Last week, I noticed that my Hacker News account had turned five years old. Wow. This got me wondering about the HN community in general and raised a concerning question: am I a typical user… or the creepy old guy in the room?

A few years back, I crunched some numbers from the HNSearch API to learn more about the Hacker News community. I figured this data set was overdue for a revisit. I pulled a fresh sweep of data from the API, loaded it into RJMetrics, and had my answers in just a few minutes.

(Obligatory plug: If you’re interested in a powerful analysis tool for your online business, try RJMetrics for free today.)

Here’s what I found:

  • Aaron Swartz and the NSA were the big topics in 2013, taking the place of 2012 leaders like SOPA and Hurricane Sandy
  • AngularJS gained serious momentum in 2013 as mentions of Backbone.js cut in half
  • With over 5 million upvotes cast in 2013, Hacker News activity grew by about 25% for a record year
  • The balance of comments, submissions, and upvotes has stayed remarkably stable as the community has grown
  • Users who engage early on stick around for years to come– in fact, more than half of the site’s activity in 2013 was from users who had joined more than a year before

For the full details behind these and other findings, read on.

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top-goat Obligatory Plug (let's get this out of the way): I'm the co-founder of RJMetrics. Our hosted software helps e-commerce and SaaS businesses make smarter decisions using their data. If you'd like to see what RJMetrics can do for your business, sign up for a free 30 day trial. OK, onto the post...

I recently conducted a comprehensive Hacker News Data Analysis to settle a bet with my co-founder Jake (he won, by the way). As a byproduct of the experiment, I was sitting on a wealth of data about Hacker News submissions and their performance.

One of our team members suggested that we could use this data to learn more about how to maximize our chances of our Hacker News submissions making it to the front page. Rather than hoard the data, we decided to share it with the world in a blog post. Here's what we found.

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Obligatory Plug (let’s get this out of the way): I’m the co-founder of a company called RJMetrics. We develop hosted software that helps online businesses make smarter decisions using their data. I used RJMetrics to do all of this analysis and only scraped the surface of what our tool can do. If you’d like to see what RJMetrics can do for your business, sign up for a free 30 day trial. OK, onto the good stuff…

A few days ago, I was lamenting to my co-founder Jake about a frustrating problem: my blog content had stopped making it to the front page of Hacker News. While my posts are admittedly formulaic (I usually get my hands on some never-before-seen data and analyze it in RJMetrics), they always seemed to work their way to the top.

But lately I’ve been coming up dry. My TechCrunch guest post on how start-ups approach patents? Nah. My piece on never-before-seen Pinterest data? Fail. How about new data on the behind-the-scenes world of VC deal sharing? Another bomb.

I had some self-serving theories: Hacker News had devolved, succumbed to voter rings, or maybe just become too mainstream. Jake, as he often does, offered up alternative theory: my content sucks.

Jake proposed that the content landscape has become more competitive as HN has grown and that my content hasn’t improved fast enough to keep up.

As with most of our arguments, we decided to let the data decide. I used ThriftDB’s HNSearch API to pull down a complete history of Hacker News submissions, comments, and scores. I then plugged the data into an RJMetrics Dashboard and went to work answering some questions about the evolution of community, content, and competition on Hacker News.

Read on to see the data behind findings like these:

  • On Hacker News, the rate of new user registrations grew explosively in 2010, was flat in 2011, and is down in 2012.
  • The total number of active users continues to grow because a high percentage of historical users continue to participate on HN even years after their initial registrations.
  • Despite growth in the user population, the number of submissions made to Hacker News each week has held steady since 2011.
  • If you want upvotes, use profanity and talk about hot startups. Steer away from big companies and sensationalist headlines.

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