Hacking Hacker News

Hacker News

Hacker News is a surprising good source of traffic for a specific audience that have a specific set of interests. Hacker News is all about sharing content that focuses “on computer science and entrepreneurship”.  But I find that submitting general subjects that interests people regardless of profession or hobby can also rank well on Hacker News. As said in their guidelines, you can submit anything that “gratifies one’s intellectual curiosity”.

In contrast do not submit Off-Topic content, like:

Most stories about politics, or crime, or sports, unless they’re evidence of some interesting new phenomenon. Videos of pratfalls or disasters, or cute animal pictures. If they’d cover it on TV news, it’s probably off-topic. [Guidelines]

How to Rank & get Upvotes on your submission to Hacker News

In order for your submission to rank well on Hacker News, there are some criteria that must be considered:

  • Title
  • Timing
  • Comments
  • Content

Techie Link Bait Title

In order for your submission to Hacker News to rank well, you must design the right title that catches the the attention of the people on Hacker News. You can choose a mildly link bait-y title, but it must be designed to appeal to software engineers, designers, IT, and people who are interested in technology or technical things in general. For example titles, “Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star” or “Does a compiler use all x86 instructions?”

1. Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star (eso.org) 84 points by Thorondor 42 minutes ago | hide | 35 comments 2. Does a compiler use all x86 instructions? (2010) (pepijndevos.nl) 97 points by pepijndevos 1 hour ago | hide | 53 comments

Other things to check in the submission title:

  • Don’t use all caps in Title
  • Use the original source
  • Take out the name of the website
  • Title should not begin with a number
  • Don’t submit too frequently such that your submission dominate the page

Timing is Key

Weekends, mornings, evenings. Timing varies however weekends seem to have less noise and therefore a successful frontpage story is likely to remain on the frontpage for longer. However it is likely to experience less traffic than midweek.

The best days to post is Monday through Friday. The worst days to post is Saturday and Sunday. The best time to post is around 12:00 PM noon. The time to post gets worse the farther away it is from noon time.

You can also use a site like http://hnpickup.appspot.com/ to figure out the right time to post a submission.

This is really key. Lots of good submissions go on to never see the frontpage, because of the timing being where few HN’ers are there to see your story.

Comments Nurture Curiosity

With every single submission, you should leave a starter comment to help spark an interesting discussion. When a person is looking at the collection of new submission on the “new” page, the number of comments are also shown to him or her. This will pull in the newcomer to investigate to see what the comment says, and then make them consider investigating deeper by clicking onto your submission link.

Curate your Content

Finding out what HN’ers like/dislike is also very crucial. Right now, there seems to the be hardcore Hacker type who are more interested in Linux/Node.js/etc., and the lesser-technical types who prefer stories with less about programming, and more about startups, businesses, CEO interviews and on. Finding stories on sites that HN’ers have already liked/read is almost as important as the actual content of the article.

What's Your Opinion?