I tried to paint MN and my former employer in as good of a light as I could while concurrently throwing them under the bus and using them as the bad guy in the story.


OP: I'm curious to know whether we've ever crossed paths. It looks like we're about the same age (assuming the age you listed on some game website I just found is accurate).

I was born and raised in Minneapolis, graduated from the U of MN with a Computer Science degree in 2003, and pulled up stakes to move to Seattle as soon as I could.

If you were ever in debate, speech, or quiz bowl in high school between 1997 and 2000, or if you attended the U of MN between 1998 and 2003, I'm guessing we did at some point.

In any case, congrats!


Hmmm, I don't think so. I did a pretty good job of avoiding... everyone during that period of my life. It's only in recent years that I've realized that there are better ways to operate than being a complete hermit-weirdo.


Well, better now than never :)


You should come by the Hacker News Seattle meetup sometime. :) (http://www.meetup.com/HackerNewsSeattleMeetup/)


I keep meaning to…thanks the reminder :)


I guess what I love so much about HN is the generally high amount of content that is relevant to me, which seems to be hard to find elsewhere on the vast expanses of the internet. I can read articles from HN all night, but it doesn't feel like a waste of time. 99% of the time I'll have learned quite a lot by the end of the night.


Agreed about the relevant content. I have no interest in joining a startup, but I spend more time on HN than any other site. Discussions on CSS, Rails, cryptography and dozens of other interesting subjects are always interesting and keep me learning something new.


Hacker News has provided me a much-needed view into the business tech world that it is nearly impossible to get elsewhere.


I think the best reminder here is that it's tempting to "Show HN" your project's App Store homepage. But like his Bullseye Factory submission, you're going to get a couple comments at best.

Write about your hacking experiences, what you learned, and how others can avoid your mistakes and you'll have much more luck.


I got a job through one of the monthly job posting threads and getting the job has completely changed my life, however I interviewed and impressed and got the job myself. Without hacker news, I probably would never have heard about the job, but everything after that point was under my control and my own doing.


From another MN to SF transplant with a similar story, congrats on making the leap. :)


Thank deus for readability.com.


Yes, indeed. Dark backgrounds aren't good on your eyes, when everything else has a light background. Besides that, great post! (The article by Jake.)


Yes, this post inspired me to install the Readability extension on Chrome. Great content but terrible readability.


HN has changed my life, too. Ironically, moving from a pre-seed stage startup (where I was more of an entrepreneur in residence) to one of the biggest tech companies out there.

More importantly, it is continuing to push me on my own projects.


this is awesome! please do write more about your new life in san francisco.


Add me to the list as well. This worked:

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2600264

(not at airbnb, but with another awesome YC startup in sunny CA and loving it)


I think everyone should live on the West Coast (ideally SF) or the East Coast (ideally near NYC) for a while in their life. Or both, like I did.


Is it really so?

In Moscow a humorous proverb exists: "There is no life outside MKAD(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moscow_Ring_Road)

When I read PG (and others) about "there is no opportunity for [startups ... interesting productive life] except SF" - I think it's the same. Not true


I think this is a good point. Both are about equally true. Around half of Russian economy lives in Moscow region, formally or informally. About half of the world's startup ecosystem is in North California. Everyone else just makes do with what remains, or moves.


I remember from "Founders at work" something like: "West Coast is the land of dreamers" and something about how it totally opposite with Boston and NYC (I don't remember who said this)

And I suppose that this is possible.

But: There is "life outside MKAD"

Even with: "Around half of Russian economy lives in Moscow region, formally or informally" - I remember that 75% of all money in Moscow


Thanks, I found this post inspiring and as a web developer living in a Minneapolis suburb in a bit of a rut, it really hits close to home.


The first advice you give is a good reminder for people like me who have tons of unfinished projects.


Minneapolis isn't exactly nowhere.


True. But the suburb I was living in was pretty close.


I love this story. I hope I can get similar success from my experiences here.


HN inspired my move to the Bay Area too. Thanks for sharing your story.


Internal Server Error :(



Yeah, thanks for the heads up. Just set up CloudFlare, so hopefully the stress level will be going down.


Very interesting, good luck with your new job.


I actually like Minnesota and really enjoy the seasons there-- the winter's not that bad-- but I'm going to chime in with a +1 for Hacker News. The quality, for an internet community of this size, is unparalleled. That doesn't mean there aren't a few useless posts here and there (shit, I've probably written a couple of those) but the overall quality remains high... and I haven't seen any evidence for a drop.

One thing I really like about the HN-sphere is the optimism. I'm naturally a cynical, dark person, as opposed to the Silicon Valley optimism and positive-sum outlook I see here. Neither is superior; both perspectives are needed. Too much optimism and you make bad choices (hence the engineers joining pre-funding startups for 1% equity) but too much pessimism and you lose your courage. It's best to have a splash of each.

It's refreshing coming to a place where people have faith in the ability for smart people to take back the world. Looking at recent improvements in compensation and autonomy for solid engineers, that might actually happen. There are a lot of bad startups too, but it's the good startups that are driving that.


How Hacker News Completely Crashed My Webserver




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