a blog about programming and startups by Brian Brunner

Be The Deciding Vote On What Hits the Front Page of Hacker News

18 Oct 2016

I built a Chrome extension that puts the newest posts on Hacker News at the top of the front page. If you want to skip the reading and just get the extension, you can download it here.

I’m an avid reader of Hacker News and an occasional poster. A while back, I got enough karma to be able to downvote comments. For those not in the know, Hacker News opens up moderation features as you gain karma in an effort to self-regulate the site.

I’m not a very active commenter, but I do like the idea of contributing back to discussions by voting, so it was an exciting moment. This got me thinking about how I could further contribute back to HN. In my experience, the single most important thing you can do on HN is upvote new posts.

At 10 AM on a Monday, typically a very active time for HN, two posts with 5 or fewer upvotes were on the front page.

It can take as few as three or four upvotes to push something to the bottom of the front page, depending on the time of day and the day of the week. Hitting the front page is the difference between getting a handful of visitors and thousands of page views. There are very few other places where one click can potentially have that much impact.

A single vote on a new post on Hacker News can be the reason an idea or company starts trending.

However, the new page on HN is a ghost town. Most posts never get an upvote besides the automatic vote from the original poster. The entire tone of HN is set by the relatively small group of dedicated users who frequent the new page. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but more people voting on new content has the potential to bring different ideas to the forefront.

With this issue in mind, I put together a small Chrome extension that puts the 5 newest posts at the top of the Hacker News front page. You can download the extension here.

The implementation was straightforward and only ended being a total of 16 lines of Javascript (I did cheat and use jQuery for the sake of simplicity). You’re welcome to check out the code for yourself on GitHub. I encourage you to expand on the idea. There are probably other useful ways to seamlessly present new posts (e.g. interleaving front page posts with new posts).

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