Try to give a little constructive feedback instead.
I didn't come to HN expecting sunshine and rainbows as a response--but it was nice to see. I'm not going to be shy about taking harsh feedback constructively. It seems people want an option for a reading/layout mode. Not hard to do.
His advice was valid, but his delivery could have been better.
I guess it depends on whether he actually instantly closed his tab, or wanted to tell them he would have done that if he weren't trying to be so helpful right now.
The instant close-tab comment seemed like an exaggerated hypothetical response to a probably minor concern (assuming you're more than casually checking out the product) instead of a legitimate reaction. Because of that it came off as more mean than legitimately helpful, and meanness isn't the same as harshness.
1) This guy is a product/marketing wizard and wins hackathons on the regular. Recruit him for that rather than just for his JS skills.
2) His dad is a programmer, this to me greatly shades his "taught myself to program respectably in six months" story. Still cool, but I am unsurprised to find a supportive programmer in his life.
3) There is no three.
(I went at it from the opposite direction of this guy when I started my first company: I could program, but had no clue about sales, marketing, finance or any number of other things, but eventually found myself doing phone sales, sales meetings, ordering print ads and negotiating with suppliers)
For the site in question it seems like re-introducing it by immersing us in what it is about - writing stories - is a much more interesting approach than throwing up some glossy brochure-ware site.
That said, the UI needs a lot of work -- obviously, because this is new and different and rough. Finding ways to balance your UI's dualistic requirements (reading vs writing) with the accessibility requirements of diverse writers on diverse platforms is clearly going to be one of your major challenges going forward. Good luck!
Most Web users, especially those drinking from firehoses like HN, don't actually read pages end to end, they skim them looking for interesting bits worth reading. This is why they're skipping page 1 without reading it, and since your navigation system doesn't allow "skimming", you're seeing people giving up in frustration.
Another way of looking at it: I still have no idea what pen.fm is trying to do, and the only thing I'll remember about it is the broken navigation system. This is probably not the first impression you want to give people.
Even more fun, the bigger scheme includes the ability to export these stories directly on-demand to different e-reading formats (epub, mobi, pdf). So, if you want PDF, you'll get it. With enough content in the network, we'll take on content discovery in a big way so we make sure you don't waste your time having to skim so much.
This UI is the lite version of that magazine.
That big box on the right full of whatever that is (chat/twitter/whatever) is just a void that not only doesn't interest me, but means what I am reading (which is why I would be on the site if this wasn't a well-played usability test ;) is off to the side. I guess you'll iron out these kinks as time goes by, but yeah. That box on the right is just an ocean of who cares, to me.
Also there is a bug: when you are editing text in the chat box, it flicks pages back and forth.
Anyway I'm off to donate to your IndieGoGo campaign. Good luck with the rest of the project!
edit: had another look - I guess that box makes sense when you're collaborating on a story, but pure reading mode might be good as a default?
I have other projects keeping me busy these days. Maybe some day I'll revive that dream.
The situation described here sounds more like assembling a prefabbed shed from Home Depot. Yeah, something was built, but it doesn't make the builder an "engineer".