Product Hunt’s Response to Accusations of Exclusivity is to Increase Exclusivity

Apparently Product Hunt had a new 3.0 update. Perhaps PH may finally loosen up the exclusivity and inability of startups to get upvotes when networks of “influencers” post startups from those with whom they are friends/investors. Maybe it’ll address the lingering questions about elitism still not adequately answered.

The key change included the update?

Login and you’ll see things submitted and upvoted by the community, but also from people you follow.

Wait, what?

Per the included image, Product Hunt now puts an extra emphasis on submissions your friends have also upvoted.

One modern “growth hacking” tool many startups now use, popularized by Facebook, is to include a list of friends who have also Liked a status/blog post/etc in order to give the status extra credibility…

…and to increase the chance that the user will Like the status too.

How can Product Hunt claim it is a fair assessment of product quality when it created a system to encourage vote brigading? People with larger networks of friends will have a higher probability of seeing posts their friends have upvoted, they will then upvote too, and the number of upvotes on the submission snowballs relative to the old system.

The front page real estate taken by the in-network posts comes at the expense of those out-of-network in a zero-sum game. Submitters without any network at all are screwed. (in fairness, the redesign finally reduces the emphasis on the submitter on the front-page; although I do not think that’ll be enough to counteract the network effects, or if it will matter anyways due to the new voting emphasis. “All votes are equal,” right?)

What’s even stranger is the primary reason for the update is discovery. One would assume that “discovery” would be a system which accurately identifies products or other things which would be very likely missed by a normal user (a.k.a the long tail, to use startup parlance). It’s how Netflix and Amazon rose to power: the Movies You Might Like by Netflix and Related to Items You’ve Viewed by Amazon find items in the long tail using recommender algorithms and machine learning, not friends of friends.

The proposed system is the exact opposite of discovery! Posts which would inevitably get a ton of upvotes due to a connection with an influencer will get even more upvotes. Even with the stated goal of discovery, submissions to Product Hunt is still restricted to the “Upcoming” dead zone for unapproved accounts, so PH can’t even utilize the long tail.

I’m more baffled than annoyed.