Jeff Atwood has a nice writeup on http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2010/01/cultivate-teams-not...
Also, for the cost of an EU+US patent you can probably make a very good start on the actual product, beating your ripoffers by time instead of court.
To avoid someone else patenting it, prove that you had the idea before their patent was filed. I've heard of people doing this by writing it down in a letter and mailing it to themselves. The postal stamp works as a date.
Better, however, is to ditch stealth mode altogether, start blogging from the start. This may get you copycats, but probably also customers.
To anyone from Stripe reading this, I will give everyone at stripe a voucher for my website http://www.posterhaste.com/ if I could have an invite! Would love to move off Paypal!
I'm in Sweden and been on that list since Stripe went public in USA, no email love here.
Plaid makes it simple for any developer or application to link with credit and debit card spending data. In the process, we're generating one of the largest transactional data sets in the world, and using machine learning and statistical analysis to draw insights about how consumers spend their time, money, and attention.We're a small, all engineering team - looking to bring on more ambitious, fun team members. Our stack is made up of Node, Hadoop and Hive with Mongo and Redis. We're looking for experienced generalists, and prefer fast learners to specific experience with our stack. Whether you're a mobile developer, data scientist, or or a resident philosopher we'd love to hear from you.
We're a fast-growing startup working on cutting-edge email + cloud solutions. Some of the things we do: - Run one of the largest email migration platform in the world- Built our own programmable distributed SMTP stack from scratch- Classify the type of email platform used by millions of domains
If you are interested in enterprise software, large-scale processing, email protocols, performance optimization and distributed systems, we want to hear from you. We're fully profitable with unmatched opportunities to make a big impact, ship code often and make a lasting contribution to a promising startup.
We make logic analyzers, debugging tools for electrical engineers and embedded programmers. It's also a pretty popular reverse engineering tool. If you like playing with Arduinos & electronics, you might have heard of us.
Check out the hiring video on our site, www.saleae.com/jobs. Shoot us an email to email@example.com! I love talking about what we do so if you're curious at all, feel free to write in!
Oh, and if you don't have a hardware/EE background, don't sweat! Although that helps, there is no need to have any electronics background at all.
Most of the time it's integrated with a ticketing system, but there's no reason you have to use that part.
I noticed Dan Grossman posted a link to Helpjuice.com
I'm the founder of Helpjuice.com, if all you are looking for is ONLY a faq/knowledgebase, then I'd suggest you dive into Helpjuice.com deeper.
However, if you're also looking for ticketing, fb+twitter support, phone support and all that other good stuff, some of ou competitors might be a better fit.
Rabbit Hole Syndrome is a symptom of having a curious, persistent, independent mind. If there were a drug that cured Rabbit Hole Syndrome, and everyone just worked on Shipping Their Products and Not Asking Questions, there'd be no one left to make the interesting discoveries that make the world better in the long run.
There are very famous quotes from Richard Hamming (see "You and Your Research") and Richard Feynman (see "Surely You're Joking!") about the importance of working on problems that seem trivial at first. Not only do they help you enjoy problem-solving for its own sake, but if you work on enough silly problems, then eventually the odds are good that you'll stumble upon something that other people will later think is really important. Incidentally if you read Thomas Kuhn you'll find that this tends to be how scientific revolutions happen: someone is bothered by some tiny little thing that doesn't quite make sense according to the prevailing theory, starts digging at the little cracks, and finally the whole system comes crashing down.
The major benefit of going down rabbit holes is that is opens yourself to serendipity: sometimes you'll turn out to be right about something for the wrong reason, or discover something that you later realize contains a solution to a seemingly unrelated problem. The more rabbit holes you've gone down, the more they start to connect.
In addition, frivolous research helps you develop a very "bottom-up" view of the world. If you know the details cold, then you are better able to see through high-level BS ("conventional wisdom") and evaluate things on their own terms. You'll find that regardless of what's optimal, most things are done a certain way only because they've always been done that way, and that regardless of what's true, most people believe things only because other people believe them.
Of course there are costs to all this -- in particular, "schleppers" will resent you for being irresponsible, and most people will think you're crazy if you ever explain what stupid little you've been working on lately. Which is why Rabbit Holers should try to should avoid actual responsibilities to the greatest possible extent and absolutely not care about what most people think about their work.
Anyway, to sum up, if you're lucky enough to be in a position to descend rabbit holes without impoverishing your family or bankrupting your company, I say go for it. It strengthens your most valuable asset (your mind), and who knows, maybe one day you'll discover something you can teach the rest of us.
By now it's 9:30pm. It's dark and cold. You realize what your original purpose was: Dinner with friends. That was two hours ago. You missed dinner, but hey, you got some satisfaction.
The above was more of an analogy about Yak Shaving than Rabbit Hole Syndrome, but there are parallels. Like you, I used to be obsessive about details and solving subproblems. I used to come home from work and work on my own side projects for similar reasons as your own.
But then an advisor said something like, "You need to focus. If you want this thing of yours to succeed, you have to focus on making it succeed. Nothing else should matter." So I stopped my side projects and I became so effective at building our product that my employees wondered if I ever slept.
Stay on target. Make it to dinner.
So I suggest you to try to build the minimum viable working program ASAP. Along the way, write all the things you would like to improve in something like an Evernote note, just a few lines for every thing you want to address and make better.
Then if you have something working ship it ASAP, don't care about what other people will say about the sub-optimal parts of your work: many programmers trying to achieve perfection actually end with a mess of complexity that does not serve very well the purpose of the software, so there is little to be embarrassed for a programmer for shipping simple software.
In the second pass, refine every part with the same approach: find a solution that within the timeframe you have is better compared to the previous one, but will make you able to ship a new version.
Also when you face a problem, other than reading the existing literature, papers, and the proper way to do it, check if there is an intuitive solution that is comparable as a result (even if maybe not provable or not perfectly optimal) but much simpler to implement.
But IMHO the golden rule is: don't freaking care, ever, about what other people think about your work. Often perfectionism is just a form of insecurity.
1) Try the pomodoro technique, or some other form of time tracking. When you're about to take a side path which may or may not be a distraction, you can decide how long it'd be worth investing in it. Once the timer dings, you can stop and evaluate if it was worth it.
2) A few years ago I started repeating in my head the phrase "real artists ship". Embrace imperfect or partially finished solutions that are viable.
3) Keep a list of things that you'd like to investigate more. I've found that the act of writing down the idea lets me stop obsessing over it. Later when you revisit the list you'll be able to cross off the things that you thought were important, but turned out not to be. By delaying work on these items, you're able to better explore the most important parts of the problem you're solving, and so your future self will be in a better position to evaluate which areas need deep research.
I'm like you. I write fairly vanilla production code, then I go home and work on alien technology. And I used to have the same problem as you: I'd get sidetracked and sidetracked, and somehow I went from writing a fart app to reading about type theory.
So I started skipping the fart app part, and started learning some more abstract theory. The nice thing abstract theory is that it's abstract---it's not incidentally connected to anything, so there are fewer places for you to get sidetracked.
So go sign up for a math course on Coursera, or learn the lambda calculus. They are so alien from your everyday programming experience that you won't have anything to connect them to---until you do. But then you'll be coming at the new topic in the direction of abstract to concrete ("a trivial application of x") rather than concrete to abstract ("there's a greater truth here and I MUST understand it!").
At some point you realize your best days are the days when you delete more lines of code than you write.
But that being said, chasing rabbits is what will eventually make you more skilled than your peers. Which is awesome, except now you'll have put yourself in a perpetual category of being paid less than your worth because you don't fit the same performance evaluation criteria as everyone else.
All anyone cares about is a) are you easy to work with, and do you b) get things done to contribute to profitability.
Continutally stressing yourself out by spending more time on problems than they deserve and eating away at your work/life balance does not contribute to a) or b).
This actually has a label: Maximizers vs Satisficers.
And a little something I wrote about it regarding programming languages:
I think the key is to "choose your battles", and be a maximizer where it really counts, and try and be more of a satisficer for the things that aren't so important.
Something that's helped me: make sure you have multiple rabbit holes available at any given time. i.e. several problems, any of which is interesting enough to tempt you. Then you can make reasoned decisions about which would be the most rewarding to work on, while still giving in to the temptation of rabbit holing.
Another benefit: maybe by solving one problem, you'll discover the other was totally irrelevant, or a special case of the other. (At least for me, "Turns out I didn't need this to be perfect" doesn't carry much weight, whereas "Turns out I didn't need this at all" is quite convincing.)
Most of these tickets get resolved as "doesn't matter / won't fix" two or three weeks later - but myself.
As a recent example, I just spent a long time on a tiny plugin for CarrierWave (the Ruby/Rails file uploading gem). This took me through most of their source code (always good to read code, and I could probably PR on their project now), new Rails internals and techniques, and mocking and stubbing with RSpec (in the process, I turned up a bug with RSpec, which they promptly fixed; and I have a better understanding of mocking best practices and clean RSpec).
I do empathize with feeling I'm "not getting enough done/shipped" (if you feel that way?). To alleviate it, I try to cut corners and just get something out.
Time-boxing helps me do this -- "accomplish X in 1 hour". This doesn't happen too often, however. I know, like you, I prefer the learning itself; and, I view all my spent time as building experience and a critical mass to accomplish work faster in the future.
Also, I find pair programming helps immensely. I am sensitive to the other person's time, and thus naturally refrain from digression when pairing.
As for motivating myself to "schlep". I'm not sure what you mean -- menial tasks? I do those when I'm tired or having down time.
Finally, as in your case, I do this on personal projects and not on "work". That said, it can make it hard to get your startup and product launched - your own "work". Again, disciplined time-boxing helps. I have not mastered this, and find myself regularly looking for good time-boxing tools.
If positive user feedback 'gets you off,' as it were, try releasing something that isn't as perfect as you'd like it to be and see if there's any measurable difference in sentiment. I bet there won't be. Do it a couple more times and hopefully it'll break the pattern.
For the other case, try time boxing yourself so you can get back to the more interesting challenge. Make that other thing 'perfect' if you won't.
It happened the most while attempting to study research papers.
A lot of times I would be unable to finish reading what I had planned, because I had stumbled upon an interestingly-looking concept and then proceeded opening up another paper on that subject and so on.
And then, of course, having returned back to the original paper, I would have to re-start reading from beginning to freshen up my memory.
Terribly exhausting process, so I can perfectly understand your frustration.
The only solution I found was to un-clutter my computer 'work-space' as much as possible: close any non-essential apps, unplug internet cable and each time I have the urge to stop reading and go research a newly discovered subject, I remind myself that I am only allowed to do it after finishing what I'm currently reading.
Another helpful thing for me is to remind myself what I'm trying to accomplish with whatever I'm doing at that particular time and what my long-term goals are.
For instance, if I'm working on a project for a client, the goal is to get the work done as soon as possible and obviously get paid. I am not working on said project to primarily enrich my knowledge, but to make money.
I can use the time after the project is delivered to draw conclusions from the experience or do further research.
This may sound trivial, but it really does help to constantly remind yourself of what your goals are, it keeps you in check.
For extra effect, every time you have the urge to let your mind wander too much, try imagining the possible consequences of not completing your task (on time).
This can be particularly effective if you're doing client work. Imagine how embarrassing/unprofessional would have to explain to your client/employer that you won't be able to deliver on time because of something that you could've prevented.
Side-note: you have not provided enough info, but you may have obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is nothing to be ashamed of, but you can only 'solve' this with medication, so you would need to see a doctor.
I think you're probably not doing projects to help people, but instead projects that you think would be fun to do. If you start with a burning itch, or a person that needs help, you will probably find it much easier to stay on task. This is not to say that there's anything wrong with exploring interesting technologies, or thinking about "the right way" to solve certain problems you find interesting... It's just to say that when there's a burning need the interesting diversions tend to fall away.
Hope that helps :)
Whilst the desire to strive for perfection is in any craftsmen, ultimately what matters is getting the product to the customers and solving their needs.
Only after solving their needs should you start to indulge in the craft for what the customer cannot see, the internal quality.
I also sometimes describe this as "be lazy"... don't do anything that doesn't need to be done (for the benefit of the business and your customers).
The problem is that you're interested in the wrong aspects of your side project. You're interested in learning and solving the code problems that come with your project. You have to shift your perspective to the human side of your project. You have to learn to see the user's issues as the problem to be solved.
Let's use an "reviews" site as an example. Your users cant find reviews, that annoy them. What you're solving is not a programming problem; your problem is "make it easy for users to find reviews". That is your problem. Your problems is not what the best algorithm for ratings. None of the code stuff matters. These users do not care about code.
When you've shifted your perspective to the human side you'll start to see hacky solutions differently. A crappy algorithm for ratings isn't a poor solution, it's a perfect solution. You've solved the reviews problem. You have a perfect solution.
The problem is that most of aren't actually excited about the human side of our side projects. This is because we get excited about things that interest us, and what interests a programmer is usually programming. It's not surprising we choose projects with interesting code problems.
Start reflecting on the human/sociological side of things before you choose a project. You might be surprised at what you find. Projects that seemed interesting may suddenly become dull and the one's you thought were dull might suddenly become interesting. A human perspective doesn't exclude building stuff with a code focus, just make sure coders are your audience. You and your users just need to be excited about the same things.
There is this classic saying about "building something for yourself" resulting in the best products. As with most sayings, they left out some important information. They forgot to tell to you to make sure that what you're building for yourself is the same thing you're building for your users.
Make your goals align with your users. Otherwise, you'll find yourself trapped down the rabbit hole.
Some extra thoughts
Don't forget that all your tricks to solve programming problems work on human problems. For example, for a reviews site it's easy to phrase the problem as "make it easy for users to find the best reviews in the most efficient and enjoyable way possible while allowing them to simultaneously book and view and and and....". Break it down into it's simplest elements first, just like you would a programming problem. The simplest element of the problem is "make it easy for users to find reviews"; best reviews are a separate problem.
You're probably good at solving programming problems, breaking them down and being productive. You know all the 37signals posts, all the design patterns, and can quote re-work by heart. Use those principles you have learned and apply them to the human side. Everything your learned about productive programming applies to productive life.
I'd very much prefer to pick up an apple that isn't perfect than having no apple at all because of looking for the perfect one forever.
Reading about interesting stuff is deeply satisfying, and so it's something you want to justify so you get to do more of it. Actually getting stuff done is hard.
It's a bit like why so many techies - myself included! - vastly prefer to code new app features rather than working on marketing or sales copy. One is has a definite end point, and we feel comfortable getting there.
The other one can seem like work!
1. Set goals and fixate on them. Imagine what it will be like to have achieved the goal. Get excited about it and keep reminding yourself. When you're not making progress toward the goal, make yourself imagine the situation where you spend 6 months making unimportant things perfect and never achieve the goal. Imagine all the other goals you won't even be able to set because you're wasting your time.
2. Make other commitments. Make plans to meet a friend for drinks at 9pm. You only have 2 hours after work to get anything done â€" don't waste those 2 hours! If you can stay consistently busy, you'll notice quite quickly that not using your time effectively will lead you nowhere.
What I mean is, if you see a problem to solve, and you are able to keep working on your current task and to solve the problem later, then do so... just note the problem. This will immediately make you much more focused.
Then at the end of the day, review your list of rabbit holes and try and determine which ones are necessary for the current project, which ones would be educational / you want to do, and which ones can be discarded.
Basically rabbit holes are a problem because they are long and narrow and do not offer an overview of the entire grounds, so before jumping down a rabbit hole force yourself to survey the big picture and to see if you can step over it instead.
Long term hack: meditation.
How long with each, how much of each... that's going to take a lifetime to learn and figure out.
It sounds like at least part of your problem may be perfectionism. I did a bit of research on this a while ago, and it turns out there's a lot of literature on perfectionism and how to manage it. A quick look on Amazon under "Perfectionism" should bring up a few interesting books.
It might help to limit going down the rabbit hole too much, by researching what could be improved without actually doing it right then. Save it in a list for later, do the schlep, then when things get bigger chances are you'll actually need to take on some of the challenges on that list. And the more useful they become, the more satisfying it'll be.
I think it's actually "have kids" that solves this procrastination problem. With having kids you get so many constraints on your time that procrastination is no longer an option.
Over time, your rabbit holing will develop in a direction called a 'specialization.' Take note of which areas interest you and what areas have opportunity and rabbit hole that way.
I think you spend time weighing each design because you're unclear on your final vision of your product. You haven't definitely answered what your values and needs are that you're trying to solve.
This may be a hard question to answer. This is why MVP are neat, you can get a product out to consumers quickly and use their response to develop values and a overall direction.
I find you if you think too far ahead, you don't leave any room for random disruptive opportunities that can occur in each step.
So know where you're going. Figure out and focus on the next step that gets you close to that.
BTW, going down the rabbit hole occasionally isn't a bad thing IMO. But if you go down every rabbit hole, it can slow you down.
There are maybe only half a dozen reasonable, substantially helpful, and actionable replies in this whole thread (which would put it at maybe a 4% SNR), almost all the rest is useless. If this is what HN is going to be, I don't want it.
As for my advice, it's simple. Go talk to a lawyer as soon as possible, you have a lot of issues that need sorting and a good lawyer is absolutely necessary to get through those issues, and they'll help to put you on the right footing to deal with paypal. It sucks that you have been acting in good faith and doing good work and have gotten tangled in the mess that is the many layers of laws, regulations, and corporate policies that make up our modern immigration, taxation, and financial systems. You have my sympathies for that and I wish you the best of luck, hopefully you'll be able to keep the proceeds of your excellent work without any serious negative repercussions.
Generally, in the search for a lawyer, you get to talk to many (without charge) for 15-45 minutes each. You may be surprised how widely their estimations of the issues vary -- the law is the law, right? -- but you'll learn something from each conversation, and perhaps find someone you trust with your concerns. Also, legal confidentiality means that even if you've messed up on some tax/immigration/work-authorization/business things, talking with them honestly doesn't mean you've made any admissions that get back to the authorities (unless and until with their advice you decide that's the best course).
If a student in the US, your educational institution may also have a legal aid clinic.
You can probably get an 'ITIN', the equivalent to a Social Security Number for non-domestic individuals/entities who need an SSN-like number for tax/financial reporting purposes. See...
...and the related IRS pages. And again, just getting the number isn't admitting to anything or any tax liability. However, it then will be used by financial institutions (like PayPal) to maintain their internal and government-required reporting requirements. Separate from just tax issues, amounts in the tens-of-thousands (and sometimes less) are subject to reporting to control money-laundering from large-scale illegal activities.
If this wasn't the umpteenth time I've heard this story, I wouldn't say this so pesteringly:
To everyone: Stop stop stop stop stop using PayPal. This happens over and over again. For once, thankfully, there are viable alternatives out there -- Stripe & WePay to name two (both of which I've had excellent experiences with).
Not saying they're panaceas or that there won't be security/freezing issues from the new guys, but PayPal has a documented, extensive, and repeated history of freezing accounts with large amounts of money in them over short(ish) periods of time.
HEADS UP FOR ANYONE ELSE CONSIDERING THIS:
If you are going to receive funds with PayPal and they are going to exceed the 'occasional sale' guidelines (which some people interpret to mean the same guidelines at the rule for sending an IRS 1099 form which is < $600 annually.
First establish your business presence in the US, that means creating an LLC, getting an EIN  and establishing a relationship with a US based bank.
If you get hung up on those steps, don't start taking money with PayPal because their zealous anti-fraud/laundering/drug program fires on a hair trigger. It didn't help that the OP is a student from Venezuela which is not one of America's trading partners.
I expect you will lose most of this money in legal fees. However, if the business is durable, and you manage to establish your LLC (that lawyer you got can help with that) then you will make it back and PayPal will back down. As long as the money trail can be tracked and everyone in the path reports it to the Federal Government so that they are satisfied it isn't part of a laundering scheme, or if it was they can catch the folks involved, you will be ok.
It's not surprising they locked the account and asked for documentation. The tax code pretty much guarantees they would within a year in order to file the 1099-K on your account. This stuff is serious to them, both from a financial (the potential losses if this money disappears because it's not been moving legally) and regulatory fronts (US Patriot Act among others requires banks, like those underwriting your US PayPal account, to be able to accurately identify their customers). This might not be easy to fix.
One point not addressed in the comments is that whether PayPal ever gives you the money back or not, OP has earned $200,000 in income while in the United States and he owes the IRS and possibly the state government as well full US income tax on this amount since he was in the US at the time he did this work. It doesn't matter what his visa situation is, that has nothing at all to do with if he owes taxes. He is required to file an income tax return this year, and pay the taxes, end of story. If he doesn't pay the taxes, he might go to jail and probably will get a felony record and be permanently banned from returning to the US after release.
So this is a pretty serious problem and requires a legal team, which undoubtedly will cost the full amount on deposit to untangle.
He can't just walk away from the situation and let PayPal keep the money, unless he can get the amount he owes in taxes from a relative and pay it, which then puts him into debt.
With that said, some questions:
1) How were you able to process 30k/month through Paypal out of the gate without providing a government ID?
2) How much of the 200K were you able to withdrawal? If any? Do you have any of it in cash?
3) Did you experience an abnormal amount of chargebacks?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.....
I'd guess that PayPal wants an SSN so they can report your revenue to the IRS for taxes. If so, they might accept an EIN or TIN instead, which you can obtain as a business (which you probably want anyway if you plan on doing that much business).
Alternatively, if you are not actually in the U.S. (you didn't say explicitly), you may need the local equivalent instead, though good luck getting PayPal to accept anything that doesn't follow their script.
In any case, the instant you get access to your PayPal account again, get all the money out of it before they change their mind, which they frequently do, and switch over to the reputable payment provider you picked in step 1.
Finally, next time you start doing business with a service, even a popular one, search for negative experiences with that service and take them seriously. You now know not to use PayPal ever again, but that still leaves quite a few other services out there to get burned by.
I would urge you to simply hire an excellent immigration lawyer to figure out your options w.r.t. the F-1 before you move forward. I have a San Francisco-based firm that I can refer you to if you like. They are (somewhat) expensive but they do deliver good results and they are not a big faceless firm - fast, efficient, get on the phone quickly.
Email me if you want to talk more. FWIW, I dealt with our dysfunctional immigration system for a decade - once having to forfeit a well-paying internship after forgetting to file a dumb piece of paperwork - so I do understand the pain of getting the shaft after busting ass, primarily because of immigration reasons.
Anyhow, hope this helps.
"PayPal has closed my account because I don't have a social security number. It seems like I don't qualify for one because I'm just â€śan international studentâ€ť from Venezuela."
I just don't believe this one bit. People from Venezuela do use PayPal quite a bit.
More likely what this is actually about is that you haven't done the minimum to do business in America, which PayPal told you up front that they expected you to do.
They're not actually able to do business with you, because you haven't taken the correct steps yet. If you say "oh my god they're punishing me for being from the wrong country," you're screwed.
But if you figure out the problem, you can fix it.
Here's the thing. In America, like in Venezuela and most of the rest of the world, you're expected to pay taxes on money transfer. It's an income stream.
The social security number is how Americans track these things in their private lives. Sure, you won't get one because you're not American, but there are foreign equivalents, and they're cheap. We do want to do business with you; you just have to be clean.
PayPal can't give you your money until you do what the US Government requires. It would be illegal. It would make them into a criminal money laundering organization.
I'm not really sure; I'm no tax attorney. But, I think what you want is an ITIN - an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. They are free, they're available online, and they only take a couple weeks to get.
It's very common in the tech community for people to hear "PayPal shut off an account? They're the devil!" But in reality, this is how America keeps its money from flowing to criminal organizations, and PayPal's hands are tied here.
If you took the time to talk to them, and said "listen, I didn't know there was a problem, can you help me understand what steps I need to take to get this turned around," it's very likely they'll actually help you, like they helped me.
The toxic Redditor behavior is getting out of control. Not every time a large company does something that seems punitive is it actually in the wrong, and in this situation, they're really just following the law. That's expected. That's correct.
Also, to put things in perspective, you seem to be frustrated that you have to wait six months to receive five years of an average American's salary. I mean, I don't think this is actually as bad as you're making it out to be, unless you've tied your entire life to taking money from the internet, and can't survive without it.
I think maybe you should consider the possibility of asking some of your users for a little spare cash through some crowdfunding site (full disclosure: I work for a crowdfunding site, which is why I'm not naming options right now, because it would be unethical.)
And then maybe just try to work with PayPal to fix the problem, instead of begging the internet to try to hammer-lock PayPal into breaking the law for you, because no matter how hard you try, that is never, ever going to work.
Try setting up a Google Voice account, and calling them on the phone. If they can hear your fear in your voice, the human will to do good and help will come out, and they will put in effort to assist. I promise. That's just how people work.
Also consider getting in contact with the American tax authority, the IRS. It's pretty common for people to hate and fear them, but they're actually wonderful people; their big job is to prevent rich people from cheating the system, and to support poor people, and your story is very sympathetic. Someone from the IRS will, if you just ask, put in hours and hours to try to help you, for free. That's what they do for a living.
You can choose to assume everyone's evil and out to get you, or you can choose to assume that you accidentally didn't get the rules right, and that fixing that could change things.
Which one of those assumptions you make will very significantly change the outcome you get.
There is a reason that people who expect good things from other people generally do well in life. They're able to ask for, and receive, more help. Bad things are fixed more reliably. Et cetera.
Just make a human appeal. "I didn't know I screwed up. I still don't know how. I earned this money legitimately, and I need it. Can you help me learn what I did wrong, so that I can fix it?"
Give them a chance to be good - maybe even a couple - and they will be good.
PayPal is not the evil faceless demon they're made out to be. International payments are complicated, and people from other countries often get domestic law wrong.
But I really don't think they want to cheat you; after all, they make their money by helping you do more business. Shutting you off doesn't do them any good.
Please consider approaching this like you might have made a mistake, because if it's you, and not them, then fixing it and changing this is entirely inside your power. Taking responsibility means acquiring power. Pointing fingers weakens you.
I hope the best for your situation. Please be safe.
You must find a lawyer in any case, a good one! though there is no guarantee it will work, but if something would work, it would be this or a clear provision/flaw you may find on your own (I take it that you won't be able to)
Three legal courses might work on broader terms, leave the actual litigation to the lawyer.
1. The lawyer may prove that someone, who is a US citizen, a family member preferably, or a family friend, is the real owner of the product, and you mis-stated your facts. (meaning, you didn't say under oath, that the said service/product was your and yours ALONE)
The lawyer would take his cut in all cases, and if anything, you should give your family member a cut as well, in this case. Its better than nothing out of 200k$!
2. You may establish a US company, preferably in a state where tax is low and norms are lax, based on strong advice of your lawyer, with preferably the same name as your product. The lawyer in this case would prove (or try to)that the company would receive the money (being a separate legal identity), and a friend of yours who is a US citizen, would be the trustee of the company.
Similarly to above, lawyer will get his cut, your friend would do as well (unless he is the nicest guy on the planet, if he does not take any money, do PM about it on reddit@rikacomet).
3. The lawyer, may establish, that there was an error in your understanding of the US laws (which is clearly so), and since paypal allows for you to be a member of any country, you shall recieve it upon changing the credentials of yours, to your native one's. The lawyer, shall argue, that the payment made by your customers, would hold true, despite you changing ONLY your address details.
Alternatively, if all your payments were made by credit card (which might be the case), you may contact, all your customers, to initiate a cash back (where they will legally call back money from their bank, after stating that a huge flaw was made, and the original deal holds untrue) the bank would know its way with paypal, so no worries there, but what you need to worry about is bank making a case against you. So you would need a lawyer again over here.
Disclaimer: Always, talk to a professional lawyer about legal matters, mine is only mildly suggestive in nature based on laws existing in my country.
NOTE: Please be very careful, while finding a good lawyer, while you do, make sure to make it clear to him, that the payment, would be only a cut out of the 200k in question here, and not out of your pocket.
Take this on a legal document in WRITING, with his signature and official stamp heads, in presence of 2-4 witnesses etc. You really don't want to lose 200k, and then also pay a American lawyer out of your pocket!
Another note - releasing the 4th release's source code under something like the Affero GPL (or a similar noncommercial license) could drive adoption of that version, since many people like to "try before they buy" - and would like to do so with the most feature-filled version.
I guess it was all talk.
Never, ever, keep more than $100 in a paypal account (or as much as you are willing to lose immediately, forever).
Also, if possible, close the bank account your paypal is tied to as they will draw from it as they see fit without your consent.
1. Find a lawyer who can advise you, definitely based in the US, and almost certainly based on CA, the home state of PayPal. As you (potentially) have $200k in cash, you'll have no problem finding excellent representation. Hopefully you can get away with spending only a few thousand.
2. Select a different payment processor. You can do this immediately. Stripe has a good reputation, but there are others as well.
3. (Optionally) Post your progress. Especially if the lawyer can give you good advice that is applicable to others in your same situation, you are potentially saving other innovators many thousands of dollars not to mention headaches.
The issue seems to be that PayPal are worried you're doing something illegal and are not going to pay tax. My advice would be to get a lawyer so you can do everything required to pay tax correctly. In the mean time, try to get some written confirmation from PayPal that your money will be safe while you are resolving this issue - that last thing you want is the money 'disappearing'.
What you should have done (and this is still a legal uncertainty) is have the funds tied to a Venezuelan bank account, your Venezuelan personal and tax identification. It's a little late for that, however.
Best of luck retrieving your funds. I wouldn't be surprised if you got PayPal to release them (they are not themselves a government, so just require enough information to cover their own ass). But expect to be asked some very serious questions by USCIS. For that reason you don't want a regular lawyer, you main issue here will be trying to convince the US you weren't breaking your visa terms.
You need an immigration lawyer.
What am I doing with my life?
That said, Paypal are acting like dicks, as usual, since you do NOT need an SSN to open ordinary bank accounts in the US.
(#) You may need written permission from your school to work.
I love turnjs btw. Very slick tool.
I would suggest you go to a lawyer as well, I know how hard it is for us Venezuelans out there. I had a PayPal block once as well and managed to solve, it takes time and a lot of documentation, however it was not even close to the ammount you're mentioning here.
There are alternatives like creating your own company and giving the info of your company to PayPal, that way everything will be as legal as they might need.
Let me know how it goes, best of luck bro
Give him a call. He has handled cases for me with PayPal. He comes highly recommended, just search his name.
He can fix this mess without high expenses.
If you are young and don't have a national insurance number yet, ask them to change your account holder to one of your parents and give them the NI.
I'd basically create a website reporting this issue to the general public and attach all emails and information you can get from them. Also, I'd change the payment method in your website to something else LIKE RIGHT NOW! You should never, ever trust Paypal! Like NEVER!
You should also report this to the media, they will love it! $200K is a lot hell of money!
Also, other comments have stated that if the lock msg. came via email it could be a phishing scam. Try to avoid supplying personal info if looks like a suspicious email.
The ability of PayPal to be a bank and yet avoid being one legally is interesting. If you hold somebody else's money you are a bank, whether you call yourself that way or not.
From a fellow venezuelan, hope you get your money back. And congratulations on your success even in this unpleasant situation.
If you get a job offer, such as a 5-10 hour a week job at your college, you are ALLOWED to apply for a SSN.
This is what I would recommend doing if you are just looking for an SSN. But do understand that working without permission is a huge no-no.
As far as applying for pre-completion OPT, you could do that... it will take 2-3 months to get approved and you will start using up the 12 months of OPT you get per degree level. If you choose to go this route, make sure you actually register your business with your local clerk's office and report it.
One other commmenter mentioned a STEM extension. The one problem with STEM is that you have to work for an e-verified company.
I hope I was helpful, I am an international student advisor, but I am not your advisor at your school who I would recommend speaking with.
Use Google checkout for merchants, I've used it and it's really really easy to setup as well as safe.
For others: Assuming this problem is solved, in future, can an international student collect payments in his home currency? Will US govt allow full time students to do side businesses?
I can't help you get back the money that PayPal has frozen, but I can help you keep selling it and ensure you keep what's yours.
Email me - tyler [at] simplegoods.co
I thought it was firstname.lastname@example.org, i'm not sure.
I will never use them again as I believe they stifle innovation and are a harm to small businesses that are "making it".
PayPal is very much one basket for all your eggs...don't get duped! Get other baskets!
Edit: Although byoung2 points out a case where you would get the emails for a few more days at least.
The "cost" of an employee generally includes:
Payroll taxes (employer portion)
Health Insurance premium for the employee
retirement account match
State level disability insurance
Other costs to manage employee record
Adding all of the above, you are looking at approx 100K + 18,650 = 118,650
I am just giving an estimate here of course. But you hopefully got the idea.
Instead, try to find something completable which requires the skill you want to get better with. Build something, even if it's mostly frivolous. You need a destination, a path from here to there, and the ability to measure progress along the path.
I guess my problem is exacerbated by two things: 1) the field of web development is huge, and becoming proficient in it requires knowing a little about databases, a back-end framework, front-end development (JS, jQuery, HTML,CSS), and eventually some devops stuff for when I move off Heroku; and 2) Django itself is fairly complex (i.e. takes a while to get running at full speed).
I try to approach this systematically, with my goal right now of groking Django/the back-end before moving on to learning front-end development and exploring databases (SQL, NoSQL) and devops. HN has definitely given me a good idea of where to start, but it's still a daunting task.
My eventual goal is to write mobile/web applications with a back-end. I want to learn all this because I have a long list of all kinds of ideas for services/apps I want to write.
Initially, I was motivated by the idea that learning certain technologies could make me valuable to employers in many industries and regions. Having previously studied business and foreign languages, it took my breath away to search for tech jobs and find hundreds of job openings across multiple continents.
I guess it can be summed up as motivation by a lingering fear of failure with a desire for freedom thrown into the mix. Classes can help, but if you hate what you are learning, why not find something equally valuable that you love?
I would say Coderbits in in competition with [Coderwall](https://coderwall.com), and from first impressions, yeah I'd prefer bits over wall. And also in competition with Stack Overflow careers.
Instagram started because Kevin Systrom's current app was mostly being used to broadcast photos so he pivoted. He also had experience in photography which led to the photo filters being a key addition to the product.
I don't know enough about Vine to comment, but Foursquare and Instagram both provide a ton of consumer value. Based on how they tell the stories of their origins, it seems they were also "organic."
Lastly, social is not a trend; in fact I believe it is in its infancy.
If it's any consolation, almost all professional musicians and myself included suffer from this.
One: The idea of "positioning" (as written about by Jack Trout, Al Ries, et al.) strikes me as corresponding roughly to what Seth Godin calls a "lie" in All Marketers Are Liars. So "what's your position" is, IMO, roughly equivalent to Godin asking "What's the lie you need your customers to believe?" And one of the points that Godin makes is (paraphrased) "You can't beat your competitor by shouting their lie louder than them".
The idea is, if there's a competitor in space X, who "owns" the (position|lie) "we are the cheapest source of X" then you can't really just start screaming "No, we're cheaper than $COMPETITOR". Now you need to pick a different lie. It might be completely different "We have the most advanced and functional X" or it might be related to, but a spinoff from another lie, eg "We're just as cheap as $COMPETITOR, but our X lasts OVER FOUR TIMES AS LONG" or whatever.
This all seems to also tie into the stuff Steve Blank talks about when he discusses market segmentation. Are you going for the "low cost" segment, or the "best product" segment, or the "best overall value" segment, etc.
Of course, if you don't have competitors, your positioning is more about competing with the status quo. Now you need your customer to believe the "lie" of "I really need X because my kids will do much better in school if I buy it" or "This website will help me meet attractive members of the opposite sex" or whatever. In any case, there has to be something the customer believes about the world, that makes them (want|need) your product or service.
Again, I'm far from an expert on all this, but I recommend reading Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries, Jack Trout and Philip Kotler, Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition by Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin, All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin and The Four Steps To The Epiphany by Steve Blank, if you haven't already. It's a lot to digest, and it'll probably take some trial and error and iterating, but it's not hard to get the basic principles down.
FWIW, since our products are all Open Source, I'm leaning towards starting out with more of a "lowest price" messsage, since my perception is that people expect Open Source products to be less expensive. But I think if we succeed, we can raise prices once we have more credibility in the market. For example, IIRC, Red Hat Linux was originally much cheaper than the alternatives, but - as I understand it - modern day RHEL actually isn't particularly cheap.
We'll see though. Part of it depends on if we can actually define a sufficiently unique market niche to be in a "resegmented" market. Our products touch on a lot of different areas, so we either have a zillion competitors, or none, depending on how you define things. This is why we're still struggling with this.
A google discussions about the difference between factory and service:
I'd recommend switching to Facebook comments for your own blog if that's the concern. It improves quality dramatically.
My email is in my profile - feel free to drop me a line.
If you need a job because you are unemployed or something, well, that's a different situation entirely.
In addition to salary, also consider equity, which is a different discussion depending on the size and stage of the company.
Piaw Na's book has a good chapter on compensation negotiation regardless of your geographic area. It's well worth the $25: http://books.piaw.net/guide/index.html
See also iaw's advice. Good luck!
 sums it up, the essence is that they know better than you what they can afford and that by offering a number you only disadvantage yourself. If you're uncomfortable about negotiating an optimal package just make them make you an offer and if it exceeds a threshold take it...
That's because you could write stuff like
SCREEN 12: CLS PSET (8, 3), 10 CIRCLE (100, 200), 45 LINE (15, 15)-(25, 25)
Python/Pygame is probably the closest modern equivalent. Especially if you put some of the boilerplate like window creation in a file, and tell them to copy it into their program's directory and import it. (Or, having them run the boilerplate file, and having that file import the student's code, might work better.)
Show minimal drawing stuff right away. Then you can go in a lot of directions. Use a FOR loop to draw a pixel or circle going from left to right across the screen at a speed of one pixel per frame. Then you want it to reverse direction at the right edge, so you can show IF statements. Show how you can simplify the code by using negative numbers, this will introduce the concept of having velocity. Having a circle reverse direction is a little trickier than a pixel, because you have to take into account its radius.
Then make your objects go at 45 degrees to the coordinate axes -- more on the velocity concept without being too difficult/technical. Or have an arbitrary number of them -- now you have arrays. Or teach them how to replace circles with an image downloaded from the Web. Then put a background on it. Then introduce user input into the equation. Maybe you can click the mouse to spawn a new particle or move the particle to the mouse location. What happens if it's a circle, you did the radius fix, and the user moves it closer to the edge than it would naturally get? Then think about gravity: Just have the velocity increase a little in the "down" direction every frame. Of course, if you're imagining the bottom of the screen as a wall, then you have to figure out how to stop it when it tries to fall past the bottom of the screen.
A little more work, and you have a simple platform game. You just have to come up with an input scheme, figure out how to do vertical walls, and how to make the "bottom" be different heights depending on the x coordinate. Then have enemies that can "collide" with the player.
For a class project, every student (or small group) picks a different feature to add to the engine -- moving enemies, scrolling, healthbar, dangerous terrain, levels defined by files, levels generated randomly, enemies that shoot, players that shoot, (you could have them "toss baseballs" or "cast spells" if "shooting" is too violent), an animated player sprite (a great idea if there's an artistically talented student in the class, though even the most lacking artists could still complete the assignment with a quick visit to opengameart.org), or student ideas (must be approved by teacher). The teacher picks a couple features of his own to implement. Then everyone gives their patches to the teacher (for grading). After the patched versions are submitted, the teacher publishes them as diff -u style patches to the entire class, and everyone now has to add as many features as possible. This teaches the students a little bit about how collaborative development works in practice.
Having a high school devoted to CS lets you do a really good job with this concept, because you can devote an entire course to it. This should be their first CS course. Its primary purpose is inspiring them, motivating them, getting them excited for the possibilities of what they're learning. It will also:
Introduce students to different program constructs.
Introduce some physics/mathematics theory for the particular problem domain.
Introduce students to the way mathematical modeling/theory can be applied to a practical programming problem.
Introduce students to the use of external tools, libraries, assets, their OS's command-line interface, and API docs.
The beauty of having a high school devoted to CS is that you can have an intro-level project-based course that doesn't have to be comprehensive in any of these areas; later courses can do that. If you don't need recursion or string manipulation, you don't have to cover it. If you don't cover every available tool or every corner of your API docs in this course, that's fine. If this course is in Python because it's the best language for the purpose, but the AP exam is in Java, that's perfectly okay -- they can pick up Java in another class. The goal at this point should be to teach them how, not what -- that is, focus on how to program, and only cover what tools are available on an as-needed basis.
Having current or past large-scale projects when you're programming is useful because it alters your perceptions. Your brain recognizes when the thing you're learning is applicable to the project. This connection helps the memory become more permanent -- the brain flags it as "important" since it's related to something it spent a lot of effort on in the past. The connection also helps the memory become more integrated -- there's now a "pattern match" between the concept and its real-world application, so it's easier to both remember the application when you're confronted with the concept, and remember the concept when you're confronted with the application. You may not cover the entire AP CS content, but what you do cover, you can be sure your students will remember when they take the AP exam 3+ years later.
Either Scheme or Python should be the basis of an AP CompSci course.
Check out How to Design Programs version 2. The authors of that book have spent more time on the problem of pedagogy in computer science than anyone else I know. They've really thought the whole thing through very well.