Hacker News

Hacker News logo

Hacker News (sometimes abbreviated as HN) is a social news website focusing on computer science and entrepreneurship. It is run by Paul Graham's investment fund and startup incubator, Y Combinator. In general, content that can be submitted is defined as "anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity."

The word hacker in "Hacker News" is used in its original meaning and refers to the hacker culture which consists of people who enjoy tinkering with technology.

Quick Fact

Summary

  • Ranked #7,422 worldwide
  • Active users N/A
  • Type Discussion Networks
  • Launched date Feb 19, 2007
  • Employees N/A
  • Headquarters Mountain View, California, U.S
  • Parent company Y Combinator

Founders

person
Paul GrahamEngland

Networks

  • Brand value In 2020 N/A
  • Revenue in 2020 N/A
  • Net loss In 2020 N/A

Vision And Practices

Vision And PracticesPaul Graham speaking at RailsConf. (via flickr.com)

The intention was to recreate a community similar to the early days of Reddit. However, unlike Reddit where new users can immediately both upvote and downvote content, Hacker News does not allow users to downvote content until they have accumulated 501 "karma" points. Karma points are calculated as the number of upvotes a given user's content has received minus the number of downvotes. "Flagging" comments, likewise, are not permitted until a user has 30 karma points.

Graham stated he hopes to avoid the Eternal September that results in the general decline of intelligent discourse within a community. The site has a proactive attitude in moderating content, including automated flame and spam detectors and active human moderation. It also practices stealth banning in which user posts stop appearing for others to see, unbeknownst to the user. Additional software is used to detect "voting rings to purposefully vote up stories".

Original Idea

original ideaoriginal idea

Hacker News was initially built by YC co-founder Paul Graham as a demonstration of Arc, a new programming language he’d been working on.

He quickly realized that it could help bring together the companies he was supporting and the rest of the folks who wanted in.

Brief History

2007
Feb The site was created by Paul Graham.
Aug It became known by its current name. Initially called Startup News or occasionally News.YC.
2014
Mar Graham stepped away from his leadership role at Y Combinator, leaving Hacker News administration in the hands of other staff members.

Network Features

Undocumented Features

Moderators

Hacker News currently has one full-time moderator: Dan Gackle (dang), and formerly Scott Bell (sctb). Their comment replies provide a pseudo-log of Hacker News moderation.

Dan is very responsive when contacted at hn@ycombinator.com, and is the best option for resolving any issues on Hacker News.

Downvoting comments

Many Categories To Suit Your Needs
																	Downvoting comments. (via github.com)

All comments start with a score of 1 point (but in order to prevent bandwagoning, the comment score is not visible to users other than the author). After users reach 501 Karma, they gain the ability to downvote another comment.

Downvoted comments (i.e. with a score

You cannot downvote comments which are direct replies to your own comment, and you cannot downvote 24 hours after the original comment was made.

Downvoting comments

If a user has 31 Karma, they can flag submissions. Although submissions cannot be downvoted, flags act as a "super" downvote, and enough flags will strongly reduce the rank of the submission, or kill it entirely (flagging is supposed to be used for submissions that break the site guidelines, but that isn't always the case in practice). A submission that's flagged to death will have a [flagged] tag. Comments behave similarly.

A [dead] submission (that does not also show [flagged]) is killed by a moderator or by the software. They will only be shown to users who have shown dead enabled in their profiles. A submission can simultaneously be [flagged] and [dead].

If a user has 31 Karma, they can also vouch for a [dead] submission/comment. A vouched submission/comment has its rank restored (and potentially improved as the vouch can counteract the effects of flags), but it can be [dead] again at which point it can't be re-vouched.

Setting top color

If a user has 251 Karma, they can set the color of the top bar in their profile settings. The default is #ff6600. Here's the complete set of colors users have set.

Anti-voting manipulation

The FAQ states "users should vote for a story because they personally find it intellectually interesting, not because someone has content to promote." Indeed, Hacker News utilizes a voting ring detector that will prevent caught submissions from hitting the front page. Due to sites like Product Hunt normalizing the asking for upvotes or other engagement via social media, the implicit asking of upvotes is also done for Hacker News, usually due to ignorance of the Hacker News rule against it. There are very few good reasons to draw attention to a Hacker News submission immediately after it has been submitted.

One popular "trick" for obfuscating voting manipulation on Hacker News is to link to the Hacker News's /newest page of new submissions (instead of a direct link which would otherwise make voting manipulation obvious), and asking friends to upvote the submission from that page. This trick doesn't actually work.

Flame-war detector

The FAQ notes that submission rank is impacted by "software which down weights overheated discussions." A good rule of thumb for this effect is when the number of comments on a submission exceeds its score.

Moderators can overrule the downranking for appropriate, not-actually-a-flame-war discussions.

Second-chance pool

Moderators will sometimes rescue a post that didn't receive a lot of upvotes and reset the submission time on the post. (This is also one of the reasons why the FAQ discourages deleting submissions).

Relatedly, moderators can also invite users via email to resubmit a post that didn't get much traction.

Edit/delete time limits

After a post or comment is made, it can be edited by the author within 2 hours. A post/comment can be deleted by the author within those two hours, but only if it has no replies, in order to prevent the discussion from being lost. In that case, the post/comment cannot be deleted (This can result in a fake [deleted] edit if a person wants to remove their comment in the limit but can't).

Moderators can change the title of a submission at any time.

If you need something deleted but you can't, you'll have to message hn@ycombinator.com.

Comment collapsing

Comments can be collapsed by clicking the [+] icon to improve readability.[flagged] comments are sometimes collapsed by default, and moderators can set a comment to automatically be collapsed if necessary (e.g. meta-discussion).

When a comment thread is collapsed, the [+x] number on the right indicates the total number of hidden children’s comments.

Shadowbanning

The Ideal Environment For Freelancers
																	Shadowbanning. (via github.com)

Both users and domains can be shadowbanned, where all posts/comments by that user/submissions to that domain will be instantly [dead] and cannot receive votes/comments (but can still be vouched). For accounts with a substantial history on Hacker News, moderators will give warnings before a ban.

A good way to tell if a user/domain is banned is to either have another user with show dead enabled to check for a series of [dead] content from that source or view those submissions in Private Browsing/Incognito mode to see if they appear.

Users/domains are usually shadowbanned for breaking HN rules/spam. If you feel you are unfairly shadowbanned, contact hn@ycombinator.com.

Green usernames

Accounts that are less than 2 weeks old will appear with a green username.

Thin black bar

Occasionally, there will be a thin black bar at the top of the top bar, in memoriam of a significant figure in the tech/science community dying. A Hacker News submission about the death will usually be at the top of the front page at that time.

Behaviors

Implicit downranking of politics

The Guidelines state that most political discussion is probably off-topic. However, the line between technology and politics is blurred, especially recently. Most tech-related submissions with a hint of political partisanship will quickly be flagged to death by users (or die a slow death due to the inevitable flame war).

Implicit downranking of topics around diversity and inclusion

Likewise, topics around diversity and inclusion in tech have gained lots of visibility over the past few years. However, despite these discussions not being off-topic, they tend to be flagged to death by users regardless. Unfortunately. (Moderators occasionally unkilled such threads if they see it in time, although it rarely sticks).

Bonus Features

Hacker News classic

Hacker News allows people to use the old front page ranking algorithm, which only counts votes from early users. Early users are defined as being created before Feb 13, 2008.

Hacker News Wayback

Hacker News allows users to see what the front page looks like at any point in time. You can also do a Wayback view for any user at their registration date by clicking their registration date in their profile.

Hacker News on BigQuery

If you want to gather a large amount of Hacker News data for data analysis/machine learning, you should use the Hacker News dataset on BigQuery, which is updated daily and is much more pragmatic to use than manually scraping data from the Hacker News API.

Official RSS feedsk

https://news.ycombinator.com/rss maps the front page.https://news.ycombinator.com/showrss maps the Show HN page.

Hacker News search

HN Search provides real-time full-text search for Hacker News. The web app is open source and powered by Algolia Search.

Filter out posts below X points

Want to catch up on the best submissions over the last few days? Filter out all posts below a certain threshold with the over?points=100 URL parameter.

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