Friday, May 1, 2009

A Note About Hacker Newspaper

After complaining about the flaws of Hacker News, I built a better user interface for it.

The result: I don't care about Hacker News any more. The interface screens me from the aggravating "conversations", prevents me from clicking on the even-more-aggravating links to TechCrunch, and prioritizes the stories by their popularity. Reading it is a very different experience.



The user interface for Hacker News puts everything in a list and greys out links you've seen. These features imply that anything you've seen already is automatically irrelevant, and that all stories are semantically equal, despite the hierarchy implicit in a list. The UI for Hacker Newspaper restores the classic hierarchy of a newspaper to emphasize top stories, and aligns that hierarchy with the hierarchy Hacker News communicates by placing the stories in a particular order. Of course the order of stories reflects their popularity, or points, or upvotes, or whatever silly scoring system HN runs on.

On Hacker Newspaper, finding the stories which interest you requires more diligent effort, and your primary obstacle is the structure which the relative popularity of stories imposes. If there is any difference between your priorities and the priorities of the Hacker News community, Hacker Newspaper throws that difference into high contrast.

My plan, of course, was to build a better structuring system, so that stories which were more likely to interest me would automatically advance in the hierarchy. What surprises me after only a month is that I have no interest in doing that any more. Hacker Newspaper made Hacker News much, much less interesting to me.

When I announced Hacker Newspaper I called it a superior user interface to Hacker News. From the Hacker News viewpoint, this can't be true. A user interface which makes you lose interest in the site is not a superior user interface. However, from the point of the view of the user, namely me, I believe it is. A user interface which makes a major timesink unappealing to you is a user interface which saves you time. This is especially the case if it does this by clarifying and highlighting the differences between what you value and what the annoying web site's content aggregation system (its community) values.

6 comments:

  1. I think it looks great.

    Where can we try it?

    ReplyDelete
  2. It had the opposite effect on me. It let me scan Hacker news for interesting articles in 30s or less without getting distracted by TechCrunch linkbait. That's 30s more attention than they got from me before.

    ReplyDelete
  3. @phil

    http://hacker-newspaper.gilesb.com/

    ReplyDelete
  4. No links to the discussions, which are sometimes better than the original link. Fail.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous above me missing the point. Fail.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous directly above me doesn't even understand the point. Epic fail.

    ReplyDelete

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