Miscellaneous bits and bobs from the tech world

Does Hacker News foster deep discussion?

9/30/2021, 11:08:07 AM

I've often lamented the fact that social media sites (Facebook, et al.) do not foster deep engagement, nor are their discussions meant to be archived or preserved. In essence, they are ephemeral, meant to drift away with time.

Not only is their walled garden approach not indexable by search engines, the actual UX actively disincentivizes deep meaningful discussion, in favor of hot takes, for likes and eyeballs.

For a variety of reasons, Hacker News has avoided many of these pitfalls. Not only does it have a large community of developers, the discussion is by and large civil, mature, and well worth reading. They're re-engagement metrics are likely through the roof, in spite of the fact that the site itself does very little to re-engage users. No push notifications, no email digests, no list of unread responses to your comments. Even their threads page, is not immediately apparent, but it is the only place where you are able to view responses to comments.

A cursory review of Hacker News comments suggests that this is potentially doing them a disservice. Discussions can continue for two or more levels, but rarely beyond that. My own personal lived experience and observations suggest that continued discussion on the platform involves multiple parties, and the original commenter does not always notice that they have responses, nor do they often reply. Conventional wisdom would suggest that there is a lot of low hanging fruit in order to promote re-engagement of their users, but the site moderators eschew these strategies, for better or for worse.

However, the results obviously speak for themselves. Yes, Hacker News does indeed foster deep discussion. It being the premier source of developer discussion is not a distinction the site owners would want to give up lightly. Still, one must wonder whether this decision to limit engagement was done on purpose, and whether it benefits the community as a whole.

Are multiple disparate opinions valued more highly than a deep dive back and forth between two parties?

Hacker News Discussion