The List.js logotype

The Hacker News-effect

Jonny Strömberg
Open Source
Published in
2 min readNov 22, 2012


Five beeps in two minutes. That’s it. I got to get up from my afternoon nap to check my phone. Thirty unread Twitter mentions the last half hour. What is going on?

It turned out that I’ve been hit by The Hacker News-effect. This was one day after I’ve released List.js, my first open source project ever. Without me knowing, my friend Gustaf had posted the script on Hacker News.

Within one hour it reached #1 and stayed there for five hours. This meant 27 500 visitors, 269 tweets and 57 likes the first 45 hours. Along with 439 watchers and 21 forks at Github.

With great launch comes great responsibilities

This was absolutely not expected. As my first open source project, I would have been happy if it got ten watchers. Now it got 439 which meant a great responsibility. I quickly realised that a lot of programmers, many with more experience and talent than myself, would follow the project and the progress over time. I had to respond to issues, write readable code and make the script even better. Hundreds of web sites would depend on me, on my code.

Scary? Sure. Encouraging and exciting? Totally.

“…at least they’ll like the design”

Since I work as a designer, I thought that if I make the web site and logo nice, people may overlook any eventual flaws in my code. Well, the second comment I got was this one:

kinda need to read:
and redesign your site...easily the biggest violation of my eyes ever.

My colleagues at work had a really fun time reciting that comment the next day. Ironically it turned out that no serious bugs where found and many really liked the script.

What happened next?

A couple of days later, List.js was the second most watched JavaScript repository at Github that month and the second most forked that week (both after Twitter Bootstrap).

Today, one year later, the watcher (star) count is over 1500 and the forks recently past 130.

I’m eternally grateful and humble for what the Hacker News-effect has given me. It kickstarted my open source career and today, many projects later, I’ve become a great evangelist and encourage all my programmer and designers friends to join our amazing community.



Jonny Strömberg
Open Source

Co-founder of Confetti and co-organizer the Nordic.js & conferences.