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Why Lobste.rs Is Better Than Hacker News

Outside of my RSS feeds, there are a handful of places where I get my news from. Two of the main ones I use are Lobste.rs and Hacker News. Lobste.rs is far smaller than Hacker News, but I much prefer it. Here’s why…

The reasons why I think Lobste.rs is better than Hacker News is 4 fold:

  1. It’s invite only.
  2. The community is polite & knowledgable.
  3. There are tagging and filtering options.
  4. In order to vote something down, you need to give a reason.

Lobste.rs Is Invite Only

Yep, that’s right. If you want to have an account on Lobste.rs, you’re going to need to know someone who already has an account. However, you can still go to their website and view what is being posted.

But the Lobste.rs team go one step further – they maintain a user tree that publicly shows who invited who. So if you give an invite to someone you don’t know and they start posting spammy or poor quality content, it not only looks back on them, it looks back on you too.

This ensures that users are always held to account for their actions. Whether that’s inviting someone who is a poor quality member, or just posting poor quality posts yourself.

Note: If you want to join Lobste.rs I’m happy to invite you, just get in touch. However, I will only invite people with whom I have a relationship with. If I don’t know you, I won’t invite you. Sorry.

Polite & Knowledgable Community

Because the community is invite only, people tend to know what they’re talking about. Lobste.rs is kind of like Fight Club, except you’re allowed to talk about it!

Those who are in the know and contribute good quality content tend to know others who do the same. This has snowballed and now the community is full of experts in their fields (except me, I managed to slip through the net somehow :))

If there’s a post at the top of the Lobste.rs homepage and it’s tagged in a topic you’re interested in, there’s a good chance that it’s a very good quality post. Speaking of tags…

Tagging & Filtering

Hacker News is great, but the content posted to it is prolific. To my knowledge there’s no way to filters that content out. So if I’m interested in seeing only posts about Linux, privacy, or web design, I’m out of luck.

Instead I have to wade through the never ending ribbon of posts, which can only be sorted by newest, or by popularity.

On Lobste.rs you’re required to assign a tag to any post you submit, and you can only choose from a specific collection of tags. This keeps Lobste.rs focussed and on topic.

Not only that, but you can filter out tags you’re not interested in. So once you have logged into your account, your feed only contains posts within the tags you’re interested in.

Each tag also has its own RSS feed, so you can subscribe that way too, even if you don’t have an account.

Downvoting

I’ve left what I think is the best reason why Lobste.rs is better than Hacker News until last – downvoting requires an explanation.

This means that a comment you don’t agree with can’t be downvoted without a valid reason. The Lobste.rs team elaborate on this on their about page.

Often on other sites, a user would have his or her comment downvoted without explanation and then edit their comment to ask why they were downvoted. On this site, voters must choose a reason before downvoting comments and those votes are tallied and shown to the original commenter. Users may downvote stories and comments after their account has 50 karma.

— Lobste.rs about page

As you can see from the quote above, it’s not even possible to downvote a comment until you have earned your stripes with the community. Again, this is another great way of protecting the excellent community on Lobste.rs.

I’ve personally had stuff downvoted on Lobste.rs, but when doing so, people have to provide feedback. This feedback has always been constructive and extremely valuable, as it helps me improve and prevents me from writing into an echo chamber.

Conclusion

I really like Hacker News, but I love Lobste.rs for all the reasons listed above. I really hope the Lobste.rs community continues to go from strength to strength.

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