Startup News Becomes Hacker News

Paul Graham
14 August 2007

As of today we've expanded the focus of news.ycombinator.com from news about startups to news interesting to hackers generally. To reflect that we've changed the name to Hacker News.

Now that the code behind news.yc is fairly robust, we'd been thinking of spinning off a more general news site. We wanted to try to recreate the way reddit felt back in 2006, when the users were mainly hackers. As reddit became more popular, its focus inevitably changed. This was good for most users, but it left some of the earlier ones feeling left out. We wanted to create a new home for people like us.

Then we thought, why not just make news.ycombinator.com be that site? Frankly, we ourselves were getting a bit bored reading stories about nothing but startups. And if we were, so probably were a lot of users. Paradoxical as it sounds, the thing that makes hackers such good startup founders is that they care about more than business. They have intellectual curiosity driving them as well as the desire to make money. So the way to make a news site for startup founders is to make it be about more than just startups.

The focus of Hacker News is going to be anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes a lot more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity.

It may be easier to say what that doesn't include. It doesn't include most stories about politics, or crime, or sports, unless they're evidence of some interesting new phenomenon. It doesn't include videos of pratfalls or disasters, or cute animal pictures. Basically, if they'd cover it on TV news, it's off-topic.

Of course, it's easy to have a good site when you start out with a core group of smart users. How do you keep it good as more people find out about it? We think we have an answer to that. We're going to have a group of human editors who train the system in what counts as a good story. Each user's voting power will then be scaled based on whether they vote for good stories or bad ones. This should protect us against the arrival of users who vote up dumb stories. The worse stuff a user upvotes, the less effect their future votes will have. And vice versa: someone who consistently recommends interesting stories will be rewarded with a louder voice.

The other thing we're determined to do is keep the comment threads civil. We're going to aggressively ban spammers, trolls, and mean people. The policy will evolve over time, but here is the core principle: don't say anything in a comment thread that you wouldn't say in person. And in particular, no ad hominems. If you dislike something someone has said, point out why it's mistaken, instead of making remarks about them personally.

Most forums degrade over time, but we don't think that's inevitable. We're determined to keep this site good, because we use it ourselves.


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