hacker news with inline top comments    .. more ..    3 Dec 2012 Ask
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Ask HN: Tell us how you hire
12 points by esharef  15 minutes ago   1 comment top
onewong 4 minutes ago 0 replies      
Interested to find out the results of this!
Ask HN: Review My Startup, UnloadYourCar.com
7 points by swagner11  3 hours ago   9 comments top 3
rct 1 hour ago 1 reply      
Hi, I've been researching the car buying space for several years and started the site RealCarTips.com. Here's my take on this:

There's currently a site called RollSale (http://rollsale.com) that's doing something similar to this.

There's also AutoTrade.com Trade-In Marketplace where you can get quotes for your trade-in (https://tradein.autotrader.com)

But the problem I see with this business model is that any quote you get from a dealer for a vehicle they haven't personally seen and inspected will not be a reliable bid.

They can always do a bait and switch after you bring the vehicle in. Now that they have you at the dealership, they can wear you down and convince you to drop the price due to "unforseen" issues. Perhaps the vehicle is not in the condition they expected, or there's some mechanical "issues" and they can't honor their original bid.

I don't know of any dealers that will absolutely guarantee a used car bid sight unseen (unless they bid way below market rate), which isn't good for consumers.

Not saying this business model won't work, it's just hard to get guaranteed bids.

Edit: I may have misunderstood the question, but I'm assuming this is a service where you try to sell or "unload" your car to a dealer.

dangrossman 3 hours ago 2 replies      
Simpler description: CarWoo (YC S09) for used cars. This is their business model, and there's certainly an opportunity to do the same with used cars. You should probably find out what dealers are paying CarWoo -- they'll likely move into the used car space too eventually.

All I see at unloadyourcar.com is a GoDaddy parking page.

eduardordm 2 hours ago 1 reply      
Unless you can fix how payment and financing works, it is extremely hard to sell or buy a car online.

This is why carwoo - as it is today - is doomed. Even after you have a deal, you still need to negotiate financing terms and that's when sales tactics come in. The same car can have many prices depending on which bank you choose, apr, etc.

People who pays cash for used cars are the minority.

Explaining why the same car can have many prices: Dealers also make money from banks. They get paid a small percentage of the loan presumed profit, the larger the profit (longer loans) the better. Dealers use that margin to negotiate.

Ask HN: Need a policy on log retention. Suggestions?
3 points by rubyrescue  1 hour ago   7 comments top 3
rubyrescue 1 hour ago 1 reply      
My company has built a social networking app that is growing very, very quickly. We have a LOT of data. We're trying to figure out what makes sense to keep - 30 days? 90 days? This is a mostly-anonymous social network so the idea of anonymity is important. Would less than 30 days be OK? Is there a legal guideline here? (i can't find one) In the absence of legal framework, what are best practices?

I say idea of anonymity because we don't prevent you from using personally identifiable information - but you're free to make up a username (or change it later) and the app doesn't show your exact location, IP address, guid, etc.

dfc 1 hour ago 1 reply      
The first thing you need to do is identify any legislative/regulatory requirements.

If you are unsure about your industry/jurisdiction maybe update the question with your relevant info.

paulsutter 1 hour ago 1 reply      
We aren't lawyers and you need to talk with one.
Ask HN: Why do we minify JavaScript, yet not HTML?
11 points by TazeTSchnitzel  7 hours ago   24 comments top 8
moocow01 4 hours ago 1 reply      
Because technically its not very sound. Examples of where "minifying" (removing whitespace) could go wrong if done across any served HTML document...

1) pre tags - being that pre tags take into account formatting, removing whitespace is going to alter how the content is rendered

2) any empty tags - its becoming a thing of the past but there are many instances where browsers will render a tag with a single space inside differently than a tag with nothing inside. In other words, space within a tag may be intentional by the developer.

3) spaces inside attributes may matter - you could have an attribute on an html tag that say is data-whatever="1 2\n 3" and potentially reducing those spaces could be bad - depends upon what the developer intended

Additionally there are some other things to consider...

1) GZIP if used will make the impact of scrubbing out whitespace almost nonexistent

2) Most HTML served is dynamic, meaning that the HTML compression will need to be run on every HTML response - this could have some performance negatives. (If your just compressing static HTML once it should be fine.)

tokenadult 6 hours ago 2 replies      
Who uses a text editor that inserts whitespace into HTML? I am aware that some editors like to show indentation levels in HTML code, for various reasons, but for me HTML code is always more readable if it has no extra whitespace at all. Whitespace is not meaningful in HTML, and I always set my text editor (I have used various brands of text editor over the years) so that my HTML output has no extra whitespace. Why use an editor that adds whitespace in the first place?

AFTER EDIT: TazeTSchnitzel asks a fair question. I put each new major element on a new line. In general, I try to make paragraphs look like paragraphs, headings look like headings, and so on, with just newline whitespace but without leading whitespace before elements (which has annoyed me for the last few weeks in a website updating project I was working on). Thanks for asking the clarifying question.

FURTHER EDIT: Yes, thanks for the statement that indentation shows nested structure (which is what I guessed is the usual rationale for extra whitespace in HTML code). Despite that obviously sensible practice (which, after all, leads to the MEANINGFUL white space in Python code), I have seen plenty of examples of HTML pages that have unmatched tags even though they have so much whitespace that the "view source" view of the page is mostly off to the right of my screen. Agreeing that being able to view source code structure is important, may I suggest that as one reason to like Notepad++ as one of the many editor choices available to persons who write code? In the recent project I worked on updating, the original programmers had left many unmatched tags and inconsistent structures in the code, and I was able to strip out all the extraneous code AND fix the structure by using Notepad++ to find (for example) the beginning and ending div elements surrounding big, complicated blocks of code. Notepad++ shows code structure with structure lines overlaid on the raw source code view.

bdfh42 7 hours ago 1 reply      
GZIP will compress your html for the journey from server to browser if a) it is enabled on the server and b) the browser can handle it.

Almost any modern combination should work fine.

OK - there is a cpu overhead for the server but if bandwidth is the issue then it sure beats any attempt at minifying the HTML

itsprofitbaron 7 hours ago 1 reply      
With the majority of websites, the content is changing the majority of the time which means the HTML has to be compressed after each change & sure they're are scripts to do this but in comparison, CSS/JS files are rarely changed " they're generally changed when a new feature/design is implemented.

Another reason is because, websites are becoming more dynamic & it's not very cacheable " CSS/JS are extremely cacheable. Since on every request you have the extra task of running minimization on the complete HTML of a webpage (especially if your website is dynamic and you're using a script to do this) and this is time you could have used to transfer data.

Moreover, there are other low hanging fruit that most websites need to tackle first " minimizing HTTP request, removing unnecessary images, minifying images, minifying & combining CSS/JS.

pestaa 7 hours ago 2 replies      
I love optimizing front-end including HTML outputs, even prematurely so. My sites are low-traffic and lightweight anyway, but for me this is a form of zen.
nickzoic 6 hours ago 0 replies      
Yeah, I like to minify the HTML as well ... most template engines have an "omit whitespace" option or flag which lets you do this.

Every now and then whitespace turns out to be significant though ... so you need to be slightly intelligent about how you handle it.

It is probably less relevant in HTML5 times where you are most likely just using a small bit of HTML to act as a "loader" for your Javascript, which then takes over. The JS and CSS files are, in this case, way bigger than the HTML.

mcs 6 hours ago 0 replies      
I've overloaded some functions in javascript templating functions before to regex out whitespace between tags.
Had some issues with cdata stuff, but it could be tweaked to perfection i'm sure.


salehenrahman 7 hours ago 1 reply      
I don't know about static sites. I would imagine to be very beneficial, in terms of bandwidth, to minify HTML.

But I once worked on a Facebook-like SaaS, and minifying HTML had huge performance hit on the back-end, since we used templates, not a proprocessor language such as Jade or HAML.

Ask HN: How effective is monthly "Seeking Work" post?
6 points by japhyr  6 hours ago   discuss
Ask HN: what was the worst life/programming choice you ever made?
13 points by nodemaker  13 hours ago   8 comments top 6
eduardordm 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Life: Taking too long to build my first company. Working as a H1B for one year in the US.

Programming: Ignored the benefits of testing for way too much time.

Rickasaurus 9 hours ago 1 reply      
Life: Not finishing college the first time around (I went back)

Programming: Thinking I could learn C++ architecture as I went and end up with a successful project.

nodemaker 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Life: coming back to india to start a company

Programming: Trying to create a framework that generates code.

taligent 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Life: Getting into Programming.
dragonbonheur 8 hours ago 1 reply      
Not to use pirated software to become better at programming. It was really a mistake.
Axsuul 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Trying to build my own framework with PHP.
Ask HN: What helps you produce code faster?
7 points by stevenameyer  9 hours ago   11 comments top 9
bartonfink 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Having a suite of unit tests I can rely on. It helps me avoid the paralysis that occurs when I wonder "what else might have been touched by this code I changed?" I can give that ? a couple minutes thought, write whatever changes I need, and then run the suite to see whether I missed anything. That factor more than almost anything else helps me write code quickly.
takacsv 1 hour ago 0 replies      
- no email
- no im
- no texting or phone calls

- knowing _exactly_ what I want to achieve, no exceptions (this doesn't include the how part but only the what part)
- repeatedly playing the same music for hours, closing out every noise that makes me think about anything else but the task
- not engaging in any other activities on the computer I'm working on before I start working because I find myself going back to those activities from time to time which is a huge distraction
- last but not least a bottle of water or a cup of tea

thelinuxkid 7 hours ago 0 replies      
- Chrome alarm extension to alert me when 1 hour of work has passed after which I get away from the computer for a few minutes.

- StayFocusd Chrome extension to prevent me from going into social networking sites while I'm working

- "...knowing that all the \"other stuff\" I have to do is done. Inbox clear, no meetings about to happen, etc."

- Knowing when I'm too tired to keep working efficiently

- Being away on IM/IRC except for work

- Keeping work conversations to IM/IRC as much as possible

- "...shutting out every around me. Headphones on, music loud." I prefer music without vocals, e.g., electro

- Using http://www.gunnars.com/ to minimize eye fatigue

- Knowing Emacs well to improve code editing speed

- Having unittests to validate my changes quickly

- Using screen or tmux to quickly switch between shells while maintaining a full screen for each...code, shell, unittests, Python shell, database shell

- Using Xmonad to quickly switch between Desktop workspaces while maintaining a full screen for each

- Avoiding the mouse as much as possible, even on the browser (Vimium extension)

- Using the ThinkPad nipple when I do have to use the mouse

- I don't use an external monitor at all. I find the constant neck motion to switch between them tiring and distracting. The combination of screen, Xmonad and Gnome notifications allows me the same application throughput with less distraction and without sacrificing screen space.

That's just off the top of my head. There's probably a lot more. Maybe I should write a blog post about it.

freework 4 hours ago 0 replies      
Motivation. If I'm motivated to get the work done, I will have razor focus. If the task is something someone else wants me to do (but I don't particularly want to do), then I won't be as motivated and it won't get done as fast.

Additionally, I don't like doing tedious things, so I always try to make whatever I'm doing as less tedious as possible. For instance, I'm supposed to get some feature working. The underlying code is very complex. Getting the feature working wil be very painful and tedious. If I can refactor the underlying codebase first, implementing the feature will be less tedious and more enjoyable. The problem is that sometimes my team mates don't want me refactoring code, so I'm forced to trudge through the complex code and it takes me a lot longer to do it that way.

philfreo 8 hours ago 0 replies      
For me, it's knowing that all the "other stuff" I have to do is done. Inbox clear, no meetings about to happen, etc.
ftwinnovations 7 hours ago 1 reply      
I use 5 monitors. I can't overstate the productivity edge this gives me, particularly for web and web/backend dev.
jamesjguthrie 8 hours ago 1 reply      
Old repeats of stuff like Friends or Scrubs on the TV and quiet everywhere else in the house helps me most.

If I have Spotify playing I end up always searching for the next song.

attheodo 8 hours ago 0 replies      
On the contrary, for me complete silence, dead-minimal desk and a piece of paper and a pen seem to work much better. I take programming as a serious task, I need to be 100% focused.
vanwilder77 9 hours ago 0 replies      
focusing on what needs to be get done! And breaking the things in small bits that can be achieved easily.

And well I mostly code in nights, so there arent much disturbances.

Ask HN: Autonomous drones; a solution?
4 points by contingencies  6 hours ago   5 comments top 2
angdis 4 hours ago 1 reply      
It is important to also consider whether or not these drones are actually effective, and what kind of response to they stimulate from the target.

As fancy as the technology is, these "precision" munitions are only as good as the intelligence on the other side of the joystick. A bomb landing on the wrong target acts a recruitment tool for the opposition. Moreover, sending a drone also indicates that one is not willing (or too cowardly) to send a human being.

A nice piece in Al Jazera makes a strong case against drones because of how the usage of these tools is perceived by the opposition (and the "collateral" damage): http://aje.me/tFAGe1

dragonbonheur 6 hours ago 1 reply      
Open source EMP bombs?
Ask HN: Adwords tips for a SaaS business
2 points by webbruce  4 hours ago   1 comment top
glasner 3 hours ago 0 replies      
Hard to say much without seeing the keywords you're running this ad against. I'd say the biggest problem is that the searcher has no idea what you do from your ad. For all they know you could be selling wholesale shirts. So #1 get your main benefit/feature up front and center.

Get Your Act Together
Cut Waste. Streamline Your Shop from
Your Browser. Start a Free Trial Today.

Obviously you have to play with it but that should send you in the right direction. It's all trial and error though. Good luck!

Ask HN: Which Programming Language To Build A Web App?
9 points by boy88  15 hours ago   7 comments top 6
thecoffman 11 hours ago 0 replies      
To me it all depends on other factors. If you're programming in a Windows environment then I'd pick ASP.NET MVC using C#. I've worked with it before and while I'm a Mac/Linux guy by trade, I found C# to largely be a pleasant language to work with.

If you're on a more traditional Linux stack, I find Ruby has the best ecosystem around web application development. Its not the best for everything (for instance Python tends to have better libraries for more advanced math and statistics work), but I think Ruby is the best for rapidly prototyping and building out a web application. The packaging system, ecosystem, and huge number of available libraries are killer features, and you can always switch to JRuby if concurrency becomes an issue.

If you build your application in the right way you can extract services and port them to Java or something more performant as needed if you hit the limits of a scripting language performance wise. This gives you a clear path forward as you need to grow and scale. Though a well constructed Ruby/Python/whatever app can scale fine if built well.

bdfh42 14 hours ago 0 replies      
JavaScript is going to be the thing at the client end whatever.

Otherwise the choice would best be decided by which language you are currently most familiar with - if you can't use that then use the one closest to that.

Course if you want to use ROR then the choice is made - indeed the choice of framework/platform might just make the decision for you.

In the end it is probably not worth getting too hung up about - just get started and ship some working code!

flexd 15 hours ago 1 reply      
What programming language to use entirely depends on several factors:

What languages to do you/the team have experience with?
What are the features of the web app? Realtime stuff? Single-Page App? Lots of IO?

I've lately preferred working with Node.js, and Ruby before that.

I know we use Python (with Pyramid) for a lot of internal things at work and the main website is made fully with Java.

The bigger websites of the world use many different languages.

Google seems to favour Python, Facebook uses PHP, Twitter used to use Ruby and now they are mostly Java (?).

So what language you use is not that important in my opinion, you just need to find one that fits your needs. I also prefer to use languages that have a good community around it, that way you can ask others :)

LoneWolf 11 hours ago 0 replies      
For web I prefer PHP or Java, for client side just JavaScript, but then that is because those are the two languages that I am more familiar with and know more about, in the end it will depend on language preference.
I would advice not going with Node, I have played with it but seems to be too hard to maintain on big projects. Speaking of that anyone has ever used Node on a large project? And how hard it is to maintain? I would like to know more opinions.
Never worked with Ruby so no advices for/against.
Python while nice I do not have much experience with it and none on the web, and I think I may never will, the forced indentation annoys me (yes I still like readable code, just don't like to care about it when writing).

I do not know how Java amount of libraries compares with Python or Ruby but it does seem to have a lot more.

jfaucett 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Ruby because the development cycle is blazing fast and once you reach a scale where it matters there's plenty of options.
Advice on making most from meetups (Bay area)
3 points by rgovind  10 hours ago   1 comment top
alphast0rm 9 hours ago 0 replies      
Yes, these things are most definitely helpful! You can start by preparing a short elevator pitch about your product if you are trying to interest/recruit other hackers. Also, don't be afraid to reach out for help when you need it or be outgoing in general--most people are very friendly and more than willing to go out of their way to help/teach if the requests are sincere and it's a great way to meet new friends or mentors. For meetups check out this month's meetup thread if you haven't already seen it:


Good luck :)

Ask HN: Are you alone in San Francisco on Thanksgiving?
468 points by MediaSquirrel  10 days ago   discuss
MediaSquirrel 10 days ago 2 replies      
Amazed by the turnout. What an awesome thanksgiving!


kloncks 10 days ago 1 reply      
This is beautiful and shows one of the coolest parts of a great community like Silicon Valley. Thanks for giving back, Matt.

I sincerely hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving!

blhack 10 days ago 1 reply      
It's only a 12 hour drive from Phoenix! I can make it!

(I'm kidding, that would put me in SF around 1:00am -- hanging out in the hackerspace with my girlfriend making stuff instead :) )

rgrieselhuber 10 days ago 0 replies      
Matt is one of the coolest people in the Bay Area and it is definitely worth spending the day with him if you're on your own today.
malandrew 10 days ago 0 replies      
Bummer. I kind of wish I hadn't agree to go to my gf's family's house. I would rather be nerding out.
louwhopley 10 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not in America, but would really like to know how many people actually asked to join you?

Happy Thanksgiving!

sixQuarks 10 days ago 2 replies      
Very nice of you! on a related note, I'm curious. SwigMe.com seems very interesting, but I would think there are a lot of legal loopholes you need to jump through, no? What happens when teenagers try to order and present a good fake ID at the door?
mladenkovacevic 10 days ago 0 replies      
Happy thanksgiving to you Yanks from the south. What I find cool is that you say you started your entrepreneurial jaunt at 29. I'm 30 and just taking step 0.23 in my self-employment scheme but I often feel like I'm maybe too old to be trying out for this particular team. It's encouraging that it seems it's never too late to just try building something. So thanks for that :)
bravura 10 days ago 0 replies      
Well done, Matt.

We haven't hung out in a while. Let's get together when I come to SF in January.

vlokshin 10 days ago 0 replies      
This is awesome. Kudos to you for posting, Matt.

I just moved to the city (it'll be 1 month tomorrow), but luckily I had great friends waiting for me who I'll be enjoying the evening with.

But the awesomeness of this post almost makes me want to join you regardless haha

zensavona 10 days ago 0 replies      
This is truly awesome, it's so nice to see that (although there is at times bickering) the HN community still is alive at heart.
hakaaak 9 days ago 0 replies      
Way to go! Good turnout, too!

It makes me sad that all the HN stuff typically appears to revolve around SF and SV area, though. I feel left out. I think the problem is that PG and YC are on that side of the world, and the rest of us get screwed. I'd like to see a map of IPs geoplotted for the last hour, last day, last week, month, year, all time for those hitting HN, those commenting, those with the most karma points, etc. I'd like to feel like it isn't all west coast U.S., NYC, and India.

chrisyeh 9 days ago 1 reply      
Matt is a mensch! Great to see you're continuing to fly the entrepreneurial flag.
shanelja 10 days ago 1 reply      
It's a shame this isn't the UK - I'm going to be alone for christmas this year and it would have been cool to spend it with like minded, kind people such as yourself and Gautam.
dmor 10 days ago 0 replies      
Awww Matt, happy thanksgiving - hope get to celebrate with you sometime!
maxwin 10 days ago 0 replies      
I am alone but not in SF. It is really nice of you. You are truly having a great Thanksgiving day.
macey 10 days ago 0 replies      
Awesome! That's really cool, Matt. Cheers to helping everyone get a little higher on Maslow's pyramid today.

On that note... Here's a link to donate to the SF food bank's holiday food drive.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

axyjo 10 days ago 1 reply      
I'm in Santa Clara, (so I won't be able to come up) but I'd like to help out. Any way I can chip in to the meal?
acoyfellow 10 days ago 0 replies      
You are awesome. Cheers from Pennsylvania!
onedev 10 days ago 0 replies      
Thank you so much for being an awesome human being. People like you are my motivation.
joshaidan 10 days ago 0 replies      
Let us know how many people show up!
simonebrunozzi 10 days ago 0 replies      
You're so nice Matt. Big hugs to you!

Sometimes I see random acts of kindness (like yours), and they still surprise me.

I bet every one of us did a few, and received a few.

SiVal 9 days ago 0 replies      
One more thing to give thanks for is people like you, Matt.
sown 10 days ago 1 reply      
Too bad it takes caltrain 1.5 hours to get up there from SJ. oh well. Thanksfor the offer and happy thanksgiving
richo 9 days ago 0 replies      
This is such an outrageously awesome thing that you have done.


jeremy_k 9 days ago 0 replies      
This was an awesome event! Just wanted to give a shutout to Matt for hosting all of us. It was great to meet tons of people from around the world who were all in the same position. It really made my day to know this community supports each other so much.
leemor13 10 days ago 1 reply      
Would take you up if I were down there! All the way up in Vancouver, BC but I'll take a raincheck :).
codex_irl 10 days ago 2 replies      
An especially happy Thanksgiving to anyone here from out of town or away from friends & family!
Credit_Swarm 10 days ago 0 replies      
That is super cool. Matt Mireles you have a big heart. You just earned a new customer for Swig
dcope 10 days ago 0 replies      
This doesn't apply to me but this is absolutely fantastic. It's great to see people with kind souls doing nice things.

Happy Thanksgiving.

jeduan 10 days ago 0 replies      
This is beautiful.

I had a short gig in SF earlier this year and finding this kindness would have definitely helped me make my stay there a more enjoyable experience.

Abrazos from Mexico City.

jmedwards 10 days ago 0 replies      
This is just plain nice. It's not often you get to say than on HN :)
flyingFlyer 9 days ago 0 replies      
Hope someday, when I visit Silicon Valley, you would host Thanksgiving too. Would love to join you then.

For Now, Happy Thanksgiving from Nepal :)

anandkulkarni 10 days ago 0 replies      
Classy move, Matt! Happy Thanksgiving.
freshbrewedmike 10 days ago 0 replies      
Hey Matt-

I just shot you an email- I'm staying near Height and Clayton, and this is my first Thanksgiving alone- How far is it to North Beach ?

betadreamer 9 days ago 0 replies      
Wow how nice of you. This is why I like HN especially after being pushed around in Walmart :P I would've ping if I was around SF.
schrodinger 10 days ago 0 replies      
You've gotta bring swig me to NYC! I'd use it!
mistrQ 10 days ago 0 replies      
Wow! I wish I was in SF. Hopefully someone as friendly as you will be doing this in London (UK) next year.
viraj_shah 10 days ago 0 replies      
Super cool man. Have a great holiday!
hjay 10 days ago 0 replies      
That's very nice of you, Matt. Wish I was near San Fran!
Have a great time nevertheless.
gabriels 9 days ago 0 replies      
Matt, thanks for the invite! Although I wasn't there this is really heartwarming :)
Xorlev 10 days ago 0 replies      
This is incredible. Great thing you're doing! How about that hospitality. :)
cicloid 10 days ago 0 replies      
This is by far a great gesture!

Kudos Matt!

imran 10 days ago 0 replies      
Although im not in san fransisco this post alone made my day!
mailshanx 10 days ago 0 replies      
An awesome gesture. Happy thanksgiving from Singapore!:)
jmd_akbar 9 days ago 0 replies      
I think it's people like you who give me hope about the future of humanity! :)

Thanks and Happy thanksgiving.

PS: I would totally drop by, if i wasn't living about 8000miles away! :D

prohan 10 days ago 1 reply      
Don't be lazzy make a language like Guido did
inspiredworlds 9 days ago 0 replies      
awesome idea! wish i could have made it (even though i'm in another part of the world)
arschles 10 days ago 0 replies      
Great gesture dude. Thanks for giving back.
messel 9 days ago 0 replies      
good show Matt, way to celebrate the holiday
Jngai1297 10 days ago 0 replies      
If only I am in San Francisco..... Have a great thanksgiving!
isacult 9 days ago 0 replies      
This is amazing. Kudos to you kind sir.
Goranek 10 days ago 0 replies      
nice marketing..but still remarkable offer
one big PLUS
Brainstorm with HN: Let's fix ridiculously expensive education
11 points by robinh  2 days ago   13 comments top 6
tokenadult 2 days ago 0 replies      
what do you think is the largest thing that needs serious improvement in education?

Being aware of what is possible. Most people, by my observation of online discussions, think their own education was pretty good, and it's the "other guy" who might possibly have a poor education. But it just might be (as I think, after living in more than one country) that a great many people, perhaps including me, have plenty more to learn that they COULD learn. Maybe the current system is underpeforming more than we imagine, and more than we CAN imagine after receiving the schooling we each received.

ikono 1 day ago 0 replies      
There's no doubt that there is a lot wrong with education in general but there's also a lot of great things about it too. The value of bringing together a large number of young, intelligent people with all kinds of interests is incredible.

In terms of what's wrong and suggestions for improvement, it's hard to know where to start. One big, doable change may just be more standardized testing. The price of education is simply a reflection of the fact that employers and students overvalue degrees. This leads to this perverse effect that causes people to enroll because they feel like they have to, not because they want to. The whole dynamic just seems to create an enormous amount of problems. Tying so much economic value to a college degree drives prices and attendance up and the effectiveness and true value of education down.

byoung2 2 days ago 0 replies      
It's eerie that you posted this just a few minutes before I posted this: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4856307

One thing that I think is missing from both online education and education at the university is personalization. At UCLA, I sat in lecture halls with hundreds of students, and we all got the same words. It would be nice to sign up for the lecture from the professor who makes movie analogies instead of sports analogies. Or maybe I prefer a professor who writes on the board instead of using a powerpoint.

As a Kaplan instructor (SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT), I would explain a question differently depending on the student. Was this a student who had pacing problems? I might emphasize elimination strategies or guessing intelligently. Was it a student who consistently fell for trap answers? I'd advise them to try to think like the test maker and anticipate the traps. The best part about online classes is that you can capture this data pretty easily. But so far, no one is using it to deliver a more personal online learning experience.

Mz 2 days ago 0 replies      
I think what you mean is credentialling, not "grading". Education and credentials only loosely overlap. My understanding of history is that this credentials vs education thing is a long standing problem. I don't foresee it ever really being resolved.

I would love to use the Internet as a means to educate people. I am still trying to figure out how. Among other things, I would like to create a simulation (aka "game"). That's a longstanding dream. I have done things like start a design doc, but sometimes it seems like the dreams I have are impossible dreams.

Effectively reaching your target audience is the big challenge. I think it only gets bigger with the Internet because of the huge diversity of people online.

mvleming 2 days ago 3 replies      
Both of my parents are educators (one is a teacher, the other a principal), and so they raised me believing that education is important. And I've been so fortunate in this regard. Yet, despite this, my education has been a great source of stress and frustration in my life. I've been in both the public and private school systems. I've been homeschooled. I've received credits from online.

And so, I've thought a lot about how we can fix the current education system. I have one simple answer for you: have the students pay a percentage of their salary after they graduate. That's it. Not a tuition, a percentage.

What would this change? Oh my god so much!

The universities would have an incentive to get their students jobs. The students wouldn't have to get loans. And those who normally couldn't afford the tuition could go to university now.

In one full swing, this business model would reduce unemployment, national debt, and poverty. But you're also creating an incentive for the universities to innovate. I can just see something like A/B Testing being set up. "Okay. So are you telling me students who take the general courses do not earn more than the student's who don't? Get rid of these courses!"

I came up with this one sentence a while that I think best describes where we are today with education:

As more and more information gets documented and distributed freely, the role for the classroom to inform the student becomes less and less relevant.

We're in very interesting times.

sonabinu 2 days ago 1 reply      
I think there should be a clear distinction between learning for getting a job and learning to enhance your knowledge.
Ask HN: How do you write great sentences, paragraphs, or articles?
130 points by ekpyrotic  7 days ago   78 comments top 44
zedshaw 7 days ago 5 replies      
Try this out:

1. Get the book "Adios Strunk And White". Strunk And White is a horrible book to learn how to actually write English well. It's full of contradictions, has some bad grammar in it, doesn't follow its own advice, and tries to make English a proscriptive language rather than dynamic like it is. The Adios book basically breaks you out of the S&W mode of thinking and gets you thinking about different forms and techniques you can practice without being proscriptive.

2. Do object writing every day. There's a site http://objectwriting.com/ that has some, but you can also hit http://wordnik.com/random to get a random work. You then try to write for 10 minutes about or with that word using all your senses, including your kinetic and sense of self.

3. Blog something every day. Doesn't matter what it is but spend at least 30 minutes writing about something.

4. Learn about story structure. A good book is "The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller" and should fit the coder mind really well. Another book is Joseph Cambell's "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" to learn core mythical story structures.

5. Study subtext and context. If this paragraph is about what to study, the subtext is that I think most programmers can't write for shit because they're too logical, and the context is I'm telling people this on hacker news. Universally I find programmers terrible at both subtext and context of the written word.

6. Spend all the rest of your time learning to not censor yourself so that you have a voice that's yours, not the voice you think you should have.

7. Margaret Atwood had the best advice about being blocked. Paraphrased it's, "Blockage is either a problem of voice or structure. If it's voice, change who's telling the story. If it's structure, change the opening scene." She's damn right, but what do you expect from Margaret Atwood? Shitty advice?

8. Try writing in one form as if it's another. For example, write prose like it's poetry. Write poetry like its prose.

9. Get better at describing or saying the absurd. Stare at something and then describe it from unique points of view or in bizarre ways.

10. Keep a notebook and write down every idea you have, then try to make it happen. Also a great thing for songs and poems. I should actually do this more.

There ya go.

austingunter 7 days ago 4 replies      
As a person whose core skillset is writing, not programming, I feel more qualified to comment on this particular HN thread than most others which I prefer to demure on.

I love the question about how to write well. It's the craft I've dedicated my life to, and I'm grateful to see a group of really smart people investing time in the skill. It validates the effort I've poured into becoming the writer I am today. Particularly since I've chosen to be a writer in the startup community, which sometimes makes me feel singled out or awash in a sea of programmers :-)

To start, writing is often broken down into discrete rules like Grammar and Syntax as well as Word Choice and Sentence Length, all of which could be summed up as the overall Style of a particular piece of writing. I love the Nabokov quote below because he's one of the all-time greats, and although Hemingway is my favorite author of all time, the critique of leaving things out is valid. One of the supposedly set-in-stone commandments of writing, particularly for the web is to focus on brevity above all else because the audience is presumed to have the attention span of a gnat, particularly when Mark Zuckerburg's mind-melding software is constantly clamoring for your attention and mental processing power...but I digress.

My approach as a writer is to place all of the stylistic and grammatical elements of writing in a distant second place to a thorough understanding of your audience. Understanding who you need your app's content to connect with is the only thing that matters, and will give you all the data you need to write grammatically, and choose the right words, or use synonyms. To put another way, writing is just communication. Good writing only means communicating effectively.

Understanding your audience tells you which rules of grammar your audience don't care about and that you can therefore break.

Have you ver read a sentence on a website that ended a sentence with a preposition and wondered what the hell the writer was on?

Of course, I'm singling out poor grammar in the previous sentence as a way to make a point. I broke a rule simply as a tactic to get your attention, and then point out that if I've got your attention, then my writing style was effective. I can only get your attention if I know what you're paying attention to, because I've done the work to deeply understand what motivates you.

HackerNews is largely a developer audience. Developers are a detail-oriented bunch, and I take that into account whenever I post here. In the above example, by making a calculated error and hiding it in the middle of several paragraphs, I'm essentially leaving my message hidden in plain sight, because I know that most of my readers on this post have spent hours in front of their computers paying attention and even exploiting tiny details as they bend software to their will.

Yep, leaving a preposition at the end of the sentence is grammatically incorrect, and even grates on most people who are detail-oriented for a living. But that actually makes it effective.

If I were writing this the same way I wrote my honors thesis on the Pick-Up Artist Community, I wouldn't have left a single preposition hanging out there. Different audience. My style had to reflect the purpose.

Your style and your message are affected by the following things, in the following order:

1) Your audience - Perform a customer development, or what I call "rhetorical analysis" on your audience to get into their heads. Survey them to develop a profile of who they are and how they want to communicate with them. This is why Ramit Sethi of iwillteachyoutoberich.com is constantly surveying his lists. He finds patterns of language in the responses and uses them in product development and marketing.

2) Your communication medium - Use words differently in email than on Twitter. Write your blog posts differently than your white papers. Consider the constraints of the communication medium and learn to exploit them. For example, Twitter's 140 characters means certain grammar rules are expected to be broken. But there are rules about breaking those rules as well. "U wont git far if u luv 2 tweet lik dis."

3) Your communication mode - a fancy way of analyzing the "genre" of your communication. Basically, what's the feel or the sense of your communication. Different modes in literature are poetry and prose. Different modes in startups are the mode used when you ask for an introduction as when you develop your business plan.

4) Your goals with each communication - what do you actually want to accomplish, and then how can you approach that goal in such a way that it will resonate deeply with your audience, fit into the given medium, and be in line with the context and reader expectations of the communication mode?

Before I sit down to write anything, I mentally (or literally on paper) do a rhetorical analysis of my audience, the medium, and my goals. Here's what I came up with for this comment on HN.

Audience: Hackers, entrepreneurs, startup folks, wantrapreneurs, highly intelligent, subtle, intensely focused and motivated to read long pieces IF they are learning something, LEARNING is a primary motivator, Opinionated and reality-based so high need to provide specific examples to general rhetorical principles, detail-oriented from years of writing code, or simply by birth.

Medium: HackerNews forums. Highly trafficked, vibrant discussions, sometimes full of intense disagreements, an appropriate forum for a larger comment, ONLY if every word is carefully chosen. Brevity would be preferred, but long-form prose will be tolerated if writer managed to be interesting and informative along the way.

Mode: Deductive reasoning, dry and analytical, ethos of "sharing" and "contribution" over "self-aggrandizement" or "self-promotion." Smart, accomplished people sharing what they've learned over the years, contributing insight to the community in one giant effort to support one another's growth. Sometimes hostile to marketing or sales. Beware of trolls...

My goals: To share my strategy to be successful at my craft with a group of fellow startup folks who I admire and am motivated to spend time around. To add my own life experience to the mix in hopes of helping someone become a better writer. To increase my own visibility and prominence in the group over time, and develop a good reputation in the long term. To feel smart (not relevant to writing effectively, but shared in the spirit of honesty).

I could keep writing about this, apparently, since my ideas keep flowing, but this is a monster post already, so I want to simply thank you all if you've managed to read this far. I hope we can talk more in the comments.

diiq 7 days ago 0 replies      
When I write a sentence, I use five stone questions1.

  Does it say what you mean?
Can it be clearer?
Can it more closely match overall tone?
Can it be made more novel?
Can it be made more beautiful (prosody)?

The five priorities at which the questions aim are meaning, clarity (which includes brevity), tone, novelty (avoiding cliche), and prosody (and other aesthetics).

When I've first drafted a sentence, I start from the top of the list, and ask these questions in turn. Asking them forces me to think about an answer; it prevents laziness. As soon as the answer to question suggests a possible change, I make that change, and start again from the top. I repeat until time constraints force me onward.

This is a great process, because if I have very little time, I end up concentrating only on meaning. If I have all the time in the world, I get to also play with the sound of the words, and the play of the tongue.

Questions about meaning, clarity, tone, novelty, and beauty can also be fruitfully applied at paragraph and treatise levels; but my greatest concern is usually for the sentence.

1. http://diiq.org/five_stone_questions.html

c0riander 7 days ago 1 reply      
In high school, I was lucky to have multiple teachers who were sticklers for imparting the essential building blocks of strong writing. We spent a lot of time "in the weeds," rote-learning vocabulary, sentence patterns, paragraph construction, and finally, structures for the expository essay (above and beyond the academic essay we mastered in school.)

The surprising thing, even to someone like me who considers herself a good writer to begin with, was how important working through each "level" of writing was. While I haven't reviewed the foundations in a long time (I probably should), because I spent so much time painstakingly memorizing the contents of each earlier on, I can now write quickly and confidently and usually be pretty close to correct.

Here are some books I'd recommend for each level:

1) Vocabulary - Wordly Wise (the older the version of the book, the better the word lists), such as here: http://www.amazon.com/Wordly-Wise-Book-Kenneth-Hodkinson/dp/...

2) Sentence structure - The Art of Styling Sentences, http://www.amazon.com/The-Styling-Sentences-K-D-Sullivan/dp/...

3) Paragraph construction - Paragraphs and Essays (the part on paragraph construction and patterns is very straightforward, basic, and clear, I don't think it's worth buying the whole book though), http://www.amazon.com/Paragraphs-Essays-With-Integrated-Read...

4) Expository essays - Encounters: Essays for Exploration and Inquiry (this is the textbook NYU uses to teach "Writing the Essay"), http://www.amazon.com/Encounters-Exploration-Inquiry-Pat-Hoy...

danso 7 days ago 0 replies      
You already covered "favour the concrete over the abstract" but I do think "show, don't tell" can't be reiterated enough.

The biggest problem I find when editing other people's writing is the use of redundant assertions, e.g. "The Acme App is blazingly fast", when factual statements will do: "In the same time it took for CompetitorApp to load, the AcmeApp had already performed 2 qunitpleflops of foos"

A harmful side effect of the "tell" approach is the huge amount of time people spend thesaurus-hacking: trying to find different adjectives to say the same thing, over and over.

I know your question is about overall coherency and flow, but unfortunately many writers fail at the basic general rules, which makes it difficult to polish the body of writing as a whole.

For a practical step, I suggest writing the entirety of the piece without adjectives, and perhaps without concern for transitions. If the writing is nonsensicial or uninteresting in its barest form, then the writer should focus on better content. The style is easy to add later.

jasonshen 7 days ago 0 replies      
Write a lot. While it sounds obvious, the fact is that most people find ways to avoid doing the hard work of actually writing. Ideally the writing is public, but better to write in private than not at all.

Read good writing. You need to develop good taste and good taste is developed and refined by reading good writing. Publications like The New York Times, The Atlantic, Harvard Business Review and Esquire have distinct and powerful voices worth studying. Same goes for pg's essays, Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Cal Newport.

Edit and revise. I used to hate revising my work. One and done was my motto. But I've learned that it's only through numerous revisions that great writing is born. There's usually opportunity to 2x your writing in the revisions.

Write for your reader. While all writing is in some form, an exercise for the ego, strive as much as possible to write for the benefit of your reader. Remember that they are here to be informed, entertained and moved - focus on doing that and like a compass you'll always move toward great writing.

Good luck!

spenrose 7 days ago 4 replies      
Here is a well-reviewed book on this topic:


From the editorial reviews:

"Telling me to 'Be clear,' " writes Joseph M. Williams in Style: Toward Clarity and Grace, "is like telling me to 'Hit the ball squarely.' I know that. What I don't know is how to do it." If you are ever going to know how to write clearly, it will be after reading Williams' book, which is a rigorous examination of--and lesson in--the elements of fine writing.

verdverm 7 days ago 3 replies      
The article "The Science of Scientific Writing" (www.unc.edu/~haipeng/teaching/sci.pdf) forever change my writing.

It's writing for the unconscious psychology of the reader's expectations. It also has a great list of points to keep in mind while writing.

1. Follow a grammatical subject as soon as possible with its verb.

2. Place in the stress position the "new information" you want the reader to emphasize.

3. Place the person or thing whose "story" a sentence is telling at the beginning of the sentence, in the
topic position.

4. Place appropriate "old information" (material already stated in the discourse) in the topic position
for linkage backward and contextualization forward.

5. Articulate the action of every clause or sentence in its verb.

6. In general, provide context for your reader before asking that reader to consider anything new.

7. In general, try to ensure that the relative emphases of the substance coincide with the relative
expectations for emphasis raised by the structure.

mseebach 7 days ago 0 replies      
There are a number of tools available, but as with programming, it's primarily a question of being able to recognize great writing. Once you can recognize great writing, you can more or less just iterate: 1) Write 2) Is it great? (yes) Done (no) Go to 1.

Bad programmers can't recognize good or bad code, so they stop once it works. Same for bad writers.

qeorge 7 days ago 1 reply      
Buy Dragon Naturally Speaking and start dictating. You can pump out an amazing amount of words when you don't have to write them down.

Then edit your giant pile of words into something better, instead of starting from a blank page.

The more you "write" the better you'll get. This is a hack for writing faster so you can speed up your progress.

ot 7 days ago 0 replies      
For an ironic take on rhetorical devices have a look at this blog (in particular the older posts):


Each post is an example of a writing technique... overdone. I find it brilliant in how it manages to be hilarious and insightful at the same time.

gdubs 7 days ago 0 replies      
Use short sentences. And break traditional rules. Like using "and" or "but" at the beginning of a sentence. Favor verbs. Avoid superfluous adjectives.

Paragraphs can be brief.

Bring people into your writing, wherever possible. That is, express your ideas through relatable stories involving people, wherever possible.

Many of these tips were yanked from Cliff Stoll, author of "The Cuckoo's Egg". As well as a book called, "The Art of PlainTalk", by Rudolph Flesch. Stoll was responding to criticism that his first book had been ghostwritten -- few could believe the guy could actually write.

Lastly, write frequently. A writing teacher of mine used to have us "free write" every morning for fifteen minutes. That's where you start writing about the first thing that pops in your head, and you don't stop writing until the time is up. Give it a try.

wildranter 7 days ago 0 replies      
Jakob Nilsen guarantees that if you don't follow these rules only your mom will read your text.

- Use words that make sense to your audience.

- Convey one idea in each paragraph.

- Introduce the paragraph's idea in the first sentence so people can quickly decide whether to read the paragraph.

- Use meaningful headings.

- Highlight keywords.

- Use bullet lists.

- Keep text short, simple, and informal.

- Start text with conclusions, and include a summary of its content.

irahul 7 days ago 0 replies      
Basic writing advice:


Macro structure:


Though it inclines towards fiction, I find it useful with non-fiction as well.

yolesaber 7 days ago 0 replies      
Just like with coding, improving your wordcraft is a two-fold process: read and write. If you are reading a lot of quality work from various genres (articles, blog posts, short stories, journalism, poetry et al), you will be constantly learning new words, sentence structures, phrasings, all the tools of writing. Then, by writing a lot you will be able to put these new techniques to use and figure out what works best with your particular approach to writing. I learned to write effective fiction and poetry (I've been published in literary magazines and been invited to read at several events) by close-reading all my inspirations and then practicing writing in their style. Once I got a feel for what made Reverdy "Reverdy", I was able to approach my own work in the same manner which results in magnitudes of improvement.

It is also imperative to constantly be rereading your older work, not only as a measure to see how much you've improved but also as a way to reinforce positive progress. If I can read an article from a few months ago that I wrote and not want to close the browser window immediately, then I consider that a worthy article and it boosts my confidence.

That being said, I have found that flow-charting ideas is good for building up the structural integrity of a piece, especially if it is more on the analytic side. You have assertions (themes, viewpoints) and then linkages between them (facts, observations). By building a flow-chart you can see how they weave and if your implications make sense. A visual overview is very helpful in this regard. It keeps your writing tight and succinct. Again, this is just a personal opinion - the writing process is a difficult and stressful one because there really are no universal "tricks" or approaches to quality, worthwhile work.

pdog 7 days ago 0 replies      
Vladimir Nabokov, whose prose style ranks among the best, said: “Style and structure are the essence of a book; great ideas are hogwash.”

The vast majority of writers and bloggers today use a truncated writing style (perhaps reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway or Raymond Carver).

You can present your ideas like this, clearly and coherently, but the best essays and articles do something more than just articulate ideas.

e12e 7 days ago 1 reply      
The best single source I've come across that helps with writing, is "On Writing Well":


It has plenty of examples and advice on various types of writing.

Beyond that, my advice is to simply read good texts. One starting point would be:


Or, for something newer:


While doing a quick search, I also came across this:


Which seems to be a great starting point.

wallflower 7 days ago 0 replies      
Writing can be dissected analytically but there is always a component of emotional appeal that makes writing connect.

One of the best examples I can think of is the story of Sugru:


To practice writing with emotional appeal, I suggest you practice public speaking. For instance, go to a public forum like a lecture or zoning board meeting where there is a formal Q&A period (with a microphone set up). Listen to the discussion/lecture and wait in line for the mic and attempt to articulate an argument/point of view that is short and draws on a personal story and makes a point.

I also recommend Stephen King's "On Writing"


Good luck!

Tycho 7 days ago 0 replies      
Avoid starting sentences with the same word as a nearby sentence, and paragraphs with the same letter as a nearby paragraph.

Don't make sentences too long. Just start a new one.

Learn how to transpose matter-of-fact statements/paragraphs into witty or memorable text by juxtaposing tones or images on what the reader was expecting. See Michael Lewis's books for an example, or Charles Stross's blog (antipope.org).

brudgers 7 days ago 1 reply      
Short answer, I usually don't.

Longer answer, the more I write on HN the better my writing probably becomes because I get feedback from "my" audience in the form of comments and votes.

Over the past week, I read And So It Goes, a biography of Kurt Vonnegut. He spent fifteen years as a full time writer before Slaughterhouse Five was published. He had been writing press releases for GE before that. He had written for his campus newspaper while in college. He had worked for news bureau. It didn't come overnight.

I don't know much about writing well, but writing better is hard work. I suspect that the 10,000 hour rule applies. When reading PG's latest essay, keep in mind that he has been a published author for nearly twenty years.

Good luck.

QuantumGood 6 days ago 0 replies      
An argument must be coherent to the writer too! That often means getting clear on what your most compelling point is.

So it's worth knowing about this phenomenon:

Typically, once a writer warms to their topic, they make their most compelling point. You need to find that point and move it to the beginning of your writing, usually the headline.

For newer writers, it often occurs somewhere around the third paragraph. (Some writing coaches will simply have you delete everything you wrote before that, and open with it.)

For more emotional writers, or folks who are worked up about their topic, it often occurs very near the end.

For experienced writers failing to put their main point in the headline it's in the first sentence or paragraph.

Some writers get used to this phenomenon, write freely, and then simply remove most of what they've written once they realize they're onto their most compelling point.

Read a lot of blog posts, and you'll be amazed how many writers make this oversight, usually consistently in the same way. Learn your own pattern, and you'll learn to find your most compelling point.

rezendi 7 days ago 0 replies      
Bona fides / credibility: I'm an award-winning novelist and occasional journalist. (Though I'm also a TechCrunch columnist, which presumably cripples my credibility if you're a knee-jerk hater of all things TC...)

The single best way to improve your writing is to read a lot of great writing. For nonfiction, I recommend, in particular:

- George Orwell
- John McPhee
- Ryszard Kapuscinski
- Gail Collins

The second best way to improve your writing is to learn how to see what is wrong with it. (Or, as Hemingway once said, "The one thing a writer needs most is a first-rate bullshit detector.") Don't focus on writing well, at least not at first. Focus on learning how to read like a first-time reader, and on _editing_ well. In time the writing will follow.

antidoh 7 days ago 0 replies      
Put your absolutely most important point at the top.

Make your words, sentences, paragraphs and articles as short and simple as possible. People don't read, they skim.

(Where you used "reiterates," I would have used "repeats" or "gives.")

Read what you write, and move your lips when you do it. A good sentence sounds good.

ams6110 7 days ago 1 reply      
Get a copy of The Elements of Style. It's like K&R for writing. Then practice. Join a local writing group. Write essays. Keep a journal. Write letters to the editor or guest columns for the local paper. Blog. Etc. Like anything else, the way to learn something is to do it.

Edit: also read a lot, and try to identify writing that resonates with you, and then work out why that is.

idupree 7 days ago 0 replies      
Practice writing that has an observable effect. For example, write Facebook statuses and see who "likes" or "comments" on them. Think about how you write emails and to whom. See what styles and contents tend to be effective. Try different variations.

(Don't draw conclusions too soon; there is a lot of random variation in responses.)

Also I agree with what everyone else recommends. But, in my experience, there's no substitute for these real-world experiments that appear in my day-to-day life.

aidian 7 days ago 0 replies      
Read all the time; write all the time.

As far as 'process', play with different stuff and find what works for you. I find it does help to outline a bit -- but only in the most informal way. I edit better on paper. Hunter Thompson actually typed The Great Gatsby to get a feel for Fitzgerald's rhythms. Fuck around until something fits.

Edit your copy ruthlessly. I will routinely change 90% of my copy between first and final drafts.

Keep your audience in mind: who you're writing for should affect every word.

Write as tight as possible.

doctorpangloss 7 days ago 0 replies      
For the NYTimes, I write about tech history and history of science. I see 3 common problems with "startup" writing, i.e., the language of young college males:

1. Do not condescend. I immediately broke this rule above"it gets attention, but it doesn't convince. E.g., tweet-length commentary about complex subjects is condescending.

2. Delete rhetoric.

3. Graphics are a good hook, but they rarely explain anything.

Petrushka 7 days ago 1 reply      
KISS. Too much writing in the non-fiction world, whether it be academic, scientific, or related to business, is far too complex for its own good. This is seemingly to overwhelm, to simultaneously weed out and impress those who are not deeply versed in the subject, but in almost no cases is that a positive development. For academia and science, the point of your work should be to encourage knowledge and learning, which complex language in no way helps. In business, the last thing you want to do is assume a level of expertise from a customer, except in very specific and rare circumstances.

I am aware that there are certain fields and types of works that have to use difficult phrasing and structure for the purpose of limiting ambiguity, but often such writing is found in cases where such strictness is not necessary. So, Keep It Simple, Stupid.

P.S. - Not trying to be rude, but your initial post is a great example of writing at a more complex level that is in anyway necessary. Micro- and macrostructure, the usage of an undefined and unnecessary acronym in USP? It doesn't matter whether it is a safe assumption that your audience knows what you are talking about, as you never know when that audience may shift without your knowledge.

teeja 6 days ago 0 replies      
A couple of non-fiction ideas I recall from my (very enjoyable) freshman writing class. Consider as rules-of-thumb.

* Write about what you enjoy writing about. If you're bored it'll probably rub off on readers.

* Begin with a summary of where you're going. (Here's where your hooks go.) This is where you remind yourself what you aim to say ... and, coincidentally, your readers.

* Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence. Readers can then scan for interests. We've all got too much to read.

* Memorize Strunk and White. Clear, concise, to the point. Cut out the fat and cut to the chase.

* Notice which writers capture your attention and leave you glad you read them. Learn by tearing apart how they did it. Notice which writers are gasbags ... and tear apart what they're doing wrong.

* When you're done, stop.

ctdonath 7 days ago 1 reply      
Read Stephen King's "On Writing", the chapter "Toolbox".

Stick to the point. People read in soundbites, so don't squander what little time you have their attention.

Don't repeat words, use synonyms.

orangethirty 7 days ago 0 replies      
You mean how to become a good copywriter? Learn how to sell first. Then its easy as pie.
pmb 7 days ago 0 replies      
Make every sentence work with the whole in moving the reader towards your intended goal.
Kroem3r 7 days ago 0 replies      
Avoid cliches. A cliche being a phrase that is familiar but content-free or even contradictory. Like, "I don't mean to be a jerk, but ..."

This helps tune your focus on making each word participate in creating meaning in the head of your reader.

Also, avoid creative analogies.

Someone 7 days ago 0 replies      
I often use "write it down. Now, edit it so that you have the same content in half the words. Then, repeat that" to make my writing more coherent. A 75% reduction may not be attainable, but aiming for it makes you think about what you want to say and what not, and gets rid of words and phrases that do not provide content.
stevewilhelm 7 days ago 1 reply      
Macro advise: read a lot of material similar to what you hope to write. Write a lot, you only get better with practice. Collaborate with a good editor.

Books: The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, Shertzer's The Elements of Grammar, and Strunk and White's The Elements of Style.

mkr-hn 7 days ago 0 replies      

You get better at a craft by doing it until you're good enough to know what you're missing. You'll know what kind of tips to look for at that point.

ph0rcyas 7 days ago 0 replies      

  Give up pursuing eloquence, unless
You can speak as you feel! One's very heart
Must pour it out, with primal powers address
One's hearers and compel them with an art
Deeper than words. Clip and compile, and brew
From the leavings of others your ragout
Of rhetoric, pump from your embers
A few poor sparks that nobody remembers!

fidanov 5 days ago 0 replies      
Read successful blogs, books and marketing sites and look how they use words and sentences. Then write, write and write again. Each new sentence your write, the better you will become. There is no shortcut to learn this.
TreyS 7 days ago 0 replies      
Here's a great guide to writing clearly/concisely:


rhizome 7 days ago 0 replies      
Step 1: Don't use unexpanded acronyms or anything like "USP."
bobinator30 7 days ago 0 replies      
there are many thoughtful and useful long responses to this question, but I would like to paraphrase the advice my best writing teacher gave me:

to write well, do as much reading and writing as you can.

handstad 7 days ago 0 replies      
You should read the book by Barbara Minto named "The Minto Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing, Thinking and Problem Solving." See http://www.barbaraminto.com/textbook.html
evanx 7 days ago 0 replies      
i go with the "less or more" - it might not have more information per se, but more people will read more of it

can you express the same idea using less words for the sentence in question?

can you eliminate or combine sentences/paragraphs to still get the essential point across ?

sacrifice some extra information for the sake of clearer focus

having said that, i like to add non-essential information which is humourous - to keep the reader entertained and engaged

bawjaws 7 days ago 0 replies      
Read great novels of all era's.

Also, cultivate good email relationships with people from far away that you love and respect.

Share your weekend/part-time startup (December 2012)
26 points by withinthreshold  14 hours ago   59 comments top 34
scrumper 12 hours ago 0 replies      
I recently shipped WOPR, a subtractive polyphonic synthesizer with an embedded Game of Life grid. The GoL modulates the various parameters in time with an internal (or now, external) clock. It's for iPad 2 and up. I started it a year ago to learn a bit more about iOS and DSP. It had 9 months of sporadic evening & weekend development over a very busy year, with a 3 month hiatus over the summer.

It's had pretty decent reception so far. Beer money only, but enough that I could have a few every day if I wanted to! It's done better than I ever thought it would; I think because no musician can ever resist another synth.

Subsequent versions will increase in price as more features are added. Right now I'm working on a huge v1.2 upgrade with a ton of stuff people have requested.


herval 1 hour ago 0 replies      
DailyCrunch (http://dailycrunch.mobi) - a "Flipboard for the Kindle".

Building it "to scratch my own itch" of having something to read on the subway and getting rid of the "infinite streams of news" devices such as the iPad suck you into.

Still pretty alpha, but everyone's welcome and feedback is appreciated :-)

codesink 12 hours ago 1 reply      
I made AppLens (formely AppSnap) a iphone app that lets you install any other iphone app by taking a picture of its icon (on other phones or laptop screens or anything else).

It's a free app + ads, most of its users are from china and japan.

Money-wise definitely not an hit!

I spent quite a bit on time to develop the backend part (in C) and optimized it to query 3mil icons in few ms on a commodity server (cheap).


lazerwalker 12 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm working on Scribe, web-based sheet music notation software for songwriters and composers. Right now the public-facing URL is just a landing page, but if you ping me (contact info in profile) I'd be happy to give you access to the prototype.


WalterGR 13 hours ago 0 replies      
http://offensivest.com/books/ ranks the most vulgar English books. The books are from a DVD released by Project Gutenberg. The offensiveness scores for individual words and word phrases come from votes cast by visitors to The Online Slang Dictionary (http://onlineslangdictionary.com/).

It desperately needs an "About" page describing the data and the methodology.

Later, I hope to expand the number of books we analyze and also analyze other forms of media.

kaffeinecoma 11 hours ago 0 replies      
Two related projects:

1. https://github.com/armhold/ocarina - a Ruby gem for doing simple OCR.

2. http://wordhelper.net/contact - helps you win at Letterpress. Uses my OCR library to find playable words on the board. Have only tested it on an gameboards generated on an iPhone 5.

I created the first project just to see if I could write a simple OCR library (yay, I can!) I created Wordhelper mostly to find a practical use for Ocarina.

sagey 14 hours ago 2 replies      
(Just posted on HN) my new (ad)venture http://songsasaservice.com the idea is every week people submit suggestions for a song subject (and a bid) and within one week the winning bidder will receive an original song written on the subject. The idea is based on a little 10 week challenge I set myself earlier in the year. This time I thought I'd try and generate some revenue of it :) and use it as an opportunity to create the most minimal MVP ever, whilst simultaneously learning a minimum about python/ appengine and using existing web services to minimise my workload (e.g. Gumroad, soundcloud, appengine, bootstrap). Hope you like it?
Nemmie 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Not really a start-up, but some things I've been working on, mostly in an attempt to get in the habit of shipping stuff opposed to writing.

1. Kill long meetings (http://killlongmeetings.com/). Counts the time and calculates the money you're spending in a meeting.

2. Where to pee in Antwerp (http://antwerp-wheretopee.apphb.com/). The city of Antwerp (Belgium) has opened up some of its data. This mobile web app get all the toilets in Antwerp and sorts them by distance. Shows that the browser is already capable of running these sort of apps; beats building 3 native apps.

3. Culture in Antwerp (http://antwerp-culture.apphb.com/). Also for the city of Antwerp. This is just a POC which should show that their current site (http://www.antwerpen.be/eCache/ABE/80/34/031.html) is visually very unattractive.

kaffeinecoma 12 hours ago 2 replies      
In pursuit of a casual passive income generator, I've been working on a meme creator. It uses HTML5 canvas rather than Flash. I'm only a weekend or so into it, but would appreciate any constructive feedback.


RyanZAG 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Experiment on making a browser/android-based MMO using GWT to offload a lot of heavy processing to the client (and save on those pricey cloud cpu charges)


General idea is that each player controls a bunch of soldiers that they can equip and give battle tactics to (flank, use abilities, etc). Battles get auto-resolved with a nice graphical replay (you can check out an early version of that by clicking the bottom right button on the page), so anybody can attack anybody else on the map regardless of whether they're 'online' or not.

Currently coding up a stock exchange based economy for the game so that there are caravans moving between cities for players to raid and generally make the world seem a bit 'alive'.

Obviously a pretty big project to be doing with one guy and part time, but it's surprisingly coming along pretty nicely!

andygcook 13 hours ago 1 reply      
Nameknack - App to help you learn names: http://www.nameknack.com

Just a landing page right now for the user, but I have a prototype I'm almost done with that I'll be launching soon. Sign up with your email and I'll invite you when I'm ready if you're interested.

jmanzano 12 hours ago 0 replies      
I've been some time developing a solution for most of us. It's a website called Parkuik that will use a wiki-like environment to make us easier to find parkings (some of you may have had this problem on your city :-P) with the help of all of us.

I can just develop it when I have some time on weekends, but it is starting to have some users and I hope sooner than later It'll be one of the reference websites for this :)

You can find it here: http://www.parkuik.com

Hope you can visit it and tell me whatever you think that can be done to improve it :)

Jonovono 11 hours ago 0 replies      
More like just a project, but we will see where it goes:

I made http://tunesicles.com but am sort of re writing it and making it look better and have some more features using MeteorJS to learn in.

For now that one is at: http://tunes.meteor.com

evalcrux 13 hours ago 0 replies      
I'm working a nights/weekend startup that positively conflicts with the subject matter: a better kiteboarding forecast service/app. http://kitecaster.com The idea is to model how kiteable a spot is based on the location, your schedule/equipment, and of course the weather. Prototype is going slow, kiteboarding gets in the way! And I am enjoying doing the full stack using the tech I want (node, Parse, etc) when I should outsource some things, but we're looking good for 2013!
147 13 hours ago 2 replies      
The first startup I'm seriously trying to build: http://folkrobots.com

It's only a landing page at the moment, working on finishing the MVP within this month.

What I'm trying to build is a SEO tool that analyze your inbound traffic and gives you a list of keywords to target. It'll analyze the keywords and related keywords and check how competitive they are for you, automatically.

Give me lots of feedback please. If anything confuses you, please let me know.

bizodo 11 hours ago 0 replies      
We built from SignUpasaService.com from scratch, launched, won AngelHack New York, got featured in TechCrunch, got hundreds of beta users, got inquiries from investors all in 48 hours!


sagey 8 hours ago 0 replies      
Couple of months ago I spent 30 days doing/writing this http://leanpub.com/30daysonobliquestrategies
A few months before that I wrote this
FedericoElles 11 hours ago 0 replies      
A kind of Google Now for Movies. Instead of searching for movies, new releases automatically land in your inbox once available as stream and you just need to sort them into "Want-watch", "Saw-and-liked", "Saw-and-disliked" or "Dismiss" folders (for later auto-sorting).
A beta version is available at http://exkino.de for all you native German speaker and learner.
yashg 9 hours ago 0 replies      
I released a Canvas based online photo watermark app a couple of weeks ago. Its not really a starup, but one instalment in a series of photo based apps I plan to build.

Check it out at http://www.umarkonline.com

matb33 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Send a screengrab, sketch on it, annotate, all in real-time (using Meteor framework): http://sket.sh/
noinput 12 hours ago 0 replies      
https://captivate.me - Add interactive apps with your YouTube & Vimeo videos. Just launched to MVP stage and starting to get traction!
zan2434 11 hours ago 0 replies      
I, with some friends, created DOM: a bookmarklet that turns websites into 3D platformers using jQuery, Three.js and an accompanying multiplayer server with Node and Socket.io With it we won HackNY and presented it at NYTM


jyothepro 10 hours ago 0 replies      
Not a startup but a side project

Sync your Facebook friends albums to Dropbox

garysieling 12 hours ago 0 replies      
A stock photo search engine-
sensecall 12 hours ago 1 reply      
We're working on Farmly, a website & app that aims to make finding and buying from local food producers in the UK much easier:


ramiyer21a 12 hours ago 0 replies      
More than a weekend long...checkout http://www.moupp.com. A mobile app for bands, musicians and artists to stay connected with their fans.
spIrr 13 hours ago 0 replies      
Great topic! Don't have a startup by myself, but am looking for some inspiration for 2013 :)
polarcuke 11 hours ago 1 reply      
My friend and I have been working on Protobowl, a realtime multiplayer quizbowl game.


timmillwood 13 hours ago 0 replies      

A mobile friendly web app for monitoring and helping to manage heroku apps.

brettweavnet 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Side project to keep me fresh on rails:


Aggregator of SaaS / PaaS status.

charlieirish 11 hours ago 0 replies      
http://livelystocks.com - Realtime stock news for day traders
anil_mamede 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Emoji - An OSX app to make diagrams http://bit.ly/YEv3SR
max_ardine 7 hours ago 1 reply      
I'm working on ticket on rails http://www.ticketonrails.com an easy customer support tool dedicated to startups. Check it out, it's free!
kh_hk 12 hours ago 0 replies      
Been involved in CityBikes[1] for a while, both an Android app to find stations on public bike schemes, and an API[2] that homogenizes and provides the same information for projects, applications and statistical research.

[1]: http://www.citybik.es

[2]: http://api.citybik.es

Ask HN: Looking for Project for Quick Freelance Job
15 points by invinceable  3 days ago   8 comments top 4
anderspetersson 3 days ago 0 replies      
The first day of every month HN has a thread where freelancers can post their skills and people can announce they are looking for someone to do work for them.

If you wait 2 more days you should see alot of people posting gigs availble for freelancers. The thread is called something like "Freelancer? Looking for Freelancers?

padseeker 3 days ago 1 reply      
there is an interesting startup idea - small freelance jobs. I work full time but would like to pickup an interesting side project here or there that could be done late at night on my own without the hassle of odesk or whatnot. I have no work for you but you hit on an interesting concept, freelance jobs for under $1000 maybe? Just a thought.
invinceable 3 days ago 0 replies      
If it is a 1 day project for $500-$800 that is fine too. Thanks.


invinceable 3 days ago 0 replies      
Still here guys. Last bump I guess :/
Ask HN: Best developer laptop under $1700?
29 points by factorialboy  20 hours ago   66 comments top 21
graue 20 hours ago 3 replies      
What kind of developing and what are you looking for in terms of specs?

I run Xubuntu on a 13" MacBook Air, which is only ~$1100 and does everything I need. For web developers, I feel like the Air is almost the default option. That your budget is so high (“under $1700” would seem to include the vast majority of laptops) suggests you may be doing something that needs serious CPU/GPU performance, in which case our goals are different.

For me, portability was paramount (otherwise why get a laptop?), so I wanted it lightweight and no bigger than 13". Second, I wanted it to have an SSD so it'd be fast. I had read that replacing hard drives with SSDs makes a huge difference in responsiveness and that turns out to be absolutely true. All other specs (CPU, RAM, ...), I didn't care about because I felt confident they would be good enough.

Those goals narrowed it down to either one of the PC ultrabooks (which System76 does not make, unfortunately) or the Air. Out of the PC ultrabooks, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon was the best contender, and w1ntermute's comments in this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4849781 have convinced me that if I were buying a laptop today, I'd probably pick the X1 Carbon over the Air. Either one's great, though, and supports Ubuntu just fine.

gavanwoolery 19 hours ago 4 replies      
Going to throw this out there, you decide if it is viable:

You can use a Nexus 10 or iPad with Linode or other VNC software, and a bluetooth keyboard/mouse. It is also possible to rig a tablet with an ethernet connection directly to a host Mac/Linux/Windows device to eliminate any performance issues that a wifi connection might present, although for this to work effectively the device needs a USB 3.0 connection (some newer tablets are sporting this), both for speed and full duplex communication. Android supports IP over USB (even outside of the debugger, but requires some trickery if I remember correctly).

Cheap: ($400-$500)
Potential to use satellite connection (if whatever tablet you are buying supports it).
9+ hours of battery life in some cases.
2560x1600 resolution (slightly less for iPad 3).

lag/performance issues
portability (carrying more pieces)

Other than that, you kind of have to prioritize what is most important for you. In my case, portability is not such a big issue, as long as the device can easily be set up in a hotel room or office I am set. This means I don't really need to limit myself to devices that are battery-powered, and I have considered using a Mac Mini with a portable monitor/keyboard, or even modding a 21 inch iMac to fit in a suitcase (I am unfortunately limited to Apple devices as I do a lot of work with iOS). The performance difference between my iMac (27) and Macbook Air is night and day (and both are new).

In general, there are many hacky ways to avoid buying a laptop, and I recommend it because laptops are often over-priced and under-powered.

NateDad 19 hours ago 3 replies      
You don't need $1700 for a laptop to develop on. Especially if it's going to be Linux-based. Get an SSD, a midrange CPU, and 8 gigs of RAM. The rest is totally personal preference and has no real impact on development. What hardware you're running is almost completely irrelevant for most development jobs.
nnnnnn 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Macbook air 13", just uninstall Mac OS and install Ubuntu. I switched from PC Laptop to Mac and will never look back. OS aside, the hardware is phenomenal, easily the best hardware on the market. The ultrabooks are catching up but they're still nowhere near the air.

I've been doing all my dev work on here and have been impressed with the snapiness of the processor and SSD.

Good luck!

binarysolo 19 hours ago 1 reply      
Going through Craigslist/eBay/Amazon, you can get a 17" MacBook Pro 2011 + 256GB SSD for about that price. Slap Ubuntu onto the 2nd partition or just wipe it completely. I personally enjoy development mobility and need to crunch data so I need the horsepower.

Alternately getting a 13" Macbook Air + a 27" LCD (Catleap/Yamasaki/Shimian or another Korean flavor) + Apple display connector works beautifully as well, having the options of mobility as well as a good home office screen.

antoncohen 18 hours ago 1 reply      
For $1699 you can get either:

13" MacBook Air with 2.0GHz i7, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, or

13" MacBook Pro Retina, 2.5GHz i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD

Don't worry about the Air's CPU speed, the i7 actually Turbo Boosts to 3.2GHz, vs the Retina i5's 3.1GHz, plus it has an extra 1MB of cache. The choice is basically crazy good display vs larger SSD.

Try using Mac OS X (depending on the type of development you are doing). It can run almost anything Linux can, plus a lot of stuff Linux can't (Netflix, WebEx, MS Office, Photoshop). Don't pretend your laptop is a production environment, it will lead to problems, use Vagrant to run a realistic production environment.

eLobato 19 hours ago 1 reply      
Asus S56CA + 180GB SSD + extra 4GB RAM (it only has two slots and one of them comes with a 2GB memory).


Would be around $1000 and its a beast. It's powerful enough for everything you will want to do, battery is about 4.5 hours, and it has this NVIDIA Optimus technology that switches between a powerful GT 635 and Intel Ivybridge depending on your graphical needs so battery doesn't drain out that quickly. I play Counter Strike: Global offensive on high res and it works perfectly. 4 different VMs? The SSD handles it. Need to develop 3d stuff on Android? No probs. You'll need Bumblebee (OS project) to handle both GPUs but it's easy as pie to install.

Also its an ultrabook so pretty thin. Not as lightweight as I'd like it to be but still very portable.

tzury 19 hours ago 0 replies      
ThinkPad X1 Carbon.
zodiac 20 hours ago 1 reply      
There was a rave review of the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A by Jeff Atwood recently


cmsj 19 hours ago 1 reply      
$1700 is retina MacBook Pro territory!
pajju 19 hours ago 0 replies      
If portability is your primary concern go with - Macbook Air 13" or any Asus ultrabook's with i5 3rd generation and 13" screen size, considering you are fixed with Debian.

Your feature checklist should have 8Gigs or more expandable RAM + Excellent display resolution + Battery backup + at least minimum 128GB SSD.

A checkpoint - Most ultrabooks have many many driver issues, esp graphics, so do a research.

Best safe bet is to go with Mac Air 13", they run perfect!
Worth mentioning the huge community of users.

kyriakos 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Whatever you get make sure its display is high res enough. Coding in an IDE like Eclipse or Visual Studio on screen resolution smaller than 1080p is a pain. I still don't understand why most laptops nowadays still have 720p screens.
kushti 20 hours ago 1 reply      
Fujitsu-Siemens Lifebook NH570 - The real power(but 18'')
RivieraKid 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Samsung NP900X3C, probably the best ultrabook. It has slightly higher resolution than the newest Air, matte screen, is slighly lighter and thinner.
rileya 19 hours ago 0 replies      
Thinkpad x230

I've had one for a few months now and it's been excellent, good keyboard, great Linux support and really good battery life (with the 9-cell battery I can get 8hrs+). It's nice and compact, and pretty darn light, if a little on the thick side.

With 8gb of RAM, 128gb SSD, and a midrange Core i5 it runs about $1200-1300, but you could probably buy the RAM/SSD separately and save a fair amount.

The one weak point is the screen resolution (1366x768), but the screen is IPS and very good quality otherwise.

ixacto 20 hours ago 0 replies      
You can get a thinkpad off of ebay for <700 that will run debian or ubuntu + compiz if you want it.
6d65 17 hours ago 0 replies      
My next development laptop will certainly be thinkpad x1 carbon. 8GB of RAM and 256 SSD are enough for running development virtual machines. My current machine is good enough but i will buy it when they'll upgrade to Haswell CPU's and maybe some higher resolution screens.
18hrs 18 hours ago 0 replies      
I recently learned about these guys: http://zareason.com/shop/Laptops/

If I were on the market for a dev machine today my choice would be between their UltraLap 430 and Dell's XPS 13.

SanjeevSharma 12 hours ago 0 replies      
My vote for the MacBook Air 13'. Hands down. I installed Windows 8 on it (bootcamp) and have Ubuntu running in a VM.
z3phyr 19 hours ago 0 replies      
I have hp mini 1000 netbook, with Ubuntu + XMonad. Everything under $300.
Ask HN: Resources for advanced JS?
10 points by ahulak  3 days ago   9 comments top 6
rodrigoavie 5 hours ago 0 replies      
JavaScript: The Good Parts is definitely a good book for what you want. But there are more:

* JavaScript Patterns by Stoyan Stefanov

* Learning JavaScript Design Patterns - Addy Osmani

* High Performance JavaScript - Nicholas Zakas

After you read these three books you might become apt to write great, efficient JS code and know the underpinnings of the language, which IMO has a particularly curious design and might make you confused sometimes.

P.S: Check out the WTFJS website for being introduced to some strange behaviour of the language http://wtfjs.com/

Have a nice and busy week!

rodrigoavie 5 hours ago 0 replies      
For advanced performance testing and benchmarking you can use JSPerf http://jsperf.com/
jfaucett 1 day ago 1 reply      
Grab a cup of coffee, and read the source of these libs till you know what's going on:

underscore - http://underscorejs.org/
backbone - http://backbonejs.org/
dojo - http://dojotoolkit.org/

They all have great comments in the dev versions and the code is very well written IMO. If you really want to become an advanced js programmer I think reading and understanding source code is basically the only way to go.

good luck :)

recurser 3 days ago 1 reply      
'JavaScript: The Good Parts' by Douglas Crockford is a great place to start[1].

    This authoritative book scrapes away these bad features
to reveal a subset of JavaScript that's more reliable,
readable, and maintainable than the language as a
whole-a subset you can use to create truly extensible
and efficient code.

The other thing that has had a huge impact on my coding style is learning to write tests for everything with Jasmine[2]. Forcing myself to write tests has basically forced me into better design practices, since it's nigh-on impossible to test javascript callback-spaghetti.

Doing a couple of backbone.js[3] tutorials may be a bit of an eye-opener too.

[1] http://shop.oreilly.com/product/9780596517748.do

[2] http://pivotal.github.com/jasmine/

[3] http://backbonejs.org/

tgriesser 3 days ago 1 reply      
As recurser mentioned, backbone.js tutorials might be a good idea. I'd also recommend reading the source of backbone.js to see how it works internally. It's around 1500 lines of well written and fully commented javascript, and will probably cover everything you're hoping to learn in a very concise and practical way.
koopajah 2 days ago 0 replies      
There was multiple discussions here on HN where you might find some answers. The most recent I found being: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4673106
Ask HN: Know of a hacker in Cambridge or Boston who wants a bookstore?
107 points by mankins  8 days ago   104 comments top 52
eob 7 days ago 4 replies      
Trying to think creatively here...

Could you try to capitalize on the fact that you're right in between two enormous populations of PhD students and professors who are eager to both give talks and learn more?

Maybe you could support micro-publishing of books, or collections of interesting papers, for local distribution around Kendall/Harvard. Kind of like academic blogging but on paper.

Or you could host themed nights where a few academics give talks about why Subject X is interesting, and then you tell the audience they can buy/order books on Subject X from you at the end (and please do, it's how you pay for the free talk).

Also, I live right near Inman. You guys have the "Refrigerator Repairs" sign (or something like it) above your store, right? Hard honesty, from someone whose walked by many times and never gone in: the Refrigerator sign made me think you were a) too lazy to put up a sign for your store, or b) trying to be ironically lazy, which I think isn't a positive vibe to send to society. Either way, I transferred these impressions onto my expectations about the product waiting inside for me, and passed by every time. Perhaps that is a silly reason not to enter a book store, but at least it is a data point for you to consider.


Another idea: what if you provided a nice binding service for graduating PhD students. Package up all your papers and thesis together into a nice volume to show the kids one day. I know you can do this online, but you would provide nice Harvard and MIT themed leather book jackets with some stock material about the school or department history, along with a thicker page for the student to put some photos in from that time period. I would pay $100 for this. Maybe $200 if it was really nice. There's no class ring for PhD students, but this would make a similarly nostalgic memento.

wheaties 8 days ago 2 replies      
Someone else IS innovating. They're printing out of print books for a tidy fee. What's remarkable is that so many books are unavailable once they've run. That is publishers are incentived to destroy rather than keep books which don't immediately sell due to tax laws.

Research that and look around at other book stores. You'll find the one doing it.


swalsh 8 days ago 3 replies      
If I want to buy a book, i'll go to Amazon and buy it. With kindle, i'll have it in 10 seconds. If its not available on Kindle with Prime i'll have it next day. You can't compete with Amazon. So its not worth trying.

If you want to run a remarkable book store today, don't sell books. That's a loosing battle. This is where i'd start if I was trying to think of ways to innovate in this space. I'm sure you're familiar with Porter square books. They for instance have built a pretty remarkable community around the store with book clubs etc.

Other then that, i'd like to say good luck! I live in Boston, so i'll try to visit the next time i'm in the neighborhood.

anateus 8 days ago 2 replies      
When it comes to physical stores, the general rule is "location location location", and just based on having lived near Cambridge for a decade and spent most of my time there Inman Sq just feels like a suboptimal location for a bookstore.

This is assuming of course that a problem is getting more traffic. I don't know if that's an issue, or if the problem is the "conversion rate". It would be interesting to find out what's working and what isn't, but don't know if you're inclined to share further. Myself I'm not in a position to take over, but I sure can provide free advice :>

I've always dreamed of hybrid book store/coffee shops. Perhaps ones that sell subscription access, becoming for-pay lending libraries with a book inventory that adjusts to patron demands. That way you have recurring revenue off each customer, and you can hope people sign up for it like they do for gym memberships and then don't show :)

makmanalp 7 days ago 0 replies      
My god ... I love Lorem Ipsum. Every damn time I get into inman, I pay a visit there. Thank you for introducing me into zines and having an awesome CS/Math/Sci section. All your books are so damn well curated.

I wish could help more directly, but I'm steadily approaching broke and determined to be working full-time on my own project till my money runs out.

In any case, I'd love to buy you a coffee / tea / beer / whatever and just chat with you for an hour, your pick of time and place. Best case, you could refine some of my crazy ideas. Worst case, you'll have had an hour break. What's there to lose? E-mail is in my profile! :)

yamanory 7 days ago 0 replies      
My parents have run a bookstore for 30 years, and I spent most of my late elementary school years and all of high school running it after school and on the weekends. It was and still is a very large (100,000 books) bookstore and now also a full restaurant (restaurant downstairs, bookstore upstairs -- in a 6,000 square foot space). Now, I work in tech.

Like your store, they also sell on Amazon, ABE Books, Alibris, etc. however, the majority of their revenue comes from people browsing in-store.

I'm not from Boston and haven't been to Lorem Ipsum but I have read that it's a great store based on reviews online.

But before thinking about fresh ideas, I'm curious to know where the problem stems from: are you not able to get enough people through your doors? are they browsing but not buying? what type of profit margin do you have on books generally (obviously this will differ depending on the type of book, etc)? Also, what is the demographic like where your store is located -- are there readers who will come in and buy a stack of books?

I truly believe there will continue to be a market for physical books, especially used, out-of-print, rare and aesthetically beautiful books that you crave to touch (ie. photography, cooking, art, etc.).

Despite working in tech, being 26, and having 3 iPads in my possession, I will continue to buy tangible books for that immersive, tangible experience.

What is dying, in my opinion, is this concept of going to a bookstore to find a particular item. The future of bookstores lies in the serendipitous discovery, particularly of books that offer some sort of aesthetic value, out-of-print, rare, etc. rather than rushing out to a local bookstore to buy the latest Stephen King, which will be consumed over a weekend.

Anyway, my point is that while yes, fresh ideas can tweak the ability to drive traffic, I think it's worth investigating those fundamental questions and whether you're well located to attract those with the disposable income who can spend $100 impulsively, that you're maximizing your profit margin, and whether you have the right stock that will covert browsers into buyers and attract people to come back.

Also think about opening up a coffee shop or something else that people will come to regularly to serve as a sort of lead generator to get people in the door. It could also be a book club, event, musician, etc. It doesn't need to generate much profit -- it needs to get people in the door who will then browse and buy books which, if planned properly, should have a VERY high profit margin (even while offering what look like bargain prices to customers).

Good luck and please hang in there! I hope next time I'm in Boston to be able to come and visit.

keithwinstein 8 days ago 1 reply      
I love Lorem Ipsum and remember when you guys moved a few years ago. (I used to live literally across the street.) I enjoyed buying used books at your store and that you would sometimes haggle over the price. But I doubt I have spent more than $80 there.

I don't know anything about the bookstore business except that it is tough. I was sad when Quantum Books closed, and their books were a lot more expensive than yours, and they were right next to MIT and sold a lot of textbooks to students.

Do you know the proprietors of Brookline Booksmith or Harvard Bookstore? I assume they are still making it, and maybe there are some ideas or principles here that would help that you guys could learn. They have a lot of readings and signings and events that I imagine help get people in the stores.

(I do sort-of-know Ken and Frenchie, the proprietors of the "banned in Boston" outdoor free book table that sometimes sets up in Harvard Square, but I'm guessing that introduction would not help you...)

wcarss 7 days ago 0 replies      
My idea is to run "sponsored book clubs".

You sell a popular or interesting book at a slight discount for the duration of the book club run. (Maybe a discount just for members who paid an up-front fee?) You do a weekly discussion group, one per chapter of the book. Run multiple books per week, catering to different crowds (e.g. ultra technical vs old sci-fi). Set up some reasonable video and audio equipment, experiment with the format, and try to capture the "sitting around with a group of smart people" feel.

While the club is running, make those videos available online with a discussion forum (also experiment here -- with one topic per chapter, or posts grouped by smart tags or something). After the club has run, you sell a "book club" package for every book you've done this for. Sell it at a reasonably higher price with a DVD of the discussion sessions and an archive of the forum session. In a year, you'll end up with a hopefully rabid community and a reputation, as well as a growing catalogue of copyrighted material which makes your products unique and justifies a higher price.

The core idea here has come up repeatedly: membership in a community is important. Having a place to go feel like a hacker or just a smart person and meet other smart people is wonderful. You should sell that; the books are just an excuse. Heck, you could even just try running a paid-membership library.

edit: reading back over my message, some different themes also stuck out: minimum products, iterating, and pivoting. The ideas I proposed are really a loose collection of possibly money-generating schemes built around community and creating value. You can quickly start doing any (or all) of these, then iterating and pivoting as necessary. This is the common small business pattern: start a few small projects, see what's drawing people and money, then regularly optimize according to your senses of what you need most at the moment.

jacksonh 7 days ago 1 reply      
Have you thought about adding coworking space? I would kill for a bookstore environment with coffee and decent chairs. As it is, I do most of my work in a Barnes and Noble, and my back hates me for it.
fratis 7 days ago 2 replies      
Any chance you'd consider making book sales a smaller part of what your store does in favor of other sources of revenue? One of the few things brick-and-mortar shops can do that Amazon still can't is bring people together, to Be A Place. You can.

A few ideas to consider along those lines, either individually or as smaller pieces of a larger concept:

- Become a hacker/student-centric coffee shop that enables freelancers, et al, to work in a less frenetic environment than Starbucks

- (Not sure how big your space is, but) Build a small stage (or not) and host local singers and poets as well as professor and/or student talks

- Become a resource for finding hard-to-get books and charge a premium for it

- Host book sales, etc., for the local universities where students can buy/sell from each other, then give a small discount on books students are searching for but can't find at the sale

Not sure how intent you are on maintaining the store's identity as a Place That Sells Books, but you have a lot of options, I think, if you want to go in another direction altogether " or even partly.

drags 8 days ago 1 reply      
This doesn't help pay the bills, but I lived right down the street from you a couple years back and loved your bookstore.

Have you looked into textbooks? There's a lot of money in the textbook market right now (for a variety of reasons). Won't help your storefront business, but could help on the internet side. I work in the industry; feel free to email if you want to chat more about the textbook side of the industry :)

benjaminlotan 7 days ago 0 replies      
Hi. i am interested in speaking with you. My company has been looking for interesting projects in the physical space to take on... and we are currently amassing books for a library... Can you give me your email address or email me at Ben @ socialprintstudio.com
Looking forward to speaking!


wyclif 7 days ago 0 replies      
Have you sent an email to Philip Greenspun? He definitely has the connections in Cambridge to people who may be interested in this or could help. He's probably bought books from Lorem Ipsum in the past: http://philip.greenspun.com/
cllns 8 days ago 1 reply      
Have you considered running it as a co-op? I think odds are low one person (or entity) would want to buy it outright, but you might be able to get 100 people to buy a stake of it. Just a thought!

Similarly, maybe it could have a future as a not-for-profit entity?

anonymousDan 7 days ago 0 replies      
I was in a really cool bookstore in Broadstairs in England recently that doubles as a pub. The building was originally a church (hence its name - The Chapel: http://www.pubsandbeer.co.uk/index.php?ID=P&pub=3021 ), then a bookstore, and now a hybrid bookstore/cafe/pub. During the day it felt like a cafe/wine bar, with people sitting around having coffee or wine & cheese while reading books/newspapers. At night it felt more like a pub (albeit a fairly chilled out one). They had loads of local beers - they even had live music. Could you go for something similar?
caixa 7 days ago 0 replies      
I'm the founder of Litographs.com and I live around the block from Lorem Ipsum. Have you thought about selling literary t-shirts, posters, etc.?


nicholassmith 7 days ago 0 replies      
I was chatting with my Dad about how hard it is for indie retailers to compete with the Internet, but its doable. You're not selling a product anymore, you're selling an experience. The product is cheaper elsewhere so focus on giving the customer a reason to come in, book clubs, readings, comfy chairs, group spaces and so on. Books are an important part of our culture but going against Amazon now is nigh on impossible for, but Amazon sucks for discovery and recommendations so there's still scope.
johnrgrace 6 days ago 0 replies      
One small bookstore I know that is doing well is Borderland Books in San Francisco.

Borderlands is hyperfocused. I'd suggest you need to be MORE focused, your stock is spread out. I'd suggest you drop every area you're not amazing with.

You need instore events that draws in the people who read your new more focused stock. Borderlands has a constant stream of author readings, signing etc. that bring people into their store.

I can't tell if you're doing this, but you need to be selling outside of your bookstore at trade shows, speaker events etc. When the Grand Rapids economic club has a speaker who has written a book, our local store has a table full of them for sale and clears $3-800 per event in sales.

Borderlands made a fundraising appeal to their customers a few years ago. The pitch was invest in us with a Gift Certificate that can't be redeemed for a year, but got a discount when used. It gave them a nice slug of working capital while they were expanding and more than a few customers dedided to simply hold onto the certificates to support the store they loved.

You also really need to take a sharp look at you business, figure out what bits contribute and what parts don't. Some basic business analysis can often do wonders for a business.

xefer 7 days ago 0 replies      
Porter Square Books has a good model. The owner sublets a part of the store to a coffee shop business, so they have guaranteed income and a steady supply of casual browsers.

Harvard Square Books can't be making money with rhat custom printer. I've never seen that thing in operation. It must be the delivery model he has in place that you might want to consider.

jhc 6 days ago 0 replies      
Two random ideas:

- Is there any kind of alliance to be had with Albertine Press? ( http://albertinepress.com/about.html ) I'm not sure what the angle would be exactly, but they're just a few blocks away, and might have equipment and expertise that would allow for a more interesting kind of print-on-demand than the Espresso printer. And if bookstores are increasingly becoming fellow travelers with letterpress printers and vinyl shops and so on, maybe there are strategies in common.

- Others have mentioned affiliate fees. If book stores are no longer efficient ways to store and deliver books, but are still great ways to look at and play with and explore books, is it possible to fully transition to a book showroom instead of store? How would the business change if you were no longer thinking in terms of inventory, but only in terms of sample copies? You obtain exactly one copy of the very best books that fit comfortably in your space; the customer collects ones they like; and then they're scanned at the front desk, searched online, and the cheapest available copies of the quality they request are shipped to their address. So customers are getting Amazon prices (or better, because you might be better at running the search than they are), but the experience of discovering physical books. You could pay for it either with affiliate fees, if there's a program that works, or with a surcharge.

If you went down that path, your focus on the supply side would change from acquiring second-hand books, to finding really interesting ways to discover books. For example, shelves where you can flip through the top-ten favorite books of Bill Clinton, or Neil Gaiman, or Natalie Portman, or David Foster Wallace. Cyberpunk shelf curated by Neil Stephenson (with a blurb taped inside each cover if he'll write one!). Law & Tech shelf curated by Larry Lessig. Books by TED presenters. Make it so poking around the store is itself a learning experience.

Good luck -- I hope you manage to find someone, and their ideas are better than mine.

weisser 7 days ago 0 replies      
Many used books are not all that appealing on Amazon since they do not include free shipping. If you can get close to those prices but people only have to drop by the store rather than pay for inefficient shipping (it's usually not two day like most are used to with Prime) it could be compelling. The hardest thing of course is building awareness of your offering. I've never been to your store but have heard great things. Why have I never been? Well I live in Boston and I honestly cannot remember the last time I bought a book in a bookstore. I suppose I'm not your target customer and I think the challenge will be indetifying precisely who that is and considering if they are enough to run a sustainable business.

I think labors of love can be foolish but at the same time I have the utmost respect for them. Best of luck. I will be stopping in sometime soon.

pdinoto 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hi Matt, this is Pablo from Argentina (the one that inherited your espresso machine).

Glad to see you are pursuing new ventures, sad to see the bookstore did not reach a sustainable point.

I think there is project that you may know, or not. Not sure if what they are doing is actually applicable to your bookstore, but nevertheless it has many ideas that may be interesting to you or the brave soul that continues with Lorem Ipsum. It is called "Orsai" (a word derived from soccer term off-side)

Back in late 2010, a writer and famous argentinean blogger living in Spain, Hernan Casciari, got some money from his "blog-novel-developed-into-book-and-then-into-a-play" and decided to make his dream come true and do something incredible: To publish a 100% ad-free literary magazine, on real paper, with the best printing quality, only featuring writers and artists he and his lifelong friend "Chiri" admired. It would cost like 15 sunday papers, and they would make the whole magazine available as DRM-free PDF download some weeks after its paper release.

Crazy, indeed. At the very same moment, the book industry was claiming Internet was destroying the paper book and making culture die by piracy: "people do not pay for cultural goods", they said.

But, against all odds Hernan did it, and published all 4 issues as promised. Readers bought the magazine in 10-packs and then re-distributed them to friends. They barely made even that year.

So in 2012, they tweaked the concept with a subscription model, and got 5500+ subscribers who paid in advance about USD 90 for a 6-issue yearlong subscription. With that model, they printed 6 beautifully made magazines, with some interviews that were unique and outstanding quality in all contents. The authors were very well paid, and the subscription model allowed for stories to span the whole year. A complete success.

NO ONE IN THE MIDDLE, is their motto.

I have been, in fact, a "Orsai distributor" this year. So people came to my place, and without knowing me they gave me about USD 90 to have their magazines every 2 months... The distribution became a great way to meet people, as in last issues we simply gathered on a small cultural center and had informal and interesting meetings with drinks and food.

This whole concept derived into a editorial company being created, one where the authors get 50% of the street price of EACH BOOK SOLD, together with a list of buyer´s email addresses to entice authors into one to one contact with their readers.

And finally, the related point: It derived into a bar in San Telmo: "Bar Orsai".

San Telmo, a trendish Buenos Aires area, is the right place to enact what they call "un bar para borrachos que leen" (spanish for "A bar for book-reading boozers").

So the place looks like a pub, with tables and a -hum-, a bar. For reasons that are more related to who were early into the project, it is known for its pizzas, so technically it is a pizzeria. But I am sure that if Hernan Casciari had a NASCAR racing friends, the place may have been a car repair shop.

The place is not a bookstore, it is not a cultural center or art gallery. It is not a theater either. But it is all of these at the same time. One night, an author comes to read his new book, the following night a renowned artist draws in one table for everybody there to see. There are magazines and books for sell. So you can order a fugazzeta, a beer, and a book.

It is not a new concept, but what it is new is how it came to be. The other way around: blog -> community -> books -> play based on the book -> literary magazine -> stronger community -> editorial -> bar to get community together.

It was born on the web in 2001. It is now a brick and mortar place.
You had a brick a mortar store which was "web enabled".
Looks like a closed circle to me. Perhaps the answer to have Lorem Ipsum stay opened is to leverage this "people with love for reading will love a place to meet and have fun".

If your spanish is still as good as when you were around, take a peek:
http://www.editorialorsai.com. Watch the video, which resumes the whole story.

Un abrazo!

sag47 8 days ago 3 replies      
Have you perhaps considered a book scanner? You can then sell books and for an additional fee turn the book into a DRM free PDF the user can read electronically. You don't sell digital copies online just give the reader the book they bought in store. This way the reader can read the book physically or by a tablet.
cafard 7 days ago 0 replies      
In Washington, DC, the independent stores that hang on have a defined community. Kramerbooks at Dupont Circle has the young urban types mostly (I'm probably twice the age of at least a third of people I see in it). Politics and Prose has the settled folk of Chevy Chase and Forest Hills, with their children. Bridge Street Books on the edge of Georgetown--I don't get there often enough to judge, but would guess it to be nearer the Kramerbooks demographic, though the stock makes me wonder. (There are also used bookstores that seem to stay in business.)

So who is your audience? Have you the room to provide a place where people can gather to sip a coffee and use your WiFi, buy their NY Times from you, do the occasional impulse buy? I would emphasize this last. Of the last ten books I've bought, the majority have been unplanned purchases, something on a shelf (Kramerbooks, Second Story) or a table (a local church bazaar) that I didn't know I wanted till I saw it.

Andrea2s1 8 days ago 2 replies      
Have you considered branching out into related areas, like games? I'm talking European-style and other board games and similar... things where physical location still matters.
telephag 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hi there. I'm Ben Mauer, a board member of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives (http://usworker.coop) as well as the Boston Area Worker Owned and Run Network.

I think that Lorem Ipsum, with a pivot in offerings (coffee, books, games), could be an extremely successful worker cooperative or multi-stakeholder cooperative (with worker-owners and consumer-owners). It has many elements that would make it successful, most notably its beloved status.

I'd be very happy to help you think through the possibilities of keeping Lorem Ipsum a truly community-oriented institution that is resilient and has a sustainable stream of capital from consumer-investors.

Feel free to get in touch with me via http://quilted.coop. I also have access to a lot of resources that could help in the transition, from funding to technical assistance. Get in touch!

timofei7 7 days ago 0 replies      
I too was originally confused by the "Refrigerator Repairs" sign! :-)

I've been working on a model for a bookstore for a couple of years. The key is attracting people to the space. Repeatedly. And once you have them there offer rewards for reading and buying books. If I'm in your bookstore drinking a delicious coffee and munching on a stuffed croissant and you offer a discount on the very book I've been meaning to read for a while, I'll buy it.

The space is filled with books, smells amazing (that sacred dusty book smell mixed with bakery and coffee smells), has comfy seating, games to play, plenty of plugs (charge for electricity rather than wifi), free fresh baked cookies(on the spot wafflecookies) with any purchase of a book (cannot be purchased separately!). There are various intellectual events, reading marathons, contests, and talks that attract interesting people. It's a space you want to be in, to bring your friends to, and you keep spending money there.

It's more than just a bookstore or a cafe or a co-working space though. It's a place that promotes books and reading, connecting people intellectually. A "membership" offers various rewards but also frictionlessly offers reading suggestions and also communal reading/commenting. Not necessarily a reading club... If you are proud of the books you've read and/or have an interesting opinion/interpretation or have questions, a common discussion space/online/app interaction space helps make this easy and comfortable for any level of socializing.

I and two of my close friends (we're all CS people) have been looking for opportunities to try our ideas out, and to learn about others' experiences. Looks like you've had a great response here but if you're still looking for ideas / a group of people with a lot of energy and ideas, let me know, I'm always in the area at some cafe or another! :-)

rdrey 7 days ago 0 replies      
I tend to walk into (South African) bookstores to buy Wired's UK edition and browse books for a while until I know what else I'd like to read.

At that point I write down the book's title and later download it for my Kindle. I've often thought that bookstores should have QR-codes with amazon referral links that make my purchases easier.

Sure, a referral isn't as much income as a physical book sale, but I really can't amass any more "real" books, since I want to stay mobile. I'm sure I'm not the only one using bookstores just for their coffee shop and easier browsing.

EthanHeilman 7 days ago 1 reply      
Lorem Ipsum is fantastic, it would be so sad to lose you.

* Anything I can do to help the store? Other than buy things, which I've bought quite a bit form lorem Ipsum.

Crispy_tacos 5 days ago 0 replies      
Cater to the gaming community, host gaming nights.

Partner with schools or professors to have students buy school texts only available at your store.

Reconfigure your space to include a living quarters for visiting lecturers or artists. Have them earn their keep by leading discussions or giving a reading.

Have a large used and new graphic novel section. Buy used graphic novels at 33% cost or 50% credit.

Organize your bookshelves using the Library of Congress Classification System.

Get a housecat, name it something amazingly cute, the tweet advertisement for sales from POV of the cat using funny catspeak.

Invest in an outside sitting area or patio style backyard.

Rent out half of your store space to the United States Post Office.

Good Luck!

helen842000 8 days ago 0 replies      
Surely there are lots of ways your book store could continue to innovate. You may need to move beyond being just a book store to something more social & digital but maybe that's what it will take. People are using book shops in a different kind of way now. It used to be that the local book store was quicker, while with online sales you had to wait a few days but it was cheaper. Now you can have any book in front of you, including a free sample chapter 24/7.

I still love to support my local independent book shop but I'm reading more than ever now but the last 5 books I read weren't even in printed format. It's time to compete in a different way.

hyuuu 7 days ago 1 reply      
I have been wondering about this. Online stores such as Amazon are killing the bookstores all over the world, obviously bookstores cant compete in price, however, one thing that I think will make bookstores stay, that is, if they stop selling books. Obviously, they cant compete in price, however, what if they start selling atmospheres?

Imagine having a membership to a place filled with books, and you can read all you want. Go inside the place, sit down, enjoy a cup of coffee, pick any book you like. You can even bring your laptop and work, it's like having a gym membership, but for your brain.

What do you guys think?

kennethcwilbur 5 days ago 0 replies      
See: the Last Bookstore in downtown LA.

It opened in 2009 and has expanded several times. It now sells 100,000 used books at $1 each in 16,000 square feet. It is already the largest independent bookseller in southern california.

There are so many books that they are organized by color in some sections. The variety within a shelf is just bizarre. Like the opposite of Google search results.

It feels like a tourist destination or an art installation. It's a remarkable experience.

piratebroadcast 7 days ago 1 reply      
I am a huge fan of your store. My suggestions:
1-Sell shirts and other physical things
2- My favotire thing about your store is that the cool stuff is easy to see.. Its curated. Well done.
3-Interact more with local entrepreneurs, and people like the Artisans Asylum. Maybe teach classes there.
4-Writing workshops?
5-Buy a MakerBot 3D printer and charge the public to use it?
6- That Egg machine is amazing. Someone should make a documentary about that.
7- Model after the Trident in Boston... Sell coffee, set up some wifi, and turn the store into a place where smart people want to hang out.
kevinr 7 days ago 0 replies      
Hmm. Just thinking out loud here.

What seems to be working for Pandemonium, just down the street, is event and community space -- for them it's board and collectible card games. For Porter Square Books, it's some combination of having a coffee shop and events (readings etc).

Providing shared experiences in the physical world is something Amazon can't (yet) do.

(Adding a coffee shop might be enough -- based on the number popping up and thriving in Boston recently it seems that we have a nigh-infinite demand for them. 1369 could use some competition, right?)

msabalau 8 days ago 1 reply      
Hmmm, I don't have any immediate ideas, but will spread the word to others in the community who may be interested.
evoxed 8 days ago 1 reply      
I'm in NYC now too, but I'd like to email you when I get home. Can I find your address somewhere?
kimura 7 days ago 0 replies      
I highly recommend turning it into a co-work space. I'd be interested in working out of that space if you do. Look at 1369 cafe a few doors down you'd notice that people just don't go there just for coffee. People are always on their laptop trying to get some work done. I'd be willing to partner with you if you want to go that direction. Drop me a line.
shanbady 7 days ago 1 reply      
I am interested. I live within walking distance of the store and am an avid tech extraordinaire/hacker who would hate to see it go down. Why not open it up for hackathons and tech meetups in the area? I know there are plenty of tech groups that are constantly looking for space to host their meetups and hackathons.
Mophilo 5 days ago 0 replies      
It seems to me that the store needs to add big ticket items in its reinvention. I'm thinking...futons. And, affordable, cool, cozy chairs, maybe desks, and lamps. Items that college students, for instance, always need for dorms, new apartments. Anything at or slightly above IKEA quality and around that price range could generate sales, especially with delivery service. Local artisans could provide cool pillows, pictures, linens--not a whole lot, but really well curated. The "showroom" is where people can sit and read the books, attend cozy events. This is what I would want to try, if I were you... but, very best of luck, in any case! --Maureen E.
nicolaus 6 days ago 0 replies      
Offer access to one of these as a service? http://hackaday.com/2012/11/16/google-books-team-open-source...
adeas 2 days ago 0 replies      
Where are all the Mckinsey Consultants that MIT produced? None of you can help a fellow beaver out? sheesh ...

I and a friend would consider buying the bookstore from you. Can we chat? adeas.cardozo@gmail.com

sethish 6 days ago 0 replies      
I'm part of the p.irateship hackerspace, and we're just down the street from Lorem Ipsum on Somerville Ave. I would like to talk about a few different possibilities with you. My email is seth at sethish.com
jfburke619 6 days ago 0 replies      
Matt -

I too am a fan of bookstores and used bookstores have much more cachet than the surviving big box stores. The trick is to encourage your patrons to financially support the place that they love. I would be interested in exploring the opportunity further. I have been involved in the purchase, sale and turnaround of several businesses. Each of those processes is daunting in its own right. To be faced with a transfer and a turnaround concurrently will be difficult but not impossible. If you are interested in an exploratory conversation, I would be glad to do so as well. I would be interested on several levels including as a buyer, partner with others or as a consultant. My email is jfburke619@gmail.com

Good luck,

tomhynes 4 days ago 0 replies      
Hey - I work for a company that brings authors to speak to readers based on sales. It's like the groupon model. If x number of people agree to buy the book, the author will come speak. This might help get people into the store. Incidentally, we're having an event in New York next month featuring a book about hacking! Anyway, we're called Togather and you can find us on the internet. You can email me tom (at) togather (dot) com if you have any questions. GOOD LUCK!
hansc 7 days ago 0 replies      
I guess a good idea might be to ask at a local succsefull bookstore (NYC in your case): Just walk in and tell you have a bookstore in Boston and ask how it's gooing and what worked best for them?

Other idea is to ask at a book(store) forum.

Good luck!

jermaink 7 days ago 0 replies      
I think that Trident Booksellers gives a very good idea how you can run and think a bookstore above a bookstore. Try that in a different way - some ideas here are a good start.
dj_perl 5 days ago 0 replies      
Invite Google to take a stake in your project. It could be the first showcase featuring Google Glass. Every customer who wants them, is loaned a pair of Google Glasses during their visit. Just imagine the kinds of specialty apps you could offer! Imagine the kind of positive publicity this could generate for both companies! Invest in a Google Glass developer's kit & whip up a prototype to show Google when you pitch this to them. I hope you live on, as the first AR bookstore!
prism 7 days ago 0 replies      
As several people have mentioned, I feel like the major win of using a local bookstore as opposed to Amazon is the social space it provides. I remember reading somewhere that in NYC bookstores were becoming places were smart single people could meet other smart single people.

Perhaps you could view books as a reason to be there, but not what you sell. A relaxed, wifi-heavy, comfy chair social space where you make your margins off selling coffee and sandwiches. Maybe even let people read the books without buying them. Keep a conversation going. Have visiting authors come and hang out. Like a cross between a library and a Starbucks.

bluekite2000 7 days ago 0 replies      
I suggest you donate all the books and start another business. Keeping a brick and mortar bookstore is an uphill battle and it is better to cut the loss sooner rather than later.
anjchang 7 days ago 0 replies      
Definitely optimizing the book enjoyment experience is promising (having cafes, book signings, etc). I think one part of quality book discovery is curating really hard to find, but awesome books. How many people would pilgrimage to a store to hear Noam Chomsky speak on language, or a Kennedy talk about politics, or one of Dr. King's descendents speak on racial relations and buy books? There are a lot of really great books that could be augmented by having more conversation around them. People would definitely pay high prices for books that are rare and insightful and the stories around those books.
freshsisyphus 7 days ago  replies      
You could get an hp5500 (maybe there are other ones out there, this was the best a couple years back), and provide color service with simple binding options. With some clever color management, a photobook that I pressed on this got several best photo book of the year awards at photo-eye. The downshot is that there are too many online services that do this sort of stuff these days so you would have to become a creative hub / print shop for people to congregate.
Co-Founder Wanted.. lots of awesome products
5 points by UnFundedHype  2 days ago   3 comments top
willmitchell 2 days ago 2 replies      
Love the Gamerholic idea, but there are some legal issues that sites with similar business models run into when attempting to scale.

Also - you have way too many projects going on at once. You'll probably hate me saying that, but it is true, and I know it is true because I have had to force myself not to work on more than 1 company at a time :)


Ask HN: What's the longest Unix uptime you've ever seen?
13 points by sigil  4 days ago   11 comments top 7
runjake 4 days ago 0 replies      
Not UNIX but VMS. At an old job, we had a central VAX server running VMS. It had an uptime of almost 6 years. I was there when they had to reboot it and it was this big major event.

The sysadmin, who had been hired long before me, started after the last time it was rebooted, so he was visibly sweating. Everything came right back up.

baconhigh 4 days ago 1 reply      

  $ uname -s

$ uptime
3:37PM up 2597 days, 20:57, 1 user, load averages: 0.12, 0.13, 0.09

Though, uptime is only a measure of how long it's been since you last patched/did kernel upgrades.

This box is off most of the network and being left alone just to see how long it lasts before it totally dies ;)

bediger4000 4 days ago 1 reply      
You might have an interest in "The Uptime Project": http://www.uptimeprj.com/

The similarly-named "Uptimes Project" seems to have expired, leaving only its dried corpse on the web.

cft 4 days ago 0 replies      
web10 ~> uptime
2:33pm up 1924 days 13:36, 1 user, load average: 0.39, 0.27, 0.16

web10 ~> cat /etc/issue

Welcome to SuSE Linux 9.3 (x86-64) - Kernel

ethomson 4 days ago 0 replies      
This would be hard to prove on really old Linux boxes since uptime rolled over after (just shy of) 500 days.
wrboyce 4 days ago 1 reply      
I used to run a thinkpad t41 as an in house server running dhcp, dns, that sort of thing. After a while, the uptime became oddly important to me, and I once managed to move house ~60 miles without losing the uptime.

It died at around 1050 days, RIP.

zalew 4 days ago 1 reply      
> What's the longest you've personally seen

there's a script for that

    /usr/bin/uptime | perl -ne "/(\d+) d/;print 8,q(=)x\$1,\"D\n\""

Ask HN: What are you Always Googling?
6 points by gusgordon  2 days ago   11 comments top 9
dotmanish 2 days ago 0 replies      
Java Docs for particular classes. MongoDB How-Tos and Caveats.

StackOverflow typically gets first-click answers. It's fast enough.

creativeone 2 days ago 0 replies      
Home listings.
I always want to use Redfin's results, but no matter how many times I type in an address and select Redfin, Trulia and Zillow out rank Redfin over and over again. I'm forced to search the address + redfin to get my result. I figured Google would have fixed this for me.
krapp 2 days ago 0 replies      
A lot of searches for php and jquery -- and lately the hack attempts that show up in my server logs, just to see what vulnerabilities they're trying to exploit.
flexxaeon 2 days ago 1 reply      
site:stackoverflow.com something something
mcrider 1 day ago 0 replies      
CSS rules that I should know by now.
rman666 2 days ago 1 reply      
"business plan" file type:pdf
"business plan" file type:doc
"security policy" file type:pdf -site:.edu
Derpsec 2 days ago 0 replies      
Everytime I click on stackoverflow the answer is some pompous windbag who chastised the OP for some trivial error in his post, or claiming it was posted to the wrong base, or some other infraction that wastes your time and the question you want answered is locked. I'd like to evac that site and nuke it from orbit.

You should also use startpage.com instead of google. Less spyware, same results

kode4fun 2 days ago 0 replies      
Ideas for apps, projects and startups.
jprobitaille 2 days ago 0 replies      
Ask HN: Thoughts on the new landing page for our email reduction service?
4 points by Maascamp  2 days ago   4 comments top 2
mikkel 2 days ago 1 reply      
Very cool styling - there are some messaging concerns as karolisd mentioned.

For instance, I was a bit confused as to why I was reading about other services / how you don't change my inbox labels and configuration instead of reading about what you provide. (The "Manage your inbox, don't change it" messaging)

Are you A/B testing your goals and content? Your email signup goals are fantastically straightforward which a ton of sites are lacking.

Full disclaimer: I am helping with a framework called Xander (http://www.xander.io) that does multivariate testing - let us know if we can help. There's also optimizely which is a YC startup and pretty cool for straight A/B tests.

karolisd 2 days ago 1 reply      
My main question was "Does this work with Gmail?" and I see you've answered it in the second placeholder text (but not the first) and in the bottom right.

But if it's Gmail-only for now, maybe mention that right at the beginning?

Ask HN: Best software tool to make an animated video?
10 points by webbruce  4 days ago   9 comments top 7
kevinconroy 4 days ago 0 replies      
+1 because I want to know the answer to this as well.

I know that After Effects was used to make one of the best animated videos out there: http://www.girleffect.org/

splatcollision 3 days ago 0 replies      
I've done tons of these types of videos using After Effects, it's really the best motion graphics package out there, but you really have to know how to use it well. Hipmunk's looks definitely like it was produced with After Effects.

If you would consider contracting the work out, my contact information is in my profile and I would love to show you my reel of previous work, that I did mostly in a former corporate video production job :)

mitchellwfox 3 days ago 0 replies      
I have not used these tools myself, but I came across a good blog article answering this very question a few weeks back: http://blog.kickofflabs.com/how-to-do-a-great-product-promo-...
fraser88 3 days ago 0 replies      
After Effects is one of the best. You can download a fully functional version from adobe for 30 days, or get a months worth subscription for 30 to 40 dollars. Of course there's a bit of a learning curve. Good Luck.
eduardordm 4 days ago 2 replies      
Not as fancy, but pretty good:


webbruce 4 days ago 0 replies      
I actually just bought this for a month, it's awesome so far! http://goanimate.com/?utm_source=inviteshare&refuser=0dh...
daniel_sim 4 days ago 0 replies      
After Effects, Flash if you're desperate.
Ask HN: Do you limit your code to a certain line width?
10 points by rustc  4 days ago   23 comments top 12
rachelbythebay 4 days ago 2 replies      
80. It shocked me to learn that some people don't hard-wrap their code at all. I ran into some github repository with comments which went on for 200+ characters and couldn't figure out what kind of maniac would inflict that upon the world.

I wrote a post about it which generated some responses, and it seems IDEs are to blame. Once you get into some of those environments, keeping things (relatively) narrow for the sake of others might just go out the window.

I covered it here, including a screenshot of what a typical dev session for me looks like: http://rachelbythebay.com/w/2012/08/31/lines/

jdavid 1 day ago 0 replies      
I have a column usually set to 80 chars, or sometimes 100, and I manually make sure that it's not much longer than that unless it would hurt code readability to make a new line.

I try to have two windows open on my MacBook Pro 80-100 chars per line allows me to do that, most of the time.

It is a pet peeve of mine when developers try to fit as much on one line of code as possible. There are tools to compile code, you as a developer should try to make your code as human readable as possible, that is unless you like being the only one to maintain your code.

davismwfl 4 days ago 1 reply      
I used to be fanatical about 78 character width because we would print code from time to time and following wrapping lines can be a royal pain (ahh, the 90's).

Anymore I have been "ok" with 120 characters for most code, mostly because screen sizes have gotten so nice and I rarely print code anymore.

That said, I do still try and keep code around 80 characters wide where ever possible though, I just find the formatting and code legibility to be better in most circumstances. Also, I find this keeps people from nesting things too deep (C/C++/C# come to mind), because it becomes hard to follow the code, hence they start breaking code into more modular components.

My other reason, I sometimes work off only my laptop monitor and while it gets wide, I find myself scrolling left and right when code exceeds 90ish characters in width and that bugs me.

eshvk 4 days ago 0 replies      
I used to wrap to 79 because I used to write a lot of Python but once you get to the world of Java, 79 hampers readability. I still feel uncomfortable (and guilty) going beyond 79 though.
caw 3 days ago 0 replies      
I'm not strict about column widths. If it starts to look too long (100+?), I check the column position and see if I shouldn't hard wrap it. Most of what I write isn't super long or super complex one-liners.

If I were working on a team based project, then I would absolutely adhere to a basic style guide regarding whitespace, line widths, etc.

mixmastamyk 4 days ago 0 replies      
79, narrow columns easier to read (think newspaper), printable, keeps nesting to a minimum, and helps keep edits (in version control/diffs) reasonably surgical. On widescreen allows two windows to be side to side.
ohashi 4 days ago 0 replies      
I am not very strict about it. I generally try to keep it on my screen. If it starts to horizontally scroll, I will split it up. This used to come up a lot while crafting longer SQL statements. I just started writing them on multiple lines instead of out habit.
loungin 3 days ago 0 replies      
80 as well. Keeps stuff tidy across many monitors, and as a lucky bonus at work a NERDTree window and two 80 column windows fit perfectly on one monitor.

Edit: guess I should add I primarily work in Python, C, and Javascript.

orangethirty 4 days ago 0 replies      
80, if possible. Some places dont follow that practice, though. 80 keeps it tidy.
ishbits 3 days ago 0 replies      
80. So I can have 2 code windows side by side. Be it emacs or eclipse.
stray 4 days ago 0 replies      
I limit it to 132 characters, the standard line printer page width.

I follow it completely, regardless of language.

Pinatubo 4 days ago 1 reply      
I'm pretty strict about 80. For whatever reason I find it easier to scroll down with my eyes rather than read across a long line.
Ask HN: How have you made "quick" money before?
118 points by throwaway_broke  12 days ago   101 comments top 48
patio11 11 days ago 1 reply      
"Work a day. Bill a day." will accomplish the goal with very little execution risk (pair it with "Borrow money from a bank." if you want a bit of an insurance policy). Better yet, work multiple days, then put away some of the income in an emergency fund, because usual hiccups do indeed happen when providing for a family.

There are more complicated answers, but they strike me as a perverse sort of poverty tourism. You have such astoundingly better options than poor people. Use them.

nostrademons 12 days ago 5 replies      
If it's really a short-term, temporary shortage (i.e. cash flow crunch), have you considered loans? This is sorta what credit cards, payday loans, and HELOCs are for. I'm guessing that HN is very opposed to debt of any sort, but the interest on even a payday loan is likely to be less than the depreciation hit you take from selling anything you'll need to replace later.

You could be in for major problems if it becomes a habit, though. Take on debt only if it is a one-time, nonrecurring expense that you can pay back in a short time, not if it's a problem of income not meeting expenditures. And work on building up an emergency fund so you can be your own banker next time.

(FWIW: I served as "banker" when my sister moved out and got her own place, because she'd never worked before and didn't have money for 1st months rent + security deposit. She paid me back with interest 3 months later, although the "interest" was only that she paid for my half of our dad's father's day gift and bought me some sheet music.)

buro9 11 days ago 1 reply      
I made a fanzine (Xerox copy produced magazine) covering bands that were due to play in my town.

I'd print the whole thing except for the cover, and I'd then print the cover on the day of a gig with the headline band on the front.

I could produce these fanzines at 30p, and sell them for up to £2 (exact price depends on the people in the queue I was selling to). I could also sell over a hundred at each gig. Which means £170 profit per night.

Gigs only happened 3 or 4 days a week, so I could only bag around £600 per week from this.

That said, it was quick and non-traditional. Requiring only A4 paper, a pen, and snippets from other music magazines (photos).

I did this when I was homeless and had no skills.

Now you have skills in web and mobile development, skills worth way more to people than me selling fanzines at a gig.

If you want to make some money, get the yellow pages and pick up the phone. Go find a local business park and knock on some doors. Walk in and tell them what you can do, what you offer, and explain your situation. Offer to fix their networking, their printer, their website, to add a feature.


They pay over the odds and always have nagging little problems that they will pay to fix.

More, once you've done your role as an odd-job techie, you'll be on their books as someone who can fix something. Allowing you to tap into a little future stream of money too.

But ultimately, how badly do you want the money? Because this money is there, if you want it bad enough. But it does take some leg work to find those small companies who don't know how to find you (this is why they pay a premium).

jacquesm 12 days ago 1 reply      
By finding someone with a problem and solving it for them on the spot.

Quickest 1,000 euros (2500 guilders at the time) I ever made was in a place where they ran a distributed message passing system that had broken down on a busy Monday morning grinding to a halt the shipping brokerages in 50 countries or so.

From walking in to getting the job to walking out again with a for me at the time large sum of money was about 15 minutes. Outsider perspective is worth a lot in times of crisis and if you can spot what the problem is faster than the team that built the thing it certainly won't hurt your reputation.

Of course you could argue that I charged them too little and that I should have made them bleed but I don't like ripping people off. And they did turn into a long term customer after that.

jaggederest 12 days ago 1 reply      
Sell your shit, or pawn it.

Good things to sell are things that hold value - bikes, rolexes, tools, things like that. Imagine you were burgling your own apartment/house, take the things they would take and sell them.

It's entirely possible to purchase a used mercedes, take decent care of it for 2-3 years, and turn around and resell it for virtually the same price. Ditto many luxury goods - a used rolex can sometimes be turned around for a profit.

lifeformed 11 days ago 0 replies      
Pick out the parts, build, and setup a powerful gaming desktop, and sell it at double price. Ideally, you already have a buyer in mind, and you talk to him beforehand so you can meet his needs specifically.

People who don't know much about computers, but want (and can afford) the very best, would probably be happy to drop $2-3k on a custom-built computer that you can put together for $1k off of Newegg and a couple of hours of work. Set up Windows, drivers, and all of their Steam games, so they can just pick it up and play. Plus, you get to play with new gadgets, if that's your thing.

ChuckMcM 12 days ago 0 replies      
Clearly the easiest thing (as many have mentioned) has been "sell your stuff." One of the folks I know who got into trouble post 2009 was selling "PC tuneups and consulting" for $50 initially, and $75 later, he would spend an hour with someone and help 'tune up' their PC (get rid of old software, update to a current AV, etc) and if they were interested he would consult with the client on what they needed/wanted in a PC and would give them some places where they could acquire it. After a couple of weeks, and even after raising his price by 50% he had more business than he could handle. I believe he also got an affiliated marketing deal with one of the AV companies and they would spiff him something like $10 if the customer bought their AV product.

Basically technology is really confusing to a lot of people, many of whom will gladly pay for someone to explain to them in small words what they need to do.

geoffschmidt 12 days ago 2 replies      
One option is for-pay medical studies, especially if you live near the right kind of clinic or university. Googling "medical research for pay" might give you some starting points. I have never done it myself but it is a real thing.
(EDIT: http://brokelyn.com/human-guinea-pig/)

In particular sleep studies can pay thousands of dollars (in exchange for living in a lab for a week or two) but the lead time might be too long for you, eg

Also, you might try being a provider on services like Exec, Lyft, or Taskrabbit.

dave_sullivan 12 days ago 0 replies      
That's a tough one.

If there was a way to make quick money that worked, lots of people would be doing it. With enough people doing it, some people get very good at it and are able to consolidate and raise barriers to entry. So now that previously very attractive thing is slightly less attractive because there's more ramp up required.

Fortunately, you do have valuable skills. Unfortunately, as you point out, even putting those to optimal use requires significant ramp up--you've got to build a name for yourself or you've got to start some kind of consulting company and build a client list. Then suddenly you're in the consulting business. If you just jump into it and take whatever you can get, you'll make significantly less.

It's not even a matter of doing something you'd rather not do--there are tons of people out there that will do things most people don't want to do for very little money--and they do it for a living.

So of those, you could try hitting odesk or elance or any number of freelancing websites to pick up a quick gig--but even that requires a sales pipeline that takes some time to get going. Personally, I'd put it on a credit card if I were in a similar situation, and lacking that, would probably start selling stuff.

dangrossman 12 days ago 3 replies      
Build plugins or themes for WordPress. There are 58 million active WP sites now. There are mature markets for listing and promoting what you create. Bonus money if you can tie what you build into generating revenue for customers -- affiliate marketing tools/integrations, plugins or themes that play with existing e-commerce plugins or themes people use, marketing tools, etc. If you can do that, you can justify a $50-100 price tag, and just one sale a day will create the revenue you need.

8 years ago or so, I ran a little ecommerce site with a wholesale/drop-ship product provided by another company. When I needed extra spending money (being a full-time college student at a private university and no savings), I'd clone my own site. I'd design a new theme for the shopping cart software and sell the same product. I'd advertise it on Google AdWords for a few days to get some orders. Then I'd package that all up and list it on eBay -- a fully functional site with existing customers, a supplier, a known conversion rate, and pre-written ad copy and keyword list for the buyer. These days people use Flippa instead of eBay to sell websites, but it's something you could try as a web dev.

petercooper 12 days ago 1 reply      
Ran a course. Sold a screencast. (Over $10k within 2 months for both.) A little busy to go into details right now but there have been lots of posts with similar case studies on HN - one of the better ones was http://sachagreif.com/lessons-learned-from-an-ebook-launch/
artursapek 12 days ago 0 replies      
I don't know if you do mobile design or just development, but the payouts on 99Designs can be pretty good and the contests (from my experience three years ago) go pretty quick.

If you're capable of cloning the style that their clients seem to choose most of the time your success rate can be rather high, but it can also be very frustrating to do a lot of work and by chance not win any contests.

It's pretty shallow work artistically, and can be a gamble. But you could probably rack up $2000 in a month if you really committed.


lambtron 12 days ago 0 replies      
One time, me and my friend came across a book that was only sold through a small publisher in Omaha. The book sold for ~$20 and, since we couldn't find it on Amazon, we resold it for $300 a pop.

Every time we received an order on Amazon, we would just take that buyer's information and buy it on the small publisher's website"we essentially took on zero risk and worked a few minutes every time we got an order.

It was a great example of arbitrage. And just like arbitrage, competitors also saw this exploit and the market inefficiency disappeared. Margins were competed away.

Even though it was a temporary window of opportunity, we found an article saying that some people do this kind of work full time (finding obscure books and reselling at a huge markup)!

xoail 12 days ago 1 reply      
When in college I wrote solution manuals of my text books (as part of assignments) and sold it on eBay. I made over 2k a month for few months. I am not sure if you can apply this but something to think out of the box. You may be already doing something, and someone may be willing to pay for it online. Also, please include your email in the profile. If you are in NYC, I may be able to hire you and pay you some advance payment for web dev services.
Rinum 12 days ago 1 reply      
Black Friday is coming up. Be the first in line at a popular shop and sell your spot.
bdcravens 12 days ago 0 replies      
Having been in that situation from time to time, I've sold stuff. Most of it fairly current technology: SSD drives, iPads, etc.

I also pickup quick projects: $500-$2000 projects that can be completed on the side in under a week.

Hit up Craigslist. (assuming you're in an area where this is relevant) Not always the highest quality work, but you'll find a lot of quick $$ things there.

itsprofitbaron 11 days ago 0 replies      
You have two main assets in your hands to generate $2000+ quickly " web & mobile development.

Seriously, I started making money online at 14 with $0 and I remember thinking then if I could make $100 online that would be amazing " I made it within 3 days of my decision to start making money online through forum boosting (there's a load of forum posts where you can see me winning “forum boosting contracts” etc).

Since you need $2000 now there are loads of options available to you to do it, taking advantage of your Web & Mobile development skills and I'll suggest a couple of the methods I have used over the years to make money online in a short period of time.

- Create FREE Wordpress Themes & sell the “sponsored” links in the footer = $75 " 150/theme.

Sell 3 slots on each design for: $20-25/each

Sell the “designer” slot by for: $30-50/each

Offer the whole theme for: $100-150

Then submit the theme to 100-150 free theme places (you could even pay someone on fiverr to do it)

- Sell Wordpress Themes on ThemesForest

$30 " 50/each

- Sell Wordpress Plugins

- Code PSD/HTML etc

Offer your services for $30-100/page & charge $50-100 extra to code to Wordpress etc.

- Write an eBook report

Write a report on some aspect to making money online etc & sell it for $7-10 on Webmaster Forums.

- Write a Larger eBook. Sell it on Warrior Forum.

Write a 10-20 page eBook then sell it on Warrior Forum as a WSO.

- Write Articles

500/word articles at $6-8/each.

- Bid for Web Development/Mobile Development on Freelance Sites

Take small tasks which are easy to do & take a short period of time - $100-200 projects.

- Create Mobile Sites

Charge $100-500 for making existing website owners a simple mobile version of their site.


There are a load more methods which I have done and what you can do too but, there are some methods you implement to make money online quickly with no capital outlay. I know because these are some of the methods I have used over the years to make money online.

mbesto 11 days ago 0 replies      
I'm looking for a part-time web developer for a budget of around $1k/month actually. Check my profile out for my contact details.
mistercow 11 days ago 1 reply      
Depends on the definition of "quick" but sites like vWorker aren't bad if you're willing to work for less (assuming you haven't already built up a reputation) initially. On the one hand, it can sting to work for much less than your normal rate. If you're looking to pay the rent this way, you're going to need to take on a lot of small projects, and it's going to be a lot of work.

But on the other hand, it has some advantages, like potentially growing your client base and building a reputation so you can make more on those sites when you need to in the future. And sometimes time is all you have.

And it can make more economic sense than selling hardware, even if the hardware seems nonessential. Selling an oldish iPad now and buying a new one in six months is much more expensive than holding onto the old one for another year and a half. Hardware depreciates rapidly, so in theory, you could do well by selling an old iPad and then buying the same model used, later on if you need it. In practice, people usually don't do that.

notdrunkatall 11 days ago 0 replies      
Two weeks ago, I wandered into an Office Depot that was having a moving sale, and just about everything in the store was 50% off. The computers and most of the electronics were only 10-20% off, with one major exception: graphing calculators. They had about 30 Texas Instruments graphing calculators of all kinds from 40-50% off.

I bought them all, 30 in total, and started selling them on Amazon and Ebay, undercutting everyone by a few dollars.

I just shipped the last two off yesterday, and after shipping costs and selling fees, I made just over $1,000.

It's not something that you can do any time, but going-out-of-business sales aren't that uncommon, and suffice to say that I will be on the look out for them from now on.

technotony 12 days ago 1 reply      
Put up a profile on Elance or ODesk, explain your situation clearly that you are willing to work for lower rates than your normal market rates for a short period and ask for people to help you.
redguava 11 days ago 0 replies      
Find small businesses in your local area that don't have websites and offer to build them one for $500 (or whatever number you think). You just need a few to make your money and it shouldn't take you long to build a simple site. Use wordpress and themes to make it really fast.

Restaurants are particularly good candidates.

lousy_sysadmin 11 days ago 0 replies      
Been there...

1) Sell your stuff

2) Odd job. I always do this, from replacement delivery guy to wedding planner assistant. Ask your network for a short gig and most of the time they have something for you

3) Borrow some money (family/friend)

4) Loan (CC/bank)

Done that

beatpanda 11 days ago 0 replies      
Do small-scale client work and ask for half up front. I've done this plenty of times succesfully.

I also paid my rent for several months while unemployed by offering to do work on my landlord's other properties. In fact, me and one of my other housemates were "employed" this way until we found more lucrative work.

Tutoring other people in web development has also paid my bills at times.

zoltar92 10 days ago 0 replies      
Your on hacker news. You need to break conventional thinking and "hack" the world to make money. Billing others to program is a dead end. Think of creative way to generate income!
nabraham 11 days ago 1 reply      
i) Write a scraper that compares electronic prices on Craigslist with what the fair value is on ebay/priceonomics. Auto send emails to craigslist sellers who are selling below market value, purchase, and then sell on ebay/craigslist. You can do similar live negotiations at moving sales.

ii) Airbnb your home, especially if you live in or near a big city. Or rent a home to Airbnb.

benzor 11 days ago 0 replies      
Just because everyone's already mentioned the easy (and probably best) answer of just selling stuff you don't need, let me add something a little different:

Enter programming competitions, app hackathons, that sort of thing. The kind that are typically one whole 24h day, or perhaps an entire weekend, and offer decent prizes to the top few teams.

Now, I'll grant you that this might not be suitable for a number of reasons. The main one being that you sound like you need this money ASAP and perhaps there simply aren't any good contests this weekend. However, they certainly meet your criteria for being earned "in a relatively short time frame" since you're not working more than a few days and potentially collecting a 4+ figure check. You also (obviously) need some solid chops, but you mentioned that you're "very competent" at web and mobile development, and those are the hottest areas so that's a good start.

Some random examples of contests and competitions that I've been involved with recently include Mozilla Ignite [1], The Great Canadian Appathon [2], and a bunch of other low-key contests with smaller payoffs, often aimed at students. I'm linking to the prize pages just to show you that it can be very lucrative :).

So get out there and give it a shot. At worst you make no money but meet a bunch of awesome people, and they usually present opportunities of their own.

[1] https://blog.mozillaignite.org/2012/09/ideation-winners/

[2] http://greatcanadianappathon.com/prizes.php

riams 11 days ago 0 replies      
Arbitrage on virtual goods from different countries/regions. Got lucky and got 15k in a week.
derdesign 11 days ago 2 replies      
You could try selling web related stuff, specially Wordpress & Magento themes. I have made a living on Themeforest (http://themeforest.net) selling WP themes since 2009 up until a few months back.

Serious money can be made there. Sales reached the $16K mark in my last month. I had to retire to dedicate full time to other things.

They pay monthly, on the 15th. Check it out, maybe this isn't exactly what you're asking for, but I think it's worth a look...

iuguy 12 days ago 0 replies      
If you need to make $1-$2k in a short period the best way to do this is to sell your things. You should have enough things to make that in enough time and you can always buy replacement things when you have the money later.

Once you've sold enough stuff, work out how much you need that's left. Can you get that doing a couple of evenings or weekends of part time work?

simonebrunozzi 10 days ago 0 replies      
Since you need money quickly, this is what I suggest:
1) Sell your stuff on Ebay or Craigslist or similar.
2) Find temporary work for a company that pays decent money (Lyft, Uber, TaskRabbit, Mechanical Turk, etc).
3) My favorite: call a good friend, tell them that you need 2k within a few weeks, and offer a written payback promise. This way your friend will not feel in a too awkward situation, and you'll be able to give him his money back. Ask for a 4-month deadline payment, and offer interest (let's say 60 dollars?). If he's a friend, he'll help.
If your friend is able/willing to give you only 1k, accept it. And find another friend who will lend the other 1k. It's doable, and there's nothing to be ashamed of.
Then find some meaningful ways to repay that debt.

Good luck. Hope it goes well.

dripton 11 days ago 0 replies      
This time of year, the package delivery companies are hiring lots of temporary help. There was a sticker looking for temporary delivery guys covering up the local paper's lead story last week.
frozenport 11 days ago 1 reply      
1K is credit card money. Get one.
swastik 8 days ago 0 replies      
I would create a (maybe more than one, if I have that kind of time) wordpress plugin/theme (or any other app that has some value) if I have those skills and sell the entire plugin on a site like, say, Flippa. It would be easier and quicker than selling the plugin itself, and you will get the extra $1000-2000 within that time.

That's the simplest way to go about. You can create anything that has a high perceived value"web apps, iOS apps, etc. all count"and sell it. The key is the high perceived value.

jvrossb 11 days ago 1 reply      
Set up a profile on Elance.com and bid on some dev projects. It's not a particularly non-traditional mean but I mention it because you say you're competent in web and mobile development.
ra 12 days ago 0 replies      
Do you write iphone apps? If so ping me, I may have a gig.
bsims 11 days ago 0 replies      
marshray 11 days ago 0 replies      
You could attempt to find a vulnerability in a major system for a vendor that pays bug bounties.
egmalek 11 days ago 0 replies      
Code repurposing

You've probably worked on some interesting projects that are similar to some of the call-for-bids on oDesk or Elance.

Just look for the intersection between what code you already have and ongoing call-for-bids.

While bidding, send a screenshot and say that you already got the solution working.

Clients love avoiding the risk of paying someone to try and reinvent the wheel.

joelmbell 12 days ago 0 replies      
This is probably not the answer that your looking for but honestly if you absolutely need 1-2k over the next month find some stuff to sell.

You might have to get a little bit more crazy with it than you want to, but I think most people would be suprised how much stuff they don't actually "need".

centdev 11 days ago 0 replies      
I've been down that road a number of times. And I've been lucky to find myself in situations that allowed me to pull through with out selling my stuff. If you're good at iOS and Android development, I may have some short terms (few days) projects.
FiloSottile 10 days ago 0 replies      
There's a good market ($50+) in console modding and (i)gadget fixing.

You only need forums, tutorials, some screwdrivers and iFixit. Personally, I also find it really fun.

zbruhnke 11 days ago 0 replies      
Ping me I may be able to help
eddie_the_head 12 days ago 0 replies      
Side trades at the family food cart I ran during summers, like selling drugs.
sharemywin 11 days ago 0 replies      
monochromatic 12 days ago 1 reply      
Gamble. Just don't lose.
helloamar 11 days ago  replies      
i sold a .com domain at a high price
       cached 3 December 2012 05:05:01 GMT