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Ask HN: how many years have you "wasted" on failed startups? And any regrets?
40 points by resdirector 6 hours ago   28 comments top 20
4 points by jbm 2 hours ago 0 replies      
2-3 years on Searching.com/Searching.ca. I definitely regret a wide swath of it, mostly not being more daring and trying out more things. They had me (a junior programmer albeit with a College degree) building out large parts of their infrastructure, then switching things at the drop of a dime. (picked up some good skills in the aftermath)

There were so many opportunities for me to have left.

- When I realized the business plan basically was formulated around a domain name.

- When a superior said "We don't have to build anything new, what people want is one place to get everything and we'll provide it to them". (Basically a "Don't innovate" directive)

- When the investors sued because they contended they company was trying to steal corporate resources (mostly domain names). (I don't think my boss was, but clearly there was a lack of trust on both sides)

- When a superior asked us to all go onto Digg and "digg down" people who had taken issue with him for trying to purchase wiki.com for 2 million dollars.

Eventually, even the depressed shadow-of-myself left after my boss said "I'm going to make Bittorrent legal! The labels will have to accept it because it will be the same as a swap meet". I realized the writing was on the wall and I had to get out. (This was... after 6 months of not getting paid)

I left about a month after and had a more interesting startup experience at Soundpedia (didn't work out either, but I have zero regrets and loved every minute of it)

I regret that I let my early start on RoR waste away while I was building stuff in PHP and Perl/Mason for them. (ouch) I regret that I didn't have the courage to try to do something on my own, or to go to the states to try working for a more properly managed startup. I regret that I didn't have a more social environment (since I was working remotely). Finally, I regret that I let myself get carried away. It was a classic story of manipulation of a green wild-eyed college kid. Someone posted a while back about the classic pattern of manipulation in an open source project and my experience fit that to a T.

Now when I look back, I can kinda laugh about it all. I learned, moved on, and I gained a lot of skills after doing so. Was I stupid? Hell yes; but it's the kind of stupid you can get away with once in your life.

Would I work for a startup again? Absolutely, even if I had no stake in the business. However, no more remote working, and I won't accept a job where I can't perform excellently.

14 points by photon_off 5 hours ago 1 reply      
I spent probably 6 months to an entire year working on failed or unreleased projects. Some were just little things to learn the language, like a trojan written in VB6 that would do various annoying to the user (like "earthquake" their windows), to a couple of sites I've recently launched that are currently too complicated and/or just not valuable to anybody except me. My outlook at this point is admittedly pessimistic.

Lessons learned, in no particular order, except for the last:

- If you need to explain your app to customers in more than one sentence, or if that sentence contains any four-or-more syllable words, or if any of those words' definitions fail the above two criteria, it will probably fail.

- If you are working on a project to scratch your own itch, confirm that other people have a rash.

- Do not give in to feature creep, unless that feature presents itself immediately and without intervention. For example: Back-end features to improve search results: good. Sliders, filters, color coding, additional search options, menus, extra words, animations, hover effects, etc, will probably only confuse people, unless you are a UX genius, in which case those features will merely go unused.

- People trust their gut instinct on what something does, rather than read instructions, or discover, or wander into unfamiliar territory. Find the design for your product that mimics something people have used to solve a similar problem.

- People are generally incapable of abstraction. If you are the "x of y", that means people need to thoroughly understand x, y, and what it means to abstract one to the other.

- People will exert very little effort into learning something unless the rewards are immediate, have been stated to them by a trusted source, or are made extremely enticing.

- Ideas that require a critical mass of users to be useful are easy to come by, nearly impossible to execute.

- Hope for the best, expect failure.

- Stay the fuck away from anything "meta," or anything involving variables. People like being served things that they pick from a menu, or that people suggest. The most complicated task the average person has to deal with, on any regular basis, is probably choosing multiple toppings for a pizza.

- It is far better to release a crappy implementation of something awesome than it is to release an awesome implementation of something crappy. Awesomeness in the idea is easier and more valuable than awesomeness in the implementation.

- Presentation is much more important than you'd like to believe.

- It is far better to be lucky than any of the above. Yes, you can slightly increase your chances of being "lucky," but don't kid yourself.

15 points by scottw 6 hours ago 4 replies      
I've spent most of my adult life in failed startups in some form or another. Some were funded, most were bootstrapped. Probably 6-8 man-years if I subtract my dances with full-time employment (I'm doing contract work now and working on another startup on the side with a partner).

I have no regrets. I've asked myself a couple of times if it was worth it, and to be honest I can't think of anything else I would have rather been doing at the time. It's not like playing slot machines, hoping someday to hit the jackpot. It's more like an obscure artist trying to find his niche—you do it because this is who you are.

If I never have a big success, I'll die satisfied knowing I was doing what I felt I should be doing. I read a quote from a post on this list some years ago, I wish I could remember the source. But it was something like, "When I look back on my career, I want to say, 'Boy, that was a fun ride!' not 'Boy, I sure felt safe!'"

12 points by joshu 5 hours ago 0 replies      
You can't think about things like this. You are, at the core, composed of your history of things that you tried and what you learned doing them.

As I learned here, you cannot give in to regret. You have to pick yourself up and resolve not to make the same mistakes.

7 points by jlees 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Depends how you define 'failed' -- I spent about 20 months (and all my money, and some other people's) on a startup that has ultimately gone nowhere, but has taken me to some fantastic places and will undoubtedly be part of the reason I succeed.

It'll take me another year or so to pay back all that I owe, and to get to financial break-even; and another year or two to save enough to start my next big project, at worst, but that's not stopping me doing stuff on the side, oh no.


Build a product. I turned out to be awesome at selling an idea, and myself, but got too caught up in that to actually execute on a product. I'm only now turning the work I did over that time into something useful to hopefully recoup some of the money, sweat and tears I poured in.

Follow your instinct. (YMMV. I've learnt over the last two years that my instinct is usually spot on, and spending months convincing myself otherwise is entirely fruitless.)

No experiences are ever wasted. Coming to YC to interview (we didn't get in) was absolutely worth it and was part of the reason I've ended up in the Valley.

Pick a landlord who won't mind if you pay your rent a little late.

Pick advisors who understand your business and who understand business itself. Running a web platform startup I had an advisor who had never started his own company and who didn't understand Twitter (a core part of my technology).

People will evangelise you if you impress them. Do it.

5 points by patio11 6 hours ago 1 reply      
I've burned perhaps a hundred hours on projects which did not go anywhere in the last five years. Actually, I don't like that phrasing. Let me try again: I have spent a hundred hours learning that I have better options than two ideas which seemed like winners until I had done some work on them.
1 point by maxklein 24 minutes ago 0 replies      
I don't think anything I ever did was wasted, because I never let it fully consume me and take away all my life. If you're out there having fun and enjoying yourself, even if one part fails you'll remember the rest. If all you had was your business and it fails, then you'll have regrets.
7 points by jmathai 4 hours ago 0 replies      
First startup was a consulting firm when I was 21. I turned freelance clients into a business with a partner. I left my job to focus full time on it for about 6 months burning through savings (I did have a mortgage).

Second startup was a photo sharing startup 3 years later in 2004. We both left our jobs at ClearChannel before we got funding but secured an angel round about 3 months later. That lasted a year and a half before we ran out of money. We made the mistake of rebranding and rewriting the product with the funding (won't do that again). By the time we were ready to market 9 months had gone by and we didn't have a lot of money left.

Currently bootstrapping and looking for when I can leave my day job. We don't have traction yet but I spent 4 weeks hitting the streets and talk to customers (students).

I'm 32 now and after every startup I swear I'm done but I can't not do this. It's in my blood. I apologise to my wife on a regular basis for it. Thankfully she's always been supportive. Two times since we got married 3 years ago and I've looked her in the eyes and said "I think I need to quit my job" twice already.

Hoping the third time is a charm :)

2 points by davidw 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I've always gravitated towards startups and small companies, and have, over the years, not made the money I would have if I'd worked for some BigCo year in, year out. I do have some regrets there, as it'd be nice to have more money.
2 points by paraschopra 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Have been doings tons and tons of side-projects hoping them to fly. I will tell you a story. When I was in college, I got an offer from Cambridge University for paid internship (800 pounds per month + travel -- that's a lot for a student). But I was so enthusiastic about startups (thanks to HN!) that I declined that offer and started a so-called startup of recruiting people through social networks. We had a fancy tag-line "infiltrating social networks' and I distinctly remember having day-dreams of dominating the recruiting space with that idea. Needless to say, two months of summer and lot of naivety doesn't translate into success.

No, I don't regret having dropped Cambridge Univ. internship for a failed startup because at that time it seemed perfectly rational thing to do. I'm happy about the lessons I learnt from that stint and it made for a great groundwork for my future startups.

11 points by DanI-S 6 hours ago 0 replies      
No matter how many precious post-work hacking hours are burned on things that turn out to be a dead end, it probably adds up to less than the average person spends watching TV...
1 point by rdl 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Things I regret:
- Not getting more involved in startups earlier (I should have gotten started in the early 1990s somehow when I first got on the Internet)
- MIT vs. Stanford; being closer to startup ground-zero would have been worth it
- Sticking around various jobs (vs. startups) longer than absolutely necessary; I could have spent maybe 4 years more from 2002-now working on startups vs. contracting and consulting, if I had been more willing to take risks.

I think I've spent maybe 12 months total on startups after I should have left them; sometimes it is clear that for team/market (vs. product) reasons, a given startup is doomed. Until that point, it's still a worthwhile experience, as there is a lot to learn, and it's impossible to know it won't be successful -- after, it is a lot harder to stay motivated, even if the day to day tasks can still be educational.

6 points by jaxn 6 hours ago 0 replies      
My only regrets are the ones I didn't fully launch.
1 point by moultano 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I "wasted" a year working on projects in a big company that didn't launch. What I realized at the end of it is that doing anything new is doing research. Null results are useful in the sciences, even if they don't make you famous, and null results are useful in product development even if they don't make you rich. You learn from the experience, and if you share your knowledge, the world learns.
3 points by rrival 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Something that's kicked around here a lot: fail quickly.

If a project doesn't fit success criteria I give it about a month before it's pivoted or done.

2 points by rokhayakebe 3 hours ago 0 replies      
You are an artist. You think of ideas, and you turn them into software others can interact with. You are always in the process of creation. There is not one second wasted, so long as your goal is to create. Painters do not look back at the last 100 canvases and ask "How many hours have I wasted?". They just paint. So paint, or should I say "Code".
3 points by nzjames 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Sometimes I wonder whether I'd have be better off if I had a low paying second job rather than wasting countless hours outside of my 9-5 trying to boot strap start ups.

I'm lucky I just love hacking.

2 points by siculars 6 hours ago 0 replies      
It's not a "waste", just a learning experience.
2 points by sp4rki 5 hours ago 0 replies      
Failed projects don't necessarily mean projects that failed to provide money, fun, and/or experience. If your getting at least one of those factors you are turning a "profit"
1 point by webbruce 5 hours ago 0 replies      
How many of your guys' startups didn't get off the ground? Because of project creep/funding/lose of interest/other
Ask Tom Preston-Werner, cofounder of GitHub, anything Today, Mon 18 Oct 2010.
117 points by mojombo 15 hours ago   135 comments top 46
20 points by ivankirigin 12 hours ago 1 reply      
The smartest people I know want to do their own startups. It is getting easier, so more people are doing it. How do you hire in the face of this issue?
6 points by Lewisham 13 hours ago 1 reply      
GitHub does a lot of amazing work, and you guys are all fabulous coders. However, when I've spoken to colleagues in person, there's a definite feeling that GitHub have a tendency to have some Not-Invented-Here syndrome: see CI Joe when Hudson was already mature and widely used. It seems like a lot of brain-cycles could have been saved and put elsewhere.

Do you think that's a fair comment? Is it something you think is necessarily negative?

8 points by PStamatiou 14 hours ago 2 replies      
Talk about how you started getting out into the community and connecting with real users. IE - how you got Github drinkups off the ground. As a company with a small but growing number of happy developers around our platform (notifo.com), we'd love to attempt something similar.

We are thinking about doing things like API contests to help grow the community as well as occasional meetups.

unrelated- whose idea was it to give away pappy van winkel? I recall some old contest you guys ran. Did that contest fare well.. how'd you publicize it? Sorry for all the questions!

7 points by waxman 13 hours ago 1 reply      
What are your thoughts on non-technical founders (or early employees) at tech start-ups (like GitHub)?

Are there any non-technical people at GH? Would you consider hiring any? Why or why not?

(Full disclosure: I'm an engineer just coming off of a bad experience with a 'business' co-founder)

4 points by patio11 6 hours ago 1 reply      
What does a typical workday look like for you?
5 points by alok-g 7 hours ago 3 replies      
Working fulltime for Powerset, how did you avert any potential IP issues with Powerset? Employee contracts for just about any big tech company includes provisions that automatically makes all types of IP (including inventions and copyrights) developed by the employee belong to the company. This applies even if the work is done completely on the sides and outside work hours.

California specifically has laws that allow employees to claim inventions of their own but still under terms that are more favorable to the employer (I can supply details). There's no help for copyrightable works, which would include software, or even a written plan for developing this software.

I certainly have this issue currently preventing me from doing any work to bootstrap while I am still employed. Most people I spoke to at SUS2010 who are working on side projects are completely unaware of the issue. Some are ignoring it thinking that it must somehow work out.

On the other hand, every successful founder I spoke to, either did not have this issue (founded right after school, etc.), or did not do any work before quitting (which they did either before or after securing funding).

8 points by bobf 14 hours ago 1 reply      
If you weren't at SUS2010 and are going to only watch a few of the talks, I would highly recommend Tom's talk (as well as Brian Chesky's). He was extremely engaging, and the content (bootstrapping - "Optimizing for happiness instead of money") was great.

Tom -- Across the industry, figures such as 1% paid accounts seem to be typically mentioned. What sort of ratio do you see on Github between paid/free accounts? Do you see any difference in that ratio internationally vs. domestically?

4 points by jcnnghm 9 hours ago 1 reply      
How has being a founder of such a successful service affected your personal life?
4 points by csallen 13 hours ago 1 reply      
How do you decide what features to add or not add to Github? How much thinking, discussion, planning, design, research, etc go into each feature before coding begins?
6 points by j_baker 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Why did you choose git instead of hg, bzr, fossil, etc?

Also, what do you see as the future of git? Where is git going?

8 points by paulca 12 hours ago 1 reply      
Err the Blog had about 10,000 readers when GitHub launched and Chris and PJ already had a ton of users of their popular Rails plugins.

This was a huge audience to launch to. What advice would you give to people who want to dive in to their own company without trying to build up such a huge following before hand?

Is it madness to try to bootstrap without establishing an audience beforehand?

4 points by javery 13 hours ago 1 reply      
One thing I love about GitHub is that you embrace NIH in a good way - lots of cool technology has come out of GitHub because you were unhappy with the current solutions out there. What else have you cooked up internally that you might release to the world one day?
11 points by ilovevalley 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Is there any concern at all about alcoholism at Github given the success of your drinkups? For instance, does the health plan now cover rehab and alcohol induced cirrhosis?
7 points by brown9-2 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Any decisions in these past 3 years you regret?
6 points by swanson 14 hours ago 1 reply      
When are new Github tshirts coming?

What are your thoughts on the BitBucket/Atlassian deal?

Are there any new features coming soon that you can give us a sneak peek at? I'd personally like to see some kind of "looking for contributors" interface (similiar to OpenHatch), maybe even with recommended projects based on my repos or the repos I have watched in the past.

3 points by jonursenbach 14 hours ago 1 reply      
We're currently using Redmine to keep track of tickets, but it's a bit of a pain having to manage it separately from our code in GH. Are you guys planning on overhauling your issues system to be as slick as everything else you offer?
1 point by natep 7 hours ago 1 reply      
Are you planning to release svn write-support in any fashion at any point in the future? git has git-cvsserver, and could really use a git-svnserver.

Also, many of the casual svn users I talk to are on Windows using TortoiseSVN. Git's Windows support has grown in leaps and bounds in recent months, but it's still not quite 100% (seems the entire git mailing list uses linux/osx, TortoiseGit isn't as clean/solid as TortoiseSVN, and it's documentation is in broken english). Do you see this as an area GitHub needs to tackle in order to get more Git adoption, and if so, what are you doing about it?

4 points by quizbiz 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Can you share details about some critical decisions you made that led to the success of Github?
3 points by qrush 12 hours ago 1 reply      
When are we going to see an API for pulls, organizations, and commit comments?
1 point by GVRV 9 hours ago 1 reply      
If I'm not wrong, you were consulting and working on GitHub at the same time - how did you manage getting both things done? Time, money management, etc?

I've often heard that if you can't get co-founders on board, it often means your startup idea is not good enough - but given the mountains of debt we students graduate with, it's often difficult to convince people to start up. How did you find your co-founders? What are your thoughts on single founder startups?

You've said that Gravatar was especially hard to run in the last year, how do you know when to give up? From what I've read GitHub was scratching your own itch, but how do you know what to work on? How do you personally judge ideas?


4 points by busterbenson 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Hi Tom - I saw your talk (streamed) from Startup School, loved it, and also read Drive over the weekend. I'm currently strongly considering bootstrappping my new company (healthmonth.com) similarly to how you've done.

Are you willing to share a bit more detail about the timeline of the first year when you went from 2 people to ? people... when you hired, how much you spent on salaries versus how much you were making in revenue (exact numbers not required), and how certain you were that revenue would continue to grow at the pace required to support your staff.

Also, what were the "other means" by which you supported yourself until GitHub was able to support you? Your jobs? Or something else?

1 point by frederickcook 10 hours ago 1 reply      
You mentioned below that all employees get equity, but it also sounds like you guys are quite happy with the growth you're having and are in it for the long-haul. (Incorrect?)

Do you expect to ever have a liquidity event (sell the company), or is there some proportionate profit-sharing plan with the equity?

7 points by vanstee 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Are you guys hiring? Also, what other startups do you think are on the same level of awesome as GitHub?
3 points by jonpaul 14 hours ago 1 reply      
I love GitHub. Can you give the HN community a sense of your monthly revenue?
2 points by superjared 12 hours ago 1 reply      
What's the status of BERT-RPC and its usage at GitHub? Have you noticed any drawbacks to it since you first created it?
3 points by julien 12 hours ago 1 reply      
DO you see Github as an "open web" player? What would you think if someone built tools to federate Github and Gitorious, or unfuddle? Would you help them?
3 points by icco 11 hours ago 1 reply      
You recommended six good books on founding companies. Would you recommend any technical books or works of fiction?
3 points by staunch 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Do Github employees get equity?
2 points by r11t 14 hours ago 1 reply      
In what ways have you found aspiring hackers participating in open source projects use Github to become competent hackers?

Also, thanks for the very inspiring talk at Startup School.

1 point by zdw 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Any comments on how you (either personally or GitHub as a whole) manages the work/life balance issues?

Any pointers for dealing with cases when the people you work with turn out not to be "reasonable"?

(I ask because I tend to find that soft-skill management issues are where I'm lacking in expertise)

4 points by bosky101 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Any interesting conversation with Linus, you could share with us?
2 points by cgbystrom 13 hours ago 1 reply      
You host a lot of open-source projects and GitHub itself is even built on it.

What would you say is the best way to monetize your open-source product?

3 points by sh1mmer 13 hours ago 2 replies      
Fancy a beer next week?
3 points by s_n 12 hours ago 1 reply      
In your blog post (http://tom.preston-werner.com/2008/10/27/looking-back-on-sel...), you say "As it’s become one of my favorite parables, I’ll save the details of how I came up with the idea for Gravatar for a future post."

When will that post happen? :-)

2 points by chegra 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Well, let me just ask. I was trying to find how much Gravatar was purchased for by Automatic.
1 point by mrjbq7 9 hours ago 1 reply      
Hi Tom,

I've been waiting two months for a minor ticket (#8991) to get pushed to production. I totally understand development priorities, and especially the challenge of high-volume production environments.

I've heard the development environment of Github described as extremely agile: being driven by individual desires rather than being directed by management, as is typical of a top-down organization.

My question is this:

Does that impact your support decisions? Or, am I seeing an effect from your recent success and growth, being unable to keep up with support requests?


1 point by bkudria 12 hours ago 1 reply      
How awesome are your book recommendations?


2 points by busterbenson 10 hours ago 1 reply      
To what extent to you implement ROWE:

It sounds like you have a few of these qualities... choosing your work hours, for example... but what about measuring results. Do you have any specific tips on how to measure results without getting too confused or attached to the a new incorrect metric?

3 points by pjdavis 12 hours ago 1 reply      
How essential to your success do you feel the freemium model was?
2 points by westoque 14 hours ago 1 reply      
I read a post regarding you guys following some of the tips from the book "Getting Real." How greatly did it influence you guys in running the company? What would you have done otherwise?
1 point by kenneth_reitz 7 hours ago 1 reply      
GitHub's fandom is impressive considering how picky and opinionated developers are. How did you find an agnosticity balance that made such a diverse group of developers so happy?

I'm curious if the answer is being selective in features. You guys had a Gem builder for a while. Was it closed to help foster that idea that GitHub wasn't only a Ruby community site? And, did you consider creating similar tools for other languages?

1 point by benatkin 10 hours ago 1 reply      
Is github a generic enough name for what you want to do, long-term?
1 point by vborja 12 hours ago 1 reply      
Have you thought about having people working for GitHub on other countries - telecommuting -, I mean, there are really smart guys all over the world, that's one of the lessons I've learned from opensource, so being GH mostly driven and built by opensource hackers, any chance GH will be open for that kind of work?.
1 point by pacov 12 hours ago 2 replies      
Why didnt you come to magma rails `_´ ?

Would github be willing to support an event by rails.mx next year :P

1 point by uiru 9 hours ago 1 reply      
Any plan to visit Australia for RailsCamp?
-4 points by moonpolysoft 14 hours ago 2 replies      
What does this look like, quora?


Ask PG: Lisp vs Python (2010)
184 points by kung-fu-master 19 hours ago   154 comments top 14
68 points by pg 16 hours ago replies      
This question sounds like it's from 2005 rather than 2010. Lisp seems to have become fashionable again now, thanks to Clojure.

I'm sure Python has very good libraries, but I would find it constraining to program in a language without proper macros.

253 points by norvig 17 hours ago replies      
Peter Norvig here. I came to Python not because I thought it was a better/acceptable/pragmatic Lisp, but because it was better pseudocode. Several students claimed that they had a hard time mapping from the pseudocode in my AI textbook to the Lisp code that Russell and I had online. So I looked for the language that was most like our pseudocode, and found that Python was the best match. Then I had to teach myself enough Python to implement the examples from the textbook. I found that Python was very nice for certain types of small problems, and had the libraries I needed to integrate with lots of other stuff, at Google and elsewhere on the net.

I think Lisp still has an edge for larger projects and for applications where the speed of the compiled code is important. But Python has the edge (with a large number of students) when the main goal is communication, not programming per se.

In terms of programming-in-the-large, at Google and elsewhere, I think that language choice is not as important as all the other choices: if you have the right overall architecture, the right team of programmers, the right development process that allows for rapid development with continuous improvement, then many languages will work for you; if you don't have those things you're in trouble regardless of your language choice.

29 points by francoisdevlin 18 hours ago 7 replies      
I'm a Clojure guy that just wrote my first Pylons app. Here's my impression:

1. Python doesn't suck. I was able to mix FP & OOP approaches to get to my goal fairly quickly.

2. iPython was fun to use, helped out a lot, but it's not SLIME.

3. Guido has an excellent goal with making code readable, and significant white space is not a bad choice. However, I find being able to analyze active data structures in a Clojure namespace to be a superior way to learn about a system.

4. Python's libraries are pretty good, and it's already been written. As a first impression, Python libs are much better to use than Clojure wrapped java libs. I'm going to look into porting SQLAlachemy to Clojure, it rocks.

5. Paster has a ton of functionality. I'd like to see a similar Clojure tool, maybe Lien can evolve into that.

6. I would like to see more FP constructs natively available in Python.

7. __method__ is an interesting convention. You can have an object implement the right method, and your object works with Python syntax. However, I find it to be a poor man's version of Clojure's protocols (Full Disclojure, I have a conflict of interests here).

8. Decorators are an interesting way to do functional composition, but I prefer comp and monads. Way more versatile.


That's all I've got for now. I'm sure I forgot something.


edit: grammar & spelling

19 points by poet 18 hours ago 1 reply      
An approximation of some of Norvig's recent thoughts (Feb 2010):

"(1) It just turned out that when Google was started, the core programmers were C++ programmers and they were very effective. Part of it is a little bit of culture. (2) Early Lisp programmers (Erann Gat) at Google actually noticed that other programmers were equally or more productive. It has more to do with the programmer; we're getting to the point where language choice is less important (as opposed to 20 years ago). (3) Lisp is optimized for a single programmer or a small group of programmers doing exploratory work... If I want to make a change in a weekend I'd rather do it in Lisp than anything else, but by the time you get up to hundreds of programers making changes are not a language problem but a social one. (4) Libraries."

Paraphrased from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hE7k0_9k0VA#t=03m20s.

10 points by jerf 18 hours ago 1 reply      
The Lisp vs. Python story really hasn't changed terribly much in the past five years or so. Both are still great languages once you learn to speak the idioms of the language. Both languages have persistent problems with people refusing to do so and then bitching that it's not $SOME_OTHER_LANGUAGE. Both languages have places where I'd suggest one of them over the other. Neither language is even close to a replacement for the other, and programming Lisp in Python is as big a mistake as programming Python in Lisp.

(Of the two though, Python seems to have more problems with people refusing to speak the native idioms and insisting on writing $LANGUAGE in Python instead. Python Is Not A Functional Language. It is a multiparadigm language where the functional is definitely the foreign and borrowed paradigm on top of an imperative/OO core. Ignoring that will bring you grief, but it won't be Python's fault.)

Later edit: In fact, refusing to speak Python's native idioms has been getting noticeably worse in the last six months. If you want a solid OO language with some decent functional borrowing, learn Python. If you want a pure functional language for whatever reason, do us all a favor and don't learn Python. Or at least don't add to the chorus of people complaining Python isn't Haskell, just go learn Haskell. Or Clojure, or whatever.

4 points by ntoshev 15 hours ago 1 reply      
There is a language and there is an ecosystem surrounding it (libraries, community, etc). Ignoring the ecosystem, the question "to lisp or not to lisp" pretty much boils down to "syntax or macros" - if you want macros, you go with a lisp, if you want syntax, you go with Python or another modern language.

I used to think macros matter more than syntax, because you can freely define your own micro-languages. I didn't really practice it, because of the practical limitations of the available lisps [1]. Now I think the opposite, that syntax matters more. Syntax helps you parse the code visually and you use lower level parts of your cortex to understand the code [2]. You can build arbitrary DSLs in lisps, but they all have no syntax, so they are of limited cognitive help. I think the real win are modern languages with syntax, that is malleable enough to facilitate the cognitive apparatus of the programmer in most cases, or at least most cases that matter. For example, an obvious DSL is the mathematical notation - Python / Ruby handle it well enough with operator overloading, Lisp actually does worse because of the prefix notation.

It is important to understand that you can approximate the bottom-up style of building abstractions with libraries (instead of DSLs), parameterizing the proper things, with minimal syntax noise. The remaining difference between macros and using higher level functions is mostly in run time optimization.

I guess seasoned lispers learn to "see through" all the brackets and engage the lower-level part of the brain in parsing lisp code. Ironically, something similar happens to Java developers - after enough hours looking at the code they start to ignore the ugly try/catch clauses that can't be properly abstracted away because of language limitatons.

[1] with the exception of one big project in Common Lisp, but I did only a little programming in it, and this was before I fully appreciated macros - but the guy before me used them extensively to build two layers of domain specific languages

[2] L Peter Deutsch talks about this in Coders at Work and this is probably more valuable than what I have to say:

Deutsch: I can tell you why I don’t want to work with Lisp syntax anymore. There are two reasons. Number one, and I alluded to this earlier, is that the older I’ve gotten, the more important it is to me that the density of information per square inch in front of my face is high. The density of information per square inch in infix languages is higher than in Lisp.

Seibel: But almost all languages are, in fact, prefix, except for a small handful of arithmetic operators.

Deutsch: That’s not actually true. In Python, for example, it’s not true for list, tuple, and dictionary construction. That’s done with bracketing. String formatting is done infix.

Seibel: As it is in Common Lisp with FORMAT.

Deutsch: OK, right. But the things that aren’t done infix; the common ones, being loops and conditionals, are not prefix. They’re done by alternating keywords and what it is they apply to. In that respect they are actually more verbose than Lisp. But that brings me to the other half, the other reason why I like Python syntax better, which is that Lisp is lexically pretty monotonous.

Seibel: I think Larry Wall described it as a bowl of oatmeal with fingernail clippings in it.

Deutsch: Well, my description of Perl is something that looks like it came out of the wrong end of a dog. I think Larry Wall has a lot of nerve talking
about language design—Perl is an abomination as a language. But let’s not go there.
If you look at a piece of Lisp code, in order to extract its meaning there are two things that you have to do that you don’t have to do in a language like Python.

First you have to filter out all those damn parentheses. It’s not intellectual work but your brain does understanding at multiple levels and I think the
first thing it does is symbol recognition. So it’s going to recognize all those parenthesis symbols and then you have to filter them out at a higher level.

So you’re making the brain symbol-recognition mechanism do extra work. These days it may be that the arithmetic functions in Lisp are actually spelled
with their common names, I mean, you write plus sign and multiply sign and so forth.

Seibel: Yes.

Deutsch: Alright, so the second thing I was going to say you have to do, you don’t actually have to do anymore, which is understanding those things
using token recognition rather than symbol recognition, which also happens at a higher level in your brain. Then there’s a third thing, which may seem like a small thing but I don’t think it is. Which is that in an infix world, every operator is next to both of its operands. In a prefix world it isn’t. You have to do more work to see the other operand. You know, these all sound like small things. But to me the biggest one is the density of information per square inch.

Seibel: But the fact that Lisp’s basic syntax, the lexical syntax, is pretty close to the abstract syntax tree of the program does permit the language
to support macros. And macros allow you to create syntactic abstraction, which is the best way to compress what you’re looking at.

Deutsch: Yes, it is.

Seibel: In my Lisp book I wrote a chapter about parsing binary files, using ID3 tags in MP3 files as an example. And the nice thing about that is you can
use this style of programming where you take the specification—in this case the ID3 spec—put parentheses around it, and then make that be the code
you want.

Deutsch: Right.

Seibel: So my description of how to parse an ID3 header is essentially exactly as many tokens as the specification for an ID3 header.

Deutsch: Well, the interesting thing is I did almost exactly the same thing in Python. I had a situation where I had to parse really quite a complex file format. It was one of the more complex music file formats. So in Python I wrote a set of classes that provided both parsing and pretty printing. The correspondence between the class construction and the method name is all done in a common superclass. So this is all done object-oriented; you don’t need a macro facility. It doesn’t look quite as nice as some other way you might do it, but what you get is something that is approximately as readable as the corresponding Lisp macros. There are some things that you can do in a cleaner and more general way in Lisp. I don’t disagree with that. If you look at the code for Ghostscript, Ghostscript is all written in C. But it’s C augmented with hundreds of preprocessor macros. So in effect, in order to write code that’s going to become part of Ghostscript, you have to learn not only C, but you have to learn what amounts to an extended language. So you can do things like that in C; you do them when you have to. It happens in every language. In Python I have my own what amount to little extensions to Python. They’re not syntactic extensions; they’re classes, they’re mixins—many of them are mixins that augment what most people think of as the semantics of the language. You get one set of facilities for doing that in Python, you get a different set in Lisp. Some people like one better, some people like the other better.

10 points by drcode 18 hours ago 2 replies      
I think most people switching from Lisp to Python do so for practical reasons. I suspect Peter Norvig probably wouldn't use as much Python if he didn't have to adapt to the Google culture.

I think Python is a surprisingly nice language in many ways. It falls into the category of being an "acceptable Lisp". But I think most Lispers still prefer the real thing and only use Python when they need to be pragmatic.

22 points by DanWeinreb 18 hours ago 2 replies      
I tried writing an extensive Common Lisp vs. Python paper (yes, I have seen all of the existing ones), but it got too big and out of hand. One of interesting developments in Python recently are decorators, which allow some interesting metaprogramming. This can do some things that Lisp macros are used for. It's still not Lisp macros, but it;s picking off the low-hanging fruit, which helps Python coders a lot.
4 points by Goladus 17 hours ago 2 replies      
I've used Python for about 4 years and am just starting to use Clojure, so I'll just add a few comments that others haven't mentioned. I'm not trying to offer a definitive comparison.

Clojure's data structures seem a lot like Python's but are a bit more elegant and avoid many of the little python headaches that come up often like d['k'] vs d.k vs d('k'). In clojure it would be (d :k) or (:k d) and both work. If you need memoization there are functions to help you. In clojure there definitely seems to be an attempt to make all the core data structures as compatible as possible (even having a formal abstraction (iSeq) for all of them)

Culturally, Python seems to care more about a minimal core language. Clojure.core has probably 3-4 times as many built-ins as Python. Many of the clojure functions are supporting features Python doesn't have or handles with syntax, like macros and conditional expressions, but there are also clojure functions like even?, that probably won't ever be a Python built-in.

Especially for predicates, functions like even?, every?, ffirst,

3 points by manish 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Quotes from PG's Essays:
If you look at these languages in order, Java, Perl, Python, you notice an interesting pattern. At least, you notice this pattern if you are a Lisp hacker. Each one is progressively more like Lisp. Python copies even features that many Lisp hackers consider to be mistakes. You could translate simple Lisp programs into Python line for line. It's 2002, and programming languages have almost caught up with 1958.
Macros (in the Lisp sense) are still, as far as I know, unique to Lisp. This is partly because in order to have macros you probably have to make your language look as strange as Lisp. It may also be because if you do add that final increment of power, you can no longer claim to have invented a new language, but only a new dialect of Lisp.
I think it is true even today
1 point by garply 17 hours ago 1 reply      
Paul, this would be a great opportunity for you to plug Arc, an increasingly active Anarki (http://github.com/nex3/arc), and the growing Arc community (http://arclanguage.org/forum).
2 points by Keyframe 17 hours ago 1 reply      
I find it hard to maintain large-ish python codebase - it tends to wire up itself into a mess (in my case). It's probably due to my inability to do so, but I don't have same problems with C code.
1 point by someonetwo 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Python versus Lisp is not so much a dichotomy. Some bridges:

1.- Mathematica: you can use both infix and prefix form, Fullform[a+b] = [Plus,a,b]. Mathematica internally use prefix notation. Evaluation is more flexible than Lisp, you can define a function and decide whether it evaluates some, all or none of its arguments.
2.- Maxima: A layer over Lisp to define a infix language,in which you can define operators to resemble math notation, for example f(x):= x^2 similar to (defun f(x)(* x x))
3.- Dylan. A lisp with infix notation.
4.- Willem Broekema cl-python, python in Lisp.
5.- Clojure. Clojure brings some nice syntax for getters and setters, function arguments and much more.
6.- comp.lang.lisp versus clojure. Clojure has a great community, lisp has some problems with lords.
7.- abcl is here, that is Lisp in java. abcl can run maxima without errors and that is great.
7.- Ruby, jruby, ioke, duby, those are efforts to achieve a very expressible language.
8.- javascript, the good parts. javascript with some anotations can be the next lisp.
9.- quick-lisp for a better installer than asdf.

-3 points by kqueue 17 hours ago 2 replies      
Banana vs Oranges?
Ask HN: How do you validate new hire candidates (especially senior leaders)?
7 points by PakG1 3 hours ago   5 comments top 3
1 point by VladimirGolovin 36 minutes ago 0 replies      
I'm currently reformulating my hiring requirements. Last time I hired people was about 9 years ago. Some of them were great (they still work for me), some awful.

I looked at the most awful cases and I think I've figured out what was missing -- a personal productivity / GTD system. From now on, all my candidates must demonstrate their personal system for capturing ALL their tasks and keeping their todo lists synchronized with reality.

Allen's GTD style is not a requirement here. It can be a paper todo list, a Google doc, a mindmap, or whatever else they chose to use. The key here is that they don't forget their tasks, and they get them done without babysitting on my part.

If they don't yet have such system but show promise, I may still hire them, but I'll make it clear that a personal GTD system is a requirement, so if they want to continue working for me, they'll have to develop such a system. And of course I'll be happy to coach them on this.

And there's another key requirement, also related to Allen's GTD. I'm still looking for appropriate wording, but here's a rough draft: The candidates must strive to understand what do I want them to do, i.e. what shape I want to bend reality into using their hands and minds. They must be able to understand and imagine what I want to achieve.

1 point by michael_dorfman 1 hour ago 1 reply      
I agree that this is a problem, and it is one I have run into repeatedly.

However, I don't know any good way to fix it. Hiring is a tough nut to crack. Clearly, one can always be more assiduous in following up references, but that's not always a big help, because you are then in the position of trusting what one stranger is saying about another stranger, in a situation where the motivations of the reference are not always clear.

Note that saying "Any other referral carries no weight and should be treated the same as any candidate off the street" doesn't solve the problem-- the "any candidate off the street" problem is the problem.

1 point by miyudreams 2 hours ago 1 reply      
Actually this is very common in many organizations. I hear many friends complain about their managers. It's a tough situation to be in. The part where the manager gets all the credit for work you've done, just isn't fair. Sometimes, I've heard good managers tell you to face the situation face on with that "bad" manager. If he/she doesn't change the situation, you go up to his/her manager, etc. However, it's not easy to do that, and how you do it may just make you look bad. Most companies should have feedback and review times, so that should be a good opportunity to raise issues. I think the root of the problem is to screen carefully when hiring the individual. Make sure the candidate goes through many cases studies properly or even go on a 3 months probation period. I also know big companies usually have leadership conferences or training seminars to keep the employees up to date. I took a course before, and realized I wasn't ready to lead. Not everyone can admit to that, when they have big egos or cocky attitudes. I'm curious to see what you and your buddy are building. Best of luck with your project.
Good books on UI/UX design?
8 points by zbruhnke 5 hours ago   6 comments top 5
1 point by vitovito 5 hours ago 0 replies      
From an email I recently sent out:

I'd suggest starting out with "The Non-Designer's Design Book," which explains the basics of putting elements on a page or screen together in a tasteful way; "The Humane Interface," which explains testing and measuring for efficiency and why dialog boxes are often bad and so on and so forth; and "Designing for Interaction," which is often cited as a good overview of the practice of interaction design, and I just flipped through it and it seems to be, although I haven't read it.

After those three, you could probably throw a dart at this list:

1 point by vikasvadlapatla 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Somewhat coincidently, I just wrote a blog about UX and UI resources. Check it out at http://vikasvadlapatla.posterous.com/learn-usability-in-2-we...
1 point by devmonk 5 hours ago 0 replies      
1 point by ajleary 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Design the Obvious by Hoekman articulates the basic challenges of design in a very straightforward way.
1 point by kingsidharth 4 hours ago 1 reply      
I'd say start with "Don't Make me Think"
Designer's thoughts here.
Warn HN: When PayPal doesn't know the meaning of "Donation"...
68 points by ComputerGuru 19 hours ago   36 comments top 16
19 points by patio11 18 hours ago 3 replies      
Paypal will let you do daily withdrawals. The magic word is "auto sweep". You have to call and ask for it.

I have used Paypal successfully for fourish years now. Not to ignore your experience, but if I listened to my buddies on the day after they were dumped I'd swear off speaking to young ladies, too.

BrainTree is not viable at your scale.

3 points by lionhearted 16 hours ago 1 reply      
What's your jurisdiction? I'm not a fan of court, but it seems like this is the sort of thing small claims court is made for. They probably don't show up, you win a default judgment, and then you never use them again. Problem solved.
4 points by bradleyjoyce 18 hours ago 0 replies      
This exact thing happened to me... I used pledgie + paypal to accept donations to help a friend out in Peru who's home had been devasted by flooding. Paypal froze my account, customer service wouldn't tell me what was up, only that I had to EMAIL the "Compliance Department" which doesn't do phone calls. The compliance department told me I needed to provide the paperwork to prove my non-profit status, which of course I could not do. I sent my friend the amount donated out of my own pocket since the money was locked down in paypal. After 3 months of emailing back and forth I finally got nasty with them and threatened all sorts of lawsuits etc etc. While they haven't reinstated my account they finally allowed me to withdrawl the money. That account is basically in a permanent restricted status and unusable.

PayPal is the new mafia.

7 points by TorgoGuy 16 hours ago 2 replies      
You do NOT have to be a 501(c)3 to accept donations with Paypal. Just register as a regular business and use the donate button. What may have happened here is that you registered with PayPal as a "non-profit" to get the lower transaction fees, but that's NO-NO if you are not a 501(c)3.

Supporting documentation:
Click on the pricing tab, then open up the "Standard Rates" section at the bottom. The relevant quote on this page about the donate button is this: "If you are not a 501(c)(3), you can still accept donations with our standard pricing."

3 points by thaumaturgy 18 hours ago 1 reply      
I have diminishing amounts of sympathy for anyone with a recent PayPal sob story. There are ample enough warnings about doing business with them -- both here and elsewhere -- and there have been plenty of topics about alternatives.

If you choose to do business with them, you're choosing to take on a great amount of personal and business risk. Maybe that'll work out for you, maybe it won't. That's gambling.

Can we stop the PayPal complaint train now?

4 points by hippich 17 hours ago 0 replies      
I read a lot about these stories with PayPal freezing accounts. Usually, it's with few grands in it.

Did anyone try small claims courts for it? From reading internet seems small claims courts have small fixed fee and if defendad (PayPal) will not appear, they automatically loose.

Probably, it's possible alternative to spending days on phone/email with PayPal, or paying lawyer tons of money?

4 points by filosofo 17 hours ago 0 replies      
According to this page <https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=xpt/Marketing/merc...; "you must have documented 501(c)(3) status or you will not receive the reduced nonprofit transaction fees."

Where does PayPal state that you must have 501(c)(3) status to accept donations? (I'm concerned because I do something similar to CompuerGuru--accept donations for free software via PayPal and have done so for years).

2 points by cperciva 18 hours ago 5 replies      
I have some sympathy for Paypal here. They encounter a lot of fake charities, so the word "donation" is a red flag to them.
2 points by LaPingvino 17 hours ago 0 replies      
Might be quite off-topic, but I want you to know that for international stuff Paypal has more value to me than Google checkout, as I don't have a credit card and Paypal works with my European bank account. It might be similar in several other countries, so that can be a reason for lower conversions with Google Checkout. Paypal in a lot of cases is my only online currency, alongside IDeal in the Netherlands (that works with my bank account as well).
4 points by tgriesser 18 hours ago 1 reply      
Has anyone used WePay for collecting donations? I was considering it as an option for a project I was working on and I was wondering if anyone had first hand experience using it in comparison to PayPal...
1 point by wwortiz 17 hours ago 0 replies      
We use the paypal donate function for a registered 501(c)3 and haven't had any real problems but I must say the majority of donations (in quantity, and higher amounts) still come in through checks in the mail.
1 point by tici_88 14 hours ago 0 replies      
It sounds like your problems are more to do with IRS/US financial regulations than with Paypal. I doubt Paypal invented the concept of 501(c). Disclaimer: I don't live in the US so maybe I am not aware of some subtlety here.

On a more general note, it boggles the mind why anything like 501(c) would even exist in the first place. Sounds like unnecessary, out-of-control beauraucracy.

1 point by bigohms 16 hours ago 1 reply      
Paypal services have horror stories like this all over the web and have become a largely four-letter word in payment processing.

Always consider any balance hosted at Paypal "in danger" and at risk of loss. Sweep into your account.

You don't need a lawyer to take this to your local small claims since its under a typical award.

1 point by makuro 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Frozen accounts can only stay frozen for so long. Worst case, after 90 days they'll deactivate the account and send you a check.
1 point by clavarrico 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Have you tried moneybookers? is it safer? I have had troubles also with paypal and my frind`s accounts has been frozen too. However most of our clients/donators don`t even know there are other ways of sending money.
1 point by clavarrico 15 hours ago 0 replies      
Have you tried moneybookers?
Ask HN: Review My Startup (Zazu)
21 points by speek 11 hours ago   19 comments top 9
2 points by SandB0x 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Hey, some quick thoughts on the home page.

- There's a lot of odd looking empty space around the logo. In general the homepage just looks like you've placed the elements in random locations. Maybe move the Blog/Team/Press/Contact links to a horizontal list to fill the space at the top and lose "The Perch" for starters.

- The text on the rotating set of images is hard to read due to downsampling and jpeg compression. You probably shouldn't have paragraphs of text displayed in this way - I want to read it at my own pace. I don't want to rush because the image is about to change.

- The logo's colour at the top is far too similar to the background. The green would work much better.

- Have an informative page title. Currently it just says "Zazu". Others may know about SEO implications, but imaging I'd looked at your site earlier and couldn't remember the name - the first thing I would try is typing "Android" or "Alarm" into my Chrome/Firefox bar.

Currently installing the app itself...

- The first screen said something like "Use existing login or enter an email address and password to create and account". Does that mean if I misspell my email address I'll actually just create a new account? You should have a quick "New account? Yea/nay" dialog.

- As yet no email confirmation saying "Welcome to Zazu!"

- I'm not sure about the AM/PM option on the "new alarm" screen. It's not consistent with the default Android alarm screen, and incrementing the time over the AM/PM boundary isn't optimal this way.

- IMPORTANT: A bug. Create several alarms. Deleting one deletes them all.

That's all I have time for. Basically I like the idea. You need to tighten up the execution. {olish up the interface and the website for the real thing, try and integrate with Google Reader or similar (I don't want to set up my feeds all over again), change the word "infostreams" to feeds or something.

Good luck!

3 points by eitally 9 hours ago 1 reply      
I was a huge fan of the idea but the execution is really awful. An alarm clock that wakes you up with a horrendous siren (in the production version can you at last change the tone?) and then reads RSS feeds in a really bad TTS voice just makes me want to put a pillow over my head (or throw the phone at the wall). Besides this, though, the biggest problem I had was that it is completely unintelligent in deciding which headlines are important. I tried setting it up to read HN to my, or NYT, and since it just reads through the feed from top to bottom it gets frustrating very quickly. In order for this to be useful you need to do a lot of backend work to figure out 1) what the user cares about, and 2) reformulate text into short headlines. You also have the issue of content providers making stupid decisions about what to include on their sites. For example, if I chose CNN (god help me), I might want to know what Israel is doing in the West Bank but I sure as heck don't care about the latest celeb to enter rehab, and since this is the first thing I hear in the morning I'd be really peeved. This same basic criticism can be applied to my email inbox, too. If you start reading spam to me, or mailing list messages, I'm not a happy camper.

Calendar integration is critical and should be free. You should also add some "smart" alarm functionality so you can gradually wake your users over a course of several minutes with increasing light and sound. People want to wake up gently first, and only care about content secondarily.

If you add ads, you'll scare away users... unless maybe you partner with guys like Groupon or Ticketmaster so you can present deals, coupons, and events.

Regarding your Edit, I'd be interested to hear why you think anyone is looking to make important decisions at the "moment of alert", especially when that moment is when they wake.

To conclude, maybe I'm just not your target audience. I like my morning routine to be tranquil and calm, and I learned after trying Zazu that I prefer to be the one to engage my brain rather to have it forcibly engaged by my alarm clock.

5 points by petervandijck 10 hours ago 1 reply      
Marc, that's a really long explanation (iron man? microstore? a new form of marketing?) for something that's basically a somewhat improved alarm clock?

Feedback: the homepage doesn't really explain what it is clearly. The wording can be better ("wakes you up verbally"?). You should show screenshots of the app, and try to communicate its value/why it's cool (with quotes from users perhaps). I couldn't even find a screenshot in the blog.

2 points by jacquesm 11 hours ago 3 replies      
clicky: http://getzazu.com

Sorry, but you will need to get another name.

I liked the implicit pun in this bit "but we will not rest until it's done" for an alarm clock related start-up that's really funny. It basically says you will not be eating your own dogfood :)

Promoting 'zazu' as a brand when you do not have 'zazu.com' is working for someone else without getting paid for it.

You yourself refer to it all over the site as 'zazu', not 'getzazu'.

5 points by vaksel 10 hours ago 0 replies      
to be honest that page feels way too similar to those spam pages thrown up by domain squatters.
1 point by yurisagalov 6 hours ago 0 replies      
It seems to me like you're about to compete with a much more polished product, Qwiki, that just won the TechCrunch disrupt event last week.

See http://vimeo.com/15444551, around 4:20.

3 points by ThomPete 11 hours ago 0 replies      
You want this:

"Zazu wakes you up verbally to your calendar, weather, and news!"

To be above the fold. Right now it's going under it.

1 point by joystickers 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Really awesome app idea, here are my suggestions:

1) The green color scheme clashes with the red and orange banner.

2)The duck doesn't stand out because there's little contrast between it and the banner. I suggest changing the banner colors to something that blends in better with the rest of the site.

3) The barcode takes up a lot of the screen, but isn't valuable. With a short name like Zuzu, people can easily search for it on their phones. The goal is to excite them enough to search for it.

4) Get rid of the "Perch" menu bar. All those links can be horizontally listed under the banner giving you more space to show off the product.

5) Make the box of scrolling pictures MUCH bigger, stretching across the entire screen (horizontally). The words in the pics are too small to read.

6) Get rid of the "Wake up and win with Zazu" image and keep the tagline "Zuzu wakes you up verbally..." on a single line.

I hope this helps. If any of this is unclear and you'd like me to make annotations on a screenshot, let me know.


1 point by SabrinaDent 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Zazu is an Android application that replaces the built-in alarm clock with an alarm clock that we believe to be more intelligent: it pulls whatever information you find important -- like your RSS feeds, your calendar, your email, your twitter stream -- and reads that information to you using a Text-To-Speech engine.

You say that really well. Your site doesn't. Is there some reason you can't just say exactly that on your website?

Ask HN: Any prospect in this site made in 4 hours?
4 points by Kudose 6 hours ago   5 comments top 5
1 point by dotBen 2 hours ago 0 replies      
The problem with these sites is that transferring large files is not really a problem businesses have that much - certainly not to the extent where they want to buy accounts on sites like this.

The people who do need this kind of services are independent musicians, folks wanting to spread underground music (dubstep, grime, etc) and warez. I've been known to dable in those scenes. There is no money in it, but people with skill who will try to subvert your service

I know from speaking to folks who ran the service you mentioned in your post that they were always fighting battles to keep the hackers out, the porn out and just dismayed to see their site being used to share music and other non-monetizable content.

1 point by devmonk 5 hours ago 0 replies      
If you make money on this, it will be because people didn't do their homework. This is not a new market, and there are a ton of free options that allow really large downloads (FileFactory, etc.).

I think the only way you'd make headway is to focus on customer service and presentation:

- Provide a way to directly download the file via link vs. having to visit a page first.

- Be very specific about the amount of time the file will be hosted, and tell the customer that you will contact them at the email address provided to remind them prior to expiry that it will expire. There will also be a defined period of time following expiry when the file would stay there until payment was made to extend the contract before the file was removed.

- Be clear about how you store the files (using some well-known enterprise provider, or describe the fault tolerance enough where people feel safe).

- Site must look very legit so that customers will really believe that you will take care of them.

- Limited downloads or time limit is not something people are looking for. I think the companies that did rate limiting slow downloads that require customers to buy faster download had a better model, even though I never bought one. However, you can't do this and handle the first requirement of direct URL to download, so maybe you could offer both; if the customer wanting you to host the download wants a direct URL, they can pay you for that on subscription basis, in which case their customers would not have to wait on the download; otherwise, the customer downloading the file has to pay subscription for a faster download.

Realistically though you can't compete with larger companies doing massive storage. They will win on pricepoint. The best chance you have would be better service and usability, but imo it is a waste of your time.

1 point by jiaaro 6 hours ago 0 replies      
haha I was wondering the same thing:


edit: I have the code for expiring files in my local mercurial branch, and I've been wondering whether to push it

edit2: I don't think your design is so bad :)

I was thinking of the file expiry as more of a way to push people onto paid plans.

I was planning to expire the file after a week, but allow the uploader to re-enable hosting for that file for the next year (so I'd have the file on the server for a year, and if the person comes back, they can pay a couple dollars and the file would be hosted for some more time.

This is a very half baked plan, but I think it could work.

1 point by jonafato 5 hours ago 0 replies      
I like it so far. The site does seem a bit empty (expected for 4 hours), but there is nothing inherently bad about the design. A few comments about using it:

1) I think it would really benefit from displaying the expiration date / number of downloads left. Right now, there don't seem to be any pages for the files, but being able to see what I'm downloading before doing so would also be great.

2) You might benefit from giving some shorter links. This seems like something that would be used on twitter or the like, and links that take up over half the allowed characters could be detrimental to adoption. One could use a URL shortener, but I'd personally like to avoid more indirection than necessary.

As for monetization, my first thought would be to sell extra downloads / longer time. You could also try selling larger file sizes.

1 point by maguay 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Sounds pretty similar to Drop.io (without the notes and chat features), but with a shorter download timeframe. Not to say it can't work, just saying that there are similar services.
Feedback on our MVP - Social Video Conferencing
14 points by heromaeda 11 hours ago   8 comments top 4
2 points by SingAlong 7 hours ago 1 reply      
I found I could describe this in 2 ways:

* Chat.StackOverflow without StackOverflow

* IRC-like chatrooms

Would be awesome if you offer to connect to some user feedback service like getsatisfaction or uservoice. I'm sure a lot of people would like to offer this as a kind of support channel for their services.

Some suggestions:

1.) decrease the width of the left sidebar

2.) signup form doesn't submit when i press enter (the one where i signup with invite code). have to submit by clicking the signup button.

3.) you could make a business by charging people for making bots. or charging for chatrooms with more than a specific number of people online at a time (if it's a business).

4.) allow people to choose different nicknames for each channel.

5.) facebook widgets on the group pages for group chat :)

These are just random ideas that occured to me. On the whole, it's a cool service with potential.

1 point by coryl 9 hours ago 1 reply      
What makes you different from services like Tinychat or Stickam?
2 points by jtchang 10 hours ago 1 reply      
"The connection attempt failed" is what I get when loading the Adobe Flash thingy.
1 point by daveying99 7 hours ago 1 reply      
I like the app so far. Interesting take on video conferencing. Would be fun to see Twitter integration soon...
Ask HN: What is the best way to find out if your startup idea is already taken?
16 points by marknutter 13 hours ago   16 comments top 6
14 points by jacquesm 13 hours ago 4 replies      
I wouldn't worry about it at all.

So what if it is 'taken', it's not like someone has a monopoly on ideas that have already been used before.

Even stronger you can assume that your idea has been taken.

When google launched their search engine, 'search' as an idea had been taken. They redefined it to 'really good search' and the rest if history. Facebook wasn't the first social network and I suspect they won't be the last (though they may still be the biggest).

Do the very best you can when you execute your idea and then keep doing that, ever refining it. As time goes by the headstart - if you're the first mover - will increase, if you're not the first mover the distance to the leader should decrease. Relentlessly focus on making your site the best and you'll be able to take on even an established competitor. It won't be easy, but it is doable.

As for that search example, google now has competition. DuckDuckGo is very very tiny, but they're doing some small things better than google.

Search done 'a little bit better' apparently is still a valid idea, even so many years after 'search' was supposedly taken as an idea.

Competition is good for you, it keeps you sharp.

4 points by mixmax 12 hours ago 0 replies      
when Richard Branson started Virgin Atlantic there were other formidable competitors already in the game. His market research consisted of a phone call to book a trans atlantic flight with British Airways. After holding the line for half an hour without getting through he concluded that either their customer service sucked in which case he could do better, or there were so many people wanting to fly across the atlantic that they clogged up the phones in which case there would be plenty of customers for him.

The point is that businessplans, market research and information gathering on competitors is not as good a use of your time as simply trying it out. You don't need to be first, or even best. You just need to put something out there and work with the feedback you get.

Note that successful entreprensurs don't have better ideas than anyone else, they just have more of them and they do something about it. Which is why many of them have several failed ventures behind them. See Gabriel Weinberg's post that's on the frontpage right now for an example: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1803809

so just do it. Get something out there and show it to us.

7 points by philwelch 12 hours ago 1 reply      
Think from your user's perspective. How is your user going to find out that you exist? Apply that same process. If you find competitors that way, beat them. If you don't find competitors that way, neither will your user.

Being sideswiped by a better funded or better implemented effort you didn't see coming is a problem, but not one worth worrying about. Worry about making your effort the best it can be. If it makes it easier, just assume you have a better funded, better implemented competitor in stealth mode.

Would it make sense for there to be a web service out there that aggregated all the startups, weekend projects, side projects, dead pooled websites, etc. to make it easier to do market research for our new ideas?

Yes, but only so all those startups and weekend projects could advertise. And maybe not even then, because people who have the time and inclination to go around looking for new startups to make their life easier already read all the blogs that announce that kind of thing.

1 point by photon_off 4 hours ago 0 replies      
The things I've been working on for the the past year solve exactly this problem. Mainly, I've been interested in connecting information between various websites. A subset of this goal is to cross reference a person to cruchbase, then jump to their site, then view its rankings on Quantcast, Alexa, etc. And, for any URL, I want to find the most similar websites, and repeat the process there.

The tools I've come up with are: http://www.moreofit.com and http://www.dashler.com/toolbar/

If you find one moderately popular example of something similar to your idea, plug the URL into moreofit.com. It will find you the most mathematically similar websites (based on Delicious tag vectors). There are other advanced options from there that I'll leave to you to figure out.

You can use the toolbar to scope out sites with unheard of productivity. That is, open the toolbar on the URL you're scoping out, and use the moreofit.com shortcut to view similar sites. Or you can use the Delicious shortcut to jump to the result on delicious and see how popular it is there. Or you can use the Quantcast/Alexa/etc shortcut to view traffic stats of that domain. Or you can use Backtype/UberVU to see various discussions of that URL. Or you can use the Twitturly shortcut to view tweets that contain that URL. Or you can the Reddit shortcut to view the top submissions from that domain. Or you can search within that website using Google/Bing/etc.

Hopefully you'll find these tools helpful. /shamelessplug

I've been using these tools for a few months now, and I can tell you that the internet is far more vast than you could ever believe. It's likely something extremely similar to your idea has been implemented, but just never gained traction.

2 points by andrewtbham 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I agree this is a problem... the biggest problem with searching google and crunch base... is that if it's a nascent market, it's not clear what words to search for.
0 points by bond 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Tell everybody...
Ask HN: Has anyone launched a successful start-up to help their local economy?
9 points by 404error 11 hours ago   3 comments top 3
2 points by iworkforthem 7 hours ago 0 replies      
I haven't started anything that's really successful, but I'm pretty good at failing. I guess I can tell you what dun work and what you can avoid it in your local city.

- I failed to address the supply and demand issue. When I first my biz, I know I have a pretty decent products, I'm sure your local business has too. The issue just no one is buying it from me, either it is because I'm not working close enough with my regional partners/government, etc.. or I'm not exactly talking to the people who need my products.
Idea: You can start a simple directory listing the local business, products and contacts, much like Angie's List. make it available in print-on-demand, pdf format, etc.

- I failed to act swiftly. It is a cut throat business really, if you see a business opportunities, you really need to act now and monetize it. If not, someone bigger and larger will come in and take it from you. You probably need a well tined process to get things out quickly.

- I failed to create the market. If things dun quite work out, it is important than to create a market in itself. Develop value business opportunities for regional/international companies to drop by your city to do business. What can your local community provide better than others out there?

1 point by raquo 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I wanted to tell how one of my friends created a movement for organizing (rather than trying to prevent) Moscow's pedestrian paths that were formed by people walking on grass (this happens because the paved sideways are often very ineffective).

However, I googled it and it seems that they ceased operations. Oh, irony. He moved to NY though.

1 point by clojurerocks 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I havent personally although i recently became interested in social innovation. So i find this topic of interest. I do know someone however that does marketing and social media and they use that to go out the work about their own area.
What happened to OCaml?
6 points by modulow 8 hours ago   discuss
Ask HN: How do you feel about what it is that you do?
8 points by saurabh 13 hours ago   1 comment top
1 point by cullenking 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Not sure exactly how to interpret this question, so I'll answer along the lines I have been thinking lately. Most of my digital life revolves around my business, a website for cyclists. I enjoy cycling, but am definitely not the avid cyclist that I hope signs up for my service. As a result, I feel a bit like I am posing, but the tool we are creating has many many cool technical aspects to it, so I really enjoy working on the project. I don't want to do this indefinitely, there are some cooler tech projects out there I would like to pursue, but this is a great and enjoyable way to pay the bills.

I am assuming you pose this question thinking something along the lines of: "Is this digital life a good way to spend my creativity and time?" If that is the case, I definitely think so, however I sometimes long for something as simple as construction, with more tangible physical representations of progress and craftsmanship.

Ask HN: Save my dying Startup
17 points by traderjoe 16 hours ago   21 comments top 17
20 points by runjake 14 hours ago 1 reply      
For me, the text is just one huge blob, so I made a half-assed attempt to format it so that it's more readable:

The website he is referring to is http://www.yatrader.com


Dear HNers,

I am writing this post in hopes of getting some help on saving my startup which is slowly decaying before my eyes; countless hours of work, tens of thousands of dollars spent, and a ton of sacrifice just dying. There is a wealth of knowledge that exists at HN and I’m hoping some folks can steer me in the right direction with my dying startup because at this point I’m not sure what to do?

About three years ago, my friend and I thought up an idea for creating a "social network for traders." He had worked in finance for one of the biggest forex brokers and was a trader of foreign exchange.

A few months into his work, he realized that this company, with its millions of clients, was missing a critical component that clients constantly kept asking about "can I communicate with other clients regarding certain positions or trends in the market?"

Coming from a web development/IT background, I immediately got to work on creating a small prototype of what we both envisioned to be a forum for currency traders to come and discuss their strategies, trades, tips and suggestions on choosing brokers, etc. etc.

The website was simple but as we put more effort into it, we realized there wasn’t any real competitor to a website that caters to an international community of traders at all.

We figured our ideas are on a much bigger scale and we decided to proceed further and bring our ideas to fruition. What started as a hobby and then a venture soon turned into a business.

Six months into it, we picked up an angel investor overseas (coincidentally, one of my buddy’s clients who was interested in such an idea). As money rolled in, web development expanded dramatically. We outsourced all the dev work to India, having two firms work around the clock, we hired mathematicians to help with formulas, and hired graphic artists. We managed teams of workers and went through countless design phases and formula tweaks.

The overall premise of the site expanded from a simple forum to a world wide community, where traders can interact and compete with other traders by predicting the weeks end financial markets.

Today, our weekly competitions, allow traders to pick from various local or world markets, and try to predict how that respective market will close. Besides forex, we include other markets such as futures, U.S. markets and world markets.

Each prediction is graded based on a unique scale according to our internal algorithm. The scale "tiers" are provided on the website in layman’s terms to make the user understand how he can earn or lose virtual dollars (which in turn, can be redeemed for real-world prizes).

In the short team, the momentum was flowing and we were convinced that we were on the up and up. We had enough money for development and knew what we needed to spend to get to where we wanted to be.

Then in 2009, our investor backed out half way into the process leaving us with no money left for marketing (we originally wanted to leave 60% for marketing and advertising).

Today, we still believe in our idea but ever since the money dried up, we found ourselves not being able to market the website properly and in turn leaving it stale and hope that word-of-mouth will help. Development is more or less complete and we have active users trading but the momentum is gone and in a way so is our motivation.

The easy answer is to say "keep working at it" but it is difficult especially when time is so valuable (we are in our late 20’s and life is becoming more challenging i.e. jobs, women, money, etc.).

What does an aspiring entrepreneur do now knowing that his idea can still work but has no motivation to continue without short-term incentives?

4 points by aresant 12 hours ago 0 replies      
The international time clocks on your landing page say it best: you need to trim a lot of fat from your landing page, and probably the app itself.

The join button's on the bottom left, and I'm forced to read a half dozen paragraphs to even figure out what the site does.

Digging in, the site carries this feature-rich / benefit-poor style throughout.

If you're serious about saving the start-up I would reccomend that you either hire a professional UI / marketing firm or look for that skill set in a late stage "co-founder".

The underlying tech and idea are great, but the execution of the user interface and messaging need a lot of work before you're going to get traction.

16 points by bendmorris 14 hours ago 0 replies      
This comment is for your post, not your question.

Maybe I just have a short attention span, but I could not read through this giant block of text. I'd suggest breaking it up into bite-size paragraphs and adding a URL so people can have more of an idea what you're talking about.

4 points by coryl 13 hours ago 0 replies      
The only reason you'll fail is because your product sucks, not lack of marketing or money.

You are trying to do too much too soon, making everything mediocre crap.

1) Simplify everything; figure out what the one thing your site does well is (whatever is doing most successful, which looks like contests/predictions). Get rid of everything that people aren't using, like yaNotes.

2) Don't do international, focus on building where you live and work. Nobody cares that theres international traders. I'd rather have 500 US traders then 25 traders from 20 countries. This is called the network effect.

3) Clean up your homepage after you've done accordingly. Users probably only need to see 3 sentences out of what you've written.

4) Make something viral a core part of your product (getting users to announce predictions on twitter to be part of a giveaway?).

I hate to say it, but you did it wrong (I did this too while trying to build a social network). You poured money into it thinking you could design the perfect community and features and just launch it. I see nothing that requires hiring graphics artists, mathematicians, or two outsourced dev firms.

You can still make this a success, just expect to lose a majority of what you have now. All the work you've put in will essentially be deleted and you'll have to let it go. Good luck.

4 points by aspir 15 hours ago 0 replies      
At the risk of sounding foolish, there is some truth to "keeping at it." Check out airBnB's talk startup school; you guys seem to be in a similar place as they were a year or so ago.

According to you, you're nearly complete with development, and marketing is your biggest expense. That's better than some situations (no cash, no products either). Marketing is the easiest thing to reduce in expenses.

The most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal are handshakes, telephones and business cards. Go to small groups for face-to-face conferences with potential users, and take your current users out for a series of lunches/beers. Contribute as much as possible to the user generated content of the site itself. If it is a form of web2.0 for traders, you and the rest of the team should post things several times a day - the site may become much richer because of it.

2 points by jon_dahl 9 hours ago 0 replies      
This is the key phrase to me:

What does an aspiring entrepreneur do now knowing that his idea can still work but has no motivation to continue without short-term incentives?

Startups are 1% idea, 6% brilliant founders, and 93% tenacity[1]. Of course, you have to be tenacious in a smart way, which typically means iterating and knowing when to pivot. If you're not motivated to stick it out, then your best bet is probably to put the project on ice. Maybe you'll find the funding and motivation in a year or two. But unless you want to do that, you need to keep grinding it out.

The hard part about grinding it out is that you're out of money, and you outsourced your development. That puts you in a hard position. Can you take over lead development yourself, and work on it nights/weekends?

Beyond that, read some Steve Blank. Are you convinced that: (1) people really want your product, and (2) you've built a product that clicks really well with the market? If not, you need to do that before you do anything else. No point in marketing a product that doesn't click. If you've done that, then it's a matter of getting the word out.

[1] Citation needed.

2 points by lsc 14 hours ago 1 reply      
so, here's what I'd do. I'd make it free (if you intend to start charging at some point, make that clear to your customers. It's best to never raise prices, you know instead add some premium feature... you can have the old thing for free, but we have these new useful features you have to pay for. but sometimes, that's not practical. Next best is to say "It's free... but won't always be so")

Now, for free to work, you need to make sure your infrastructure is cheap. You'd be amazed how many users you can cram on to a $2500 AMD server with 8 cores and 32GiB ram that costs you $200/month to co-locate. (depending on your financial situation... if those numbers aren't trivially small to you, you may want to start with a $20/month VPS and scale up as you need. I'm just pointing out you can save a whole lot of money once you start needing capacity by outsourcing less.)

This will give the site a chance to grow, if users like it. If it does grow, well, that's exciting, right?

See, meanwhile, I'd get a job. It's nice to have a job. It's a different pace, you get health insurance and a bunch of cash, and you don't have to work so hard. A job isn't forever. My experience has been that if I'm feeling frustrated and hopeless with my company, a year at a regular job cures me.

If people start getting interested in the site and it excites you, you can quit and go back to doing it. If people start getting interested in the site and you still want to keep your job, well, customers will attract new investors and possible partners. Stock brokers are usually good marketers, so I think you may have potential marketing people in your customer base.

2 points by jacquesm 11 hours ago 0 replies      
That's a lot of words, basically it boils down to:

We are a late stage start-up and our follow up money failed us at a critical moment.

What made your investor back out ?

Can you scale back your expenses to below your income ?

1 point by danielhodgins 1 hour ago 0 replies      
See that big dark grey blank area in your header? Give me the strongest benefit/advantage I could get from using your service up there. For instance: YaTrader: Information Advantage For Financial Junkies.

I need to see it spelled out clearly and boldly.

10 points by bond 16 hours ago 2 replies      
And the URL is?
1 point by jarsj 2 hours ago 0 replies      
I am curious. Did you outsource the UI/US as well to the Indian Development firms ?
2 points by athst 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Have you looked at competitors like Stockpickr, StockTwits, inTrade, and Motley Fool CAPS? How is your site different from them and what can you do better? When I go to the site it shouts "contests" and stock market game, which has existed in a lot of forms before.

It's not clear to me what the value proposition is - this could use some work. Sites like this essentially come down to one question: "How does this help me make money?" You have a lot of users making predictions about the market - can you roll this up in a more understandable and actionable way? Why should someone be required to log in before they can see the data? If you're trying to create a community, it would also be helpful to actually see community content on the front page (like discussions, etc) not just their cold predictions.

1 point by charlesdm 1 hour ago 0 replies      
By the looks of it, you could also consider offering this for free and charge for some sort of api access.
2 points by traderjoe 14 hours ago 0 replies      
The URL of my startup is http://www.yatrader.com.

    * When users Sign Up, they choose their geographic location (choices consist of City/State and Country around the world). So let's say, Joe Trader (from Moscow, Russia)  joins. He can find other traders from Moscow/Ukraine. Or also see other traders from other Cities and Countries (Main page description should emphasize that this is a International community site) 

* Traders can come and showcase their skills by making prediction on future markets through our weekly contest. Again, the markets can be their local COUNTRY markets or they can play other (international) markets (Joe Trader from Russia can play our NASDAQ U.S. market).

* Traders can interact through private messaging or through profiles by posting comments on wall to wall.

* Every trader has a profile that shows their information such as but not limited to: contact info, buddies, and local buddies (users that are from their location) as well as their preference for markets they follow.

* There is also a "Streak" indicator. When a user correctly (or accurately) makes predictions each week he/she will be awarded Streak points that will allow them to earn extra points which can later be redeemed for prizes. Streaks will also elevate the user's reputation on the website because it will show him to be knowledgeable in the financial markets he plays.

* Prizes can be redeemed for virtual dollars earned called YaDollars -- it is our unique currency system.

1 point by donniefitz2 14 hours ago 0 replies      
If you know the idea can work, than a limited/non-existent marketing budget shouldn't stop you and it certainly shouldn't discourage you this much.

It sounds to me like you need to dig deeper, both into getting more funding and reviving your motivation. You've come this far. It seems a foolish idea to me that you would consider pulling the plug becacuse you lack cash for marketing.

Cash can be found. Keep at it. Perseverence is hard and success has peaks and valleys. Just because you're in a valley right now, doesn't mean it will last forever.

1 point by ketanb 8 hours ago 0 replies      
I think the main page of the site has too much information. It is difficult to find out what is the main purpose of this site?

The site have stats and recent activities sections where only one user keeps reporting some values. These sections should be removed as it makes me think does this site has only user? Such sections make sense when site has enough activities to report, otherwise new users would think no one is using it so it is not worth signing up.

Basically the website looks more like old-styled corporate website than call-to-action website. You may have to hire professional website designer to get any mileage. Alternatively put only one thing which you do the best and remove everything else.

1 point by joystickers 14 hours ago 0 replies      
What's the lack of motivation due to? If you're not motivated by the product anymore then get out now, but if you're just feeling beaten down then absolutely keep at it.

When you say you outsourced all the development it sounds like you expected this project to take off without getting your hands dirty. What have you been doing to market it? Word of mouth won't help you if you're not even talking about it. Go out to conferences and meetups and talk. Get to know bloggers or journalists who write about investing. You have some users? Talk to them. Ask them what they love and what they hate about your product. Find out how they're using it. Find people who aren't using your product and see how they're solving their own problems. I know a trader who still uses IRC chats. Start asking a bunch of questions and get excited!

Headwall Software: stolen IP from Pivotal Labs?
9 points by shiftb 10 hours ago   4 comments top 3
3 points by runjake 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm not too familiar with either company, but wouldn't it have been better to bring this up privately with the involved companies before posting about it on HN?

It'd be a shame if Headwall obtained permission from Pivotal to use their design and they were wrongly portrayed as thieves.

1 point by desigooner 8 hours ago 0 replies      
the odd thing is .. the css file is so extensive but the css classes being used on the site are a select few ..
1 point by wushupork 10 hours ago 1 reply      
Could it be they bought the same template?
Ask HN: Review my app HelloBar.com
8 points by dtelepathy 15 hours ago   16 comments top 9
1 point by photon_off 4 hours ago 0 replies      
I would suggest checking out http://www.wibiya.com , and similar websites http://www.moreofit.com/similar-to/www.wibiya.com/Top_10_Sit...

Wibiya seem to have done a very good job with their toolbar, and I've been seeing their toolbar more and more across the web. The market is seemingly large enough for more competitors.

I might be entirely wrong here, I really have no idea what your product does as I didn't actually fill out the form on your website to try out hellobar. Why not include a demo right on the homepage, and why not allow me to try it without having me fill out an obnoxious form? I'm sorry to sound harsh, but it really bothers me when sites force me to sign up to try something out, especially when I could easily be shown a live demonstration.

1 point by coryl 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Probably needs a bit more functionality and an actual problem to solve.

I've also previously used that space for notification bars that hover over where your product would go (for errors, successful actions, etc.) So your product wouldn't fit on my site because that real estate is taken.

The main thing is finding something useful for this. This isn't a solution to anything, its just a piece of javascript. IMO having one of those floating around gets in the way of my user's experience.

2 points by yan 15 hours ago 0 replies      
2 points by sahillavingia 15 hours ago 1 reply      
The navigation (Register and Login) should be AJAXed. I really didn't expect to have to wait a few seconds to log in (especially with the tabs the way they look, I think most people expected what I did).
1 point by stephencelis 14 hours ago 0 replies      
The site itself is very attractive. A suggestion for the implementation, though: login/signup tab full page turns are jarring (especially with the bar dropping down again after each loads)...maybe just use JavaScript/CSS to swap div visibility?

In general it looks like it's a nice library, but how about some more information before the required registration? Why do I want to use this over a freely available JS library? Does it cost money? Etc.

2 points by kylebragger 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Looks neat but I'd love for it to just let me set a password from the get-go vs. emailing me a temporary one I'll have to change later.
1 point by aquark 13 hours ago 0 replies      
The app is well executed, looks create and has a good UI (well, except for the alert box when you update your profile).

However, I agree it is a little to MVP. To be useful I need more control over what is displayed in the bar ... and I probably want to host all the scripts on my own server too.

I want to be able to set the content in the Javascript code that instantiates the bar so the message is relevant to a user action.

1 point by rushabh 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Looks neat, but would like to see some functionality on the demo bar in your home page.

Right now I won't use it as there is no way to see what it can offer. Also how are you different from the others out there?

1 point by mhill 15 hours ago 1 reply      
Looks neat. Can you make it a translucent overlay bar instead of moving the whole page down? Moving the whole page can be annoying visually.
Ask HN: What features/functionality do you want in an online payments service?
6 points by retube 15 hours ago   3 comments top 2
2 points by zbruhnke 6 hours ago 0 replies      
micro-transaction possibilities ... obviously this would have to be worked out with banking institutions (how, I do not know) but I believe the first one who can make this happens generates an enormous shift in market share and will be on the upswing for quite a while.
2 points by Travis 10 hours ago 1 reply      
Transparency. The biggest complaint I hear about these places is that they aren't transparent in anything -- from reasoning behind their prices, to the resolution of conflicts.
Ask HN: Tax Haven for startups?
45 points by gilaniali 1 day ago   79 comments top 16
42 points by philiphodgen 1 day ago 7 replies      
This is what I do in my day job. (International tax lawyer).

1. If you're in the USA the game is to escape State income tax. You are pretending that your business operates out of a Post Office Box in Las Vegas and therefore you shouldn't pay income tax in California (for example)? Good luck. It's a dead loser.

Don't waste your time. Especially when you're a startup and have no profits to speak of anyway.

2. Again if you're in the USA, on the merits of using Delaware or Nevada compared to your own state to form a corporation or LLC . . . .

Forming your company in Delaware or Nevada and operating your business in California (for example) just adds overhead to your business. Unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise, use the corporate law for where you are. Keep it simple. Look at Google. They started as a California corporation and later reincorporated in Delaware.

3. Onward to your second paragraph. Again if you are in the USA and you want to think about taxation of your business, think about where the humans are. That will give you a clue on how the business will be taxed. Pretend you are selling equipment leasing deals over the phone and making a commission on each deal you made. Who would want to tax you? Yep -- the state where your ass sits while yapping on the phone. There's nothing mystical/magical about tech stuff.

There are plenty of things you can do tax-wise that are cool. E.g., I have a guy who has a California corporation that makes money this way and he sits in the Caribbean and the first $192K of net profit every year is tax-free (half to him, half to his wife who is on salary). No State income tax to him because he's not living in California. Yeah, the 1.5% S corporation tax applies. He's living well.

4. Throw me a few more details and I'll give you more concrete suggestions.


23 points by a-priori 1 day ago 1 reply      
Mostly, I think this discussion is an exercise in premature optimization. If you don't have significant income, you're also not going to pay large sums in taxes, so it doesn't matter. If you do have significant revenue, you can afford to hire an accountant/corporate lawyer to work this out for you. As far as I know it's not a big deal to relocate later.
4 points by fierarul 1 day ago 4 replies      
Within Europe the choices would be for me: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Jersey or Luxembourg.

Bulgaria has a 10% rate on corporate profit and then 5% on dividends. This makes it quite appealing but the language isn't that nice and not sure if corruption isn't a problem there.

Cyprus is presumably also a good pick but I don't know much about it except the fact that the language is Greek so I wouldn't feel comfortable signing papers in something like that. Learning the language seems hard and using a translator for everything seems a bit of a hassle. Just as with Bulgaria, it might be worth it tax-wise but ignoring the language problem.

Jersey would be the ideal pick, they have a 0-10% tax rate there and it's all English but it seems that the island is more of a Gentlemen's club for big financial firms.

What I'm actually looking quite seriously nowadays for my own company is Luxembourg. They have a big tax rate of about 25% but they wave about 80% of it for intellectual property gains, giving you about 5% actual tax rate. Of course, you still have the 25% on the dividends.

I still haven't analyzed this enough as I still don't know what the total annual cost would be (accounting, rent, etc), but Luxembourg is looking quite good so far.

What we need is an actual index for startup friendly countries. There are all these statistics and lists but they all take into account big companies where you might need to hire locally or get some permits, etc. I've noticed no actual index for sofware startups which need basically low-cost, hands off (ie. as little involvement as possible) and preferably low-taxed entities. It might very well be a magical unicorn :-) and if you are American you won't gain much anyhow due to your fiscal system - that is if you ever want to pay any dividends.

5 points by WildUtah 1 day ago 3 replies      
Form a startup corporation in the USA now, keep it running for five years or more and sell it. End of 2010 startups are 100% exempt from federal long term capital gains taxes.

Build and run your company in Wyoming. There's no state income tax for corporations or people. Maybe you can teach wolves and cows to write Ruby. Forget Java; Wyoming's climate is too cold for monkeys.

2 points by thinkcomp 1 day ago 1 reply      
Assuming you're in the United States, this is really only an issue on a state-by-state basis. To avoid paying duplicate corporate franchise tax and registered agent fees, you should just incorporate in the state where you are physically located. However, if you have other considerations (like raising funding), this may not work.

Depending on the state you incorporate in and the number of shares outstanding you have, there may be fees on a per-share basis that you should check into.

Payroll taxes vary from place to place, but there's not much you can do about it--you have to pay them for the state where you're located. California currently has four types of payroll taxes: income tax withholding, unemployment insurance, the employment training tax (ETT) and state disability insurance (SDI). (See http://www.edd.ca.gov/payroll_taxes/rates_and_withholding.ht...) You can deduct SDI you've paid for the year on your 1040.

The type of corporation matters, too. The California corporate franchise tax rate for S corporations is 1.5%. For C corporations it's 8.84%. This only matters for startups that actually are bringing in revenue--otherwise you just have to pay the $800 minimum--but if you are actually making money it's a pretty big difference.

I'm not a CPA, just for the record.

5 points by jaredhansen 1 day ago 0 replies      
The best place to incorporate a startup is Delaware - and the reason doesn't have anything to do with taxes.

Assuming you're using the most common definition of "startup" (as distinct from "small business" or something like that), you want to use Delaware because it's what your potential investors' lawyers will already be familiar with - and the tax benefits, to the extent that they exist, of incorporating somewhere else are just not going to outweigh the added barrier to fundraising that you're going to create by going with some kind of funky tax haven.

Beyond just fundraising, Delaware really is still the industry standard, and in general you can set up a very solid corporate structure that will last you right through fundraising, bringing on your first employees, later employees, scaling, and all the way to sale/IPO without having to waste a lot of headache and lawyer fees later on because you're trying to customize all of this stuff for whatever jurisdiction you chose for tax reasons.

For any given startup, a marginally higher tax rate is a REALLY good problem to have. I wouldn't worry about taxes at this point -- worry instead that your startup will die before it ever makes enough money to be taxed in the first place (e.g., because you couldn't get funding because investors didn't want to bother with trying to understand your convoluted tax-minimization structure).

5 points by grandalf 1 day ago 1 reply      
If you want to raise funding, Delaware is considered the least likely to add any hair to your deal.

There are jurisdictions with lower fees, though. If you really want to avoid taxes why not just incorporate in an offshore tax haven?

4 points by andrewljohnson 1 day ago 1 reply      
It doesn't matter where you incorporate... you pay taxes where you operate.

Moreover, the bigger deal, on a state by state basis, is personal income tax.

California is about 10%, and they have a $1000/year franchise tax to run a business.

Nevada has no state income tax and no franchise tax.

5 points by _exec 1 day ago 2 replies      
Try http://www.offshore-companies.co.uk

They take care of incorporating your company in different jurisdictions for a (relatively) cheap price. I'm incorporating in the British Virgin Islands with them next week. They can also introduce you to various banks around the world and help you with registration.

EDIT: See comment below by curt: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1801105

1 point by sireat 20 hours ago 0 replies      
I wonder how it would work for EU citizens.

Let's assume you are in one of the higher tax countries, such as Denmark.

You incorporate your SaaS company in Ireland, place servers in Netherlands, pay yourself a reasonable salary(pay Danish taxes on that), pay Irish corporate tax on gross profits after that.

Now, your company still has some retained earnings in its account.

Are those earnings free to move around the world (ie buy colocation in Germany, hire programmers in Ukraine, buy real estate in Caymans, stocks in US), as long as the expense is justifiable, or perhaps there is no need for justifications at all, just buy anything at all?

I realize I am mixing assets and expenses in my examples.

If at some point I decide to sell the whole company to someone, I pay capital gains taxes(or income taxes), but not before then, that is the main goal.

In other words, how do the corporate assets and individual assets work when one is the sole owner of the corporation?

1 point by rwhitman 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've heard that South Dakota actually has the most favorable business tax laws in the country.

But the standard state to incorporate in is Delaware, even if its not necessarily the lowest taxes anymore, its still the state most investors, lawyers and tax pros are accustomed to.

But don't forget, you still have to pay taxes where you operate. So even if you incorporate in Delaware you still have to pay taxes where your home office is.

2 points by curt 1 day ago 0 replies      
It really depends on the business. For example if you have a technology that you license you can get a corp in the US for business. Then have an entity in the Caribbean that acts as a holding company for the technology. All profits are passed through to the overseas company as licensing fees for the technology. You then don't pay taxes until the funds are brought back to the United States so you can invest anywhere else in the world tax free. If you're looking to do something like this you really need a good tax attorney. But as I said it drastically varies by the technology, industry, and customer. According to the law there MUST be a business reason for the transfer of funds other than to avoid taxes: ie licensing.
1 point by tzury 1 day ago 2 replies      
There are many options for that.
Despite all problems and difficulties you will face, saying, you have grown up and need to get a company that will provide you services on a contract basis, many will not even answer you email if they'll see your company is registered in Virgin Islands or god knows where.

But more than all, say you have made it, and it was a great success, and in your bank account there are 2.5 million dollars. Now you live in NYC and wish to buy a house with this money. How would you bring this money into the US? Would you make a wire transfer to your seller? He would then have to go to authorities and explain those 2.5M. Will you go cash it and carry it on your body while flying back home, does this make sense?

This is what my CPA have told me when I suggested to open up a company in Cyprus few weeks before I signed a big contract.

1 point by iuguy 1 day ago 0 replies      
Don't. You can only really be taxed on two things: Profit and Income. You can mitigate the second through some fairly uncreative accounting and expenses (depending on benefit in kind rules) and until you're making much of the former any extra administrative overhead is just going to take you away from it.

You can always reincorporate when you're cash rich.

5 points by damien7579 1 day ago 0 replies      
In the EU? try Cyprus...
1 point by MrFlibble 1 day ago 0 replies      
Unless you are already making a sh#t-ton of money, I'd just start the company in the States. It seems a bit "cart before horse" to spend all the time & money to offshore if you have no revenues yet.
Ask HN: What's the story of Airbnb?
28 points by some1else 1 day ago   8 comments top 5
7 points by some1else 1 day ago 1 reply      
After watching the Airbnb talk, I took away a huge morale booster and some major (a few more obvious than others) pointers.

* When situation worsens, be opportunistic. Survive however you can:

Airbnb pushed their website with media when it was obvious that hotels couldn't facilitate the flood. That got them some drifting traffic while their site was still not the perfect user fit. They went on a tangent with breakfast cereal for presidential campaign candidates just to settle their credit card debt.

* Get in touch with users and prospects. You need to know your audience if you want to speak with it and pivot your product accordingly:

It seems that most of their successful pivots came from interaction and analysis of users. The concept of Bed and Breakfast service morphed into a community marketplace for space after they discovered a user is renting an apartment while they're absent (on a tour with a popular musician). Instead of sanctioning the user, they changed the rules, thus enabling another category of service. Knowing that musicians leave an empty apartment behind when they travel on tours gave them an insight, that probably helped them identify user segments worth communicating the service with.

* Focus on one thing and you will achieve it:

PG gave them a pretty good target for Demo Day, profitability. They did what is a common goal-oriented approach: they hung a graph of their profitability ratio on a clearly visible space they would encounter every day (bathroom mirror). By hands-on engaging with users directly, pivoting the business model as required, they managed to pull off the profitability breakthrough two weeks before Demo Day.

* Dive into payments:

End in end, using an outsourced payment solution proved to be more hassle than it was worth. They started processing payments and charging their 10% provision although they were just three people, and it seemed like a huge responsibility to take. Now it seems logical.

* Persevere:

It took them almost three years of hustling, with more-or less a traffic flatline, credit card debt and dealing with a hopeless horizon, to finally come to an awesome business model, which in retrospect would seem impossible to build.

10 points by bond 1 day ago 2 replies      
5 points by AndrewWarner 1 day ago 0 replies      
Try this (with a transcript) http://mixergy.com/airbnb-chesky-gebbia/
4 points by cvg 1 day ago 0 replies      
Also, check out http://vimeo.com/10119028 . Jessica, of ycombinator, interviewing the AirBnB founders.
2 points by Dramatize 1 day ago 0 replies      

Here is the interview Andrew did with the founder.

Tell HN: The "Doogie Howser" Startup Test
8 points by devmonk 14 hours ago   5 comments top 4
3 points by aspir 14 hours ago 0 replies      
3 points by Natsu 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I fear that by using that trend, we would distort it.
2 points by jw84 12 hours ago 1 reply      
Why Doogie Howser?
Ask HN: Do we no longer support our members?
236 points by covercash 1 day ago   116 comments top 25
74 points by jacquesm 1 day ago replies      
I understand that you're not referring to the post on HN that got killed but to the activity on their website.

What happened there is no different than what happens when someone posts a spreadsheet with useful stuff here. Within minutes it will get destroyed or defaced.

The 'griefers' have definitely discovered HN. I suspect that some of them are people that took rejection by YC a bit harder than they should have, and that some others are simply here because they can't see a good thing without being tempted to try to destroy it.

Anything - and I really mean anything - that you put out there on the internet needs to be designed with abuse in mind, because no matter how small it is the abusers will seek it out and will try to destroy it.

That's something that you need to be aware of as much as you need to be a coder or a designer when you plan on making a living online.

Better get used to it.

33 points by rriepe 1 day ago 1 reply      
It's funny. So many people come to HN to get their daily dose of commoditized inspiration. And yet, when it's their turn to help someone out and give real inspiration, they do things like this.

I don't think HN is getting worse, really, but I do think it's getting faster. Sometimes posts get lost in the flood of new stuff. Or sometimes posts just get stuck with a bad crowd who happened to click.

And it is a bad crowd, too-- it's one thing to give bad feedback; it's another to actively go on a site to misuse it only to insult the creator. Who does that?

That said, most of the time you still get the usual HN crowd, the good crowd, when you post things like this. And maybe those things boil down to "Your site sucks," but it's delivered in a helpful, constructive fashion.

48 points by mattlanger 1 day ago 0 replies      
His project reminds me of this great passage from Colson Whitehead's Colossus of New York: "No matter how long you have been here, you are a New Yorker the first time you say, That used to be Munsey's, or That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge. That before the internet cafe plugged itself in, you got your shoes resoled in the mom-and-pop operation that used to be there. You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now."

I suspect that same sentiment speaks to quite a few HN'ers as well.

23 points by cletus 1 day ago 2 replies      
If you think this is bad, go visit proggit (programming.reddit.com) sometime. It's a cesspit. Not only do I not post/comment there anymore, I don't even read it.

Submissions can't really expect more than a 4:1 ratio of upvotes to downvotes. Say anything negative about Python (even things that are demonstrably true like the performance degradation of CPU bound tasks on multi-core machines because of the GIL on CPython) or positive about Apple (even something demonstrably true like "the iPad is a successful new product launch") and get downvoted into oblivion (sadly, HN is starting to get a few knee-jerk Apple haters /sigh).

Someone posted a "Physics of Angry Birds" post here in the last week and someone took the time to post a snide, self-righteous "this doesn't belong here" comment, which is similar to what you're talking about. Frankly I don't understand this attitude at all: if the post doesn't interest you, move on. 3/4 of the HN posts are of no personal interest to me. That doesn't make them objectively bad.

15 points by DanielBMarkham 1 day ago 5 replies      

I posted an article a couple of weeks ago. The point of the article was that get-rich-quick-by-blogging stories are a dime a dozen, when the formula is really very simple: write for yourself, make friends, and keep doing it.

Because it was so simple, I thought it was cute to do a 1 or 2 paragraph format. Here it is


Of course, it only got one vote. (Thanks mom!) But the weird thing was that somebody from HN came by my site and took the time to add a snide comment along the lines of "Why did you post this on HN?"

To which I (logically enough) replied: then don't vote it up.

Seems to me we are getting a fair share of drive-by trolls, downvoters, and flaggers. Ten guys hate you that are on HN all the time? They can zap your article no matter what it is.

Why folks from here would visit blog submission sites and berate the blog authors is beyond me.

That's not reddit, but that's definitely a change in the atmosphere.

21 points by chaosmachine 1 day ago 2 replies      
Weird, I saw it before it was [dead], seemed like an OK project, if a bit unpolished. I was going to make some suggestions (sort results by rating, etc).

Here's the url: http://www.notanewyorker.com/

One thing I would suggest to the OP: use a more descriptive title. Instead of "Are you a New Yorker?" maybe something like "Show HN: My one-day GAE project for New Yorkers".

14 points by vaksel 1 day ago 2 replies      
it does seem like moderators are taking a heavy handed approach. But then again, take a look at the new page and see how much crap they have to deal with.

personally I think, HN needs to put some filters in place to stop newly registered spammers. Even a simple 200 point requirements to submit new posts should be enough to trim the "check out the awesome prices on this nikes!" posts.

49 points by yaskyj 1 day ago 1 reply      
It might have been marked dead because both developers posted a submission for the site. The other post is at http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1800422 and contains some constructive comments.
4 points by gojomo 1 day ago 0 replies      
No one group of drive-by downvoters, flaggers, or downbeat commenters is representative of the HN community as a whole -- especially over weekends and times of thinner attention.

So it's fairly common for some initial votes/comments to be negative, and occasionally even legitimate articles get auto-killed by a group of grumpy flaggers before sufficient upvotes arrive. But then in time, the sentiment rises as other more good-natured people pass by. (It seems harder to reverse a hair-trigger auto-kill, though -- maybe upvotes are no longer counted and it requires an admin intervention?)

Some of the grumpiest people have the most time on their hands, so can constitute the first unrepresentative wave of downvotes/flags!

7 points by momotomo 1 day ago 2 replies      
Similar behaviours and reactions can be seen on a lot of otherwise professional internet forums. I think its the difference in the following kind of people

- A highly skilled professional

- A highly skilled, non-professional

Just because someone has a very well developed skillset, it doesn't necessarily dictate good conduct. Most art / illustration forums suffer from this problem - to generalize, they will have a subset of highly skilled people who ultimately aren't professional in their conduct and reply with some severely inappropriate responses.

It's the same scenario too - when a user submits content that is significantly below the general quality standard of the community (in earnest, being a legitimate effort on their behalf), two responses are generally provided due to the difference in these groups:

- Professionals tend to ignore the content or provide some indicators of which basics to cover

- Non-professionals flame and attack the user due to their level of ability

It's regrettable but the latter often has quite a negative effect. If you can look at someones work and recognise that they are highly skilled, but not understand that they are of poor professional character, you will take on board what they say as being correct or fair.

It's the kind of conduct that stunts a lot of people who aren't thick skinned about their trade.

6 points by jbm 1 day ago 0 replies      
For what it's worth...

I was at the Tokyo hackernews shindig. Everyone was quite supportive of each other and everyone was willing to offer constructive criticism.

Your princess is in the castle but you do have to squash some gombas to get there. It's just an unfortunate reality.

3 points by famousactress 1 day ago 0 replies      
If we're being honest.. what percentage of people with accounts on HN are actually bashing together applications, pushing them live, and posting for feedback? A mammoth minority, I'm sure. For me this community is about putting in hustle, and having the guts to take ideas public. The submitter's post deserves encouragement.
4 points by jeromec 1 day ago 1 reply      
Was the original post listed as an "Ask HN/Review" type thread which theoretically invites constructive feeback, or just a "check this site out" submission? I'm wondering why it went dead.
3 points by bdr 1 day ago 2 replies      
As HN's population grows, the social motivation for "let's help is each other make stuff" shrinks. Maybe there should be a dedicated subsection (or a different site) devoted to that.
10 points by simcop2387 1 day ago 0 replies      
I don't know about the disgusting submissions but I believe my post was marked dead as my friend had also submitted a very similar post here that I was originally unaware of, so no hard feelings there.
3 points by Zev 1 day ago 1 reply      
The people who made the nasty posts aren't representative of the HN community in any sense.

I didn't see the posts you describe, but, if they did say what you're describing, good riddance at them being removed. Moderators exist for a reason, although its better when they don't have to do anything.

3 points by RiderOfGiraffes 1 day ago 0 replies      
1 point by cookiecaper 1 day ago 0 replies      
Someone is probably going to have to make a site for HN refugees to become the new good HN. As things become more popular and better-known, their userbase tends more toward the average just by the nature of popularity. In most cases involving online communities this is a bad thing.
2 points by AlexBlom 1 day ago 1 reply      
I remember reading the same post and Instapapering it to give feedback when I got home. As the community grows (I'm still relatively new here, 1 year) this will become a bigger problem. I just hope we collectively solve it.
1 point by davidmurphy 1 day ago 1 reply      
I hate the, uh, hate on the internet sometimes.

I posted a self post on Reddit about my startup, and the first comment was "Go F*ck yourself". The second comment, QED.

I ended up deleting the post. Not cool. :(

1 point by chaostheory 1 day ago 0 replies      
I agree with calling out what happened, but I don't think it's good to make a big assumption using just one instance of a bad event.
1 point by xentronium 1 day ago 1 reply      
I think it's all about anonymity. I suspect there is a non-empty subset of HNers who like doing destructive things on anonymous basis.
0 points by smokeyj 1 day ago 0 replies      
HN your feedback would be very supportive if you get the chance, http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1801861
-4 points by DiabloD3 1 day ago 2 replies      
When the hell did HN turn into Digg? Or 4chan, for that matter?
-4 points by xenophanes 1 day ago 1 reply      
He should have linked to his website instead of putting the link in the text area. It's not OK to put the URL in the text field where it's intentionally not clickable, without a good reason. If you want to do commentary, either post a comment or make a blog post and submit that url.
On PGs Talk: Super Angels Selling Fast
4 points by colinsidoti 13 hours ago   10 comments top
5 points by pg 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Convertible notes are only technically debt. They work like equity in an acquisition.
Ask HN: How to split equity
19 points by clistctrl 22 hours ago   30 comments top 13
5 points by tptacek 18 hours ago 0 replies      
This has to be one of the most frequently asked questions on HN.

It may help to consider carefully all the reasons you give equity:

* To repay effort (like, doing all the up-front coding)

* To compensate for risk (taking a job with an uncertain future)

* To compensate for financial investment in the company

* To incentivize future effort and risk-taking

* To delineate control of the company

* To access valuable tangible/intangible assets held by other people (such as a network of contacts in your problem domain, or a valuable endorsement)

Make sure you're not just thinking about equity in simple terms. You can sabotage your team by creating even superficial imbalances. You might think, "I'm doing all the coding up front, so I should get more equity because I'm valuable on day 1". Maybe that's true. But it might also be true that your partner took the same amount of risk as you, got less equity, and now also has a reason to blame you for every setback on the business side, because you delivered crappy code that prevented him from realizing his equity stake.

This is an absolutely utterly basic problem in comp package design, something that anyone who has ever hired a salesperson will tell you right off the bat. In the context of comp plans, if a conflict can happen, it will happen. Make sure your fiddley equity plan is worth the effort.

Remember, if your business is unsuccessful, 60% of 0 is 0. If your business is successful, you'll have other levers to pull besides day 1 equity grants to portion out upside.

(I personally wouldn't allocate a single share based on someone's supposed ability to land funding, though. Assume you won't get funded.)

13 points by trevelyan 20 hours ago 4 replies      
Reality check... you just gave B the job of deciding how much equity he should have while you're busy doing the actual work of starting the company. That's like paying someone to pick your pocket.

If you don't know how much these people are worth, it is probably because they aren't doing work that is of any tangible value to the company yet. Sure... they'll be invaluable to the company in the future. Everyone is. But do yourself a favor and get them to articulate exactly what it is that they will do and tie a value to THOSE milestones. Then link their vesting to hitting those clearly-defined milestones. And make sure those milestones push the business forward and don't include random stuff like "define equity split".

4 points by petervandijck 20 hours ago 1 reply      
It seems to me that you are the most important person in this company (because you do most of the work right now, and because of your comment that "PersonB's importance will probably be greater in the future" and "I just handed this task to person B"). If you're handing tasks to people, you're the boss.

1/3 each does NOT seem fair.

To be honest, I don't understand why you are getting person B involved at all, give them equity and treat them as a co-founder if they don't have much work to do right now (as you seem to suggest). From your description, quite honestly, it seems like you might as well have hired an intern or gotten an accountant instead of giving this person a large part of your company. "Knowing a lot about funding" is NOT a reason to make someone a cofounder.

That's my 0.02c, sorry if that sounds harsh. I just don't want another post in 12 months about how to split up with my cofounders who aren't pulling their weight.

Person C is coming in later, so should get significantly less equity.

From what I'm hearing, I would not have personB involved with the expectation that at some point in the future they'll start pulling their weight. If that is the thinking, then wait until you really, really need them, and then get them involved (for a lot less equity). Person C sounds important, so make them your second cofounder.

Not knowing about the details, from all your comments it sounds like personB is not doing much. YOU found another cofounder. YOU are telling personB what to do. YOU also expect personB to start pulling their weight in the future. All this points to letting them go NOW, and asking him back later when there's a need for his expertise. One more thing: having a business co-founder who isn't doing much right now but "knows a lot about funding" may well hurt your chances to get funding instead of improving them.

Get things right at the beginning. Don't get a business co-founder just because you think you need one.

Of course, I may be wrong and there may be a lot of work for personB right now that I'm not aware of :)

2 points by csallen 21 hours ago 0 replies      
Given that you had the initial idea AND you're doing the coding and design, I'd say you should probably get additional equity. (How many successful startups had 100% hacker founders? A lot. How many had 0% hacker founders? Very few.)

Of course, this is based on my entirely limited knowledge of the rest of the situation. There are many other relevant questions to ask. Take a look at some previous threads on this same topic: http://searchyc.com/equity

I will say, try to get equity taken care of up front, before you bring people on. It will prevent conflicts of a magnitude you would never expect.

4 points by zaidf 20 hours ago 0 replies      
Whatever % you go with, have vesting.
3 points by bond 21 hours ago 0 replies      
You 40%, others 30% each...

Assuming they will be co-founders with you from the get go...

1 point by abiczo 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Since you are in the early stages, go with 1/3 each, anything else will potentially cause a lot of headaches down the road.

Having equal equity creates a healthy environment where everyone feels that they should put in as much work as they can. If the others have less equity than you, they probably won't be as motivated as you are. And even if they were, you'll likely start to question whether they are working hard enough, whether they really want the company to succeed etc. This will cause a lot of unnecessary tension.

So I think you should bite the bullet, give up some equity in exchange for better odds of succeeding.

Also, some kind of vesting may be a good idea if you don't trust you cofounders enough yet.

(I was in a somewhat similar situation like you about a year ago, went with 1/3 each and I'm still very happy with that decision.)

1 point by erikstarck 19 hours ago 1 reply      
1. Write down a list of tasks that must be performed to move the company forward.

2. Decide together how many shares each task is worth.

3. When the task is finished, split the shares betweens the founders in a joint session.

1 point by sp4rki 20 hours ago 0 replies      
To be honest to me it seems like you practically giving away a big chunk of your company for free. Person B doesn't seem important at all at this moment, and seems like the relationship is partly based on friendship. Was this a friend you let into your business just because you think you need a cofounder? Person C seems of utmost importance in comparison to Person B, but still seems like she's not required at the moment. I made the same mistake once when I was younger, but luckily everything got thrashed and I started again by myself involving other people only when it was really necessary.

tl;dr: Only add cofounders when you're sure your really need them, and only then assess the risk and their involvement as a measure for equity.

1 point by timmy_k 16 hours ago 0 replies      
A mentor once asked his entrepreneurship class "How do people decide what a business is worth?" People threw out Cashflows, asset value, and other thoughts. He disagreed: to Ken a business is worth only what people are willing to pay for it.

It seems you are in the same boat: they are worth what they feel is fair.

All this to say that I have never heard of a uniform method. It's all up to negotiations for your team.

1 point by starkness 18 hours ago 0 replies      
This post is insightful: http://cdixon.org/2009/08/23/dividing-equity-between-founder....

At the early stage, people tend to overvalue past contributions, and undervalue future contributions. Equity grants should be for a person's expected value over the next four years.

0 points by michael_dorfman 22 hours ago 1 reply      
There's no magic formula here: the objective is to estimate the contribution each of you will have to the success of the company over the next stretch of time.

Is there any immediately compelling reason why 1/3rd each isn't fair?

Please support Saeed - Web Dev facing death sentence in Iran
149 points by xer0x 2 days ago   50 comments top 12
22 points by adrianwaj 1 day ago 3 replies      
Someone build a site about how great is Sharia, Iran and its Ayotollah. Then use the photo script that he wrote, and make it clear how his script was used. Then tweet it to @ahmadinejad and we'll all retweet it.

edit: can turn it into an http://act.ly/ petition too, the site could just be image uploads of Acqua Dinner jackets

9 points by AlexMuir 1 day ago 2 replies      
Here's something we actually could do (not that any of us will do it. Beyond upvoting and a bit of commenting on freedom/politics, no one is going to lift a finger, me included). Find the name of someone who holds power on this decision (we'd need somebody to help us with this). Then Google bomb their name (in English/Arabic/Farsi) to the top of Google with a site about the case and leave an open end for them to decide - did they condemn a man to death, or show clemency and release him?
16 points by Deestan 1 day ago 1 reply      
Have you tried contacting Amnesty International? This case sounds right up their alley, so they should at least be able to give helpful advice.
24 points by lukevdp 1 day ago 1 reply      
Stories like this blow my mind and make me very thankful to live in a free country.

I don't care what anybody says about being ethnocentric and relativistic morals and "it's their country, their rules". This country has absurd rules and it's just wrong.

Letters aren't going to do anything, in countries like Iran they arrest their own citizens for speaking out, I can't see non citizens having any effect at all.

14 points by bobds 2 days ago 2 replies      
This is the first I hear about this story, words escape me really. I can't imagine where Saeed finds the strength to keep going after two years of torture.

Can we do something more meaningful/effective than sending e-letters?

6 points by jrockway 2 days ago 2 replies      
I don't think there's much that letter writing is going to solve. It seems he's an Iranian citizen from Iran that is subject to Iran's criminal justice system. Yeah, Iran has a poor human rights record, but writing an email is not going to fix that problem.
4 points by sharpn 1 day ago 0 replies      
Sorry to hear that. I've contacted Amnesty's International Secretariat to see if they can help.
1 point by united4iran 1 day ago 1 reply      
I noted this below as a comment, but really wanted all to see it in case it gets skipped o'er. Do letters work? Yes.

U4I has, in the last few months, received emails from foreign ministers and their representatives promising that they will address it with Iran's officials as they visit the countries, that they will continue to pass on the information, and even releasing statements of condemnation.

With Iran, it will ALWAYS remain a PR game, and the end goal is to 1) highlight the cases and 2) get the world community to decry them. Name and shame, assign blame, embarrass Iran. That is their biggest fear, truly.

An example is below of how effective letter writing CAN be.


"The Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs Verhagen has received a number of emails highlighting the case of the 7 Baha'i Leaders, generated through your website. I would like to inform you minister Verhagen has publicly expressed his concern about their fate:

Best regards,
Bart Rijs
Spokersperson minister of Foreign Affairs
The Hague
The Netherlands


So does it work? Yes. Slowly sometimes, but yes. Knowing you're being watched DOES indeed change your behavior. Just ask Roxana Saberi :) Thanks to all, this is quite the community!

1 point by rythie 1 day ago 0 replies      
> Trial scheduled for October 26, 2010
4 points by ajx 1 day ago 0 replies      
welcome to iran
2 points by known 1 day ago 0 replies      
-4 points by semuelf 1 day ago 1 reply      
Can we nominate him to Darwin award?
Ask HN: Rate my Startup
8 points by misterhaywood 17 hours ago   20 comments top 6
2 points by wazoox 17 hours ago 1 reply      
I think that you should do by default like http://geoipweather.com , and optionally ask for another ZIP and timezone, for a start. Then why would you limit yourself to US and Canada? Weather.com works worldwide. Third, don't nag me : you don't need any info other than an email, and there is exactly 0% chance I give my phone number to some random website. More info, more hassle, less signup.
2 points by limmeau 17 hours ago 1 reply      
What do you tell people with a bookmark for a weather forecast site in their mobile browser when they ask you why they should use your service instead?
1 point by kloncks 17 hours ago 1 reply      
1 point by ultrasaurus 17 hours ago 2 replies      
It's nice that you accept Canadian postal codes, but you might want to give us the weather in Celcius :)

That said, "bring a coat" is more common advice than "bring an umbrella" so I might switch from http://umbrellatoday.com

1 point by timmy_k 17 hours ago 0 replies      
It is an interesting idea.

That being said, I feel like you can't charge people for what you provide. I think it is too much of a limiting factor for the user. Personally, my mind turned off after I looked at pricing. I checked the rest of the site but it was over once I knew you were charging me.

People expect a service like this to be free. It's Chacha vs. KGB, only you don't have the millions that KGB spends on marketing.

That's just my opinion as a member of the freemium or steal-me-sum generation.

This post is about how non-subscription services make money:http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1716778. I hope it helps.


1 point by singer 14 hours ago 1 reply      
Where does your weather data come from?
Ask HN: What is the most profitable way to self-publish e-books?
61 points by kmfrk 2 days ago   44 comments top 20
19 points by mikecane 2 days ago 3 replies      
eBooks are my area.

1) Piracy is going to happen no matter what, so stop losing sleep over it. Count on the fact people will pay for books and concentrate on selling them.

2) Every eBook DRM has been cracked. But most who do that do so in order to be able to format shift. Get an eBook at $9.99 from Kindle Store vs $$ more from Sony or Kobo, then strip DRM and use Calibre to reformat to ePub for a Sony Reader or Nook.

3) As others have already pointed out, there's B&N's nascent PubIt! service. What that has going against it is that B&N uses a mutant form of the DRM that was common for ePub until B&N stuck its nose in. B&N books are stuck on Nooks for the average person (similar to Kindle) who doesn't want to learn how to DRM strip. You limit your market.

4) Kindle is THE monster. It's where the majority of eBook sales take place. If you know HTML, you can create your own eBook. If you need help, get Tallent's book:

5) I'd stay away from Smashwords & Scribd. The first has a format meatgrinder that will drive you insane for trying to make things look good. The second has had that whole Archiving "error" marring its rep.

6) Make sure you have an ISBN so you control your metadata.

Any other questions?

9 points by vaksel 2 days ago 0 replies      
are you sure you can even sell the book? If I were you I wouldn't care about the commission just yet...publish it on the most popular service....see if anyone actually bothers to buy it...then if you see a ton of sales start looking for better alternatives
6 points by FraaJad 2 days ago 0 replies      
Learn it from the masters: http://www.johntreed.com/HTWP.html

He maks his money by self publishing Real Estate newsletters, which are information dense and there is a niche market for that kind of stuff.

He has a lot of sensible tips on self publishing.

5 points by devmonk 2 days ago 2 replies      
First off, why limit yourself to only publishing electronically? You'll have a much larger audience if you offer paperback.

A few other options:




Or for amazon, email digitalrights@amazon.com or one of the several how-tos. This might be outdated:

Then drum up more sales in facebook, posting info and links in forums and mailing lists, etc.

7 points by patio11 2 days ago 0 replies      
You want e-junkie.com
2 points by naner 2 days ago 2 replies      
Additionally, it would be preferable with a means of applying an ID and/or purchaser's name to one of the book's first or last pages to discourage people from throwing up the e-book on a sharing service

- I could just remove the first/last page.

- I could overwrite the ID/info

- I could run the PDF through OCR software to produce a new untagged PDF.

Unfortunately, ebooks and piracy go together like bread and butter. PDF is a portable document format and epub is just text. Your best bet is just to make it as pain-free to purchase as possible.

2 points by makmanalp 2 days ago 0 replies      
The most profitable way would be to write, design, market, proofread, build the website and integrate payment etc etc yourself. I've been doing some research, and it seems that the average author is content with low (compared to the profit) royalties as long as they only have to deal with writing the damn thing. There are ebook markets out there but a lot of them are having trouble gaining momentum as a go-to location for books. This is a chicken and egg problem, and as more authors offer their books as ebooks, this will get better and hopefully a number of markets will emerge.
3 points by naner 2 days ago 0 replies      
Here's another account of self-publishing to add to your list:


3 points by araneae 2 days ago 0 replies      
There are almost certainly other services out there, but the advantage of Lulu is that you have a much wider audience. Sure, 50% is high, but it's better to have 50% of something than 20% of nothing.

As an alternative, you might want to consider finding a niche online retailer, i.e. one that only sells certain kinds of books. These can have a loyal customer base. But I wouldn't know if they're any cheaper.

2 points by DevX101 2 days ago 0 replies      
If you can get your book published and marketed by a 'top publisher', there's still money to be made the old way:


4 points by ScottWhigham 2 days ago 2 replies      
I did an ebook earlier this year and the whole post-creative process was just horrible. I did self-publishing and trying to work around the various formats was just so not worth it. I had planned on doing several books along the same lines but, after dealing with how to make it look good on the Kindle, in PDF, on the Nook, etc, it just wasn't worth my time to write the other books.
2 points by cromulent 2 days ago 0 replies      
I believe Amazon offer up to 70% through Amazon Digital Text Publishing:



Although that is also "basically a hosted shop with decent SEO that sends e-books upon purchase", I guess ;)

3 points by iworkforthem 2 days ago 0 replies      
I beta tested Pulley - http://pulleyapp.com/ Quite good.. They just officially launched in Oct 2010... For $6, you get 100 MB storage, Unlimited orders, Unlimited bandwidth and 25 digital products to sell. I think it's quite alright.
2 points by oomkiller 2 days ago 0 replies      
Throw a PDF up on Amazon S3, generate unique links for people that pay for it. Or, you could not worry about unique links, and just trust people. Like others have said, piracy will happen, so I wouldn't worry too much about it.
4 points by lachyg 2 days ago 1 reply      
Use Shopify with Fetchapp. Perfect ;)
1 point by peeplaja 2 days ago 1 reply      
If you're worried about piracy and high fees, why not create an online course instead of pdf e-books.

If it's an how-to book and not a work of fiction, you don't want to create a pdf e-book anyway. Here's why:

* Low perceived value. People know how to create pdf e-books. Just choose ‘Save As’ in MS Word. So it has a low perceived value. Much lower than the $13 real book you can buy from Amazon. This means you cannot charge a high price for your pdf e-book.

* They’re static. Once they’re out there, they’re out there. You cannot add stuff, correct material or fix typos.

* As you mentioned, they’re (way) too easy targets for piracy.

* Lots of people don’t want to read anymore. They want to watch videos instead. So might as well add some video.

* No analytics. Which chapter is most popular? You will never know.

* No interaction. People read a chapter in your e-book and have clarifying questions. But alas – no interaction is possible.

So that's why I think online courses are the way to go.

How to create an online course and sell it?
This is what my startup does: http://traindom.com

2 points by dpapathanasiou 2 days ago 0 replies      
My startup does: http://fifobooks.com/
1 point by iuguy 2 days ago 1 reply      
You could host it yourself using a straightforward e-commerce management system and a payment gateway.
1 point by realitygrill 2 days ago 0 replies      
I am thinking of using LeanPub, which takes 25%. You keep your rights.
1 point by lulubob 2 days ago 1 reply      
The author keeps 80% of his sale on Lulu unless you are selling a seriously discounted product, or selling via Lulu into other marketplaces such as Amazon or Ebay.

Also, in our and other industry suppliers experience many books sell better when they are offered in both ebook and paper formats.

Ask HN: What are the best podcasts about startups/entrepreneurship?
40 points by wanderboy 1 day ago   20 comments top 12
8 points by staunch 1 day ago 2 replies      
Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders http://ecorner.stanford.edu/podcasts.html

Mixergy (HN @AndrewWarner) http://www.mixergy.com/

This Week In Venture Capital (HN @msuster) http://thisweekin.com/thisweekin-venture-capital/

This Week in Startups (HN @jasonmcalacanis) http://thisweekin.com/thisweekin-startups/

Some good stuff on TechCrunchTV http://techcrunch.tv/

6 points by petercooper 1 day ago 3 replies      
TechZing is one of my favorites. It's semi-educational though retains an informal, discussion format in the main (that is, it's not just lectures): http://techzinglive.com/
1 point by RBr 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've found that there is a significant lack of quality, tech business startup podcasts. I think a lot of it has to do with folks just being so busy.

I've tried to get into This Week In Startups but I usually just pick-and-choose the good guests to download once in a while.

I've often thought that I'd like to make a podcast where every week, a new topic is outlined. From accounting to HR to ideas and well beyond, pick one topic every week and assemble conference segments that revolve around the topic. Licensing and distribution rights would certainly be a challenge, but imagine having a cross-conference view of a single topic. Build episodes into a linear "course" of startup topics and I bet you'd really have something.

I listen to these regularly. I think they're all quite good. Generally, I don't listen to podcasts to solve a problem. I use them to expand my knowledge and open my mind to new ideas. With that in mind, here is my list:

Harvard Business Review IdeaCast


The 37Signals Podcast

Help! My Business Sucks (give this upbeat Brit a chance, he has some good ideas)

They took down the Apple Podcast, but you can stream Brain Brew Radio:

4 points by taelor_rb 1 day ago 1 reply      

they have a variety of shows that talk about different topics, with a few of them focusing on startups and entrepreneurship.

great question too. i travel to nashville from about an hour and a half frequently, so i love listening to podcasts.

oh, and even though its not about startups and such (although a few of the episodes are), npr's planet money is really well done podcast on economics. highly recommended.

2 points by kristofferR 1 day ago 0 replies      
The Lifestyle Business Podcast is an absolutely awesome podcast about modern business. They have decided to take payments for the first 30 episodes, but it's so damn worth it!


1 point by joshuacc 1 day ago 0 replies      
The Startup Success podcast - http://startuppodcast.wordpress.com/

37signals podcast - http://37signals.com/podcast

Startups for the Rest of Us - http://www.startupsfortherestofus.com/

Traction by Gabriel Weinberg (DuckDuckGo) - http://traction.blip.tv/

1 point by GEOD 9 hours ago 0 replies      
If you are looking for real world advice from a down-to-earth guy who also happens to have started over a dozen businesses over the past 40+ years,and started Duquesne's entrepreneurial studies program-here's the site to load the ipod up at http://taeradio.com/episodes/.Ive been listening to Ron Morris on The American Entrepreneur for over 10 years on 1360AM in Pittsburgh,but he's available to everyone via .com, podcast, ustream, and Talkshoe.He is truly a man who has worked long and hard to make his own millions(and his fair share of mistakes) and is looking to give back,unlike so many out there who are just talking heads in love with their own voices and looking to cash in on today's economic and business climate.He's live on weekdays 3-6PM EST and Saturdays from9-noon,but from the link above you can download past shows anytime.He covers all the concerns for start-ups,talking to accountants,insurance experts,bankers and lawyers who specialize in helping everyday people trying to realize their dreams.I wish this kind of advice had been around when I started my business,but the advice from the show still helps me save and make $$ after being at it for 30 years. He also has many successful internationally known businessmen on his show and they share their start-up experiences with him.If you're looking for real "in the trenches" info check it out-GEOD
2 points by Dukesbiz 15 hours ago 1 reply      
TAE (the american entrepreneur) radio is a great show that I along with some friends have been listening to for a # of years. What I like best is the show's host is an entrepreneur that adds his experiences to interviews like no other host can.
They've really kicked it up a notch lately with bigger name guests: Jason Fried, Steve Wozniak, Craig Newmark, Tony Hsieh to name a few.

I've listened to many other shows on Stitcher Radio, but have found most of them have boring hosts and/or are inconsistent. Try this one you may find yourself a long time listener like myself. http://taeradio.com/

2 points by jayro 1 day ago 0 replies      
Give TechZing (http://www.techzinglive.com) a try. It's a mix of discussions and interviews with founders, investors and coders (Derek Sivers, Gabriel Weinberg, etc). Disclaimer: I'm a co-host. ;)
1 point by tyrelb 1 day ago 0 replies      
Andrew Warner has excellent material on Mixergy.com! Great interviews, roughly 1-hour in length... and he asks the tough questions (revenue, models, etc.), too!
1 point by alc277 17 hours ago 0 replies      
The ThinkVitamin Radio podcast is top notch.


1 point by Chirag 23 hours ago 0 replies      
Ask HN: Necessary piracy?
48 points by mantas 1 day ago   53 comments top 21
24 points by patio11 1 day ago 3 replies      
I deal with this issue sometimes, particularly getting digital content in America while living in Japan. My solution is that one of my VPSes runs a Virtual Private American: Apache running mod_proxy. Any web request proxied through the Virtual Private American appears to originate from a computer in St. Louis... because it does. I use a proxy switching addon in Chrome and Firefox to magically turn American whenever e.g. Amazon gives me guff about it. Then I can pay for the content of my choice using my American credit cards. (If you don't have one, you can fake it with a stored payments card.)

Morally, it isn't my finest hour (it is technical breach of contract with Amazon, it makes a minor imposition on the eventual rightsholder of the Japanese version, possibly retards the ability of the content to licitly reach Japan, and possibly transgresses a secular law which enjoys a presumption of moral legitimacy), but it is a much less grave offense than theft.

13 points by angusgr 1 day ago 1 reply      
Is it OK to "steal" stuff that is very hard to obtain in legal ways?

With all due respect, I'd suggest you're just being lazy and looking to justify something that you seem to know is ethically dubious.

Book Depository has the book for $18US with free shipping to Lithuania http://www.bookdepository.com/book/9780446563048/Delivering-...

http://www.abebooks.com/ top two results both offer shipping to Lithuania, less than $25 total cost.

As the other user pointed out, ebay sellers have the book with shipping to Lithuania, total cost ~$25US again.

I can think of three worthwhile points here, though:

* Outside the US, getting legitimate digital content is still much much harder and/or more expensive than getting pirated content. I live in Australia, so somewhere between US & Lithuania in convenience stakes, and we get the same "not available in your region" BS. I spent some time in NYC last year, and the ease & availability of digitally delivered content blew me away. Bring it on!

* There _are_ countries where piracy is the only sensible option. You own a Kindle, so I'm assuming you can afford a $20US hardback book. I used to live in Indonesia, where my housemates earned ~$60USD a month. Although they didn't have their own computers (or Kindles), some of our neighbours had computers (P2-era in 2004) and every piece of software was pirated. I don't even know where they would go to buy legit copies if they wanted them.

I think you can make a case for piracy in these circumstances. In fact, even Microsoft did - they gave the Indonesian government licenses for all of the Microsoft software on their computers, in exchange for them agreeing to pay for more licenses (at reduced rates) in the future.

Thankfully, Linux is (or was) growing in popularity in Indonesia as an alternative free (and ethical) option.

* Finally, I would say that this shows there exists a market for a site like http://booko.com.au/, targeted to ex-USSR countries. Hint hint. :)

9 points by gojomo 1 day ago 1 reply      
Some piracy is welfare-maximizing for society. If there was zero chance that you would buy a costless-to-reproduce good at the effective price -- and the effective price includes all the hoops you have to jump through to get it, including search costs -- then obtaining a copy results in no real loss to the rightsholder, but a real gain for you.

Societies become rich by encouraging people to take as many such gains-without-loss actions as possible! (And quite a few actions where the gain of some outweighs the loss of others, too.)

Of course, having this utilitarian rationalization handy may mean you pretend you wouldn't have paid the higher cost, when in fact, you would have. And, someday the rightsholder may find a way to offer their product at a price you'd take -- perhaps through some form of price discrimination -- in which case, piracy causes a small loss to the rightsholder.

But piracy may still be net-welfare-enhancing, because their eventual-loss-at-some-future-price-point may be much smaller than your gain-in-the-meantime.

I wouldn't agonize over your situation, as long as you're trying to get legitimate copies. Perhaps you could pick up a legitimate copy when it does become available, or figure out a generalized way to pretend to be a US consumer of digital goods -- VPN, PO Box, CC card? -- whose cost can be amortized over many purchases. (Is that circumvention ethical? Well, that's another interesting question...)

14 points by Natsu 1 day ago 0 replies      
Well, here's how it looks from each of the stakeholder's perspective, as near as I can tell:

Artists: You invest a ton of hard work into making something you're proud of. Then you make $0.87 because everyone is pirating it (or at least, that's what your distributor tells you).

Distributors: Their primary value these days is in marketing. So far it's just the web cartoonists who seem to be making a living off their work, but the distributors being supplanted over time. They're hiring lobbyists and trying to keep their leverage by fighting stuff like Net Neutrality.

Users: I bought a game the other week. It wouldn't install and gave me some vague nonsense error message like "Install failed: try again." My best guess is that Starforce DRM was the reason. I'm out $20. I'm guessing it twigged on some remnant of a CD drive emulator I used to convert some ISO a long time ago and later uninstalled, but it won't tell me. I never got to play it. I could get a crack for it, but all the crap I took from trying to make it work made me hate the game. Long story short, I returned it. The non-techie store clerk elected to mark it as "defective." I didn't really feel like contradicting her.

Pirates: You can get anything you want for free. Unlike the users, your version won't have DRM. Worries about viruses and such are real, but overrated for people who are reasonably computer savvy. There's a reason more people transition from user to pirate.

Librarians: They're sitting on some wax cylinders from 1890 that won't go out of copyright until 2067 thanks to a 1972 law that simplified (and extended) audio copyrights. The Library of Congress report said that they generally have to ignore the law to preserve a lot of historic audio files.

Did I miss anyone?

13 points by bjonathan 1 day ago 1 reply      
If you have a kindle change your zone in the kindle settings page and add an US adress (pick one on the yellow pages). I am in france and use that method to download us only kindle ebook. It's work perfectly :) (amazon dont verify the postal adress)
14 points by iuguy 1 day ago 4 replies      
That's an interesting moral dilemma.

I'd say that if you can't obtain it at all then downloading it may well be a legitimate option if there's another way that you could recompense the author or pay it back. For example, you could find a US library address, buy the book and have it sent there instead, then download a copy safe in the knowledge that you have actually paid for it, with the karmic bonus of having donated it to a library.

2 points by lt 21 hours ago 0 replies      
It's not necessary, but it's damn convenient. That's mostly the fault of the content distributors, IMO, that actively prevent honest consumers of legaly acquiring things due to outdated regional distribution models.

I don't live in the US either and saw this more times than I care to remember: "you can't buy this digital download because it's not available in your region. print and fill out this form, mail to your local distributor and you'll get it in a few weeks".

Want to watch Lost finale? Wait a couple months until it's been spoiled to death. The lastest album from your favorite band? A technical book, games, it's all the same. Sure, it's all purely convenience, unnecessary things, but it's digital bits that have people all around the world, with their credit card in their hand waiting to consume them.

I've seen people use proxies and whatnot to be able to give their money, say, to Apple to buy music in iTunes which is not available here. I think it's absurd to pay to get something that end up being infriging anyway.

Not to mention all the hoops customers have to jump through (quotas, DRM, exclusive content, DLC) that pirates don't have to worry.

I like the honest position Shane Carruth (who written, directed, produced the movie Primer pretty much by himself) about torrenting his movie:


(somewhere else he says he received several tips through paypal from people who downloaded but rejected them all due to legal issues)

All that said, I think there's a huge market for someone to provide a way for people around the world to purchase legal bits of pretty much anything, if they can work through the legal issues. Steam is already doing a good job at this in the gaming market, but there's still plenty of space there.

4 points by ruchi 1 day ago 0 replies      
ebay may be an option where the seller ships worldwide.
Found at least one
2 points by rewind 1 day ago 1 reply      
If the people putting the time/money into producing the content don't make it available to you, then that's their choice. They're still putting a value on it, so if you obtain the content without providing them that value, then it's stealing. The book you mention is a perfect example. I can't get it either. So I just don't pay for it and spend my money somewhere else instead. Your "steal" should just be steal (no quotes). It's black or white.

Now I don't think it's some huge deal, I'm just saying it's still stealing, either way you look at it.

2 points by kiba 1 day ago 0 replies      
Legal, piracy is a beneficial public policy. 19th century and 18th America benefit enormously from the piracy of British literature at the expensive of native American writers, who does have copyright. Of course, some British authors actually made money from the exchange too. Some authors like Charles Dicken are deeply upset by the fact. Nonetheless, cheaper books help Americans afford more books and learn to read.

As for me, I don't feel bad about piracy. I am an anarcho-capitalist, so I don't have much respect for any law that transcend my property right. However, I also noted how piracy hurt my interests tremendously in the long run, no matter how attractive and unrisky it is to pirate.

Piracy support monopolists, not entrepreneurs who respect my property rights. As a result, I am gald when people target pirates instead of my business.

1 point by jcroberts 1 day ago 0 replies      
I realize English is not your first language, but on this particular topic, one must be VERY careful with the terms you use. In classic rhetoric, the ability to control and define the terms is the means to control and define the argument. If you honestly seek a fair resolution, step back from the politics and word-smithing by trying to address everything as fairly as possible including the terms used.

Given that I respect tptacek for being bright, level headed, and having a good mind for reverse engineering and analysis, I had hoped to get him into a friendly discussion addressing root causes:

Human nature is acquisitive, but this manifests itself in two distinct ways; for a group or for an individual. In the former, there is a part of human nature wanting collaboration (for group), so we want to return favors and want to reward efforts. In the latter, there is a contrasting part of human nature more avariciously (selfish, greedy) inclined to benefit the individual, so there is also a desire to not return favors and not reward efforts.

Copyright laws are an attempt to enforce the former, and of course, copyright infringements are an attempt to enforce the latter. The former creates "monopoly" and the latter creates "theft" but both of these terms are rhetorically loaded, and worse, both of them are a detriment to markets.

The important question is, can we design a better system to both fairly reward efforts of collaboration and at the same time also benefit individuals?

It's a very tough question, but until people are willing to step back from their biases and heated opinions, we will not be able to figure out a better solution.

5 points by Dylanlacey 1 day ago 0 replies      
I know what you mean. On the one hand, stealing is wrong, generally speaking.

On the other, I'm in Australia. We speak English, have a Free Trade Agreement, and are generally as available a market to the US as the US is. And yet, we pay FAR more then our fair share, we don't get releases at the same time, and generally get shafted.

And, the only reason why is often one of profit. It's more profitable to charge us more, because we'll pay it. It's more profitable to delay launches here, because then they can have big-bang style launches.

Which, as you've no-doubt noticed, leads to piracy as the means of obtaining something. It's a dilemma I've not quite resolved, myself.

2 points by vegai 19 hours ago 0 replies      
"Piracy" is how things work from now on (where "now" is about 1980's), and the change is quite similar to every other technological revolution. There will be opposition to it, but all the countermoves against it are just totally pointless struggle against how things shall naturally go: information will be free.

The outcome of all this is good: it takes away power from the unskilled artists (soulless list hit generators etc.) and moves it to the skilled ones. You know, the kind that make you wanna throw money at them even if you already have their stuff.

1 point by pmcginn 1 day ago 2 replies      
You've got a misleading title there. You don't need to read this book, you just (in your own words) "want to read it."

So, of course you have a choice. Read something else.

The universe doesn't owe you a constant stream of your preferred reading material in the cheapest and most convenient way possible. There are 50 used and new copies for sale on Amazon.com. You're telling me not a single one of them could be bribed into shipping internationally for you? There's not a single Lithuanian book shop that will do a special order? Lithuania has blocked BonVu.com?

I think what you mean to say is that you didn't feel like paying extra for a book or waiting for it to arrive. So really, you pirated out of convenience rather than necessity.

1 point by etherael 1 day ago 0 replies      
I remember a while back there was an attempt to compensate the producers of content that was more conveniently acquired via piracy, whatever happened to that? I think the context was music, but it stands to reason that it could be employed in any market.
1 point by jat850 1 day ago 1 reply      
Another option you could have tried would be to make contact with someone trustworthy outside of your country, transfer them money to make a legal purchase and ship it to you. Much more time consuming, certainly, but if you wanted to exhaust all legal avenues that's an option.
1 point by serichsen 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Copying is not theft.

I have a rather radical proposal, which might even not be feasible (about as feasible as trying to treat virtual non-scarce things as real and scarce):

Authors should get paid for writing, not for having written something.

1 point by rickmb 1 day ago 0 replies      
The issue with "hard to obtain" in most cases in that it is deliberate. It's easy to make available, in many cases you're even being taunted by publicly displaying its availability, and then telling you you can't have it. As far as I'm concerned, if that's your way of dealing with customers, all bets are off.

Second, copyright laws aren't a question of ethics. They are very artificial (nothing is being "stolen" or removed, copies are not the original property) laws that have originally been created to promote the distribution of original work. If it's being abused to do exactly the opposite, again, as far as I'm concerned any ethical considerations become null and void.

And don't get me started on deliberately crippling a legally acquired product with crap like DRM.

2 points by jawee 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've been in the same predicament before for finding older software. When I needed a certain older version of Hypercam that couldn't be found anywhere, including eBay at the time, I ended up pirating it. I was willing to pay up to the full original price for it because of the need.. what else can you do if the software is a torrent search away?
1 point by ggn 14 hours ago 0 replies      
Dude, I live in Lithuania too, I buy books at www.bookdepository.co.uk. Free shipping, takes 3-5 working days.

But I know what you mean. We have way less choice when it comes to buying stuff in this part of Europe, that's why so many people tend to skip the buying part, cause they want it right now.

1 point by jonhendry 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Have you tried Craigslist?

Perhaps there are expat Americans or Brits who work in Lithuania, who could obtain a copy for you.

PG: Thank you for putting on Startup School
164 points by pyronicide 2 days ago   35 comments top 22
40 points by pg 2 days ago 1 reply      
Thanks, but the credit for organizing it goes to Kirsty Nathoo, Jessica, and Kate Courteau, and of course BASES. They organized everything. All I did was show up and speak.

This was a good one though. The speakers really delivered.

18 points by teej 2 days ago 1 reply      
Median quality of atendees was also -phenomenal-. Lots of really smart and driven hackers.

I also got to meet edw519. I can confirm - he is as awesome as his HN comments suggest.

4 points by b3b0p 1 day ago 0 replies      
I was going to submit the following, but wasn't sure if it was following the rules of HN posts, so here it is:

Tell/Ask HN: I attended startup school as a non-founder and it was awesome, how was your experience?

I attended applied and attended Startup School 2010 as a non-founder and it was quite possibly the best day of my life in recent memory.

I want to say thanks to Paul, Airbnb, Bases and all the volunteers, and anyone else that put in any effort to make this event what it was.

Second, thanks to all the speakers! You all did an awesome job. Well done! Words cannot describe how well everyone did. By far the best event/conference I have ever attended mostly because of all the interesting and insightful talks.

Some of my highlights:

I sat next to the 3 awesome intelligent founders of Dr. Chronos (plug: http://drchronos.com) and spoke with them about all sorts of interesting topics through out the entire event and after.

I met Alexis and Christopher from Reddit and we joked and talked about many interesting topics during lunch. I even got some pictures taken with them.

Speaking of lunch, that might have been some of the best pizza I have ever had.

I feel like I met almost the entire Airbnb team, they were all awesome. Sorry, if I can't remember all your names, so I want to say thanks for the awesome after party! Special thanks goes to Nick, Joe, and Erin for putting up with me.

I briefly met Paul and got my picture taken with him, truly an honor. Thanks again Paul!

I met tons of intelligent, fun, awesome developers and founders. The networking was worth every single penny alone (just a little over $600 total including hotel from Oklahoma). I learned a ton! It was truly and inspiring time for me throughout the trip.

To all those I did not mention above, thank you for making this quite possibly one of the most fun, exciting, and enjoyable days I can remember in recent history.

I hope I can attend next year. I'm looking forward to it.

26 points by drm237 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think Jessica deserves most of the credit. So thank you Jessica and crew!
10 points by petervandijck 2 days ago 3 replies      
Videos are here I believe: http://www.justin.tv/startupschool
2 points by tmsh 1 day ago 0 replies      
another thanks. the more i think about it, the more i appreciate how invaluable the talks were. this was my second startup school. but oddly i think the most valuable thing is a sort of subconscious quieting of the mind around the key places where startups really need to get going.

for so many people starting new businesses there are just a lot of unknowns that can create noise in one's mind (and prevent one from innovating around the other more real domain problems). when you see and hear other people's stories, strangely, i think the mind starts to normalize them and all these classes of fuzzy / unknown obstacles, that we don't even realize are there, start to disappear.

serial entrepreneurs often have already created this normalized, orthogonal, clean parse tree in their mind from experience. and big name institutions or big name angels create the same quieting of the mind. but i think in part you can get the same thing from startup school, whether one realizes it or not. the ultimate hack is that you don't actually need anything to 'quiet the mind' whatever that means, if you realize how important that resulting action is in the physics of it..

1 point by djm 1 day ago 0 replies      
I've never been to SV but watching through these video's gives me a sense of the sheer intensity of the energy that seems to be there with so many companies and founders focused in one place. It's intoxicating; I'm so jealous!

Thanks to all involved in the event and justin.tv for showing them. I'm probably going to go through them all again at some point - there was so much good stuff and I was too excited to write notes as I watched.

2 points by LeBlanc 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you to the YCombinator crew and BASES for creating the event, and to all of the awesome people to came as well. Hopefully some of you will be on that stage in the next couple of years!
2 points by robryan 2 days ago 0 replies      
The airbnb presentation is excellent, just watching it now, interesting because I've already heard the most of the story in other interviews but it's still worth hearing again.
1 point by mrchess 16 hours ago 0 replies      
Great show! Worth the trip. Everyone was great but the most memorable speakers for me were Groupon, imeem, and airbnb. If anyone is wondering if they should fly out to see it, DO IT. So much better than watching streams.

thanks ycom

~mrC from Cambridge, MA

1 point by Raphomet 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yeah, thanks to YC for organizing it and to the speakers for volunteering their time. I have almost never learned so much in one day for free. You guys have really made me think about what I want to do with my life.
1 point by megamark16 2 days ago 0 replies      
Though I wasn't able to attend this year, I did stream some of the live talks on justin.tv, and I plan on watching the rest tomorrow. What I saw and heard was very motivating, not to mention fun! I really wish I could have been there, but maybe next year. Anyway, I'd also like to say thanks to all involved!
2 points by serverdude 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you PG, Jessica and team! It was very motivating to see everyone! I did not attend personally but the videos were terrific!
1 point by c1sc0 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thanks, this was an amazing event to follow, even only the stream. The chatbox action was also interesting at times, except for the inevitable trolls. Good job Justin.tv
1 point by zbruhnke 2 days ago 0 replies      
I watched most of the speakers on Justin.tv as well. What an incredible group of individuals. I wish I could have been there in person and there is no doubt I will be next year. It is amazing the impact YC has made in just 5 years. I hope you guys keep it up, you truly have a wonderful thing going all the way through. benevolence and kindness will surely pay off in cash as well for you guys (I think we all know it already has).

Kudos to PG and the YC team!

1 point by rumpelstiltskin 2 days ago 0 replies      
Anyone working on transcripts or summaries? Would love to pitch in.
1 point by scottyallen 2 days ago 0 replies      
Yes, thank you so much for doing this. The quality of both speakers and attendees was fantastic. It's really awesome to be surrounded by that many people that are as technical and as focused on building businesses as I am. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to attend.
1 point by jrockway 2 days ago 0 replies      
Perhaps off-topic question: how is HN traffic affected by Startup School? I want to see a traffic graph with each speaker's talk time marked ;)
1 point by stevederico 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks Jessica, pg, and team for such a wonderful opportunity. Great speakers and amazing people.
1 point by harscoat 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thanks for streaming the event
1 point by prostoalex 2 days ago 0 replies      
Thanks, the quality of the speakers (and talks, since I've heard a few of the speakers before) was immense.
1 point by SteveMorin 1 day ago 0 replies      
Thanks another great year at Startup School. The Airbnb after hours was good too.
       cached 19 October 2010 09:02:01 GMT