A Much Needed Etiquette for Sharing Hacker News Links

The Scenario

You chat with a friend (colleague, etc) about a new tool you’ve been using; let’s call it FooCode

…time passes…

Your friend sends you a message with a link to an attack/analysis of FooCode:

http://myblog.blog/WHY-FOO-CODE-IS-TOTALLY-BROKEN-AND-ONLY-IDIOTS-USE-IT

without any context or substantial comments — just a link, maybe with a comment like: “hmmmm” or “thoughts?” or “interesting”.

(Your friend didn’t necessarily see this link on Hacker News, but since this attack/analysis style of blog post frequents the front page of Hacker News, I’m using “Hacker News Links” as representation for this style of link.)

The Problem

What are you supposed to do with this link? Should you just ignore it? Should you immediately jump to defending FooCode? Should you carefully critique and consider the points discussed in the link and respond in a thoughtful manner? Or maybe your friend is providing this link as evidence that you should drop FooCode and will be disappointed if you don’t?

Your friend probably didn’t read the article (very thoroughly), and even though they’re sending you a criticism article, they probably just posted it because they thought of you when they saw something about FooCode, not because they want to criticize the thing you’re excited about. Still, simply sending along a link to a criticism piece is a lazy and passive way to attack or defend something you or someone else cares about.

The Solution

For the recipient of the article: politely prod your friend to put effort into providing context for why this article is pertinent to you, e.g.

Thanks for sharing :). What did you think about this article — was there anything in particular about the article you’d like to discuss?

and if they follow-up with a worthwhile discussion, then, and only then, spend time investigating the article yourself.

For the sender of the article: Refrain from sending/posting articles without any additional context, thoughts, or analysis (or something trivial such as “this is interesting” or “wow!”). Instead, synthesize the article and pose a carefully-thought out question, critique, or summary of the article.

Why go through all of this extra effort? Because you’re asking for a lot of effort from others, and if the article doesn’t warrant spending your time to synthesize it and attempt to spark a thought-provoking discussion, it probably shouldn’t be shared (by you).