Trends in Show HN posts

saagarjha 47 days ago

> I just want to point out, as someone who plausibly had the fastest accumulation of karma during the first months of having an account

I’ve mentioned it before, but I silently keep track of people I often see around on Hacker News–what they like to talk about, any affiliations they’ve mentioned, their positions on perennial topics. Think of it like those extensions that let you put tags next to people’s names, except I use a browser that killed its extension community in cold blood so I keep this around in my head instead. An extension wouldn’t be of much help, anyways: I find it very difficult to remember to read usernames, so I frequently end up in the curious situation where I’m reading a comment and think “this sounds like something so-and-so would say…wait, yes, it’s them” (in certain cases, this can be “this sounds like so-and-so’s writing style”).

All this is a long way to essentially say that I am quite familiar with prolific users, especially ones that I see submitting things to the homepage or participating in comment threads that I frequent (which is a large subset of what ends up on the front page), so I was well aware of your incredibly rapid karma accumulation within weeks of the creation of your account. I factored this in to my statement above, which I will admit I haven’t actually run the numbers on precisely but still stand behind unless you’ve happen to have done the math on this and would like to share. Here’s why I think that comments come out ahead.

Hacker News is a fairly small community, but even inside it there are people who interact with it disproportionately and accumulate karma quickly and readily. As far as I can tell, both of us are in the top dozen or so karma accumulators on the site, which means that we’re averaging 20-50 karma a day. I personally have been not very consistent–I didn’t use Hacker News too much when I started out (I was a lurker for a couple of months before even registering, so I wasn’t used to commenting)–and this year until about spring I was on-and-off with my contributions, reading a bit more or a bit less depending on outside workload, and at one point not being on the site at all for a month as a bet. These days I’m on fairly often, so I get a decent amount of karma consistently.

If we look at other top users, I think the pattern is similar. ‘tptacek has a truly insane average of something like 70 karma a day going back all the way to 2007 (although I think he’s slowed down slightly right now?), which is like the top quartile of what I get on average. Other users, including you, have more reasonable but still fairly high numbers as far as I can tell.

Taking this into account, I still think that comments make up the majority of karma for most of these users, for a number of reasons one of which is probably the fact that stories are downranked when calculating karma by something like 2x AFAIK. If you go through ‘tptacek’s or ‘jacquesm’s profiles right now, you’ll notice that they post stories once in a while, and they even hit the front page occasionally, but not nearly enough to make up more than a small fraction of their karma. I think even you, whom I used to recall got things on the front page once or twice a week, would have a hard time accumulating karma that quickly if you also didn’t comment abundantly.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to get karma through stories, but it’s uncommon and among the top posters I think there’s perhaps one that doesn’t comment at all, a few that post stories frequently, and the remainder who submit rarely if at all.