Analyzing the Hacker News front page as a Python beginner

The following post might only be of interest to you if you want to know about my progress of learning to code or if you are an avid user of the tech news community Hacker News. Please also note that I cannot give a guarantee for the accuracy of the shown data, even though after thorough double-checking I think it is quite accurate. But don’t bet all your money on it.

As mentioned two month ago in this post, in my quest to teach myself programming with Python, I discovered the Hacker News API as an ideal way to learn about accessing APIs and to take first steps with data analysis and visualization. The API is rather simply structured and doesn’t require an authorization (although I subsequently managed to conquer the Reddit API as well which is more complex and requires an authorization via OAuth).

Something I have been curious about for a while is the dynamic with which articles submitted by a Hacker News user hit the front page of the site. So I went ahead and indulged in a little project to find out. Continue Reading

How Hacker News benefited when I stopped tweeting

An alternative title to this post could be: “My first ever productive use of newly acquired programming skills”.

On November 21 2016 I wrote my last tweet on my personal Twitter account (I still tweet new blog posts on @meshedsociety). Shortly after, I also significantly reduced my sharing activity on Facebook. These were deliberate decisions. For individuals like me who have a natural urge to curate and spread information, not having such an easy outlet anymore for sharing reading recommendations is a big change. Where to promote all those good texts, essays and long reads? Sure, I have my weekly curated email (sign up here), and I publish a daily article selection about the digital economy (in German), but that didn’t cover everything I had previously been tweeting out. So did I just go against my nature, ending up sharing less links on the web?

I had the suspicion that without actually paying attention to it, I significantly increased my activity on the tech news hub Hacker News, submitting more stories than when I was still tweeting daily. And suddenly it hit me: I am now able to check myself if this hypothesis is true, thanks to my newly acquired Python skills. I started to teach myself Python in 2015, and a few months ago I decided to reduce some other work assignments to intensify my efforts. I currently invest about 1-2 hours daily. Continue Reading

How a perfect launch day looks like

Graph 1

On December 9 I semi-officially announced with a blog post detailing my motivation (“Fighting the language fragmentation“). As the above graph shows, I could not complain about a lack of attention that day. That despite me not really having a well-planned launch strategy.

Even though I was able activate some of my social media followers to have a look at, the main driving force behind the influx of visitors was a post I made at Hacker News, the Bay Area tech industry’s most significant site for user-contributed news and links.

After I added the link to my blog post to Hacker News, it took only a couple of minutes until the entry hit the front page of Hacker News. That hardly ever happened to previous contributions of mine. This time I must have had luck with the choice of headline I made, describing my link entry: “After 7 years of blogging in German, I am switching to English. Here is why”. My guess is that the combination of a clear (implied) statement (that blogging in English is superior to blogging in German) as well as a trigger to capitalize on people’s curiosity and desire for information (“here is why”) turned out to be highly effective. Continue Reading