The Pros and Cons of an Import Stories Function by@Limarc

The Pros and Cons of an Import Stories Function

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Limarc Ambalina HackerNoon profile picture

@Limarc
Limarc Ambalina

Hacker Noon's VP of Editorial by day, VR Gamer and Anime Binger by night

We had internal discussion for a long time at HackerNoon whether or not to add an import stories function and what it means for our writers.

On the one hand, it makes it easy for writers to import their content from around the web. On the other hand, does it promote reposting instead of original posts? We want original content on HackerNoon, so does this hinder that?

We talked to CEO David Smooke and longtime contributor and multiple Noonies award winner Nebojsa Todorovic to get an insider and writer perspective on the import stories button.

This Slogging thread by Limarc Ambalina, Nesha and David Smooke occurred in slogging's official #software-development channel, and has been edited for readability.

Limarc AmbalinaJan 31, 2022, 6:11 AM

Hey Hackers, let's talk about the pros and cons of an import stories function on HackerNoon!

Limarc AmbalinaJan 31, 2022, 6:12 AM

I thought this would be a great place to talk about a new button you may have seen on HackerNoon and what we hope it will do for the platform and our users.

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Limarc AmbalinaJan 31, 2022, 6:12 AM

I want to invite anyone to comment and especially Nesha one of our original supporters and contributors and David Smooke the CEO

Limarc AmbalinaJan 31, 2022, 6:13 AM

On the surface, this function is simple: a button that allows you to grab a URL and import it's contents into a HackerNoon draft.

:slogging-slack-blogging: 1
Limarc AmbalinaJan 31, 2022, 6:14 AM

But Nesha brought up some possible downsides to such a function. What do you think about it Nesha?

NeshaFeb 16, 2022, 8:21 AM

So, here we go David Smooke and Limarc Ambalina.

NeshaFeb 16, 2022, 8:22 AM

First, the technical part. I really wanted to import my best Quora answer. That didn't work. But not a big deal. Nothing that copy/paste can fix.

NeshaFeb 16, 2022, 8:26 AM

Then, I imported the most complex blog post in terms of formatting. I'm impressed. Here's a draft/preview link: https://hackernoon.com/preview/SbDAlbgmJqZzobatVNiJ

Just in case, I left a message to an editor that this is for testing purposes only.

After seeing it how it looks, I'd like to import it because it's thoroughly researched, useful for the freelance community, and above all represents a fair comparison.

NeshaFeb 16, 2022, 8:35 AM

Now, about some concerns I have.

First, about the way we treat contributors with this new import feature. There are contributors, myself included, who write exclusive content for Hacker Noon. All contributors are equal, and no contributors should be more equal than others. Yeah, that's my "Animal Farm" reference.

The biggest problem is what kind of a message we're sending to our contributors and their content. Hacker Noon isn't good enough to ask for exclusive content?!

I think that Hacker Noon should be exporting NOT importing articles. It looks better and it makes me feel better to see a note somewhere else "first seen on HN" than "first seen somewhere else" on HN.

There are writers/contributors that I call "bees." They fly from one publication to another and leave their content. It's cheesy, but there's no sense of "belonging" and loyalty.

I'm fully aware of the importance of personal choices and freedom. However, there should be some limits.

💚 2
NeshaFeb 16, 2022, 8:39 AM

For example, I'm responsible for the goLance blog. That's why I totally understand what it means to be an editor. I have a soft spot for my fellow freelance writers who submit their content as guest blog post contributors.

I insist on the original content written exclusively for our blog. In some cases, some pieces are awesome that I accept to "import" them as they are. Of course, there's a note where they were first published.

NeshaFeb 16, 2022, 8:47 AM

I'm no SEO expert, and I don't know how importing thing influences Google rankings and stuff. Indexing of content and stuff. That's rocket science for me.

Again, I'm still bothered with the "message" thing.

Does it mean that we don't have enough top-class contributors? I don't think so. You can be a Nobel prize winner for writing, but still, Hacker Noon still deserves an exclusive piece of content.

🔥 1
NeshaFeb 16, 2022, 8:59 AM

Medium has an import feature too. It's my thing to import some of my HN stories there from time to time just for fun. Not only there's a note that it was first published on HN, but in the very title there's "| Hacker Noon" addition, lol.

I migrated all of my HN stories here, when HN 2.0 launched. Now, I have my vision of HN 3.0, which I'd like to share.

HN is a publication that doesn't need the word "tech" to explain or justify itself. I wrote about it, but it seems my thoughts about the next level went unnoticed. That's OK. Maybe I'm just rushing things.

But, here's the thing. The VIP publications, no need to mention them here by name, have tech "sections" that are ridiculous. On the other hand, HN has new sections/categories about gaming, business, slogging, marketing, management, etc. Hey, even my Joker movie review got published.

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NeshaFeb 16, 2022, 9:06 AM

You published and are still publishing some crazy and controversial stuff everybody else read while wearing protective suits. Again, it's my choice. My exclusivity for your bravery.

You would like to have some "celebrities" being published here, even if it means importing. OK. I get it. But, just saying, writing and publishing is a two-way street. One day, some famous writer, journalist, a Pulitzer prize winner would say, hey, do you know, it all started on HN for me. Thanks to HN, I am what I am today.

NeshaFeb 16, 2022, 9:08 AM

Why so emotional? Because it's easy to import. So, you're going to write and publish somewhere else because "they" don't compromise about exclusivity, but then you're going to come here and import.

NeshaFeb 16, 2022, 9:14 AM

HN has a Space on Quora.

Check out my profile. I'm a contributor to the most popular business spaces with more than 3M+ followers combined. I'm "importing" some of my HN articles to Quora as answers. I had some explaining to do that there's no such thing as "self-plagiarizing." That's my content, and I'm free to do whatever I want to do with it. Sometimes I get more views on Quora than on HN for the same piece of content, but I don't change my principles. First HN and then my content can go somewhere else.

Talking about Quora. Do you know that there are some spaces that insist on exclusive content? There are some writers that don't allow their content/answers to be shared by other Quora users?

NeshaFeb 16, 2022, 9:14 AM

This is taking too long. Lemme wrap it up.

NeshaFeb 16, 2022, 9:15 AM

Import or no import, I'm going to stick to my exclusive content choice because HN deserves it.

:slogging-slack-blogging: 1
NeshaFeb 16, 2022, 9:20 AM

Go for it. Let's see how it works. One day, let's draw a line, and do the math. How many "imports" are we going to have against the "exclusives?" Just think about it.

Thank you for your time. I enjoyed this slogging "therapy." I will understand if it's going to be my last one, lol.

NeshaFeb 16, 2022, 9:21 AM

P.S.
Please send me an email when you reply, because notifications are obviously not working.

Limarc AmbalinaFeb 17, 2022, 6:34 AM

Thanks for your incredibly thoughtful response Nesha and I understand your points and praise your loyalty to HN.

One quote that resonated with us is from https://m.economictimes.com/between-the-lines-in-support-of-piracy/articleshow/8067307.cms#:~:text=What%20happened%3A%20Speaking%20at%20University,want%20them%20to%20steal%20ours. "Although 3 million computers get sold each year in China, people don't pay for our software. Someday they will, though, and as long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours."

In my view, I think that in order for HN to grow, we need to make the platform more accessible. We need to make it easier for people to use it. We need people to want to use it. So if people are going to be importing stories on Wordpress, http://Dev.to, Medium, we'd prefer that they import on HN

Limarc AmbalinaFeb 17, 2022, 6:35 AM

Of course...we have an editorial line of defense so not everything is going to get published and the stuff we reject will end up on sites like Medium that don't check the content, but at least we'd like to give everyone the chance to submit to HackerNoon with ease.

Limarc AmbalinaFeb 17, 2022, 6:36 AM

It's a tough line to walk and hard to find the balance. Of course it'd be great if we could say "no reposts, all original content only. We'll reject any reposts." But that might alienate some people who want to give HN a try.

I'm hoping that if we do our jobs right, the importers on HackerNoon will eventually turn into exporters (like you).

NeshaFeb 17, 2022, 8:09 AM

I hear you Limarc Ambalina. Every single word you wrote makes the perfect business sense.

We are on the same page. Just to give you an example. On goLance, we faced the same dilemma. We decided to allow users to attach links to their own websites, including their profiles on other platforms, which are our competitors. For actions such as these, you can get immediately suspended on other platforms. We also want everyone to give a fair try.

Talking about new features, loyalty, and exclusivity, I would like to ask you to discuss with David Smooke the idea about the HN columnist "corner," for regular and verified contributors, who will write exclusive content.

I am grateful for an opportunity to speak my mind freely. Also, with Michael and Buzz, we're inviting, nominating, and recommending top Quora writers to contribute to HN. Let them write or repost, it doesn't matter. Some of them manage the biggest Quora Spaces with so many followers, hundreds of thousands, and even millions. Just check out my Quora profile that I updated https://www.quora.com/profile/Nebojsa-Nesha-Todorovic and the number of followers to the spaces where I'm a contributor.

HN is my home. There's another L-word that's more appropriate than loyalty, and that's love. Thank you. Stay in touch.

NeshaFeb 17, 2022, 8:25 AM

And, we are eager to use the new award logo for this year, which we can use on our home page and for our email signatures.

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David SmookeFeb 17, 2022, 11:51 PM

Hey Nesha thanks for all the thoughtful notes! I'm definitely on the fence about this functionality, and I don't know if we'll keep the import functionality long term. There are some use cases that it makes life easier for many, but you hit the nail on the head, I don't want to do anything that make contributors think 'Hacker Noon isn't good enough to ask for exclusive content?!'

David SmookeFeb 18, 2022, 12:16 AM

Overall, your responses do make me think we should make the button less prominent on the writer dashboard and the story page. And Limarc Ambalina and I are both very interested in the export story use case. To date we've optimized more for linkbacks per story (RSS readers everywhere feature HackerNoon), but we could make deeper partnerships where full HackerNoon stories appear on more sites/apps.

But some uses / reasons why I think import story function has a place here:

  • influencers/celebrities -- like you mentioned above this makes it easier to recruit influencers to publish here, and influencers who publish here end up encouraging more people to publish here. Now should we be catering to influencers this much? Maybe. Maybe not. I loved your example of Pulitzer prize winner needing to write original content here. I don't know if I'm position to successfully make that ask, but who knows?!
  • software making rat race --- if the other top blogging platforms have this functionality, and I think those contributors should also publish here, do they expect this functionality? Or even worse, look down or dismiss on us b/c we don't have it? Making the best blogging platform isn't about matching the market spec for spec, it's about an overall experience, but when you match spec for spec --- and the experience is better --- you definitely win.
  • managed brand accounts - https://sponsor.hackernoon.com/brand-as-author helps keep the lights on here. brands and junior editors have a lot of content from corporate tech blogs to upload, and this saves them a a good amount of time.
  • hackernoon books - this one hasn't launched yet https://hackernoon.com/tagged/hackernoon-books but there are many amazing books in the public domain, and many books just looking for more readers. we've been quietly testing dividing those books into blog posts, making them more accessible as shorter reads. Import story also helps save time there.
  • While original content is best if all else is equal, the ultimate barometer for 'should hackernoon publish this story?' is the quality of the story. If the quality is high, we serve the reader by publishing it, regardless of whether it appeared elsewhere first or not. If import story helps us bring in the best stories of the rest of the internet, maybe it's worth it?
David SmookeFeb 18, 2022, 12:42 AM

Re: 'the HN columnist "corner," for regular and verified contributors, who will write exclusive content," I'm open to discussing! We've been ramping up http://contests.hackernoon.com with more broad tags like #web3, blockchain, #gaming-metaverse, etc., but the model could possibly also work for sponsors with a more unique tag like #nesha-takes-on-big-tech and an ad placement at the end of the story. Alternatively or additionally, we could just keep upping the distribution/placement/perks/readership of original content, which is something Limarc Ambalina has been testing with other media companies that bring original content to HackerNoon.

NeshaFeb 18, 2022, 4:59 PM

David Smooke Limarc Ambalina

  1. Talking about influences/celebrities, as an HN brand-ambassador-volunteer I'm "bringing"/inviting the founder/owner of the biggest Space on Quora - Entrepreneurial Mindset with 2.1M+ followers to HN through the Import door. Check out this the-best-of-Quora Space founder yourself.
  2. Michael already talks about nominating him for Noonies2022 on social media.
  3. To have Nesha's "corner" on HN would motivate me to deliver something with a unique take each week. We all know that I can write to write, and write to bite.
  4. We need to be into "importing" stories business, period. Case closed. It's an open season for influencers, celebrities, and top stories that should land on our HN. Let's get down to work. Thank you for your time and feedback.


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