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How Hacker News can be improved, 3 things

By KajMagnus @KajMagnus2016-10-05 04:15:55.917Z2019-07-13 13:40:01.464Z

Hacker News (HN) and Reddit are great, and sometimes a bit annoying? The annoying parts can be fixed:

1. Finding new comments

When you read a discussion at Hacker News (HN) or Reddit, and go for a coffee or take a nap, then later how do you find comments added while you were away? You'll have to reload the page, and scan all comments from top to bottom to find new comments. Not well spent time.

A solution: There could be a sidebar that lists the most recent comments, like shown in this video:

2. Jumping to the parent post, and back

I feel a way is needed to quickly find & read the parent comment, to refresh one's mind, and then scroll back down to continue reading. Currently, at HN/Reddit, finding the parent comment can be hard. Look at the image below; it's how HN looks on a mobile phone. It's hard to discern the indentation depth, which one needs to do, to find the parent comment, after having scrolled up a bit to find it:

Hacker News on my mobile phone. I've scrolled up a bit, and here somewhere is the parent comment — but it's hard to know which one, because the indentation depth is almost the same for all of them.

A solution: There could be a clickable "In reply to <name>" link, which scrolls up to the parent, and then a Back button that scrolls back down again — as shown in the video below.

3. Knowing what others think

What if there was a button one could click, to find out what others think about a comment? First, one would form one's own opinion about the comment. Thereafter one can click the button, to find out how many up- and downvotes, others have cast.


I've implemented ideas 1 and 2 above in the discussion system powering this website. Feel free to try them out — in the demo forum there's a page with lots of "parent posts" far, far away: On that page, you click arrows though, instead of "in reply to" texts. There's a sidebar with recent comments; open it by clicking < in the upper right corner. — Feedback welcome, here (click Reply below) or at HN.

And, what about asking HN to please 1) add a recent-comments sidebar, and 2) add Scroll to parent & Back buttons?

Discussion at HN:

  • 8 replies
  1. L
      2016-10-07 22:11:19.135Z


      1. W
        In reply toKajMagnus:
          2016-10-07 23:13:43.557Z

          meh. overall, this is a pretty cool interface you have here. I don't think these suggestions will make much impact, and actually, can be a distraction. sometimes simpler is better.

          1. J
            In reply toKajMagnus:
            junk science
              2016-10-07 23:18:57.855Z

              HN moderation is too aggressive. They're creating an echo chamber by hiding comments from new users. It is too easy to step out of the HN zeitgeist and get hellbanned. Commentary has become too uniform and bland.

              1. S
                In reply toKajMagnus:
                  2016-10-07 23:27:53.824Z

                  The way to improve hacker news would be to remove national and corporate politics and focus back on the hack, IMHO.

                  1. H
                    In reply toKajMagnus:
                    Hiroaki Nakamura @hnakamur
                      2016-10-08 03:34:54.790Z

                      Nice improvements!
                      I think the label for jumping to the parent post would be better like
                      "In reply to the comment by Lucas:"
                      "In reply to the comment by Lucas at yyyy-mm-dd HH:MM:"
                      instead of
                      "In reply to by Lucas:"

                      If I click the user name, I suppose it will jump to the user's profile, not the user's comment.
                      So the label should be something contains 'comment'.

                      1. That's a good point (i.e. that one expects that clicking the name, opens the user's profile). I think "In reply to the comment ..." becomes a bit long. Instead I did this:

                        That is, I inserted an arrow that points upwards to the parent comment. Hopefully people will realize that clicking the up arrow, will scroll upwards to the parent. Or at least that the arrow will help them remember how this works, if they test clicking the name + arrow to find out what happens.

                        (Haven't deployed this change yet.)

                      2. A
                        In reply toKajMagnus:
                        Anjan Bacchu @anjanb
                          2020-04-13 11:26:58.987Z

                          Many times, I've wanted to know the new comments after a page refresh.
                          Till HN builds it, would a greasemonkey or violetmonkey script do this for me ?

                          1. Over at HackerNews? I suppose it would be possible to create a FF Greasemonkey or Chrome Violetmonkey script that pops up a sidebar with comments sorted by time. However then one needs to be fairly good at Javascript I think.

                            A problem is that HN won't show all comments directly on the discussion page. If the discussion is long, then, there're pages 2, 3, 4 ... so, finding all recent comments — not sure if it's doable? Can Grasemonkey etc do HTTP requests and fetch the 2nd, 3rd etc discussion page and look at the comments there?

                            But if you're fine with finding the new comments, on page 1 only, ... looking at them, clicking the page 2 link, looking at new comments there, etc — then, yes I'm pretty certain it's doable.