Quiet Hacker News

September 17, 2017

I started going on Hacker News (HN) around 2012, I was immediately hooked by the daily high quality links covering a wide variety of topics. I would check it out in the morning, CMD + Click all of the titles that took my fancy and would read the articles over the course of a day. I was exposed to things that I would never have learned otherwise, this daily information download helped me improve my critical thought and judgement as I considered what I thought about each article.

About two years later I begun going back to some articles comments sections, this tended to be when I thought the article was bogus and wished to see if someone else agreed or had evidence. Lo behold, the top comment usually was a rebuttal against the links claims. I would confirm what I thought and would be on my merry way.

Slowly over time I noticed that I begun spending more time in the comment sections, and less time opening links. To cut a short boring story shorter, that trend continued into 2017. I am now at the stage where I very rarely open the links, I simply open the comments and am able to deduce the gist of the link through the unfolding arguments.

In recent months this has gone a step further, I noticed a trend in which comments (not links) I begun to open almost exclusively:

Comment sections that will devolve into discussions (see: condescending, pedantic arguments) about:

There’s an obvious trend as to which comments section I am mostly drawn to: ones with inflamed arguments. I honestly have no idea why as in real life these kinds of discussions do not interest me. Why I spend a lot of time reading a script inside my head of strangers I will never meet doing it online is maybe a different post all together.

I noticed myself being able to accurately predict the comment sections, sometimes unnervingly well. It is always the same arguments. The same two people that refuse to see each others view. The militarised pedantry.

After all this I noticed a reduction in critical thought, my ability to form my own opinion on topics, as I had a) stopped reading the damn links, b) would skim what I needed off of the most upvoted comment, c) would then take that comment as gospel. I now question how many opinions I hold that are based entirely off of comments I scan-read on Hacker News with zero follow up research, and that is dangerous.

Reading the comment section of HN for so long has taught me a valuable lesson that I will take away with me: no matter what you do, say, think or feel, there is someone out there that does, or merely wants to, have the opposing action, speech, thought or feeling. And that’s absolutely fine, and how the world should be - home to a diverse set of views and opinions, but not to the detriment of your desire to build, share, create and form your own opinions.

For all this I blame nobody but myself, nobody has a gun to my head forcing me to view the web page, or the comments, let alone the specially inflammatory comments. For some damn reason they are so alluring, but I miss how I used to utilise Hacker News. I now miss that more than I will miss the group of truly wonderful people on HN that would make thoughtful, productive and interesting comments.

So, while I try to undo the past few years of browsing habits, I made Quiet Hacker News. The front-page of HN, with everything but the links stripped.

I have been using a local version for two weeks and have been thoroughly enjoying it. If I still had social media accounts, I would absolutely be making quiet(instagram/twitter/facebook).com to remove the notifications, gamification, noise and what have you, I think they’re all brilliant tools whose utility has been downtrodden by companies obsession with having our attention.

Using Quiet Hacker News will also test an underlying contributing factor that I believe led to all this: a reduced trust in journalism and Internet content on the whole. The comments sometimes were more fulfilling, informative and truthful than the link itself - not to mention advert/tracking free. I currently believe this to be an influential reason, and qHN will allow me to see how big a role it played.

This project has since been adapted by Jon Calhoun as part of his Gophercises learning resource. If you are interested in learning Go, and wish to build Quiet Hacker News, but infinitely better, follow Jon’s build along: Exercise 13 - Quiet HN.

❍ Q & A

Why only 30 links?

The front page is more than enough to keep you entertained for the day.

How often does it update?

Once an hour.

I could have made this as a CLI side project in a single weekend

I know you could.

Why not just use the RSS feed?

I do not use RSS.

Why did you use Go to write this? You know Go does not have generics, right?

You need this site more than me.

How many times did you misspell queit?


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