Hacker News vs. Google+

Power Point

I might as well have titled this “Hacker News vs Marketers.” Or “Hacker News vs Bloggers.” Or “jerks vs nice people.”

But I never participate in Hacker News for a few reasons and I just was faced with these reasons again when I read the responses there to my blog post yesterday.

1. Programmers often have an attitude of “I can code, you can’t, so I am defacto better than you.” This often comes out in Hacker News comments.

2. Programmers love to bash people anonymously and then, in real life, they will come begging for PR for their companies so that they can survive to program again tomorrow. This comes out clearly in Hacker News. It’s one reason why I’m so anti anonymous comments lately.

3. Programmers love to put stuff into your words that you didn’t say so that their “algorithms” line up. Er, their world view. This clearly comes out in the comments you see there.

4. Programmers love to say stuff in their clubhouse that they won’t come over and say in yours. Look at how different the tone is in comments on Hacker News when compared to the comments on my blog or on Google+, for instance.

At DLD I argued with “Moot,” the guy who runs 4chan. The real world knows him as Christopher Poole.

I told him I far preferred Google+ for discussions than places that allow anonymous comments. He said he far preferred places that allowed anonymous comments.

I told him that Techcrunch’s comments are 1000x better since they went with Facebook. He said they got 1000x worse. That they had lost their entertainment value and their vibrancy.

There is no clearer place to see the difference than in looking at Google+ vs. Hacker News. Here, take a look for yourself:

My blog post, with its comments.

Hacker News’s reaction.

Google+’s reaction.

Facebook’s reaction.

Which do you like better? Which community do you identify best with?

I’m going with Google+ and I know that will get me hated by programmers everywhere. But that’s OK. You’ll still call me in the morning to talk about the new thing you’ve built because you know the users are on Google+ and on Facebook, not hanging out on Hacker News. 🙂

PHOTO CREDIT: That’s Paul Graham, founder of Hacker News, in front of Y Combinator’s headquarters, which is where he can often be found participating in the Hacker News community. He’s pointing at Kevin Rose, founder of Digg, which used to be where hackers hung out until Hacker News became their home.

UPDATE: My Google+ commenters say I painted with too broad a brush. That is true. It’s just in reaction to the bashing I consistently get on Hacker News. Of course I have an ego. Of course I know most programmers aren’t like that. Your view may vary. Etc etc etc.


50 thoughts on “Hacker News vs. Google+

  1. I find Hacker News comments to be the most educated and interesting to read.  Facebook comments are, well, not high-quality by any stretch of the imagination.


    1. I agree when you are talking about programming topics. When things turn a bit more toward the personal side of life then they are hardly educated at all. 


      1. I really don’t think that’s fair.  Programmers have lives too, and when discussing matters like data silos I think their opinions are more than valid.

        Really, I feel you’re making a lot of baseless assumptions about an entire profession with blanket statements in this post.  Is this just an initial response to the (largely negative) Hacker News comments to your last post?


      2. Seriously, you post with your name which makes you about a trillion times braver than I. And you have my respect.

        However, that said, there was nothing wrong with the HN posts that had anything to do with HN or hackers or anonymity and not just the infinite diversity in thought and expression of a large population of humans.

        I prefer the anonymous threads for many reasons, at times, because, amidst the ugliness, the hard truths do come out first there.

        But while I actually agree with much of your essay, I think you got off lightly in that thread, which I would classify as an overall tie on your part.


      3. On HN there is the karma thing working out pretty well though. Personal attacks usually get seriously downvoted and I see much less there than on most other discussion boards I know.


  2. Depends what you want out of it. If you are looking for snark, entertainment, and ego, go with anonymous commenting. If you want some actual, relevant conversation, go with real names.

    EDIT – Facebook is garbage in, garbage out IMO. They don’t count.


      1. I should have been more clear – *when* content in Facebook is garbage that is all it will ever produce in comments. I’ve seen other sites have not so great content but it spurs insightful comment streams. That (for what I have seen in FB – limited view and all) is not the case.


  3. agree with Robert here. Anonymity brings out the slugs and trolls from the rocks and bridges they usually hide under. Also identified by the way they wince at the sunlight. 


    1. I might have to disagree on the replacing of YouTube comments with Google+ ones. The way it is right now, YouTube is occupied by people who are in-to anonymity. If Google+ is forced unto YouTube users, that might cause a drop of activity on the site (e.g. commenting on videos).

      I know that it can get pretty rash and stupid at the comments section but that’s partly the beauty of it. Some people find it hard to voice out their opinions if there’s no anonymity assured. It is a community that, just like the real world, has people with different kinds of attitudes and outlooks in life. 😛


  4. The best part about Hacker News people don’t post if they do not care or don’t have an opinion on the topic at hand(most of the time). And trolling, bad language, snobby comments get voted down immediately.


    1. Sorry, but I’ve been the subject on Hacker News quite a few times and they don’t all get voted down. Especially the ones that have a tone that isn’t overt, but is clearly saying “I’m better than him.”


    1.  Yeah… nothing will happen there. Because they won’t feed the troll and have nothing to do with people like that… winy because they got insulted over the internet by strangers. Wow, that’s a scoop.
      @Scobleizer:disqus If you don’t like the community, don’t go there. Seriously, how old are you? 14?


  5. I’d be so much more impressed with that update if you actually edited your article and replaced “Programmers” with “Hacker News trolls” … which is what you really mean, isn’t it.


      1. This insulted reader has got there already and doesn’t want to go any further. I’d accept an apology if one was being offered, but it seems that it isn’t.


  6. I don’t know why people say Facebook comments are crap. Don’t they ever have CASUAL conversations in their life? They always have academic conversations with their people and friends? Jeez…


  7. nice rant I get your point of view but I love reddit and hacker news community style over facebook google + comments style… why ?! the kiss your a** is so obvious on google + and facebook comments… the ” I need to publish a so good comment without personality” is all over the place. …. it’s not perfect on hacker news ( I know but that’s the cool thing)  but at least people are going deeper, they are sharper than any aseptic platform I’ve seen (google+ or facebook) … the creativity is higher … yes I said it !!! PS: one day we are going to disrupt this whole PR industry … shame on me to feed this fake debate… 


  8. I regularly participate on Hacker News because I find the discussion to be best. I see where you are coming from though. It can be hard to convince a lot of people on Hacker News that there is a world full of people outside of their bubble (particularly when it comes to things like Facebook and G+). It’s also common to find some people on it condescending. But the great contributors outweigh the bad for me. I’ve had some great discussion on Hacker News and learnt a lot. Likewise I’ve also had some great discussions on G+.

    I do not like anonymous commenting. But out of all the places they are accepted I find Hacker News to be the best as the karma system generally works well.

    P.S. If you want to see my comments on your post on HN here is the direct link (I’m k-mcgrady): http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3553163


  9. Interesting. 

    Your previous post is about open vs closed web.This post is about anonymous vs. real-name comment threads.Open web = anonymous posts.Closed web = real-name posts.* I think there’s a cycle. There are benefits to a walled-garden and benefits to “open”. As one succeeds “too much”, the alternative picks back up again. Facebook/G+ are “winning” the battle today. The pendulum will swing back again one day.
    * Quality anonymous comments are great. Trolls suck. It’s hard to get one without the other.* Facebook succeeded because it was closed.* “Closed” AOL looked unbeatable for awhile too. But the web “beat” it.* Maybe one day we’ll find a way to make an “open” web without the “troll” problem. * A major obstacle is that it’s easier to fund a “walled garden” that benefits investors than an “open web” that benefits everyone.

    Done rambling. Enjoy Super Bowl everyone.


  10. I’m in agreement. I’ve seen a lot of arrogance on HN, and on G+ I’ve only ever been met with polite people responding in a thought provoking and intelligent way. 
    Facebook I find if more likely to have stupid comments, not comments made by people who are uniformed but comments that are just plain dumb…
    However it is all a matter of perspective I guess.


  11. I’d take it one step further and say HackerNews is irrelevant and Google+ (or twitter, or facebook, or any number of other, broader communities) is relevant.  I’m baffled by how much startups value success on HN when it really doesn’t matter.  HN matters to a very narrow band of startup/programmers types who live in the valley and think the world would be better if it was written in LISP.  It’s basically just a clubhouse for these guys, and only these guys.  

    I’ve heard story after story about “I made it to the top of HN, I got a huge spike in traffic, but nobody converted, I don’t understand why.”   The reason why is that HN is not your market.  Your customers aren’t on HN.  In fact they’ve never even heard of HackerNews. 

    So, as a clubhouse for the startup tech community, HN is great.  But comparing it to something that actually matters like G+ just seems silly.


  12. Basically it comes down to this. Developers and others such as sysadmins and other highly technical geeks don’t respect the opinion of anyone writing about tech unless they are the same. Even if you have been involved in the tech industry for 30 years, unless you are writing a compiler for fun during your lunch hour, you haven’t achieved the geek level required to even have an opinion. That’s just the way the industry is. I would be surprised if other industries (medicine, law, trades) weren’t the same.


  13. Scoble, nothing but respect for you but I think you’ve just placed an unfair stereotype on programmers. Yes, many programmers can be completely rude when granted the gift of anonymity. So do doctors, lawyers, the unemployed, and even bloggers. Yes, Mr. Scoble – even your kind.

    I’m not a big fan of Hacker News for a similar reason, but to say that all of us are like that is plain wrong.


  14. You should appreciate that they are dissecting and digging into your post even if it’s critical. I’ve had some pretty harsh reactions on hacker news, but it’s the unabashed brutal honesty I value there.

    Think of HackerNews as a insurance against tthe possibility of an echo chamber.

    As a reminder your blog allows Disqus pseudonyms and anonymous comments at various levels. I dig the hell out of commenters with pseudonyms on AVC.com.

    They’ll always be haters and supporters. Listen, but don’t take it to heart. At least one programmer appreciates your coverage of startups and breaking tech, thanks man.


  15. Robert, we are programmers and we don’t dislike you for any of the reasons you stated.
    We generally dislike you because you say anything to get traffic, worse than a Hollywood actor. Then you conveniently pick which ever side is winning or will pay you better and say you were behind it all along.

    You are the living embodiment of hypocrisy for most programmers who know you and that’s why programmers tend to mock and hate you. Would they mock and hate you to your face? No, of course not because they are hypocrites as well.

    Now we have gone full circle.


  16. Robert- Each community has its own dynamics, style and value offered. I’m glad you mentioned these…because you can see them all of them in your Engagio dashboard in one place. 


  17. Why still need to put anonymous name during commenting, if your intention through and ok nothing wrong about to put your name unless you are a spammer then that is another story.


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