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Show HN: HN Follow – Follow Your Friends on HN (desh.es)
76 points by film42 on Nov 5, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments

Cool! I've been working on a little Chrome extension that does something similar (and has a quite similar name ;) ): https://github.com/napoleond/follow-hn

Have been meaning to polish it a bit more, but I suppose now is as good a time as any to share it. One outstanding feature that I think will be pretty useful is caching user comments--right now it re-constructs the comment feed on every page load, which isn't ideal.

Same here. Finished it a couple of days ago.




The funny part is that @raquo and I posted our "follow" apps/extensions (separate projects) this week and got no love from HN. And then this thread took off for some reason. Timing? Titling? God I hate the randomness of marketing.

I don't think it's random at all. From a would-be user's perspective it makes complete sense to me that this post took off and yours didn't get too far. I want to explain why, not to be a dick, but because I feel like all hackers (myself included) have a hard time seeing things from the user's perspective.

First, the title of your submission: > Show HN: Search HN by keywords, user, score, Read online, on mobile or RSS

It's completely unclear what your product is. Honestly it sounds like you packaged up HN with some more CSS and an RSS reader or something? I don't really know. "Read online?" How else would I read HN? "Search HN?" I don't really have anyting to search for, and if I did I would just use Google.

The reason film42's post took off is because people were interested in following. Yours didn't even mention following.

Now let's look at film42's title:

> Show HN: HN Follow – Follow Your Friends on HN

My first reaction? "Oh cool, I have a lot of friends who use HN, I wonder what they've been saying."

Then perhaps the best part of film42's app is that he used HN's styling in a way that almost felt like you hadn't left HN. It is completely familiar, and, as others have pointed out, it feels like something that should have been part of HN already. The friction of onboarding was completely eliminated - I didn't have to sign up for or download anything, but I could use it and wanted more. The missing auth is probably a mistake in the long-run, but missing that feature probably reduced some friction getting started.

At the end of the day, you have 5 seconds to impress me or I'm gone. It's quite possible, when your app doesn't take off, that the only thing you did wrong was not use those 5 seconds.

You're talking about @raquo's post, not mine. I don't know raquo and they are separate projects. Mine read: "Show HN: Follow HN users and get notified when they do stuff". I deleted it when it got 2 upvotes in an hour.

I'd be interested why you think mine didn't work. Chrome extension link: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/logdfcelflpgcbfebi...

Ah, I thought you were working together. My apologies.

It certainly could have been a matter of posting time - film42 posted early in the morning when most of the stuff was old. It only took a few votes to get to the front page, yet a lot of HN users were online and voting.

But I think perhaps the bigger problem is around simplicity and familiarity. A chrome extension is always a hard sell because to play with it I have to download something that I have to dig out and uninstall later. I want to play with something before I "buy" it. Now people are asking for film42's app to become a chrome extension, but I bet if he had posted a chrome extension few people would have downloaded it.

Getting people to a moment when they are pleased with your product before they give up on it is probably the most difficult aspect of marketing/growth.

It's not randomness of "marketing." It's randomness of HN. I wouldn't take it personally.

I love this! Feel free to piggy back off of the HN Follow API. I already support caching! :)

Hey everyone, this was a little weekend hack. I hope you find it useful! Let me know if you have any questions.

Feel free to check out my follow page: https://hn-follow.desh.es/?user=film42

Another example, HN top 10: https://hn-follow.desh.es/?user=hn-top-10

You should verify users by giving them a code they have to put in a comment somewhere.

Probably in their HN profile would make the most sense.

That’s a much better idea. It wouldn’t even require storing credentials since the profile page can be updated pretty quickly.

Feel free to make a contribution! Source: https://github.com/film42/hn-follow

Nice! I was working on something similar, except that it was a chrome extension that put a follow/unfollow button by the username, and required authentication via google credentials. But, since I didn't keep a limit on the number of people you could follow, as the number of people I was following increased, waiting for Firebase responses to return (for ordering comments by id) started taking too long and killed the user experience.

I wish there was a way to do a bulk query (ala Elasticsearch), so I could get all comment ids in one request. The response time would still increase with increasing number of users, but it would be marginal compared to the current situation.

Well, all it takes is to add &edit=true to anyone's follow page...

Or just click the "Edit" button. I think it's intended (avoiding the need for some kind of auth).

Yup. For now that's all it takes. I wasn't really concerned preventing other people from editing a profile up until now. I liked how HN Notify allows anyone to opt-in or opt-out, so I copied that style. I figured HN would prefer it that way.

It is indeed simple to setup in a pleasant way, but there are plenty of trolls out there. Kudos nonetheless!

Thank you! Seems like enough people have expressed concern about the ability to edit any profile. I'll add something simple to lock a profile down soon.

I honestly don't know why this isn't already built into HN.

Because it would undermine HN's goal that we vote for and comment on content on its own merits, not whether it was posted or commented on by someone you like.

I don't think HN is doing that great a job in surfacing the best content or encouraging better discourse in comments, but making it easy to follow favorite users instead of going to the front page would make it worse, IMHO.

As I was building my "follow" chrome extension...

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/hn2go/logdfcelflpg... (shameless plug)

... I definitely wondered about this. All of a sudden, it turns HN into a popularity contest where the elite get all the attention and everyone else is completely ignored.

> All of a sudden, it turns HN into a popularity contest where the elite get all the attention and everyone else is completely ignored.

While the effect isn't overwhelming, making the content of a limited pool of 'thought leaders' more prevalent is certainly the bias that a karma system is intended to create. Of course HN presupposes that high karma correlates to high quality content and a high quality user, which is probably why as I understand it, karma gets used as a weight for things like the effect of flagging or downvoting. But if they didn't want it to be a popularity contest, I would assume they wouldn't make user karma public. You don't give people a metric without expecting it to be gamed.

It should be noted that YC founders have a special Orange username that's visible only to other YC founders. The purpose is to prevent flame wars between founders, but I have my suspicions that such submissions receive more up votes on average. (Cannot prove statistically without the list, unfortunately.)

> The purpose is to prevent flame wars between founders

I've never heard that one, and it's not the purpose. PG added it years ago when the YC alumni community had gotten too big for everyone to know each other.

> Because it would undermine HN's goal that we vote for and comment on content on its own merits, not whether it was posted or commented on by someone you like.

That's hardly HN's goal, though. HN itself has code and features that encourage some users to vote for content purely based on who submitted the content or what company they work for. HN's certainly not a democratic voting society where votes are treated equally and we're all encouraged to vote purely on the merits of content.

I do like HN a lot, even with that lack of fairness built in to the system. I agree that letting normal users follow each other would make the 'problem' worse (this is what brought Digg down, as a core issue), but it's not like HN sees this as a problem, exactly.

> HN itself has code and features that encourage some users to vote for content purely based on who submitted the content or what company they work for.

That is not true. What gave you that impression?

Thanks for the feedback. Well, there are special features for users who are involved in YC, right? Name-highlighting, or specific new story queues, or something like that? An unavoidable consequence of those features is that they encourage voting favouritism.

I understand that you may not have built those features with that favouritism consequence in mind, but it's there for sure. Also, it seems likely to me that you'd consider this favouritism to (probably) produce higher-quality content hitting the front page more frequently, which I've certainly seen as a stated goal of HN (quality is more important than fairness or user preference, hence titles changing, etc). So maybe it's not a bad thing. I dunno, really.

The only such feature is that YC alumni usernames are displayed in orange to other alumni. This is one of the two things that HN gives to YC; the other is /jobs.

I'm admittedly a bit sensitive to charges of favouritism on HN because we put so much effort into trying to be even-handed, even though (a) it's impossible to balance these things perfectly, (b) it's hard to measure whether we're getting it right, and (c) some people won't believe what we say anyhow. For what it's worth, the corresponding complaint on the other side (i.e. among YC founders) is that HN is biased against them.

> That's hardly HN's goal, though. HN itself has code and features that encourage some users to vote for content purely based on who submitted the content or what company they work for?

Hmm? What do you mean by this? If you're referring to the (YC) submission tags, that doesn't indicate that particular bias.

Note that submissions from certain people/companies add extra relevant context

Well, I believe it's more than that, but I've never seen it so I'm not sure. I've heard rumours that all YC alum have separate features that encourage friendly voting between them, or something similar.

> Note that submissions from certain people/companies add extra relevant context

Yes, I think I agree. I'm okay with the way things are, ish. It would be better with more transparency, though, but HN's "goal" seems to be quality, and they certainly think that quality is increased with increased visibility to YC-related submissions. My only problem would be HN posing as "fair", which I don't think they do.

As mentioned below, YC founders have orange usernames. But that doesn't give them immunity from flagging when they submit bad articles. :)

This may be the case, but it surprises me. In the 3-4 years I've used HN, I haven't noticed it.

If you are a very well known user like patio, it's possible that you'll get a good amount of upvotes more easily. For most users, however, it seems to me to be a matter of good title, good content and luck as to whether or not your submission does well.

Interesting that you give patio as an example, since his last submission was about a year ago, with most of his submissions being 4 years old: https://news.ycombinator.com/submitted?id=patio11

Patio's comments, in my experience, are an outlier in quality/length, so it's hard to use that as a trend.

Good catch (used Patio11 because off the top of my head can't think of other popular users by their handle).

Anyway, to me it seems that, with the rare exception, HN is pretty good in each submission being judged on its own.

The orange user names are shown only to other YC alums, not others.

I just wanted to let you know that your comment put a smile on my face. Thank you!


I have been using HNWatcher for this - I especially appreciate the emails it sends.

I'll take a look. Thanks for sharing!

If you're scratching your head trying to think of 10 names, this might help jog your memory - https://news.ycombinator.com/leaders

'tptacek maintains a "must read" list in his profile. I'd add kasey_junk to it.


I made one with a few of the usernames on his must follow list: https://hn-follow.desh.es/?user=tptacek-must-read

That's a good idea. Thanks!

Here's a list of the Top 10: https://hn-follow.desh.es/?user=hn-top-10

Is there a current open-source version of HN that one could use to create a small HN for a group of friends? How close of a clone to HN could one create using Wordpress?

You could start from the lobste.rs source, available here: https://github.com/jcs/lobsters

There is a mirror floating around of news.arc[1], the original version of HN from pg, but it's pretty dated and missing tons of the secret sauce.


Reddit's source is available: https://github.com/reddit/reddit

I'd recommend Telescope: http://www.telesc.pe/

I'm working on something like that. If you're interested, contact me.

I guess I'll hijack this thread to push my own hnapp – http://hnapp.com/?q=author%3Apatio11+|+author%3Atptacek+|+au...

Lets you follow users, topics, and much more. Also provides RSS and JSON feeds. It's open-sourced too, under MIT license.

I haven't got any friends :(

Quit complaining, it simplifies a lot.

Follow you enemies too !

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