Mike Szczys on the State of the Hackaday

Hey, that’s me! I had the honor of giving a talk at the Hackaday SuperConference in November about our editorial direction over the past year and looking towards the next. At any given time we have about 20-25 people writing articles for Hackaday. We depend on their judgment, experience, and skill to keep Hackaday fresh. It would be wonderful if you would join me in thanking all of the writers and editors for a great year by leaving your well-wishes in the comments.

Take a look at the video of the talk, then join me below for a few more thoughts.

In my talk, I walk through some of the articles and trends that I think were important over the past year. But in summary, I think this statement has the most power: Hackaday is Worth Reading.

The level of click-bait, invasive advertising, and advertorials seen throughout the Internet feels like it has really exploded this year. Hackaday remains steadfast in publishing content of both quality and interest. This benchmark warrants you spending your time to read and talk about what you see on these pages. It’s somewhat sad that this needs to be said, but important to recognize that people should be able to trust what they read, and that we see our community as far more important than a collection of clicks.

We publish articles that matter to anyone interested in engineering. It is our goal to look under the hood and discuss how an underlying technology is used. But it doesn’t end with the article. The people who make these discoveries, who built the first prototypes and have proven design in industry, show up in our comments section on a regular basis. This is a cool thing and I’m proud to be part of it.

We are facing a few challenges. One that we encountered over the past year is how to discuss topics of technology without getting bogged down in politics. This is a difficult dance and we’re still learning the steps. Another issue we’ve dealt with this year is how to love something and not be decried as publishing advertisements. Hackaday does not publish paid content — when you read an article here it is not an advertisement. Despite that, we are flush with accusatory comments that say otherwise. We’ve looked at this and have renewed our focus to ensure we are always thinking critically when covering new hardware and in writing reviews. On both of these topics please feel free to email [editor at Hackaday dot com] with your thoughts.

Thank you to all who spend their free time as part of Hackaday. I know many of you read from work, stay up way too late, and even check Hackaday as the first website of the day (I can check all those boxes for myself). You send us tips when discovering awesome hacks, and evangelize Hackaday to the chagrin of your friends and family.

We need your help to become even better. When you read an article that you love, please share it. Believe it or not, there are still a lot of people who haven’t yet discovered Hackaday, and your help in sharing the best of our content on social media and content aggregators will reach those who don’t yet know about us. In addition, send us your tips and convince your companies to tip us off early about new hardware (we respect press embargoes).

Hackaday is a huge family composed of everyone who spends time here to make it great. Thank you for creating a bright spot in my life in 2016. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together in the coming year.

70 thoughts on “Mike Szczys on the State of the Hackaday

  1. Will you be doing a HAD prize next year?

    Looking at the Alexa ranking for Hackaday shows a boost starting around April, and culminating in about October.

    http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/hackaday.com

    How much of that is due to the hackaday prize? The timing is about right, and the structure (of the prize) as compared to the previous two rounds seems to be a lot better. Money instead of swag, multiple categories including catch-all categories, lots of little prizes to get people interested, and interim goals.

    In previous prize rounds people complained when you hype the prize projects too much, but I’m sure you have better statistics on readership and such.

    Can you tell us how much of a draw the prize is?

    1. I think it’s pretty hard to point at any one thing as a trigger for nebulous Alexa rankings. Certainly I love to see the projects that come together for the Hackaday Prize, and the traffic for our coverage of them was very strong in 2016.

  2. No offense to [Mike Szczys] but this comment thread would have been a much more entertaining if [Brian Benchoff] had written the article.
    But in all seriousness, you are doing a excellent job at keeping Hackaday great.

    1. You can go ahead and accuse him of being in the pocket of Big Hack anyway. I’m sure the authors need at least one or two more great eyerolls to round out the year.

      Happy New Year, HaD and everyone!

      1. Nice try, Brian The Shill. We know it’s you!

        Seriously, Benchoff writes the best articles on this site. So he makes some typos and can’t edit for crap, I can live with that.

  3. “The level of click-bait, invasive advertising, and advertorials seen throughout the Internet feels like it has really exploded this year.”

    The elephant in the room (and it’s a biggy) is how to support oneself without going paywall. A dance that everyone seems to struggle with in a world awash and historically conditioned to free.

    1. I’d be in support of paid reviews/advertising articles as long as the article disclosed that it was bought, and covered the subject in enough detail to be interesting and informative.

  4. Hackaday writers must have elephant hides given the blunt feedback that is often given yet you keep on writing.

    I would like to thank all the writers that have shared their knowledge, research and thoughts throuought the year and look forward to what you present in the year to come.

    A work colleague had a T-shirt on just before Christmas that read something like

    Let’s not forget the true meaning of Christmas
    The birth of Brian

    All the best for 2017

    SAABMAN

  5. I think you’re doing a fine job.

    Click-bait tends to be more of the “10 ways to fight aging, and number 7 will really surprise you!” type of links at the bottom of some media sites. So long as you run your own ship, and your ads and links remain relevant, we’ll be back. Just don’t sell yourself out to those guys who run those “mouse-over” links to ads. Those suck.

    As far as gripes about content, you’ll never please everybody. Unfortunately, your site is open to everybody, so consider it part of the territory.

      1. I forgotten how to french, for lolz, My bad translation attempt was:

        We something good-riddance for all this problems,
        and we ?? the welcoming to 2017,
        Year of the-something health, protection and money,
        great that is with ??

        thus:
        Good-riddance* for all these problems,
        and we welcome 2017,
        Year of great health, comfort and money,
        A great celebration (??? meh this was difficult)

        *Dash seperated based from one word translated guess.

  6. You guys (and ladies) make a difference in my life. Keep it up, in spite of whatever flak comes your way. The readership is quite savvy (sometimes the comments have every bit as much content as the articles), so don’t let that discourage you.
    Some topic areas I routinely ignore (time is precious). Sometimes articles are just fun. Sometimes I get the first tip off of interesting areas that I am eager to pursue and these have been the start of long trails I am still following.

  7. Hackaday is my favorite site – bar none with perhaps the exception of YouTube, but the best stuff I’ve seen on YouTube was through links from this site. I think the site, editorial content and level of advertising is perfect – as long as the bills can be covered. So I would tolerate more adverts if needed to keep Hackaday going strong.

    As noted above, the writers endure WAY to much harsh criticism. I think of all the great info, ideas and projects that people do not share because of the vitriol that is spewed when someone thinks a project is not a true hack or they (quite possibly correctly) know more than the author and they want to avoid that.

    I think Hackaday needs to change its name to Hackaday+ so that anyone who does not view something as a true hack cannot bash a post. I personally have never found a post that wasn’t at least interesting to know about – maybe didn’t read it but didn’t bash the author. Maybe some greater control over the trolls would be in order for 2017 – with a focus on positive feedback instead of pure negative rants.

    Great job and please keep the posts coming in 2017- this is a great site. Please don’t let the losers dominate it or bring it down, or impact the writers too much.

    1. True, must be hard to post something thinking that it’ll be bashed and trolled into oblivion just because “This is not a hack!!!?!?!?!” type attitude.
      If I don’t find interest in something or don’t like/agree on it, then I know I’m not one of that post’s audience, so I await the interesting stuff.

      Also I feel no need to clog up the comments with “Like”/etc, just because I find it interesting. The comments are a valuable resource in its’ own self for learning.
      I learn’t I read the wrong protocol for a mech HDD and assumed eMMC had the same, someone corrected me (forgotten who, but thanks!)
      ASDF guy (one of them at least?) had asked a question about my idea of the EC, I re-consult my laptop’s schematics and he was mostly right from a hardware view, though I still have the schematic for one that used the EC in a bespoke way to control the CPU/NB (a bespoke design caused the confusion).

      I don’t have an ad-blocker, but the add-on that I use strips almost all known “tracking” methods from the pages, thus the side effect is less adverts. Though the ones I see here are very relevant to the point I have clicked on one to find out more (found a suitable substitute in the scrap bin at work the next day though)

      Didn’t mean to make a review about a post about a self review post. But there are so many good points about HAD that I find it impossible to just use few words.

  8. I have learn’t a lot from this site over the years and I have been reading since before the original owner handed the server over.

    Mixed bag of things that this site gives interest and inspiration to me include realizing that I can reuse those salvaged EMMC chips, I can solder to steel, Mechanical and electronic gadget/devices that I could repurpose for pushbike “hacks”, weapon hacks (I was unfortunately conceived and born in UK by an ancestrally “english” family, thus weapon hacks are for purely entertainment reading), so-on and so-forth.

    Still I’m too camera shy (at the moment) to VLOG/VDocument some of my own findings/hacks/reviews(rant about bad design)/etc, for submission to HAD (this site).

    Facebook is John-Pleb’s “internet”, where this site is mainly my “internet”. Though I do also like to find interesting things elsewhere, usually by search or memorized sites (in brains memory, not the handwritten/virtual form there of)

    Guy with >1 brain-cell (Guy1):
    “I learn’t it from the Hackaday site on the internet”

    Mr knoel braen, alias average_pleb (Guy2):
    “What dat?!? Da Facebook thingie?!?”

    Guy1:
    Points at own head, pulls trigger *BANG*

    Guy2:
    “Waddaaiie sey wrawng????”

  9. Thanks for the site of course–I will say that this is one of exactly three sites on the net where I disable my ad blocker. I would even tolerate more of them because you are Doing It Right(tm) and have kept your integrity about it.

    1. Thank you for whitelisting us on your ad-blocker. I also think we are doing it right. Our ads are sold directly by our parent company (Supplyframe) who believe in what Hackaday stands for to their industry partners who buy them because they agree in what Hackaday stands for. You know, how advertising is supposed to work.

      We don’t use blocking ads, and we don’t drive content based on advertiser whims. It really is an ideal situation and as far as I can tell it is sustainable as long as the Hackaday community remains vibrant. I suppose ensuring that last part is my job :-D

      1. Last year, after reading up on the pros and cons of adblocking, I decided to still use an ad-blocker, but to commit to always unblocking sites that I visit frequently, unless their ads were simply the worst. HaD was one of the first to be unblocked and I’ve never regretted doing so.

        Best wishes for 2017. Can we limit the number of “Is this the _____-killer?” articles? ;-)

  10. A tiny but vocal minority complains about “paid” reviews but most of us are perfectly happy with the job you guys are doing. Well, except that one guy who wants the headphone jack gone!

    I saw some accusations in the article about the analog discovery and that made me laugh. The review wasn’t exactly saying it’s a great device in the first place… I mentioned a LOT of its shortcomings, really. There is just no way to please that crowd, so I wouldn’t bother even trying.

    Good job, happy holidays and keep hackin’!

  11. Do you guys ever “team write”, it really would help pick up the small errors and factual oversights that many people grumble about. It makes for quiet a good substitute for close editorial control. Embrace your detractors, let them see the content early and incorporate any criticisms that you feel are valid.

        1. 1:0 for you :D
          Seriously, it didn’t know until now but my comment was more a joke, it’s not something that made me unable to sleep at night. ;-) Btw my last name is not easy to pronounce/understand, a nightmare when trying to communicate my mail address on phone… When i was a student we had people from all over the world, some of then with really interesting names, quite fun to see the teachers to become desesperate with the pronounciation. :-) (sorry for bad english, i hope it’s understandable)

          @Mike
          Thank you! I would love to come to events but the events are way to far away (like in the US) at least most of the time and because i’m really sick i almost can’t travel at all.

        1. Thanks!
          I must admit to wondering initially if ‘Szczys’ was related to ‘xyzzy’… words with lots of consonants really stump most English (and I suspect American) folk. Makes it a nightmare trying to guess how my kid’s friends names are spelt when sending out birthday invites or Christmas cards! (There’s a lot of Polish kids at our kids’ school) – particularly when our kids are too young to get the pronunciation correct.
          Looking forward to Google/etc being able to correct our spelling attempts for us! (“You searched for ‘stish ‘, did you mean the name ‘Szczys’?)

  12. Mike captures the enthusiasm very well. We write about this stuff because it is our passion too. I am in constant awe at the knowledge and experience the rest of the team have behind them.

  13. Good job everyone (writers and commenters) and Happy New Year! This is the only site that i visit every day, and where my AdBlock is disabled, after Brian’s incessant nagging. I have learned a lot, and applied a lot of what I learned, over the years here.

  14. I feel extremely uncomfortable suggesting to experts ways to make their very good product even better; so the following is a short list of what I would do–and, most likely, kill the product in the process.

    1. Clamp down on commenters who add nothing to the discussion; who only respond for any number of self-serving reasons; and whose observations oft-times take a negative, and even nasty, tone in order to promote self-importance. Most publications which traditionally have solicited reader feedback over the years have wrestled very hard with this problem over the past two years or so, and have, in the main, solved it by simply refusing to accept comments which are outside the norms of simple politeness; it didn’t take long for everyone involved to wholeheartedly accept the new order and for the “experts” to disappear. The down-side of this approach is, of course, that a higher level of curating is needed initially (you probably don’t want to adopt the procrustean ‘Popular Science’ method: that esteemed publication simply stopped accepting ALL comments on articles).

    2. Never, EVER publish an article in the ‘slide-show’ style.

    3. My own personal inclination would be to fine-tune the algorithm used to determine the length of time an article stays ‘live’. It seems that there are a lot of informative pieces which are taken down very quickly, while some articles with no associated activity (and not much of interest–my opinion only) keep breathing long after their ‘sell-by’ date.

    4. Your writers are the best! Their articles seem to come in blizzards (see item no.3, above), and that gives us, your loyal HaD readers, the feeling that we’re drinking from a fire hose. One only has to be of room-temperature IQ to understand why. PAY THEM MORE MONEY so they can give you material which is the result of more–and higher quality–effort.

    Just saying.

    1. > 1. Comments

      The ideal solution is two-fold. First, we link hackaday comments with hackaday.io accounts – i.e. you can’t comment on the blog unless it’s with your .io account. Second, Some way of sorting the comments that isn’t oldest first. Preferably, this would be some sort of reddit/HN style upvoting system, with a few modifications so everything isn’t a dumb meme or joke. The slashdot style voting might go too far.

      Now, why don’t we already have this? WordPress. Fixing this is going to take a lot of time and money, and WordPress VIP isn’t great to deal with anyway.

      > 2. Slideshow

      Shut up, we have a great ‘which balaclava and black hoodie is right for you’ piece coming up.

      > 3. Time on site

      That’s what the slider at the top of the main blog page was supposed to fix. You, the reader, could fix this by submitting stuff you like to aggregators.

      1. For what it’s worth, I think the current comment format is pretty reasonable.
        No one like to see the same ‘not a hack ‘ or contrarian comments but as you said, voting frequently ends up pushing memes or groupthink to the top. Perhaps some sort of ‘negativity index’ could be used to push those comments to the bottom either using a certain threshold of pseudonymous readers or ‘trusted’ .io members to avoid those problems but leave other posts in order. Obviously editor moderation more than just the report button isn’t practical.
        The running update of new comments on the main page is nice to see what people are talking about as well

        In short I prefer the chronological approach over ever shifting past order. But maybe I’m the minority there.
        Happy New year & keep up the good work HaD Team!

        1. >For what it’s worth, I think the current comment format is pretty reasonable.
          +1 Trying to make this better will make it worse. Yes the SNR is sometimes quite low but hey, just skip what you don’t want to read. The/These comments are a part of HaD! I like to see all the comments and judge by myself what is interesting/… and what is not. As long as obvious spam and insults/… are deleted it’s fine for me.
          An EDIT-bouton is much more needed imho…

          Oh and yes, happy new year and keep hacking!

      2. I think the slider works well, as does the chronological comments.
        Wouldn’t be adverse to being forced to login to comment, as long as it stays logged in for a long time. I mean, I would, if I could remember my credentials (they’re on another machine).
        Slideshows really aren’t great on mobiles though.

        One thing I’d change if you’re able is to follow replies to a single thread of comment – e.g. To follow replies to your comment/question, without being swamped by 100s of other comments.

      3. I was wondering how far I had to scroll to find Brian.

        >we link hackaday comments with hackaday.io accounts
        Heck. Yes. Could it also have a sort of reputation score shown on your comment? Maybe number of projects, projects contributed to, etc.? Not to exclude commenters who have no projects or very few (like me) but to give a sense of how productive this person is.

        >Preferably, this would be some sort of reddit/HN style upvoting system, with a few modifications so everything isn’t a dumb meme or joke.

        I’m recovering from a Reddit addiction, so I have to say that karma is a blessing and a curse. It helps limit/hide trolls, but it encourages karmawhores. If you implement an upvote/downvote system, not counting points per account would go a long way to reducing the incentive of karmawhoring.

      4. Why not one step further, and only have articles about members projects hosted on hackaday.io? After all if they dont have accounts, how will the people involved in the article’s project be able to respond to queries?
        Smells like walled garden to me, I don’t do walled gardens.

  15. An interesting presentation. I regards to the accusation of articles for “hire”, I suggest ignoring them with comment, as I can’t see a downside of do that. No way of know if the commenter is trolling. In the event someone makes that accusation with providing evidence to back up their claim you will never convince them that they are wrong. Chance are both have adblock active, and are unlikely to click on relevant ads if they do have adblock disabled for hackady. While many may miss it the very thing thing a review is a disclosure if anyone who stands to profit the sales of the item provide it to your staff. Better yet create a review request line where reader can make suggestions as to what products they would like to see reviewed. Fom that Hackaday/Supply Frame can purchase products for review, then selling the product to interested bidders. Holding an article due to what is in the current news cycle has to damned if you do; damned if you don’t battle, one you should conditioner not fighting at all. Now that yo brought that up only time can tell if that admission is going to bite you in the ass. I do direct others to hackaday articles, however often I’m often require to provide a disclaimer to the “hack” in Hackaday. I’m old enough not to surprised by that. Long before hack was seen as a negative in regards to computers it had negative connotations in regards to DIY builds, construction, and repairs. Keep on trucking, you would have work really hard to loose me as a daily visitor.

  16. HAD IS worth reading, it’s the only site I visit every day and I usually find something interesting and I often learn something – thanks for that Mike and crew! And a great big New Years piss off jerk to all the not a hack poo-pooers :p

  17. Happy New Year guys.
    I fear we will remain who we are, that is to say a bit overcritical, and a bit silly time and again, but you know that and it doesn’t mean we disapprove of HaD.
    And thanks for not veering too much from the formula, I’m sure there is always pressure to do so. (yeah I know there is an increase in ‘comment bait’ stuff fellow commenters, but it’s within bearable regions.)

  18. It seems these days that every other article on HaD is NOT about a contest or prize of some sort. That is a good thing in my opinion. Contests are OK, but don’t beat us to death with that self-promo stuff.

  19. Yep. Guilty. I read HaD from work. I’m an older EE in the power field but HaD is my goto resource for electronics and computer stuff. What I find out here leads me to other interesting technologies and learning. This site helps keep my skills relevent and the brain sharp. Going to make a balancing robot, levitating magnet, and a sensorless BLDC controller before hanging up the soldering iron.

    You gotta make some money to keep the lights on. But I think your ad content is appropriate and has led me to some neat products. But try to keep away from “the little blue pill” type ads as much as possible. Maybe the advertisers will realize that some of your readers are Sr. and Principal engineers that are key decision makers and hobbyist wrapped into one.

    Keep up the good work.

  20. I love Hackaday. It is my technology “every day” site. It would be nice if I could just turn on a “troll filter” as comments like “that is not a hack” are not helpful and they disrespect the effort of the Hackaday staff, but I guess trolls just come with the territory. Advertising is fine so long as it is clearly separated from editorial content. I want to hear from vendors about their chips etc., so long as I know it is advertising. Keep up the good work in 2017.

  21. Off-topic, but could you tell me who is the artist for the music in the video? I tried looking in the Youtube stats details and I did not see any attribution in the actual slides for the talk.

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