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Implore HN: Celebrate and encourage young developers who post here
294 points by danilocampos on Jan 21, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 115 comments
Recently an ugly and short-sighted essay about teens posting on HN hit the frontpage and was later killed.

I'd like to take a moment to point out how important it is that we encourage young people who take the time and ego risk to share their work.

"I am [age] and I made [thing]"

actually means

"I am new at this. I know you guys aren't. I want you to check it out and give me encouragement and guidance."

Do they want attention? Of course! They believe, correctly, that the attention of more experienced people will lead to their growth. We should absolutely give it to them.

Getting young people into science and technology is the single greatest professional duty any technologist has. We need help. The problems are so many and the minds equipped for them so few.

We have an entire planet of dumb objects waiting to be woken up. We need software written and interfaces designed for classes of products we can't even imagine yet.

So we need kids to grow up and choose the very, very hard work of learning to bend technology to their will. We need them to believe they can make careers out of it.

And we certainly need them to believe that when they get there, they won't be surrounded by assholes.

When a kid shows up sharing their work, we ought to circle around them and hoist them on our shoulders. They're choosing the career that will make our lives better one day. They're choosing the career that will broaden our hiring pools one day. They're, blessedly, choosing tech over drugs, drink, violence and investment banking.

When a teenager comes shuffling along, awkwardly holding up his or her project for our scrutiny, take a moment and see if there's any experience of your own that you can offer to help them on their journey. If there isn't, move along quietly and let the mentors do their thing, eh?

Young folks: I don't know a lot, but if you want career advice or tech advice or just someone to talk to, I'm mail@danilocampos.com.

That blog article was one of the stupidest things I've ever read.

I never got the encouragement or support to pursue my hobbies at a young age, whether from parents or friends, and would've killed to have a community like this that could've praised me and pushed me forward.

To accuse a kid mentioning the fact that he's 14 in his submission title as being manipulative really reflects on how out of touch you are with the way humans operate. A kid his age is looking to show off his work, proud that he's not wasting his time on Power Rangers and Nerf guns, putting his focus and attention to furthering his meaningful hobbies. You encourage that, not dismiss him.

Time and time again, it's just remarkable to me how socially inept the lot of you are. When your child comes up to you and exclaims "Daddy, Daddy! Look what I've done!", you sure as hell aren't going to say "Heh, yeah, I did that too, but I was younger."

And how is a response of "That's pretty good for a 14 year old" of any help? If the critique should not take into account the age of the creator, then why should the request for the critique mention it? Shouldn't everyone who shows initiative and a willingness to learn be encouraged through respectful and civil feedback, regardless of whether they're 14 or 40?

Just like novelists, there probably aren't any great fourteen year old developers. Just some are are less bad than others. And some who have a higher ceiling when it comes to developing their talent.

Any critic worth a listen can tailor their message to their audience. Some messages which make sense for a fourteen year old boy don't for a forty-four year man - e.g. "stay in school."

Children are not miniature adults.

> there probably aren't any great fourteen year old developers.

We have at least one counter example here on HN.

I think it is the fact that they are "new" at this. For me, if they put "First App" instead of "I am 14" in the title, it would be the same thing. The point is to help encourage new, and usually young, people with programming and technology. The kid is probably just seeking more attention and praise by including the "I am 14 years old" in the header, but underneath, they are still looking for valid critique.

I do not think a 14 year old should be given special privilege over a 40 year old. But, posting "I am 14 years old" is not a bad thing, but a sign of putting one's self out there.

I think a 14 year old should be given different privilege over a 40 year old. The 40 year old already has a life and a lifestyle, probably has kids, a job, and is fairly set in his ways (generalizing here). The 14 year old? - he's in high school and has the option of studying anything and becoming anything.

That 14 year old might go to a hackathon next week, meet lots of kids/young adults like him, hack even more, study comp sci (or not), and become a terrific engineer who builds awesome stuff. Or maybe his hobby dies out and he becomes a doctor or a psychologist or something. Doesn't matter. The point is that the 14 year old is far more malleable than the 40 year old, and we can make a much bigger positive impact on younger kids than we can on 40 year olds.

To the 14 year old, "First App" is probably synonymous with "I am 14." Give these kids a break.

We're not these children's daddies though, are we? Did you run up to every adult expecting praise? Did they give it to you?

This is a group of, by and large, professionals. They are going to look at it in a critical light. If you want critical feedback, this is the forum to show it to. If you want coddling and nothing but positive reinforcement, stick with your parents, teachers and friends.

> We're not these children's daddies though, are we? Did you run up to every adult expecting praise? Did they give it to you?

Praise was actually very helpful to me growing up. If I didn't get it, I probably wouldn't have bothered with many of the things that now make my life so interesting and amazing.

> This is a group of, by and large, professionals. They are going to look at it in a critical light. If you want critical feedback, this is the forum to show it to. If you want coddling and nothing but positive reinforcement, stick with your parents, teachers and friends.

So much wrong with this. For one, this is a free online message board where anyone can post. Who cares if there are professionals here or not. Most 14 year olds do not have the same quantity of knowledge or acquired skills that people with more experience have. It's important to evaluate someone's work in an appropriate context. Not to mention the fact that many children are more sensitive to feedback and criticism than adults and negative comments can severely hurt their development / self-esteem.

Positive reinforcement and pleasant feedback are how people grow, not some type of angry neckbeard behavior. Everybody knows the professionals are superior, so we ought to kindly and gently nudge the newcomers to the same level of excellence.

First: Praise given always is meaningless.

Second: Criticism is not always 'angry'

Third: Consider dealing with the crass criticism as a life lesson.

Fourth: Mindless praise is not going to help you grow

Fifth: How you present something will often determine the type of response you get.

You are going to leave kindergarten some day, the world isn't all gold stars. You are going to have to deal with people giving a critical analysis of what you're doing. That is what will make you better, not endless back-patting.

There's a nasty illogic to this sequence, but I see it all the time.

A. "The world isn't all gold stars" (a.k.a. "it's a dog-eat-dog world out there", or "there are a lot of hardasses out there", etc.), THEREFORE

B. I'm personally not going to pull any punches for this naive/hopeful/idealistic/etc. young person.

This isn't logic; it's a weak rationalization for being an asshole, because there's a certain pleasure to being an asshole and cutting others down to size.

Is there really just a black/white choice between "crass criticism" and "mindless praise"?

Of course not. What about this: filter whatever critique you have to offer down to what's useful to a 14 year old (or whatever they are), and present it with kindness.

I've seen the following happen way too often: from a young age, kids are told they are child prodigies and maintain top status in high school. Then they enter college and meet people who are more intelligent or proficient and can't seem to accept the reality of the situation.

As an example, there was one section of organic chemistry for freshmen, and to get into that class you had to have a 5 in AP chem and pass two exams. I saw many of my classmates (Columbia) who were genuinely taken aback that they weren't the top of the freshman class -- and many of these self-styled rock stars never heard of the IChO!

It is better for long term growth if kids are humbled at an earlier age than to be shocked much later in life. And holding back criticisms now really does a disservice later in life.

Here's the line that makes me really uneasy about what you're saying:

> It is better for long term growth if kids are humbled at an earlier age

You don't humble a kid. That's not an action any person needs to take, ever. Instead, you expose them to the wonderful things in the world, and they will learn humility and be inspired and motivated at the same time.

If you "humble" them instead, they may learn humility, at the same time as they learn how shitty some adults are, and you seriously fuck with their motivation and inspiration.

I'm aware this may not be quite what you meant; maybe I'm reading too much into your wording.

But while I agree that false praise is bad ("kids are told they are prodigies"), the solution isn't to cut them down; it's to show them more of what's possible (and of course, replace the false praise with simple recognition of how their hard work is paying off, noticing improvement, etc.).

You want to build a drive for self-improvement in them; not convince them they're already at the pinnacle (as if anyone ever is...), nor convince them that they're currently worthless compared to the best (because it's not a competition) -- just notice how they're getting better at climbing, show how it's making their skills/lives/etc. better, and help them along.

You are reading too much into my wording -- kids are humbled in multiple ways, and in my specific example humbling happens when they meet other exemplary people. It's not about cutting down people to size, but rather reframing their understanding of what is possible.

Thanks; I agree totally with that. The important thing is that this can be really misleading:

> And holding back criticisms now really does a disservice later in life.

Holding back criticism isn't the problem; their limited understanding of the world is. Once you name the problem, the best solutions look quite different; there's no need to tell them their work is low-to-mediocre; they'll be saying it themselves (but with a drive to improve).

There are also still people who will be nasty to kids with the idea of "toughening them up"; this is crap as well (kids can better deal with shitty behavior if they have a solid idea of what is non shitty behavior, and if they haven't been traumatized into having intense emotional responses in conflict), but I don't have time to get into that in depth here....

There is a difference between good criticism and bad criticism though. I see nothing wrong with encouraging the former and discouraging the latter, which is what the OP was talking about.

So, when you talk about criticism in a general way, you are missing the point. No one is suggesting we coddle anyone. We should however remain professional, which is the problem some people are having.

Unless you are saying that we should encourage all criticism, even bad criticism?

Relevant to the discussion at hand: http://thisisindexed.com/2012/12/somebody-teach-this-kid-to-...

I think the age matters to give appropriate advice and direction. With the case of the 14 year old, they don't have the life experiences to be able to get certain analogies, and they have a different set of opportunities available to them. At 14, you can prep differently, you can go to college for computer science. For the 40 year old weekend hobbiest, going back to college is generally not an option, so the path they have to take to get proficient is definitely different than the options the 14 year old has.

The answer to this isn't to stop praising kids. It's to stop praising them in the wrong way. Kids praised for results turn out like you say. Kids praised for effort have far better outcomes.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying "Hey, that's a nice attempt. You can do better next time by looking at this, or this, and did you consider that". Suddenly you've taught someone something, and you didn't have to bend your principles all out of shape giving meaningless praise.

No-one is expecting you to give out gold stars.

at the same time this that is a great example of good criticism.

How Not to Talk to Your Kids The inverse power of praise. (2007) http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/index4.html

You know, I'd written a lengthy response to this, but there is absolutely no point. I'll say this: The type of praise we're pushing for here is of a very different type than the one in the article, and additionally, we're not raising one kid that's receiving and endless amount of "oh you're so smart!" We're saying that when a kid comes along, mentions their age and cares to show off something they've built, we should recognize their achievement, offer advice, and encourage them to move forward, not turn into a bunch of cynical assholes.

The fact that you linked that article as a way to refute such a call for decency and kindness is so damn disingenuous. Take a second and think about what you're arguing against. It's not that radical of an idea, y'know, to foster their creativity, motivate them, give them a sense of accomplishment.

Kids out there: Stay naive and optimistic and offer your help to people who want it, and never assume the worst in people. Searching for the Truth is good, but don't let it come in the way of you treating others nicely. Most of all, don't waste your time on HN.

Nothing like missing the point, and taking a comment out of context. Adults out there - read what it is you're responding to.

That's incredibly short sighted of you. We should be encouraging the next generation to develop this skills in a supportive and constructive way. They're our future employees (and/or bosses).

When did being a professional mean giving feedback from a critical slant? In my professional career I've found advice is taken best when it is: a. asked for b. fully encompassing both good and bad aspects

If one can only see the bad in something then I'm not sure how much of a professional they are. There's a difference between coddling and giving balanced feedback.

Good luck with that sentiment.

Everyone assumes that there are already too many places online for professional peers to discuss/debate subjects related to their expertise. There are very few but that hardly matters.

There is constant social pressure for outreach efforts, to be beginner friendly, to educate others. Partly because it's seen as more altruistic (a sentiment I understand but disagree with) and partly because professionals frequently have complete disdain for educators and feel they can do a good job of encouraging and educating beginners even though they have no experience or expertise in education.

Great post, but... Power Rangers and Nerf guns? At 14? You might be off by 4 or 5 years. ;)

I'm not sure what about the programming/tech community fosters this culture of wanting to one-up someone who comes along with their work. It's even sadder when they try to one-up a child.

As the author of the "ugly and short-sighted essay" in question, I want to just mention that I meant no hard feelings to anyone of any age, and tried hard to critique the behavior, not the person, Sorry if it came across as ugly. However, I stand by my opinion. I believe that there are plenty of other places these teens can go for blanket approval and yes-men, such as friends and family. HN is, to me, reserved for unbiased and fair commentary. As an aside, I think everyone's post should be considered carefully and encouraged; however, it shouldn't be based on age. Also, in response to those who raised comments about how Mozart's age was relevant to his accomplishments, I must say that in our day and age, teens making apps is hardly that noteworthy anymore. Yes, it is impressive, but not exceptionally so.

Lastly, why exactly was my original post killed? What happened to it? I may not understand HN fully, but I thought something that fostered a good discussion would be kept. I can't even find the post anymore! Would it have stayed up if I had said I was 16?

Would you post the link here? I would be interesting in reading your specific arguments.

The only issue I really take with the "I'm 14 and check out my first [x]," is that some of them feel a little suspect. Hell, I stumbled upon one of the "I'm 15 and.." guys astroturfing his thread. He neglected to change accounts, and so he gave a glowing review about how great the game was, and how awesome the it is that he's doing this at his age... all from the same account he used to post the link. When I pointed this out to him, everything was quickly deleted.

Maybe I'm letting one bad apple spoil everything, but I feel that some percentage of the "I'm young, check out this really mediocre, yet ad supported thing I made" are in fact, just some older guy's weekend passive income experiment.

Thanks for the link! After reading through it, I don't feel there was anything "ugly and short-sighted" about it. OP was being way over dramatic.

On a tech centered website such as Hacker News, it seems a perfectly reasonable position to ask someone not to rely on an emotional manipulation to get page views.

You need to have a pathological lack of empathy to view these matters as "emotional manipulation."

Ah, thank you for your internet diagnosis. I suppose it is possible that I suffer from a "pathological lack of empathy," or, you may just be over reacting to the word "manipulate." So, let's sub in a different phrasing so you don't take it so harshly.

"On a tech centered website such as Hacker News, it seems a perfectly reasonable position to ask someone not to appeal to emotion in an attempt to garner page views and/or karma"

> "On a tech centered website such as Hacker News, it seems a perfectly reasonable position to ask someone not to appeal to emotion in an attempt to garner page views and/or karma"

This is bordering on deliberate obtuseness. This is not a matter of appealing to emotion. This appealing to experience and asking for guidance during a fragile period of development.

In a "tech-centered" community, we should do our best to nurture young people who want to follow in our footsteps. I simply have no respect for anyone who can't see the value in that. It's the worst kind of childish, self-centered worldview.

Oh, I just realized that your OP.. That makes a little more sense...

>I simply have no respect for anyone who can't see the value in that. It's the worst kind of childish, self-centered worldview.

I stand by my original statement of your tendency toward hyperbole.

It's fine that you feel the need to be all high and mighty about this, and tout on about your various respect hierarchies and where others fall into them, but at the end of the day, you're really wetting your pants over nothing. Honestly, I think you just lack reading comprehension, or maybe you just want attention yourself? However, I will refrain from internet diagnosing you.

You know what the other guy's post said? You should really re-read it. It said they should come as equals and be judged accordingly. There you go; That's pretty much the summary. Whether or not you agree with it, is that position really as ugly as you make it, or are you simply overreacting? Did it really warrant calling him out in a public forum? I understand white-knighting, and "Won't someone think of the frail, helpless children!" mentality, but Jesus, man..

One guy says, "Don't coddle them."

You say, "That guy is childish and selfish! Coddle them"

There's the summary of this thread. Calm down, my man. Difference of opinion does not an asshole make.

> Difference of opinion does not an asshole make.

On this we agree. That's not what makes the asshole.

> I think you just lack reading comprehension

> coddle them

If you think advocating mentorship over hostility is me wanting to "coddle" people, you've got a lot of nerve throwing around phrases like "reading comprehension."

Welp, I think I'm going to cut it off here. Clearly we're not getting through to each other, and I prefer to do my mindless arguing on other websites.

I urge you to read through his posting again (slowly). You're phrasing (or closer, shoehorning) his article and your response as a mentorship versus hostility debate, but it feels a bit straw-man-ish misrepresentation to me. Let's keep shifting the other author's position to the "evil" side.

Though, again, perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe it was a "terrible," "ugly," and (now apparently) "hostile" article. However, you'd need to point out the directly hostile parts to me, in that case. Because I missed them.

>That's not what makes the asshole.

Oh, you. So cheeky.

Their is a difference between being polite and offering mature and considerate criticism. I believe your article used the word manipulative to describe the use of age in the title. The irony was most likely lost on you.

I could critique the word choice by saying that using that word suggests that the author is being dishonest and deceitful. Manipulative, while technically correct in the abstract, is not necessarily accurate when one considers that the intent might merely to have been to provide context. At the same time using the word manipulative brings along baggage you might not intend. Manipulative implies intent on the part of the person doing the manipulation.

I could also critique your use of the word in another way (and,as it so happens, the way you used it). Keep in mind, this is still technically correct.

Your use of the word manipulative is deceitful. Your use of the word suggests you know intent, and your use of the word attempts to do what you accuse the the original posters of doing: attempting to manipulate the reader by framing the argument as one against deceitful, manipulative, and by extension, distrustful young people. Words are powerful, and your word choice demonstrates that, at the very least, you either have no clue, or your a vile, deceitful individual.

Both methods of critique are valid. One addresses the problem, the other addresses the person. Both are unbiased and fair criticisms, but only one is polite.

We, as a community should strive to encourage. This is not any where close to blanket approval or being yes men. But do NOT for a minute think that good, helpful criticism is simply unbiased and fair. It is not.

I'm 19, and I can give credit to a couple forums (The Web Squeeze and Forrst) and Hacker News for making me successful. If it weren't for a handful of people out of the buckets of everyone, I wouldn't have had the encouragement or motivation to be where I am today. I skipped college, and am cofounding my second company now and leading a team of talented people. I would have never guessed I'd be doing that..even two years ago. If it weren't for you guys and other forums giving me critique, criticism, and encouragement, who knows where I'd be. I've learned soo much from HN, it's ridiculous, but it has helped me in more ways than I can acknowledge.

Anyone can be an encouragement to someone like a younger me, but a lot of people don't. The ones who do however can really make a difference in peoples lives.

Congrats on your success. One piece of advice: you can further reduce the chance that you have blind spots due to your skipping of college (which you almost certainly do) by slicing off some time to go through Coursera classes, particularly ones that are a bit far afield and seem like a waste of time. People your age are so damn lucky :)

The thing about college is it forces exposure to stuff you'd never see otherwise. A lot of it is irreplaceable but more and more of it is thanks to sites like these.

Great advice. The most important thing to understand about life is that you don't know what you don't know!

Put negatively, if you're not interested in further educating yourself outside of your direct interest areas, understand that you will have certain limitations in life that you will not yourself perceive.

Wow, mazal tov! This my favorite story I've read here. Congratulations on skipping college and getting right into the meat of your career.

Thank you! I've written one blog post about my experience a few months out of high school, and I need to do a follow up with almost two years out now. My new company is launching in March and I'm super excited about it. Hopefully I'll have an even more interesting story to tell after that.

what happened with your first company?

I was a cofounder and we went through an accelerator this past summer. I met a lot of people, learned a ton, but in the end I wasn't the right fit with the other cofounders and we were in a very niche space I didn't have a lot of domain knowledge in, so for lack of a better term, we parted ways. There are of course more details but that's the gist. It definitely taught me a few lessons and established relationships that are now funding the new company.

How about we leave age/sex/race out of it all and accept them into the community as peers and equals?

I'm all about encouragement, but if we treat them differently because of age, we are just sheltering them from the real world (the Internet hardly counts there, I know). The Internet may not be the safest place to be taught how to accept criticism, but it is a lot easier to take (and more productive) when the attacks aren't personal and instead directed at an app.

> How about we leave age/sex/race out of it all and accept them into the community as peers and equals?

How about because it's not that simple? Being a teenager is fraught with insecurity, loneliness and the perception of being misunderstood. Lots of their maturity is still cooking.

The teen years are also very formative. So if we can take an extra moment to give them the right nudge early in their trajectory, the final outcome of that tiny investment of time could be huge.

If things about a shared project are crappy, that's worth mentioning, of course. That can and should be done in a way that's constructive and encouraging, though.

I don't like the idea of a community that's too self-important to indulge the ambitious fragility of youth.

I agree but have one nagging doubt that won't go away. Is it really ridiculous to want one "adults only" community of professional peers that isn't invite-only or purposefully hard to find?

I find it enormously fulfilling to mentor younger programmers and have luckily had many chances to do so. But my personal development always suffered at those places compared to the places where I was working mostly with those near my level or above it.

An online community can't serve two masters, it is either mainly for peer discussion (and elitist) or it is mainly beginner friendly. Beginner friendly often wins out because: "won't somebody please think of the children" is a discussion ender.

> but if we treat them differently because of age

So, to set up some obvious strawmen, you're ok with child labour? Or child soldiers? You're against laws preventing children from working more than x hours a week, or the age of consent?

Of course we treat them differently because of age. They haven't had the time or the exposure to "toughen" them up - and (based on my own life), at that age they're quite possibly shy, insecure, nervous and unsure of their place in the world. So yes, of course they get treated differently.

I'm not proposing an unquestioning "Wow, you're totally the best" attitude. But I am saying that one doesn't shit all over a kid just because one can.

Law does not apply here and I didn't know we were discussing anything legal. Back to the context here, I am talking about the point of posting an app to HN. The goal is for feedback, if you want clear focused feedback, you need a focused post. The extra detail only bring the entire thread off-topic, as has been proven here multiple times.

I think I agree with you.

It'd be great if people could ignore age, sex, etc. It'd be great if people could just provide constructive criticism. (Of course, if someone is suggesting something dumb ("I'm going to run this exploit scanner against my school network.") we need firm words to explain just how serious the effects on their future might be.

I agree that mentioning age in the title does drag the threads off-topic. But part of that is people being jerks to anyone who mentions their age.

"I'm 14; I made X" means "I'm 14. emacs is about twice my age. The Matrix was released when I was born. And Fight Club. And Sixth Sense. And Star Wars. (No, not the ancient Star Wars, Star Wars Episode I the Phantom Menace.)"

It means "I'm 14. OS X was released a couple of years after I was born." or "Windows 95 was obsoleted a couple of years after I was born." or "You've heard all those programming jokes about cars and programming languages or planes and programming languages and you've read all those papers about GOTO considered harmful and watched as people incremented their programming languages or moved to new platforms or introduced new ideas." or "You talk about 8 bit gaming or 16 bit gaming. I was born when the SNES was made obsolete. N64 had already been out a few years when I was born." or "Ubuntu got a first release when I was about 6."

There's just so much that kids don't know.

But you give a teenage beginner different feedback than a seasoned professional.

This is very true. I think a lot of this comes down to, no matter the technical expertise of the person, the fact that when you're very young, you lack some life experience and are in a different place with different needs than older professionals. That's not to say it makes them less legitimate or that they should be gone easier upon, but it definitely affects the advice. A 15 year old is thinking about college, a 45 year old is worries more about supporting his family, and those factors very much affect the situation.

This implies that 'not' being a teenager makes you a 'seasoned professional'. What makes you seasoned is experience, a 14 year old can be more experienced in programming than someone who is 50 and just starting out, and is likely able to get more advanced in much less time.

I find the younger ones pick up new ideas faster than some other generations, and can get more 'experience' than I can in a shorter amount of time. This is why I find it hard to want to treat them like kids, they are smart and intelligent, and often faster than me. I have no right to tell them otherwise by playing down to them. The best adults in my life were the ones who treated me as equal and respected me.

No it doesn't. Those were two categories of people you would give very different feedback. You would give a 50 year old beginner advice more like the teenager, probably, but still not the same. For one thing, you'd expect them to be a bit less brash about what they've done, because we rightly expect adults to have a bit more perspective on their place in the world. And in fact, we see lots of posts here saying "I've been programming 6 months, look what I did." And when we do, the tone is usually quite different on their part. They know they have a lot to learn, etc.

In my experience as a teacher, I would say that the most success I've had with teenagers was when I was able to show them that I trusted them to do a good job, and that I acknowledged that they could function on a higher level than a child. That doesn't mean I treated them the same as adults, because they're not. Let me give you an example:

When I was in high school, I was among the best young musicians in my state. I was twice ranked principal in the All State Orchestra, and I ended up going to one of the top music schools in the country. I won awards and scholarships and was praised by all, yada yada.

And yet, when I listen to recordings of myself play from that time, I am struck by two things -- one, that I was amazingly self assured, and two, that I sounded terrible. I couldn't hold a candle to any pro in any orchestra you could name. When you're a teenager, you suck at everything that is worth doing. You also suck at recognizing that fact, and are hormonally hard wired to not be able to examine your weaknesses. There are exceptions to the rule, always, but anyone in any kind of advisory capacity to a young person needs to recognize that and treat them accordingly. The last thing a kid who loves doing something needs is to be shown that they suck. Once they have a bit more skin in the game, the self examination can start.

Then a better way to approach the situation is "I'm new, what do you think of ..." instead of "I'm X-teen, isn't what I did awesome!"

It's different, though in both cases their being new matters to the feedback you can give.

A 50-year-old just starting out as a developer has already established to themselves that they can survive in the world as an adult; they have a history of successes (and failures, put into perspective over time...) that provide a base to their ego when they're criticized.

A teenager has no context, yet -- no way to assess their own value; a minor success may make them feel like they've conquered the world, but it's fragile. If you tell them it's shit, and they haven't actually done anything worthwhile, they'll may well also accept that completely and be devastated.

I run across teenagers who are surprisingly grounded now & again, but I know I certainly didn't feel like I had solid footing (and could navigate unkind criticism without being seriously hurt) until after I was out of college... and learned I could actually cut it in the real world.

That may be true, but humility is not one of the virtues typically associated with adolescence. When they tell you they're a teenager, they're asking you to go easy on them, and there's nothing wrong with that. That doesn't mean they can't also be proud of what they did.

I would say people being assholes brings the thread off-topic.

It's difficult for anyone to avoid taking criticism of a project of theirs personally.

These kids probably need to be encouraged to continue to put their work out there more than they need to be taught how to take criticism. When they reach a certain level of maturity, they'll be ready for blunt feedback and they'll stop identifying themselves as young developers.

The choice HN is trying to make is whether it's the kind of place where developing developers can reach out for help that is catered to their level. Of course they can come here to get the same kind of advice everyone else gets.

Is it worth it for HN to be the kind of place where young developers can feel welcome in their own skin? Is it worth it for us as a community in the long run to foster the talents of those that might be in our place in a decade or two?

I'm not saying that we should give these kids undue praise for work that is clearly still at a student level. But maybe we can find a middle ground and help show them the next steps they should take in their development. If they don't identify themselves as young developers, we won't be able to help guide them.

"Sheltering them from the real world."

Indeed. Why don't we just thrust 14 year olds into the worst sort of soul-sucking office job for a year or so. That'll give 'em a good taste of the "real world".

We really should, at least in the US, we generally make our kids choose an education path without having any experience, and before they even know what they want to do with their life. Many end up regretting their college decisions (and left with a huge debt) because they didn't have any idea what they were getting into, and didn't even really like the work in the first place. A little apprenticeship during these years would do wonders.

Why not be supportive and friendly to everyone? I always find the "say it to their face" rule is a good one for formulating even negative comments. Rather than channeling your inner comic book guy, it helps you think of how to state something unpleasant in a constructive, polite way.


But it's worth making a special effort for the young. As I told a teen poster below:

Someone helping me with a project is nice. Someone helping you with a project is an investment in the future. My neuroplasticity wanes with every passing year. Your mind remains limber. I am encumbered by obligations and debts, limiting my flexibility. You have infinitely more options.

Helping you is just a better bet than helping me. You're still on the launchpad, fuel tank still full. If there's something simple, like an encouraging comment or a thoughtful correction, that can be done to help you meet a wonderful trajectory, we should absolutely do it.

I can't agree more.

I started my first project, Asturix, a Linux distribution, at age 12. I have found all kind of complications, most of them related with being young.

I live in Spain, where there are a lot of prejudices against youth. Also, the educational system here doesn't empower any "21 century" value such as creativity or inspiration. Fortunately, the situation is changing thanks to the media and other young entrepreneurs and I are starting to be famous in Spain.

On the other hand, working and studying in Spain at the same time is really, really, really hard. Oh, and we have a youth unemployment rate of 54%.

Right now I'm 17 and have founded a couple companies, what has been really hard due to legal issues - creating a company in Spain being underage is practically illegal. I have also started an incubator for hackers from 12 to 18 so they can create their projects in a easier way.

This is a beautiful age for discovering your passion, but if people screw you out it can be a difficult one.

The talent is there, but we have to let it grow.

Memo to self:

Make mentoring site (hackernewsmentor.com) Where old and weary can openly agree certain SLAs With the young and enthusiastic

If more of us see it publically more of us will be encouraged to answer a months worth of questions on perl

As for me - I could have done with a mentor not for technical issues - but for the life and career choices I made badly twenty years ago - but I would only have take. Advice from someone whom I technically respected.

I'm in. Let me know when you get started with this, I'll help build it.

I'd definitely help as well if I could be of any use.

Should age be included in a post's title? In most cases, the age can be disclosed in the comments without losing any information, and in the process removing any 'negative' connotations.

I posted something on the thread that started this whole dance a day or so ago, however it probably merits further expansion.

Most arguments that are 'pro' age disclosure boil down to "We should treat younger members of the community differently". This comes in many forms, like how we should be supportive, how we should mentor the next generation, and how teenagers are often insecure.

I agree with them, at least in general.

Arguments 'against' age disclosure have a few flavours; some say that we should treat posts based on merit, that we should not discriminate based on age, but mostly it comes down to "Posts with the age in the title are 'gaming' the system (purposefully or not)" and the meta-argument that such posts encourage talking about community instead of the post.

I agree with this side as well.

The thing is, placing your age in the title of your post is link-baity. It may be unintentional or it may be coolly calculated, but in most cases if you remove that piece of information the post title is entirely uninteresting.

So we have two types of posts to consider. The first are those posts where the age of the person involved contributes to how interesting the post is to HN. A completely fabricated example: "12 year-old entrepreneur youngest funded by YC".

The second type of post are those where the age of the person involved contributes to how the HN community responds to the post. A young developer's first app would fall into this category.

In the first case, I believe this is useful information to have in the post title. In the second this is useful information, however I do not believe it is useful in the post title. For these posts, I would much rather see the age included as a comment on the post.

In any post that use of age in the title gets called out for being 'link-baity', 'manipulative' or 'gaming the system' the main counterargument is that knowing the age helps the community know how to respond to the post. The age can be removed from the post title, and placed in the comments, addressing both major concerns.

[edit] improved summary.

I'm pretty sure that you do not think the correct response to a title including an age is to rant at the poster, to be rude and aggressive.

It's possible to express dissatisfaction with a title and to encourage better posting habits without being a jerk. I agree with your summary.

The problem isn't with HN being jerks to young people. The problem is with HN being jerks to anyone.

I agree that the correct response is definitely not being rude and aggressive, and that is true in pretty much every situation anyone ever comes across.

The main problem I think we have is that posts will continue to be 'link-baity' and some of those will be related to age. Each time one of these hits the front page the community will need to respond to it, and for the near future that response seems likely to be a reignition of this debate.

How do we educate 'drive-by-posters' who create an account simply to post an article (potentially with a link-bait title)? Is it up to moderators to change the title? Users to flag it? Should we just keep arguing about age in post titles?

I don't know the answer, but I think reasonable application of the posting guidelines is appropriate, and for me that means keeping the post title as relevant as possible. Most of the time, the age of the poster/developer is not relevant enough to be in the post title.

I for one think that they are "gaming the system," but I don't see that as a bad thing. It's great that these kids are entrepreneurial enough to proactively push their product. It's clearly a very effective way to title a post, and they aren't lying or doing anything unethical, so what's the problem? All I know is, if I was 14, I would definitely post my age, and I sure as hell wouldn't feel guilty about it.

It's not just the blog article. It's also the attitude of people that will berate a youngster for being young and going out on a limb to show what they've made and making the mistake of telling us their age. That age thing is not a qualifier of pride, it's a guide to the mental state and the amount of experience the poster has. What amazes me most is that after seeing how one young developer gets treated that the next one still dares to post at all.

Danilocampos is exactly right. As far as career advice or tech advice, if you think I can contribute regardless of age feel free to contact me as well, j@ww.com . I can't promise to always be immediately available but I'll do my best.

As a 17 year old, I disagree, regardless of age, if someone creates or does something that is considered impressive, they should receive credit based upon that - not because of an arbitrary number that supposedly relates to their ability.

Then I shall congratulate you for being well-encouraged and thick skinned in your world already. For everyone else lacking such good fortune, though, it would be nice if we could err on the side of being welcoming, rather than hostile.

I agree with you on that, but I also think, why should that not be extended to everyone no matter what age?

Because it is a grand human tradition to show extra kindness, attention and indulgence to the young, that they might be equipped to build a better world.

Someone helping me with a project is nice. Someone helping you with a project is an investment in the future. My neuroplasticity wanes with every passing year. Your mind remains limber. I am encumbered by obligations and debts, limiting my flexibility. You have infinitely more options.

Helping you is just a better bet than helping me. You're still on the launchpad, fuel tank still full. If there's something simple, like an encouraging comment or a thoughtful correction, that can be done to help you meet a wonderful trajectory, we should absolutely do it.

Arguing that one ought not to include their age is not akin to arguing that one ought to be hostile to young people. We should just not be inordinately soft in criticism. Doing otherwise just inhibits development of "thick skin."

The world is comprised predominately of people that either 1) don't like you or 2) are indifferent to you but don't like your work. That's not because their assholes, but just because they're aware of the flaws in you or your work. The sooner one experiences them, the sooner one can start to take advantage of their advice.

it relates to experience which in turn relates to ability.

someone who is 32yo has had the opportunity to gather at least double your experience.

so being young does have a meaning in 'scaling down' what is expected from you, at least as long we're posting on a friendly news website.

I agree with experience being fundamental to ability, but being a teenager does not mean that you have not had experience(albeit not all real world). For instance, a computer science graduate who is 23 and has only been programming while at university has four years experience. However, I have been programming since I was eight years old, and as a result have nine years experience. I am not trying to say that I have am a better developer then the graduate, but even being five years younger, I would have more than double the amount of experience.

Also, I have met plenty of people who below the age of 15 that were invited to Oxford and Cambridge for maths related events, and they had a greater ability than most the people in the room. So yes I think experience does play a major part, but it is not the only factor. If you have the dedication, then age is nothing but a number.

There are things in life you can fast track via focus and age is not really a factor as much as ability and discipline. There are other things that just take time and living through things. A lot of what produces success is a combination of both.

I think announcing your young age alongside your project is important because it opens up more opportunities for others to guide you and help fuel your passion and talent. Without the age, people will assume that the creator is old enough to know what they enjoy and what they want to pursue. But with the age, you'll have people with more experience saying "Since you obviously like X, you should look into Y and Z. Here are some great resources on those topics." Advice like that is invaluable and we should encourage scenarios that result in it.

The issue is that most posts that announce one's age don't result in guidance. They result in a chorus of "good jobs" that, although nice, don't offer any real constructive advice.

I've always postulated that one would get more actionable advice and sincere criticism if they did not include their age, and that age merely lowers the bar and dilutes the value of the discussion.

Including one's age might result in comments that make the poster feel better, but they won't make him code better.

That is very true. But that's on us for being disingenuous and watering ourselves down; not on the kids for revealing their age.

Yeah, this is a really important point. Part of good mentorship is exposing unknown unknowns. You've got way, way more of those the younger you are.

If this is in relation to http://vishnumenon.com/2013/01/21/im-35-months-old-and-i-mad... then I think you miss the point. I agree with the author of that and it is the most common sense post I've read, so far, regarding this issue. The reality is people posting their age doesn't simply mean "I am new at this. I know you guys aren't. I want you to check it out and give me encouragement and guidance." Simultaneously the people throwing out the "age is irrelevant" argument simply miss the point, also. I'm 19 and I've been programming for as long as I can remember starting with my shitty commodore64 hand-me-down. Along the years I have received much criticism and help and am immensely grateful to the people who took the time out to answer every question I had, trivial and otherwise - and believe me, there were plenty of them. However the idea of constructive criticism on HN, and sadly, in the hacker community at large is ironically more political than logical. "Criticism" seems to be code for "I'm smarter than you and I'll be damned if I don't make sure you know it." The hostility towards, not just kids, but people's projects in general borders on the pathological and that's what needs to be addressed. I wholeheartedly agree that kids who are building fun projects do need that nudge and that encouragement to go deeper down the rabbit hole, however we should indeed distinguish between encouragement and patting on the back. The problem is the risk of creating a Hollywoood mentality (Hollywood may be the bastion of acting but really most people are more attracted to the prospects of fame than actual acting). We need to give them encouragement that lets them enjoy the process, not just massaging their egos, and moreover we need to get them to enjoy constructive criticism and see it not as "boo-hoo they didn't like my stuff" but as "hmm I never thought about that." The reality is, the poisonous, know-it-all, thinly veiled political nature of our culture doesn't provide this.

That essay called mentioning age "manipulative," which is easily the most jackasstic thing I've seen on the subject. Whatever valid point might have been there was lost in the cold dismissiveness of the author's attitude.

So is your point that he was incorrect in stating that a lot of people post their age in order to get to the front page or that calling that action manipulative is wrong? The thesis of the post seemed to me to be if you make a product, focus on making the product better and everything else falls into place. Very fair bit of advice if you ask me. Furthermore, it states another related thing which is, how are you going to get any actual feedback when all the comments are either calling you an asshole or rallying around you, singing war cries. Now with regard to posting age, that's actually very variable why people do that, and from an objective standpoint I don't find anything wrong with that. However if what you're after is guidance then it's pretty obvious posting your age isn't going to get you much of that.

Calling that action manipulative is inherently hostile. That's counterproductive.

I'm 16 and Things I've written have made the front page twice, both times without mentioning my age. As a teenager, it feels really good to make the front page or #1 with no "omg they're young" bonus points.

Granted, it is encouraging to get bonus up votes for being young and achieving something.

There is a reason why there is an age of consent, why there is a youth criminal system, why there are age limits.

Some of you clearly lack empathy.

Two cents: I worry that we run the risk of acquiring that awful trend of reddit's to append some personal relation to every post (e.g. "My Brother did this...", "My SO made me a cake", etc) which has become a terribly abused trope.

The user account of the 14 year old kid who posted the Show HN that prompted this was a brand new account. The App Author was listed under a different name than the user account seemed to suggest. It screamed 'manipulation' to me.

I'm all for encouraging younger developers, but at a certain point you have to step back and evaluate whether we're promoting things based on merit or a sense of communal nepotism.

Agreed. I always make the time of day to talk to high school or college age kids aspiring to be in engineering or the sciences. Paying it forward if you will, because I got the same help when I was younger.

I'm all for people shipping. Age isn't really a part of it. What I'm not all for is people creating an account, posting the thing they're looking to promote and only posting in that thread - otherwise completely disengaged with the HN community.

You can argue that lurkers form part of that community. My counterpoint would be that if you create a specific account and post the thing you're trying to promote in the first 10 minutes, you haven't lurked enough.

Yes I know you can lurk without an account, but to reach the stage where that's considered acceptable you have to travel through if they felt they couldn't register an account for more than 5 minutes, if they felt they couldn't comment and plenty of other ifs, yet somehow they can create an account and post what they're promoting in 10 minutes, then only interact with people in their thread?

Young people should be encouraged. Aaron Swartz was 14 when he worked on RSS. But being young doesn't give you a free pass at being a spammer, and that's what kicked this whole thing off.

Other people shouldn't get encouragement and guidance and tolerance for their newness? Suggesting that you are an x years old child prodigy has become a cheap way of getting front page. If we are going to be nice to new projects we should be nice to them regardless of the claimed age of the author.

I didn't read this as exclusionary -- it's just a shorthand way of saying how much experience one has. Someone who is 35 could easily say "I have [X] number of years using [technique/technology]."

If someone doesn't indicate age or experience, the default would be to treat submissions or projects as the marketplace would.

Getting young people into science and technology is the single greatest professional duty any technologist has.

What? I don't understand this at all. The "single greatest professional duty any technologist" has is unique to that "technologist". If, for example, I'm a 23yo kid who just graduated uni and in my first job, do you think for a second that I give a #$(* about "getting young people into science and technology"? Of course not. I'm so busy trying to figure basic life out that I don't have time for that sort of thing.

If I'm a 33yo dad who wants to start my own business, I don't care one whit about 'getting young people into science and technology' b/c, between working 60 hours a week and changing my kids' diapers, I'm sleeping.

Good for teens - glad for them - but this statement is just silly.

I'm a 19 year old and when I got into college I remember thinking that I would love to interview prospective students after I graduated.

Maybe you don't care about mentoring young people, but there are certainly many, many people who care a lot about that.

Maybe you don't care about mentoring young people

I carefully crafted my reply and for you to mistakenly read that into it made me go back and re-read my reply. I don't see where you get that I say that I "don't care about mentoring young people". Please take the time to point out where/what part I seem to imply that I don't care about mentoring young people. Actually, hell, I'll make it easier for you: point out where I state my opinion about what I prefer at all.

Please - before you misquote, misunderstand, and then slag someone, take the time to re-read what they've written. Maybe it's your reading comprehension that was the problem rather than their post.

And besides, "there are certainly many, many people who care a lot about" (insert anything ever here). There always has been and always will be. Stating the obvious doesn't really help here.

The part that got me to think that was when you said:

> I don't care one whit about 'getting young people into science and technology

Sorry if I misunderstood, and maybe we're just arguing between "mentoring" and "getting young people into tech," but I was referring to your sentiment as opposed to some exact wording.

I think you need to check your ego and re-read what I wrote without an outside bias. Maybe English isn't your first language and that's causing some block for you - I don't know. But to yet again quote me out of context just highlights how poor your reading comprehension is for a second time.

Protip: I'm not a 33yo dad who wants to start a business.

I read a couple of days ago a blog post written by a 17 years old in which he was stating a rather interesting fact. He was saying he prefers to omit mentioning his age on forums and discussion boards (such as HN) because he wants to be critiqued for his work regardless of his age.

I found that to be incredibly accurate. Most of the kids want to just show-off their projects, but there are still a lot of them who want genuine critique.

So, if you want to get real opinions about your project and you post on HN or reddit, you should put on your big boy pants.

I agree. Kids post their age to get attention. They want experienced devs to take a look at their code/app/project. Lets help them! All you need to do is a upvote or comment.

In a lot of communities, the "this is my first post" is often celebrated. On HN it definitely is not, which is kind of strange. Glad you put this out there danilo.

Maybe a question of size. In a small communities, everybody knows everybody. Here, it is not the case, we do not look the persons, just the result.

Age part should not be thrown away. There are lots of young people out there, myself included, that are in need of advice, tips and help( even saying that something I've done is wrong and bringing some arguments, suggestions and whatever you thing it is useful is better than nothing, at least I know where to start improving my skills and work)

Let's treat all fellow human beings this way. We are all kids at heart.

We are all seeking approval.

Why admonish or dismiss anyone? What good does it do?

I don't mean to diminish from your point, because I think it is absolutely correct.

It sounds like this was inspired by a single incident, so is this really as large a problem as described? Also, for a fun game, replace the word "attention" with "money."

This is an ongoing bad attitude, actually. This was just the latest example. Kids who post their age often have their comments devolve into moronic arguments about whether their age should really matter.

Yeah, pretty much every "I'm X and I made X" thread I've seen has turned into a battle between people flaming the person for being young and the people praising them.


Who killed the thread?

My name is Kabir, and I am looking for young, motivated, and passionate individuals to help me with my great startup idea. If you are willing to talk, shoot me an e-mail at; KabirKumar@me.com

Lets get to work!

Wrong place, wrong time. Better to learn the trade by yourself!

Yah... I'm reading this as you wanting to exploit them.

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