I’ve had my Hacker News account for just over four and a quarter years now, but I was reading it for quite awhile before I joined up. And for nearly the whole time, it’s been an invaluable resource for keeping on the cutting edge of technology. But in the last two weeks the site has become really insufferable, and reading HN has become more of a chore than a learning opportunity.
Let me preface this by saying that I write this post in the hopes that Hacker News improves. It’s got an amazing community around it full of intelligent people and thinkers who want to take the web as a medium and push it to the limits.
Now having said that: since all this news about Edward Snowden hit, Hacker News has become pretty much a clearinghouse for everything related to the NSA spying, government privacy issues, anti-government protestations, anti-Obama rhetoric, and so on. At any one point, the main page contains at least half a dozen articles about one or more of these topics. It seems like anyone who wants a little easy karma could just find a New York Times article about Snowden and post it. At some point, it just becomes exhausting to keep beating a dead horse. Do we really need a blow by blow of every single thing that’s happening? All it does is clog up the main page and pushes down the actually interesting content.
If this were Reddit, I’d understand. The Reddit echo chamber is a different issue entirely, and the so brave Redditors posting their thoughts about the government is really just business as usual. But HN, I think, aspires to something higher. It’s always been more about showing off the latest thing you built, or something brand new and potentially game changing. Languages, methodologies, new paradigms – hell, even just really interesting articles that provide a fresh look at something – these all used to be part of HN. And now we just have the same politically-oriented content being put forward. If I wanted to read this stuff, I’d go back to Reddit.
It’s possible that HN is entering an Eternal September. I get that that happens to communities, and I was hoping that HN would avoid it.. but I suppose not.