What is the best time to post to Hacker News?

In this week’s lecture, we discussed how startups use social media to promote their products and to test market demand. One particular business case mentioned the social news site Hacker News, which is part of Y Combinator. On this platform, users post links to primarily tech-related news stories. Depending on their interest in the content, other users upvote the story or leave a comment.

Since these platforms can be an excellent way to reach many people, I wondered when it is the best time to post a story on Hacker News. During each day, hundreds of links get submitted to the site, so it is difficult to stand out. The success of a post is dependent on the quality of the content, but it could also be relevant at which time the story is posted. For example, it could be beneficial to make the post at a time when the most users are online.

Inspired by the post time analyses for Reddit (e.g., late for reddit), I decided to conduct a similar study for Hacker News. Fortunately, all Hacker News posts are easily accessible through Google’s BigQuery platform. For my analysis, I focused on all stories that were posted between the years 2015 and 2016. To account for irrelevant stories and spam, I removed all posts with less than three total upvotes. Next, I summarised the number of stories by weekday and hour of the day. You find the SQL query at the end of this article.

I used Tableau to visualise the results of the query. The following bar chart shows how many percents of the total posts were made during each day of the week (n=234,101). I classified all submissions that received more than 250 upvotes (98th percentile) as Top Posts. We can see that Hacker News users are less active on the weekend and that the number of posts peaks at mid-week. Interestingly, the variance of this variable is higher for the Top Posts category.

The next bar chart presents the share of posts for each hour of the day (UTC). We can see that, on average, between 5 PM and 6 PM was the most active hour of the day.

For the last step, I combined the information of both bar charts in a single heat map, which shows during which day of the week at which hour of the day most top posts were made.

Overall, it appears that the best time to post to Hacker News is on Monday or Wednesday between 5 PM and 6 PM.


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