The Power of a Comment on Hacker News


A little over three years ago I wrote a blog post that made it to the front page of Hacker News. It was entitled How to Make It on Craigslist, and I wrote it for Priceonomics to share how I was earning my living on Craigslist. A lot of people commented on the post, but there were a few comments that really had a big impact on me, and eventually people all over the country.

(You can view the comments on the Hacker News thread here.)

The first comment that especially impacted me was the top comment by redsymbol, or Aaron Maxwell. I know I hadn’t done anything special or built some amazing product or service, but Aaron recognized that what I had done was an accomplishment for me. It had taken a lot of hard work to dig myself and my family out of the hole that I had put us in. He simply took a minute out of his day to acknowledge how far I had come, and encourage me to press on “as you grow into your next level of success.”

I didn’t need any criticism that day. I was just sharing a bit of my story. I had just spent the last year of my life earning my living on Craigslist trying to support my family. How do you think most people reacted when they found out what I was doing? I heard it all. So do you do this full time, is this all you do, do you have another job, isn’t Craigslist pretty dangerous, can you really make enough to support a family, are you planning on going back to school, are you looking for work, and on and on. I do value criticism, but there is a right time and place for it.

That’s why when I got to Aaron’s comment it was like a friend had come up beside me, put his arm around me and said well done. Then the comment ended up at the top of the page as if others voted it up. It was like a big hug from the readers of Hacker News and it meant a lot to me.

The next encouragement came from user nate, or Nathan Kontny. I think it’s a great example that illustrates just how powerful words can be. Check this out. 

Not long after that I dove into the appliance market and learned how to buy, sell and repair appliances. I then went on to buy/sell/repair thousands of appliances and learned a ton about the appliance industry. So I started writing about it on my blog Then I started getting emails from readers wanting me to teach them what I had learned about how to start an appliance business. Not having any course or video’s made up, I started doing phone consultations for people across the country. After a few dozen of these consultations, I was convinced that Nate was right. (Penelope Trunk also encouraged me to make a course/class rather than write a book.)

So I spent the next six months producing material for a course/training site that would take someone from zero to running their own appliance business. I got my friend Bobby Henderson to join me and we built ApplianceSchool (now and launched it around February of this past year. It’s nothing fancy, but we now have several hundred students from all over the US and Canada and at least several dozen that are doing it full time, and many others part-time.

Most recently we started selling wholesale appliance parts to used appliance sellers around the country. Now we are trying to make a better way for people to buy appliances. (It’s a big project and we are going to need help. If you are interested in helping us improve the appliance industry, let me or Bobby know, or just say hi.)

“The optimist sees opportunity in every danger; the pessimist sees danger in every opportunity.” -Winston Churchill

Not everyone has an optimist in their life. Not everyone has someone that will encourage them to solve hard problems or problems that no one else even sees. It’s one of the things that I love about Hacker News. It’s made up of hard working people that are really busy solving problems and building things that don’t exist yet. It’s made up of people that are trying, and know how hard the journey can be. It’s the reason many of the comments on Hacker News are some of the most gracious you will read anywhere on the internet.

So thank you Aaron Maxwell and Nathan Kontny for your kind words and encouragement. Also, I want to thank Rohin Dhar and Omar Bohsali for encouraging me to share my story and letting me bounce ideas off you guys every once in a while. To everyone else that makes up the Hacker News community, thank you and keep encouraging people.



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