Meta December 28, 2020

Indie Hackers news block

Dinakar @Dinakar

(idk if it's just me)

I don't like the News block on the homepage. It's just so distracting.

Plus, I'd rather see milestones that fellow indie hackers are making than reading something else from big corps or 9 year olds making a $mil (right now it is showing).

  1. 7

    Wanted to throw in my two cents: Milestones helped me discover people and trends to follow as well as stay up to date with current trends/personalities. But I agree it got repetitive. I mostly just glazed over them like I do headlines. As for the current news block, if it's mostly professional articles from normal news publications like the Atlantic and Tech Crunch, there isn't much value added because I'm already getting that information from twitter. But, I would love for this section to highlight articles/blogs from indie makers and their companies. Like an RSS feed of just indie hacker blogs. That's the kind of content I'm personally looking for, and right now there's no dedicated place to go for it. I mostly just stumble across it from time to time.

    Hope that's helpful!

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    Thanks for the feedback! However, news is probably here to stay for quite some time.

    Milestones unfortunately aren't that valuable to read over the long term. After the last 1.5 years, the pattern is pretty clear: They're nifty to new readers at first, then they eventually get so repetitive that they cease to provide any value at all.

    The result is that very few people with accounts older than 6 months regularly interact with or upvote milestones. Most just ignore them. So for now they're demoted. In the near future I'll likely mix the top milestone posts into the main feed alongside normal posts. I'd also like to encourage people to post a variety updates to their products, not just celebratory milestones.

    It's worth nothing that milestones are themselves news: news from within the IH community, about IHers. They're just overly repetitive. So hopefully we'll be featuring some high-quality unique milestones in our curated news section, along with other stories that are more useful to IHers.

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      Milestones unfortunately aren't that valuable to read over the long term.


      However, the news section feels like a huge section of advertisements to me. I'm on Indie Hackers because I want to read something else than the typical tech news.

      How about linking to the most recent interviews and podcast episodes there? They are quite hard to discover in my opinion and I always forget to check them out.

      Do you get any money for advertising specific news stories in the side bar?

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        There aren't any advertising kickbacks. And the goal is most certainly not to have this be a parrot of typical tech news. Rather, we're hand-selecting news stories that we think will be useful to IHers. These all come from posts made (by us and others) on IH itself.

        Ideally, just by passively visiting IH you can stay informed on developments that will often be relevant for you and growing your business. Not just random tech news. IMO all five news posts currently there meet that bar, but only barely. We're still doing mostly external link posts, but there are lots of IHers who make full and informative posts about new features, products, marketing channels, strategies, events, and opportunities that other IHers can take advantage of or learn from. We're going to feature lots of those as well.

        Of course, it's still early days (literally day #1 of doing this), so I have no doubt that there's room for much improvement. And as always I'm open to suggestions! I like the idea to include recent interviews and podcast episodes, and certainly plan to do that when they're newsworthy.

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          Top Stories are beginning to grate as they're not really top stories but stories promoted by moderators.

          Rather, we're hand-selecting news stories that we think will be useful to IHers.

          Isn't this what votes are for?

          Top Stories selectively promote based on moderator choices and hence moderator agenda whether consciously or not.

          Prefer posts bubble up based on user engagement.

          For milestones, had the activity dropped off or is it just a perceived lack of interest?

        2. 1

          Thanks for listening to all the feedback you receive, Courtland!

          It's good to know that there won't be any advertisements on the side bar. Maybe you can find a way to communicate this to the user.

          Should we think of the side bar as a curated "Best on Indie Hackers" section? IMO it would be a lot more useful if it focused on Indie businesses instead of big ones like TikTok, Telegram and Facebook.

    2. 3

      Interesting, we now have two popular feeds in one screen. I'd rather not to see outbound links on the popular. I can already imagine who'll fill the news section with the current algo.

      Also I'd rather see the milestones on top as well, even tho they were repetitive. They helped a lot of people to get a few initial visits to their pages, without having a follower base.

      edit, including milestones in the newsletter or limiting the post frequency would be good initiatives to improve its quality as well.

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        The current news algorithm is all manual, so only me, @rosiesherry, and @channingallen can add to it. It'll stay that way for a while. We may take suggestions when people make newsy posts that they'd like to appear there, however we still have the final call.

        It's also a sort of "duplicate" feed, meaning anything that appears in the News section will also be in the main feed. It'll just move much more slowly.

        I hope to do the same with the milestones feed, too. I do want to give people an incentive to post to their product timelines, and to help new products get some initial traction. But whatever that initiative is, it also has to provide a good experience for repeat readers on the homepage, and the milestones block simply failed at that in its current incarnation.

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      The problem for me, at least, is that I want to control what kind of stuff I see. I don't want you to. I wasn't a huge fan of milestones when they were rolled out, but that's orthogonal.

      Just let us opt in to news or milestones if we want.

      I've been struggling to make this site less addictive and more useful. I want it to be something that helps me achieve entrepreneurial goals rather than distracts from them.

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        I want it to be something that helps me achieve entrepreneurial goals…

        Right, that's my goal. I don't want to feature news that's random and distracting for the sake of being distracting. I want it to be helpful — a curated place indie hackers can check that reliably surfaces actionable information to help us build better businesses. Not the latest gossip on what Elon Musk said last week.

        Instead: new trends IHers are taking advantage of, the best Twitter threads with useful advice, new features and products you can use to market your business, well-written essays and educational posts, etc. I'd like to have a high bar, and to continue raising it. News for indie hackers, for actual operators, not for the mainstream.

        To my knowledge, there's no place online for an indie hacker to find this. Unless you want to do a ton of digging, searching, and filtering through innumerable articles and tweets.

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          I don't want to feature news that's random and distracting for the sake of being distracting. I want it to be helpful — a curated place indie hackers can check that reliably surfaces actionable information to help us build better businesses.

          I don't care about Smart Passive Income (though I like Pat) and I've intentionally chosen not to use Facebook, LinkedIn or TikTok.

          How do any of the pinned news stories help me build my business? What is it about them that justifies being at the top of the page when I visit?

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            Sure, but any individual could say that about any selection of posts on IH. I can't justify making decisions based on what one individual's preferences are. What matters is what the bulk of people want to see. And all of those posts generated quite a lot of upvotes and discussion, because people found them helpful or interesting. Go read the comments.

            • Lots of IHers want to grow their apps and websites, and therefore find it helpful to see a guide to growing using LinkedIn.
            • Lots of IHers might want to start a podcast with an attached community, and therefore the announcement about Telegram's voice chat functionality + my comment about the podcast use-case were very helpful to them.
            • Lots of IHers might be running a community or interested in selling one. A post about an IHer who sold his community to SPI + discussion about the strategy in the comments is quite useful.
            • etc.

            All of these posts (with the possible exception of the TikTok one) help people build their businesses, and I think that's clear if you read them with an open mind, rather than skimming headlines and assuming the worst. People don't like industry news because they're stupid or addicted. They like it because it's absurdly useful and informative. IMO you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater by hyperfocusing on a few of the negative attributes associated with news, which don't even apply universally, and ignoring the positives that make some news useful to founders.

            Indeed, you must admit on some level that news is useful, because milestones are news. They're just one tiny subset of news. You can't really argue against news and for milestones. That's like arguing against alcohol but for vodka. The only productive discussion worth having is what kinds of news are useful.

            Compared to milestones, these broader news posts aren't repetitive. That means you build up a significantly vaster wealth of knowledge over time by reading them. One month of skimming IHer-targeted news will probably teach you a few hundred potentially useful things. One month of skimming through milestones is going to give you 100 different takes of launching on Product Hunt, and maybe a small handful of other things. Which is why people aren't coming back to re-read milestones. Repetitive milestones simply aren't that valuable.

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              Sure, but any individual could say that about any selection of posts on IH.

              This is why customization and information density are valuable.

              Consider these two options:

              1. Seeing 22 things on Reddit based on what you've chosen to follow

              2. Seeing a box of 5 things chosen by management that can't be customized and then 2 other things from what used to be the main feed below.

              Can you see how not just one but many users would prefer the first?

              An "editors picks" tab would be welcome, but I don't really want an unremovable box of anything above the feed.

              This is even true if I'm specifically looking for new posts. E.g., clicking newest on the developers group shows me a post titled "Best platforms for personal websites?" post from five months ago. That post isn't new and it's not useful for me, but I see it every time I look at that page because it's been manually chosen for us to see.

              I'm confused by your extended comments about milestones. In my post you're replying to, I said I wasn't a huge fan of milestones. I agree with you that the posts are more often useful than milestones.

              I just wanted to be able to filter out what's not useful.

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                I think customization is great in theory, but it's hard to do in practice, and probably unwise to start there.

                What makes it hard is that it's extremely time-consuming to maintain a site that has a bunch of different options for how it works. You now have double the bugs, double the UX issues, double the CSS changes, double duty implement responsive design, etc. And it multiplies for every UI configuration option you add. That's not a smart challenge for a small development team to take on. Even big companies are wise enough to rarely do this.

                You also don't want to start with configuration. You want to start with convention: strong opinionated decisions about what's good. Then see what works and learn from it. Then if you want to provide options, great, at least you have the data to support the options you choose.

                So I find it very hard to justify adding an option switch based on a small handful of complaints whenever making a change. Especially on a social site, where it's a well-known phenomenon that practically any change will lead to complaints.

                I understand why you'd want some config options personally, and others have suggested it in various situations ("I like X so please give me the option to keep X even as you change the site for others"). But I never get the feeling that anyone suggesting this has actually thought through the implications for the site as a whole, which is how I have to think. And that makes the suggestions unpersuasive.

                On a personal note, I find the pattern a little disappointing, considering this is a site for founders, and imo founders should be able to empathize more with the variety of goals that have to go in making product decisions, and theoretically not make suggestions that don't align with any of those goals.

                (I'm often similarly disappointed by poorly-titled threads coming from founders, who should be at least a little more well-read on copywriting than the average person.)

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                  Maybe there could be a simple fix, like per group RSS feeds, plus one for products.

                  Then minimalists and customizers like me can just follow what we want, and be mostly immune from various churn and reorganization of the feed page and it wouldn't incur an ongoing support burden. WP does this out of the box with categories.

                  Another similar and even easier fix, is to simply have another page with a different view on the same data. That's an approach I took with my previous site for power users.

                  On the empathy point, this could be a case of following the golden rule when the platinum rule would have been better. I'd love to get negative feedback from my most engaged users but simply can't drag it out of them. In fact, one goal that made my shortlist last year was to try to be more disagreeable with founders and others I believed would welcome it.

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                    I certainly don't mind useful feedback, even if it leads to debate and disagreement. It's one of the things that makes working on IH so fun. I just wish we could more consistently start the convo at a more productive place than, "I personally don't like this, so you should change it."

                    IH might seem like a more-or-less finished website that I'm just tweaking, but to me it's always been broken-ish, because it's pre-PMF. I won't consider it to have PMF until churn is low enough for it to grow at a decent rate. For that to happen, the homepage just needs to be consistently more varied, useful, and interesting. It can't just be a bunch of "Let's follow each other on Twitter" posts.

                    Iterating to hit that bar is a lot of work. And I don't have a ton of time, thanks to the podcast and other responsibilities. But once I get there, I'll have a lot more time to do things like cater to the minimalists and customizers. I'd love to do that, in fact. Most of the features you're talking about are features I'd like myself.

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                      Fair enough! I was especially bad about doing that during the days of the modal when my wrist injuries were severe.

                      It can't just be a bunch of "Let's follow each other on Twitter" posts.

                      Ha! I would already have churned if it were.

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      Milestones unfortunately aren't that valuable to read over the long term.

      Disagreed. And which long term are you talking about? It's like news but just coming from makers themselves. It's much more valuable than some other news.

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        I can measure it in user behavior. If they were valuable, people would continue to read them. The fact that most people don't means, unfortunately, they aren't providing value. Simple as that.

        The reason is repetition. If I teach you calculus once, that's valuable. If I teach you again, maybe it's somewhat valuable as a refresher. But very few people want to take calculus class 25 times. Perhaps the people who do will be the vocal minority, but the minority is… the minority.

        The milestones are quite similar. You can scroll back through pages and pages of milestones, and it's basically: "I made $," "I launched on Product Hunt," and only a small handful other types of posts.

        It's not that milestones aren't helpful in general. But they're significantly less helpful than, say, keeping you informed every day of new developments you can actually take advantage of as an indie hacker.

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          Ok, let's see what we have in the News block today:

          • Smart Passive Income just acquired paid community Unreal Collective
            I have no idea what is it about

          • TikTok just became the first major platform to ban multilevel-marketing
            I'm not interested in TikTok

          • Telegram launches voice chat, ad platform, begins to monetize
            Why would I worry about Telegram?

          • 2021: The Year of Facebook Meme Marketing, Reddit Video, and Augmented Reality
            Why would I worry about it?

          • Now's the Time to Build an Audience on LinkedIn
            Is it an ad? I hate Linkedin...

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            It seems like you're basically just saying you didn't click any of the links, because if you do, they all explain what they're about and why they're relevant and useful. (Perhaps the TikTok one isn't the useful.)

            1. and indie hacker's community was acquired + good discussion about the ins and outs of community acquisitions
            2. good discussion about the business model of MLM schemes
            3. good discussion about how to use Telegram's new feature to bootstrap a podcast community
            4. wide-ranging post with tons of content from indie hackers
            5. another wide-ranging post with tons of content from indie hackers

            And even if you personally aren't interested in these, the stats don't really like:

            • 9 votes + 10 comments
            • 25 votes + 11 comments
            • 7 votes + 5 comments
            • 18 votes + 2 comments
            • 46 votes + 13 comments

            By comparison, last Monday's milestones:

            • 16 votes + 7 comments
            • 6 votes + 0 comments
            • 3 votes + 2 comments
            • 5 votes + 0 comments
            • 2 votes + 0 comments

            Tons of engagement for news vs very little engagement for milestones. Every now and then we have good milestones that do well. But we can just add those to the news section whenever we want to, so news is the best of both worlds.

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              There is something statistically wrong in here. You are ignoring that those posts sent by you and rosiesherry. If you compare it to your elder posts you'll see way more different numbers.

              And here I'm going to be a little pony and get offended by called "vocal minority," When I first saw the comment count of the post I thought how lucky they are that people care about IH as they do to share their opinions. In truth I was just a noise.

              There is no other place to share the excitement of the first sale and it never gets old. Except the news. But it's clear it'll be more helpful for the site if it's not for the users. I can imagine that space as a collab place. Where we'll read about all those massive success stories of the IH which many people find useful while I don't.

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                I don't mean any insult by saying "vocal minority". I think it's an accurate descriptor, quite literally. The people least happy with a change are always the most vocal, even when they're in the minority. This is especially true on social sites (HN, Reddit, Twitter, IH, Facebook), where literally every change is met with complaints about how things shouldn't change.

                I don't think it's unreasonable to voice your opinions. And they're not necessarily wrong. News might indeed turn out to be a bad idea. Time will tell.

                Rather, I say "vocal minority" to make it more obvious that the vast majority of people aren't complaining. Over 10k people/day visit IH, and I look at their behavior to help me decide what to do. That's something few people take into account.

                The current situation for the IH homepage is that it's simply not retentive. The vast majority of people who've ever made a habit of reading it have eventually stopped, because it doesn't provide enough lasting value, mainly because it's repetitive. That's bad for everyone. Fewer people in the community means fewer insights, posts, comments, and upvotes. It means worse curation and therefore worse content, too.

                I don't agree that there's a difference between what's helpful for the site and what's helpful for the users. Rather, I have to think about all the users, not just a small handful.

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                  To make myself clear, changing the milestones with news doesn't affect me much, if not at all. I wasn't posting many updates since I miss the reseting time. It's a 5 spot winner takes it all space. Clear to see this with public numbers and you already have in depth details. So I believe not many people think this change came out of boredom, I respect what you do and believe you had reasons for this change (which you made it clear)

                  I was trying to explain milestone section's benefits from my perspective. Those milestones maybe has their own role on everyone saying "indiehackers is a warm and welcoming community". News not going to offer this, this doesn't mean news section is worse than milestones.

                  ps. I haven't wrote a single line about facebook's first interface change to google's latest logo changes. :) Thanks for patiently answering everyone.

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          I totally agree that milestones are currently spoiled. People repeat themselves many times in a row, and it doesn't make a lot of value. BUT. Replacing it to the news doesn't improve the situation. You just hide them but news has much less value anyway. Instead, I would suggest introducing more strict rules on publishing milestones. And the downvotes can help a lot. Also, you would use the Stackoverflow experience. They don't prohibit or hide anything but they have great mechanics for the community to manage itself. And it works.

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            I don't agree that news has much less value, and I don't think you're giving it a chance, since it sounds like you didn't click into the news to try reading it. Of the people who did, they had way more discussion and had way more upvotes than the typical day of milestones. So I think it's the exact opposite: news has more value, at lest experimentally.

            Aside from just looking at engagement, there are also lots of logical reasons why news is more valuable, which I explained above. It's simply less repetitive, and can inform you of important time-based events as soon as they happen.

            Stack Overflow is a very non-analogous site driven by Q&A with concrete questions, and powered primarily by SEO traffic. Very few of the lessons that apply to SO also apply to IH, unfortunately. On IH almost all of the content is ad hoc rather than broadly useful, ephemeral rather than evergreen, and visits are primarily habitual rather than SEO driven. The mechanics are much more comparable to Twitter, Reddit, and Hacker News.

            Overall, I think that social consumer app design is very unintuitive, which is why you often have the phenomenon of people complaining about the very features that get them coming back and give them useful signal. For example, there are lots of complaints against upvotes and follower counts on IG, retweets and algorithmic rankings on Twitter, every past Facebook news feed redesign, etc., yet nobody is using alternative platforms that don't have these things, because they're crucial for engagement and curation.

            There's also just the issue of incentives. You're not making a case for what will make IH better for everyone. Instead, you're making a case based on your very personal preferences. But it's my job to look at the data for how everyone behaves, which isn't data that anyone besides me really has access to.

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            I agree with this mostly, except for the downvoting milestones part.

            Downvotes add negative experience to OPs and not that great, having that on someone's:

            I made a $1 after 2 years of hard work

            ...will turn out really bad for sure.

    5. 1

      Got your point. The images are the ones that distracted me from the main feed actually.

      It is repetitive like you said but each day I see 3 - 10 upvotes on the milestones block, I think it'll help IH members to get their updates/product news across.

      Regarding variety, members like John from yen are already using it for product blogging. You can try changing the placeholder from Share a milestone or a goal you've reached into something that encourages your idea.

      edit: few thoughts that sound unpractical and chaotic in my head but still will say

      • You can try showing milestones to accounts that are less than 6 months old and for accounts older than that it can be news feed, since as you said, members find it repetitive after this period
      • How about a setting in our account dashboard to actually choose what shows up there for us?
      1. 2

        The idea to change the prompt for what you post to your product timeline is a good one. It's on my roadmap to do that, actually. I'd like to revamp and improve that entire experience.

        As for alternating between news and milestones on the homepage, it's a bit clunky and inelegant. I'll need to design a new solution from scratch that solves all of the following problems simultaneously:

        • Incentivizes people to make posts to their product timelines.
        • Gives these posts some traffic.
        • Either isn't on the homepage, or provides a valuable experience for homepage readers that they don't tire of over time.

        In the meantime, the product milestones are still reachable for those who love them, both on the homepage and on the product directory page. It's possible that I'll move the majority of my focus for this stuff to the product directory page, which is long overdue for a big update.

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          Looking forward to seeing new things

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    I like the fact that there is experimentation, as I agree with @csallen that the "Milestones" section was mostly not super interesting or valuable for me.

    I think the News section could be interesting if it is well curated to be only news that impacts IHers (rising industries, new trends, IH companies getting featured). If it's @rosiesherry, @csallen, and @channingallen manually posting news right now, then I am confident that will be the case. Hopefully the eventual long term solution will help keep it high quality.

    I really like @alchemist 's suggestion of making it customize-able. I imagine having the News section be the default "sidebar" selected content, but giving users the option configure what type of content they want to see in that space (maybe even an "smart stack" like feature a la iOS 14 could be cool). I know that's not a trivial feature to implement, but could be a cool end goal.

    Either way, I like the idea of experimentation to ultimately find the best end solution. I also like that the Milestone and Products section still appears at the bottom of the homepage.

  4. 4

    Totally agree! I wanted to point the same things but you were ahead :)

  5. 3

    Totally agree with you @Dinakar

    I come here to read Indie stories not news. If I need to read news, we have many other sources. I believe many Indies also read Morning Brew, TechCrunch...

    It would be best to have something unique on IH

    1. 1

      Yeah, like @allison suggested, it could be highly curated news from IH itself. It'll be unique in that case.

      Or like @alchemist and I suggested, ability to choose between milestones and news will also be nice.

      In the end, Allen has shared his plans for this so I'm definitely willing to see where it goes.

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        To be clear, I didn't want milestones or news. I just wanted the feed, preferably with the ability to filter out various groups.

      2. 1

        Understand that point bro @Dinakar

        There’s a big difference between curate and create. Hence those news aren’t difficult to find from other channels.

  6. 1

    Every day appears an article about hackers. I think that they do something every day, and their main point in life is to do something that will appear in news. I read the news every day. I use kisspr news service for this purpose. I like that it has interesting articles from almost all articles and they add new articles every day so you will almost have what to read. I am interested in informational technologies so I read a lot of articles about them. Almost every day there appeared an article about a group of hackers that hacked a program or an institutional mainframe.

  7. 1

    On mobile it's worse, because that's the first block on the page and I have to scroll down to view IH posts.

  8. 1

    Maybe not relevant as I check IH multiple times a day but my behaviour has already changed to automatically start scrolling down while the page is still loading.

    I’m not even looking at the news section. It appears to be still static from yesterday which isn’t a good optic. The main feed however is dynamic and thriving. IMO that should be the “above the fold” section.

    Just IMO though. I’m confident @csallen has a plan.

  9. 1

    With milestones, I always liked that what was being accomplished by the community in real-time had a place to live at the top of the homepage, but I always find myself sort of discouraged by the amount of work it takes to engage with a milestone.

    Firstly, I have to click into the individual milestone, and often these have less descriptive titles than a discussion post would have. For instance, a milestone titled 'Just launched version 1.0 on Product Hunt' tells me almost nothing about how relevant the product or the maker is to me at first glance, so to even start to evaluate if the milestone is worth engaging with, I have to click into the milestone and skim it.

    This last part ties into my second thought on milestones - I think rather than having a minimum length requirement - they could have just the opposite, a maximum length restriction. If all milestones had a limit of something like 150 words, the 'See All Milestones' page could take on an almost tweet-like format where milestones would be displayed in their entirety on-page. This would help me skim/engage with many more milestones. A word limit would also prevent the type of long-form content that is the worst when done in repetition - three paragraph essays on launching to Product Hunt, building a landing page, etc.

    I'm not sure if this post was the right place for all this but I needed it off my chest 🙈

  10. 1

    I think the best way to solve the problem is to ask the COMMUNITY what people prefer to see: news or milestones?

    Ok, here you are:

  11. 1

    True, but at least they still have it on the page somewhere!

  12. 1

    Same here! I was about to write a post about it. I couldn't care less about any news. I'm used to spending 30 seconds tops checking the headlines, if I see anything interesting in Popular/Milestones I'll read it otherwise I'm off. Thie news thingy is super annoying and seems like ads to me.

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