Jacques Mattheij

Technology, Coding and Business

Auto submission bots on Hacker News

It’s been two months since I stopped contributing to HN and since then pretty much every blog post that I’ve written has been submitted to HN - many of them within seconds of my clicking the submit button on my blog.

It’s all in good fun, but it seems that the race to post my stuff in order to harvest the associated karma got a little out of hand with some negative side effects, both to HN, and to me.

People would submit stuff that was just me putting my thoughts in writing before my morning tea, without for a second stopping to wonder if it was of a quality level that would benefit HN, or even on topic.

This resulted in many grumblings, including people wondering why “I’m spamming HN”, and “whether or not HN is my RSS feed”.

No, I’m not spamming HN. No, HN is not my RSS feed. Even if I ‘left’ (I’m still reading, just no longer contributing other than through votes and flags), I’m not cynical enough that I would leave HN only to try to profit from it in some way or other.

I’ve identified two people (no need to name names, you know who you are) that were running bots on my RSS feed to submit to HN the articles that I write, regardless of content. One of those articles even asked EXPLICITLY not to post that particular article to HN, which of course promptly happened anyway. Pretty much every other thread contained at least one subthread about having my stuff posted to HN, and some of those got pretty vitriolic.

While I’m flattered by the fact that people would go so far as to think that my stuff is categorically interesting, believe me, it’s not, and it really cramps my style (I am getting hesitant to post to my own blog for fear of the backlash on HN that my writing would not be ‘up to snuff’ or that I’m ‘trying to monopolize the HN front page’).

I like to write, please don’t take that away from me, allow me my space here on my own blog and ONLY submit those articles to HN that you’ve actually read, find interesting and that you think have sufficient content and of a quality level that you think satisfies the high standards that used to be the hallmark of HN. And this really should go for all articles submitted to HN.

You’re not doing me or anybody else a service by auto-posting my (or any other) blog postings without performing a first level filter. Sure, if enough people upvoted that stuff, then it must be interesting to some, but really, the last couple of weeks have been pretty wild. At some point there were 3 ‘dead’ links on the best page and that’s a first as far as I know.

The people that were running bots have been dealt with, both have promised not to do it again, please don’t take their example as a way to harvest ‘karma’, running bots on HN in order to advance your karma is one of the most certain ways to destroy it, your individual karma is not more important than the whole of Hacker News.

I realize this article will result in fewer of my writings being posted to HN, if you follow me on twitter then you’ll get all of them anyway since I announce them there regardless of whether or not I consider them ‘HN worthy’. That way I can have my cake (a place to write without worrying if every 20 line post I write just before going to bed or just after waking up will end on HN) and you can have yours too.

Thank you for your consideration.