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Being on Hacker News Front Page Brought Us Much More than Just 300+ Stars on GitHub within 24 hours

Nebula Graph was on Hacker News Front Page

Hacker News is said to be the Holy Grail for tech folks. There’s one thing that a company, startups in particular, wants desperately: RIGHT traffic for free.

I have never imagined that we would really make it to the front page, especially when I am actually a new comer to the community.

So what happened?

On Jan.15, 2020, I saw a submission on the front page titled “Thank HN: You helped me get a new job” and thought it was great. By then it has already gotten quite a lot of points and comments and was sitting at №1 on the front page.

I followed the link and read the encouraging story. The submitter mentioned the “Show HN” tag could be an opportunity to tell the community about small or even unfinished projects. I thought it would be a great idea to try showing Nebula Graph to the Hackers of this community.

I checked the Show HN rules and felt so encouraged because it sounds really newbie friendly.

Show HN Rules

So at about 10:30 AM (GTM+8) on Jan.15, which was 9:30 PM EST on Jan.14, I submitted a story titled “Show HN: An open-source distributed graph database written in C++” and headed back to my work. No invitations for upvotes and comments according to some best practices I’ve read.

After lunch and a walk outside with my coworker, I went back to my desk and prepared to start my work again at around 1:30 PM, three hours after my submission, I checked the front page and we were there sitting at the 6th, with 40 points and 12 comments:

Nebula Graph sitting at 6th on Hacker News Front Page

Then I realized that we made it to the front page! Yahoo!

Why could we hit the front page?

I have been thinking about the reasons why we could make it to the front page. To be honest, I don’t know.

But the following factors to my knowledge can be taken into consideration:

The community is interested in graph database

To me this should be the №1 reason we can sit on the front page for nearly 20 hours. People are interested in the topic, so they clicked on the link, hence the opportunity to upvote and comment.

We received many comments in this regard:

Hackers of the community are interested in graph database — Comments 01

Hackers of the community are interested in graph database — Comments 02

C++ is still a popular programming language amongst programmers

At least in the Hacker News community. There are a lot of graph database solutions out there in the market, but if you check the implementing language of these projects, not many are in C++. I’ll leave the judgement to you to make but Hackers in the community are certainly happy to see a graph database written in C++.

The code base of Nebula Graph is of high quality

I guess that’s also a main reason why Hackers in the community wanted to leave comment and raise their questions:

Comment on the Nebula Graph Code Base

Comment on the Nebula Graph Code Base

Less competition at the time

I didn’t follow some wide-spread best practice to submit posts during 6:30 AM — 8:30 AM EST, which in turn MAYBE did good to us because there was not that much competition. However I did follow the advice to provide content of value BTW.

What has being on the front page brought us?

I shared the news with our team and they said that by then we have already gained 45 stars on GitHub! I started to get really excited about the good news.

What happened next brought my knowledge of how powerful the Hacker News community can be to a new horizon:

  • The number of stars on GitHub kept increasing
  • New comments flooded in, with most kind words and some questioning
  • The number of Twitter followers kept increasing

My entire afternoon was spent checking numbers and answering questions. As well as my night. I was too excited to sleep that night and stayed up till VERY late to check how it went.

Here are some results from the data point of view:

  • ~18 hours on the front page and it’s still on the Show tag home page

Nebula Graph still on the Show home page

  • 2291 unique visitors to our GitHub repo so far

Referring visitors from Hacker News to Nebula Graph repo

  • 400+ GitHub stars so far
  • 101 comments on the submission so far
  • 20 Twitter followers
  • 5 issues on our GitHub project

What’s beyond the numbers?

While we are more than happy about the numbers, the significance of being on the Hacker News front page is certainly beyond just the numbers.


Being on the front page really gave us strong confidence that people are interested in graph database and Nebula Graph. This encourages us to move forward boldly and produce a good graph database solution for the community.

Real feedback

We received a lot of feedback from the commenters, positive or not, they are real thoughts. And we can benefit from them to be better.

For example, a strong need of performance benchmark has urged us to put the benchmark report on our agenda and a long thread of discussion about the definition of open source has encouraged us to reconsider our license.

It felt so thrilling to be seen and accepted by a tech community. I hope our experience could encourage you to move forward and create something innovative to share with the community as well, especially when you think you are new. Because the community is nice.

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