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Ask HN: How do you gain reputation on Hacker News?
12 points by mydpy 823 days ago | comments
Hi everyone,

I've been lingering around the site for a few months now, and I've submitted a few articles / blog posts that I have found interesting. However, they seem to get few views. It is mostly chance which posts become popular and get a lot of views? Is it a function of timing? Do you gain reputation by commenting on posts?

Just trying to get a better idea for how to engage well with the community here. Any ideas are appreciated.




I'm going to go a bit against the grain. The way to gain karma is to entertain your audience.

Like any performance, timing plays a role, quality plays a role, and luck should not be discounted.

However, one should not mistake what passes for entertainment on other websites for what people want from HN and are likely to reward. In general, HN expects accuracy and rewards insight and good writing. It definitely punishes trying to create inside jokes and exclusionary cliques (see PG's essay about high school).

So long as it is of high caliber, wit may be rewarded. The same is true to a lesser extent of sarcasm and even snark. My personal rules of thumb are: snark only if what I have to say is emotionally important enough to take the downvotes and karma hit in stride; avoid sarcasm in general; and if I am not sure something is really witty to forgo posting it.

With any type of comment, I am willing to delete it if it isn't going to accomplish my goal or add to the community...and yes, sometimes my ego is at odds with what adds to the community. Hopefully, that is less and less the case.

As far as submissions, I have had my most success with more technical articles and blogs, less with opinion pieces. Largely, getting a good article to the front page is a matter of luck for me.

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I was active on GameFAQs forums when I was a lot younger and I remember being turned off from all the trolling and flame wars people insist on promoting. As I finish my graduate studies, I'm looking for a mature community to share my interests and find new ways to be motivated.

Entertaining writing is hard. It's difficult to conveys my thoughts correctly through text, especially when humor is involved; timing translates awkwardly in prose.

I will take your suggestion to heart and shoot for quality over quantity in my activity here. I think once I finish with school I'll have more time to work on things I care about, and I'll want to share them with others. I really look forward to that point.

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I don't suggest taking "entertaining" as synonymous with "humorous." Non-fiction books, sad films, and football matches are all entertaining for some people. Entertain the HN audience by delivering the sort of thing they like - well considered insights and technical information.

Nor is the reference to timing implying comedic timing...except in a general sense of delivering your ideas when the audience is likely to be prepared in the right way to appreciate them. This fleshes out to when and where one comments - before HN became kinder, gentler, and larger, early snark on a rising thread was often worth a few points. Well considered comments on a recent popular thread will often do better than those delivered otherwise.

Timing requires understanding the audience or perhaps having a model of that portion you wish to reach. Writing for someone is a good first step toward being entertaining.

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Hi brudgers,

I looked at your profile and wanted to ask you about your architecture career. Throughout high school I wanted to be an architect and my initial major in college was architecture. I switched to computer science because I liked the concept of building and felt the hierarchical nature of the field would involve lots of ladder climbing before I designed anything. What has your experience been like?

If you would rather e-mail, that works for me too. mylesdanielbaker@gmail.com

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I can't address submissions, but I can however address posts:

The unfortunate problem with this is that often, there is no direct link between comment quality and the amount of karma you receive for posting it as several walls must first be breached before your comment is even seen.

Firstly, the quality of the article in question is the most important outside factor, if it is a fluff piece, apart from several posts about it being a fluff piece there will rarely be a fair amount of visitors to the comments section, whereas well written, high quality articles tend to drag a crowd, curious to know what their peers have to say of the subject in question.

Secondly, the position of your comment in the comments section can be a massive boundary, you will find that often, the comment at the top has the most replies, this has a direct correlation to it's position of course, people tend to read what the see first (and to reach the top, it must have been up-voted, leading you to believe it will add value to the thread) although, the more cynical side in me wants to believe that some people post on high placed comments simply to farm karma with their yes-man comments.

After being seen, there is the length of your comment, people bore easily and if your comment isn't interesting (to the person reading in particular) from the first instance then they will move on without properly absorbing your opinion.

After gaining the initial traction to be read, then and only then is the quality of your comment going to become a variable in the equation of how much karma you will receive.

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Thanks for the nice response. I am still looking for my creative niche and I'm not sure if writing / blogging is what best captures my interests. I appreciate the dynamics of timing, and the serendipity of Internet forums, but that doesn't stop me from getting depressed when one of my favorite posts don't get viewed.

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Hacker News is broken into many sub-segments. Everything you submit will catch the attention of a given demographic here. If you want to become popular, then address a common issue among demographics. Though "popularity" is not what you should seek. Be a valuable member of the community. Online and offline. Be a friend, a collegue, or just a hacker. Praise their successes, ignore their failures, help them cure their pain. Only then will you be, not only a valuable and reputable member of hacker news, but a valuable and reputable member of society. :)

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Don't try to gain karma. Your phrasing in this title is going to ill serve you.

Repost this as what you seem to have intended, asking how to engage with the community.

Now, for anyone who is here to learn how to game karma, I'd like to convey the following:

Karma is an abstract way to show quality, a way to organize discussion on HN to prioritize valuable information and people with insight. It is not an end to itself, except maybe as an ego boost. Oh, I guess at some point you can down vote posts, but seriously, karma is a tool intended to benefit the community, not a measure of your value as a person, or your skills as a developer or entrepreneur.

Try to add to the community; Add your insight and knowledge, up vote good quality comments and posts that are interesting, and trust the community. Attempting to game karma detracts value from the community. You are better than that. We are all better than that. And if you do that, the karma will come.

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There are good reasons to try to gain karma. One is to improve one's writing. Another is to improve the quality of the articles one reads on the internet in the hunt for submissions.

Incidentally, pursuit of the second one is how I found HN (from Techmeme). The improvement of my writing is one reason I have stayed.

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I hope I don't convey any selfish motivations for posting this topic. Honestly, I'm trying to find a venue for me to discuss my interests.

One of the dimensions of my work I want to expand is my mastery over specific subject matter. It's tough to find a colloquial yet masterful community forum for discussing new ideas, and especially so when I'm not sure which area I want to specialize in for my career.

I like HN because it's simple and isn't overwhelming.

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You didn't convey anything but earnest interest in contributing. I intended to address you, then any people trying to game karma. On reflection, I'd have split the comment; in my defense I was posting from my phone.

FYI, In terms of communities related to specific subjects, a surprising amount happens on mailing lists, not web forums.

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I've looked through old comments a few times, and my opinion of my comment quality had only a very weak correlation to the number of upvotes my comments receive.

Specifically, comments that I thought made only small contributions to the conversation received the same number of votes on average as those that I thought were much better comments.

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Good comments (thoughtful, insightful etc) will generally attract good reputation. Adding posts is a tricky one, and is a combination of timing, quality and luck.

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Why are you trying to gain reputation? I don't know who has 5k karma and who has 50, but I do know which posters tend to make thought-provoking comments worth paying attention to.

If you want to engage with the community, then just do so. Ask questions, respond to posts intelligently and politely and you'll find people responding in kind.

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Okay, so I have a question: When submitting a url, is there any reason to comment about the content? Is it all about using an appropriate title, or should there be some explanation/summary given?

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Why does it matter?

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The cynical answer would be to stroke his ego.

The other possibility would be that he wants to improve the quality of his comments and/or be a more valuable contributor to this community.

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I think it is an ego thing, but I wouldn't be too harsh on the OP. I think the whole karma/likes/followers thing is based on a basic human need for recognition and acceptance. People basically like to be liked.

For some reason I'm one of the few people who doesn't feel the need to have 1000 followers listening to what I ate for breakfast (or the HN/SO equivalent :)

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An endless stream of plausible nonsense. Making sense can help.

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