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What Happens When You Hit #1 on Hacker News on Launch Day?

Christopher J. Gan

Last Sunday, my post “Are You Trading or Gambling?” hit #1 on Hacker News. This happened during the debut of my substack newsletter - Investing Lessons.

Unfortunately I was asleep when this happened, so I was notified of the news by one of my readers. Below is a screenshot of my post ranking #3.

Here is some of the craziness that followed.

The Journey to #1

Most of the time when you submit a post to Hacker News (HN), your post hits the front-page and then rapidly fades into the abyss. However due to the amount of karma upvotes and the comments it was garnering, it persisted on the front page for several hours.

Once it had by far the most karma and comments out of the other posts, it quickly climbed to #3 before being stuck at #1 for the rest of the night (when I was asleep).

Throughout the entire night, I was unable to concentrate on anything as I saw the view count explode through the roof. I tried to stay awake during this phenomenon, but was promptly yelled at by my partner who told me that I have an early morning the next day.

What was surprising about this whole situation, was that my post was far removed from the hipster tech posts regarding cutting-edge machine learning frameworks. It was simply a post sharing the thin line between gambling and trading, from the perspective of someone that had worked on Wall Street.

Fun Metrics (First 24 hrs)

Submission Time: February 27th 2021 2pm (GMT+10)

  • 287 New Followers on Twitter
  • 283 New Subscribers on Substack Newsletter
  • 10 Emails congratulating or messaging me
  • 26,000 New Visitors on Substack Newsletter
  • 30,000 Views on Substack Newsletter
  • 168 Karma gained on HN Account
  • 349 Points gained on HN Post
  • 343 Comments gained on HN Post

Conversion Rate

I was quite surprised to see that only about 1% of viewers converted into subscribers. I am not entirely sure what the industry benchmark is, but it certainly does feel quite low.

This could be attributed to multiple reasons such as not having a strong call-to-action or having only three posts up. Needless to say, I certainly was not ready for this.

While 30,000 page views in 24 hours may not seem like much to some, it certainly was the most I have ever gotten. Additionally, I was taken back by the amount of thoughtful personal emails I received - a phenomenon that had never happened before.

The audience on HN also skews towards smart, influential individuals (often in tech). I am guilty of Linkedin stalking some of my new subscribers, and was shocked to see that some were Staff Engineers or VPs at Investment Banks.

Emails Received

In total, I received about 10 emails with the general gist being congratulatory and supportive.

  • 1 email from a Staff Engineer at Google
  • 1 email from a super fan that showered me with praise
  • 1 email from a solopreneur that sold his business to AOL

Hacker News Top Comments

I was surprised to see the snarkiness of some of the comments. It was a masterclass of witnessing the Dun Kruger Effect in action.

There was an individual who insisted that my points regarding bet sizing were not true in high-level poker play, only to be shut down by a crowd of professional poker players.

It was quite amazing.

For the most part however, it did facilitate some good discussion. Feel free to take a look here.

How Did I Hit #1?

I don’t know, it was pure luck. Seriously.

Follow Me

In my past life, I was a derivatives trader on Wall Street. My goal is to share everything I learnt about investing and decision making.

You can follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my newsletter to not miss out!