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Poll: What is your age?
328 points by xijuan on Apr 12, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 300 comments
It would be interesting to know which age group(s) HN readers consist mostly of. Please be honest and click one answer only!
26 to 30
2751 points
21 to 25
2363 points
31 to 35
1640 points
36 to 40
746 points
16 to 20
600 points
41 to 45
385 points
46 to 50
183 points
over 90
169 points
under 10
133 points
51 to 55
98 points
56 to 60
61 points
11 to 15
52 points
86 to 90
43 points
81 to 85
38 points
76 to 80
35 points
61 to 65
34 points
71 to 75
32 points
66 to 70
29 points
I clicked more than one options above
25 points

The most significant result of this poll is that HN now seems to be past the point where we can rely on an honor system to prevent users from giving junk answers to polls. A few years ago we could. That's an unfortunate change.

However, it's an ill wind that blows no good. When I'm done reading applications, I'll add a little tweak to HN to make the fonts super big for all the users over 80.

PG, have you considered that many (though granted not all) of the "junk" answers may due to the hacker mentality, people asking themselves questions like "what if I choose more than one option, will it let me?", "what if I 'accidentally' select the wrong answer, can I undo it?", "What if too many people give implausible answers, can it be corrected for or will the poll be junked?" and so on. Hackers - tinkers and the curious.

Working in survey based stats all day, I can tell you that the easiest junk answers to filter out are the ones you're seeing at the moment. The plausible looking results you used to get aren't necessarily as good as you think they were.

"have you considered that many (though granted not all) of the "junk" answers may due to the hacker mentality"

What I find more interesting is that this thread has been allowed to survive rather than being downmodded. And that tells me that some influential HN'ers consider the responses to this survey meaningful - either individually or in aggregate. One of the often ignored aspects of HN is that to a meaningful degree it is an extension of people's workplaces. I find it handy to remember that when participating.

I rather doubt that the point of the survey is actually collecting data on HN'ers ages. Detailed demographic information about people on the internet is readily obtainable from other sources.

On the other hand, information about who is likely to "vandalize" HN is more difficult to collect and highly relevant, and this is the jist of PG's response as I read it. I couldn't really come up with a better term for crapping on a poll than "vandalize." The scare quotes are there because what is happening is normal internet behavior.

Perhaps the vandalism is somewhat invited by the absurdity of the youngest age and the quasi-absurdity of the oldest - does it really matter from an HN demographic standpoint to distinguish between those over 80 and those over 90 - both cohorts must have came to computing as adults.

Not that this excuses the behavior, and perhaps the invitation to vandalism is intentional because the wording and presentation of many attempts at data collection via ASK HN is awkward enough to invite meanness of which vandalism is one form.

[EDIT] Indeed, the creator of the poll claims to be studying quantitative psychology.

That sounds fine in theory but in reality anyone with a hacker mentality should see that the poll is obviously based on the honor system and is simply a series of options to upvote without actually attempting to ruin the results.

I present, No True Hacker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman). Some hackers are interested in the results of the poll. Some resent any effort by anyone to collect their personal information. Some just wanted to click all the buttons, to see if they could. None of these are more or less valid than any other viewpoint, and it's silly to argue about what this portends for the HN community.

Whether you're interested in the poll or not is no reason to vandalize it.

Being unwilling to share personal information is no reason to vandalize it.

Wanting to "click all the buttons" is only a valid excuse if you are under the age of 8.

What's silly is defending the dickheads who purposely ruin the poll.

The use of the word 'vandalize' is kind of interesting to me, because it's usually used in a physical context to mean destroying or damaging something of value. It's kind of like using 'steal' for IP infringement; there's the argument to be made that theft implies the loss of something for one party, as much as the gain for another. This isn't really vandalism, in the same way that downloading songs isn't theft. Neither is morally right, but it's a sort of emotional appeal to compare it to someone throwing a brick through your window.

Was phreaking illegal? Totally. Was it unethical? Yes. Do we not consider it a part of hacker history and culture? You can disagree with people and say what they did was not morally sound, but it's silly to say people don't belong on a hacker site because they have an anarchist kind of worldview.

Vandalize is totally appropriate. The value of the poll may be minimal but they are still destroying it.

This isn't nearly as interesting of a discussion as you think it is.

> This isn't nearly as interesting of a discussion as you think it is.

I'm glad we found someone who can objectively decide what's interesting! Now you can suggest books and movies to me! Do you work for Netflix?

But seriously, I never made a value judgement about the poll. The poll costs real time, and real money to host. But data from a poll is not a window. Adding noise into a poll is not breaking a window.

This blatant inaccuracy is actually harmless, because it basically invalidates the two buckets which were already going to be an insignificant part of the poll. Absent any response I would've said those buckets are there to absorb troublemakers, but pg's response implies I'm giving him too much credit. The bigger risk is people who are fudging by one or two buckets, giving plausible but inaccurate data. Hell, the whole poll could actually be inaccurate, but we're focusing on the fact that there are a few joke responses which can be discarded safely.

They didn't just click in the < 10 and > 90 sections which, yes, were obviously not useful. They clicked everywhere else too, putting noise into the other fields.

I get to decide this isn't interesting because I'm half of the discussion. And I'm telling you, this is boring.

You are now 1/3rd of the discussion and I find it interesting! Looks like you don't decide anything anymore!

Your use of "vandalize" is certainly too strong and calling people names generally shows a lack or argument. Yet (somewhat unexpectedly) you raise an interesting question, in your first two sentences: if you disagree with something (law/HN poll/etc) how far can you go before it becomes unacceptable? Your view would rule out all kinds of protests that interfere with the process that is being protested.

I think that is too wide a definition of unacceptable.

It seems that vandalizing the poll goes against the wishes of the site owner, and might be a felony under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Saying its 'vandalism' is just hubris. Isn't asking if people under 10 or over 90 are using the site in itself setting the poll up for failure? I tend to run with the edict that if you ask a stupid question, you should expect a stupid answer.

According to the poll, there are plenty of people under 8 on here.

> in reality anyone with a hacker mentality should see that the poll is obviously based on the honor system

While sure, this might be the case, it still doesn't negate the fact that fundamentally, HN's arrows (of all kinds) should be able to be "undone". Accidents happen, people are curious. We shouldn't blame the users for a system that is broken and relies on them to ignore long-standing standard UX practices when it comes to these types of elements. This poll could have only been abused so far if users were only allowed to pick one, even if they chose to pick the wrong one. Given how long people have been complaining about this, it doesn't surprise me they take advantage of it for the sake of proving a point.

Actually, in a poll, you don't change your mind, it would kinda break the purpose :)

In an ideal world, we should not even be allowed to see the results before voting, since it could bias us (it should not in this kind of poll, of course).

It isn't even necessarily about changing your mind, it's about misclicking. It's like filling in the wrong bubble of a Scantron form and the answer automatically being sent as soon as you put the pencil on paper. It shouldn't be making those assumptions until you verify that's the response you want to send. On multiple occasions I've clicked a radio button in a form thinking it was the most relevant to me before reading the rest of them (which is not really relevant to this poll in particular, but how the interaction should be treated regardless).

But I definitely agree the responses should not be visible until you've voted.

pg's point still stands. If I wanted to know that, I wouldn't screw up an existing poll but I would start one of my own for that purpose and invite folks to test it with me.

You know sometimes on My tablet touchscreen (iPad) I go to click a link, or arrow in this case, and my fat fingers cause it to register the wrong one. I'd suggest making the arrows bigger and the vertical space between them larger too.

Anyone who knows the functionality of HN (I would expect a hacker to) knows that you could choose/upvote multiple answers.

If that font change comes with a proportional increase in the size of the voting arrows our younger brethren will be kicking themselves for their honest answer.

On a serious note, I'm surprised to see you offering this specific post as a bellwether - by my memory we've seen basically identical versions of this at least a half a dozen times with similar results. It doesn't seem like there's a big gap between something like this and a "what's your favorite snack chip brand" to me.

I really do appreciate the quality you've maintained by having an opinionated moderation system, but between this and a few other recent comments like "we're keeping track of the people who vote up these dumb comments and considering retroactive punishments [to the voters]" it's really kicked the open contempt for your users vibe up a good notch as compared to a year or two ago.

That said, you can't argue with the results. The active story position penalties especially are spot on 9 times out of 10 and really improve things.

> When I'm done reading applications, I'll add a little tweak to HN to make the fonts super big for all the users over 80.

I'm in my mid-20s, I did not vote dishonestly in this poll, but I wish you'll make the change for me anyway.

The small font on a 1080p screen (13" screen) is practically unreadable for me. I have to zoom in about 150% to make out anything.

Some browsers have a handy feature called "minimum font size."

Firefox: http://i.imgur.com/m2doXpX.png

Chrome: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/minimum-font/pofdg...

The images and everything else would still be unusually small though.

I've used a minimum font size of 16 for years in Safari, and boy does it break most layouts, mostly because of the size mismatch with images.

Hardly anything remains usable - I had to install this extension to go along with it: http://www.cerimorgan.com/products/zoombysite/

You need minimum zoom, not minimum font size. Unfortunately Safari does not have that, which is one of the reasons I do not use it.

Depends. HN works best with Safari's minimum font size, which nicely brings all the fonts to a uniform, readable size. For every other site I use ZoomBySite to find the zoom level at which the layout starts working.

Some of us old farts use Ctrl + to get around such issues.

That's what OP was using, and someone else was suggesting to use a minimum font size instead. I wonder if there is a way to change the zoom level at the OS if everything is too small, not just the web browser, but that would defeat the purpose of having an hd screen.

Also does the zoom level in your browser affect the resolution of videos/images? It seems like it would.

Most OS have the possibility to adjust screen dot pitch (ppi, pixels per inch). Using a "high resolution" display (like my 23"@2048x1152, or an Apple "retina" display).

Technically, setting your font to be eg 14 points, should be an absolute size - the same font should be the same dimensions (in mm/inches) on all displays. Now, you probably hold your smartphone closer to your face than you sit to your 30" LCD screen -- so that might not really be what you want (same font size on your phone and on your desktop screen).

Additionally this only works for scalable graphics -- which is why Apple went trough such hoops to make retina displays usable -- quadruple the dot pitch on screens, and all icons and bitmaps become miniatures.

Personally I just use the browser zoom-function -- I find most sites use too small fonts, and end up with too wide text columns (which is somewhat alleviated by not browsing full screen, but in a "long" window).

Anyway, the following might be of interest:

Xorg, dpi: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Xorg#Display_Size_and_D...

Windows (8) dpi/zoom: http://nvidia.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/3153/~/ad...

Some notes from Microsoft on writing DPI-aware applications: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd464646(VS.85).aspx

On Windows, devs rarely care about DPI issues, largely because they either never heard about the problems, thought "oh my GUI abstraction will take care of it" or think that the market share of non-standard DPI settings is too low.

Yes. It's annoying. Asus has a 13-inch 1080p Windows 7 laptop and everything so tiny that it is basically unusable out of the box.

Android does not have this problem since devs always use dp (density independent pixel) as units of measurement and OEMs choose good DPI values when they are releasing devices.

Although less gracefully, iOS solves this problem too (by doubling the resolution and scaling everything by two).

The problem is, it is annoying to manually zoom in on every single website. It should be automatic.

That is why one should scale images in ems. Old enough to remember when programming.

This doesn't actually work in Chrome, you have to also set a user stylesheet to override the -webkit- css property that forces exact pixel sizes of fonts.

Chrome has a default zoom setting. I have it at 150%.

Have you considered a user.js script? I'm using one to fill in the white borders and wrap comments at a reasonable width:

  // ==UserScript==
  // @match https://news.ycombinator.com/*
  // ==/UserScript==
  (function () {
    document.body.style.backgroundColor = "#f6f6ef";
    var s = document.createElement('style');
    s.innerText = "td.default {max-width: 40em; }";
(For Chrome, name the file hn.user.js and drag/drop it onto the chrome://extensions page.)

If you just want to increase font size for a website/short time. Almost every browser can do so by doing ctrl(cmd)+ or -.

I've been here for some time and I usually agree/upvote pg's comments, not because of reverence to him or because I'm start-struck but because, well, the man is a well of wisdom (I regularly buy Hackers and Painters and give it away as presents to the young students I mentor. And OK, I may be a bit star-struck, too.)

This is his first comment I disagreed completely and downvoted. As a personal policy I downvote any comment here that gives the old "HN has deteriorated, it's going the way of X" hash without presenting any evidence other than gut feeling. Now, this being pg, it's true that his gut feeling about HN may trump yours or mine. Still, looking at the results of a personal poll and concluding that the HN honor system is broken is too strong a conclusion for me.

When I'm asked a question about my gender/age/ethnicity, if I can get away with it (e.g. no possible jail time :-) I either choose "other/not want to disclose" or if that's not an option give wrong answers. My reasoning behind that, quaint as it may seem, is that these things shouldn't matter; it's generally wrongheaded to collect this information. Knowing the browser/editor/proglang/personal hero/etc that HN'ers think is the best is a nice poll. Asking about their age/gender/ethnicity is definitely, I think, not.

Since there was no "Don't want to disclose" option here, I marked my age as "under 10" as a sort of protest against this poll. Stupid? Maybe. But it wasn't because I don't believe in the HN honor system.

This poll was optional, and you could have simply ignored it.

Your action was exactly the type of thing PG's talking about. In the past, the community at large either would have been truthful or simply not responded. Now, a significant portion of the community is responding non-truthfully. Your motivation doesn't matter: whether it was "not believing in the honor system", or "protesting against the poll", or anything else, you still contributed to the pollution of the data.

I thought I made my reasoning clear in my comment on why I chose not to ignore it. I disagree with having polls such as these on HN (as well as asking people about their gender and race).

According to your logic, people should just ignore posts on HN that they disagree with rather than writing comments, the "if you disagree, just leave" approach.

Maybe I overreacted and should have just commented on this poll and and not marked a wrong age bracket. OTOH, I at least commented on my motivation to to do. The motivation of the other $n people (currently 121-1 = 120 under 10) is mostly opaque.

Not sure what's more ridiculous - that you took the time to skew a perfectly reasonable poll, or that you expected anyone to understand your tortuous logic in doing so.

Just because you personally don't like coffee doesn't mean you should go out of your way to defecate in someone else's mug.

I disagree that this was "a perfectly reasonable poll", from that pov I think my logic may not be that torturous.

I suppose if you really are convinced a poll is harmful.

Maybe a more apt analogy would have been knocking that Triple Whopper out of someone's hand before they clog their arteries? :P

While I disagree that responding falsely was a better move than simply not responding at all, I agree with your point about hn quality lamentations.

As someone who came to hn after "the good ol' days", I would much prefer to see constant reminders of "That's not how we do things here" than "Man, things sure have gotten bad". Entropy is the norm; everything degrades without constant force applied.

One thing I've learned here is that it's much better to encourage what you like than bitch about things sucking.

I don't like the posts that say "weird new tool that everyone but you has heard about has released a new version!" I tried criticizing those posts and got downvoted, probably legitimately.

But my #1 upvoted comment ever, by at least a factor of 3, was this one[1] where I praised a tmux posting that very clearly said what tmux was for someone unfamiliar with the concept.

So clearly I struck a nerve and other people feel the way I do, but I just had to find a positive way to encourage what I wanted.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5462105

I think you are missing the point that this poll is voluntary. So, the "Do not disclose" option is there -- just click on one of the many other links on HN today, or otherwise do something else with your time. There, you "did not disclose."

But that's not really the same at all. There is a huge difference between not voting and voting with "don't want to disclose". The former is unusable as a data point, while the latter is something that can be analyzed and discussed.

Sure. But by checking a wrong answer, we now have an unusable data point AND we have skewed the poll ...

I disagree with both your opinion and response.

First off, who are you to decide that this kind of poll is useless, and actively damage it? If you think the poll is useless, fine: we have a flag button for that. I happen to disagree that the poll is useless; I think any data set can be interesting given that you understand the limitations in interpreting it. But that's just my opinion and I totally get that other people could feel differently. Just don't ruin it for those who care. It's immature.

You may not exactly fit the profile of the kind of person that pg is talking about here, but you're definitely acting out and ignoring community standards.

"First off, who are you to decide that this kind of poll is useless"

I am a HN contributor like you, my opinion does not count more than other people's. And I didn't say it was useless, it definitely has use. I said I disagree with collecting this type of demographic data data.

"Just don't ruin it for those who care."

If you read my comment I haven't actually ruined the data at all, I clearly stated which wrong bin I placed my vote in. The OP can now subtract my vote. Compare and contrast with the 300+ people who clicked on <10, >90, and "I clicked on more than once" categories. Now, that's immature, I think.

Wait... so it's immature to mark a fake response, but it's mature to mark a fake response and then confess to it? Nope, don't buy it.

I think that he actually has a little more than gut feeling here:

> about half the users under 10 are also over 90


A similar solution would have been to not answer at all. Is there a non-tangential purpose served by answering "Do not wish to disclose" on a non-mandatory poll?

> However, it's an ill wind that blows no good.

I never heard that phrase so I looked it up. For anyone else that's interested: http://www.usingenglish.com/reference/idioms/it%27s+an+ill+w...

"This is said when things have gone wrong; the idea being that when bad things happen, there can also be some positive results."

I love a well-used idiom. It may have originated as a reference to sailing. http://www.answers.com/topic/it-s-an-ill-wind-that-blows-nob...

While the numbers indicated suggest that some people are lying, there are a couple "old guys" I know who would read this site. One is a professor emeritus at the university I work at, and he still keeps up with this stuff. Another is a guy who showed up at our local python user's group a few weeks ago. He's in his late 70s or early 80s and decided to pick up python as a retirement project. (It's kind of an inspiration, I would like to walk into a room of 'kids' in 2060 and say: teach me what you are doing). I've recommended this site to both of them.

I recently signed onto Coursera and being US university derived, they took their honour system quite seriously - I had to read the "I promise not to cheat or publish answers" bit and click yes.

Could I suggest pg drafts his own view of the HN honour system. If we agree we could make explicit what as a Brit is supposed to be implicitly understood by all good chaps anyhow.

Yours Adrian Mole 13 3/4 years old

I attend a course at Coursera by Dan Ariely on Behavior Economics, and he talks about the effect of signing an honor code. Interestingly, his experiments showed that people stopped cheating when signing a honor-code, even if no such code really existed at their university. Being reminded of moral seems to be enough.


As long as you are tweaking things, could you add a confirmation option to the flag link? Its placement next to the comment link makes it all too easy to hit by accident on a smartphone screen by fat-fingered people like me.

Once you "flag" an article the text changes to "unflag" and clicking again changes it back (at least for me).

But downvotes are forever.

You should try Chrome or Opera mobile, they both have a fat-finger zoom when you tap ambiguously so you can confirm what you really wanted to do.

I second this one to the max!

My thoughts exactly. That's a lot of <10 year olds...

I'll have to think of something extra for them too. Any ideas? Bear in mind that about half the users under 10 are also over 90, so whatever it is can't conflict with extra large fonts.

Sadly, I think you're going to have to ban them. COPPA[1] makes it risky to have children under 13 on your web site without clear parental consent.

..you could let them send in a note from their parents to get unbanned :-)

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Childrens_Online_Privacy_Protec...

There can be a very real issue if HN accounts have an age or birthdate associated with them which indicate that the user is under 13. In that situation where knowledge of age is in the hands of the website operator, the FTC has taken notice, and action. See Path's recent FTC COPPA ruling as an example.

So, if HN internally keeps a reference from votes in the under-10 category of this poll to the accounts they came from, and if any of those people are under 13, there may be cause for real concern re: COPPA.

There are sort of 3 ways to approach this safely... 1. don't ask, don't tell (eg: Google's main search page) 2. ask, and reject (eg: Facebook account signup) 3. ask, accept, and get consent (eg: some child focused sites)

HN is pretty clearly not a child-oriented website, but if there is concrete knowledge of age, COPPA can apply.

Does it really apply to a user-generated poll? I mean, this would be no different than a user of a forum or chat service asking another their age, with the server keeping some kind of message records. I think it's hard to make the claim that the administrators have concrete knowledge; it's just an anonymous record in the database.

Path's case is different, since the form asking for the birthdate was made by them, so they knew they had that information.

If the First Amendment allows children to traffic in snuff films, Nazi regalia, bomb making manuals, Satanist tracts, classified nuclear information, and so forth while in a government school, it's safe to assume that COPPA is an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech. I am astonished that the ACLU has not already handed the FTC their ass.

"The ACLU has long been strongly supportive of COPPA. It is an important first step on the road to universal baseline privacy protections that ensure that every American—young and old—has meaningful control over their personal information online. (...) The ACLU protects privacy and free speech simultaneously, and the two interests are rarely at cross-purposes. Right now, COPPA is a great law and it does both effectively."


Wow. And I thought my school was rough.

Comic Sans was made for this.

Upvoted for the correctness of this sarcastic comment.

Comic Sans with alternating colors for all the letters.


Do browsers still implement <marquee>?

No, but both <blink> and <marquee> are quite easy to do in javascript...

Extra large Comic Sans!

Wow. Exactly what kind of pleasure does a person derive from giving false answers to the question "What's your age?" on an anonymous internet poll? I am not asking that facetiously -- I really am curious to know. Is this some people's of idea of "being bad"? "being funny"?

Something like trolling, getting a rise out of people, etc -- I don't like it or agree with it, but I can comprehend it. In this case, no one is even going to see or know what you did. Is there some pleasure taken in knowing that people think the results are valid while you secretly know they aren't? Or was there an awareness that the moderators would see the bad results, be annoyed by them, and post about it?

Pleasure? That's not what comes to mind. I haven't answered the poll, but I did think about putting <10. Since you seem to comprehend the situation.. it's not about the readers or the moderators, it's more like a dialogue between me and the poll-creator: do you really think there are 10 year olds on the site? Why even make it a poll option? What a hilarious concept, 7 year olds browsing 'Hacker News' at what, 6 in the morning? I like my polls mostly Slashdot-style: you'd be crazy to take them as 'scientific' or 'accurate'. You put options out there, I'll entertain my sense of humor. If you've ever played Apples to Apples, you'll know which kind of player I am.

The options I would've expected as more reasonable: <20, 20-35, 36-40, 41+. Then you would hope the results of the poll are interesting enough to talk about (otherwise, yes, you'll degenerate into humour).

I is just my habit of creating some noise in any data collection effort. Based on the fact that pg is apparently digging through the results and trying to profile certain user behaviors it is somewhat proving the point. You never know who is going to fiddle with the data so you better noise it up.

AKA. you're breaking things because you can?

Yes, uhmm, no (I actually answered truthfully". "Because I can" seems to be pretty deeply ingrained in the hacker ethos of "analyzing, understanding, controlling" systems. Technically I'm the reason for my old schools digital policy. I couldn't find the student drives on the school computers, I looked for network drives, and somehow the teacher/admin drives showed up. I did report that in truely whitehat fashion, but if someone asked me why i was snooping around there, I could have given them the long answer "I was looking around here, and curious to see whether this and that worked", or just "Because I could". So "I was curious whether I could muddy up the data of the poll, and whether there'd be consequences or not" becomes "I broke things because I could"

I might have been wrong, but I interpreted "I is just my habit of creating some noise in any data collection effort" not as "I was curious what happens if I'll try to mess up with the poll" but more like "I don't like when people gather and analyze data, so I'll screw this up for Greater Good".

Again, it could be the motivation you put forth to, but in favor of the defendant if the evidence is inconclusive. What really bugs me is that on a site that is not entirely void of coders (There might be some around. Mayyybeee...), we use a honor based polling tool that doesn't allow for the creator to set a max number of votes per person. Now I know that creating a new poll takes time, but surely not much more than setting all the +80s font to extra large and all the <10s font to comic sans.

True, though I guess lack of features is kind of HN style.

> setting all the +80s font to extra large and all the <10s font to comic sans

That actually made me seriously consider voting up both the 80+ and <10 answers just to see what "easter eggs" pg implements.

general contempt for silly surveys that bear little purpose and whose results are easily predictable before hand.

In my opinion the option for over 80 is the proxy vote for please don't post things like this.

Limit their HN access to 20 minutes per day. When I was that young my parents enforced a very strict time limit on daily media consumption.

Many high contrasting colors. Children like different colors and it could help anyone reading that has poor eyesight.

How about an animated hacker mascot that provides helpful tutorials for features, complete with colorful highlighting and font changes to indicate important UI elements?

We could call him Poochie.

There's even a helpful js library for this, previously featured on HN:


It's really great to see how down to earth pg can be on here sometimes. Definitely great to be a part of a thriving community like HN, even though I've gotten on later than what may have been its golden age.

Times like these are what really get me pumped about the great community I'm diving into surrounding tech.

<blink> and <marquee>.

Whenever they double click a word a dictionary should pop up, like on nytimes if they still do that.

>Bear in mind that about half the users under 10 are also over 90

It's called second childhood. May you someday be eligible, but yet escape achieving it.

As for the fonts, you can be sure the octo- and nona- hackers will have long since implemented suitable user scripts.

Can you make polls like this and trollish comments into some kind of honey pot?

I propose two HN sites based upon basically the same underlying data. A "good" one, and a phantom one. Users who get honey potted end up in a phantom mode where any moderation or posting actions that they take affect only the phantom HN that they view. Phantoms can see the posts and moderation results of good users, but good users can't see the posts and results of phantom users.

extra bright colors; maybe some blink tags too.

Make an announcement and color their names pink, so everyone knows they're dealing with under-10-year-olds when reading their comments.

Or maybe a little dunce cap icon next to their name.

How about lots of cat photos on the front page? I've heard that's very popular with the under 10 group.

Young children have an easier time reading low contrast text. Make them read light gray on gray.

Hmm, maybe we need another poll to decide? :-)

put the nicks of the voters below each answer

Or when someone votes, it posts a comment in the thread with their vote/answer.

I like that idea, but there's plenty of people who use shell accounts and will still pick a ridiculous answer.

Translate everything to binary

Care bears.


It's also an issue that you can give multiple answers to polls. I attempted it just to see if the poll enforced giving just one answer but now I've given multiple answers to this poll as an experiment.

Put a poll out there, give it at least one irrelevant/obviously inapt answer and people will click it. Not really an HN problem if you ask me...

At first reading, I thought you were suggesting a poll that was the human version of a honeypot!

Put up a poll with one obviously troll answer, and anyone who upvotes the troll answer gets hellbanned immediately. Obviously a heavy-handed approach, it just made me laugh thinking about it.

The Cowboy Neal option, in other words.

I am only 47 (and, silly me, voted my actual age) but I got bifocals at age 30. At age 33, while being fitted for my second pair of bifocals, the fitter repeated over and over and over "God, you're YOUNG for having bifocals."

Those of us with 80 year old eyes look forward to the site tweak.

It may sound odd but according to this


more than 0.5% of the U.S. population is over 90 in 2010. In the poll it is 1.7%. Maybe it's fake, maybe tech people stay longer online...

Look at the curve though. Age should be a smooth bell curve, but here it spikes on the ends (even when accounting for the fact that the end choices potentially cover more than the 5 years covered by the other options), which is clear evidence of error.

For the whole population of a country it is probably fine to assume that curve form. The first time I had my own computer was at age 7 or 8 which was already highly unusual 20 years ago. But today this is less unusual, the availability of decent gear is more common for children. On the other hand, right now many 60+ year olds don't even use internet. Those who do might be bad-ass veterans that never lost interest... ;)

The OP was asking for it when he included 90+ as an answer, don't you think? If you throw out the outliers, it looks plausibly accurate.

Exactly. A lot of us have been brought up on Slashdot polls where joke answers are the order of the day (I'd have voted for CowboyNeal if I could). If the top bracket had just been 50+, I imagine the responses would be a lot more realistic.

I'd forgotten the fonts were small, because I've had them magnified on this page for so long. I'm only old according to Peter Townshend.

How do you know some people are lying here about their age?

From the other comment:

> Bear in mind that about half the users under 10 are also over 90

You could, in most cases, go from their e-mail or whatever data they put in their profile description back to their LinkedIn account, at which point you can get a pretty good estimate of their age (based on education and work history). In theory, you could even automate this. ;).

Multiple answers, at least, would be my guess.

In general I think people are more likely to lie on polls than before, but also have always been more tempted to lie on polls which make them offended or defensive, which age probably does.

I'm curious if the take over 80 set are more likely people in their 30s-50s who find age polls somewhat offensive (or at least the implication), or people under 20, or whatever.

Perceptions of age bias actually interest me more than age distribution on HN.

This is a problem with all web polls but this is absolutely not a problem here: you can measure quite precisely the amount of noise in the answers (seems to be about 20 to 50 fake results per age range) and deduce the approximate correct values for all ranges (assuming people that give wrong answers lie uniformly in the answers :)

> assuming people that give wrong answers lie uniformly in the answers

This assumption doesn't seem right, because age of HN users is not uniformly distributed, and we can assume (yes, I'm exchanging one assumption with another ;)) that people who lie won't pick their own age as a "lie". Therefore the biggest age group should be underrepresented, and the others, on average, overrepresented. :).

And the joke answers are likely to get picked a lot more, like under 10 or over 90. So that doesn't give us any information as to how many answers are likely fake for the others, except that we can assume it's probably a lot less.

On the other hand you can vote more than once for some reason, so some people could have just voted for every age. If you couldn't vote for more than one thing though, the obviously-untrue answers would filter out a lot of the noise.

This makes me wonder about the polls that say 18% of Americans believe the Sun goes around the Earth. Is it really that high, or are polls inaccurate plus or minus 18%?

In general you shouldn't be able to associate results of such polls with users accounts. Any such data is a liability.

I ignored the poll but if it comes with a sane font size i'll go vote for over 90 right now.

If HN is no longer entirely full of goody-two-shoes I count that as a plus. Anecdotally my impression is that the diversity of stories has increased; we seem to have a wider cross-section of interests than a year ago.

Anecdotally my impression is that the diversity of stories has increased; we seem to have a wider cross-section of interests than a year ago.

Yes, but that's not necessarily a Good Thing. What we're getting are more and more stories on the front-page that are things that you could read about on CNN, MSNBC, or see on ABC Nightly News. This is "Hacker News" not "World News Tonight".

I'm not over 80, and I didn't answer falsely. I DO however kind of wish the font size were larger. I guess I can make a custom stylesheet for that, though.

it's an ill wind that blows no good

Even if we can't count on the honor system, we can still count on occasional slivers of pure poetry. That's something.

Reddit, Something Awful and 4chan all have quite a bit of slivers of pure poetry within them. This forum was meant to be something different; and I think that's what pg is thinking about when he said that.

This site will still have plenty of good discussion, just like those places, but the amount of bad discussion/trolling/useless information will be increasing

Under 10 year old users should have to have their parents "e-sign" a permission form before they are allowed to browse.

Before they are allowed to comment, please. My 10-year-old self liked programming and perhaps would have found this site.

It still looks roughly like a bell curve. I think the genuine answers are enough to extrapolate some information from this.

759 days ago, 1448 days ago and 1867 days ago, respectively.

I think it's OK to ask this question after 2 years. It's great to see how communities change over the years.

Yes, I know it's not scientific at all and does a poor job of reflecting real demographics. But, if you think there's value in asking, then there's value in comparing previous answers.

It is also interesting to see what the median age is. I think it is between 25-30 now where as it was between 30-35 before. The ratio of teenagers also seems to be decreasing.

Ah good. I thought i was growing old. Now i realize everyone on HN is growing old with me.

Average account age (especially for people broken down by submitters with frequency, commenters with frequency, and quality commenters by frequency) would be MUCH more awesome than age, I think.

In graphs: http://infogr.am/HN-age-poll-12515/

Went from a couple hundred answers in 2008-2011 to +3000 today, and counting.

The distribution doesn't seem to have changed much other than the current fool answers, hard to tell since the charts are not in absolute scale. Would be cool to aggregate all the years for comparison, but I have no idea how to merge the age ranges.

Script used to get the data: https://gist.github.com/ricardobeat/5370218

Nice graphs. It would be nice if the categories had the same colors across graphs, to enable comparisons.

The categories aren't the same across the polls, though.

But not old enough to know that there are new users all the time? ( and maybe old users leave too ) The numbers are going to change every year, and it would be interesting to know how HN users are distributed in terms of age.

It's interesting to compare the responses here to those. I especially like the "spike" in users over 60 that mysteriously showed up between then and now.

I created HN Charts to visualize HN Poll data. Click the following link to see the result of this poll in an easy to read chart: http://hnlike.com/hncharts/chart/?id=5536734

Can you provide a link back to the original poll somewhere on the page?

That can certainly be done!

Oh man, no wonder many on HN are unaware of how technology on the 80 and 90 was like.

One issue; on these charts there doesn't appear to be a link to the original HN thread. This should be there.

This is nice, and I'm really glad you have both Front Page and Best sections. A link from the chart back to the poll post would be helpful.


Here is the chart fdrom my recent poll:


sans Winklevii

17 - and I'd like to note that this is one of the few forums on which I can have that information public and still be able to participate in (mostly) civil public discourse, without put-downs, pats-on-the-head, or pandering. It's a breath of fresh air.

That is unless you start a post with "Show HN: I am 17, look what I made..." some people seem to take offense to that :P

I think its great that people of all ages can connect on HN through a common passion for technology.

Well done lad, good for you! pats head ;-)

Only kidding, maturity varies wildly in online communities, I think age is very often not correlated.

Oftentimes I think that kind of patronising can be the result of jealousy. You know, youth is something you come to miss more than you think you would (31 here...)

For those also interested in Male to Female ratio (data courtesy of user 'pdx'):

1309/89 == 15 to 1


1377/72 == 19 to 1


506/31 16 to 1


466/35 == 13 to 1

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=749617 reply

Looks like the ratio in CS courses. I came up with the constant 4: Either 4 or 4% are female, whichever is less.

Also this one from 2 days ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5520342

1207 M / 73 F / 30 other

Born on the first january of 1970.

Makes it really easy to figure out how many seconds old you are!

That's the date I use on every site that asks for it (it's not my birthday). I have the vague hope it will eventually break something somewhere.

There are lots of people born before 1970 and any system processing birth dates as epoch times would fail immediately. I'd rather try Feb 29, 1899 or just some plain old SQL injection instead.

Do you celebrate birthdays or time_t milestones?

My mind just got blown. For some reason, I never thought of this possibility.

It's not my real birthday, it's just the one I use on the net. Like waterlesscloud I hop it will break something somewhere. Or at least amuse a fellow engineer.

Somebody else however suggested using 31st december 1969. Now that's just evil...

31st Dec 1969 23:59 UTC, Ouch

Why is that bad? Please enlighten a naive hacker

If you convert this to Unix epoch time (Seconds since 1970-01-01 00:00:00), the result will be -1.

Which is problematic in several scenarios: - Databases which store dates in integer fields and maybe don't handle negative values. - Other overflows unhandled by date parsers - Libraries, which use -1 as 'invalid'.

I love how I learnt a real hacker titbit from an age poll.

Dude. That's epoch.

Ah yes... Unix!

I'm 24, and come to think of it. I haven't really achieved much that I hoped to achieve by now when I was younger.

I wish I could turn back the clock to the last 7 years and get right to what I really could do instead of wasting my time at College[1] and chasing useless dreams.

All the best youngsters and to those that made it cheers. And for others like me, stay at it. We'll never know when lady luck will smile upon us.

[1] Went to an Engineering college in India. While the syllabus was pretty good for a CS student, the teachers sadly were the worst. This is one of the biggest reasons why I believe innovation in Education is long due.

By contrast, the US Higher Education system is pretty decent compared to what I experienced in India (vicariously, i.e.,).

Get the HELL on with it then.

You feel bad now? Im 40 and feel worse. I would give anything to be your age again, and have to 16 whole years, plus the 7 you regret, to achieve......well...... anything.

I promise you, if you don't you will bitterly regret it. I'm a busted flush, but you have every opportunity. You can even fail lots until you get it right.

Oh, forget luck. It does not exist. Its just recognised opportunity.

I'm sure there'll be another person coming in with 50 years of age and more existential regret to reprimand both of you, but I'm not that person because I'm frankly not that old. None of you two (or any number out there) is a busted flush till you've stopped breathing for about 15 or so minutes, so don't sweat it. Alan, you're 40 years old, and your expiration date is proably still another 30-50 years off. That's more than enough time to do something that makes you happy.

Yes, I'm younger than you two, but I had to say it. I mean I thought my life was done for and wasted when I was 13 years old (tsss...truely depressing times weren't they?), and that was obviously not true. But lack of hope for the future is understandable when your plan A seems blocked, your plan B is nonexistent, and a lot of people tell you you will fail if you don't pull the ship tight together. But there is always a second route to Rome, and along every limes there's a hole you can get through, no matter how extensive it looks. Especially since I only looked for one meter to either side back then.

Anyways, none of you guys are as doomed as you make yourself out to be. If you start out now, will you be as sucessfull as the 19 year Wunderkind who started his multi-million dollar company with 16? No, but you don't need to.

I'm 34 and have stopped having any pretense of pursuing "achievements", if I ever cared at all. It's liberating.

There's a lot of 21 to 30 year olds acting like under 10 year olds by pretending to be over 90 years old.

I'm just shocked, shocked! that you would insult our centennial user base by suggesting they're lying about their age!

Thank you sooooooooooo much for the 36-40 group.

Im 40, and I really cant get my head round that. I cant even really accept that Im a proper grown up adult, with kids. So, being put in a 36-40 group in stead of a 40-whatever group has very much cheered me up.

My your god bless you, eve if she is your wife ;)

Heh, I am ten years younger than you, and I was happy to be in a 26-30 group too. :)

I don't know how accurate the results will be from this poll. I seriously doubt there are 36 users on HN over 90 (not entirely implausible, but most likely not the case). For anyone wondering I just turned 25, so in the 21 to 25 bracket and voted accordingly. Another fact worth pointing out is that you can vote more than once, so you can vote your real age and then vote on every other age to game the poll if you want too.

Well, at least he is going to know what people from HN that choose to answer polls say about their age.

I find it hard to take this poll seriously, given the 33+ in the "over 90" range.

Are there really people over 80 and under 10 on this site, or are people just clicking shit for the hell of it?

As I am writing this, there are 8 under 10 and 8 over 90. I think that's a good clue as to a 'margin of error' that should be applied to the results overall.

Edit: wow that went up fast. Now there are 20+ under 8/over 90... I guess whenever an option says "don't abuse this option" there are those who just can't resist.

Quantcast thinks [1] the top three age groups for this site are 35-44 (37%), 45-65 (24%), and 25-34 (15%). Of course, Quantcast also estimates the gender ratio at 53/47 M/F.

To be sure, Quantcast is measuring lurkers + members, whereas this poll is measuring members only. But, nevertheless, my gut feel is Quantcast is simply wrong.

[1] http://www.quantcast.com/news.ycombinator.com#!demo&anch...

I always vote every option in any poll that you can pick more than one thing.

Why? Why fuck up the data like that? The thing with HN Polls is you've no way to create polls in which you can select only one option. All you can do is list the options you want included in the poll, nothing else.

On a side note, your personal website is fucking hilarious.

I found his activity graph on github very interesting: https://github.com/will

Amusing that the pattern isn't perfect because of his legitimate git commits adds noise.

I have to admit I clicked both my real age and also on 10. Pg needs to fix his polls, because clearly we can't help ourselves.

Some people just want to watch the world burn.

+1 for his site, really funny.

Oh, just, wow.

Enjoy your blinking high-contrast giant fucsia text.

And he calls himself a "webmaster."

Would you like me to treat you as under 10 or over 90 from now on, or both at the same time?

Please put your reading glasses on and take the dummy out of your mouth, then re-read the poll text:

"Please be honest and click one answer only!"

BTW: this poll is displayed beautifully with bar chart on HN for mobile http://cheeaun.github.io/hackerweb/#/item/5536734

I'm curious about these (5 as of the posting time) people that are over 90

Also curious about the 13 under 10. Some young geniuses.

I have a brand-new bridge over the East River for sale, low miles, navigation package included, e-mail on my profile if you're interested.

Is the next answer "get over it?"

No, I reworded 'If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you,' it's an old expression. Nobody got it.

Most the time the average age cited for readers of this site seems to be 24. I don't know where that came from, but it seems to match what's stated or implied in a lot of comments.

Wild that at 38, I'm at the tail end.

Minus the under 10, I think there is some truth in the pattern from the point of 16+. Hacker News/Y combinator primarily attracts entrepreneurs,hackers,engineers...people who are constantly learning based on self-interest. 26 is the average age for a Y Combinator alumni and 26-30 is also the majority of users in this toll. Essentially what I'm trying to say is I think this is a reflection of ambition dwindling with age based on the general overall population.

I find it hard to believe that there over 125 people who read this website and who are over 90!

I think what happened here is, some guys read this and decided to be naughty and decided to pick the max age. If lets say we provided another choice saying over 150 yrs old, I am sure it would have been picked and we could have safely ignored the whole set data points without affecting our interpretation of the different ages of people.

One conclusion from poll results you can deduct is "You are not that successful in life, if you are older than 30 and still checking hackernews"

Why? Learning new stuff regularly is right up there in my definition of success.

My sentiments, exactly. (I'm 49)

Or your incredibly successful and an awesome person all together, because you're learning to program and thinking of starting your own business --- or HAVE been programming and still are, at 90

It would be interesting to know which age group(s) HN readers consist mostly of.

Voluntary response poll results will not provide reliable data on this question. You should have seen this FAQ with the previous polls. (See also pg's comment,


which I imagine will continue to be the top comment in this thread.)

As I commented previously when we had a poll on the ages of HNers, the data can't be relied on to make such an inference. That's because the data 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.

-----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.


For more on the distinction between statistics and mathematics, see "Advice to Mathematics Teachers on Evaluating Introductory Statistics Textbooks"


and "The Introductory Statistics Course: A Ptolemaic Curriculum?"


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 to 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 with a HUGE sample size and high response rate that didn't give a correct picture of reality at all.

When I have brought up this issue before, some other HNers have replied that there are some statistical tools for correcting for response-bias effects, IF one can obtain a simple random sample of the population of interest and evaluate what kinds of people respond. But we can't do that here on HN.

Another reply I frequently see when I bring up this issue is that the public relies on voluntary response data all the time to make conclusions about reality. To that I refer careful readers to what Professor Velleman is quoted as saying above (the general public often believes statements that are baloney) and to what Google's director of research, Peter Norvig, says about research conducted with better data,


that even good data (and Norvig would not generally characterize voluntary response data as good data) can lead to wrong conclusions if there isn't careful thinking behind a study design. Again, human beings have strong predilections to believe certain kinds of wrong data and wrong conclusions. We are not neutral evaluators of data and conclusions, but have predispositions (cognitive illusions) that lead to making mistakes without careful training and thought.

Another frequently seen reply is that sometimes a "convenience sample" (this is a common term among statisticians for a sample that can't be counted on to be a random sample) of a population offers just that, convenience, and should not be rejected on that basis alone. But the most thoughtful version of that frequent reply I have previously seen in online discussion did correctly point out that if we know from the get-go that the sample was not done statistically correctly, then even if we are confident (enough) that HN participants are young, we wouldn't want to extrapolate from that to conclude that the users of any technology site are young, or that users of the Internet as a whole are young.

On my part, I wildly guess that most HNers are younger than I am in part because this kind of poll recurs often on HN. Other preoccupations of younger rather than older people make up frequent topics on HN, and I've tried looking for signs that there are large hidden numbers of old participants here without finding many.

So you are saying that almost all studies in social sciences (e.g. psychology) are invalid because almost all of them require participants to voluntarily sign up for the studies.. Also most psychology studies are done with college students, hardly a very representative sample of the population...

Here's the relevant article, 'The Weirdest People in the World?' Led to a ton of conversation about exactly what you're talking about:


This is not new information to social science researchers. Responsible research will attempt to correct for these biases and/or simply acknowledge them upfront and not generalize their result further than the demographics included in the study.

The second part is true. The first part is partially negated through trickery; what is actually being studied is almost never what the respondents believe is being studied.

Yes. There was even a story posted on HN about this some time ago.

I think the "Please don't abuse this option..." has had the opposite effect than the OP wanted...

It's a honeypot.

This might be self-serving, but I'm convinced "year of birth" matters more than age (and, more specifically, "when did you have computers and the Internet" and such).

I think 50 year olds in 2030 will still be involved in tech in ways 50 years weren't in 2000 or 2013.

Yes but there will be differences that may matter a lot. I suspect that a lot of members of my cohort (I'm 36) still have no idea why we would want to tweet. I spent a lot of time on IRC when I was younger (not any longer) and I suspect that both being young as well as birth year play a part in some of these behavior patterns. This behavior and interests would also be affected by other factors that may correalate with age (such as having a spouse and children).

My grandfather bought a home PC when he retired in 1986, and he was in his mid-sixties then. He kept up with new PC technology for many years after that. So there are always outliers!

It looks like 44 people over 90 isn't very realisic. I guess some people find it funy to screw the poll. It's a waste of creative potential. What else have you done lately to make this world a better place to live ?

I'm not sure why I was surprised at how much it goes down after 40, but it makes me a little sad inside. BTW- You can remove one of the under 10 and one of the over 90 points. Was having too much fun with it.

Thank you for putting 25 in the younger pool! I hate feeling as old as 30 :)

84 people over 90 and 68 less than 10 at HN, shows honesty :|

I'm waiting anxiously for the "What is your quest?" poll.

26 and I always think that I am still 21 years old。。

I just don't see the point in lying. You want to answer?Do it and be honest. You don't want to?Don't. It's plain easy.

What shocks is me that there are 71 points for people under 10, and 87 for over 90. That stat just amazes me.

CmdrTaco's Law says that the last option in a poll is the funniest and some people will go right for it.

I think saying please don't abuse makes way for a joke, and may act from the numbers as a planted seed.


I'm disappointed to see people skewing the results. I was hoping to see the lower brackets. So much for that.

I voted for several age groups accidentally, just started clicking on those little arrows.

We need supplemental poll. Questions:

1. Did you click your correct age?

2. You click your incorrect age?

3. Did you click more than one age?

I did adopt the third question on your list!

To confuse furthermore: 4. Are you honest?

6. All of the above?

Remember to click all that apply!

Are you a: (Please choose only one option)

1. Knight

2. Knave

Shouldn't there be a stagger for the ages so there aren't double counts?

I.e. 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35

I'm surprised at the people over 90 years old, 102 seems very very suspicious.

A few under 10, awesome. What do you kids find most interesting here?

Icecream, Assembly, Legos and FPGAs. How about you? //that's not a serious question, so why a serious answer.

Not it isn't not anymore. And put a space after your "//".

Nothing... probably those votes are from older guys just clicking in everything.

I’m 12 and what is this?

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