The Best Time to Post on Hacker News

I don’t read Hacker News anymore, but that doesn’t mean I can’t stalk it like some kind of creepy ex(-reader). As it happens, after taking an interest in forecasting from reading Nate Silver’s “The Signal and the Noise”, I found HN to be a great subject of experiment.

For weeks now I’ve been gathering data on Hacker News submissions, looking to answer the question: what is the best time to submit content to Hacker News?

A few hours on the frontpage can bring in tens of thousands of visitors, but only about 13% of all submissions make it (and not always for very long). You need good content for that, of course, but as you’ll see, the timing of the submissions is also worth considering.

Reaching the Hacker News Frontpage

The first thing I did was look at the percentage of submissions that reached the frontpage depending on the hour slot at which they were posted. This value peaks at 18% from 7 to 8 AM EST, which is almost a 40% increase from the all-around average.

Now, if you just want the bragging rights that come with reaching the frontpage at least once, that time slot is your best bet. You might then realize that frontpage status can be, well, a bitch. With nearly 10% of submissions not making it past the 10 minute mark, and some staying featured for much longer, the average time spent on the frontpage is clearly worth factoring in.

Staying on the Frontpage

So we see submissions from 8 to 9 PM EST will stick to the frontpage for 11 hours on average, in contrast with early morning which bottoms at 6 hours. Now, we could combine this with the likelihood of reaching the frontpage and get the best of both worlds, but, as you might have realized, we’d be neglecting another important factor.

If we submit something at 8 PM and it spends 11 hours on the frontpage, most of that will be night time in the US. Whereas if we post at 7 AM, it’ll spend less time on the frontpage, but all of it will be during daytime.

To figure out which is more interesting we need just one more data set: Hacker News’ hourly traffic. That way we’ll know how much every hour of exposure is worth. Unfortunately, because I don’t have access to that information, this piece of the puzzle will have to be an approximation.

Estimating Hacker News’ Traffic

Luckily we don’t need precise numbers of visitors. Knowing how hour slots fare against each other will suffice. Our best bet then is to look at the voting activity.

It does look like US visitors command the lion share of Hacker News’ traffic, with spikes from morning until lunch, and then back again at the end of the day. The 4 PM dip is rather intriguing: is it the most productive work hour for hackers? They might also have read everything at that point, though I suppose the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

The Best Time to Post on Hacker News

We are now well equipped to answer the question that started all of this. We can look at the average traffic we would get from reaching the frontpage at any given hour, and if we factor in the likelihood of actually reaching the frontpage, we can decide on a best time to post on Hacker News to maximize our expected exposure.

Aaaand, the best time to post on Hacker News is…

9 to 10 AM EST. Generally speaking, 7 AM to noon is better than any other time.


26 thoughts on “The Best Time to Post on Hacker News

  1. Very interesting. It makes me wonder how this post reaching the frontpage and being read by some many people will affect the way and time they post and with it the actual results of the study.

    • My guess is… not that much. Most submissions are probably not from their author, and so they don’t have a particularly strong incentive to post at the best possible time.

      Also, the traffic estimate is a big part of the equation, and it won’t be influenced by this article for sure. :)

  2. I was planning to do the similar analysis. I was thinking of crawling the site and do the data mining over it. A good experiment can be to find the “group of people” which are working as a team here. And may be that is a criteria too for getting the finding through Y-combinator.

    Anyways, Kudos to you. A good post.

      • About the likelihood of reaching the frontpage :

        I see two spikes there 6-8 and 8-10. That is probably because one is for West coast and one is for East coast. And then there is another spike from 16-19 which I believe most likely is because of time difference from India ( close to 10 hours ). SO at 6:00 PM here, it is 7:30 there in the morning. OOOOr probably 16-19 is from Singapore and 20-24 is for India.

        About Traffic Estimate :
        Surge in traffic from 9-14. That’s probably because when the discussions are evolving.

        Group of people :
        Basically , we can make a graph of users. A directed graph actually where G(V,E) is such that V = {users} and E = {comments}. Then when A replies on B’s comments make an edge from A to B. When B is replying on C’s comment, make an edge again. And then we can draw some beautiful inference about users using the “Connected Components” analysis and other things.

        We can do it. Let me know if I can be of some help. I would love to participate.

      • It will depend on where you want to use. On my site since it is wordpress based, I was using “JetPack” comments plugin from wordpress itself. It is nice and in fact more stable from “facebook comment plugin” but then after pondering over for benefits mentioned earlier I switched to facebook. Even JetPack takes a lot of space and like it happened in this case, there is no way to follow up with your comments. There is no way to say , ” let me know if someone replies to my comment” ……….Even if we don’t want to use facebok, a simple developer account can be created where you just create the app for integrating plugin with site and avoid having lots of friends for distraction.

  3. Interesting article! I’d be even more interested to know how each day of the week compares. Is Saturday better than a Friday or a Sunday for instance.

    I’m in Japan and so far have had the most success in our 4pm-5pm JST on Saturdays.

  4. Pingback: The Best Time to Post on Hacker News: A Comprehensive Answer … | Blog Mas Rifky

  5. Now that results of yCombinator 2013 application are out, may we request to have this analysis once again !! Are there any changes in response from people.

  6. Real superb information can be found on weblog . “The American temptation is to believe that foreign policy is a subdivision of psychiatry.” by Robert Francis Kennedy.

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