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Ask HN: My startup failed. $9k in debt and need to pay most of it in 12 days.
145 points by debtscrewed 7 hours ago   133 comments top 39
44 points by tptacek 4 hours ago 6 replies      
I don't get it. You're a Delaware C-Corp. You don't owe anything, do you?

Don't take out a loan. Don't restructure your debts. Don't negotiate with your creditors. Don't sell your car. Don't take a loan from your parents. Don't incur anything more than nominal legal bills.

Collect your contracts and take them immediately to your personal attorney and have them reviewed before you attach your own personal credit to your business'. Doing so is almost certainly unnecessary. You are probably just fine.

You are a businessperson, but you're not thinking like one, and you are going to get screwed. When your company's creditors worked out contracts with your business, they understood that they were assuming the risk that the company might go out of business and be unable to pay. That risk was priced into your contract terms.

If people you've done business with are now telling you that you should stake your personal finances on the debts of your company, then, absent some poorly thought out up-front agreement you had with those vendors to the contrary, you're being taken advantage of. Perhaps we'd benefit from hearing more about who those people are.

As for the merchant account: well, the people saying you could be blacklisted sure sound credible, and maybe you should listen to them. But please also note that there are people on this thread saying you should sell your car or take out a loan to satisfy someone else's debts, and take all the advice you get here with a big grain of salt. It shouldn't cost more than a couple hundred dollars to have an attorney explain to you (not your company, not your cofounder) that you are almost certainly not liable for thousands of dollars of company debts.

54 points by aresant 7 hours ago replies      
The answer is to restructure the debt, every single one of those companies deals with failures and no-pays on a daily basis.

a) Most lawyers, especially extending credit terms in the startup field, will carry over that debt with interest for years. Call and state your case, make it clear it's no-pay right now either way, but you want to fulfill your obligation in the further - say start making payments in 12 months.

b) RackSpace - you owe personally or through corporation? If personal, call them and have the same conversation - speak with a manager and ask for payment terms outside of normal, otherwise you have to default. If corporate consider folding and walking away, corporate protection is there for a reason and even though it's not a stand-up thing to do, Rackspace's world is littered with bankrupt startups.

c) Visa & MC may be your big problem, getting blacklisted from merchant accounts isn't the end of the world but certainly something to avoid. Also nearly impossible to reach a human that can make decisions on terms. For a startup they should have a 20% merchant reserve on your account anyways, how far does that take you?

Bottom line, think 6 - 12 month terms instead of 12 day terms.

No reason at all you can't get there with the right amount of sucking it up and pleading your case.

41 points by danilocampos 6 hours ago 1 reply      
An odd thought – you may be doing yourself a disservice by posting this through your throwaway account.

If you are as well known as you say, your reputation might open some doors for you. Some people who like you but assume you're busy doing your thing may be excited to do some work with you that would solve your problem.

Moreover, relationships matter. So if you're a menschy guy, someone whose brother works at Rackspace, for example, might take this through a back channel on your behalf.

Pride is tough. Looking back on the last time I fell on tough times, my biggest mistake was not being more transparent about my situation to people who liked me. I felt weird and silly to be not successful, to have failed, but I ended up making things harder on myself.

1 point by donohoe 7 minutes ago 0 replies      

  My co-founder owns a majority of the company 
but he's traveling so he's a bit unavailable.

Well, he/she better get on the next plane back and help sort this out. Seriously. If things are this bad they need to do their part.

They need to be making phone calls regardless of where they are.

No offense, but it sounds like if the company was on a downward spiral it was a bad time to take a vacation.

18 points by jimdotrose 5 hours ago 0 replies      
First point of advice would be to take a deep breath and slow way, way down. Everyone is pressuring you because they know you don't have cash and they want to get paid first before everyone else out of a dwindling set of assets. Slow the process down. Time - although it may not seem like it now - is on your side. Don't sell your car, don't take on a consumer loan. Slow down.

Your debt, while big to you, is minimal to the people you are working with, so they should be open to working through the issue with you.

a) Your lawyer, if it's a big firm, probably has a $2-3mm+ book, and a non-collection of $3k isn't going to effect them one bit. S/he has an incentive to work with you to come to an agreement on payment (if any) to maintain the relationship. Treat them with respect and you will get it in return. Deal with this bill last because it will be the easiest to manage.

b) $6k rackspace bill. Escalate the issue through the accounts payable department by explaining the situation and telling them they aren't going to get paid in full. If the first person on the phone doesn't get it, escalate to the next level, then the next level, etc. The gatekeeper's job is to put pressure on you to pay and create anxiety, which they seem to have done.

Once you get someone willing to work with you, fight to reduce the balance and then extend the payables as much as possible. For the value of the balance, figure out what rackspace could get by selling your receivable to a collections agency and offer slightly more - if they get $.18 per dollar owed, agree to pay $.19. Then, stretch the time period as much as possible.

c) Merchant account. This is where I would focus. This is your greatest exposure. Even if you didn't sign a personal guarantee, this could follow you professionally. Get on the phone with the merchant account holder and start dealing. Get the balance down to their cost first (that shouldn't be hard), and then see if you can grind it down farther. They have a loss reserve for this exact reason. Be open and transparent and pay the least amount possible while avoiding getting on the blacklist.

Bankruptcy (I'm not an attorney, so take this with the necessary grain of salt) is the last resort. It's long and painful for everyone involved - including you - and none of your creditors want to go there. Your creditors have an interest in working out your debts with you without going to court.

20 points by alain94040 6 hours ago 0 replies      
If you did everything right, all your debt should be under the company's name, not yourself personally.

Therefore, you're fine. The company can't pay. That's called bankruptcy. Creditors are pros too, they should be used to it.

20 points by jonpaul 7 hours ago 2 replies      
We often hear too much about the successes of startups that we get caught up on the glamor of it all. It's stories like these that bring us back to reality. I'm truly sorry for your loss.

I'm sure that you've thought of this, but is there any by-product that you can sell out of the company? Any IP liquidation?

Take care.

21 points by jonpaul 6 hours ago 1 reply      
As far as Rackspace goes, contact Rob (@kr8tr) and see if you can work out a payment plan. He has a real passion for great customer service. Plus, he's a cool dude.
1 point by mkramlich 3 minutes ago 0 replies      
Perhaps the government can bail you out. Just call your friends inside the Treasury Department, etc. Cake. ;)
3 points by jacquesm 6 hours ago 2 replies      
It is in rackspace's own interest that you pay off, by sending the bill to the debt collectors they're going to end up with less than if you strike a deal with them, especially if the debt collection process forces you in to bankruptcy.

In whose name is the rackspace account? Corporate? Private? Are you incorporated?

Basically what you have to do is to come to an agreement where you contractually agree to pay them an X amount per month + some interest on the outstanding balance.

Make it clear to them that if they go the debt collection route that they will likely get nothing at all but that if they will come to an agreement with you that they have your word (for what that's worth) to make up for the hole.

How did it get this far?

I'm sorry to hear about the credit card fraud, every time someone here says they'll do their own processing I keep hammering on that, so I'll use the occasion to do it once again: Please do not do your own processing, use an IPSP that has very thorough fraud controls and scrubbing in place or you are very likely to get burned.

As for your lawyers fees, it sounds to me like he'll have to give you a discount.

Your co-founder being 'unreachable' is not very nice, in for the good times together, in for the bad times together, let's hope he turns up and will shoulder his part of the problem.

Kudos for not going incommunicado like your co-founder.

12 points by lkrubner 7 hours ago 3 replies      
I had a client who racked up an $18,000 bill with RackSpace, a debt which needed to be restructured. I think it took a year to negotiate, but eventually Rackspace let them go with just a $3,000 payment. So talk to Rackspace. Explain the situation. You might be able to talk them down.
14 points by javery 7 hours ago 2 replies      
Ok, if you formed an LLC and didn't sign personal guarantees with rackspace or your lawyer then I don't see how you are personally on the hook for this.
1 point by lzw 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Note something about collections:
Collections agencies are not a party to a debt and thus they have NO LEAGAL RIGHTS, and further they do NOT have the right to "destroy" your credit, or even to affect your credit. You owe money to the original party, and you only have to deal with the original party. You need to protect your credit by sending a "Cease and desist" to any and every collection agency that writes you about any debt. Send this by registered mail, return reciept as they are notorious about committing perjury and claiming they never received such letters. When you have proof, you will have them on the legal hook if they report the debt to a credit reporting agency or participate in any collection activities, including claling you, after recieving the C&D. You can find forms for these online... Here, I'll attach one below.

The original creditor maintains all rights, and they can sue you, or they can contact you, or attempt to work out an arrangment. By turning it over to a collection agency they have indicated that they don't think they can collect and are writing it off, which is fine as this is one of their options. But don't let your credit be hurt. Send the C&D to the collection agency, and they are prevented from reporting the debt on your credit report. Often this is also effective in gettign the original creidtor to actually talk to you so that you can work out payment terms.... and since they already wrote off the debt they should be willing to accept good payment terms (like 10 years, no interest, monthly payments starting in 6 months after you send them a $200 initial good faith payment... that's what I'd propose.)

Collection Agencies pretend like they have the authority and will pretend like they can sue you, they often pretend like they are law offices.... but remember their job is basically to intimidate you or trick you into paying, anything to get you to send a payment. But under the law, you have no contract with them, you never agreed to deal with them, and they have no legal rights. The original creditor can sue you, but if they were going to do that, they wouldn't have turned it over to a collection agency in the first place (Which keeps a large chunk of what they collect.)

So, don't let your credit be damaged-- be on the ball with the C&D and you can not only keep collections from harassing you, but force any creditor who really wants their money to work with you on terms.

[Your Name]
[Your Mailing Address]
[Your City/State/Zip]

Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested # [Insert the Certified Mail Receipt Number here]

[Insert Date of Mailing]

[Insert name of collection agent, if available]
[Insert name of collection agency]
[Insert address of collection agency]
[Insert City/State/Zip of collection agency]

REF: Account # [Insert either the original account number or the collection agency's account reference number here]

Dear [Insert name of debt collector calling--if available--here]:

1. You are hereby notified under provisions of Public Laws 104-208, also known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, that your services are no longer desired.

2. You and your organization must CEASE & DESIST all attempts to collect the above debt. Failure to comply with this law will result in my immediately filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the [Insert your home state here] Attorney General's office. I will pursue all criminal and civil claims against you and your company.

3. Let this letter also serve as your warning that I may utilize telephone recording devices in order to document any telephone conversations that we may have in the future.

4. Furthermore, if any negative information is placed on my credit bureau reports by your agency after receipt of this notice, this will cause me to file suit against you and your organization, both personally and corporately, to seek any and all legal remedies available to me by law.

5. Since it is my policy neither to recognize nor deal with collection agencies, I will settle this account with the original creditor.

Give this matter the attention it deserves!

[Sign your name here]

[Insert your name here]

5 points by SHOwnsYou 7 hours ago 1 reply      
Have you called who ever is taking your account to collections and tried to negotiate more time or a payment plan?

Explain that sending it to collections is bad for you and them. If you don't have the money, then you don't have the money. But if also have to deal with a collection agency then you'll have more stress to deal with. Also the collection agency gets a cut of your (current non-existent) money owed.

If you can explain that is in both parties interest to keep it out of collections and extend the deadline or work out a payment plan, you may be more likely to get out of this situation without damaging effects on your credit.

7 points by rjamestaylor 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I work with Rackspace and would like to discuss your situation. Please contact me by email - robert.taylor@rackspace.com or by phone - +1.210.548.5616.

Robert J Taylor

Sr Sys Engineer / Mgr, Realtime Customer Intervention

Rackspace Hosting


TF: 800.961.4454 x 501-5505

O: 210.312.5505

M: 210.548.5616

3 points by maxawaytoolong 6 hours ago 0 replies      
It's no big deal.
If you don't have the money you don't have the money...
I had a similar situation at my first startup where I was on the hook for $36,000... not $9k. And everything worked out fine. You will have to restructure the debt and it will probably nick your credit but that's not the end of the world.

I will comment though that people are often confused about forming companies to prevent personal liability. If you are the only person on the books for the company, you're still on the hook for everything, whether you've got an LLC, C-Corp, S-Corp, etc.

2 points by mortenjorck 6 hours ago 0 replies      
The other comments here will help you much more in the immediate timeframe, but here's my suggestion for after this is all over:

Write. Nothing will give you catharsis and perspective on this unpleasant experience like writing. Consider sharing your experience with the community; your lessons learned may end up saving someone else from a similar situation, and while learning from a failure is great, teaching from a failure is even better.

2 points by vaksel 7 hours ago 0 replies      
negotiate with all of those companies to lower the total, then get one of those 0% apr for 9-12 months.

Use the checks they give you, to pay down your debt.

This way you'll be down to 4-5K and you won't pay any interest on it for a year...which should give you plenty of time to get back on your feet

1 point by swombat 7 hours ago 1 reply      
Is this a limited company? Seems pretty fucked.

I don't know what the usual legal proceedings are to declare bankruptcy, but this is why they have bankruptcy laws and limited company.

Speak to a bankruptcy lawyer. Presumably all of this is your company's debt, not your own personally, and you have not committed fraud or done anything illegal, so hopefully you're in the clear personally. It may even work out that your cofounder is the one who ends up with a black eye on his credit record if he's the majority shareholder and ends up being the person named in the bankruptcy.

You haven't specified what country you're in. I'm guessing US. From the little I know, bankruptcy protections are pretty great over there. In the UK, if you take a company that you're a director of bankrupt, you aren't allowed to be director of another company for 5 years.

2 points by joeag 6 hours ago 1 reply      
1. even if a company does business as an LLC or C corp, etc. if there wasn't much in assets when it was started (like cash), your corporate entity probably doesn't holdup;

2. most likely, you signed a contract with Rackspace personally right?

3. as for the merchant/credit card account - most require a personal guarantee anyway

So, first of all - I am sure your lawyer will defer or write off a bunch of that bill - happens all the time, especially if you have already paid a number of previous bills.

Rackspace is probably doing what most creditors do - acting as aggressively as possible. If they turn it over to collection, they are already looking at a huge writeoff (collection agencies get a nice percentage of whatever they collect and usually also have authority to write down the debt substantially in offers in compromise). So when push comes to shove, if you offer them a payment plan, I bet they will go for it or at least counter offer. Offer them $1,000 now, and $500 a month for 10 months say - that's full payment of the account. If you feel lucky, offer $3K, $1K now and $500 a month for 4 months.

The credit card account is going to be sticky - because unlike rackspace who made a profit margin on the $6K you owe, the credit card company has probably already refunded the $$ to cardholders that it "paid" to you - the fact that you describe it as "huge" doesn't help - I would assume it may be the majority of all payments advanced to you by the merchant provider. Again, you can probably propose a payment plan which has a good likelihood of being accepted.

Good luck.

7 points by protich 6 hours ago 0 replies      
$6k in server fees?? Was it over a couple of months? I'm curious to know the space your startup is in for that kind of server fees.
1 point by nikosdimopoulos 2 hours ago 0 replies      
The first thing to do IMO is review ALL the legal documentation that you have. This means:

1. What is your role in the company. Are you just another employee or does your contract 'tie' you in some way with the company's assets and liabilities.

2. Is there anything in the contracts that you signed (if applicable) that relates directly to you personally? If yes concentrate on that one and nothing else.

3. Just because you poured money in the business, it does not necessarily mean that you are responsible for its liabilities. Review the documentation with a lawyer as to what your exposure is towards this situation.

From the looks of it, the merchant account is your 'weakest link'. Follow the advice of others here by talking to the merchant and sorting something out. Chances are that the future is not as bleak as it seems now. There are always choices.

Remember: Ask and you shall receive. Asking the relevant parties for extensions, better terms of payments etc. is not bad. The worst thing that can happen is for them to refuse.

Good luck and stay strong. There is always light at the end of the tunnel!

1 point by mcdowall 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Reading this rings very true to home for myself and I completely understand your situation having gone through and similarly going through the same.

I used to live and breathe my start-up, be passionate about the startup scene and thought my project was on the fast track. Debts mounted up and deciding who to pay first / last is somewhat stressful. I personally focused on paying the areas that would potentially come back to haunt me in my career first, I then restructured and negotiated settlement amounts. The surprising aspect for me was that negotiation is entirely possible, the small amount that firms expect to receive from insolvency is significantly lower than a settlement plan with yourself.

I won't go over my specifics as this is about you, but if you ever want to chat or just some advice in how to deal with this on a personal / mental level let me know.

3 points by arimat 7 hours ago 0 replies      
The whole point of an LLC is to have limited liability. If you haven't been involved in any fraud or misrepresentation, nobody can go after your assets except in some very specific cases.

You need to speak with your lawyer, or do a little research.

2 points by famousactress 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Does the startup have any assets/IP that are saleable? I agree with SHOwnsYou.. I'd try to buy some time.
2 points by bherms 6 hours ago 1 reply      
1) Try to buy time. Debt collectors will work with you.
2) Restructure as aresant said.
3) Set up payment plans with the people. Even if you owe $10,000, telling them you're broke and sending $50/month until you find more money usually will get them off your back. It shows you're serious about paying and is a good faith sort of thing.
4) If all else fails, remember, it could be worse. Having bad credit sucks, but isn't the end of the world. Protect it if you can, but your life isn't over if your credit gets screwed. Trust me on this one.
1 point by andjones 3 hours ago 0 replies      
First, take a deep breath.

Second, approach the situation honestly. Honesty does not mean you need to approach everyone on your knees. Most of your creditors likely do not know what situation you are in right now. Many people actually enjoy finding creative win-win solutions. You never know unless you ask.

Third, good luck. Looking back at the low parts in my life, they all worked out one way or another. Without challenge and without hardship, I would not appreciate what is good in life. Learn what you can and always remember to smile :)

3 points by joystickers 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Can you go into detail, perhaps outside of HN, as to how you got to this stage? It could be a valuable lesson for others.
2 points by EGreg 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Work something out with Rackspace. They will be happy to not report you to the credit bureaus. That leaves about $3k to pay to the lawyer. And maybe you can work something out with him too so he doesn't report you to a collection agency, which is probably a hassle for him anyway.
2 points by CatalystFactory 6 hours ago 0 replies      
If you formed your entity correctly (I assume this is where your $3k debt to your lawyer came in), you likely can declare bankruptcy for your company and take no personal liability.

You might want to find family and friends who can loan you the money without interest.

Can you sell the domain?

Just curious, how did you get so much debt from your lawyer.

Hope it works out and best of luck.

3 points by whalesalad 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Sell your car?
1 point by Mentat_Enki 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Never use your own money! Borrow and lose other people's money. It's the American Way! wink

(Note: I am an American, and thus reserve the right to poke myself in the eye.)

(While this was meant to be funny, it's really meant to be "ha-ha serious" not "ha-ha funny". Start-ups are by-nature risky endeavors. Putting your own financial well-being on the line in this fashion is as foolish as tight-rope walking without a net. If you've got a C-corp your personal assets should be somewhat protected. Make sure to do your homework on this...)

Oh, and last of all: Don't Panic. You can always flee to Europe or elsewhere. ;)

1 point by beentherebefore 4 hours ago 0 replies      
ironically, you're in the dominant position for negotiation. the creditors will try to lean on you (and possibly quite hard), but they're just trying to walk away with as much cash as possible. start throwing the 'bankruptcy' word around, that should cool off most creditors for the time being. communicate your situation to them and don't make any commitments until the dust has settled. don't pay anyone until you consult a few lawyers. if that takes longer than 12 days, so be it.

remember, if you do pursue bankruptcy (which may not be a bad option for a failed business), the judge will ultimately decide who gets paid what amount. no one creditor can walk away with a disproportionate share of the assets (subject to debt rankings). this removes all leverage for subordinated debt.

your first call needs to be your current lawyer. explain your situation and ask for a referral to a bankruptcy lawyer. your next calls should be to your network for more legal referrals. as these lawyers for a 30 min consultation off the clock. if they want your business, they'll give it to you.

most importantly, don't let '12 days' pressure you. your creditors can wait. they may get loud, but they can wait.

2 points by huhtenberg 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Talk to your parents, perhaps?

(downvoting, eh?) Talk to them about a loan.

1 point by maxharris 7 hours ago 1 reply      
Is there any way you can turn your experience with evil people defrauding your credit card merchant account into something that you can build a startup on or consult with? Or was it just a minor avoidable error that balooned out of control and that other people aren't likely to have trouble with?

How did the fraud occur? Who did it, where were they, and what did they do technically to steal from you?

1 point by uvince 6 hours ago 1 reply      
I think this is exactly what Lending Club is for. You'll pay 9-12% interest/year, but you'll get a loan based on credit score, personal reasons and your ability to tell a story on why/how you'll pay it back: http://bit.ly/lending-club
0 points by palehose 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Unless you are specifically looking to avoid responsibility for this debt and are planning to let your startup sink, I don't understand why you wouldn't pay for your debt with a credit card.
-2 points by betaPass 5 hours ago 0 replies      
If you are getting the message: "You're submitting too fast",
and you need to reply soon, just access HN through web proxy,create an acc, and submit! :)
-4 points by johnarleyburns 6 hours ago 0 replies      
This is why you should be using Google AppEngine and free providers, so you don't get on the hook like this.
Tell HN: An Observation
109 points by DanielBMarkham 9 hours ago   89 comments top 42
15 points by todayiamme 6 hours ago 3 replies      
I think that the real problem in operation over here is information deluge. People aren't reading stuff on that page because it overflows on a minute by minute basis. So let's say, if I click to read a long article and I come back to upvote it. This would mean that I am putting a flag for others to read it, but in this time frame it has moved beyond the first new page. Hence, the stories that tend to get upvoted are the ones with a recognized tilt that appeals to the lowest common denominator (which is still pretty high, but for how long?)

However not all stories are created equal. Most of the stories on that page are from noob users who want to jack up their karma. Hence, the deluge HN on the weekdays (only dedicated ones stay around on the weekends) leading to this difference between the weekday and weekend articles.

How can we solve this?

One simple way to do this would be to post noobstories only to the noob stories page and sort the entries not by time, but by karma of the user as well as the votes given like the comments.

This way we could have a quasi front page which will create a positive feedback loop. Hence, there will be an implicit reward in going to the new page which will ensure that only the good stories were posted. Also, since older users (by karma, PG's metric) who are more settled in and are less likely to do karma antics it won't overflow every minute or so.

However, this might create a barrier to entry on HN and perhaps that's a good thing. This would force people to comment and get karma before it shows up over there. Hence, ensuring that the quality get maintained.

All in all with the same code behind the comments the new page problem can be solved.

(update: wrote a lot more detail)

22 points by edanm 8 hours ago 4 replies      
I read HN quite a lot, and I have to say, I rarely get around to reading the New page. Honestly, it takes me a lot of time to just go through most of the stuff that hits the front page (including comments), so I usually don't have the time to check out more articles whose quality hasn't even been vetted.

I think HN really should implement a way around this. The most obvious is to randomly show new articles on the front page, give them a chance to collect some points (if they're good, of course).

12 points by petercooper 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Idea: Only have the "submit" link (or even the "threads" link) on the "new" page. It won't get everyone reviewing new all of a sudden but undoubtedly headlines will catch people's eyes en route and perhaps encourage people to pay more attention to it.

(Update: On reflection, reducing usability might not be a great way to go. Typically that's a better way to reduce bad behavior than to encourage good..)

7 points by jacquesm 8 hours ago 1 reply      
Around this time of day the submissions on the new page go by so fast that only the most juicy stuff makes it to the front page. 4 votes before you scroll off the new page or your article might as well be dead, it's very rare (but it does happen) to see anything get traction afterwards.

And of course you didn't write about a scandal in progress or something like that.

If you write just for the interaction with HN I can imagine that it is hard if your stuff goes by unnoticed, but of course there is no automatic relationship between what you did and how it was received in the past coupled with everything you write in the future.

Maybe simply not enough people thought it was homepage worthy and it is a signal to do better? That's how I interpret it when my stuff slides by without even a single upvote.

(I note that even devmonk who commented did not upvote your submission).

Don't take it so personal, as HN grows this is bound to happen more and more often. I've had it happen to me with an article that was requested by people here, that felt pretty weird too, but there really are no guarantees.

Spray and pray :)

7 points by mattmanser 6 hours ago 1 reply      
According to a thread less than 24 hours ago the problem is that your articles are falling off the new page too fast.

The problem is too many submissions, not less people reading the new page:


It's an alternative explanation.

1 point by tdavis 3 hours ago 0 replies      
...all this industry gossip, fanboy-bait, and the lack of user-generated content drives down the quality for me in a big way

The more mainstream adoption HN receives, the more the stories will degrade to the lowest common denominator—that of gossip, fan-bait, and chop shop content. I returned to my feed reader for the majority of my interesting articles a long time ago.

The "new" page is basically a feed aggregator of tons of individuals' posts, most of whom don't have the notoriety or baiting title necessary to stick on the page long enough for the few people who read "new" to see them.

Like any other public link sharing site—no matter how niche or well-seeded to start—it will increasingly pander to the 90% who come rather than the 10% who started it. And it'll keep doing that until it becomes reddit (no insult meant; reddit is a great public link share). But at this stage I'm pretty confident it'll always have better discussion.

3 points by michael_dorfman 9 hours ago 2 replies      
One of the factors that I've noticed lately is that due to the quantity of new submissions, it takes only 30 minutes or so for an article to drop off the first "new" page.

I try to check the "new" page periodically, but I must admit, I don't scroll beyond the first page-- so, the article referenced above I missed entirely, and it seems like I wasn't the only one.

Which means that the problem may not be that "nobody is reading the new page much any more" as much as "things age off the new page too quickly for most people to notice them."

As for potential fixes: off the top of my head, I haven't the foggiest.

2 points by seancron 5 hours ago 2 replies      
One example that I have seen of this was this submission of Grace Hopper on David Letterman's show from 1984 (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1719458).

Now I realize that many people don't vote up videos. However, this is Grace Hopper, who was one of the first programmers for the very first computer ever. She is credited with coming up with the term "debugging" after finding a moth in one of her computers, and she wrote the first compiler for a programming language.

If that's not Hacker News worthy then I don't know what is.

And yet amazingly, this submission only got two upvotes (one of which is mine). Now I realize that we've had a lot of scandalous and "Big Important News" but two upvotes seems abnormally low to me. In fact, if Google Students had not tweeted it (http://twitter.com/googlestudents/status/25361367579) I would have never even seen it.

3 points by theycallmemorty 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm not helping the community if I visit the new page and don't vote on anything.

I don't vote on anything because I don't want to 'save' all of the threads I find slightly interesting. Saving is only for things I want come back to later.

3 points by Maro 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Perhaps the frontpage could be filtered per account. In other words, if HN shows me the same article on the front page for the 3rd time and I don't click it, I probably don't care, so it could use that slot to show me something new.
7 points by slowpoison 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I have said this in the past (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1665746) - as long as posting doesn't "cost" anything, there will be mindless as well as countless posts, making it harder to really spot intelligent stuff. It's natural for explosive stuff to make it to the top.

Now, how we pay for the posts is probably have karma as part of it somewhere. Or may be not. But, it's a discussion worth having.

3 points by awa 6 hours ago 0 replies      
My problem with looking at the new page and help in filtering is due to the amount of general and blog spam.

I think downvotes on new page can actually help so they can discourage users from spamming HN with articles in trying to build karma points

Alternately, make posting cost the user something, say 10 Karma points per submission, in that case users will only submit something they think will grab enough attention

1 point by nostrademons 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I read the New page sometimes. I've found that I have disproportionate power over what appears on the front page. Maybe half of the stories I upvote from the New page end up hitting the top half of the front page.

It only takes 3-4 votes for a newly submitted (< 30 minutes ago) story to hit the front page. If you and one other person like it, it'll usually get to the bottom of the hot list. From there, there's often a cascade effect as more and more people see it on the hot list. If the article's any good at all, it can often be in the top 5 within an hour or two.

It's good for karma, too, as getting early comments in on stories that later become hot is a good way to get lots of points on them.

2 points by metachris 4 hours ago 1 reply      
Here's an idea: Only users with a certain amount of karma can submit stories.

The first few karma points have to be gained by commenting, and then for example with every 10 karma points a user can make 1 submissions. Or have different 'levels' with certain thresholds, etc. You get the idea, and I think that could help reduce the amount and increase the quality of submissions.

2 points by nhebb 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I can sympathize with your complaints. There does seem to be a lot of retreaded topics on the main page, so I've just changed my HN bookmark to http://news.ycombinator.com/newest. I'll try it for a week, and hopefully I'll spot some more interesting stuff that otherwise would fall by the wayside.
1 point by rewind 9 hours ago 0 replies      
You're unhappy that people aren't going to the New page so you wrote an observation that can only be seen by going to the New page ;-)

In all seriousness, it took me quite awhile before getting into the habit of going to the New page, but now I do it after going over the main page. It was actually only after seeing a comment that "people don't go to the New page" that I started doing it, so it was one of the rare times when a "reminder" post didn't annoy me and seem like whining. These types of reminders are legitimately helpful IMO.

I'd love to see new items integrated into the home page, personally. Like a split screen, or just have them listed at the bottom of the page, or just in a narrower column somewhere, or whatever.

But I'm not sure that that would have any effect on your other issue, which is the type of thing being voted to the top. They get there because people start by going to the New page; they don't get there on their own. So although giving more attention to new items might get more people to take notice, I don't think it would have any effect on what makes it to the top.

1 point by rayvega 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Yes, I've noticed that it is harder to get things on the front page.

I've recently submitted a few links that I thought were HN worthy but they barely got any notice if at all.


Perhaps they're not interesting or maybe with the current system more things are getting overlooked and lost. Don't know.

Usually, I tend to only look at what's on the New page when I submit something (since it automatically redirects you there). So, I'm as guilty as the rest. However, at that time, I'll check out the other posts and upvote other submissions that I consider quality material.

I probably need to spend more time looking at the New page than the front page to help with keeping the quality up.

1 point by notaddicted 8 hours ago 0 replies      
There has been some really sensational news during the past few days: Angelgate, Facebook downtime, Zuckerberg $100mm donation, uncomfortable micro analysis of patio. Maybe it's the time of year? Or a coincidence. In terms of the normal ebb and flow this is surely a period of flow. I think that just due to regression to the mean next week should be more quiet and readers will have more time for the new page. Hopefully another "Erlang day" won't be necessary.
1 point by percept 4 hours ago 0 replies      
One more try:

1) Why not limit submissions on HN to one per day?

That way, people will only submit their most relevant links. If a story is important enough, then either 1) someone else can submit it and this will invite broader participation on the site, or 2) it won't be submitted today and can be added tomorrow (and it probably wasn't that important to begin with).

2) HN articles used to relate to either hacking or startups (stories about education, economics, etc. were typically found on Digg and Reddit). Why not return to this formula?

4 points by rokhayakebe 9 hours ago 1 reply      
Most people just consume. I think a very small fraction actually comes to the new page and vote.
1 point by logicalmind 9 hours ago 1 reply      
Forgive my generalization, but I see HN as a handful of groups with some overlap. You have hackers/programmers, business marketing, pure entrepreneurs, and investors/angels. There are people who fall into multiple camps, but stories tend to fall into one of these groups. I think the point you're making is that topics along the lines of hackers/programmers seem to have fallen off in favor of some of the other areas. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Personally, I visit the "new" page as often as the frontpage and find many interesting stories there.

1 point by swolchok 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Because articles cannot be downvoted, I am very stingy with upvotes. I don't like most articles on the front page, let alone the new page. If your article is really great, it won't be on the new page but not the front page for long anyway.
1 point by nkurz 6 hours ago 0 replies      
As a tiny incremental change, it might help if the resubmission of a link by another user would bump the link back up to the top of the new page in addition to adding a vote. If multiple people find it worthy to submit, it's probably worth giving it more screentime.
1 point by hkuo 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I have an idea that I want to throw out there. I haven't fully thought it out, so I'm sure it would have drawbacks.

But what if one were able to earn karma points by interacting with the "new" page. The details could be worked out to make it un-"gamable", but the basic premise is to reward users that put more effort into discovering posts in the waterfall of the "new" page.

1 point by terra_t 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Actually this is the biggest problem that the internet faces now. The number of quality signals that people send is much less than the amount of content that's out there -- one consequence is that it's easy to "game the system."

Hardly anybody is viewing "new" queues, making links to interesting web pages, or otherwise doing the work to discover what's new and good. They make it too easy for spammers and voting rings to do their evil work.

Also there's a general "burnout" effect that happens in social media -- if a particular forum isn't all that excited in your content, you'll find that it gradually gets less and less traffic because people see your URL or your name and decide to move on to the next thing. This can be overcome with real or imaginary 'social proof' (lots 'o votes) but then you get into the fact that the populations of people who are looking at the "new" queue and looking at the front page are entirely different.

1 point by jonpaul 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Consider yourself lucky that you can submit your own articles to HN. My blog got banned from HN, but I gave PG my word that I wouldn't submit my own articles and so he unbanned me.

Submit on a Saturday.

2 points by robryan 9 hours ago 0 replies      
It depends on time you can spend on HN to, really with the speed HN moves these days it's hard enough just to keep up with some of the top stories. Only when I really have hours to spend do I get time to get past the stuff that catches my eye on the front page.
1 point by gasull 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I have a rule for myself: every time I submit a link I have to scan the New page and upvote those links I like (after reading them).
1 point by J3L2404 7 hours ago 0 replies      
HN does not need to be re-jiggered or re-invented or re..., just make an effort to check the new page and upvote the articles you like. I always do because I like to see quality, or my assessment of it, make it to the front page and have other users chime in. Let the experiments happen on the plethora of clone sites.
1 point by makeramen 8 hours ago 0 replies      
the RSS feed is nice for catching new threads, but I haven't been using google reader much lately for my own reasons. (http://news.ycombinator.com/rss)
1 point by Keyframe 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm guilty of this. Reason behind is that I click on links and discussion threads via newsyc20 on twitter whenever something of interest pops up.
1 point by Splines 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I think this is one the places where the concept of subreddits really shines. Allowing users to control the content that is shown to them allows interesting niche posts to maintain visibility.
1 point by sesqu 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I would expect time of year is a significant factor. Are you sure you're comparing to this time last year? I do believe what you say, but memories are terrible data.
1 point by sluckxz 2 hours ago 0 replies      
How about tweaking karma to add value to certain users votes, users with tons of great submissions and comments to have more effect. You can grant power karma to people you feel have the same philosophy or that you feel drive HN in the direction you want. This isn't necessarily democratic or "fair" and i do not care because i love the great submissions with intelligent commentary. i have seen a lot of submissions concerned with submission quality and am happy to see HN publicly addressing the issue and apparently making an effort to ensure the quality and heritage of the site. (long time lurker brand new acct.)
1 point by iterationx 8 hours ago 1 reply      
The title "My Master Plan to Destroy the Internet as we know it (whattofix.com)" doesn't have any terms that interest me.

In your first paragraph you use the phrase "web interface" if that or some other technical term had been in the title, I might have clicked. fyi

1 point by duncanj 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm not even sure my votes ever count on HN so I rarely vote. The algorithms, as people talk about them, seem to be stacked against us casual readers.
1 point by EGreg 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm working on a site to fix something like that. I don't want to reveal the name yet, but stay tuned :)
1 point by howard_yeh 7 hours ago 0 replies      
how about for the first page display a random subset of N pages worth of new submits, for a small N? Nobody scrolls past N pages anyway.
1 point by devmonk 9 hours ago 1 reply      
What changes do you think should be made to enhance the quality of content and get more people to vote?
0 points by jimlyndon 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Hide your kids, hide your wife http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlZOfHCpFFs
-3 points by paolomaffei 8 hours ago 2 replies      
Requiring 10 points to submit is really stupid?
-2 points by zephyrfalcon 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I suspect that "HN is not turning into Reddit, but..." is the new "HN is turning into Reddit". :-)

(EDIT: This wasn't meant as a diss... it's just that people know by now that saying "HN is becoming Reddit" is a no-no, it's even listed in the guidelines. So whoever has complaints or concerns about the site, often wants to make it clear that they are not playing the HN-is-Reddit card.)

Ask HN: Is it worthwhile for a startup to use a professional designer?
39 points by techiferous 6 hours ago   44 comments top 19
9 points by replicatorblog 4 hours ago 1 reply      
I think the better strategy is to infuse your organization with design thinking. AirBnB has been one of YC's best recent performers and 2/3 of their founding team are designers. To quote Steve Jobs:

In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer. It's interior decorating. It's the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.

So if your goal is to make something consumer facing or where the user is key in your thinking don't use a professional designer, make one a co-founder.

I think design is wildly underutilized and 1 good design hire can be worth 5-10 engineers at the early stage. This may sound heretical, but a good designer can make UX decisions that have massive impact across a site, but piggy back on pre-existing engineering tasks. This doesn't scale though. 10 designers aren't equal to 10 engineers.

That said, if you are creating some B2B product that doesn't have a lot of meaningful user interaction, the value exchange is simple, or there aren't a lot of competitive solutions (web or otherwise) then piece something together via woothemes and 99 designs, or make friends with a good designer.

9 points by nostromo 6 hours ago 3 replies      

I'm a programmer by night / business type by day. I have a website soon to be released in beta and I hired a designer I trusted (and could afford) from a previous job. She worked wonders for the project -- seeing the new design also reinvigorated me.

A few tips: Hire a friend if possible (you'll probably get a friend-rate), if not work by referral. You want someone you can sit with face to face. Avoid 99Designs and the like if you can. Pay your invoices immediately and you'll find the designer will likely continue to be super helpful. Also, get an hourly rate up front since you'll probably find things that need to be adjusted. Lastly, I wouldn't use the designer for HTML, just have them hand off PSDs, the markup tends to be not so good. Insist on PSDs, not flattened images.

By the way, I'm happy to give a refferal for a trusted friend. Just email me at juliuss at gmail.

8 points by leftnode 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I am a programmer starting my own business. I pretend to be a designer, but when it comes down to it, I'm really lost. I've tried the ThemeForest/WooThemes route for nice templates. While they have some beautiful templates, they'll still need customization that I can't do.

Suck it up, find a good designer and pay them well. I'm glad I did.

9 points by limedaring 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Am also a designer.

v1? Just get the damn thing out. Don't worry about whether it has the perfect design or interactions at this point since the hardest part is simply launching (and you're going to change your idea/design once you get feedback anyways). After that, I believe a designer is invaluable, for taking user feedback and results and crafting the product into something that promotes more sales/views.

3 points by vaksel 5 hours ago 1 reply      
well you do need a good design, the web has matured...if your site looks like crap people will leave.

but you don't need a designer for that.

1. istockphoto gets you a ton of illustrations that you can use to spice up your pages.

2. 99designs gets you a good logo or any other custom work you need. Some people will knock 99designs...and yes the quality may be worse than one you'd get from a top of the line designer. But it'll be miles ahead of what you can achieve on your own, and you'll get to avoid paying thousands for a logo.

from my experience, a single illustration can turn a boring and bland page into something that's decent.

2 points by edanm 4 hours ago 0 replies      
It depends.

Firstly, what stage of a startup are we talking about? Are we talking a guy building just a landing page? Are we talking a 20-person team with VC? The answer is different for each case, both because of the money available, but also because of how much that design will end up being used. A landing page that might never lead to a product shouldn't cost you $1,000.

I haven't had much experience on the later stages of a startup, but I have built a few products to the beginning stages. Early on, I made the mistake of building the product without a design first thing. I figured, if it gets good feedback, I can alway redesign it. Instead, what I would do today if I were building any product is go buy a template for $50, and work off that. Saves a lot of redesign time (which is harder to do, since you've already got legacy code). Also, gets you the "good design first impression" right off the bat, which will lead to more accurate results when you need them the most (since you really don't know if the product will be a success or not).

For a landing page, which you should do before building a product (unless the product is really simple), I've recently learned the best way. Go to WooThemes.com or ThemeForest.com, buy a WordPress template for $70, and it will make setting up your landing page a Wysiwyg experience, which is much better. Even if you're a programmer like me, trust me on this, using WordPress will make things smoother, and the design will be better for it.

As for an actual startup with an actual product (and money in the bank), I wouldn't even think twice: hire a designer.

3 points by jbail 5 hours ago 0 replies      

...assuming the startup is bootstrapping. Why?

1) Ugly designs are often very effective.
2) You can polish it later when you're making money.

Your site might look amazing. Your site might look crappy. If no one knows about your site or no one cares, then it doesn't matter either way.

Focus on traction for the product or service you're providing, then worry about the design of your letterhead, business cards, shiny web 2.0 logo, etc.

2 points by jbarham 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Yes, definitely. A well-designed and aesthetically pleasing site adds instant credibility, especially for people who are non-technical (i.e., the people who often make the final buy/no-buy decision).

And it's rare for a strong systems or web back-end programmer to also have a good design sense and to be versed in the various rendering quirks and workarounds for the common browsers.

Note that it doesn't mean you have to hire a full-time designer. A lot of designers are freelancers, and like it that way.

37signals' Sortfolio (http://www.sortfolio.com/) lists a lot of independent designers for a range of budgets.

2 points by sahillavingia 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Disclosure: I am a designer.

YES. The value that a design has in a first impression helps with that first bit of traction so so much. I've had projects fail because of crappy designs, and crappy projects succeed because of - subjectively - great ones.

Invest, it's not even that much compared to some of your other costs. Look into students (like me!) who may need the money and the recognition, though don't abuse them.

3 points by iampims 5 hours ago 1 reply      
If you're building a search engine, better get a UX guy.

If you're building a photo sharing site, better get a UX guy.

If you're building a social app, then hell yes, get a UX guy AND a designer.

2 points by swalberg 3 hours ago 2 replies      
"Worthwhile", I don't know. I guess it depends on what your product is supposed to do.

My product is http://smallpayroll.ca, it's a do it yourself payroll site made for people who don't know anything about payroll. I freely admit it looks like crap. But of the handful of people that have tried it out and paid for it, I haven't heard "this looks like crap". What I hear is "this product makes my life so much easier"

Could I get more conversions with a better design? Maybe... But I know for my product it's not preventing me from getting paying customers.

(As an aside, I've often thought there should be a place for people like us to find designers that know how to work with applications instead of just designing web pages.)

2 points by kqueue 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I think finding a good designer willing to work on your project is the most difficult part of the whole project.

Focusing on what you do best (programming) and subcontracting what you do worst (design) leads to a great product imho. If you end up doing both, you'll eventually lose motivation because you'll never get satisfied with your own designs (you are not a designer after all). Not to mention that you'll be shifting focus back and forth between design/programming, and each one requires a different kind of focus and way of thinking. The end product if it sees the light? Mediocre at best.

2 points by devmonk 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Yes. Shop around just like anything else.

But, you'll be even better off if you have someone with good design skills working for you if you plan to be able to do revisions, ongoing changes.

I worked for a small company that outsourced some design for logo, but ended up hiring someone full-time to do photography and design. It was a bold step since they were a telecom company, but the polish and sheer amount of the work by having someone in-house differentiate them from their competitor.

At first I thought they were foolish (for years actually), but now that he is still working there, and seeing where they are, it was sheer genius to have hired him.

2 points by wdavidturner 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Yes-ish. If it takes too much of your time to produce anything that looks/feel reasonable, then hire one. If you think you can get by doing it yourself, then make it so. If you have enough chops to get by, but don't know where to start, yes - then start tweeking stuff yourself.

try to stick to something simple and clear that lets users know what they're doing next.

2 points by KevinMS 5 hours ago 7 replies      
I'd like to know the answer to this also, but after reading the comments I'm still clueless.

Maybe this will help - Has anybody dared to do any A/B testing on professional vs "unprofessional" design?

2 points by fjabre 4 hours ago 0 replies      
<plug>I hired some pro designers for my site: http://www.hobsonfiles.com </plug>

One thing to keep in mind: No matter how good your design is, it is no match for an ugly site with a really useful feature..

2 points by jeffclark 4 hours ago 0 replies      

A designer does more than just make pretty pictures.

Ugly or not (the art, not the designer), a designer actually will help design the usability of the site at the same time so that you can grow.

A good designer knows where to put the little calls-to-action and the email signup forms and all that so that you can meet your business goals.

It's definitely worthwhile to get a professional designer.

2 points by togasystems 5 hours ago 0 replies      
If you want people to start taking you seriously, then YES!

I have been turned off on a number of occasions by the lack of a professional design.

You could probably scrape by, by getting a free theme from the intertubes, but what about your logo/branding.

Go to your local college and post something for a design job. You will get a ton of replies and it probably won't cost you that much.

1 point by anonymous236 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Actual user review I once received - "Even though I could not start your program on my Windows 98, I still give it 4 out of 5 stars, because it looks awesome" (on screenshots).

So, yes, design matters :)

The Constitution and U.S. Code on GitHub
25 points by laws 6 hours ago   16 comments top 9
3 points by js2 5 hours ago 0 replies      
From http://marc.info/?l=git&m=128077393712932&w=2

I'd figured to play with Git in an unusual way: to create a repository for the U.S. Constitution where amendments are presented as patches.

What follows is an interesting discussion of getting git to represent the dates correctly. :)

1 point by nostrademons 5 hours ago 1 reply      
Interesting hack. I'll point out a couple things you may not have thought of though:

1. The U.S. legal system is designed to go slowly. That's what checks and balances are for. It takes a long time to see the full implications of each law (look what happened when Glass-Steagall was repealed), and if the laws change every day, you can end up whipsawing with no idea what really works or not.

2. How will the laws be evaluated? In the U.S, you have judicial review, where cases come before the courts, the facts come out into the open, a jury of your peers evaluates how the law applies to those facts, and then the appellate court system ensures the law was applied correctly. If the law is egregiously wrong, there's widespread publicity and then public pressure to amend the law. How does this same sort of fact-based discovery process factor into your system, and how do you avoid it devolving into a "he said she said" contest of differing opinions?

3. How will you get public buy-in? Democracy's based upon the consent of the governed; when everybody writes their own version of the laws, each person could make the argument that they didn't consent to the other person's version.

4. It seems like this would replace plutocracy (government by the rich and well-connected) with technocracy (government by the quick-thinking and technically savvy). As a technocrat, I'm all in favor of that. ;-) But it seems like you're just exchanging one set of masters for another, and in many ways, this new system is less fair than the old one. What happens to the 95% of Americans who are not accustomed to thinking at Internet speed? They're already being left out in the cold by many economic developments; will you exclude them from the political process too?

2 points by SkyMarshal 3 hours ago 0 replies      
I thought about doing this a few months ago and tried to register gitlaw.com but that domain was already taken (but inactive). Looks like someone else had the idea too.

However, I not only wanted to put the current US Constitution and Code into git, but every version going back to 1776. What an amazing data source that would make, to be able to see all revisions and additions to the US legal code since inception, how it grew and changed over time. The data visualizers could have a field day.

However, that's a massive project, and I'm not sure if all that data even exists in portable electronic format, or just the recent versions of the Constitution and US Law.

It's still in the back of my mind and if I figure out a way to do it I'll probably revisit it.

10 points by ph0rque 5 hours ago 1 reply      
Hmmm... what we need is a virtual US on which to test changes to laws.
2 points by nphase 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Haha - I'd totally like to see fully annotated, backdated diffs for each revision--also known as amendments (starting with the Bill of Rights)--and branches and merges for each HR/SR (by accounts that represent who authored said resolutions), and forks for countries whose constitution was based on the US.

That network graph would be AWESOME.

7 points by hanuman 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Not sure how useful this is for existing laws, but for pending legislation it would be fascinating to see the forks and merges as lawmakers negotiate toward a final bill. Maybe the Sunlight folks are doing something like this?
1 point by T-R 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I think it would be more interesting to use github to devise a better language for law.

It could try to find a way to allow more specificity with less verbosity, and provide a standard way of creating abstractions that would allow for easy checking of conflicting definitions. Maybe even include a comment system for stating the intentions at time of writing, which could be taken into account when modifying the code.

1 point by jasonjei 5 hours ago 3 replies      
I applaud what you're trying to do, but it may be a tad idealistic. The US is filled with legacy code, and there are lots of vested interests in keeping it the complicated way. As programmers we are trained to be purely logical, but politics and governance is 99% emotion, 1% logic.
1 point by voidfiles 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Why isn't the text on github yet, it just says "Nothing to see here yet. Move along."
Ask HN: What would you like to see from an IRC network?
11 points by twiedenbein 4 hours ago   17 comments top 11
2 points by neilk 3 hours ago 1 reply      
It would be interesting if one could attach a karma system to an IRC network. The #perl channels have long had infobots hanging out in channel recording karma informally. (You simply say [username]++ to increment karma).

Before you object, yes I know everything is gameable. I'm just throwing it out there. We have karma systems for async discussion, and they work at least somewhat well. Why not synchronous too?

There is no such thing as sorting messages by karma for synchronous chat but perhaps other analogues could be found. Maybe in the same way that Slashdot has "browsing at +2" you can choose to receive all messages or just messages from higher karma people.

6 points by davidw 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Lots of "high quality" people already using it:-) That's the most important thing.
3 points by ax0n 2 hours ago 0 replies      
The fact that you're trying to perpetuate IRC in a time after the nineteen-hundreds is admirable, but the protocol itself is somewhat broken. I mean, it'd be great if a network offered Public Key Infrastructure for authentication (non-spoofability), Encrypted communication, and non-repudiation... but then you're talking about SILC (which, by the way, I think is vastly superior to traditional IRC)
1 point by jessor 39 minutes ago 0 replies      
3 points by nodata 3 hours ago 0 replies      
You want to make an IRC network, but don't have the killer features yet.

Is this idea the right way round?

1 point by mikemol 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I run a website that gets occasional buzz in programming channels. As a result, I'm in a dozen or so IRC channels, with hilight rules set up to ping me when someone's talking about the site--that way I can dive in and address misconceptions or problems, or just generally interact with an interested community.

I had an idea for a bot that would allow temporary, rule-based bridging of conversations in participating channels. I never got around to coding, but I did blog the concept in more detail: http://mmol-6453.livejournal.com/213900.html

1 point by zackola 2 hours ago 1 reply      
Room chat history! I am an IRC novice so I'm not sure if that exists as part of a server already somewhere. I haven't been able to find it, but I haven't looked very hard.
1 point by rcfox 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm not sure how feasible this is, but if you could somehow detect that a user has submitted several lines very quickly (ie: they've just pasted something into the channel), automatically dump it to some Pastebin variant, and then show the link to that instead.
1 point by rcfox 2 hours ago 1 reply      
In addition to the standard IRC ports, also make it accessible from port 80 or 443 to avoid being blocked by corporate firewalls.
1 point by justinlilly 3 hours ago 2 replies      
Web frontend.
Persistant users, where you can leave messages for people.
Notification of interesting channels also on the network.
Let me get it on my phone.
0 points by petervandijck 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Web frontend and high quality content.
Ask HN: Any good places to find early adopters/testers in addition to HN?
21 points by markkat 7 hours ago   18 comments top 10
2 points by aresant 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Depends on the app but I've had luck with SitePoint.com, DigitalPoint.com forums - lots of entrepreneurs, techies roll there.

Never discount SlashDot as another - with any of those suggestions helps to build up credibility, plant seeds by sharing pieces of your start-up story, building excitement for a pre-launch , etc

2 points by icey 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't know how on-topic it is over there, but you might want to try http://techstartu.ps and also perhaps http://startups.reddit.com
2 points by goodwinb 6 hours ago 0 replies      
In testing a MVP I submitted to several of the startup websites (1). The quality of traffic was bad. Their audience were people who were interested in kicking the tires on startups and not people in the industry I was targeting who needed a solution.

Having people try the site and give feedback on Mechanical Turk also doesn't work.

I like the suggestion of others on this thread to post to a focused subreddit. Another good idea is to find a blog through AllTop for your industry. I've found most bloggers will accept a direct ad for less than $100 a week.

What worked the best for me was good old AdSense, monitoring, and a/b testing. It is pretty easy to get a $100 coupon for new AdSense accounts and you can find out much about your site for that amount. Good luck.

(1) Fyi traffic figures indexed to highest: KillerStartups 1. FeedMyApp 0.85. NetWebApp 0.10. Cloudomatic 0.04. GreatWebApps 0.01.

2 points by iampims 7 hours ago 2 replies      
That could be an idea for a webapp. Anybody who volunteers for beta-testing MVP, receives a notification when a new project matches at least of of his criteria. Feedback would be integrated as well. Who's in for this?
2 points by hariis 7 hours ago 1 reply      
You can post at Startup Digest

Edit: I haven't tried this, just gotten to know from the emails they have sent me.

1 point by landyman 7 hours ago 1 reply      
You can try reddit -- not the main reddit, but a technical subreddit will usually get you some constructive feedback. For example, if I wrote an app in Python, I could post to the python subreddit to get some better feedback than any of the other ones. You'll have to weed out some of the trolls, but it's still worth the time.

I have also seen some good feedback come from posting a link on Twitter. Usually just the people I know will actually try it out, so the feedback is honest and straightforward.

1 point by johnnytee 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Check out this article on using Amazon's Mechanical Turk http://harperlindsey.wordpress.com/2010/09/01/how-i-used-ama...
1 point by rexreed 7 hours ago 1 reply      
ok - sorry if this is a stupid newbie question and an RTFM issue in a FAQ somewhere, but what is the proper procedure for posting something to HN to get feedback on a new app from HN readers? This is probably not even the right thread to post this, so feel free to flame...but seemed relevant.
1 point by bustamove 7 hours ago 0 replies      
ditto. If anybody is aware of any, please advise.
1 point by andrewtbham 7 hours ago 1 reply      
if u have a following on twitter...
Ask HN: Safe to release source code after DMCA?
7 points by Guzba 4 hours ago   1 comment top
1 point by xorglorb 2 hours ago 0 replies      
It might be better to call it "falling blocks", or another generic name, or else you might get another DMCA request.
Poll: Why don't you have your email in your HN profile?
10 points by apollo 6 hours ago   17 comments top 13
1 point by zalew 2 minutes ago 0 replies      
since I use gmail I really don't care and don't hide or obfuscate my email. I often type it 'at' but it's just a habit.
4 points by zackola 5 hours ago 1 reply      
What I would actually want is to be able to put something like

  ruby -r base64 -e 'puts Base64.decode64("emhhbGJyZWNodEBnbWFpbC5jb20=")'

into the email field. Doesn't take probably for length or validation reasons :) Anyone who can't figure that out, I don't think I want emailing me through HN.

4 points by makmanalp 5 hours ago 0 replies      
There's a more subtle point not listed here: I want to control who gets my e-mail. So I'd rather stay anonymous to those who are anonymous to me, and know who has my e-mail.
2 points by kls 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I removed my email and personal information for a while due to my actions on HN. I engaged in a strange exchange on HN which got me thinking that it was an odd conversation after some research on the person in question I found that they where a convicted pedophile and had been expelled from Egypt due to links to a terrorist organization. I believe that they are still being sought in the states. Anyway, I felt that it may be prudent to remove my info for some time least I get a bunch of harassing communications due to my finding out their dirty little secret, but I felt compelled to inform others who they where dealing with.
1 point by bobds 52 minutes ago 0 replies      
I usually list a URL to a page with a contact form instead of my email in profiles.
3 points by nathanwdavis 4 hours ago 0 replies      
It's embarrassing. My email is still buzz_lightyear97@lycos.net
2 points by DanielStraight 5 hours ago 1 reply      
Granted it's probably the most convoluted way possible to give an email address, but it's there.
2 points by nkurz 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Sadly, it's because I presumed the email field was public. I didn't realize that I had to explicitly add it to the About section to make it visible.
2 points by limedaring 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Should probably have an option on there for people to respond that they have their email listed, if only to see what proportions of people who read this thread have email listed vs. not.
1 point by abyssknight 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Argh, I already voted, and now I see the email field isn't public. So there's my reason. It is in my profile; you just can't see it. I do include other methods of contact that are more immediate, though. If someone was interested enough in contacting me, I'm easy to find.
1 point by inklesspen 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't have my email listed, but I have my website listed: http://inklesspen.com/

It's a simple "personal portal", I guess you'd call it. My email address is the first thing listed, followed by my erratically updated programming blog, github, twitter, flickr, linkedin, and resume.

I'd rather keep all those links in one place and just hand out my domain link, rather than have to update things everywhere when I add a new link.

2 points by Zev 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I don't think I've ever gotten any spam from HN. Have gotten a few nice emails that started an interesting conversation, though.
1 point by bendmorris 4 hours ago 1 reply      
My email is a University address, so it has my full name and the name of my institution - that's more info than I want to give out arbitrarily.

Maybe HN could add a contact form to user profiles, to facilitate correspondence without sacrificing anonymity?

Ask HN: Help with procuring a laptop for someone in New Delhi
4 points by jacquesm 3 hours ago   2 comments top 2
1 point by param 2 hours ago 0 replies      
why can't they buy one in Delhi itself? lots of options are available that aren't that much pricier than the US. The last time I wanted to take a net book to India for a relative, we figured it was cheaper to buy in India directly as the US warranty is hard to apply in India anyways. In our case, it was:

Base Price (US) < Base Price (India)

Base Price+warranty(US) > Base Price (India)

Base Price+warranty(US) < Base Price + warranty (India)

-- i.e. the difference wasn't that large as evidenced by eq. 2

1 point by desigooner 48 minutes ago 0 replies      
I'd advise on either procuring it from India itself. Try investigating options in Singapore. That might be a better venue as far as warranty and base price goes compared to procuring it from the US and transporting it to India
What are great books for boys?
10 points by niels_olson 6 hours ago   16 comments top 11
2 points by gokhan 3 hours ago 0 replies      
My son is 3.5 years old. Here are some of the books he loves.

The Magic School Bus series. For example:


If I Built a Car (a great book on design)


Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau


3 points by SHOwnsYou 5 hours ago 0 replies      
If you actually want literature, my favorite book as a child was Where the Red Fern Grows. If they are around 14+ there are some great, captivating Hemmingway books. A Farewell to Arms, Island in the Stream, A Movable Feast, and The Garden of Eden (In that order).

I keeping editing as I think of new things. This may sound odd, but if they are in the 14+ range, How to Win Friends and Influence People is great. It changed a lot for me.

When I was like 9 I got the book How to be Twice as Smart and it taught me a ton of mental tricks.

This book taught me a lot (probably if the boy is like 10 or 12+?)


3 points by Willwhatley 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson.

Alice in Wonderland iff still young enough not to think girls are gross. Otherwise you must sneak up on him with the poetry, then introduce the book. (I've had success with reciting 'Jabberwocky' and 'The Walrus and the Carpenter.')

Learn 'If,' by Kipling, by heart. Then teach it slowly and patiently.

As an aside, quite a lot of Kipling is truly excellently boy friendly.

The Proverbs of Solomon, et al. Found in any Bible or Talmud. Bears repeated reading, as most eastern 'wisdom' literature does (The Book of Five Rings, The Art of War, etc.).

While we're at, why not the Narnia books? I loved them, and I'd no idea the Lion was apparently Jesus until I was nine or so.

But by far do not DO NOT forget Michel Ende's marvelous 'The Neverending Story.'

If you're only familiar with it from a movie, you've missed the best part, when the boy 'Bastian must take up arms and become the adventurer he has read about and loved.

2 points by tokenadult 5 hours ago 1 reply      
My children like the George R. R. Martin books, the Philip Pullman books, the Harry Potter series, and other books much in that genre category. They also read "classic" literature as they get older, for example Oliver Twist or Tom Sawyer. Two of my sons have really liked A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (which I have never read) and I really liked The Chosen by Chaim Potok (which I reread a few years ago, and still thought was very good).
3 points by invalidOrTaken 4 hours ago 0 replies      
My Side of the Mountain---about a kid running away and actually living off the land.

Book of Virtues---don't give him this, just have it around in your house to read when bored. Gambling scandals notwithstanding, it's full of good stuff.

Blind Man's Bluff---for a kid a bit older, but it's about submarine history in the Cold War.

1 point by brudgers 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Little Boys:
Anything by Sendak, Donald Crews, Byron Barton.
Dorling Kindersly Eyewitness series.

Bigger Boys:
Phantom Tollbooth,Avi,anything with swords

Jack London,

4 points by ashleyreddy 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Surely your joking Mr. Feynman.
This should be required reading for people in this thing of ours.
Also Enders Game (fiction)
1 point by joezydeco 3 hours ago 0 replies      
What would you recommend for a younger boy, say 5-7 years old? Harry Potter might be too complex to catch on at first read IMO.
1 point by kapilkaisare 4 hours ago 0 replies      

1. Life of Pi - Yann Martel

2. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas : An awesome closeup of revenge

3. The complete Sherlock Holmes series : 'nuff said.

Non fiction:

1. Cosmos - Carl Sagan : I fell in love with science post-reading this book.

2. October Sky - Homer Hickham : A real life story of how a group of boys in a backwater town build a rocket that changes their lives.

3. Chariots of the Gods - Erich Von Daniken - A real mind bender, even if you choose not to agree with his ideas.

2 points by spydez 5 hours ago 0 replies      
My favorite book as a kid was Lord of the Rings, so I'll recommend that. Also H2G2.
1 point by aspir 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Pocketknives are always good. But how old are you thinking?

Personally, I'd stick with a pocketknife regardless of age. Or a lighter.

Tell HN: My solution to the lack of new story reviews
9 points by DanielBMarkham 7 hours ago   4 comments top 3
2 points by lukeqsee 7 hours ago 0 replies      
This sounds great. Especially for the one article every month people, the ones who can't/don't want to/won't devote the time to a real blog, but are more than willing to write every so often.

Get awesome writers. Get awesome editors. And you have wikipedia all over again, only for op-eds.

Why wouldn't it work?

    1. Nobody wants to write articles to just to consume articles.
2. Finding quality editors and writers are like finding *two* needles in a haystack. (I make no pretense to be either.)
3. A dearth of (2) would make (1) even harder.

Why would it work?

    1. It's a great tool to learn how to write.
2. It would bring a close-knit, smart community of people together. People love it when they can just dip into a pool of knowledge like that.

That's my 2¢. I'm really curious what other people think.

2 points by zephyrfalcon 6 hours ago 1 reply      
It's an interesting idea... One thing though: People usually write articles on their own sites. How are others going to be able to edit them? Or will they write articles on the new site itself, and "editors" essentially send authors a diff, or a message with suggestions?
1 point by J3L2404 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I see your point, but that's what comments are for. One unobtrusive solution would be to give one karma point for every 10(?) new page stories read. Just a thought.
Ask HN: What have you built? (not software related)
39 points by rokhayakebe 1 day ago   67 comments top 38
6 points by cscotta 1 day ago 1 reply      
About a year ago, I spent a weekend building a letterpress. It's turned into a fun hobby.

Printmaking is much more difficult than I'd have expected. One of the biggest challenges is maintaining a clean, inkless field. It's so easy to get ink on your hands, at which point it's nearly impossible to pick up a sheet of paper without smudging it before you're within three feet of the press itself. Registration (proper alignment) is a challenge as well, but is manageable. Working slowly and deliberately is difficult but certainly rewarding (though the reward here is spending an hour with lacquer thinner cleaning off the type, but I digress).

Even so, it feels great to take a Saturday evening away from the Internet, sit down with a set of lead 72pt Franklin Gothic, a brayer and ink, and print a few runs of something that strikes you as amusing at the moment.

Here are a couple photos from the last experiment:

Printed: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cscotta/5018870586/lightbox/

Letterpress: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cscotta/3825133446/

(See the "luck" tag for a couple in-process shots)

6 points by photon_off 16 hours ago 1 reply      
I built a time fountain. I became obsessed with making one after seeing this video. I knew absolutely nothing about making circuits, so I spent the large part of a summer troubleshooting all sorts of minor things (it took forever just to get a blinking light, without toasting it, for example), scrounging for parts at Radioshack (what a rip-off!) and various online catalogs. I bought enough parts to make 10, but after making 1 of them, the thrill was over.

Anybody I show this thing to is instantly amazed. About 10% of people can actually figure out how it works. And, in general, if they don't understand it before having it explained to them, they won't understand it afterword (though they will claim to "get it"). Maybe I'm just not good at explaining the strobe effect. When people first see it, they momentarily believe that I've managed to create some sort of anti-gravity device. Then when they see it going backwards, they sort of lose grip of reality for a moment. It's amazing.

My time fountain kicks the original one's ass. Unlike the one in the video, mine does a full 30fps and has analog adjustment knobs for forwards, backwards, etc. It doesn't relay on a "drip detection" circuit, but rather just two 555 timers. I freakin' love the thing.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvY7NGncCgU
Note: I didn't make the one in the video, and this wasn't my idea. I simply implemented the same concept myself with various improvements.

15 points by roberte3 1 day ago 2 replies      
A monorail.

500 Feet long, held two passengers, guts were a rewired electric wheelchair.


6 points by bond 1 day ago 2 replies      
Full Size Airliner cockpit (Bombardier CRJ):

1 PC
1 Matrox TripleHead(3 monitors-View),
1 Matrox G200(3 monitors-Instruments)

Built some electronic boards to control LEDs, Switches, Potentiometers for Throttle, Yoke, Overhead panel, Central console, etc...

Nice project if you have the time....

3 points by ratsbane 23 hours ago 1 reply      
When I was (more) young and foolish, I rebuilt the turbodiesel engine in a 1983 Mercedes 300SD. The day after we got it all back together two friends and I drove it over a thousand miles to a wedding in Philadelphia. In hindsight, this was really stupid. It turned out fine, though.


7 points by jacquesm 1 day ago 2 replies      
A windmill, a house, a car, a 3D mill / plasmacutter.
3 points by orblivion 1 day ago 0 replies      
When I was a kid I hacked apart my NES controller. I connected wires to each of the leads, and then made some simple contraptions that would connect two leads when activated. The main one was a jumping board my dad helped me with. I also made a punching thing you strapped to your arm. I didn't know how to solder properly so I don't think it all worked right at any one time, but it was cool.

Still waiting for royalties from the Wii :)

6 points by krschultz 1 day ago 2 replies      
2 boats, a guitar, some furniture, and a race car. I'd like build another boat soon, it has been a while.
3 points by humbledrone 1 day ago 0 replies      
I recently built an arcade cabinet, which houses a PC running MAME so that I can play lots of arcade games.

I also built the desk on which my workstation currently resides. I couldn't find a desk that (a) looked decent and (b) was enormous, so I designed a desk that satisfied both and built it.

3 points by saundby 1 day ago 0 replies      
Bookshelves, an entertainment center, lots of medieval armor, several homebrew computers (I'm putting the finishing touches on an 8085 now: saundby.com), a couple of fish tanks, my computer desk, a parallelogram mount for my binoculars, several telescopes, including the primary optics.

Building is just another part of hacking. If you asked me what I'd modded, I'd have an even larger list. I originally got into electronics and computers because it was a cheaper hobby than model railroading. I couldn't afford railroading stuff from the hobby shop, but I could always find a broken radio to get parts out of for electronics projects, and make money repairing radios and TVs until I could afford a microprocessor. :)

2 points by wglb 22 hours ago 1 reply      
I built a 50-watt ham radio transmitter (copper chassis and all) with an 807 final. And an allied radio receiver kit. And later a VFO kit to drive the transmitter. And a Q-Multiplier and a BFO for the 1927 Zenith radio from my dad so I could hear tones in CW. Then, from scratch, when I got my General Class license, I built an AM modulator on a 14-inch steel chassis to get on AM. Going almost digital, I built a two-tube 12as7 W9TO keyer for morse code for the above rig. And an antenna system with two 45 foot poles about 180 feet apart to put up three dipoles. And I cannot count the number of antennas that I have built over the years at my various residences.

Later, I built one of the second wave of the Altair computers, and actually had one or two consulting gigs from that.

And, to brag a little, I pointed my daughter, to a QST article on a code practice oscillator, and she built it with almost no supervision when she was in high school.

I built, from a kit, one or three of the amateur packet radio kits, and ran a radio BBS for too long a time. (You see, the internet is just ham radio 2.0, but none of you get that fact, but i digress)

I built (strictly was architect for) a medical information system that gathered electrocardiograms from patients bedsides, transmitted them via telephone to a datacenter near Chicago, which returned an english-language report to the hosptial in ten minutes or less. (This one is cheating a bit, as a large component of this was software.)

But by far and away most of the stuff I have built is software.

Now, my gig is to break software, but that is off-topic. (Hint--you sometimes need to write software to break other software.)

3 points by ww520 1 day ago 0 replies      
Built a RFID collection system using RFID reader plus mico Linux computer. Ok, semi-software related since I needed to write the software to control the hardware.
4 points by crcarlson 1 day ago 1 reply      
I built two CNC machines. The first one essentially from scratch components: bearings, plates and beams. And a second higher performance machine by converting a manual machine to servo control. Hardware is fun.
3 points by mrbogle 1 day ago 0 replies      
My dad owns a fab shop, so I grew up making stuff.

I was into cars for a long time. In college, I built strut/tie bars and sold them on the web. I turboed my car and built the downpipe and the charge piping. I also made and modified numerous parts for the car and friends' cars (suspension parts, wiring, brackets, blah blah). I also reverse engineered the ECU running the engine and wrote an engine management system for it which required some hardware integration (that count? http://benogle.com/projects/bre ).

All of my furniture that was not upholstered (no couch, etc) until last year was built by me in high school.

I finished the basement in my house which required making a bunch of stuff at previously mentioned fab shop. Even for general house maintenance I often ended up making some small part(s) at the shop (i.e. sprinkler system install, fixing the garage lean, etc).

4 points by wallflower 22 hours ago 1 reply      
A 6" Dobsonian reflector telescope. Highly recommend it
3 points by aristus 1 day ago 0 replies      
I am currently building a peer to peer network of time capsules: http://www.paperinternet.org
4 points by abraham 23 hours ago 1 reply      
4 points by cubes 1 day ago 0 replies      
Syzygryd, a 2.5 ton fire breathing collaborative musical instrument. With a lot of help from friends. http://www.syzygryd.com
2 points by udfalkso 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I built a device to catch the mail that comes through the slot in my front door. It had previously been falling on the floor and driving me crazy.

One day I came across this nice product, http://www.amazon.com/SNAIL-SAKK-Mail-Receptacle-Slots/dp/B0..., and it seemed more than possible to make my own. So, using a fabric shopping bag from a local store, some Velcro and a sewing kit I managed to put my own together in a couple of hours. It works great! :)

2 points by dminor 1 day ago 0 replies      
We're moving to a smaller apartment soon so I'm building a platform for our bed (king size) this weekend, so we can get more storage under it. Should be fun!
5 points by gallerytungsten 1 day ago 0 replies      
House rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. Link to one of the more epic episodes: http://www.gallerytungsten.com/archives/000145.php
5 points by david_p 1 day ago 0 replies      
My first hack, I was 11 : a tape mixer with two walkmans, a linear potentiometer and a merged audio output :)


2 points by dabent 1 day ago 0 replies      
A bed, a blanket chest and lots of other smaller projects. Woodworking helped me realize that I really like building things, so I've stuck with that on the software side.
4 points by lutorm 1 day ago 0 replies      
A working CO2 laser, with enough power to char wood and cut paper and thin plastic.
3 points by th0ma5 1 day ago 0 replies      
i built a software radio (or something a lot like one, involves software, but the device was soldered) it was quite fun, just google "zetasdr" or the gnu radio project, or softrock sdr .... have fun!
4 points by supermauerbros 1 day ago 1 reply      
My friend Ben and I built a piece of art that responds to fluctuations in magnetic fields in the room to move around ferrofluid.


I also built a T-Shirt with EL wire that sync'd to Ableton Live


5 points by serverdude 1 day ago 0 replies      
If art counts, I have sketched many portraits, did some oil paintings (nothing to boast of) and also composed a few songs in an unreleased album:)
2 points by misterbwong 1 day ago 0 replies      
Semi-recent projects: Bookshelf, desk, plug station, coat hanger antenna, hollowed out book.

My grandfather was a carpenter and when he passed, he gave our family his tools. We always have lots of wood and woodworking tools around so that's my preferred medium (when all you have is a hammer....).

2 points by chewbranca 1 day ago 0 replies      
I helped build a house out of spare wood for a family friend. It was really exciting to see it come together and to think that this wasn't just a random side project, but something that would be lived in and greatly appreciated.
3 points by mtrn 1 day ago 0 replies      
Together with friends I renovated a 4-floor house, which was unhabited. Now we have a cool house with garden to live and work in, oil-, coal- and gas-free heating and solar panels for below-the-average rent.
2 points by retroafroman 1 day ago 0 replies      
Wow, I'm very impressed with your projects. If you're a redditor, /r/DIY loves to see these type of projects, and if you blog, consider submitting to Make Magazine, or Hack-A-Day, or any of the various other DIY blogs. It's great to see such creativity.
2 points by tunaslut 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Mostly bits of furniture - bookcases and chairs for my daughter, various little toys like balance boards and beams, kitchen cabinets.

Oh, and soap. I make soap - does that count? :)

2 points by lenary 1 day ago 0 replies      
a human sized hamster wheel

it's a long story, to do with a church funding something, but i was the eventual designer of it despite being an intern, then went and built it in my own time one weekend. was fucking heavy and never used it, just donated my time to that client

2 points by GnarfGnarf 1 day ago 0 replies      
3 points by cellurl 1 day ago 0 replies      
I built a side for my POS popup camper. Metal, glue, ants...
2 points by cwbrandsma 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Recently...a tortilla press. Not much, but workable.
2 points by mybbor 1 day ago 0 replies      
Acoustic panels for my home studio!


2 points by togasystems 1 day ago 1 reply      
My Self-Esteem
Tell HN: I got sick of people procrastinating. Now I tell them to Finish Shit.
46 points by g0atbutt 1 day ago   24 comments top 14
4 points by g0atbutt 1 day ago 2 replies      
I should also mention that I'm adding features over the next couple of days, so you're not looking at the final version just yet.
6 points by SHOwnsYou 1 day ago 4 replies      
Make it like awesomereminders.com and people get called and bitched at until they finish their project...
1 point by csomar 9 hours ago 0 replies      
rescue time helped me well. I went from 0.16 to 0.7 in 3 months. I really don't know how it measures my productivity but I cared about rising the number. This month, I may get 0.8.

I finished lot of work comparing to the past, rescue time was a reminder that "Hey, a month just gone, what did you do? Oh, sh*t there wasn't enough time!". It turns out to be false, my productivity just wasn't at top. Now I'm starting to run out of time, really!

3 points by coryl 1 day ago 2 replies      
Funny and novel, why not adopt the loseit or loseit model and make people put up money? If they complete their task, they keep the money. If they don't, it goes to charity. (Might be kinda complicated and more than you're willing to do).
1 point by binomial 23 hours ago 0 replies      
This is a great idea, and I've been thinking of something similar. Some people, including me, work better when there's someone waiting for the work with some deadline. This works out badly if you're working on your own thing, but people like this can be very productive under a good "boss".

So my idea was a web app where people could sign up to be "bosses", and you'd have some karma system to figure out who the good bosses are, matching them up to the "employees" who sign up to get bossed around to do the tasks they've set for themselves. Now, you'd have to put in measures to make sure bosses don't get abusive (make it part of the karma system I guess), ways to match up people with their boss, etc. But it seems like a neat idea that might just work. I just don't know if you could find enough people who like being a good boss (or at least like getting the karma points associated with good bossing), as well as enough people who'd sign up to be bossed around.

2 points by abraham 23 hours ago 0 replies      
You could offer a counterpart to http://www.awesomenessreminders.com/ where procrastinators pay you to call them and say "Finish shit".
1 point by g0atbutt 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thanks for the kind words. Just made it a little bit more clear how to show up on the procrastinator list (on the web site). You just have to tweet @finishshit if you need to be yelled at.
1 point by seancron 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Not only do you yell at other people to Finish Shit, you yell at yourself to Finish Shit too. Now that's dedication, and not at all crazy.


2 points by delano 1 day ago 1 reply      
You forgot the URI:


1 point by bobds 1 day ago 0 replies      
1 point by orblivion 1 day ago 0 replies      
I would occasionally post on the Twitter profile without @replying to anybody to remind us you exist.
2 points by powatom 1 day ago 0 replies      
I think it would be better just called 'finishit' - but having both domains would be the best option.
1 point by cmbanker 20 hours ago 0 replies      
A literal 'whack on the head'... Inspiring!
-2 points by hector_ka 1 day ago 0 replies      
finishshit.com is redundant

just kidding

Ask HN: How do you find time to code/build your business in the evening?
109 points by devmonk 2 days ago   62 comments top 26
60 points by fookyong 2 days ago 13 replies      
Don't build in the evening.

In the evening, wind down the day, have a beer and plan out how you're going to use two hours in the morning tomorrow most effectively. Set one clear goal. Then...

1) Go to sleep

2) Wake up early (I recommend 6am)

3) Do the work you thought up last night

I find myself remarkably productive in this cycle. If you've planned well, you'll whiz through the tasks. Focus on "doing one thing" each day and you'll be racing through iteration cycles. I find that I'm usually so productive like this that I can comfortably keep the weekend purely for recreation guilt-free, rather than continuing to iterate on my down time and burning out.

This is how I built http://goodgecko.com

It's taken about 3 months* of doing exactly the above, now has paying customers and is an extremely satisfying "side project"!


*I should elaborate - 3 months since the very barebones MVP. The MVP took about 2 months and featured basic surveys and a one-page sales site. The current product features web, mobile, popup and kiosk surveys and has a fully-realized sales site. The sales site itself took about a month to make...

14 points by atldev 2 days ago 0 replies      
First: http://www.kalzumeus.com/2010/03/20/running-a-software-busin...

1) I never sacrifice dinner with my family and I try to "be home" from 5-9. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.

2) Always prioritize your most difficult work first. If you start with "check HackerNews", time will disappear. Finish a use case first then reward yourself. Pick a new feature to ship each night and the progress will fuel you.

3) I've never liked working super early in the morning, so I take quick power naps in the evening (30min to 1hr.) to refresh and work from 10-1. Solid, uninterrupted 3 hrs.

4) Passive work (like catching up on HN, other sites) can be done with MacBook in lap on the couch if you want to unwind with some Tivo.

5) Don't be afraid to invest appropriately. I'm actually taking vacation next week to complete my punch list: finish coding, meet with an advisor, attend a trade show and prepare product for beta.

20 points by wyclif 2 days ago 1 reply      
Eliminate television and other forms of entertainment.
3 points by arethuza 2 days ago 0 replies      
I try and stick to 3 hours 4 times a week (9-12) with three visits to the gym (two in the evening during the week and one on Saturday afternoon) with Saturday evening as "free" time. Usually manage a chunk of time during the day on Sunday as well. So probably 15 hours a week on average doing my own work.

I usually make sure I have what I want to do in the evening sketched out in a notebook at lunchtime - which is when I do research etc.

The thing that makes this possible is pretty much having a "regular" day job that is within walking distance of where I live - 20 minute walk away. With a commute I'd be too tired to do anything at night (I know, I have tried). I usually get home at 6pm - same time as my son gets home from school.

The other thing I have found is that staying up past midnight is a bad idea - I even have an alarm set on my watch to remind me to start shutting down at 23:50.

I tend to sleep most soundly when I've just fixed some horrible bug or implemented some sweet feature!

Note that includes plenty time with 11 year old son and my wife - who has a much more high-pressure job than I have (I do all of the cooking).

3 points by hopeless 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks for asking this. I've been struggling with exactly the same sort of problem.

For a while I was working late nights and making good progress but since having our 2nd kid it has been very difficult to get back into it. Being depressed over the day job and money definitely doesn't help.

It's interesting that so many people recommend the mornings. I can see the logic but from a practical point-of-view, I don't think it will work. My kids are v. good and sleep from ~7pm to 7am but they're awake earlier in the mornings and just happy to stay in bed. If I get up at 5 or 6am then I'm going risk waking not only my wife but also rousing the 2 children too. Maybe I'll give it a try next week but I'm sceptical.

One thing to bear in mind... when working in the evenings I've found progress is roughly: 1 week of evenings == 1 full-time day. Things take an extraordinarily long time to complete.

3 points by Travis 2 days ago 1 reply      
I'm the programmer in my startup. I'm also the guy with the day job. We weren't making the necessary progress until we actually analyzed why I wasn't being as productive as we needed in the evening and weekend situations.

Turns out that I basically needed an assistant. Since I was building features for my cofounders, we decided that we should pair program (except they don't know how to program). So they act as the "feature manager" and come up to my apt for 2 hours a nights a week and we work together.

A few key points: the feature managers MUST have their thoughts detailed out. In order for me to crank out code, I need to know exactly what to do. I think there's a cognitive cost when you have to shift from implementation to design mode (and even testing mode). You'll be amazed how much it helps to push those responsibilities out of your brain (and yet still get fast feedback).

Doing this, we've gotten probably 4 months worth of work done in the last month, without me increasing hours. Seeing how efficiently I can implement features made my cofounders realize that it's worthwhile to pay me even 1/4 time, so that I can reduce hours elsewhere. Been a real game changer for our company.

4 points by ganley 2 days ago 0 replies      
This is about writing, but applies just as well here: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/09/16/writing-find-the-time-...
2 points by abyssknight 2 days ago 0 replies      
This will likely get lost in the ether, but I'm presuming you work a day job. I do the same, and now I'm going back to school to get a Masters degree. Funny thing about it, though, is that somehow my drive to learn and build has grown. I'm not saying I have more time, or that I don't feel burnt out. I just feel less burnt out about building applications. That said, my job has me on sort of an educational documentation rotation wherein I haven't had the chance to write code in awhile so that may also be why.

My point is, focus on everything else and somehow, the time will manifest itself. Whether it happens because you're avoiding something else, or just because you're not used to doing nothing (like I used to do, and still do, a lot) in your downtime. Just be sure you aren't avoiding the family. :)

2 points by AmberShah 2 days ago 0 replies      
1) I can actually get a lot more done in a 1 hour lunch break at work than a 2 hour session at night. Other people prefer to work in the mornings before work or even work a full weekend day. There's no reason why it has to be in the evening.

2) I'm lucky enough to have a high paying job, enough so that I can afford to have house cleaners, and I also pay my brother to do our laundry every few weeks (this is a win-win, since he gets spending money). Sometimes I feel bad for not doing these things myself, BUT in reality it's working and that's what counts. To be honest, if I made less, I might consider going for funding instead of working, but since I make good money, I consider that to be my investment in my business. That being said, I still have household chores to do, but you just have to get realistic about how much you can really do, whether that means getting help, or just NOT doing chores (sad, but true)

3) Since I know have much more limited time than other people, I really really REALLY need to find ways to keep the product lean and focused. Everyone says they try to do this, but you know, necessity is the mother of invention.

4) Finally, sometimes I'll be in bed, it's midnight and I need to wake up early for work. I'll start thinking about the product and get so excited I have to get up and work on it for an hour or so. And of course, since I'm pumped, I'm much more productive. This is horrible for my sleep, but I think it's a fair trade for starting a startup, in addition to living a full life with family and work.

5) Assuming you have a supportive spouse, he can take the kids for an outing to the zoo, or whatever, on Saturday mornings and you can get a good 6 hours in. We find it to be a win-win, since they get to spend quality time then.

3 points by barnaby 2 days ago 0 replies      
"Consistency is the authors best friend"

That's something my Dad (a writer himself) told me when I wanted to write a book when I was young. And it's true for business as well! When I wrote just a little bit regularly (a page or two a day) I got a _lot_ done in a month, but then I started just writing in batches, marathon sessions here and there, and nothing really got done plus I lost wind pretty quickly.

Now I'm working a day job and writing code for another startup idea and regularity helps me, this time I plan to stick with the consistency, rather than degrade into spurts, so that I finish this (unlike the book).

3 points by psyklic 2 days ago 0 replies      
Take a night course where lectures are mandatory. You'll realize you somehow make the time to attend class and do homework. Now just lead by example and keep making the time, but with your business instead.
2 points by raffi 2 days ago 0 replies      
I find I have limited bandwidth for coding. In my last job, this capacity was completely used. I put my energy and my ideas into my job and absolutely nothing was left for building on the side.

My current job is still technical, but I'm not working as a coder. As such, I have a lot of energy to put into a project. In fact, working on the project is one of the things I look forward to when I get home.

Something to keep in mind when looking at a job. How much of your personal capacity will be left when the day is over?

1 point by Mz 2 days ago 0 replies      
I've gotten a lot out of reading this discussion, but I will toss out the additional suggestion that some tasks you think are necessary may not be. A particular home and/or lifestyle may impose certain tasks and making other choices may reduce those tasks. One obvious example: A house with a large yard requires more maintenance outside than a house with a small yard. But there are lots of things most people take as a given which aren't. If you really just can't find the time, maybe you should track where your time is going and explore the possibility of making some lifestyle changes which might free some of that up. (As for the yard: I recall reading an anecdote once that some guy that had been a devoted gardener discovered golf and basically paved over his yard so he wouldn't have to fuss with it anymore. :-D)
4 points by happybuy 2 days ago 0 replies      
Make sure you exercise and are healthy. I find once I've taken care of this, I am so much more likely to have focused, productive time on projects.

A good summary of other things that can be done to improve and simplify your life is at zenhabits: http://zenhabits.net/brief-guide/

3 points by mdoyle 2 days ago 1 reply      
I've agreed with the good lady that I will work in the evenings between Monday and Thursday, which normally gives me three-four hours a night, after the kids have gone to bed. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are for the family with the odd exception, which has the added benefit of giving me some thinking time. I have 30 days holiday a year and use 10 of those days for working on my own stuff; effectively a working holiday but its very useful.
2 points by rokhayakebe 2 days ago 0 replies      
At the risk of repeating what fookyong said, have a very clear goal of what you want to do. Then start executing one or two or three items daily.

For me I just finished my mvp for http://democratic.ly in 3 weeks. I worked on it after 4pm on weekdays and during the weekend. If I was organized or had more programming skills it could have been much less time to MVP. But from the start I had a very clear goal.

2 points by swalberg 2 days ago 0 replies      
I'm in the same situation as you. First off, my business is my hobby, so instead of watching TV or playing video games, I try to get something done on my application.

I choose small pieces of work to do that can fit in about an hour. My wife does writing/school in the evenings, so we often sit together and work. If I don't have the mental attention to write code, I work on other things.

Funny enough, I've been very productive while taking my oldest kid to karate. I've built a surprising amount of my application at the dojo :)

I start my day job early (at the office around 7) so that I can get back home and spend more time with the family until bedtime.

I've also learned to accept that my progress might be slow some weeks because I've made the decision to put my family first.

10 points by Jupe 2 days ago 1 reply      
Ahh, stop reading Hacker News? <g>
2 points by brudgers 2 days ago 0 replies      
Late in the evening and early in the morning are great times to work.

But neither necessarily coincides with your peak creative period.

The muse comes on her schedule and sleep is just something in the way.

When she's absent, you're just tacking more time onto a long day.

2 points by booster 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think the short answer to your question is that it is difficult but it can be done.

The biggest problem I have is finding large enough blocks of time (> 30 mins) to concentrate on the task in hand. The only two blocks that I've managed to secure are early in the mornings before the kids get up and on my commute to work. I use the return journey of my commute to plan what I'm going to do the next day. Although this strategy only provides me with a few hours a day, I find that this is sufficient to give my project some sort of momentum.

I tend to avoid evening development as the quality of the work I produce isn't optimal and it would eat into the time that I want to spend with my very supportive wife and children.

2 points by tsycho 2 days ago 0 replies      
My day job starts pretty early in the morning (need to leave home by 7:30) so working on weekday mornings is pretty much impossible.
I manage to get in a 2hr session after dinner on 3-4 weeknights, but doing so consistently requires a lot of discipline, giving up on TV etc., and an understanding wife/girlfriend.

I also try to tackle the larger/tougher parts of my side-projects on weekends instead. To make my weekends more productive, I try to finish the interruptive boring work such as laundry etc on a weeknight when I don't feel like coding. That way, I don't have to worry about it over the weekend.

2 points by p01nd3xt3r 2 days ago 0 replies      
I wake up at 5 am every morning and code until 10 am on my startup then do work from 10 until 6. I also spend the last 2 hours before bed planning and doing any other startup task to make the 5 hours I spend in the morning working more productive.
2 points by bmcgavin 2 days ago 0 replies      
I work in a shared office building, and I take a laptop with a self-contained test environment into my day job. I then spend lunch working in a quiet room elsewhere in the building with no internet connection.

It works well for me because I'm awake and thinking about tech problems anyway thanks to the morning, and an hour with no distractions is enough to make small gains.

2 points by jon914 2 days ago 0 replies      
On the commute back home, I set the night's agenda by listing out the 3 things that I plan to accomplish. This way, I'm constantly moving forward each night and am not left wondering "what should I do now?" when I reach my desk.

My other tip is to listen to your body's signals. If you're sputtering out, grab a snack and walk around a bit. Speaking of which, it's about time for me to do that right now!

2 points by mdoyle 2 days ago 0 replies      
Another thing is that I have a clear separation of work and home life. When I leave the office then I don't think about it until I arrive the next day and can generally wind down very quickly. I am probably fortunate that my work does not demand too much overtime.
1 point by iworkforthem 2 days ago 3 replies      
i suggest u code/build yr biz in the early morning instead, say around 4-5 am, wake up early, code like crazy for e 2-3 hrs. it's super productive when compared to late nites. also, since you have kids, you need to plan out their schedule properly, else they will need yr constant action. automate whenever possible, if u must outsource be sure to review n measure e roi.
Ask HN: Who I can talk with about illegal hacking/malware?
11 points by JessB 8 hours ago   8 comments top 4
1 point by il 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I just sent you an email. I used to research the carding/malware scene I can probably answer all of your questions.

It's not that easy to drain a bank account- which is why malware authors will typically sell bank account info in bulk for about 1% of the balance. You can get a credit card number for as little as $2-$3 on the black market.

1 point by pinksoda 7 hours ago 1 reply      
- Popup/Popunder ad revenue

- Sell infected users software to remove it.

- Replace links with affiliate links.

- Redirect websites/searches to other sites.

- Steal your data and sell it.

- Turn your computer into a zombie (botnet), at which point you and thousands of other infected computers attack various business servers around the world.

That's the jist of it. It's all about money.

1 point by lanstein 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Ask HN: Dropbox?
14 points by jason_slack 8 hours ago   25 comments top 17
6 points by michael_dorfman 8 hours ago 1 reply      
As far as I am concerned, Dropbox "just works".

Why not try it out with the free, 2GB version, and see how it works for you?

2 points by bmelton 7 hours ago 1 reply      
As for your data (with Dropbox), it's all on your system at the same time it is on the Cloud. I have the 50Gb plan, and one of my slight complaints is that on the same disk, I have the dropbox contents twice (one for my Windows partition, one for Linux) -- so I have to keep 100Gb free total to support them. This is a stupid complaint really (and it MIGHT work if I moved the dropbox to a shared drive, but frankly, I don't want to test out what would happen if two operating systems were using the same dropbox space), so I wouldn't worry about that, but the point is that your files are always your files. If, on the odd chance they do go out of business, all of your files still exist across all of your computers (though they may not be synced anymore), and wouldn't be lost to you.

As for the other aspects of their service, I have to agree that it 'just works'. I don't have to worry about it, ever. I haven't dealt with customer service, so I have no idea how they are, but I've never had to either, and I've been using them since their inception. No lost files, no corrupt files, no strange files, and no problems with version conflicts. It's just... solid.

4 points by bherms 8 hours ago 1 reply      
Dropbox is great all around for a number of reasons. The pricing is pretty good too, but for most uses, the free account is sufficient. There are tons of useful features too. If the service goes down, you have the stuff available on every PC that has synced. Check out http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/15_hacks_every_dro... and http://www.maximumpc.com/article/howtos/how_hack_your_dropbo... too.
1 point by smoody 4 hours ago 0 replies      
My one issue with Dropbox is that they own the encryption key and, to the best of my knowledge (correct me if I'm wrong), they do not provide a feature to let me define my own locally stored key. If someone gets hold of their encryption keys (or worse yet, if there's a single encryption key), then, potentially, my data can be compromised.
4 points by projectileboy 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I can't say enough good things about Dropbox. Cross-platform, fast, easy... the little guy just works.
2 points by bendmorris 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I absolutely love DropBox and use it to sync my laptops, home and work computers. One great use for it, I think, is Tomboy Notes, which I use to take notes in meetings on my netbook, track progress on projects at work, keep a list of stuff I need to do, etc. I don't really use it for source code, which is usually version controlled anyway.

> What do you all think would happen if DropBox went out of business. Would they make sure we all had copies of our data?

That's the beauty of DropBox; you already have copies of your data, on all computers that you sync to. It's really convenient, especially on laptops that aren't always connected to the internet, etc.

1 point by jnorion 2 hours ago 0 replies      
Check this out for other ideas on what can be done with it: http://lifehacker.com/5527055/the-cleverest-ways-to-use-drop...
1 point by CoachRufus87 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I essentially use my dropbox folder as my "everything" folder for my mac. it's obviously mirrored across my iphone and pc as well. theres nothing like committing code, pushing it to git, and seeing the little dropbox icon updating at the same time. i rarely use time machine any more. start with 2 gigs, refer lots of friends (i think up to 5 gigs?). that's plenty of space to back up the essentials (school stuff, code, misc important docs)
1 point by blender 5 hours ago 0 replies      
1 point by carlrice 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Hands down the best file syncing and backup experience. I use it on my Ubuntu netbook and laptop, iMac, Macbook Pro, a Windows 7 VM on occasion and my Android. Sometimes there are weird conflicts between all these different devices (maybe client software/OS bugs?) but I trust it with my life.

99% of all my files are in Dropbox (minus large archived projects and videos for space/bandwidths sake) and I do a monthly dump to an external.

1 point by skittles 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I believe they reserve the right to delete your content (on their side) for their free service level. Another current problem is the lack of group drop-boxes. A dropbox can be shared, but each consumer's dropbox limit is affected by the shared-data size. So a group that wanted to share a dropbox would need one dropbox master account and a same-sized account for each user.
1 point by davidedicillo 5 hours ago 0 replies      
It changed completely the way I manage files in my business. In positive of course.
1 point by Ixiaus 7 hours ago 0 replies      
TarSnap if you like security, are comfortable with the commandline, and want to write your own automation scripts...
1 point by scharan 7 hours ago 0 replies      
It is absolutely fabulous. I keep my Linux box, Mac and Win PC in sync. I also use it to keep a single copy of my dot files and share them between my mac and linux box (I use symlinks in home dir to point to Dropbox files). So far, pretty reliable.
1 point by Andrenid 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Dropbox is one of my favourite and first-recommended products lately. I use it for lots of things.

I use it as a general dump-folder that I sync across my Macbook Pro, my work PC (Win XP), and my Android phone. This cross-platform ability so share files is priceless to me.

I also keep my KeePass file on it, then have copies of KeePass on my phone, work PC, and laptop all pointed to that devices Dropbox folder, giving me shared access to my encrypted passwords anywhere, anytime. Again, priceless.

I use a shared Dropbox folder with some friends, and we sync files to each other when we want to share them. No more email attachments, image uploaders, or IM file transfers.

1 point by bunchesofdonald 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I've used it ever since it was in beta, (for around 2 years), and I've never had a problem with it, as michael_dorfman said, "it just works."
1 point by tomschmnidt 7 hours ago 0 replies      
Dropbox is a great service… first heard about it half a year ago. Use it almost daily to move files to and from my Moto Milestone.

Totally self serving link:
If you want to try Dropbox, but don’t already have an account try signing up using my referal link. You’ll get an additional 250 MB (in addition to the 2 GB standard amount)


Full disclosure: I’ll get 250 MB too. So everyone wins :-)

Ask HN: Many quality articles don't go to the front page. What is the problem?
80 points by vladocar 1 day ago   44 comments top 21
39 points by ryanwaggoner 1 day ago 7 replies      
I think it's a function of there being too many items submitted every day, and not enough people checking the "new" page. During busy times of the day, if you don't get 5-10 votes within the first 10-15 mins, you're on the 2nd page of the "new" posts area, and you're never going to make it. I'm afraid the end result is that the only posts that will end up on the front-page are:

  1. Where the author (domain) is well-known
2. Where the title is link-bait
3. Where the submitter tries to game the system

All of these are bad for the future of HN. I really like the way reddit handles this, of putting a few new items at the top of the homepage and rotating them, so that more people see them and have the chance to upvote. The way things are going, HN is destined to have a front-page full of only linkbait, spam, and/or posts by rockstars.

13 points by bravura 1 day ago 0 replies      
Rich get richer phenomenon.

Not enough people check the new page. It's impossible to get an article on the frontpage unless like four or five people upvote it in the first few minutes after submission. This is extremely unlikely, unless you have a popular title or popular username.

Once something gets on the frontpage, it gets a LOT of upvotes, and the algorithm decays its weight so slowly that it is essentially a rich get richer phenomenon.

Possible solutions:

* Front page upvotes don't count as much, since there are more views. In particular, the "weight" of an article should be the probability that someone who views the title clicks on it, combined with the probability that someone who clicks the link decides to upvote it.

* Frontpage is stochastic. Instead of being fixed, you sample articles based upon their probability (or score). Each person gets a new frontpage, in order to actually explore which articles are good. (Exploration vs. exploitation)

8 points by 3pt14159 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Submissions should cost karma. Dynamically change the karma cost based on the time of day or expected number of visits. In theory good posts would be a net win for your karma and people would stop spamming the new section with useless articles.
7 points by alain94040 1 day ago 1 reply      
My suggestion would be to randomly feature 5 new articles on the home page (probably below rank 20, so as not to pollute the top 10). This way, they get more visibility than by being only on the "new page", and get a chance to get the clicks they need.
4 points by jacquesm 1 day ago 0 replies      
It takes 4 points currently to make the front page, if your submission does not have those 4 points by the time it scrolls off the new page it will take a small miracle for it to be brought back.

Also notice that the 'new' page has a 'more' link at the bottom, you could do worse than to check page 2 and 3 as well to see if anything good fell through the cracks.

Voting up articles that have not made the front page past the third page of 'new' articles is unlikely to have much effect.

8 points by marilyn 1 day ago 1 reply      
I believe a flip side to this is that stories are staying on the front page longer. Not too long ago I recall that each day I opened HN for the first time, every story on the front page was brand new to me. Recently stories seem to stay on the front page for 2-3 days sometimes.
14 points by rblion 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think the HN community is becoming more and more diluted with people who are here for techcrunch-type gossip and articles and not actual thought provoking insights and research.
6 points by JeffL 1 day ago 0 replies      
Last time I tried to submit something and it didn't go anywhere, I checked the new page and it was full of multiple submissions from the same person. Personally, I think people should be limited to one submission per day, or else multiple submissions start to cost you karma, so people had better like them or else you get punished for Spamming.
2 points by reitzensteinm 1 day ago 1 reply      
I was stunned that my last submission, that the gog.com shutdown was a marketing ploy, received 0 upvotes. It was the latest development in the story that was voted #1 just two days prior:


It appears they're actually back now, so I've submitted it again:


2 points by jasonkester 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've noticed this happening in the last 6 months. Articles of mine that spent the better part of a day on the front page of Reddit sail their way down the New page here over the course of 45 minutes, never to be seen again.

Funny, because a couple years back that's what would happen to anything you submitted to /r/programming. Now the noise has all moved here and it's actually easier to get Reddit to pay attention then HN.

5 points by timdellinger 1 day ago 1 reply      
Sometimes I feel like a bit of a freeloader, since I never click on "new" in order to upvote the decent submissions.

The only suggestions that I have would be (1) to automatically load a handful of "new" submissions in a separate section of the main page (at the expense of destroying the current design and cluttering the page), or (2) giving out karma for upvoting new stories (which is ripe for exploitation by simply clicking randomly).

4 points by eru 1 day ago 0 replies      
I noticed similar problems. I guess it's the growth, and that an article only really has a few minutes to get its first few votes that will put it onto the front page.
3 points by tokenadult 1 day ago 0 replies      
I habitually check the new page right after checking the main page. I upvote stuff that I think is interesting to the community. Anyone else can do the same.
2 points by doki_pen 1 day ago 0 replies      
I know a lot of users use Google Reader and don't see the articles until they are a little stale. They still will up vote good articles. Perhaps the algorithm could be tweaked to make time less important then it is currently. I'm not sure how you could do that though..
1 point by cinimod 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Another suggestion: Adding a small section above the top10 with a random link from "new". And for that link, you need to click yes or no depending of if it is interesting.

What I like about this approach is the randomness in it where random people get random link. I also like the fact that by you aren't choosing between 30 links.. you only get one and you need to say if it's interesting or no. Also, I like the fact that it's on the front page.

So, the top 10 links could be the most yes-ed in a certain period, or the ratio yes/no ratio, or anything really.. You could also put more weight on a yes if you've got more point in HN (Simply because I usually trust their judgement.. for instance, they know when something has already been shown dozen of time)

Also, it feels a little bit more like a game to me.. each time I refresh I need to really participate to say if that special link is interesting or no.. :D

1 point by someone_here 1 day ago 1 reply      
I'm also finding many are [dead] as soon as they are submitted, for no reason that I can see. Then, a short while later, the [dead] is lifted. See my post: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1659521
2 points by epi0Bauqu 1 day ago 0 replies      
This has been going on for a long long time.
1 point by lukeqsee 1 day ago 0 replies      
It could be growth. It could be a lot of things.

I postulate that the necessary quality level is greater now because of the sheer number of articles that get sifted through. What used to make the cut, no longer does. Or, it could be vice-versa.

1 point by winter_blue 22 hours ago 0 replies      
I have an Greasemonkey script called HN Toolkit that lets you display the new post & top post side-by-side. It really helps you catch the good ones that aren't upvoted.
1 point by spotirca 1 day ago 0 replies      
One small improvement that might help would be to hide the articles that one has already read, keeping the front page to 30 articles. That way, after you read some articles, there will be some fresh meat on the table.
0 points by rohan037 1 day ago 0 replies      
the digg effect
Ask PG: Polite ways to scrape HN?
64 points by siculars 1 day ago   27 comments top 8
25 points by pg 1 day ago 3 replies      
You can crawl so long as you respect robots.txt and don't retrieve more than a couple pages a minute. (Conservative, I know, but we're serving 800k pages a day off one server, using an app written in a slow language.)
15 points by bobds 1 day ago 2 replies      
Here you go: http://api.ihackernews.com/

It's an unofficial API though and it might not do everything you need.

3 points by ck2 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Why not crawl the google text cache instead?

It indexes HN within a few minutes of any post.

6 points by sahillavingia 1 day ago 0 replies      
This works great: http://api.ihackernews.com/
2 points by lnp 1 day ago 0 replies      
You can start with http://hotfile.com/dl/71319191/96579fe/ycombinator-news20080... - a mirror of old 'Y Combinator Dataset Of Posts Version 1.7' from http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=296919 .

Also, could you please post final dataset somewhere when done?

1 point by deutronium 23 hours ago 0 replies      
You could monitor http://hackerne.ws/newest so you wouldn't need spider to many pages, if you only wanted the latest content.
2 points by charlief 1 day ago 1 reply      
Just curious, what kind of analysis are you thinking of doing?
3 points by SteveMorin 1 day ago 0 replies      
It's a good, question and api.ihackernews.com doesn't look bad
Ask HN: What is the best website for tracking flight status?
4 points by smharris65 8 hours ago   5 comments top 4
1 point by tshtf 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Check out the airline itself. Many of them have their own flight tracking status apps. I personallyy use http://flightaware.com/
1 point by LeBlanc 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Flightcaster is a good solution for tracking whether your flight will be on time or not. You could probably use it for this, but it is obviously not going to be 100% accurate like an actual fight tracking app.


1 point by jeebusroxors 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I like Flight Aware, but that's the only one I've ever really used. They've got a nice map (you can even overlay over the sectional), plus histories for flight numbers, routes, similar routes and lots of other neat stuff.

I will admit it seems a little more geared towards pilots than the masses but there is lots of information presented well.

1 point by jaxn 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I usually have the airline send me SMS notifications.

I think TripIt Pro does notifications too.

Ask HN: How would you improve Google News?
5 points by devmonk 9 hours ago   3 comments top
1 point by dgallagher 8 hours ago 1 reply      
I think some of the reason Google News is the way it is has to do with balancing the line between providing free content and not paying copyright holders (Newspapers). Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

That being said, you're correct about quality being an issue. It seems that there are more algorithms, and less human component, deciding what reaches the front page. I think it would work better if it were like this:

1) Algorithm "bubbles up" the best news stories.

2) A trained human (or humans) filters through them, selects the best article.

3) Said article gets posted on the front page.

The trained person would have to have good journalistic taste. Pick out articles with proper headlines, rather than link-bait titles, or titles written by someone who has little clue what he/she is talking about (e.g. there aren't many journalists who are DBA's).


A BIGGER problem is this: Showing only "news" and not "fluff".

Whenever there's a top-ten list, celebrity news, an op-ed piece, sports "news", reports on "marketing material" for new products/services, a puppy who fell down the well, "sharks" in the ocean (who pose no threat to you), the virgin mary appearing on a piece of toast, etc..., that's not real news. That's entertainment.

It would be nice if there was a news source that filtered all of that crap out. It might be as simple as gathering all news stories, and RegEx'ing out anything that also appears on Fark.com. ;)

The only news organization I'm aware of which does this well is PBS's News Hour. The problem is their presentation is very dry. On the plus side, they don't have "opinionated" reporters who add judgmental tones of voice and facial expressions to their presentation.


Another random thought goes back to Op-Ed pieces. It would be nice if all online newspapers, or some sort of services, marked them as such, visually distinguishing them from news pieces. Perhaps make the webpage background light sky blue, rather than white. Anything, in a subtle visual manner, which states "This is someone's opinion; it may or may not be true".

Ask HN: Building something the customers don't know they want
38 points by yosho 14 hours ago   23 comments top 20
16 points by edw519 12 hours ago 1 reply      
You have to get your prospects to think that what you're offering was their idea all along.

How do you do this?

Get to know them. Spend time with them. Find out what their lives are like, what they have to go through to compete, and what makes them suffer. Jump into their pool at the deep end and learn how to swim. Walk through their warehouses, customer service departments, and general offices. Sit down at their computers and try to do their jobs. Get them talking.

Once they see that you are sincere and have something to offer, they will not be bashful. They will tell you everything you need to know to help them. This will do 2 critical things:

1. It will provide specific feedback about what you're building or have built, whether or not it makes sense for them, and what to change/fine tune/refocus. It they need it like that, chances are that many others do too. Your first prospects have unwittingly been the best focus group you could have assembled.

2. You will be offering exactly what they asked for so they will have few excuses not to buy. Do not underestimate the solid gold of this approach; it works incredibly well.

Call this good sales and marketing if you want but I never have. I just call it doing whatever it takes to help your customers. Becoming successful is a byproduct.

13 points by michael_dorfman 14 hours ago 0 replies      
You need to refine your pitch.

You say you "could really help small businesses."

How, exactly? By increasing their revenue? Decreasing their costs?

If you can convincingly demonstrate a significant ROI, people will overcome their resistance to technology. At least, that's been my experience.

So: can you demonstrate a significant ROI? Do you have enough real-life industry experience to be able to write the business case on your software? Does your software solve a pain-point that they know they have? Or do they need to be educated on both the problem and the solution?

6 points by DirtyAndy 12 hours ago 0 replies      
It concerns me where you say: We've been struggling with selling our product because many people refuse to change and don't want to learn new technologies.

If you are getting this product in front of true potential clients and they are not saying "wow we need this" then you might be in trouble. Even traditional industries now realise the value of technology and if it is going to save/make them money they wont be against new technologies (and for the few exceptions, stay away from them - they'll soon be dead).

So firstly you need to make sure you are building something that customers "don't know they want/need" as opposed to building something "they don't need or want". Just because you thought it was a great idea and could save money or improve processes doesn't mean they will. So if this is not a spinoff of software you have already done for a company I would suggest you do some serious market research to ensure you are not flogging a dead horse.

The next stage is then marketing. Firstly in doing your market research you should have identified some potential clients that said "yes this would be useful", so target them first. Then target their competitors. If this is a product that costs a lot of money then you can factor in having a sales team that really spends time selling the product to each client.

Then think about how you can market the product. It doesn't sound like your target users are likely to be doing Google searches for this product, they may not read anything online in relation to their industry, but are their industry magazines? Can you get cheap advertising in such magazines. Can you offer to write an article about how "tech is changing the industry" - you don't need to reference your product too much if at all - "Guest article by Yosho, CEO of XYZ Enterprises" will get things started.

And lastly don't forget about face to face with any local businesses that you might be able to work with. I did some work with a small consulting company that was looking for new clients, they decided to go to some conferences to try and get new clients. I found a website in the US that showed approximate turnovers for businesses in the area (can't remember the site but was government related) and we found more than 2,000 business with 10 mill a year turnover (their target clients) within about a 10 mile radius of their office. Here they were all about to get on planes to get clients that would have them on planes and away from family for years, and they had never tapped the 2,000 clients down the road. Anyone close to you involved in the industry you are targetting - cold call them, phone them and ask to meet them and show them what you are doing. If you are young (under 25 say) play the "I need guidance" card - you'll be amazed at how many people might be interested in helping. And never rule out getting these people involved - potential investors etc.

Good luck, but do check that you are building something someone wants before you go too far!

3 points by retube 13 hours ago 0 replies      
This is a good question. And you are right: the first "golden" rule is always held to be "build something people want".

I haven't looked at this quantitatively - I think it would an interesting study - but I wonder how many businesses started out building something that people already wanted, or instead built something that people didn't know they wanted. I reckon that a lot of products, particularly in technology, fall into the latter group. So don't despair.

As Michael Dorfman says: you have to be able to quantify either a) how much your product will increase revenue, or b) how much it will save in costs/overheads. If you can't do this you wont be able to sell your product - even if it's free. The overhead in learning a new technology will not be deemed worth it.

Even if you can quantify the value of your product, you still have to fight inertia. As you are discovering businesses have established ways of doing things. It might cost them a lot both in time and money to switch to a new way of doing things (a factor you'll need to consider in the ROI your product offers). Additionally an even bigger barrier to change is contractual relationships with suppliers, buyers and staff. So even if your widget is half the price and twice as good, if the customer is locked into a three year deal with another supplier they are not going to buy it.

You really need to understand your target markets' motivation for doing things the way they do them now, and the value that they derive from this. The value they see might not be the value you imagine - and if your products value is not aligned with this, it's going to be difficult.

So talk to your market, find out exactly what value they derive at the moment, assess how your product aligns with this, and how much it will cost them to change. Then value your product.

1 point by lee 9 hours ago 0 replies      
It sounds like you made the same mistake I made: built something first, then talked to customers.

Last year I had built a really nice marketing tool to help contractors (builders, plumbers, trades people). I sunk myself into the project for months on end, toiling and envisioning this disruptive tool for the industry... not once talking to any potential customers.

A few months in, I "launched" and tried to sell. It was a disaster. The market segment I picked had no interest in it. It was a problem of "teaching" them that what I was providing had value. But they were a group of non tech-savvy individuals. And nothing could really convince them to use my product.

For my next project, I'm going the Steve Blank route: get out and talk to potential customers, understand their problems, and let that guide what you will build.


How to overcome this? You need to find the early adopters. The tech-savvy users who do find value in your product. Get it in front of them, get their feedback, and sell!

If you can't convince the early adopters... then perhaps what you built can be applied to another market segment, one that would see value in your tool.

If you can't find another market segment... then that's probably the end of it. Fail early, fail fast. Learn from your mistakes and your next shot will make it farther.

1 point by brlewis 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Yes, it is just a matter of good sales and marketing, in the same way that building your online software was just a matter of programming.

It's often said that it's better to have technical-only founders, because it's easier for them to learn the non-technical aspects of business than it is for non-technical people to learn the technical side. This is true, but it's predicated on technical people actually putting in the effort to learn.

I'm still learning sales and marketing myself, so don't take what I say as gospel, but I think the solution to your problem has two parts. The first part is an intensive, non-sustainable effort to win your first few customers. See edw519 for how to go about it. After you win your first customers, things will get easier, by which I mean possible.

Seeing other people have success with your product is an essential part of the sales process, so once you get your first few customers it won't be like pushing water up a hill anymore. It will be like pushing large rocks up a hill -- difficult, but not impossible.

The second part of your solution itself has two distinct parts: selling the problem, then selling the solution. You have to separate selling the problem out as a separate activity. Blog posts are part of this, but won't be enough by themselves. You'll have to figure out the rest on your own. Once you've sold the problem, you're ready to sell the solution. Pointing to other people having success with it will have much more effect than any of your logical reasoning as to why your solution fits the problem.

When people say a good product sells itself, they don't really mean it. It's like if we programmers say that with a good requirements document, software writes itself. What we really mean is that with a good requirements document, someone who knows what he or she is doing can write the software with minimal struggle and creativity.

Your next challenge is to become somebody who knows what you're doing in the sales/marketing area. Until you do this, it will be as hard to bring in an appropriately skilled sales/marketing person as it is for a non-technical founder to bring in an appropriately skilled programmer.

1 point by webwright 8 hours ago 0 replies      
"Refuse to change and don't want to learn new technologies" might be code for "the pain isn't acute enough to justify the effort of changing." How much are you really automating?

If it's a meaningful amount, there's a process in sales called "developing the need" of the customer (Read Spin Selling by Rackham). The process is basically asking them about how they do things and try to build a shared understanding of how much time/discomfort their current solution is costing them. Take a molehill and turn it into a mountain. Of course, it works best if it really IS costing them and they just don't think about it.

1 point by jwecker 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Some great answers already here, but I'd just add this:

They don't know they want the product- np.

Are they aware of the problem that it solves? Can you make them acutely aware of the problem? (In terms of lost time, cost, etc.) And then, can you show that your solution is "morphine" for the problem? (rather than a vitamin for general well-being). And finally can you show them that (due to ease-of-use etc.) they can be relatively sure that it won't add its own set of problems?

If you can honestly do each of those steps, you're golden- get a killer sales-person and do it. If you can't honestly say yes, you have product issues to work out regardless of your instinct about it's efficacy.

1 point by jasonlotito 11 hours ago 0 replies      
> Is it just a matter of good sales and marketing?

I can't really remark on specifics, as I have no clue about the industry your targeting. However, hopefully some of this will click.

First, to answer your question: Yes.

Simple enough. However, what are your sales and marketing team doing? Obviously not selling. But how are they going about doing it?

Trade shows? Trade magazines? Cold calling? Flying down and meeting with people? All of these are methods my sales guys used when I started my company. Trade shows were the best. They let them promote their product, and actually talk to the people involved. They got to know their potential clients. You aren't trying to sell a product. Your trying to help them run a business.

You need a good feedback loop from your sales guys, too. They can't just sell. They need to market. They need to bring the clients to you, but also you to the clients.

Basically, you need to become apart of the industry you are targeting. Right now it seems like you are trying to sell something to them. That's not the right way to look at it. Basically, how can you help your industry.

You discount their reasons for not wanting to join as being traditional. Why? Not the reason they give you, but really, why? I find a lot of the reasons is that, in truth, the technology route is often more cumbersome for a large number of things.

But really, it all comes down to meeting the people in the industry and becoming apart of that industry.

I remember the first trade show we went to. Our booth had banners and marketing material, and my sales guys pimping the promise of a product we didn't have completed yet. We kept going back, and went to many more throughout the world. It's much easier to get someone to try your product after you've met face to face, shared a drink, or taken them out to dinner.

1 point by prawn 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I had an idea the other day that I think would make a useful side-project (probably short of a full start-up concept) but it suffers from a problem similar to yours. But not in the way that, presented with the solution, they wouldn't like it. More so in the way that they would never know to seek out that solution - it's a problem you might spend $50 on as a shortcut rather than 3-5 hours of professional time, but you wouldn't even know what to Google for if you suspected there was an alternative out there.

If you're getting the product in their faces and they aren't responding, that's one thing. If you just can't reach them (short of doing it manually, one by one) then I guess that limits your SEO options and you might be best off targeting/advertising towards areas they might research/read.

1 point by diego_moita 10 hours ago 1 reply      
You're not alone. Except for Apple, Microsoft and some companies that give their product for free, almost everyone else is in the same situation.

One example: Intuit with QuickBooks. More than 90% of small business owners prefer to use pen and paper than a computer to do accounting. Probably they even prefer to chew Styrofoam than doing accounting. But, nevertheless Intuit is not doing bad.

What you need is competition, preferably a weak one. People will be able to better assess your value with something they can compare your product to; like that flopped Microsoft Office Accounting software.

Also, try to reach first the opinion makers, those that create a following (like accountants for QuickBooks).

To finish: everything in business is a matter of just good sales and marketing. Even good engineering is just part of it. If you don't have good sales you don't have a business; it's simple like that.

1 point by ankeshk 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Take an educational approach. And focus on case studies.

Give away your product for free to a couple of your prospects - hopefully well known in the industry. In return, feature a case study on them. How they used your product. And how it helped them save time / money etc.

Try getting these case studies published in industry trade journals.

Otherwise, just create a white paper with these case studies in it. And mail them to your prospects. And then follow up.

1 point by kaitnieks 13 hours ago 0 replies      
If that is a purely technical feature that can't be marketed from business viewpoint easily, use prototypes or samples to demonstrate, walk them through the process you intend for them by explaining your vision.

If you're not working with some specific customer (but just throwing the product online and hope someone starts using it) then you better find at least one live, cooperative customer to work with (huge discounts or even for free if necessary) and see your own product through their eyes. That will help you understand most problems with the product or marketing.

1 point by anthony_franco 11 hours ago 0 replies      
First, make sure that your customer feedback methodologies are valid. Make sure you're solving a problem and that it's not just something that's "nice to have".

After that you have to face the brutal possibility that the "very traditional methods" reach a certain threshold of ease/cost that it makes other options negligible. As a business owner you have hundreds of mini problems to solve. Once one is solved, you move on. You don't have the time to waste re-solving old problems, even if there is a newer, better solution.

But if you're certain your product is that much better, you have to start at the bud: new businesses. The businesses that just starting to learn to apply those "very traditional methods". Jump in there, offer them your better alternative, and get them to start using it. You're not gonna take over the market overnight, but slowly through word of mouth and good testimonials you'll get your customers to cross that chasm.

2 points by cammil 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Hi Yosho,

The ceteris paribus consequence of building something that your customers don't know they want is simply that you need better marketing.

Retube has made many good points, but without knowing more about your business I think it's difficult to give concrete advice.

You know your market, and somewhat tautologically, if your customers don't know they need you, and they need to know, then you need to tell them.

1 point by skmurphy 13 hours ago 0 replies      
If they don't want the result your software delivers you have a problem. If they do, focus on the outcome much more than how you do it and make sure they want the result.
2 points by zackattack 13 hours ago 0 replies      
what is your sales process like, yosho? i would be very interested to hear more details.
1 point by iwillescape 9 hours ago 0 replies      
It seems to me in your situation it's all marketing and sales. You have to educate these people on what your product does and I'd start by helping them see they can spend more time selling and less time doing whatever it is your product does
2 points by niklas_a 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Maybe the cost of learning to use your application is higher than the potential future savings?
1 point by ee1izzie 3 hours ago 0 replies      
How did FedEx do it? Nobody knew they wanted that.
Ask HN: I have users, I have traction, How do I get paid?
37 points by g0atbutt 20 hours ago   36 comments top 11
5 points by dasil003 17 hours ago 1 reply      
PayPal is the easiest, so you should start there. As soon as revenues are significant I would go directly with a real payment gateway and merchant account. I've used both authorize.net and Braintree extensively, and both have a secure vault that allows you to build your own recurring payment infrastructure without PCI compliance issues. I have nothing against any of these billing startups—I've never used any of them, and I've set up a lot of payment gateways over the last decade, so take my opinion with a grain of salt—but I have to assume that they charge a significant premium for what isn't that significant of a sunk cost for a web-based startup. In other words, building a recurring payment system is not very hard once you remove PCI compliance from the equation. If you're really short on developer resources then maybe one of these services is a nice stop-gap, but I can't see paying the premium once your revenues are significant.

Again, I'm not really familiar with the value proposition of these services, so anyone with experience (especially a founder of one of these services!) please chime in with a counterpoint.

6 points by jsankey 19 hours ago 2 replies      
The silent majority are using PayPal without problems. They support recurring payments like this, and eliminate the need for you to directly handle credit card details at all.

Just don't leave piles of money sitting in your PayPal account. And once you have things started, assuming it's working out, consider adding additional payment methods as a backup (even if PayPal mostly works, some customers may have trouble with, e.g. their credit cards not being accepted).

6 points by mgkimsal 20 hours ago 1 reply      
paypal's likely going to be the easiest. To some extent, whatever your initial results are, factor in a few % who aren't buying solely because it's Paypal. If you have profit, expand in to using Google Checkout as an alternative (though I don't think they have recurring) then look at getting a full merchant account that support recurring (or investigate spreedly or other services).

Good luck.

2 points by karzeem 19 hours ago 1 reply      
No first-hand experience with these guys, but I've heard good things: http://chargify.com. It's free until the 50 customer mark, although you'll still have to mess with a merchant account.
1 point by callmeed 18 hours ago 0 replies      
PayPal definitely is the easiest way to start–and you will want to move up to something better. We did it for the first few years. We never really had any horror stories, but you need to think about how you'll handle the transition.

If you don't want PayPal, I wrote up some details about why I recently did for a new venture (and some other options). Here:


I like Chargify and use them at our main company ... but they don't support BrainTree's newest version and I don't really like the other merchants they recommend.

1 point by necrecious 18 hours ago 1 reply      
As most people have said, PayPal is incredibly easy to get started. I am still using their website payment standard which involves no coding to get started taking payments.

You'll need code later for doing IPN and customizing and encrypting the buttons. But it is definitely the lowest barrier to entry. It is also probably the cheapest option, at least when starting out.

I added Recurly for credit card payment for flexibility and credibility. The costs are much higher per paying user than PayPal. Each credit card authorization costs about 30cents, and if a customer input bad credit card info and you have dunning on, it can cost more than a dollar to have a nonpaying customer.

2 points by bosch 14 hours ago 0 replies      
If there's even a chance this takes off do you want to be at the mercy of PayPal?

Man up and set it up properly from the start. It costs more but in the end you'll be happy you spent the time and money to do so.

1 point by jaddison 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Have you checked out http://beanstream.com/public/index.asp? Payment processing with great customer service - I'm pretty sure they can help you achieve what you want... but it would probably be better to look to a service like their's once you had a serious number of paying users. Still, look into them.
1 point by cloudkj 17 hours ago 0 replies      
E-junkie is decent, and cheap ($5 for lowest plan). Not the best interface, but it's simple to set up and works well if you're not looking to do too much customization of the checkout pipeline.
2 points by bap 19 hours ago 2 replies      
PayPal is _ok_ but I don't feel like they're really pushing the innovation envelope (and haven't for a long time.)

You might consider Recurly http://recurly.com/ as an alternative.

1 point by chunkyslink 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Can you tell us what your service is ?
Ask HN:I want to build desktop application but dont know which direction to go
17 points by umenline 16 hours ago   48 comments top 19
4 points by SandB0x 15 hours ago 5 replies      
Most definitely. Eg I'm not happy to rely on having a constant internet connection for editing photos or doing some writing while on holiday, and even with a connection in both these cases the desktop options are much better.

I recommend learning the QT framework. It's cross-platform, unlike .NET, has very well designed libraries, and bindings for a bunch of languages if you don't want to write in C++.

It's nice if a desktop program syncs to an online service though (eg Picasa).

4 points by pornel 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Just a note: from Mac user perspective cross-platform often means second-rate.

Portable toolkits just copy superficial look of Cocoa controls, but don't mimic "feel" part correctly. Not all mouse interactions and keyboard shortcuts work "right".

And even if your toolkit uses real Cocoa controls, there's still problem of window layout and UI design patterns, which aren't portable to Mac OS X (e.g. non-destructive preferences don't have OK/Apply buttons, drag'n'drop is expected almost everywhere, OK/Cancel are in reverse order than on Windows, etc.)

e.g. do you know OS X has separate clipboard for search fields? Cmd+E/Cmd+G. I like it and use it, but it doesn't work in "fake" Mac apps.

If you want to make good portable app that supports Mac well, then separate UI from the rest of the application and on Mac add Cocoa GUI (you don't need ObjC, you can use PyObjC or MacRuby).

4 points by davidw 15 hours ago 1 reply      
As someone with a fair amount of Tcl and Tk experience, I think the web is the way to go. It's simply faster and cheaper to develop and deploy with. Fix a bug? All you have to do is upload a new version to the server.

Here's patio11 on desktop vs web: http://www.kalzumeus.com/2009/09/05/desktop-aps-versus-web-a...

That said, Tcl and Tk are a fun, fast way to hack up little applications if you need something local.

1 point by herval 1 hour ago 0 replies      
Looks like no o e mentioned Adobe Air. Quite easy to pick up and allows you to go cross platform with much less hassle than java, for instance (the runtime is smaller/easier to autoinstall, etc)
3 points by arethuza 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Unfortunately the answer is "it depends":

- What kind of application do you want to build?

- What OS platforms will the users have?

- What experience do you have or is there a platform you particularly want to learn?

If you can narrow it down to one platform then most of these have pretty decent tools - if you want to support multiple platforms then things get interesting.

1 point by statictype 14 hours ago 0 replies      
There are many toolkits to use. It depends on the type of app you're writing and who's going to use it and what platform its for.

Is it mainly for Windows users? Might want to go with .NET. There are free versions of Visual Studio available for this purpose.

Is it for Linux systems? GTK with C/Python or Qt with C++/Python maybe a better option. All the libraries and compilers are free. Mono (an open source .NET implementation) also works well on Linux.

If its for the Mac then Objective-C + Cocoa is the de facto method. The IDE, Xcode is a free download from Apple.
You can also get python bindings for Objective-C.

If it has to run on many platforms then you might want to think of a cross-platform toolkit.

If the program has a very simple UI, then you can probably get away with using wxWidgets or QT with Python.

If UI is more involved, then you will probably want to write the front-end for each in it's own native framework.

3 points by sown 14 hours ago 0 replies      
You can Visual Studio Express for Windows for free now days. XCode for Mac is free, as is the GNOME environment for Gnome/Linux systems. I would suggest you look for tutorials surrounding those environments.
1 point by borisk 15 hours ago 2 replies      
IMHO there are a lot of opportunities in the desktop market. Most competent developers moved to Web apps and Linux long ago and left the Windows desktops lacking in many areas.

If your looking to low level system stuff or prioritize app speed have a look at Visual C++. Even Google used if for Chrome.

The most advanced UI framework I've seen is WPF. It has GPU acceleration; compatible, but separate tools for developers and designers; lots of 3rd party controls; can run in browsers through Silverlight.

Both these unfortunately come from Microsoft. You can get the dev tools for free or at low cost through programs like BizSpark.

3 points by gregschlom 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I definitely recommend learning C++ and Qt. At first, I was quite afraid of learning C++, it's supposed to be a difficult language, without all the niceties of python, javascript, php and the like.

But actually Qt really adds a great abstraction layer that makes coding in C++ as enjoyable as Java, for example. Easy string manipulation, easy iterators, the signal/slot stuff is awesome, and the community is great.

Yes, HTML5 is here, but there is still a lot of stuff that you can't do with HTML/CSS/javascript. So my advice is: go for it. You won't regret.

2 points by ericz 15 hours ago 1 reply      
.NET and C# make developing Windows desktop apps ridiculously easy. There is a .NET API for just about everything and you can get started for free with Visual Studio Express.

As a bonus Visual Studio has awesome auto-completion features and is a great WYSIWYG GUI editor.

MS really ought to pay me =p

2 points by Tichy 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Personally, since I come from a web dev background, I would probably look into Adobe Air or some of the frameworks that allow you to wrap up web applications into desktop apps (don't recall any names atm, but I think Mozilla has one?).
2 points by catch404 14 hours ago 0 replies      
I've been using wpf and xaml for making nice quick applications for windows. I need a dsl for the xaml or a ruby wrapper for the API - Which I'm currently investigating. Too bad mono doesn't support wpf.

I've been looking at shoes by _why with some interest but think a dsl/swing (jvm) comboo would be the quickest and easiest cross platform option.

3 points by djhworld 15 hours ago 1 reply      
What operating system do you want to develop for? I've found desktop application development quite enjoyable on OSX when using things like InterfaceBuilder and Objective-C, and those skills can be transferable for iPhone development too!
2 points by cammil 15 hours ago 4 replies      
What do you guys think of java as a language for desktop applications? I have a web app that I already use java for, and it could use a tiny desktop app to leverage it. I say tiny because all it will do is receive web requests which inform the user that they should visit the main web app.
1 point by astrofinch 12 hours ago 0 replies      
If you're sympathetic to claims that you should build for the web, you might want to try Pyjamas. It advertises being able to simultaneously target both the browser and the desktop.
1 point by hcho 15 hours ago 0 replies      
No, there is not. Unless of course, the application has a very good reason to be a desktop app.

Downloading and installing adds extra friction to your distribution, which you can live without for most of the cases.

1 point by jon914 15 hours ago 1 reply      
There's still a place for desktop applications. It depends upon what you're building and whether that's a fit for the medium.

For example, I've built game creation tools. These are better suited for the desktop because of the complex interactions and user data involved.

There are plenty of startups that have built their software partially or wholly on the desktop such as Dropbox and Unity3D. For small developers, building desktop clients to popular web services like Twitter is another relevant path to take.

1 point by tjansen 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Depends a bit on what you mean with "a place". There's certainly a market, at least when you write a Windows application. I guess most people don't care much where their application runs, at long as it help them to do their work (or have fun, depending on the app) and the app does not cause any trouble. The latter is the reason why traditional desktop apps are slowly disappearing, being replaced by web apps or at least controlled environments such as iOS's app store.
1 point by 16s 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I suggest trying wxwidgets or FLTK. And yes, desktop is not dead, far from it.
Ask HN: I realigned HN a bit, what do you think?
4 points by MrAlmostWrong 10 hours ago   16 comments top 8
4 points by devmonk 10 hours ago 2 replies      
I'm somewhat new to HN, but I don't like the new look. The existing one is much easier on the eyes.

A good UI should not introduce new colors or visual elements that are unnecessary. Zebra coloring of rows has its place, but not here. Don't need the lines between posts (lines are for grids, and this doesn't need one). Additional box around arrows unnecessary. Text too small. Contrast of white on black at top draws eyes too much to title and menu.

Basically, please leave things as they are or ditch this design. I know you've spent a lot of time on it, but you will not gain users at as high of a rate with the new design.

1 point by dpapathanasiou 9 hours ago 0 replies      
TL;DR: improve the accessibility of the best comments

I've always thought the real value of this site was in the comments.

Sometimes a thoughtful comment gets lost because it has no replies, while a less substantive thread might be dominating the discussion.

The voting system doesn't always help either, since the fanboy (and pariah) effect causes some comments to be inflated (or rejected) based on who said them, not their significance or merits.

So if you can think of a good way to present the best comments for a given link or topic, that would be a useful improvement.

2 points by wccrawford 10 hours ago 1 reply      
Makes it look more like Reddit, which is a site so hard on the eyes that I just don't care if it has anything worthwhile to say.
1 point by yoasif_ 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I suspect that most HNers don't really think that the current site has many issues.

The lack of contrast between text and background is an obvious problem though, and one that the redesign linked here doesn't really help too much, imo. Also, the alternating rows are actually kinda distracting.

However, if you are looking for more style (I suspect that most users are NOT), you can check out my project: http://quippd.com

1 point by lrm242 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Not my favorite. The current design, IMO, suites the audience and content perfectly.
1 point by wooptoo 8 hours ago 0 replies      
It looks great, but I don't think it will be adopted. The alternatively colored rows should be implemented, they help a lot.
1 point by MrAlmostWrong 10 hours ago 0 replies      
And I did this earlier in the week before the "redesign HN" trend started to appear on the site. Now I feel like a total bandwagoner, heh.
0 points by sewerhorse 8 hours ago 1 reply      
HN isn't broken. So please, don't try to fix it.
Ask HN: how to get "real" contracting gigs
52 points by justfortoday 1 day ago   17 comments top 11
5 points by dirtyaura 1 day ago 1 reply      
1. Network of your friends and ex-colleagues. Meet or call them to say that you are available. They or someone on their network is likely to have some work available. This is your best bet for the first gig.

2. Meet people at networking events.

3. Ask from your earlier middlemen if you can use "non-real" gigs as a reference on your website. "Together with Company X, I helped to build Y for company Z."

4. Be ready to do your first gig way below your price. And do it well. It's really valuable to have one gig under the belt.

5. Pick a niche. If you build just websites, there are several established small web development companies in your area. But if you build websites for lawyers, or build iPhone-versions of an existing websites, you have a better change to become a name that is recommended when people are looking for a right person for the job.

6. Do something small but visible as a spare-time project. It doesn't need to be on your niche, but something that other techies in your area appreciate.

The client has to have a trust that you are the right guy for the job. To get people calling you instead you calling them, you have to build that trust over the time. But you can shortcut it somewhat when people that already know you recommend you to someone.

9 points by bendmorris 1 day ago 0 replies      
It might sound trite but for me, the best clients I've found were people I either knew personally or who were introduced to me through an immediate acquaintance. Look around at your circle of connections - someone probably has a problem that you could solve, and they might not even realize it. After floating around on craigslist for a while, my first big client was my father in law, when I asked if he'd thought about making a website for his small business. This later turned into an online marketing campaign that paid my bills for quite a while.

If you need to build a portfolio or have no connections, you can try sites like elance or craigslist - but I wouldn't rely on them for too long. People shopping sites like that are looking for a bargain and probably won't pay what you're worth.

6 points by togasystems 1 day ago 1 reply      
Networking events work wonders on finding new clients. They might start you off with a small project, probably with constraints, but as you grow with them, you will usually have more freedom.

Check with your local Chamber of Commerce for events. Also, go to events that are totally outside of IT, such as construction or travel. Talk to people and tell them what you do. Somebody will have an idea that they want coded up.

4 points by yourmomcalled 1 day ago 1 reply      
Tell your next potential client about your crack staff.

1. Get them to sign a contract.

2. Put ads for 3 developers on craigslist. Send the developers over.

3. You go check on them every day at 10:30 am.

4. At about 11:30 am walk down to the client's office, chat for 10 minutes and then ask "have you had lunch yet?"

5. Take client to lunch everyday. They pay you to take them out to lunch. Just pad the fee enough.

2 points by benatkin 1 day ago 1 reply      
If the reason you want the freedom to choose a technical solution is because you want to use a really good technical solution, it might be a good idea to find a consulting company to work for that takes pride in their tools and practices. Ones that come to mind include Pivotal Labs, Viget Labs, Intridea, and here in Boulder, Quick Left.

If working remotely (i. e. from home or while traveling) is a big part of your reason for contracting, I suggest Intridea, where telecommuting is common and not limited to people at the bottom of the hierarchy. http://intridea.com/careers

3 points by webgambit 1 day ago 0 replies      
Personally, I started off with the 'real' clients and then moved on to the position you find yourself in. Personally, the real client's weren't worth the effort. Once I had a good relationship with a few shops, I didn't have to bother with any more marketing and sales thus freeing me up to do billable work.

Of course, this was better for me b/c I hate doing sales. YMMV.

2 points by bengl3rt 1 day ago 0 replies      
Can anyone comment on the intersection between (clients who are happy to interact with you purely over Skype vs. clients who fly you out to deal with the in person occasionally) and (consulting through other companies vs. consulting directly for the client)? Is there any correlation between one property and the other in your experience?
2 points by stevederico 1 day ago 0 replies      
I was pleasantly surprised by the clientèle on Craigslist, esp the Bay Area. Meet-Up.com has landed me some deals as well.
1 point by oomkiller 1 day ago 0 replies      
ONE and ONLY ONE word: networking. It's the most important factor in getting your initial customers. Once you have those, they are added to your network, and will continue to bring you new work IF you do good work.
1 point by reitoei 1 day ago 0 replies      
I started off as a private contractor through an agency. I was hired through said agency to work for a large company.

The job went very well, and was rehired directly by that company as a 'vendor' (on their suggestion). More money in my pocket and theirs by cutting out the middle man.

Still there 3 years later, with the flexibility of being able to work on other projects outside.

1 point by whereareyou 1 day ago 1 reply      
I might be a good client. Can you point me to some stuff you've done?
Angelgate is missing the point. What about the entrepreneurs?
12 points by ryanmickle 18 hours ago   4 comments top 4
2 points by anigbrowl 16 hours ago 0 replies      
War stories are best told after the hostilities.
2 points by jonathanjaeger 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Mark Suster gave a good summation of the whole deal on his blog a few minutes ago in regards to #Angelgate and price fixing: http://bothsid.es/7W0
0 points by sinzone 18 hours ago 0 replies      
1 point by Phaedrus24 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Couldnt agree with you more.
Ask HN: Favourite books?
11 points by zachinglis 19 hours ago   13 comments top 11
4 points by lzw 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt. On the surface this may seem like a regular (though non-dry and very engaging while not being too long) economics book...but the lessons and perspective it gave me have made me more money than any other book I've ever read.

It changed the way I view the world, and this perspective has let me see so many things that are invisible to nearly everyone else.

1 point by mrlyc 2 hours ago 0 replies      
For business and marketing books and other media, David Maister at http://davidmaister.com/

IMHO he's better than Heller, Harvey-Jones, McCormack and even Drucker.

1 point by hga 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Here's my list for entrepreneurial books:
1 point by maguay 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Linchpin, by Seth Godin. It contains the most food for thought per page of any book I've read recently. Check out some popular quotes from it on http://kindle.amazon.com/work/linchpin-are-you-indispensable... ... it's the 11th most highlighted Kindle book for a reason.
1 point by skowmunk 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I can think negotiations as being important for business/entrepreneurship.

If this interests you, this is one book I have read and am glad I read. It was good enough to open my eyes on certain ways of the business world.

Trump-Style Negotiation: Powerful Strategies and Tactics for Mastering Every Deal by Donald H Ross.

1 point by maxdemarzi 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Taleb's new book is out at the end of the year, but here's a preview on his site. http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/aphorisms.pdf
1 point by sdizdar 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Here is my list:
* The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)
* The Four Steps to the Epiphany
* The Responsibility Virus: How Control Freaks, Shrinking Violets-and The Rest Of Us-can Harness The Power Of True Partnership
* Inventors Dilemma
* Inventors Solution
* Radical Leap
* Война и мир
1 point by phamilton 18 hours ago 0 replies      
Outliers was quite interesting.

I recently read Fermat's Enigma which I would recommend if you have any interest in mathematics and number theory.

0 points by shiftb 16 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm frantically trying to figure out how to justify Ender's Game as a business book so I can mention it here.
1 point by andrewtbham 18 hours ago 2 replies      
rework is good.
Ask HN: Help me find an exotic programming language to learn next
22 points by bobds 1 day ago   61 comments top 33
11 points by chc 1 day ago 1 reply      
You should go for a functional language like Haskell, Clojure or OCaml/F#. They're mainstream/practical enough that you could write real programs in them, but different enough from the imperative languages you already know that they'll open your mind to new things.
2 points by luckydude 3 hours ago 1 reply      
Hmm. I'm going to get crucified here but we've come up with a little
language we call L (for little language. Really :)


It's not really that interesting to most people, it was designed to be easy to read, easy to maintain larger programs in, in particular, it was designed to be easy to read and review, that was the point.

It was not designed to be interesting to hackers like the folks here, I strongly suspect that 98% of you will go WTF? You based this on top of tcl? Are you retarded? And the answer is "well, yeah, sort of. But it fit our needs".

Anyway, we're in the midst of a commercial product release but after that I can see about getting the source out for anyone who wants (BSD license or whatever tcl is, I know it's BSD or BSD like) as well as prebuilt images for all the common platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, *BSD, HPUX, Solaris, AIX, even IRIX and SCO for the 3 people in the world still using those).

If anyone has constructive feedback, bring it on. It's a moving target which is why we haven't released yet, haven't nailed down 1.0 hard enough that we want to live with it. We are using it internally.

2 points by drallison 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Lua, Erlang, Haskel, ML, Go, Smalltalk, Algol, Modula 2, Modula 3, Snobol, assembly language.... After a while, most languages begin to look similar.

But, if what you want to do is to learn about programming languages, the thing to do is to write one of your own. Language design is among the most difficult of human intellectual tasks because the language elements must be composable to create larger, more capacious elements. A common error is to "add a statement to do X" rather than creating a conceptual framework that works with other language elements to allows X (and other things) to be performed.

A book worth reading on the design of language is Alexander Stephanov and Paul McJones, Elements of Programming. A talk covering some of the material in this book is scheduled for the Stanford EE Computer Systems Colloquium for November 3rd (http://ee380.stanford.edu). The lecture is open to the public, webcast live, and archived for on-demand viewing. Eventually it will be out on YouTube, iTunes, and elsewhere.

And while we are on the ideas of language design, you might want to look into some of the theories of natural language. George Lakoff's ideas in cognitive linguistics seem to apply to programming languages as well. Language, in his view, is motivated by metaphor.

I also think anyone who is serious about programming languages needs to have programmed in several assembly languages and to have experimented with macro assemblers. Macro assemblers provide a powerful tool for creating nonce programming languages at the assembly level.

I would also suggest that learning about optimizations would be of interest. At some level, optimizations are about mapping programming language concepts onto real machines for efficient execution. There is a dymaxion tension between programming languages and computer hardware with each influencing the other. Today, the need to efficiently map programs onto multi-core machines has renewed interest in parallel programming languages.

2 points by astrofinch 11 hours ago 1 reply      
Relevant links:



I'd say learn Haskell, Clojure, and Scala before anything else because they seem like they might actually be 3 of the best programming languages out there. After that I'd recommend Oz (in conjunction with the textbook Concepts, Techniques, and Models of Computer Programming, which Peter Norvig mentions as being a possible modern equivalent to SICP (Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, a classic MIT Scheme-based text)), Scheme (with SICP), and Erlang.

Can't say I've done all this myself, it's just what I would do if I had a really strong interest in learning new programming languages.

2 points by jashkenas 1 day ago 0 replies      
CoffeeScript is hardly "exotic", as other comments on this post mention. But, if you want to try playing around with a mini programming language of your own, it could serve as a good starting point -- especially if you want to make something that runs in the browser.

It's one thing if you want to deal with integer representations and memory allocation, and quite another to want to experiment with language design, grammars and object models (and be playing with <canvas> animations tomorrow). The CoffeeScript codebase is only 2,200 lines of code in toto, and it's all annotated to help you get started and make sense of things.


I'll second the motion for you to write your own thing.

7 points by dchest 1 day ago 1 reply      
I recommend writing a programming language.
4 points by charlief 1 day ago 0 replies      
Scala, I've had a lot of fun with it. You can also try generative and meta-programming using emf/gmf/acceleo maybe some xtext as well. Learning exotic frameworks can be useful/fun as well. Maybe try a different domain like physics, finance, or even buy a fpga and learn some vhdl?
5 points by yanw 1 day ago 1 reply      
How about Go? http://golang.org/
1 point by arethuza 12 hours ago 0 replies      
In the "classic" list I would suggest maybe looking at:

- CLOS (not just Lisp, but it's wonderful "standard" object system)

- PostScript - which is actually a nice interactive programming language that just happens to have nice graphics capabilities

I've spent years working in CLOS and PostScript (on the same project!) and of all of the languages I've used these were the ones that I found the most satisfying. I still keep a copy of AMOP on my desk in my study at home to browse occasionally.

[Deleted reference to APL after seeing previous post]

1 point by mightybyte 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I would suggest that you choose the language that will stretch your brain the most. If you use this heuristic, don't completely ignore other obvious factors like practicality, availability on your platform, etc. But I think stretching your brain should be high up on the list. For me, this meant Haskell.
7 points by waterlesscloud 1 day ago 2 replies      
6502 Assembler.
2 points by losvedir 1 day ago 1 reply      
How about APL? (Well, I think APL is expensive, I think there's open source variants?)

Watch someone program Conway's Game of Life in one line of APL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9xAKttWgP4

It's black magic to me, but pretty cool looking, too.

1 point by fleitz 1 day ago 0 replies      
Try to find a language that has "weird" features that you've never seen before. Try something like f#/ocaml, prolog, or vhdl/verilog. For vhdl/verilog run it in a simulator and look on opencores for source. Also, perhaps something like Cg or one of the other gpu languages, the further you get from Von Neumann arch the more you will learn, beacause so much of programming languages are leaky abstractions. Also, try forth it's pretty strange as well.
1 point by prodigal_erik 1 day ago 1 reply      
I found http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prolog has a dramatically different perspective. Pervasive design-by-contract from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiffel_(programming_language) was also interesting, though it isn't much of a departure otherwise.
1 point by Anon84 1 day ago 1 reply      
2 points by nubela 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Prolog. After coding in "normal" (iterative/procedural) languages for a long while, this rule-based languaged just couldn't click. It finally did after about a week. And bam. Changed my thinking.

Also, learn Scheme, or Lisp. You'll rethink recursion after that.

1 point by makmanalp 22 hours ago 0 replies      
2 points by bigsassy 1 day ago 0 replies      
1 point by grails4life 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I recommend learning Blub
1 point by CarlSmotricz 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Clojure. It's mildly exotic in being Lisp-y and functional, but efficient, clean and solidly supported by the gigabytes of Java library code that's available for every purpose and can be smoothly interfaced.

Lua. A tiny yet powerful language whose only data structure is the associative table. Can be learned in half a day.

6 points by maxdemarzi 1 day ago 3 replies      
How about a Lisp?
2 points by yayitswei 22 hours ago 0 replies      
How about Agda? It has the interesting property that it's runtime-error proof.


2 points by cmbanker 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Forth...Forth....Forth....Forth...Get close to the machine and extend the language to suit your needs. It will change your approach in a positive way!
1 point by pierrefar 1 day ago 0 replies      
Erlang. At least syntax wise it will seem exotic given the languages you know.
2 points by babo 1 day ago 1 reply      
Forget the exotic tag, learn clojure or Haskell.
1 point by mrjbq7 21 hours ago 0 replies      
I highly recommend learning Factor. It's a really incredible system and has the benefit of encouraging different ways of thinking and approaching algorithms.
3 points by gilaniali 1 day ago 1 reply      
learn R.
1 point by jpenny 1 day ago 0 replies      
You ought to check out
They discuss new languages and language related ideas.
1 point by rahulchaudhary 22 hours ago 0 replies      
Have you looked at Heron http://www.heron-language.com/
1 point by Aga 1 day ago 1 reply      
Forth could be interesting to look at. It does offer a quite different perspective to programming.
1 point by scrame 20 hours ago 0 replies      
       cached 25 September 2010 00:02:01 GMT