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Poll: How old are you?
122 points by mixmax on Mar 15, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 124 comments
I just read this comment http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=516949 and noticed that a few wellknown usernames talked about their age, and were in their 40's and 50's. I was surprised because I thought the crowd here was mainly young.

So I thought I'd make a poll to see how old you guys all are.

Don't pick more than one ;-)

25 - 29
635 points
20 - 24
607 points
30 - 34
309 points
35 - 39
162 points
15 - 19
146 points
40 - 44
86 points
45 - 49
39 points
50 - 54
22 points
55 - 59
11 points
60 or over
11 points
under 15
8 points

Graph, updated every hour: http://koldfront.dk/misc/hn/age.png (until I kill the cronjob :-))

Great minds think alike! http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=517447

(EDIT) I deleted my comment, because I like your chron idea much better (BTW, what'd you use for the scraping?)

Here's the direct link.


Like I said in the original, glad to update it if anybody likes the 3-D that much better.

Cool! I didn't see yours before posting mine... (I get a 403 Forbidden currently?)

Yeah. You have to hit refresh to see the graph. It won't work if the referrer is an outside site. Had too many people lifting bandwidth and needed to stop it.

Cool. What are you using to draw the graph?

I'm using curl to get the page, piping it into a simple one-off Perl-script that produces a comma-separated file, which in turn is read by a tiny R script, which then produces the graph.

you don't happen to still have the hourly scrapes do you? A line graph showing when age-groups were online/voting might be of interest. (I noticed that 20-24 was first, and has dropped to 2nd now)

No, it was a quick hack late at night, and I didn't think of archiving the data - sorry.

20 here and I like the community here because people of all different ages can talk without any form of disrespect or judgement based on age, experience, or any other factor.

I'm also 20 and I've been on HN for a while now, I believe the reason I stayed here but at no other news site is that everyone tries to give an intelligent point of view, and the people who don't often get modded down. I've said things I was sure would get downmodded and ended up getting a couple of points for because I made a good but not necessarily popular point.

I've read so many comments here that I've completely disagreed with, but they always give a valid point or opinion.

Saying stuff like that makes you sound young and inexperienced. That counts more than your actual age :P

Sometimes I forget how accomplished some of the people here can be. I just think of it as 'the blob.'


16. And I kid you not, I feel old when these 11 year olds are besting me with their jQuery and CSS skills and whatnot.

And the Microsoft Professional certificates, the iPhone apps, etc.

I'm also 16. But I don't think these are very important things to know, then again, I like CS more than programming.

Heh, yeah.

I'm more of a business guy. To each their own.

Hi Steve, have you met Steve?

Here's a histogram of ages, as they appear right now in the poll. It seems they follow a poisson distribution peaking around 27.











Histogram of HN ages.... at midday on a Sunday :-)

sad isn't it?


I think he means the histogram might look different at a different time.

Why would you call it poisson?

Because it looks like one (compared to Gaussian it's skewed):


It looks a bit like one, but it could be any group of others. Poisson distributions would be used normally in a circumstance that resembles an arrival process (say hits to a web server), but not for a distribution like ages on a site like this.

27.. phew .. my guess was 16.

I feel better now.

I just read this comment ... and noticed that a few wellknown usernames talked about their age, and were in their 40's and 50's. I was surprised because I thought the crowd here was mainly young.

Hey bub, who you calling not young?

hey - you've got a full beard :-)

That's great.

Using the current histogram, I've got socks that are older than 40% of the posters here.

Or maybe, since it is a weekend, all of us senior citizen programmers are all out surfing, caving, working on our tans, and skydiving. It's the young lamers that are here doing polls on HN.

Some of us still have dues to pay. I'm at least 6 months from building and selling my first startup, then retiring.

Same here, I have been 6 months away from selling my startup and then retiting for around ten years.

My last computer class was in high school--1968. I have owned a personal computer for over 30 years now. Alas, most of my contemporaries have let the leading edge pass them by. I won't allow that to happen to me.

if you had a computer class in high school in 1968, you went to an awesome school!

If I'm 25, do I select 20-25 or 25-30?

First option is "under 15". From this you can infer pretty straight forwardly that the next option "15 - 20" means ">= 15 and < 20". (why would he skip the age 15?) ( But you have to read the last option pretty liberally :-) )

Now that I think about this, I realize that there is always one guy in every class who sits in the first row, lifting his hand to ask a question like this :-)

Also, I'm guessing until probably about age 45, people feel better about hitting the next age bracket so they'll mark the older one if there's any overlap.

I don't know man .. I'm coming up on 30 in August, and I'm not sure I feel that great about it .. the whole closer to 40 than 20 thing, without feeling like I've done enough that really matters yet ..

No kidding. I felt like a failure at 20 because I hadn't accomplished anything or gotten rich, yet. Now I'm 35, and I still haven't. :/

I'm 34 and I still haven't figured out what I want to be when I grow up! The graph definitely shows I'm over the hill and fast sliding down the back side. Bummer.

Nah. I turn 44 soon and I still have to do the math to figure out how old I am cause I just don't think about it much. "Lay ordinate and abscissa on the century. Now cut me a quadrant; third quadrant if you please, I was born in '65"

Wonder how many know what that's from :-p

Ah, sorry, stupid mistake on my part. Pick 25 - 30

It should, of course go like this:

under 15

15 - 24

25 - 29

30 - 34

35 - 39

40 - 44

45 - 49

50 - 54

55 - 59

60 or over

There seems to be no way to edit poll choices :-(

I fixed them.



Take the limit as 25.0000....

Excellent point. The alternatives given should 15, 16-20, 21-25 etc.

Given this you should pick 20-25 (21-25) if you're 25.

Most programmers have the habit of using asymmetric bounds i.e. lower bound included, upper bound excluded.

Age doesn't matter. This poll should read something like "I started programming on 1) an Abacus 2) IBM mainframes, punchcards, etc... 3) Apple II 4) Commodore 64, 5) IBM PC, etc... Feel free to take the idea and do another poll. I'm too tired/busy.

Just because it doesn't matter does not mean we can't ask it. It's interesting to find out the age distribution of HN despite any practical (or other) purpose.

Its a "just for giggles" kind of thing.

So was my answer, but it was missing a smiley or two and the right tone, I guess. Tired/busy, as I said:-)

That is not what I meant.

Your post is sarcastic and belittling. mixmax's post is curious and intriguing.

When I said "just for giggles", I said it with curiosity in mind, not sarcasm.

> "I'm too tired/busy."

I hope you feel better.

Hey, I am definitely tired, but 'belittling'? Not at all what I was aiming for, sorry if you perceived it that way. It was just a random comment about the fact that people's 'computer age' might be determined by what sort of environment they started out with.


Sorry, then. I take back what I said earlier. Your first choice of 'abacus' sounded sarcastic to me. I guess I shouldn't judge so quickly.

In that sense, I think the idea of how someone got started in programming is an excellent poll topic.

EDIT: I was not trying to imply anything when I said "I hope you feel better". Please don't take it the wrong way.

"TI calculator" option missing.

That's where I started, too

cdc 3400 and ibm 1130 missing


I started programming on a TRS-80 Model III (in my physics teacher's office in HS), but the first one I actually owned was a TRS-80 Micro Color Computer. Not quite as old as the PC, but missed it by just a few years.

Straw polls are interesting, but full of bias. For example, older users are more likely to be in a relationship and/or have children, making participation on a weekend less likely.

There is also no way to tell how many people saw the poll, but chose not to vote.

And these kind of polls make me feel old at 25... I hate them :-)

Tell me about it, I'm twenty-six so imagine how old I feel!

Ha, I see your 26, sir and raise you 29.

However, I don't feel a day over 12.

I raise you 41. I am way past the peak, though I still enjoying programming as much as I always did.

I just use guile and experience, rather than brute force. I'm working on iPhone apps now, and trying to rely on taste and thoughtfulness to separate myself from the crowd (barely working).

26 + 29 + 41 = 96


well I'm closer to 26 than 25 (2 more months) but I'm in denial over it...

27. I win.

I'm 20 and feel old.

Three cheers for the Long Tail!

It's not an exclusive club though. It only takes a little time.

I'm 29 going on 30 this year which means, given the results here, that I am on my way down and out. Either that or I'm at the crest of a wave that will move and break as we all die off. Morbid ...

(edit) Latest histogram at 50% scale:












Can you scale it so it doesn't break the page width?

Hopefully, this version is better.

I'll try.

I'm 34.

There's a similar poll from Dec. 2008 at Stack Overflow: "How old are you, and how old were you when you first started coding?": http://stackoverflow.com/questions/327973/how-old-are-you-an...

Looks like that crowd is fairly young (twenties and thirties).

I have to say the most intruguing stat is the under 20 group. I would imagine one or 2 but nearly 90 people seems suprisingly large. I wouldnt have expected that many people finding an interest here at that age.

(Hypocritically I probably would have found it interesting at that age :D).

EDIT: Im 22 incidentally.

Someone better than me at math should say how many votes we need to have a 95% accuracy.

The key issue is being good at statistics, not math. The data can't be relied on to make such an inference because they are not from a random sample of the relevant population.


One professor of statistics, who is a co-author of a highly regarded AP statistics textbook, has tried to popularize the phrase that "voluntary response data are worthless" to go along with the phrase "correlation does not imply causation." Other statistics teachers are gradually picking up this phrase.

[quote=Paul Velleman]

-----Original Message----- From: Paul Velleman [SMTPfv2@cornell.edu] Sent: Wednesday, January 14, 1998 5:10 PM To: apstat-l@etc.bc.ca; Kim Robinson Cc: mmbalach@mtu.edu Subject: Re: qualtiative study

Sorry Kim, but it just aint so. Voluntary response data are worthless. One excellent example is the books by Shere Hite. She collected many responses from biased lists with voluntary response and drew conclusions that are roundly contradicted by all responsible studies. She claimed to be doing only qualitative work, but what she got was just plain garbage. Another famous example is the Literary Digest "poll". All you learn from voluntary response is what is said by those who choose to respond. Unless the respondents are a substantially large fraction of the population, they are very likely to be a biased -- possibly a very biased -- subset. Anecdotes tell you nothing at all about the state of the world. They can't be "used only as a description" because they describe nothing but themselves.[/quote]


For more on the distinction between statistics and mathematics, see




Surely it's incorrect to make a blanket statement that voluntary response data is worthless. Worthless means there is zero information in the data, which would only be true in extreme cases.

I think Professor Velleman promotes "Voluntary response data are worthless" as a slogan for the same reason an earlier generation of statisticians taught their students the slogan "correlation does not imply causation." That's because common human cognitive errors run strongly in one direction on each issue, so the slogan has take the cognitive error head-on. Of course, a distinct pattern in voluntary responses tells us SOMETHING (maybe about what kind of people come forward to respond), just as a correlation tells us SOMETHING (maybe about a lurking variable correlated with both things we observe), but it doesn't tell us enough to warrant a firm conclusion about facts of the world. The Literary Digest poll


is a spectacular historical example of a voluntary response poll that didn't give a correct picture of reality at all.

It's effectively worthless because it needs to be qualified so heavily. Dropping the qualification (as will happen sometimes) makes it more like misinformation, which is worse than worthless, so it averages out to zero...

"The median poll selection of a HN visitor who clicked on a poll which was on the front page on the following weekdays (and national holidays in the following countries:...) was..." etc.

If the information content is sufficiently hard to extract usefully that it would be easier to redo the sample in a sensible way, then you could call the sample worthless. (A bit like uneconomic oil reserves).

So, doesn't that just mean that a statistically significant portion of the regular HN users would have to respond?

Of course, you'd have to figure out how to define "regular HN users" and what would be a significant portion of them.

If this poll were to get that much response, it would also tell you something interesting: that HN users respond to polls in statistically significant numbers :)

So, voluntary response polls are not worthless if enough people voluntarily respond to them, but this is a tricky problem.

> So, doesn't that just mean that a statistically significant portion of the regular HN users would have to respond?

No. If 50% of HN visitors voted but 99% of those over 40 didn't (due to whatever confounding factor you like - say embarrasment), you'd still wouldn't be able to extrapolate from the sample to the category of "HN visitors".

Correct. It doesn't matter how large a sample size is if the sample is biased. This should be something that every high school student knows after any high school statistics course, but it is a crucial consideration that is widely ignored.

although we can all think of an edge case.. (especially if we know how the sample is biased)

eg: a gender survey in the general population that transgender respondees do not answer -- ends up with a 99% sample size (all but the transgenders) -- and thus gives a pretty significant bit of data on male:female ratios, etc..

Agreed in principle though.

No information is better than misinformation.

I'd argue that entirely depends on the context :) it's a bit of a blanket statement.

True some of the time, but not all of the time.

For the record I agree that the chances of the data exactly replicating the reality is minimal.

If nothign else because the youngsters here are more likely to respond (and also respond correctly) even though it is anonymous :)

But even allowing for that I would reckon we can use the data to extrpolate a few guesses. For example the high number of under 20's votes (I imagine these beign the most accurate numbers because of the deomgraphic too).

Plus of course this place is probably more likely to generate valid responses because of the general demographic. I would expect the data to be more accurate than a similar poll on, say, welovebritneyspears.com :)

So, yes (and to abuse a much overused maxim :D), voluntary poll data is untrustworthy. But some are more untrustworthy than others ;)

This is very interesting - does anyone know just how many of the polls we see on TV or in magazines are voluntary response polls? Should we be ignoring their results?

Intesting Anecdote: NDTV 24x7 (something like CNN in India) had extensive polls in the last (2004) election where they predicted a huge victory for the BJP party. They had poll results state-wise and interviews with eminent psephologists and so on, all predicting a resounding victory.

In the end, BJP lost - and quite badly too! Lies, damned lies, and statistics...

This is very interesting - does anyone know just how many of the polls we see on TV or in magazines are voluntary response polls?

Polls in general interest magazines, especially women's magazines, are usually wholly unreliable for modeling reality. (One thing that happens is the college-age men stuff the supply of replies full of phony responses, especially if the survey is about some salacious topic such as sexual behavior.)

I responded to a telephone call that came to my home phone number from Gallup Poll a few weeks after the United States presidential election. Gallup attempts to proactively call all households in the United States, and to correct for households that refuse to answer its calls. The interviews are quite long, and they ask a lot of demographic questions for stratifying the data gathered. If my caller I.D. box had not said "Gallup Poll," I never would have picked up my phone for a cold call. I got another poll call just this weeked, and many years ago got a call from the Harris Poll. The major polling companies attempt to actively gather random data samples, so what they do is distinguishable from voluntary response. But a magazine that writes a little sidebar "email your response to [email address]" is simply gathering worthless data. The same is true of TV stations that tell viewers to cell-phone text a response to some number they designate, or websites that have a poll form for anyone who surfs by.

If you are gathering data to improve a website, you are much better off conducting a live usability study in which you observe the user directly than simply polling visitors who voluntarily respond.

I couldn't find a figure on the number of registered HN users, so I used the recent number of daily unique IPs from http://ycombinator.com/newsnews.html. That number is 22,000.

For a confidence level of 95% with a confidence interval of 4%, we'd need 584 votes.

I'd imagine there's a lot of science to polling which this calculation probably ignores.

For a confidence level of 95% with a confidence interval of 4%, we'd need 584 votes.

I'd imagine there's a lot of science to polling which this calculation probably ignores.

Yep, everything about being sure we have an unbiased sample, which is not likely for a question like this.

What does your calculation say about the grouping of the data into categories?

I don't think the calculation says anything about the grouping of data. Or does it?

If you have an unbiased sample of 584 votes and 60% of the sample responded "25 - 30", could you say with 95% confidence that 60% (+/-4%) of the sampled population would select "25 - 30"?

We need the confidence thingy for this online community giving information about their age.

Interestingly enough, it seems that most respondents fall between 20-25 with the next largest group being 25-30.

>I was surprised because I thought the crowd here was mainly young.

Maybe there is something about being +40 that compels one to disclose one's age?

most respondents

Good on you to say "most respondents" rather than "most users." This voluntary response poll will tell us nothing reliable about most users of HN, even if more than half of all users respond (which is not particularly likely). See


(you are probably familiar with the example, but this is posted for onlookers) for an example of a poll with a huge sample size that still got the wrong answer.

Equating that example to this poll is heading to very shaky territory. I can tgink of plenty of factors that would indicate both why that was an incredibly innacurrate poll (and polling method) and why a poll here on HN is probably going to produce at least soem form of workable data :)

Being almost 40 I would say that the opposite is true ;-)

A lot of us young whippersnappers like to state our age. We feel that youth, for some reason, makes us more likely to know things. We young whippersnappers are kinda dumb that way.

Just wait a few years, and you'll be able to be dumb in a different way, like us old farts, thinking we know something.

To what degree do these results reflect the likelihood of responding rather than the actual demographics? I actually think younger people may be slightly more inclined to respond.

32 here. There have been a few other discussions around this: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=63294

33 1st time entrepreneur. I use to feel old as when I started at 31 YC seemed to only fund the 22 to 27 yr old age group.

Though I graduated college late too @ 26, which I thought then too I was way old. Now as I get older I don't care so much, but understand this mind sets comes from society saying college 18 to 24 and 25 to early 30s married w/kids. If you don't follow you feel like an oddball or that people view you that way and unfortunately they do; experience w/extended family.

Overall ... Im enjoying my entrepreneurial ride and hopefully in time will lead me to the supposed societal normal life.

33 1st time entrepreneur.

Yup same :-)

Apparently I'm old enough in this population that I will have to end all my posts with "you young whippersnapper." from here on out.

Golly - more teenagers than 40+ (as of 7:30 PDT).

age 22 is peak. After 25 is downhill - though I feel ok. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/4995...

53 here. :)

Just outta curiosity... How did u put those vote up buttons in your post? :D

Thanks alot. I'm happy that there are real hackers who can remember that they even had a first time in learning something. The real hackers share.

The lamers just blame away the "askers". In HNs case the lamers 'reducing points' (at their will). I believe that those lamers think that they are 'born knowing everything' & haven't ever heard the phrase "With great power comes great responsibility".

By the way, pg obscured the polling feature deliberatly to keep polls down to a minimum.

Looks to be closer to a Gaussian, not Poisson, distribution to me.

The jump from 34 to 35 kills a lot of people...

Mentally young, physically old.

I just turned 24 today :D

Happy birthday ! :)

Well it looks like your original conception was correct: 89.5% of users are younger than 40ish

Under 15: 0%

15-20: 8.5%

20-25: 33%

25-30: 31%

30-35: 12%

35-40: 5%

40-45: 5%

50-55: .5%

55-60: .5%

60+: .5%

> 89.5% of users

Who participate in online polls on Sunday evenings and happened to see this one.

ok, who's the oldest founder of a startup selected by YC?

you need to change it to finer selection from 16-30



16 points

I'm 118. I refuse to click the 60 and over category as those young whippersnappers are beneath me.

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