How Hacker News benefited when I stopped tweeting

An alternative title to this post could be: “My first ever productive use of newly acquired programming skills”.

On November 21 2016 I wrote my last tweet on my personal Twitter account (I still tweet new blog posts on @meshedsociety). Shortly after, I also significantly reduced my sharing activity on Facebook. These were deliberate decisions. For individuals like me who have a natural urge to curate and spread information, not having such an easy outlet anymore for sharing reading recommendations is a big change. Where to promote all those good texts, essays and long reads? Sure, I have my weekly curated email (sign up here), and I publish a daily article selection about the digital economy (in German), but that didn’t cover everything I had previously been tweeting out. So did I just go against my nature, ending up sharing less links on the web?

I had the suspicion that without actually paying attention to it, I significantly increased my activity on the tech news hub Hacker News, submitting more stories than when I was still tweeting daily. And suddenly it hit me: I am now able to check myself if this hypothesis is true, thanks to my newly acquired Python skills. I started to teach myself Python in 2015, and a few months ago I decided to reduce some other work assignments to intensify my efforts. I currently invest about 1–2 hours daily.

So I looked up the Hacker News API and wrote a script which pulls all stories that I have submitted to Hacker News, extracts the date, aggregates the posts by days and visualizes the result in a graph using the Pandas Data Analysis module (to which you can find a helpful tutorial here). Once I saw the result in front of my eyes, I felt an unbelievable rewarding rush of Serotonin — my first productive use of programming ever.

That aside, the graph clearly shows an increase of the number of daily submissions to Hacker News a few weeks after my Twitter farewell. Would this have happened anyway? Maybe, but I doubt it.

So right now, I’m double happy: I have found a way to satisfy my information sharing needs in my personal post Twitter era, and I was able to use my newly acquired programming knowledge to verify that. For the next weeks, I’ll probably keep playing around with the Hacker News API and dive deeper into the data visualization field. But despite my enthusiasm right now, I’m still very much in the beginning. Figuring out how change the above graph so that it shows the monthly number of posts will probably take a while. But my mindset always is: “Eventually you’ll figure it out”. Which has been true so far.

A year ago, I wouldn’t have believed that this one day could make sense to me.

If you are interested in learning Python, I recommend you to read my two previous blog posts (number 1, number 2) about how I approached teaching myself to program.

By Martin Weigert.

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