community-building hackernoon hackernoon-podcast linh-dao-smooke

Hacker Noon from a Community Perspective with Linh Dao Smooke

This transcript was initially revealed on OneMonth. This episode of the Hacker Noon podcast would not be potential with out DigitalOcean.

“Tech it’s basically electricity right now. It’s everywhere; it’s with everything that we do. So if you have a story that is related to tech we always and only judge the story on its own merit. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never published with us before. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never published anywhere before.”“We are looking at Hacker Noon content as having three niches. We have the blockchain, bitcoin, cryptocurrency people. We have the general tech, startup people. And then we have software development. Software is where we started, so it’s always dear to our heart.”

What is Hacker Noon?

Linh: Hacker Noon is an unbiased tech media website. We’re a contributor-driven community with over 7,000 contributing writers — and counting. We had a small and lean group with my husband and me to start out at first, and now we’re as much as four full-time staff and about ten totally different contractors everywhere in the world.

We’re publishing principally tech tales, however we do consider that tech infiltrates all points of life. So we also have tales about startups and constructing your personal businesses in addition to really, actually deep dive technical stuff on JavaScript, software program improvement programming, as well as blockchain content.

What number of articles are on Hacker Noon?

Linh: It’s about 20,000 articles that we have now revealed already. So we started in 2016, January of 2016, and up to now every single day we’ve been publishing about 20 to 30 stories. In all probability a bit fewer at first. However we’ve been rising fairly steadily, and yeah, we now have about 20,000 tales in our library right now.

Who can contribute to Hacker Noon?

Linh: Most of these tales are by our superb contributors who’re the guts and soul of our platform, for positive.

What makes Hacker Noon so unique?

Linh: I feel we don’t fake to be the Jesus of publishing. We just type of making an attempt our greatest to be the reflection of the web, if that is sensible.

Chris: Can you explain what the Jesus of publishing is?

Linh: So, there are a lot of platforms on the market whose main function is to actually have every single individual on the planet use their platform. I imply, it’d be cool if we ever had that, however I don’t assume that has ever been our focus. We really are fascinated by what individuals need to say about know-how, and we’ve a robust editorial workforce.

At the similar time, we don’t police what individuals need to say about certain subjects around here, so individuals feel like the freedom to precise themselves, and the entry limitations are a little bit lower than a few of the different tech sites. Like, it’s a must to go through a lengthy evaluation, lengthy editorial process, and a lot of the occasions not for that a lot better distribution.

For us, we settle for anyone and everybody. In fact, we now have three editors now who look into the standard, before that it was just my husband and me. They usually have to satisfy a certain commonplace, with grammar and with greatest practices of hyperlinks and stuff like that.

But when it comes to the precise content material, we’re very, very lax on that. So long as you have got an fascinating story to say, even when you do every little thing in decrease case, we don’t care. Should you put a lot of memes and gifs and stuff like that, we don’t care. You don’t need to AP fashion or anything.

It’s a must to attribute other individuals, however that’s just about it. We don’t standardize that sort of factor. So I feel due to that folks feel that sense of freedom of expression and freedom to inform their stories.

Chris: Yeah, there’s actually like this democratization of content material from the writer’s perspective. You are feeling like, oh I can have a voice on this group. I feel that’s the best way Hacker Noon feels to me as somebody who has submitted work myself. It looks like, oh okay, you understand, I assume whatever you stated with the tech Jesus, I like that time period, tech Jesus, it’s a lot more durable even just to get something in tech around. As a result of it’s very like, to make use of the word centralized, and hierarchical, to get the voice, as a comparability.

Linh: Oh yeah, or one thing like Forbes Know-how the place it’s also a contributor-driven mannequin like us, but it could take up to weeks or months to get your piece up. With the variety of submissions we now have, that timeline simply doesn’t work. We’d like to be able to transfer quick.

How did you become involved with Hacker Noon?

Linh: So, my story of getting concerned in Hacker Noon goes all the best way again to 2015. That’s once I, completely by probability, met David, truly.

Sharing about Hacker Noon

I used to be traveling to San Francisco for enterprise. I used to be main the Asia division of this progressive, model new college referred to as Minerva. I used to be main the advertising, gross sales, buyer relations, like the whole lot you possibly can consider constructing a model new id for a college in Asia. And my workplace was on the ninth flooring of Market Road, and there was a live performance happening on that day, and I used to be simply interested in the music. So I went down, and that’s once I randomly met David [Smooke].

I assume he discovered it very entertaining that I used to be plugging my telephone to my pc to charge it whereas being at a live performance. Like speaking about how know-how infiltrates on a regular basis life. So his line was like, “Um, you have a lot of technology on your hand,” or something like that, and that’s how we met.

So due to the best way we met, we didn’t really have anything professionally. We have been simply building relationships. But each time we acquired married, and I left my job at Minerva, I used to be witnessing the growth of Hacker Noon the whole time, up till that time.

I keep in mind when Jay and David began Hacker Every day. When it first started, it was referred to as Hacker Day by day in January, and then they modified the identify to Hacker Noon in April. Everyone thought that it was such a dangerous concept that it was referred to as Hacker Noon, not understanding that that may truly be one in every of our proudest belongings, the identify, Hacker Noon. It’s really catchy, and it seems to be resonating with individuals.

So I was witnessing the growth of Hacker Noon for the whole yr, just sort of on the sidelines seeing how exhausting David was making an attempt to recruit all these stories, personally communicating with all the writers. I mean even members, the first 500 or even 1,000 studies he revealed, every single story meant a lot to him. So I was type of seeing all of that.

Chris: So let me just ensure that I’ve this proper. Because there’s a lot there. So a quick abstract is you heard some music outdoors, you met David, quick ahead to you fell in love, and meanwhile, he was starting Hacker Noon. He modified the identify from Hacker Every day to Hacker Noon.

I feel it’s additionally fascinating to mention that, if you say you “started Hacker Noon,” — anyone can start a publication on Medium, proper? However it feels like what David had accomplished was he had attracted writers who had something necessary to say. As a result of it’s not straightforward to get attention for that.

Linh: Yeah, I was going to faucet into that. What I observed was that out of all the publications, we additionally started one publication together on feminism referred to as Athena Talks, truly, around that point. So 16–17 totally different publications have been throughout the primary quarter of 2016. And each of them has a various diploma of success when it comes to progress and how engaging they’re to writers and readers.

Hacker Noon simply by far was simply crazily, insanely engaging to individuals. And I feel it says one thing about a market or the shortage thereof of a platform for these incredibly sensible individuals. Software engineers, builders, blockchain fanatics, bitcoin-ers, students of pc science, to only say one thing from their own perspective, their first-person perspective.

Chris: I really like that.

Linh: So yeah I mean it was fascinating to see how Hacker Noon is like ten, twenty, thirty occasions the expansion of like all the opposite publications combined. In order that was fascinating. And I received to see all of that because it was occurring. I feel they obtained to like a thousand writers, both writers or stories, I have to get my story straight, in like the first ten days. One thing like that. It was actually, actually loopy.

Did David Smooke begin Hacker Noon solo?

Linh: Yeah, it was David who’s type of like this publishing skilled individual, after which there was Jay who’s an engineer at Capital One. In order that they have been pals from before, they usually simply type of labored together to build this model. And I feel they did some time off script to type of routinely recruit writers at first, however that shortly acquired shut down. Like very, in a short time, like inside single digit of days that they started it.

And it truly triggered a change of phrases and circumstances in Medium’s very own phrases and circumstances. So should you see something along the road of like, you possibly can’t run a script in our app, it in all probability was triggered by that occasion back in 2016.

Do you have got any advice on methods to start a successful publication on Medium?

Linh: I feel it is best to just find your vertical, no matter that works. You possibly can’t simply publish something. So I feel crucial factor first is to seek out your niche, find your vertical. Next, is just principally go for it. I imply I keep in mind I was truly helping out a little bit with recruiting tales at first, too, you simply need to go at it.

Chris: Whenever you say recruiting tales, does it mean you’re actively looking on Medium, and also you’re asking individuals, “Hey, do you want to be a part of our publication?”

Linh: Yeah, yeah, exactly. We might take a look at this fascinating story, and then we immediately messaged the writer. Back in the day they actually have a “add this story to your publication,” or something like that. Like “ask,” to add this story to your publication. They reduce that functionality months in the past, I feel perhaps much more than a yr in the past already.

However yeah, they used to have that. I feel you must simply sort of be vigilant and go for one of the best stories you’ll find. And I feel individuals like that about us. We’re very clear about our intention, and we just share with individuals like, “Hey, we just started this publication,” we do this with like 16, 17 different publications, too.

As for me; I’m very occupied with fitness, and I’m very taken with feminism, so I sort of went out of my method, like spent hours simply type of speak to individuals concerning the tales that they wrote, and the way fascinating they’re.

Chris: As a result of what I’m questioning if it’s fascinating your technique, if we call it that, for having an concept to make something a publication. It seems like perhaps the thought was hey let’s attempt a bunch of these and if one hits, we’ll go with that. Is that extra of the story of the way it occurs?

Linh: Yeah, but in addition I feel with Hacker Noon we additionally spend a lot extra time just eager about the bigger questions of know-how and the way that impacts each single factor that we do. Even the very software program that we use to recruit stories is part of the story of know-how, massive image know-how. And I’m skipping the story approach forward, however now as we’re shifting gears from a publishing firm to a software program firm, it blew my thoughts how that occurred.

Can you inform me a little bit about what’s happening with Hacker Noon and Medium?

Linh: So we’ve been constructing our following and our stories on Medium infrastructure for the previous virtually three years. And you recognize, around the starting of 2018 they sort of communicated with us that after many pivots, they finally decided that publications are not an integral part of Medium business. And it was really detrimental for a lot of different outstanding publications, and I really thought that was why individuals like Alerts and Noise left the platform.

Chris: And Linh once you stated they decided that, did they determine it by emailing you? Or was it simply your visitors simply dropped, or was that?

Linh: Visitors was nonetheless rising continually. January 2018 was truly our largest month because of this one story by David Gilbertson who solely publishes on Hacker Noon, it’s this very fascinating story about a knowledge breach. However yeah, January was around once they started communicating at first, simply by way of e-mail concerning the intention, and then many, many long calls after that about their pivot.

This isn’t shocking to us because they’ve pivoted many occasions. They’ve type of let go of a third of their employees earlier, earlier than that, after which additionally they employed a new editorial staff earlier than firing them once more. So we simply sort of knew that they have been experimenting a lot with their enterprise instructions.

Linh: But the specific news of publications not being an integral part was fairly detrimental to us. We tried to get into the companion program that they have been making an attempt to advertise, they want everyone to pay them $5 a month, and we type of like, “Yeah, if you want us to be part of that we’ll be happy to, we can help with distribution.”

However that didn’t go anyplace. So yeah, long story brief, proper around mid-Might or June of 2018, we knew that we needed to transfer off. They actually provided us a very small quantity to move off.

Did Medium try to purchase Hacker Noon?

Linh: Yeah, they did. It was laughable, really, the amount that they provided. However they did supply some, and we rejected it, and we have been type of considering of our own pivot. Now we truly should do one thing. At the time, we have already got virtually 7,000 writers and about 18,000 tales in our library. And the thought of just doing another time was really overwhelming, you already know?

Chris: However what options did you might have at this level? You’re saying they didn’t want you, so.

Linh: Yeah, we now have three options on the time, at the very least in our thoughts. We either just shut it down altogether, as they needed, and take their supply, that’s number one. Quantity two we may be working for another person, like some other, greater corporations can purchase us and like take over this drawback, it’ll develop into their drawback.

Or the third selection, which is the hardest one, and I used to be sort of in denial for the primary month or two that we had to choose that, to build our personal software. Construct our personal infrastructure and just start every little thing over again. And you already know after many, many late nights and lots of talks and pondering, we determined to go for that route.

Chris: Oh, so it wasn’t a simple determination, however that’s where you at the moment are, is this determination the place you’re telling me to go away, to do your personal thing.

Linh: It’s been truly superb, Chris. It’s like every time we decided like we make that mental change, every little thing modified. We approached one among our contributors who happens to be the CEO of this fairness crowdfunding platform referred to as Start Engine.

We didn’t know much about crowdfunding on the time, however apparently, it was only out there since 2015, the Jobs Act of 2015, permitting principally every bizarre individual, American or international, with the exception of a few nations, to spend money on a personal firm.

Before that, it was never potential, solely accredited buyers might achieve this. And Howard, his identify, was actually helpful in just explaining to us that the crowdfunding platform is the best choice for us due to all the readers and followers that we already had.

Linh: And we simply type of took a leap of faith on the time and be like, “All right, if people want this company, this application to continue, maybe they’ll chip in.” Our objective is to succeed in for the sky. The maximum, which is 1.07 million dollars, and we didn’t understand how a lot we’re going to be able to increase. And after a few months, we raised the max amount.

We have been truly oversubscribed in the direction of the top, which means a lot extra individuals chipped in extra money, however due to crowdfunding regulation, we couldn’t get more than 1.07 from 1200 readers. So each time individuals say funded by readers, we’re genuinely funded by readers. And these are usually not donations or something like, type of like a Kickstarter or Crowdfunder. So it’s equity.

What’s the difference between crowdfunding (what you did) and operating a Kickstarter?

Linh: The primary difference is that we don’t simply give away T-shirts, which we do, or stickers. In return in your investor in us, you truly own a little bit of the corporate. The 1200 buyers own about 14, 15% of Hacker Noon proper now, which is our valuation is 7.5 million after the crowdfunding.

Chris: When you didn’t use Kickstarter, was there a platform for doing this type of equity crowdfunding, is that what you’re saying?

Linh: Yeah, so I don’t assume we have been ever even considering just a donation campaign, because it simply doesn’t bode properly with what we’ve completed. We’ve helped individuals a lot with distributing their stories, but at the finish of the day it’s their stories, it’s the contributors’ tales, they usually personal these tales.

So to us, everybody who invested in us ought to personal a little little bit of the company as properly. So that’s why we go for fairness crowdfunding and not simply the regular crowdfunding. So now we truly report back to 1200 bosses. Like earlier than that we have been truly an S Corp, which the requirement is fewer than 75 buyers. And we shortly handed that after like the first 4 hours of the primary day of raising the fund.

So because of that, now we’ve a lot of individuals to be accountable to, and it’s superb. We promised these individuals that we’ll do a quarterly, in-depth report of the state of the company, just every quarter.

And final time once I did it we despatched an e mail to 1200 individuals, and like a thousand individuals immediately opened the email. I mean, I’ve despatched a lot of emails earlier than; but having an 80, 81% open fee on the primary day, I’ve never heard of that.

Chris: I’ve by no means heard of it both.

Linh: So these individuals, they’re actually, really true believers, and we’re so grateful.

Chris: Oh my gosh, sure, I really like the story.

What proportion of the company do your crowdfunded buyers own?

Linh: Altogether these 1200 buyers personal 15% of the company.

Chris: And how do you handle that? I know like CoinList, or there are some crypto methods to split equity, does this have anything to do with a blockchain token?

Linh: No, we might love to explore a few of that, however proper now they really manage on Begin Engine, the crowdfunding platform, and we do have their emails and all of their contact info. So we will both ship it by way of Begin Engine or by way of OCRM. Managers is a funny phrase because we actually think about these individuals our bosses.

So what we do is we invite them all to our personal group on, which is a discourse occasion that we built with the help of Digital Ocean. And it serves as our group forum. And these individuals are all invited to our personal group on there. We also make it possible for they are the primary to know, let’s say if we’ve a beta product that we would like them to test. Or if we’ve a particular sponsorship opportunity or any type of job alternatives, issues like that, they might be the first to know.

Chris: All right, so this is superb. So you made this robust choice to maneuver away from this big company, Medium, at this level. And now you’ve got the backing of about 1200 individuals who have truly funded this concept. How do you then get all the content off of Medium and onto your personal platform? It looks like that’s a large challenge.

Linh: Yeah, it’s a good query. So we’ve been backing up all the content since just about the beginning, so we have now all of our content material backed up on a third celebration.

Chris: A 3rd get together? How does that work?

Linh: They’re referred to as Cosmic JS, they usually’re truly also a contributor of ours, we simply work with principally all corporations that contributed to Hacker Noon.

Chris: The factor happening here is that you understand all the smartest individuals in tech.

Linh: Yeah, I’m so grateful for that, like simply an awesome unintended consequence. However yeah these individuals have a vested interest in Hacker Noon; principally, they want Hacker Noon to achieve success, in order that’s why they’re so desperate to work with us. But we’ve been counting on Cosmic JS for years now, they usually assist us again up the content material of their system. So proper now, once we’re migrating the tales over it’s going to return from Cosmic JS.

Linh: Now when it comes to what stories we’ll transfer over, it’s going to take me a very long time to elucidate it, but we’ve been for the past 4 months after we concluded the crowdfunding firm, making sure everyone seems to be knowledgeable of this transfer off Medium.

All of our seven, eight thousand writers are informed of the move, they usually give us exclusive permission to publish their content or to actually stay, like making sure their content remain on and no links around the internet, of which tens of millions are damaged.

Chris: I hate that, yeah, that’s going to be a fairly wild day when all those hyperlinks break, so to talk. The internet is going to interrupt. I’ve a few of my writing on Hacker Noon, are my links going to break? I gave permission, so I’m curious if individuals gave permission.

Linh: No, your links completely won’t break in the event you gave us permissions, then 100% it won’t beak. We have now the stories in our system.

Chris: That’s good for anybody else listening who’s either a fan or a author to know that in case you gave permission, then the hyperlinks gained’t break, great.

Linh: Yeah, absolutely.

I don’t assume there’s any precedent for this earlier than. Some publications, some corporations have moved, however Medium often is pretty nice to these corporations, and have work like hand in hand with these corporations, publications. So our case, this breakup, is I feel a uncommon case. So we’ll see.

We’re still making an attempt to work with them. We’ve been emailing them forwards and backwards, and I feel the last communication we had with Medium was sort of once they did that entire e-mail factor to all of our contributors saying that we principally didn’t exist, in order that was fairly abrupt. And yeah, after that they did try to attain out again, so we’ll see how that goes.

So Medium principally went behind your back and emailed your writers… what?

Linh: Like, “Hacker Noon is just a container within the Medium infrastructure,” and principally “you shouldn’t go there.” One thing along these strains. It was a very shocking Monday.

Chris: Nicely, let’s speak concerning the future. And if individuals listening right now may need to contribute, what’s the course of, or what kind of tales are you on the lookout for to get more of on Hacker Noon?

How do you turn into a Hacker Noon writer?

Linh: Positive, so we’re taking a look at Hacker Noon content material as having sort of three niches. So we’ve the blockchain, bitcoin, cryptocurrency individuals. Then we’ve the overall tech startup individuals. Then we now have software program improvement, which, you understand software program is all the time where we started, so it’s all the time pricey to our heart.

But we sort of get to see the rise of blockchain as we publish tales, and we simply educated ourselves a lot on the subject. And a lot of these corporations, they will’t advertise or tell their stories anyplace else because speaking about massive corporations, they’ve a lot of management over the exposure of blockchain. So, we type of have an fascinating intersection for that. We permit individuals to speak about their very own tales and the way forward for blockchain.

Then outdoors of that we also have a lot of startup founders and technical, non-technical founders usually, and people who find themselves building issues simply speaking about how they construct them. So these are the three subjects that we know that there’ll all the time be an audience for them.

However even outdoors of that, I feel like I say at first, tech is simply principally electrical energy proper now. It’s all over the place. It’s with every little thing that we do. So when you have any story that’s remotely associated to tech, and we’ll all the time and only just the story by its own benefit.

It doesn’t matter that you simply’ve by no means revealed with us earlier than, it doesn’t matter that you simply’ve never revealed anyplace earlier than. In reality, nearly all of our writers are unprofessional writers. They write tales as part of something else, they don’t write stories just for the sake of writing.

So yeah, it doesn’t matter, you possibly can just publish or at the very least submit your tales to Hacker Noon. Proper now, we now have, and it’ll instantly go to the inbox of certainly one of our three primary editors. We even have me, myself, and a few different individuals along with those primary editors, but yeah.

The three subjects that I talked to you about, every of those is manned by one editor, and they’ll provide you with a minimum of ten minutes per story of like enhancing the headlines, making sure that search engine will recognize it. Additionally, enhancing the structure of the story, ensuring it’s readable, straightforward sufficient for the readers to comply with, any guideline round links around greatest practices.

Then you’ll be able to simply merely go to for that. And if you need to get a sneak peek into Hacker Noon 2.0, you possibly can go to the place we, like I stated it’s our discussion board, we’ve got a couple of thousand readers, writers, shareholders on there already, and we do product updates and simply polls of what features individuals need us to incorporate in our software program on there.

And we additionally talk about issues like, “What will replace Google search?” You already know, “What’s your spirit animal? Or like, what computer do you use?” That type of thing, it’s actually fun. You then’re going to go on there, and if you want to reserve your deal with on Hacker Noon you possibly can go to, and right now I feel you may be capable of reserve Chris, perhaps. You realize, like there are like 2 or 3 thousand handles reserved already, so yeah.

Do you might have a favourite writer or story on Hacker Noon?

Linh: I feel it’s obtained to be Rick, Morty, and the Which means of Life by Dan Jeffries, I imply how superb it that? He just blew my thoughts. He solely publishes on Hacker Noon as properly, and Dan Jeffries is about for life with his job. Like he sells software for some rich corporations on his day time, and each different hour of this life is spent serious about massive questions like the way forward for humanity.

So yeah, I simply love studying his stuff a lot. He and who else, Dan Gilbertson’s I Have Credit Card Numbers and Passwords from Your Website. I mentioned him a bit earlier, he’s the one that wrote our largest story ever on the info breach, security breach.

Chris: What a loopy identify.

Linh: There’s also this one from Cassie, who’s the Google chief knowledge scientist, I consider. She publishes a lot on Hacker Noon as nicely, and she or he does one on Tensorflow, Long Reside Tensorflow, Tensorflow is Lifeless! That one is fascinating as nicely.

The place can individuals discover out extra about you Linh?

Linh: So, I’m Vietnamese truly, so I don’t use Twitter a lot. I didn’t comprehend it was a factor until I went to the U.S., I research in the U.S. back in 2009, so four years in school then. However you’ll be able to see all of my things on Fb I assume, in contrast to a lot of other work individuals I’m nonetheless using Facebook. And that’s like a method for me to connect with my family back house, as properly.

Fb continues to be really massive in Southeast Asia, and we’ve this chat, DaoTalk, which is like amongst our household that has been happening for years. Like literally, Fb has been the rationale for me with the ability to sustain with my family for a decade, so I’ve a totally different perspective on their place on the planet.

And obviously they’re very formidable, they usually’re doing a lot of questionable issues, however individuals tend to use them as a scapegoat for a lot of their anger at know-how as a entire.

However yeah, you’ll be able to just search me on Linh Dao Smooke, after which it is best to have the ability to see me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Hacker Noon.