Things I Learned from My First Post to Hacker News

A cautionary success story...

I posted my first article to Hacker News last week. For the past four months, I had been eagerly awaiting the "100 Unique Visitors" mark on my Google Analytics dashboard. Within the first hour of posting I had a few thousand. The article peaked at the #7 spot with a total of 7,955 unique visitors for the day. The corresponding number for the previous day was two.

Needless to say it was an exciting day for this amateur blogger, and I wanted to share a few things I learned.

1. Don't assume your first article won't be seen by thousands

In fact, assume every article you ever write will. When I decided to submit to HN, my motivation was more along the lines of familiarizing myself with the process and maybe gaining a few hundred hits. I don't know why, but I subconsciously assumed my article was destined to never make it pass page 5. Needless to say I was a little nervous and checking my grammar around the time it hit the front page.

Takeaway: if you put something out there, always be prepared for it to be viewed by thousands. If you don't want it to be, why are you blogging?

2. Be prepared for the traffic

After I posted the article, it ended up on another news site to which a colleague of mine subscribes. He was excited to see an article from someone he knew, but then shared his disappointment to discover I didn't have an RSS feed. I've since dusted off my Twitter account and created an RSS feed, but it would've been far better to have these in place before thousands of people visited my site.

Takeaway: make next steps easy. Give people an obvious way to get your content in the future.

3. You can write with one audience in mind, but not all readers will fall into that box

I write for people in my same shoes or a little younger. So twenty-somethings interested in tech and moving their career forward. But some of the people who read the article came from vastly different demographics and company cultures and, therefore, saw my advice in a very different light. I think this led to some confusion and disagreement in the comments section.

Takeaway: it's good to write to a specific audience but keep other audiences in mind as well. If necessary, explicitly state your audience.

4. Haters got to hate

After I posted the article, the comments started coming in. I was prepared for a good discussion with mutual respect from the opposing sides and I thank those of you who participated in that manner. What disappointed me was the poorly-throught-through comments will little regard for those who disagreed with them. I shouldn't have been too surprised as studies have shown that anger spreads faster than joy online. As my colleague lamented when I shared my experience, "Haters got to hate."

Takeaway: Don't take the negative comments personally. Better yet, don't even read the comments.

I hope you find these helpful. In light of #4, this will be the last opinion article I write with comments. If you have a piece of wisdom to add that you've learned from posting articles online, please, share it freely. Thanks.

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About Scott

I am a software engineer from Bozeman, MT enjoying the slightly warmer climate of Colorado. I think code can change lives. I think lives are worth changing. I write code.

You can find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, , and Github.